Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Colors of Zambia

Chitenge:  2 meters of fabric. Used for anything you can imagine!

I think it is one of the things that makes this land so unique. All of the color in the clothing is certainly a visual treat! It is such a contrast to all the red dirt.
Women use this for everything! From a baby carrier to clothing. BabyBjorn is not needed here! They will be used to wrap bundles of food or other purchases and then hauled to wherever they need to go. They are wrapped up as round pads and put on their heads as a balancing aid for hauling 20 liter jugs of water on their heads. They are used as blankets, head coverings, and also as ground coverings when they need to sit on the dirt.
Regardless of age the Chitenge is a staple necessity. Usually it is worn over a traditional skirt for the purpose of keeping it clean. Most people wash everything by hand, and they try to preserve the cleanliness of clothing as much as possible!
Everyone wears them! They are often used to unify the look of a group. It is a relatively easy way to have everyone look coordinated.
This picture is of the graduates from the Literacy Class of Big Tree Baptist. We made the men shirts of the matching fabric, and the women just wrap and tuck the ends into a makeshift waistband. Somehow it manages to stay! 
Matching the chitenge with with other items of clothing is completely unnecessary. I often think they try to be as clashing as possible!
 Some, however, are gifted in the skill of fabricating them into amazing dresses! This one takes several meters of fabric, and this girl made this herself! She attends the Chipata deaf church and my friend showed me this... I love it! They use the fabric to make bags and other totes as well.
Over trousers, jeans, other skirts. Layers... Layers...  Layers! 
 Colors! Colors! Colors!
 This little guy is just too cute not to put his face here! Little Dikson! 
 You can literally buy them anywhere. They are sold on the street, in shops, and people walking all over town with them slung over their arms. From 7 kwacha to as high as 70 kwacha and more! The difference is in the material itseld. Waxed, cotton, polyester, rayon. You name it, it is made into a chitenge!
These are a few of the shirts we gave to our visitors for Father's Day. The whole group will be all decked out tomorrow in Zambian chitenge attire and hopefully I will get a group shot of them all! 
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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

To Market, To Market to buy a Fat....

 One of the most beautiful sights here is the open market. They call it Saturday market, but it is open every day except Sunday. Carrots are In Season!! These are HuGe!
Naomi is one of my Saturday Bible Study girls... you can see her by the umbrella. She sells potatoes and onions.
 There are always mommas and their babies. This little one is Violet. Mom is Mavis. I know.
MAvis is a chunk! She is 7 months old and I am sure already getting some n'shima in her daily diet! Notice the cooking pot on her right. It is lunch cooked right nearby. N'shima is ground maize (hard, white corn) made into a thick, hot-as-lava meal. They eat it every day. Every. Day.
And here is James with Esther. I get my cucumbers from her. "2 kwacha one" for the big ones, "1 kwacha one" for the small. That means they are 15c or 30c each. You can see behind her it is a full service market. Shoes are also available!
Here are the Three Musketeers under "their tree". They each have their "staked out" space to sell their things, and it is quite the community of people. They help watch each other's table, cook lunch together, and I am sure know everything about each other. Or nothing at all!! I often marvel when I meet someone new and ask someone I know what the other's name is, and they have no clue!
Those bundles of grass are brooms. They use these to sweep everything from the inside of their houses to the dirt around their yards. It really does make it look nice! There is a swish-swoosh pattern made that is quite pretty. When all you have is red dirt, anything that you can do to make it look better is worth doing! Backbreaking though. These are about 1.5 feet long. No handles. Just stooping.
This is Agness. She is someone I have come to rely on! She knows English very well, and has helped me so much. Someday I would love to have Bible studies with these ladies, and I would need a translator. Maybe Agness? Praying! I showed her this picture on my phone, and she said I was too close because she looks fat. I told her she looks American! She had a good laugh with that one.
Every Day. 

All Day. 

This is her view. She looks out onto the street watching people come and go, and sells onions and potatoes. Right next to dozens of others selling onions and potatoes. Somehow she makes a living.  I love market days. I have grown to really love these ladies. 

The Burning has begun...

Living 15 degrees south of the equator basically means we have two seasons. Hot and wet, and hot and dry. Zambia is technically in the tropics zone, but the only thing I have experienced that would attest to that are the massive and insanely ugly bugs.

We had rain until the end of March, and since then we have had only one rainy-ish day, on Mother's day. Being a to-the-core Rochestarian, it felt like home and I thanked God for my gift from him!

But no real rain for the last two months makes things around here dry. Really dry. If you live in the southern United States this is nothing new to you. But for this Yankee I may never get used to this sight.
Driving here at night is one of the most nerve wracking experiences I have ever had the pleasure to endure. And I have taught five children to tie their shoes. And read. And drive. This easily tops them all. 

