Monthly Archives: November 2011

Let me tell you a story

On the way to expat American Thanksgiving in Choma last Friday, my ride picked up two of my sort-of neighbors, Vita and Fanny. (I found this enlightening, because it explained why they’re my sort-of neighbors, and also what they actually do, neither of which I’d managed to figure out on my own. Also, Fanny’s name. They both live in Choma, but stay here in Macha during the week. Fanny is a co-headmistress, or assistant headmistress, or something to that effect, at the MICS school, and Vita is an assistant teacher (explaining why she seems to be a teacher, but doesn’t keep teacher hours). Since Vita stays with Clare while she’s here, she’s a very close sort-of neighbor, and it’s nice to have a better understanding of the situation.

Also, Fanny told us a story.

Why the cow does not get out of the road

There was a cow, a goat, and a dog who were traveling. To get to where they were going, they hiked*. When the cow got to where it was going, it paid in full, which is why it is not afraid of the vehicles that pass. When the goat got to where it was going, it just jumped off and ran away, so it always runs. The dog paid, and there was change due, but the driver did not provide it, which is why the dog always chases after cars.

*That is, hitch-hiked. Walking is ‘footing it,’ or sometimes just walking.

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Expat American Thanksgiving was very nice. Everyone seemed very excited about “meeting fellow Americans,” which prospect did not particularly excite me; I could meet Americans in the US without coming all the way to Zambia, and in general there is a much better selection over there (not that I’m complaining about the expats I’ve met here; they’re all very nice). This is just as well, as it turns out that I was the only person present who had met all of the attendees before that evening. And I always like holidays that involve hanging out and eating good food, especially since we stayed the night and I had the opportunity to take a hot bath.

There was no turkey, but there was pretty much everything else that one thinks of at Thanksgiving — the only staples I might have included were green bean casserole, sweetcorn, and Grandma H’s cranberry relish. AND we had chicken, duck, guineafowl, and bushpig. The guineafowl was very nice: good flavor, moist, more substantive than chicken at home, but not as much as village chicken here. Bushpig is rather generically pork-ish and somewhat dry. I don’t feel any need to have bushpig again. But I would eat more guineafowl.

We played a game that I thought was a nice acknowledgement of the origins of the holiday. Everyone was given an illustrated nametag incorporating their initials to create a “Native American style” name, and we were informed that this was the name out parents had given us when we were small, and that by dessert we should share with the group the story we had been told as children about how we got out name. Mine was Rising Moon, so of course I told the tale of how, when I was born, I was given one of those stupid names that babies get, like Ichabod or something, but that it was quickly changed when my parents realized that my sleep schedule was lunar, rather than solar. We also heard how Matt played with mountain lions when he was two or three years old; how Erma was discovered on a small hill covered in elk; how grownup-Chris’s mother had to slaughter a cow all by herself; how SALT-Chris’s parents drove the car into a ditch so that he was born in a canyon; the story of the nasty Shetland pony that Greg’s family had when he was a kid, which made his first date with his future wife a complete failure; and a few others. I thought it was lots of fun.

And I already mentioned the hot bath. I was really decadent this morning and heated water to add to my bathwater, so I washed my hair in hot water this morning, too, although out of a bucket.

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I’ve been tutoring a woman in computer science material I was never taught, which is interesting. I read the (really poorly designed in all sorts of ways) book and then explain it to her. cmoore calls it “knowledge translation.” In addition to meaning that I spend more evenings away from home than I do at home, I’m getting chances to eat more Zambian food, and also to experience a little bit of the daily household interactions that I miss out on through not living with a host family. I like Monica and her family a lot, and hanging out with them is definitely worth tromping over to the hospital-area several evenings a week. I’m learning things too, which is always fun, and her husband and two youngest kids and I had a hymn sing Saturday night while we waited for supper to be ready, which was absolutely marvelous. I like the music here, and people in general sing really well, but hymns in Tonga aren’t quite the same as hymns in English, and half the music is praise songs in Tonga, which is much harder, because then I haven’t got written words (though it’s really exciting when, on the second or third pass, I can figure out not only what the words are but what they mean, which is happening more and more frequently). So it was very nice to sit down and sing Amazing Grace and gobs of old familiar hymns, and a few new-to-me old hymns. Yesterday Monica and I were talking about binary numbers, and decimal-to-binary conversion, and binary-to-octal conversion, and I could see that she was getting it, which was really marvelous, especially since I knew that she would not have understood it from just reading the book.

I’m also doing some tutoring with the boarding kids at MICS, due to not having enough work to do at work, which is fun, but also challenging, because I never know from day to day which kids I’ll be working with (and I have yet to see any of them twice, although I think that will change if I keep doing tutoring through next year), or whether they’ll have homework or I’m just supposed to come up with something on my own, or even what grade they’ll be in. 24 is my favorite game right now, although it takes a good bit of work to create cards easy enough for their maths skills that are still challenging.

