Saturday, April 28, 2012


It's not everyday I get to design an ad campaign for a Dodgeball Tournament+Pig Roast fundraiser at a Mexican restaurant in Zambia to help raise money to send the Blue Moon's amazing baristas (Dialass and Miriam) to Vienna.  On the fun project scale it equals the posters O and I did for the Italian dinner they put on at the (other) Mexican restaurant at  the Swedish School of Lusaka to send them to Ethipia for the All-Africa barista championship competition (in which Dialass placed 3rd).

Get out your Atlases, folks! I'm dizzy just thinking about it.

(Keep an eye out for the posters....we need to settle a few details before going to press.)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tri as we might

FPFJ and Chris cheering Owen on during his swim.

little bikes, little legs, great results

April marks the beginning of Term 3 at school, the beginning of cold, blustery, dusty weather and....TRIATHLON SEASON!  A handful of families at school started training in January for O's "Does Practice Make Perfect?" Science Fair experiment (for which he's competing in the ISAZ science fair this year) which measured training/practice results for running, swimming and spelling.  Since we were all in a good routine with exercising (and TJ's schedule was cleared up, ahem, more on that later) we all carried on with the training with the idea competing in the annual triathlon event.  We participated last year but decided to up the ante and add some distance and a few more races.  TJ and I both did the sprint distance (the longest they offer), O did the intermediate distance, and FPFJ did the 'fun' distance. We joined forces for a sprint relay with FPFJ as coach on wet socks and bike helmet duty.

I'm so proud of everyone who rallied (some 300 participants this year!), especially our friends who swim very well but still insist that they are "not swimmers."  After assembling a rag-tag jumble of unwieldy and half-working bicycles and swapping triathlon-suitable sports apparel we made our way through a few months of trail riding, jogging (me), running, and swimming at the Olympic pool, triathlon day came at last!

Team Jennings with Coach PFPJ won the family category for the sprint distance, clocking in at a respectable 57 minutes. (woo-hoo!) The victory was credited to O, who ran the 4km in under 20 min.  He finished strong, proudly passing people in the last 100 meters.  Good thing he finished so quickly, b/c he had to rush off to do his individual race!  He improved his individual time over last year despite that the had just run for Team J and despite that his chain came off his thousand-pound bike in the middle of the race!  PFPJ had a great 'first' race experience and swam 50m breastroke and then surprised us all with 50m of backstroke alongside his friends little Isaac (the youngest finisher!) and big Isaac (who grew up here but is moving to NYC next week, boo hoo).  He finished first in the Under 8 group (we won't reveal how many were in the U8 group...)
TJ on the Rockhopper - overdue for a new bike and WAY overdue for new tubes on this one!
TJ and I were both happy to have participated, met our personal goals, etc.  He's ready to sign up for another race and hopes that for the next one he'll actually be able to feel his legs for the run.... don't ask, let's just say a big Thank You to muscle memory.  Just yesterday we tried to go for a ride in Chamba Valley but were put off in the first km by a double puncture.  TJ pulled out a 2cm shard of metal (not a "piece", an evil-looking pointy shard) that was in there from a pucture last week.  The bike tube with 5 patches somehow served him through 24km on race day. (There still aren't any replacement tubes, so we added 2 new patches yesterday!)

The race is a fun one, with Zambia-only challenges: a stretch of road that is actually 90% potholes and 10% tarmac), a stretch on a single-track path alongside a busy street, silty sand on tight corners and the simple fact that we share the entire race route with people on their every-day way to work and home with their bikes loaded down with gigantic bags of charcoal, 2m long stacks of wood on their heads, babies on their backs, etc.  The bike route is the best and requires more mental energy than physical energy --you'll end up in market stall, a field of 2m tall grasses or upside down under a truck if your attention wanders! Last year in trying to drive the bike route I pulled the front bumper off the landcruiser after I missed a turn.

O can still beat us both in the 4k distance, by the way....his face gets a tiny bit red but otherwise this distance is a cake-walk for him.  Way to go, people!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It Ain't Easy Being Green

For over 3 years I have hated this patio.  It COULD be a great space.  Instead it is awful.  A giant pukey reminder that this is not our house and that if I had an extra few thousand dollars lying around I would put it into the house that we actually own, not this house that we rent.  But it is our home (cue the violins) and this charming man I call my husband finally had the brilliant idea not to replace the hidousness at our own expense, but to temporarily remove it.  And so, while I was out the other day.....

