Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Zambia is smack in the middle of Southern Africa and is surrounded by 8 other countries: (clockwise from high noon) Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Angola.  Zambia was settled by all it's neighbors and they all brought their unique cuisine, traditions, languages, dances, etc.  Soooo, now you see where this post is headed?  Straight to Imbeda ya Kocha (roasted mice) and Mbewa Za Nshawa (mice in peanut butter).  

It's definitely not my cup of tea but my mind was opened up after I read a paper by by Dr. Mwizenge Tembo. It's fascinating (and it's short! I promise, but not short enough to cut and paste it here -- plus the photos are precious.) and really goes to the heart of the deep cultural connection of different cultures within Zambia to "mice on the menu" -- the tradition of eating mice goes far far beyond the logistics or rationale (mice are a cheap and available source of protein).  For example:

".....The mice legend plays many functions among the Tumbuka people. It defines limits of behavior between married men and women, reaffirms sexual division of labor and responsibilities, and discourages excesses in terms of husbands physically abusing their wives. "

See? NOW you're curious!  "Mice as a Delicacy:  The significance of Mice in the diet of the Tumbuka, People of Eastern Zambia."

Dessert Night

Go big or go home, right?

Back in Zed

Back on our home turf, the family had a few short weeks to regroup before school started. 

The hubs had some stuff going on.... 

I remembered the coffee berry harvest and hopped back out to Munali Hills to visit with the Farm Manager, Monstered, and check in on my favourite crop. 

I always learn or see something new at every farm visit and this year was no exception.  Not only did I hear the story of Mostered’s broken leg (AKKKKKK!) -- which he is VERY lucky to have recovered from.  

He walks with a limp but it’s a minor miracle given the injury.  I’ll spare you the gory details but will not spare you the impressive scar. (above his ankle)  Needless to say he’s lucky to be mobile and I think he’s actually VERY lucky to have his foot attached back where it should be and functioning as a foot should!  I do believe it is the good folks at Lusaka’s Italian hospital who get credit for this ‘save.’  Nice going.

The new thing I got to see this time was the bloom.  Coffee flowers are beautiful little things -- out for just a few days -- and smelling like heaven.  They look a lot like jasmine flowers and have a similar smell but much sweeter, flowery and honey smelling.  I can’t imagine the whole farm in bloom, it must just smell divine.

A farming experiment - teff (front) and wheat (taller).  It was great to see this tiny itty bitty superfood growing in Zambia.   The midwesterner in me can't resist the draw of a good ole' field of grain:

What to do?

I keep looking back at our Thailand photos and seeing more fun things to write about, so I”m just going to keep posting our holiday photos until...our next holiday?  

Maybe it’s just the nature of a holiday to see that there was just SO MUCH TO DO or maybe it’s just that in Lusaka...there is really so little to do.  There are days, many many days when i find that it’s quite incredible that we keep busy here.    I KNOW, I KNOW...I just need to, you know..."Live at presentty."

Yeah, yeah.  I know.  But until then I'm going to go off on Lusaka. I'll stop but really, watch out.   Here goes:

There really are very few options for kids/family activities in Lusaka that do not involve something as basic as a play date at someone else’s: different toys, different colour balls, different pool, same routine.  Usually even the same kids, just a different arrangement.   We ‘lost’ our bowling alley a few years back to what I find to be a really awful not-fast food joint.  We ‘lost’ our water slide/adventure park a year later.  The water park was one of my least favourite activities so I was glad to see it go.  The pools were never clear + clean, the chemicals in the slides were at toxic levels most days and the safety record of the place was downright scary.  The indoor play area was always dirty, the trampolines without padding and usually with broken springs.  The toilet facilities....ugh.  Top it all of with with a complete lack of supervision and life guards and the huge crowds of non-swimmers made for a very dangerous outing.  It wasn’t cheap, either.

One tragedy kept us away for a long long time.  We went out one morning before the busloads of school kids were dropped off; the kids enjoyed a multiple-eagle-eyed-parent-supervised morning. (NOT fun or relaxing for the parents who were constantly counting heads and keeping track of kids).  Then the buses showed up.  Literally HUNDREDS of kids were sheparded in and it was a free-for-all.  Big kids, little kids, boys and girls in various states of dress/undress.  (Swimming suits are hard to come by!  And the girls mostly all wrap their wigs/extensions/braided heads in plastic shopping bags)  Not a lot of kids know how to swim but for some reason it does not stop them from just jumping/diving into the murky/cloudy...not knowing the depth of the water and not having an actual plan of what to do.