People are walking everywhere. There aren't street lights. Most vehicles have lights, and some actually turn them on. There aren't shoulders on the road. There are 8 to ten inch drop-offs on the edge of the road where the asphalt meets the dirt. 

Which is about 5 inches from the tall elephant grasses that cover every acre of undeveloped land here. Those grasses are dry. Really, Really dry. And the sun is hot. And snakes like tall grass and hot sun. And a lot of other things like tall grass and hot sun, but most of them aren't things people like to hang out with. 
So... They burn the fields. Usually the only evidence I experience of this happening is the regular smell of smoke in the air. I feel like I live in a state park where everyone is cooking over an open flame. All the time. Every day. And they use plastic Wegmans bags to light the fire. 

But every once in a while I get to see it happening. There is a sudden panic that comes over me when driving at night and I see flames climbing into the dark sky. 

Shortly after we moved here I remember looking up at the huge mountain behind our house and seeing the whole side of the mountain in flames. It looked like rivers of fire flowing down the sides. It was beautiful. And a little scary! 

This picture is a little girl about 10 years old just walking along the edge of the burning field. 
I get that they "know what they are doing". It tends to be like a big party with people walking right along the edge of the flames. Sometimes they even have a small shovel. I suppose that will be a help should the flames get out of control? I've been to bonfires and believe me, this is way hotter than any bonfire! 
She was kind of doing a little dance and watching the flames eat the grass. Seeing the orange blaze into the black sky. 
She would stop and watch the grasses disappear, I am sure quite intensely feeling the heat of the inferno. Standing way too close in this mothers opinion! 
But this is life. This happens every year about this time. And it will continue until sometime in November when the rains begin again and nourish the parched land and the dead and burned grasses are resurrected. 

But until then.... 

No rains... fires will blaze. 
And they know what they're doing right?? Until an electrical pole gets in the path of the fire and whoosh! Up the pole it climbs! 
To say they do things a little differently around here is an understatement. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Harvest!

About three months ago at Shoprite we discovered seed packets for American Sweet corn and thought, "Why not?" 

They have corn here... well Maize. 

A hard, white corn that is really only good for grinding into a mealie-meal that must be cooked into a porridge or other thick meal called n'shima. That doesn't prevent the Zambians from roasting it with the husks on and eating it like we would... but it tastes something like wax. 

No insult intended. Just true. 
We (I say we loosely. Although I did buy the seed packet!) began small not knowing exactly what it would taste like. The package looked like what we know as sweet corn, but we have NEVER seen it growing here, and have only seen it intermittently sold at the grocery store in the frozen section at 4 kwacha for one ear. That is like .60c each. And they are tiny. About half the size of what we Upstate NY'ers are used to.
Corn, and Bananas past that, and Sugar Cane in the distance. 
So Farmer Micah and Benson, our yard man, tilled up a 4x8 foot area and planted a few rows.

And waited.

And weeded.

And watered.

And waited some more...
Until TODAY!! Micah took two tester ears off the stalk and we boiled them up. They sure looked like American style sweet corn! But how would they taste??
 Well, 4 minutes later.......
 YUM!!!! AMAZING! Better than ever! Well, maybe 19 months without any fresh sweet corn may have have jaded our opinion, but it was amazing!!
 Victoria was skeptical. Only 4 minutes to cook?? Could that be right? The corn here has to be roasted for 30 minutes or boiled for ever before it is edible. Wax Maize tends to take much longer to cook.
 All it took was one taste! She is a believer! A little butter and salt and "Hello Deliciousness!! Where have you been all my life?" We may be wrecking the Zambian staple diet, one national at a time!
Needless to say we are planting some more! Maybe our whole plot will be seeded before too long! We harvested 24 beautiful ears of corn. We also harvested 7 itty bitty ears that we shucked boiled and ate within 5 minutes!

There are some times I find myself a teeny bit thankful I have only two children living with me. Not that I wouldn't love to be sharing these with all of my kids, but hey, they aren't here so I will take 6 instead of three! 

Love this African Sun for growing! 
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Wednesday, May 21, 2014


So much of what makes this whole "adventure" possible is I truly feel I have a purpose here.

If all of this was to fulfill some romantic and glamorized image of what "missionary" life was like, I think I would have re-boarded a plane about three weeks after landing.

Purpose in life looks different on every person. God calls each of us to a place in His grand and glorious scheme and we can choose to do it or not.

I advise the former, by the way.

Living in Chipata, we are exposed to literally the highest of affluence and the lowest of poverty, and often within only minutes of time in between.