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Smoke that Thunders

While in Livingstone, of course we went to see the falls. Again, photocopied receipts of work permit applications were accepted as if they were the work permits themselves, so we got in for the resident price of 7,000 kw (which is the price of seven chicken eggs, ten guineafowl eggs, or a meat pie in the grocery store, and less than $1.50 US), considerably less than the non-resident price.

Once inside the fence, we wandered along the path until we came to an outlook point.

November is absolutely the worst time to visit the falls in terms of water volume, but I still found my first view of them somewhat breathtaking.

November is absolutely the worst time to visit the falls in terms of water volume, but I still found my first view of them somewhat breathtaking.

We followed the pleasant wooded path down some stairs and over to the other side of the promontory, which looked out across another lovely canyon.

What can I say, I like bridges.  And the light was pretty incredible.  This bridge was part of the brainchild of a Frenchman around the turn of the last century who wanted to make a road from Capetown to . . . Cairo?  Marrakesh?  Somewhere in the north of the continent.

What can I say, I like bridges. And the light was pretty incredible. This bridge was part of the brainchild of a Frenchman around the turn of the last century who wanted to make a road from Capetown to . . . Cairo? Marrakesh? Somewhere in the north of the continent.

After some discussion about where the water at the bottom of this gorge was coming from (and, for Chris and I, some eavesdropping on someone else’s tour guide), we followed the path back to the falls side.

Mind you, while I can only imagine how impressive it is in full torrent, personally, I tend to prefer elegant, trickling waterfalls that dribble over cascades of rocks, and I'm sure that I will not be able to watch individual streams of water in March or May.

Mind you, while I can only imagine how impressive it is in full torrent, personally, I tend to prefer elegant, trickling waterfalls that dribble over cascades of rocks, and I'm sure that I will not be able to watch individual streams of water in March or May.

Note that rocky cliff; you’ll see it again.

I feel that I should include other people in a few pictures, just for verisimilitude.  The landmass in the left background is Zimbabwe, which has a better view of the falls, but we didn't go over there.

I feel that I should include other people in a few pictures, just for verisimilitude. The landmass in the left background is Zimbabwe, which has a better view of the falls, but we didn't go over there.

I was constantly surprised by the lack of guard rails and attention paid to the tourists. Mostly there were guard rails, but aside from the lookout points, they were usually only about knee-high, and in several places, the chains had rotted away entirely, leaving a meter or two of rocks and grassy scrub between the path and the lip of the gorge. In one notable place, the fence was composed of wooden sticks not even as thick around as my wrist and branches covered in inch-long thorns. (Actually they were technically prickles, since they weren’t modified twigs. But they were still an inch long. It sometimes seems like almost everything here has thorns (prickles), as if to remind the unwary expatriate that yes you are in Africa. I believe it’s actually a physical defense (as opposed to a chemical defense, like those bitter plants in Chobe) because water is so scarce in dry season that anything that doesn’t fight back gets eaten to the ground, and sometimes below that. I find this lots of fun combined with the fact that I wear skirts all the time here. I’ve mentioned that Zambia is very hard on clothing, yes?)

After going as far as we could while still in Zambia (actually, I'm told that we missed a path somewhere that would have let us hike down the gorge to the Boiling Pot, but I'm just as glad we didn't, really), we turned around and went back around the end of the gorge.

After going as far as we could while still in Zambia (actually, I'm told that we missed a path somewhere that would have let us hike down the gorge to the Boiling Pot, but I'm just as glad we didn't, really), we turned around and went back around the end of the gorge.

It was somewhere around here that we met the baboons. We’ve been warned several times to be wary of the baboons at the falls; they’re very used to people and will take anything that looks like it might be food, including water bottles and Shoprite bags. Alison has promised to give me a copy of the photograph of the baboon waltzing along the path next to us in pursuit of another baboon’s muffin.

Remember that cliff?  The advantage of visiting the Falls in dry season is that you can climb around on top of the falls.

Remember that cliff? The advantage of visiting the Falls in dry season is that you can climb around on top of the falls.

If you weren't near the edge, bits of it were oddly otherworldly, completely separate from the rest of the area.  I could have believed that we were not 20 meters from the top of a hundred-meter plunge into roiling water and sharp rocks.

If you weren't near the edge, bits of it were oddly otherworldly, completely separate from the rest of the area. I could have believed that we were not 20 meters from the top of a hundred-meter plunge into roiling water and sharp rocks.

Don't worry; they're not AS close to the edge as it looks.

Don't worry; they're not AS close to the edge as it looks.

I spent a while being surprised that so much of the footing was stable, but after a good distance it occurred to me that anything that would wobble when I stepped on it was unlikely to remain in place under the full force of the water in rainy season. This did not stop my from testing things before I stepped on them, especially when going from rock to rock across the streams that fed what waterfalls there were.

