Thursday, June 9, 2011

Four Seasons

Lusaka is not unlike many cities we know and love.  We have four seasons here, even if they are a bit different than you’d usually consider:
  • the cold season (6 weeks around july and august) The cold season in Lusaka is kind of like "summer" in Seattle.  But in Seattle you have things like fleece, down, and wool....carpeting, insulated wood floors, doors and windows that actually CLOSE, central heat, etc.  In Lusaka when the temperature drops to 40F at night, it means that despite the warmish daytime temperatures your house will maybe warm up to 50.  Your stone floors and stone walls will make your house feel like you live in the crisper drawer in the bottom of the fridge. You can't keep a breeze from blowing through and you certainly can't actually ever 'heat' a room. Being inside means being constantly cold. You can be certain to find me bundled up most nights in my famous orange 'puffy coat' and wrapped in my down blanket, wool socks on and a hat if I can find one that survived storage without getting too musty/moldy.  The cold season is dry and windy.  The air quality (very low in Lusaka to begin with), is horrible between the pollution, the fires and the dust. 
  • the hot season ( 6 weeks some time between september and November)  It's mind-bogglingly hot and humid.  In Lusaka it's not unbearable but out side of Lusaka temps regularly exceed 100F.  Where we are there are a few truly miserable days but then comes......
  • the rainy season (6 weeks between December and January)  Seattle and Lusaka actually 'match up' pretty well for annual rainfall.  The difference is that  Seattlites experience this precipitation as a constant drizzle.  In Lusaka it comes down in violent bursts -- the 'season' lasts about 6 weeks but there are probably only about a dozen days of rain in that time period -- and it's coming down in solid sheets accompanied by spectacular thunder and lightning storms.  Rainy season here is Mother Nature at HIGH INTENSITY.  The rains bring some relief to the heat and when they first arrive everyone welcome this change.  But then your roof springs a leak, your car stalls out in a flooded road, any excursion out of town is put off
  •  all remaining months are strangely seasonless and perfect:  sunny and 70 degrees F.  
For the most part, the weather is amazing, Zambia's strongest selling point, to be honest. Right when you get completely fed up with the heat, the cold, the changes.  The change of seasons is never gradual.  One day it's the hot season and the next you are full-on into the raining season.  And when the rainy season stops....there is not a drop of the wet stuff from the sky until the next year (imagine...not a drop of rain from March to November -- it's surreal).

But that's only three 'seasons.'

The fourth season? It's a doozy.
It's... the LEAVING SEASON. 
The leaving season is the worst.  The weather is starting to get cold, everyone is starting to get cranky about “things” in Zambia, most expat families are fleeing to the northern hemisphere for warm sunny, home leave, the school term is incredibly busy and compressed (term 1 is 15 weeks, term 2 is 12 weeks but term 3 is 7 weeks of pure insanity) and there's never enough time to squeeze everything in.  

On top of the rush of the last school term, this time of year is when families, friends wrap up their 2-3 year postings and head onto the next stop in their life.  It's quite exciting but of course sad to see friends leave.  One family we knew briefly came to Zambia from Cambodia, stayed here for their 3 year post and were headed to Croatia.  Can you even imagine?  That is how it goes when you work for the US State Department overseas. 

The Leaving Season is filled with endless goodbyes, parties, packouts, boot sales and travel planning.   (those passports and visas, curiously,  tend to expire from time to time, creating more than a few dramatic departure stories and many many headaches.) There is such an exodus of families going on 'home leave' this time of year that any chance of getting actual work done is abandoned.
Well, this year is a rough one.  Not only b/c we are not leaving* but b/c our good friends ARE.  After 5 years in Zambia (and many more years on the continent) the Gesuales are through with attending leaving parties and hosting home-away-from-home holidays; they are fed up with having the responibility of bringing a wee bit of sanity into all our lives.....this time they are the ones leaving.  It's breaking our hearts.

See -- look, there one goes now, sneaking off on her elephant!

Lusaka has never met the likes of Steve, Melinda, Scout and Matea, who are all in their own ways special, kind, and generous -- beyond imagination.  They will be missed by many families.  We will be making every excuse to catch up with them where ever they happen to land.  (Yellowstone!?)  

Best go, we've got some packing of our own to do...

*no need to remind us that we thought we'd be away from Rat City for "2-3 years." In our defense, did anyone truly expect the economy would take such a spectacular nose-dive? That the housing market would take such a hit?  that there would not be a job to come home to?  Not us. Apologies to all....but this gives you some time to save your pennies and book those tickets.  There is a sale on South African Airlines right now if you book your trip before the 21st!  

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