The other day I was in our Great East Mall Shopping Center (I try to make it sound grandiose!) and as a man passed me my son said, "That man is likely the richest man in the Eastern Province. He is this area's Paramount Chief." We watch him drive away in some fancy Mercedes, nearly running over the local homeless man that faithfully traipses the streets of Chipata. Seriously it was visual extremes.

While on deputation my husband made a statement on our DVD presentation that most live on $2/day. It was an unfathomable statistic, but I am telling you it is the truth.

Knowing this extreme poverty exists here in rampant numbers, I truly have prayed for wisdom and God's leading. I am not a bleeding heart, but when $20 means the difference between a child getting an education FOR A YEAR or not, I tend to want to do without a few 20's!

Seriously, I could walk outside my front gate and find dozens of children with no shoes, not attending school, needing food, you name it. How can I say yes or no without some divine intervention? To say yes to everyone is ridiculous, but to say no to anyone is heartless. 

So, Dan and I have prayed that IF the Lord wants us to get involved in something, that He PLEASE be abundantly clear. Some days I have prayed that whatever the Lord brings to our home, that is what I will accept as His leading.

Well, these children's story came to my kitchen table.
Family Discussions. What will the future hold. 
There were five kids. Their mom died several years ago, and Dad remarried and had a sixth child. Three weeks ago, on a Sunday, Dad passed away. Being double orphaned is so very common that it is a staggering statistic. Grandparents raising grandchildren from often two and three of their deceased kids. And yes, most of these parents are dying from complications from Hiv/AIDS. 

In this culture, the step mother is in no way obligated to care for the husband's children. Truthfully there is no way she physically could. Their blood relatives would be the new caregivers, and she is free to return to her village and remarry. Trouble is in so, so many situations, as in this one, there are no other capable relatives to care for them. These kids were all attending school and doing very well, which is a huge feat for most peasant farmers. 

Mateo, age 20, grade 10.

Besnart, age 17, grade 10.

Aliness, age 16, grade 9.

Rachel, age 13, grade 7.

Myliss, age 11, grade 5. (Not Pictured)

Innocent, age 2, child of new wife.
Mateo, feeling the responsibility for his sisters, clearly shows in his eyes. 
 I began to imagine what it would be like to foster five children. Where would they sleep? What would Savannah and Micah think? How would we travel back to the states? Seriously, I was open to whatever degree God would have said to go. I say I was open, but I was also terrified! Dan and I began to pray and discuss, and toss around ideas, possibilities, needs they would have.

The friday after their Dad's passing, Dan and I went to their village with the Zulus.
Robert and Doreen Zulu
These children are distant relatives of theirs. Their great-great paternal grandfather was Mr. Zulu's Grandfather's brother. Distant for sure.

We arrived at the farm as the extended family and other villagers were in the hut discussing what could be done. Tradition states nothing happens for 30 days, but with 5 school-aged children who would need to begin school again on Monday, that wasn't an option. We came there with a plan but had to talk with the children. We also had to present the idea to them in their cultural way. Everyone has a say. Everyone repeats what they understood the previous person said, and then adds their thoughts to it. Then the next person restates what the previous people said and adds to it their own statements. It is like an interminable verbal game of Simon!

They still had loans out for the current school term, and no means of paying them back now that their father was gone, and no one was able to run the farm. They also owed 30 bags of Maize as a repayment for other loans. Mateo imagined he had to quit school and Besnart would likely have to stay and help as well. If they couldn't afford the school fees, they would gradually stop paying, and eventually stop attending school altogether. This is the viscious cycle that happens here over and over and over again. Hopeless.

So here was our plan. We presented it carefully to the children first. The Zulus were willing to take the girls into their home. All of them! Together!! This is a huge adjustment for them all to be sure! These are children from the bush who live in a mud hut, no power or running water. They farm ground nuts, maize, sunflowers, chickens and ducks. Bringing them into town, even our little town of Chipata, will be a major adjustment for them!

Mateo, being 20, is old enough and wanting to stay at his current school where he rents a one room house near the campus. It will also keep him in close proximity to the farm, which is theirs by rights of property.

The other piece of the plan is they would have their school fees covered this year, as well as their loans paid. For this year, it was a gift to them. That God has brought their story to our lives was, to us, an opportunity to serve Him by helping these kids.

The following years would be treated as earned scholarship. If they want to continue their education, they must earn it by achieving above passing grades in the previous term. The Zulus are completely in agreement that the children know all the details of their education expenses and how they would be handled. The kids listened quietly as Mr and Mrs Zulu explained our proposal to them.