And take a look at those rocks!  Though I'll admit that it was also at times disconcerting to walk along narrow stone ledges between partially water-filled deep circular gouges in the stone, rather along the lines of what a giant might use to make elephants into soup.

And take a look at those rocks! Though I'll admit that it was also at times disconcerting to walk along narrow stone ledges between partially water-filled deep circular gouges in the stone, rather along the lines of what a giant might use to make elephants into soup.

I'm not as close to the edge as it looks, either.  Although it was still rather closer than I was entirely comfortable with.  One hundred meters is a long way.

I'm not as close to the edge as it looks, either. Although it was still rather closer than I was entirely comfortable with. One hundred meters is a long way.

Chris and Matt, who, if you recall, went rafting, told us that those cute little wavelets are the height of a man when you're down there among them.  That deep green circular swoosh on the left is the boiling pot, by the way.  At least, that's what we decided, because of course none of this was labeled.

Chris and Matt, who, if you recall, went rafting, told us that those cute little wavelets are the height of a man when you're down there among them. That deep green circular swoosh on the left is the boiling pot, by the way. At least, that's what we decided, because of course none of this was labeled.

This side didn't have any fencing or guard rails at all. I suppose it would have been rather impractical to build any, since this area is under water for some large portion of the year, and would have spoiled the view of the falls, but I cannot imagine this big of a tourist attraction in the United States being so utterly without guards and protective everything.

This side didn't have any fencing or guard rails at all. I suppose it would have been rather impractical to build any, since this area is under water for some large portion of the year, and would have spoiled the view of the falls, but I cannot imagine this big of a tourist attraction in the United States being so utterly without guards and protective everything.

I, a slow scrambler, was somewhat perennially behind, which gave me ample time to reconfirm what I had decided at Lockinvar: my water-sandals, while pretty good, are not Tevas, and definitely not hiking boots.  (Not that I would've kept up if I had been wearing hiking boots, especially since I kept deciding to hike some distance away from the cliff, where the land might be a bit flatter.  Even so, my legs were sore the next day from the rock-scrambling and (really very moderate) slopes.  I don't do stairs here.  Macha is almost entirely flat, and there are very few two-story buildings, none of which I go in on any kind of regular basis, so I go up at most two or three steps at a time.  Which just goes to show that choosing to live on the third floor in college did indeed help keep me in shape.)

I, a slow scrambler, was somewhat perennially behind, which gave me ample time to reconfirm what I had decided at Lockinvar: my water-sandals, while pretty good, are not Tevas, and definitely not hiking boots. (Not that I would've kept up if I had been wearing hiking boots, especially since I kept deciding to hike some distance away from the cliff, where the land might be a bit flatter. Even so, my legs were sore the next day from the rock-scrambling and (really very moderate) slopes. I don't do stairs here. Macha is almost entirely flat, and there are very few two-story buildings, none of which I go in on any kind of regular basis, so I go up at most two or three steps at a time. Which just goes to show that choosing to live on the third floor in college did indeed help keep me in shape.)

After a while, we did come to one sign, a discreet notice asking us to please not go any further in order to help protect the environment.  Not that there was anything to stop you from going ahead; in fact, several people did.  Personally, I had to wonder what the daily traffic of tourists with enough gumption to hike out that far could do to a landscape that managed just fine with the full force of the Zambezi river rushing over it much of the time.

After a while, we did come to one sign, a discreet notice asking us to please not go any further in order to help protect the environment. Not that there was anything to stop you from going ahead; in fact, several people did. Personally, I had to wonder what the daily traffic of tourists with enough gumption to hike out that far could do to a landscape that managed just fine with the full force of the Zambezi river rushing over it much of the time.

I had a lot of difficulty taking pictures of the falls because the viewscreen of my camera just wasn't big enough.  I felt like I needed a panoramic lens that could capture an entire sweep of landscape.

I had a lot of difficulty taking pictures of the falls because the viewscreen of my camera just wasn't big enough. I felt like I needed a panoramic lens that could capture an entire sweep of landscape.

By the time we finished the trek back to the path, we were all very ready for food, so we caught a taxi back into town and ate at a very nice Italian place that served excellent pizza and sandwiches and also gelato. It wasn’t as good as gelato at home, but it was pretty good ice cream. We spent the afternoon just lounging about, and that evening went to an Indian place. There’s a story there. The menu of this particular restaurant was posted at the hostel, where I noticed it because it was a) very cheap, b) Indian, and c) the second-cheapest item on the menu was goat curry. We tried to go the first night, but when I asked the woman at the desk, she started drawing a crazy squiggle across the little free map, then told me it was complicated, and did we just want Indian food? I wanted goat curry, but I said yes, and she directed us to a different place way off in the other direction. I asked if it was cheap and she said it was reasonable.