On the day we went the little kids were done and the big kids were playing a game of hide-and-seek, possible of course because the water was so full of chemicals it was like swimming in milk.  Anyway, the school kids joined in and this was great fun to watch until we all realized that while OUR kids could easily navigate underwater and pop up where the wanted the other kids...couldn’t swim.  A few rescues later, we called it a day, fearing the worst.  This day was fine but the next day, three children drowned in the very pool we were playing in.  I couldn’t go back after that.

ANYWAY -- this is all to say that there really isn’t much to do in Lusaka. We have three movie theaters in two malls. And.  Uh.... that’s about it.  45 east there’s a reptile farm (the kids can ride their bikes out there) and 45 min west there’s an elephant orphanage and a bit further on is a ‘conservation park’.  But a recent visit to this park was beyond disappointing.  They lost one of their cheetahs a few years back to a wandering cobra and the second died sometime ago. Their small, grassy enclosure was burned out and now houses two gnarly looking turkeys. The lions are....not looking so good and there a lot of farm animals where we expected to see something different: ducks, goats, and bunnies.  The two ostriches looked great and there are eggs all over the place.  The zebra are crazy looking as ever but the cranes were gone, the antelope were gone, the raptors were gone, the servals were gone.  Even the monkeys were scarce.  Needless to say, not only our my guys not interested anymore, I’m fed up with how bad the facilities are looking and how horrible the animals looked. Boo for them.

What else is there?  There’s a lawn-bowling club but that’s more of a proper grown-ups sport (particularly b/c there’s a bar at the clubhouse). There are two golf courses, one with very brown and crispy fairways and the other is better kept -- but again, it’s not really for kids. (Tho two of O’s classmates are very seriously into the sport)  So -- the kids join every sport possible at school and endlessly swim and play soccer with eachother.  The local kids at the school ride horses and/or ride polocross -- which is also a ways out of town from where we live and not really something we are into, but it’s great fun to watch and incredible to see these little guys up on their ponies.

But really and truly -- for our family, this arrangement generally works. We have a nice big yard and a lot of friends to call on.  Our American boys do NOT suffer from too much screen time or an overscheduled life.  Yes, they want to go kayaking and hiking and rock-climbing and to the dog park or the blueberry farm or to Gameworks, the Science Center, the Center for Wooden Boats, the Art Museum, the Museum of History and Industry, the Museum of Flight, the aquarium, the .... egads, I’d better stop.  Back to my happy place.  Back to Thailand.

In Chiang Mai it was hard to sort out what NOT to do.  One day, wanting a change of pace from the typical tourist activities -- eating, getting massages, visiting the fish spa (ew - the boys did the fish spa....), 

.....eating more, shopping and eating, visiting temples and eating -- we headed out to a local spot - the botanical gardens just outside of town.  

We took a 40 minute tuktuk ride (always fun) 

and found ourselves in a world of sculpted trees, manicured groves and more colours of orchids than I thought could exist.  There was a wonderful Lanna cultural center built in a series of 4 beautiful houses.  

We rented crooked, rickety bikes and explored the gardens.  I crashed into more then a few hedges, more than a few times trying to keep the wheels on the path while carrying the camera, balancing a basketful of lunch goodies and keeping up with the kids. It was hysterical.  

The gardens were just big enough that the kids could go off and explore without us and small enough that they felt comfortable being farther than arms length -- getting fresh air, exercise and LOTS OF ELBOW ROOM is always a good thing when you’re on vacation together and sharing lots of small spaces. The garden had topiaries galore, including an entire dinosaur garden.  ROOAAAR.  

We played Harry-Potter-style hide-and-seek in a labyrinth 

and the boys terrified us and themselves on scary hand-made playground equipment. (DANGER!)  

We sweated thru our shirts as we furiously paddle-boat raced through a series of man made, fountain-filled ponds. We got busted by the management for insisting the boys each take a boat out for spin.  This was NOT allowed -- as we suspected -- but we played dumb and the kids got a quick escape even from eachother’s company.   

There was a conference going on at the garden’s only canteen center so we weren’t able to enjoy lunch + a swim but we managed to find a snack shack and tried some more wacky crisps/potato chips and taste-tested more Magnum ice cream bar flavours.  

Every flavour is good of course (the ice cream bars, definitely not the crisps!) but we all agree that generally speaking it’s best to stick with simple vanilla ice cream and chocolate coating.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Surf's up!

waterbaby at home
One last Thailand post -- I had totally forgotten about this...maybe because this little expedition was right before re rushed over to SuperC to go buy a suitcase so we could get all our wet swimsuits to the airport!  This was literally hours before getting back on the plane.

Good times. That's how we roll.

This was at Bangkok's FLOW CLUB.  Imagine that, a FLOW club.  We flowed.