This is a very stoic culture. They don't smile much. They don't get bubbly, and giddy. To say they were elated is an understatement. Their faces barely registered a change, but their eyes surely did! They went from no hope... to a future! Each one of them said they wanted to continue their education, and they were almost in disbelief that it could truly be possible!
Besnart breaking up sugarcane while Rachel holds little Innocent, her half brother. 
Our role is to help the Zulus afford this. School fees, books, uniforms, housing needs. The Zulus have 7 grown children of their own, three of which are in college. They struggle on a regular basis as it is to afford the current demands on their family's budget. Yet they, with open hearts and a decisive attitude were wanting these kids to above all else stay together. It is a huge sacrifice on their part to be sure! We realize this is a several year commitment on our part. It is an investment! These children have a hope, and a future, and a destiny! We pray each one comes to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and that their lives will be an outpouring of Love for HIM!

I told Doreen, "You were almost home free! Your last child is beginning college, and you are now going to begin parenting an 11 year old again!" She just smiled and said, "God gave me these children to love!"


So to say I feel a little like an Auntie to five new nieces and a nephew about summarizes it up well. When we went to settle Mateo into school and give him supplies etc. he shook my hand and said he needed our photograph. He is very tall and broad shouldered, and aside from dark skin is exactly like my own boys. Sweet, sincere, hopeful! I included our family picture in the Chewa Bible we gave him. In a backpack. He never had a backpack before! He never had a Bible before either!!
Groundnut harvesting! Best peanuts we ever had! 
Pray for these kids with me! They have a long road ahead, but there are many who are coming along side them and seek to help them in any way they can!

I feel like the man at the ocean's edge with starfish littering the sands, knowing they all will surely perish on the dry land. As he picks up one and returns it to the water, he knows he has help that one... and reaches down for yet another.

Lord keep me faithful to be your hands and feet to the ONE you put before me TODAY!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

FB hijacked my Blog...

To say the past year+ has been one of the most radical years I have ever lived would be an understatement. To put it mildly.

I have moved to Zambia, Africa.

I have gone from "actively" mothering (as in living in my home and financially responsible for...!) five children down to three, then two. And soon enough it will be 1. And a half. (He won't live here... but we still get to pay! lol)

I have three dogs. Three. Dogs. Seriously.

I am living in a third world country and learning all that entails.





Over this past year, on a regular basis I thought of what I could condense down into a few words and put on the blog. And seriously, I was consistently overwhelmed.

I feel a little like I live in a terrarium and while it seemed like my life was on display, in truth I live in relative anonymity and people only know what I tell them. I mean seriously! I know like 8 people here, and the rest of my "friends" may realize I have dropped out of life after a few weeks, but in reality, not so much.

To say that I have experienced some highs and lows is another understatement.

Higher highs than I ever thought possible.

Hearing testimonies from a Zambian national of how she have achieved spiritual victory over unforgiveness that was held on to for over 10 years.

Seeing people follow the Lord in scriptural baptism, and hearing their testimony of how my husband played a vital role in their salvation.

Learning of a situation of five children being double orphaned after the death of their father, and being able to help them regain hope of staying in school and living with a family that will love and care for them.

Being able to host twenty young adults traveling the globe for 11 months, and pouring a little bit of home into their time here in Zambia. Having my house full with young people laughing, eating, and having my front foyer loaded with flip flops and Tevas... Awesome!
On the other side, lows that really challenged my faith and heart.

Being 8,000 miles away while two children graduated from college, and one celebrated high school graduation.

Being 8,000 miles away while my precious mother-in-law struggled with flooding in her home. Twice. Within 8 days. Having to call and see how she is doing while she is admitted and released, only to be readmitted into the hospital several times.

Being 8,000 miles away while my children in the states navigate job hunting, car accidents, personal friendships. Seeing them make their own holiday traditions with out us. Looking on at a distance as they choose life-long partners.
Most recently being so very far away while my firstborn got engaged. Engaged, as in Marriage. As in a commitment for her entire life.

Big extremes.

So, I resorted to the safe, simple, short, and sweet. My recording of last year has been reduced to a few posts in 180 characters or less, and a few pictures that have been enhanced on instagram. It was easy to paint a pretty face and keep it simple.

But I have missed this little blog. I realize more than ever that it is my journal of sorts. It is more for me and my life's record. I always wanted to have a journal from a great grandmother way in my past that wrote long scroll y words in an old leather bound book that was lost in an attic trunk for generations only to be read by me to my kids, and learn of our heritage. Very cinematic in my mind!

While this won't ever be in a leather bound journal, it is recorded. Truth be told, if I wrote in my own hand it may be a bit more sentimental but it would be completely illegible!

So once again, I am going to try to distill my thoughts, emotions, experiences, devotional "AhHa!" moments. I am not going to worry too much about it being perfect.

Or Neat.

My life is neither.

But it is worth remembering!