And — I suppose that it was on the expensive side of reasonable. (Aside from the fact that you had to order rice separately if you wanted it, which I thought was odd, and Alison, who’s lived in India, found very weird.) It was nice restaurant. Probably only moderate-nice by US standards, but I would’ve put it in the running for Nicest Restaurant in Livingstone. Admittedly, the food was REALLY good. They didn’t have goat curry (and I got a lentil thing, anyway, because Alison agrees with me on the Restaurants Are Best When You Share theory, and she’s vegetarian, and meat was more expensive).

So we tried again for the cheap Indian place on the last night in town. It turns out that it was all of two blocks away and on the main drag, so I can only conclude that the first woman either didn’t know where it was or for some other reason didn’t want us to go there. It was a step and a half above hole in the wall, and there was outdoor seating — but when we looked at the menu, it was NOT what had been posted at the hostel. It was nearly as expensive as the really nice place. And there was no goat curry in evidence. We looked at the prices and concluded that we would go back and eat what they were serving at the hostel that night.

“I’m sorry,” I told the waiter, handing him the menu, “but this is more money than we want to spend.”
“Wait, wait!” he called, as the others were already walking away. “We have another menu! Like this!” He indicated the specials on the chalkboard, which were indeed much cheaper. “I will get that one.”

We looked at each other and shrugged, figuring that we could still walk away. And he returned with a much more durable menu, the first two pages of the one that had been posted at the hostel. The goat curry had been on the third page.

“Do you think it’s kosher to ask him for the third page?” I asked wistfully. A moment later he came out with it. We could only conclude that the first menu he’d given us was the muguwa menu.

They were out of goat meat. But I got to try puri, which is an Indian flatbread, except it’s not flat because it puffs up into a ball. And the replacement curry was good.

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“Do not become dry in the hands of the potter”

I have a problem with sermons: if I cannot agree with the overarching metaphor or interpretation, I have a great deal of difficulty getting anything of value out of the sermon at all.

This occasionally happens in the States. It happens much more frequently here in Zambia, probably due to fundamental differences in worldview, experience, and relation to the biblical text. It’s probably also related to a fundamental difference in length of sermons and church services: services here typically range from two and a half to three hours. (And I have it good. Alison’s Pentecostal host family typically spend between four and seven hours at church on a Sunday, and the expression of faith tends towards screaming. She says that she gets though it by cultivating an look of interest when she is, in reality, paying no attention, and by being amused by the way Zambian accents can make ‘Jesus’ sound like ‘Cheez-Its,’ especially if you’re yelling.) I try to tell myself that at least 45 minutes of that time is probably due to repeating everything in Tonga and English, but my body generally informs me that three hours sitting on a hard (and possibly wobbly) wooden bench is still three hours. However, it is true that the service in Mboole where they only translated the sermon was significantly shorter — but I understood very little of Church – {Sermon}.

I also have difficulty taking anything of value from the sermon when the preacher proclaims things from the pulpit that are diametrically opposed to what I believe about the nature of God, God’s family, etc. I am getting better at this one, but it’s not within the scope of this blog post.

This morning’s sermon was “Do Not Become Dry in the Hands of the Potter,” taken from Jeremiah 18*, where God says, “Jeremiah, go to the potter’s house,” and Jeremiah does, and the pot becomes spoiled and the potter smashes it and re-forms it, which is a lesson about Israel. The general idea of the sermon was that when Christians stray from God’s ways, they are no longer useful instruments to God. Okay.

“When the clay becomes dry in the potter’s hands, it is useless to him, hard to work. We must not become dry.”

The instant I realized what this sermon was about, I thought, For everything, there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.

I am a terrible potter, at least when it comes to making vessels on a wheel. However, I have spent enough time and energy trying to throw pots that I can very easily assign tactile-visual memories to metaphors involving clay.

And the truth of it is that the drying of clay is integral to the process of creating finished ceramics. (Also, I have never had the problem that the clay was too dry; mine was always too wet and collapsed, but possibly that’s a problem specific to beginners trying to throw things beyond their skill.)

If I close my eyes, I can easily see Andrea centering a leatherhard (which is to say, half-dry) pot on the wheel and affixing it with lumps of clay, then setting the wheel to a slow spin as she carved off excess weight at the base to create an elegant ‘foot.’ Andrea abhors people who don’t trim the feet of their pots; if the bottom is still clunky, the pot isn’t finished.

The gorgeous ceramics endemic to the Southwest US are created by taking pots at the same stage of dryness, glazing them, and carving off bits of the glazed clay to reveal the natural color beneath.

Even if you aren’t adding fancy trimmings to your pots, you can’t fire wet clay; the water will expand and the piece will explode, quite possibly taking nearby pieces with it.