 But that's not all.  The patio roof made the whole cave-like interior dark and green as well.

Not any more! Lookie! LIGHT!

But that's not all, no.  Because now that we can actually SEE our entry and sitting room we have some incentive to tidy it up a bit.  And with this newly awesome patio, we have another excuse for dinners al fresco.  It also almost eliminates the need to knock out the dining room wall to put big doors and a patio off that room -- which is more of a giant hallway than an actual DINING room. As if we need ANOTHER place to eat at 23b!  We truly are all just trying to make up for the lack of restaurants in Lusaka. I wish I was kidding about this.

the patio's inaugural supper...can you tell my tripod broke?

For the time being we'll leave our patio roof open b/c the temperature is dropping quickly and the bright sunlight (and heat) streaming in is most welcome.  (think fleece jackets, down vests and our ski hats) Once September rolls around we'll take a little trip out to Kafue (home of Danger Boy, a new friend of Snort's) to pick up a dozen reed mats to secure up there to give us some nice shade while still letting in some filtered and happily NOT-GREEN light.  The rainy season is the big question mark but it's a long way off.  It hasn't rained for 3 weeks and most likely we won't see a drop of the wet stuff until November. Did you hear that in Seattle?  NO RAIN UNTIL NOVEMBER.  I still can't wrap my soggy head around this fact.

always room for guests at 23b....


my little phone and some sample sachets -- fits nicely in your pocket. easy to conceal and carry around.  They are especially popular with bus and taxi drivers.....  I picked these up during my walk -- from the rubbish not from a vendor!
This week the government put a nationwide ban on Tujilijili....overnight it became illegal to buy, sell, consume, stock, distribute, import, manufacture, possess or drink it.  What is tujilijili?  Plastic packetes/sachets with 20-50mls of liquor, 40-50% alcohol by volume. Some are strongly flavored, other are straight shots of whisky, rum or branday. Small, cheap (500 to 1000 kwacha/ 10 - 20 cents  per sachet) and easy to conceal, the tujilijili packets that litter the streets are evidence of its popularity and ubiquity.  While the response to the ban has been publicly positive, the traders and manufacturers are finding public support for their position as they have been left with unsold and now illegal stock.

Testing your patience

After all my many visits this was the first time I saw a sign!  There are cars triple parked in front of the sign and the entrance so it's no wonder I never noticed.  Taking pics of/in government buildings is a big no-no so unfortunately you'll have to trust me that this is a pretty flattering view on the facility.
A friend of mine recently asked me to walk her through the steps of getting a local drivers' license.  I happened to be a queue at the time to pay for my car's road fitness certificate.  The only thing I could tell her was DON'T DO IT!  Doing thing 'the right way' (legal, by the books, or whatever is the way you are "supposed" to do it), particularly with getting a license to drive....only tests your patience, not your driving skill.  Remember my experience getting a driver's license?

Getting the road fitness was not as ridiculous but it was still straight out of a Monty Python sketch.

So, our car needs an annual 'fitness' sticker.  Right away the problems start.  There is no STICKER.  There is a circle on a piece of paper that you have to cut out and somehow affix to your front window.  Our car has 4 stickers on the FRONT WINDSCREEN that are each 3.5 inches across: one practically tattooed on from when the car lived in Japan and three for Zambia, a road tax certificate ($90/year), the fitness "sticker," and the scam of the year, a carbon tax sticker.   Now, that is safe.  TJ has a proof on insurance sticker as well.  The carbon tax came into effect randomly, we had to scramble to pay b/c they started giving fines right away for not having it.  Then they decided the carbon tax law was illegal, ridiculous or unnecessary, so they stopped it right away as well.

Because I have been there before and know the routine, I decide to just take care of this errand myself.  (My first mistake). Most people just have someone do it for them, a driver from work, a gardener, an 'errand boy' or something.  I have no idea how much the thing costs and we don't have a driver or errand boy, so I figure easier just to do myself.  I park by the Dept. of Mines, collect my papers and copies of papers that they might or might not ask for.  Then I am confronted by the queue, the line.  Since the new government took over there are noticeable differences in how things are run.  At the DMV (here the RTSA) there is a room (room 12) with bank of windows with tellers/agents and computers. In the past there is a disorderly order to the situation - a bit of jockeying for your place in a non-line but people generally know when it's their turn. When someone tries to sneak in, everyone jumps in to tell them to wait or let so-and-so go first.  It's not pleasant on a hot day to be stuck in room 12 but it's not torture.

