Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Honey, honey?

Mr 13Socks recently sent around a little quiz (which he called a "weekly quiz" but which was not weekly in any way, shape, or form).  In case you missed it:

This time it’s multiple choice since last week’s entries were so lame.

The scene: shirtless brothers on top of our two+ story house last night, setting fire to old mountain bike tires and ripping off asbestos roofing panels with a borrowed claw hammer.

The appropriate response:

(a)    call the police
(b)   call the fire dept (I think Lusaka (population over 2 million) has one working fire engine)
(c)    turn up the volume on the Argentian soap opera to drown out the thudding footsteps on the roof; only then it will be clear that Soledad should NOT get engaged to Carlos the attorney who is defending her sister for murder; she’s obviously preggers from Alejandro, her true love, and needs to get over the inconvenient fact that his father killed her father. 
(d)   wait for a gooey clump of honeycomb, a divine product of the bee clearing operation

The answer? 

We have two very active hives....one up under the soffits 30 feet up and another double-colony in our ceiling board in the pantry off our kitchen (below).  The ceiling is sagging in several spots as the size of the hives and the weight of the honey has grown over the years.  Seeing as how our housekeeper has a fatal bee allergy (we had some excitement last year when she was stung and 15 minutes later I was rushing her to the "best" private clinic in town.  more on this after the bee story!)

In the night-time photo up top I must point out the one piece of equipment the 'bee brothers' brought -- a ladder.  You might notice it's a bit short.  At one point TJ says to me "Hey...You should go check out the operation outside...." and I went out to see how Plan A:  approach the hive from below, was progressing.  They were 'testing' the ladder....on top of which they had positioned a handmade wooden ladder (half rotten and very weak)--- on the top rung of the aluminum ladder.  it didn't reach up quite high enough.  thank goodness.  They went with "Plan B"  (get it?  Plan BEE?) which was to climb up on the roof from the balcony and rip off the asbestos roof panels, smoke them out and pull the hive out by hand.   TJ's question about this plan:  "This sounds a bit....Dangerous."  The response?  "YES!  You can DIE doing this job!"  Lots of laughing and up they went.

"our" bees like to hang out in the fountain grass by the door (below).  there are thousands of them.  Removing the hives did not remove the bees and since our neighbors cut down a tree that had a huge hive in it as well, we also have their bees.  Our very sweet but very strange, crazy dog (who we believe thinks he is invisible) has been known to skip his dog-food and meat breakfast preferring instead to eat....guava, ferns, avocados and....bees.   He once vomited up a stomach-ful of....bees.  The bees are looking for a new home and we have had a few 'lockdown' days where every door and window is shut and no one is allowed out.

Back to the bee allergy.  It was a really scary day and very lucky.  Our housekeeper, Obrin, is in her mid-20s and has somehow never been stung by a bee.  I was headed to school one day and she was stung on the face right when I was leaving.  we live 8 minutes from school.....I went there and back and by the time I returned, I could hardly even recognize her....she was swollen all over, breaking out in hives, having trouble breathing....all the classic symptoms of a severe allergic reaction.  

Lots of things fell into place for this to have a happy ending.  We had someone call ahead at the private clinic -- one of three private clinics in town that can take emergencies and deal with them.  How well they deal with emergencies can be debated all day but overall I am TOTALLY UNIMPRESSED.  First off, you have to go upstairs and wait in a queue and return with a receipt of payment before you can be treated and then you wait indefinitely.  (If you are to be admitted to the 'hospital' part of the clinic I think it's 5 million, cash, up front -- even if you show up at midnight with a seizing 4 year old which someone discovered one night a few years back)  

At any rate, she saw a Zambian doctor (which is important b/c her English is very limited) and had 2 Zambian nurses on duty.  They gave her a massive number of injections and observed her for an hour.  After an hour, they sent her home.  They gave her a weeks worth of allergy pills.  And that was it.  

I followed up with a few of our friends who are doctors (I like to keep a few in my pocket at all times!) and learned that without a bulletproof plan for 'next time' the outcome was not going to be good, especially given the severity of this reaction.  After many conversations, much research, we finally settled on a 'plan.'  Having an epi-pen on had turned out not to be practical -- they cost $800, last a year and there was a 3 week wait to get one.  As her employer I was happy to go this route but just having a pen isn't enough.  You have to use it properly, have it on you at all times, and replace it annually.  The pharmacist and I agreed that this would work but it wasn't sustainable.  They came up with a better solution; we put together an emergency kit (with hi-dose allergy drugs, written instructions and three ampules of adrenaline/epinephrine, the active ingredient in an epi-pen.  We live close to a clinic and hospital and they can administer the drug -- and know of her condition as long as she notifies the staff from time to time (when she takes the girls in for checkups/vaccines, etc.).  And while an epi-pen is a great solution (which still requires a clinic visit and emergency car) in a perfect world, there is no way she could afford an $800 pen. She CAN afford an ampule of adrenaline which contains 3 doses and which can be had with no wait from the chemist for $1. YES, $1.  Not only does this take the burden off of us (and any future employer), it puts her in charge of her health which is a good thing.  

The bees remain a problem....and more than a month later we still have a hole in our roof.  The pantry got a full makeover but....the bees returned to this same spot and also have a new hive at another spot on the roof.

The Buzz: Honey in Zambia. 
Zambia has fabulous honey and there is a small export business of honey/bee products from the miombo woodlands in the NW Province. Zambia honey even makes its way onto The Body Shop retail shelves! A group from Gonzaga University has an ongoing project which sprung up a few years back.  It's actually kind of funny the way it's marketed -- certified organic, blah de blah.  The reality is that the honey is harvested by a village cooperative which consists of guys climbing up trees in the woods.  

We have honey taste-tests and agree that 'house-honey' ranks high against the commercial product.  But if you want "Zambia Gold" you may be able to find it on the store shelves to do your own taste test.  


Kathi of Clan Church said...

Plan B. Hee.

Poor housekeeper! And as good as the honey likely is, it would not be a worthwhile trade-off for buzzing bees all over the place. If you think I'm neurotic now... you should see me when bees are around. Leave it to you guys though, to make the best of it.

nana said...

Yes, poor Obrin! She is such a sweet woman, bless her for cleaning
up your kitchen each morning, can you bring her along this trip? Also
could bring YOUR honey? Sounded like a very exciting night, did you
get the boyos up to witness all the excitment? What a hoot, eh