Aside from that, I don’t like the metaphor of clay in general. It works excellently for the idea of destruction and reformation, but when applied to individual spirituality, it entirely breaks down. Clay is clay. (Yes, there are different grades and colors, but within any one type of clay, all the clay is more-or-less the same.) If the potter is having difficulty working the clay, the fault is in the potter’s preparation of the clay (or the potter’s skill), not the clay itself. If it has air bubbles, that’s because the potter didn’t work it sufficiently before beginning to throw. If it’s too dry, the potter should have added more water, and if it’s too wet, the clay should have been left to dry out a bit. If the clay if off-center on the wheel, the potter centered it badly. Before it is glazed or fired, any piece of clay has the potential to be re-formed into something else, although it may take varying amounts of work to fit it to do so. As Romans 9:21 says, “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?”

Needless to say, I spent the next while figuring out all the reasons that I didn’t like the metaphor, rather than getting anything useful out of the sermon. When I next brought myself to pay attention, the pastor had moved on to using First Samuel 15:22 (“And Samuel said, ‘Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.'”) to tell me that if I’m not in a proper church-y mood, I should just not come to church.

Now I’m sorry, but most of the time I do not wake up on a Sunday morning filled with joy at the prospect of going to church in Zambia. I know that it will be a 45 minute walk under the already-hot sun to church, that the service will probably be an hour longer than I really have attention span for, that the preacher and I will probably disagree on a number of points, that if I’m unlucky my feet will get bitten by mosquitoes, that it will be hot and that the windows will not provide sufficient ventilation to compensate for cramming 400-700 people into that church, that it’s somewhat big and impersonal and I know very few people and that enough people wander in and out that the church is not good at welcoming visitors beyond the first day, and that I will quite probably have to walk back home again 45 minutes under the very definitely hot sun. These things have the cumulative effect that I frequently don’t feel like I’ve managed to do very much worshiping at church, and going to church does feel sometimes like a bit of a chore. (I should point out that despite my complaints, it’s MUCH better than Spain, where Spanish Catholicism made me feel like the new kid in class to such an extreme degree that I only ever went to mass twice. In fact, when I’m not grumpy at the preacher, I do feel more at home in Macha BICC than I have in some churches in the States. And I really do like the music, and am even starting to understand it sometimes.)

I’m not arguing that you should go to church if you hate the idea so much that you’ll just sit in the pew sulking and being miserable and angry. The preacher does have a point, at least that far. But I still go to church every Sunday that I’m here, and not just because the SALT program expects me to behave like a reasonable Christian who goes to church on a fairly regular basis. It’s good for me to go to church. I meet people, and interact with the community, and have an opportunity to practice Tonga. Most weeks there is something that speaks to me, at least a little bit. And even the things that make me feel uncomfortable and out-of-place challenge my faith in ways that solidify it and force me to figure out what I do believe. None of this would happen if I stayed home and hung out in my room.

But I’ll admit that I do spend a good bit of time most weeks just trying to figure out new words in Tonga, or exploring the concordance in my Bible.

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*Whenever I’m not working from memory I’m using the English Standard Version. One of these days I will graduate to the Whatever Whatever Tonga Version, at least on a part-time basis.

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More pictures than you ever really wanted

Last weekend we went to Livingstone, home of Mosi-oa-tunya, better known as Victoria Falls. (It’s also spelled Mosi-o-tunya.) Mosi-oa-tunya means ‘The Smoke that Thunders,’ which in my mind is an excellent name for a waterfall, and certainly much better than just naming it after the queen.

Chris, Matt and I met up in Choma, where we did some grocery shopping and paid a visit to Immigration. (It turns out, whoops, that we didn’t have a three-month visa, we had a thirty-day visa that could be extended twice. We weren’t trying to be illegal immigrants! Luckily Matt had gone in the day before, figured this out, and gotten the talking-to, so all Chris and I had to do was show up, pay 1,500 kwacha each for photocopies, and fill out a little bit of paperwork. And the guy was nice enough to give us a 60-day extension, rather than the usual 30. Mind you, our work permits have been approved for months, so this shouldn’t be a problem, but they’ve run out of booklets in Lusaka, so we have work permits but don’t have them, we just have photocopies of the receipts with a note that they’ve been approved.)

We met up with Alison on the bus, and after two hours and some crazy in-bus movie, we found ourselves in Livingstone. None of us had any clear idea where we were going, between forgetting to look stuff up on a map and not being able to do so due to lack of power and/or internet. The cab drivers told us which direction our hostel was in, and also that it was an ‘unwalkable distance.’ We were dubious about what constituted ‘unwalkable distance,’ but figured that we had three hours, snacks, and water. After roughly two blocks, we found a sign (or rather, a mural painted on a wall, which is how people do roughly 80% of advertising here) informing us that the place we wanted was 300m in the direction we had come from. Since none of us have a terribly accurate idea of how far 300m is, we wound up at Livingstone Backpackers, rather than Jollyboys Backpackers, but we eventually made our way to Jollyboys, which turned out to be a whole block and a half from the bus station, not in the indicated direction.