Anyway, maybe it's the way of the new the room has a row of new (but already broken) airport style waiting chairs and the door has two military guards with big guns (today two really beautiful women) and a private security guy with his little beret and official vest letting people in as seats open up. The line is out the door and along a narrow path which likely would not be covered in the rain.  Already I am glad I didn't come in Feb when the fitness certificate expired but when it was raining.

After a full boring hour in line it's my turn.  I give the agent my expired form with the hole in it from where I cut out the not-a-sticker-sticker.  She asks if I need to take care of anything else.  Nope.  OK, it's 28,080 kwacha.  B/C the smallest bill is 50 it's rounded up to 29,000.  But she doesn't have change, so I pay 30,000 kwacha or $5.24.  I waited in line for an hour to pay $5.24.  This just gets me the application for examination and the receipt, which curiously says "Payment Reference:  NOT APPLICABLE."

Next I have to go the the inspection yard which is TOTAL COMEDY, again, straight out of Monty Python.  I thankfully have thought at least to have the car washed and have changed out a brake light bulb. The inspector, faced with the examination sheet with a list of 15 things to examine opens the hood/bonnet and proceeds to scold me for daring to bring in a dirty car.  I look at him like he's from Mars.  The car is sparkling clean inside and out -- it's so clean no one recognises me at school in the morning.  "But," he shows me, "the engine is not." And he marks down the fault in a very dramatic fashion and inexplicably makes a note that the exterior car body is dirty as well.  I remember suddenly that TJ had to get an his car engine steam cleaned after failing his fitness inspection (for this reason alone) and fear the worst.  "Next time I will fail you if you bring this dirty car in again."  The car gets a pass despite the dust.  It wasn't exceptionally dirty, just normal car- was cleaned a month ago when we got the last oil change -- a comedy of a whole other sort involving our car being held at Central Police while our mechanic sat in a holding cell for getting 'caught' answering the phone while driving back to the house.  The phone call he took of course was TJ calling to see when he would be bringing the car back.  D'oh!  Anyway, looking at my dusty engine was the extent of the rigorous-on-paper-only "examination."

Now I had to take the paper to get signed.  There is a little shack by the gate which has 2 desks crammed in and 4 examiners (one literally smashed behind the door on a tiny collapsing folding chair.  I wait and eventually get the paper the same guy who 'inspected' it.  Why I had to take my papers to a new spot and wait my turn only to have it signed by the same guy, I'm not sure.

Next, to "Room 7" (next to room 8, the one with no sign or number) to submit the examination papers and get the paper with the not-a-sticker "sticker."  The line for Room 7 is easily an hour long and lunch time is 15 minutes away so I pack up and return the next morning, hoping that my decision to delay does not mean I have to start over.  Mercifully, it does not and mercifully there is NO ONE in line.  The agent takes my papers, prints my 'sticker' and instructs me to return with it to the examination lot.  There I am to find the examiner.

I return as instructed to the examination lot without the car but with my husband.  I am warmly greeted by the examiner "Ah, Mama, you have returned!  What can I do for you?"  TJ on the other hand is detained at the gate and reprimanded by a guard for accompanying me.  The guard is in turn scolded for wasting time reprimanding TJ.  While this is going on the sticker get signed (sure enough, the same examiner as last year and the same examiner as the previous day) and we are released from RTSA until the next sticker comes due.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

rites of passage

This week we had the good fortune of sharing our young friend's first communion.  At a celebration dinner out it was fascinating to hear about all the different family traditions and the rites of passage that we have experienced ourselves and hope to share with our own children.  Congratulations J!
"ENOUGH!" says my model who despite FEELING very uncomfortable in front of the camera takes the most amazing photos.

The portrait work is going well....with plans for adding studio equipment and saving my Ngwee for a killer new camera.  InHouse Design is keeping me busy and happy and I'm able to balance the photography which is very hands on and intense with the design work which fills in the gaps and let's me stretch my creative muscles and really challenge my technical skills.  The Studio website is designed but not 'live'....I might just wait for summertime so I can tackle it in the land of bandwidth. (Unless of course there are any volunteers who want to take it on for me....anyone?)