While there, we discovered that top bunks in a 16-bed dormitory get really, really warm at the end of the hot season, even if it rains, but mostly we were so exhausted that we didn’t care. The showers were amazing (by which I mean comparable to so-so school showers, but amazing nonetheless), as were the spigots with water coming out of them at the turn of a tap. There was a pool, too. It was almost entirely filled with white people, which we found weird. (And such a variety of people, too!)

Friday night we spent gobs of money (okay, $10, but it felt like a lot) at a really nice Indian restaurant. Saturday the guys went raftinginflatable kayaking, and Alison and I went to Chobe National Park in Botswana. Alison had been thinking of doing both, but decided to just do the river cruise/game drive in Chobe because doing both would cost too much. Me, I had no intention of going down Class 5 rapids in something I couldn’t steer, and hearing the guys talk about it afterwards, I am very confident that I made the correct decision.

Chobe was amazing, though. The trip was door-to-door service from the hostel. I saw a giraffe from the van — my first real, wild giraffe, and I spotted it! I learned that truck drivers may wait three weeks or a month to cross the border; no wonder AIDS is such a problem along truck routes. The line of trucks seemed to stretch on forever, unmoving, most of them apparently unattended.

I stood in Zambia and surveyed Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. The crossing into Botswana was probably the easiest I have ever had; I didn’t need a visa, and the woman could barely stop reading the newspaper long enough to stamp my passport. She didn’t even look at the picture page. After that we were supposed to walk across a carpet with foot-and-mouth-disease-deterrent goo, but we had a hard time figuring out where it was because there was absolutely no one paying any attention to it. I could have tapdanced across, utterly ignoring the carpet, and I don’t think anyone would have noticed.

From the border we were taken to the lodge, where we paid, got refreshments, and used the restrooms, and then we embarked on the river cruise.

I've forgotten what sort of bird this is.

I've forgotten what sort of bird this is.

It was amazing. I don’t know if I have the words to describe how incredible it was.

These are Bee Eaters.  And there's a different bird of the same gorgeous, iridescent blue that hangs out around Macha.

These are Bee Eaters. And there's a different bird of the same gorgeous, iridescent blue that hangs out around Macha.

Mostly I don’t even try to take pictures of birds with my camera. (And mostly, they were terrible, like usual, but these are the good ones.)

Hippo out of the water.

Hippo out of the water.

Alison said at some point on Friday that Lockinvar was pretty lame. I protested, on the grounds that we’d had a great time. She hurried to agree that it was lots of fun, but pointed out that as far as National Parks go, it was terrible, both in terms of animals and maintenance. Which I had to admit was true. All I can say is that it’s a good thing we did it first.

A convocation of elephants!  Does anyone know what the proper word for a group of elephants is?  'Herd' is terribly boring.

A convocation of elephants! Does anyone know what the proper word for a group of elephants is? 'Herd' is terribly boring.

This was a bachelor herd. The next elephants will be from the breeding herd, which is to say females and children (calves?).

Hippoes are one of the most dangerous of all African animals, responsible for the most deaths per year, I think.  It's very unusual to see so many out of the water during the day; the guide said it was because competition for food is so intense.

Hippoes are one of the most dangerous of all African animals, responsible for the most deaths per year, I think. It's very unusual to see so many out of the water during the day; the guide said it was because competition for food is so intense.

We, of course, hoped that some of the hippos we saw in the water would do the classic mouth-opening pose, which is actually very rare, despite it’s prevalence in pictures (probably because hippos in the water with their mouths shut make uninteresting pictures). One of them actually did open its mouth, but that was on the boat ride back into Zambia, the light was awkward, it was some distance away, and none of us had cameras out anymore.

Apparently hippos sunburn very easily.

Apparently hippos sunburn very easily.

We did have some interesting discussion about the “o’clock” terminology: our guide initially thought that you refer to an animal as “such and such o’clock” to indicate how far away it is. I figured out that something was up when he referred to birds on the starboard side as “twelve o’clock,” but didn’t figure out what was wrong until we got to “twenty-four o’clock.” He was using our new system like a pro by the time we finished, though.

These two climbed into the water while we watched.  Unfortunately I was taking pictures from the wrong side of the boat, so most of mine are out of focus.

These two climbed into the water while we watched. Unfortunately I was taking pictures from the wrong side of the boat, so most of mine are out of focus.

Have I mentioned how CLOSE all of these animals were?  I don't think I cropped this photo at all.

Have I mentioned how CLOSE all of these animals were? I don't think I cropped this photo at all.

Cape buffalo.  Another very dangerous animal.

Cape buffalo. Another very dangerous animal.

Monitor lizard.  Also, Namibia.

Monitor lizard. Also, Namibia.

I think that the river cruise was in some ways more impressive than the game drive, because there were animals ALL THE TIME (not pictured: crocodiles, impala, sable antelope, lots of birds), but the game drive was better for pictures, because we were higher, and the animals we did see were very close to the road and not really afraid of people or vehicles.

Impala napping under a tree.  It was REALLY HOT that day.  The rains in Botswana won't start for perhaps another month.

Impala napping under a tree. It was REALLY HOT that day. The rains in Botswana won't start for perhaps another month.

Why did the elephant cross the road?

Why did the elephant cross the road?

Have I mentioned that the lunch they fed us was DELICIOUS? There was ice cream and watermelon for dessert. GOOD ice cream, not watery like most of the stuff here. I hadn’t had ice cream in over two months.

Family of baboons and impala.

Family of baboons and impala.

I don't generally think of baboons as adorable, especially not the TERRIFYING ones at the falls, which will take food, Shoprite bags, water bottles . . . they told us that a guy got in a flight with a baboon at the falls a few months ago and wound up going over the edge.  I do sometimes make exceptions, though.  Note that the little one is nursing, and the medium one grooming mama.

I don't generally think of baboons as adorable, especially not the TERRIFYING ones at the falls, which will take food, Shoprite bags, water bottles . . . they told us that a guy got in a flight with a baboon at the falls a few months ago and wound up going over the edge. I do sometimes make exceptions, though. Note that the little one is nursing, and the medium one grooming mama.

Kudu.  I think that they are absolutely gorgeous animals, and the top of my list for underappreciated African animals.  Giraffes, too, but I could at least picture a giraffe before I came here.

Kudu. I think that they are absolutely gorgeous animals, and the top of my list for underappreciated African animals. Giraffes, too, but I could at least picture a giraffe before I came here.

The guide said that the little guy was less than a month old.  Baby elephants don't learn to use their trunks until about six months old.

The guide said that the little guy was less than a month old. Baby elephants don't learn to use their trunks until about six months old.

Our guide called impala "the MacDonald's of the bush" because of the golden arch on their rear end.

Our guide called impala "the MacDonald's of the bush" because of the golden arch on their rear end.

Those are all elephants.  I think they said that Chobe has a population of something like 800,000 elephants.

Those are all elephants. I think they said that Chobe has a population of something like 800,000 elephants.

I love giraffes.

I love giraffes.

Warthogs!  I think Alison described this look as 'eighties punk warthogs.'

Warthogs! I think Alison described this look as 'eighties punk warthogs.'

No lions, unfortunately, but still an incredible trip.

Remember all those elephants?  The whole drive in looked like this due to overgrazing.  The only plants left was one that was so bitter that no one would eat much of it, and baobab and acacia trees -- and even those were at risk.  Did you know that an elephant can strip the bark from a baobab tree?

Remember all those elephants? The whole drive in looked like this due to overgrazing. The only plants left was one that was so bitter that no one would eat much of it, and baobab and acacia trees -- and even those were at risk. Did you know that an elephant can strip the bark from a baobab tree?

After the drive, they took us back through the border, my photocopied receipt worked excellently as proof-of-residency (meaning that I did not have to pay $50 US to get back into the country), we met up with the rather sunburned guys, and had supper at a Mexican restaurant that may have been the slowest restaurant in the world. I was so exhausted that I was seriously concerned that I would fall asleep before the food came, even after we were joined by a bunch of young people that the guys had met rafting.

Pictures of the falls later. And it’s raining AGAIN!

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Rain!

My post about the rains coming was premature. That storm, while impressive, delivered very little water, the one two days later was barely enough to wet the dust, and after that it stopped even trying. It continued hot, and we continued with unreliable water, only available some distance away, if that. (The eventual analysis is that it was so long since it had rained that the water table was very low and the pumps could not consistently reach the water. Cue concern that we will either wear out the pumps by running them dry, or deplete the water table so badly that we won’t have water at all. The school (150 people during the day, and 30 boarding students and staff) hadn’t had water for about three weeks, and eventually purchased a tank that they’d haul around on a truck to refill elsewhere.

By the middle of last week I was beginning to wonder when, in good conscience, I would next be able to wash my hair.

Internet and power have been somewhat sporadic, too, but it’s been the water thing that’s really getting to me. These problems may be related, since internet requires electricity, and some large portion of the power here comes from hydroelectric plants, which I assume can’t produce as much when the water level is very low.

I now know that I can carry 17 liters of water on my head for upwards of .2km. The only problem is that after this distance, it’s difficult to get the bucket back down to the ground, and upwards of 2/3rds of the water acquired in this exercise goes immediately to refilling my water filter.

Needless to say, I was greatly looking forward to last weekend’s excursion to Livingstone (description and pictures from that next post, if the internet holds out). The hostel promised 24/7 hot and cold running showers, and I concluded that if I brought only dirty clothing with me and washed it there to wear it and washed it again to bring it home clean, I would be able to go another week without doing laundry in Macha (which, indeed, was the case).

And then. AND THEN! It rained two nights ago. I awoke (unless it started before I went to sleep) to majestic rolling thunder and impressive flashes of lightning, and the marvelous sound of rain pouring down on the roof. The power promptly went out (I can tell because my fan turns off, as does the porch light, which shines in my window), but it was RAINING. It rained and rained and rained and rained and rained in the gorgeous pitch-black night, illuminated by frequent lightning. At about 4am I got up and put my biggest basin outside under one of the parts of the roof that dumps water onto the porch. Unfortunately, by that point, the rain had slackened, but half of my bath (and hairwashing!) water the next morning did not need to be hauled from some distant tap.

The next morning, the ground was WET. There were puddles. There was occasionally mud. As I left for work, I encountered Lidewÿ coming back home with an impressive streak of mud up one side of her leg.

It rained again yesterday evening, not as hard, but fairly thoroughly. This morning dawned fair and clear, but during my lunchtime nap, the sky got lovely and threatening again, and as I write, there is distant thunder, and cool, damp breezes blowing in the windows. We had water at the back tap yesterday morning, and again in the afternoon.

I think I have never in my life been so pleased with any weather phenomenon as I am with this rain.

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Songs, Some in Tonga

If you are interested in neither music not language, you might want to skip this post.

“Making Melodies in my Heart”

I learned this one from the kids at the innovative school here in Macha. It reminds me of Father Abraham, but a little less lively:

Verse:
Making melodies in my heart (x3)
To the king of kings!

Thumbs up!
(repeat verse with your thumbs up)

Thumbs up! Elbows out!
. . .
Thumbs up! Elbows out! Feet apart! Knees bent! Tongue out! Head tilted! . . . Sit down!

“Heartbeat”
(We sang this one in orientation, but I don’t think I posted it. It’s accompanied by a rhythm of double-thumps against the chest and a clap. I think it would make a really cool round.)

Listen to the heartbeat all around the world,
Pulsing, flowing,
One body, one spirit.

“Luyando Leza Ndupati Maninge”
(More-or-less to the tune of the first verse of “Rock-a My Soul In The Bosom of Abraham”)

Luyando Leza ndupati maninge (x3)
Luyando ndupati

Luyando Jesu ndupati maninge (x3)
Luyando ndupati

Kushoma muli Jesu chibotu maninge (x3)
Kushoma chibotu

(Ndupati is pronounced ‘dupati,’ and on the last line, you elongate the ‘lu’ of luyando, and ndupati is three notes that fall in the same part of the line as ‘soul’ does in English. Kushoma is pronounced closer to ‘goo-shoma,’ and while you can hear the ‘li’ of muli if you know it’s there, I didn’t hear it until Maureen looked over the lyrics I’d written down. Also, chibotu is said ‘jibotu,’ like the ‘gee’ of gee whiz.)

Translation:
The love of God is very wonderful . . . wonderful love
The love of Jesus is very wonderful . . . wonderful love
To trust in Jesus is very good . . . good to trust

(That’s very rough; I think the ndu part is something like an accusative ‘me,’ which would make -pati some kind of verb, I think. Tonga grammar, so far as I can tell, is mostly very simple, but I don’t understand it. It doesn’t help that it includes parts of speech that English hasn’t really had distinctions for during the past several hundred years, and I’m pretty certain that Maureen can’t talk about, for example, object pronouns — though if I ask if the first person in the verb is who’s doing it, and the second person who it’s done to, she has enough comprehension of the way the language works to confirm that I’m right.)

“Leta Maila” (Inyiimbo Zyabakristo #133, BRINGING IN THE SHEAVES)
This is a song that we sing a lot at Macha BICC. I’ve been curious what the words mean, because the tune is really nice (and I like the way we sing it better than any of the stuff I’m finding on youtube, which tends to be either insipid or march-y, whereas ours is just — joyful). While we were at Mboole, I sat down with Maureen and we translated it (ironically, this is how I missed digging up cassava with the others).

Kosyanga cifumo mbuto yaluzyalo,
Syanga isikati akumasuba;
Lindila ciindi cakutebula loko,
Akusega, tuyooleta maila.

(Refrain)
Leta maila, leta maila,
Akuseka, tuyooleta maila;
Leta maila, leta maila,
Akuseka, tuyooleta maila.

Syanga musalala, syanga mumudima,
Utayoowi mayoba ma impeyo;
Twamana milimo, yoonse yamumuunda,
Akuseka, tuyooleta maila.

Mukulila ukamusyangile, Mwami,
Antela moyo ulakupengesya;
Twamana kulila uzootutambula,
Akuseka, tuyooleta maila.

Translation (literal, not poetic):
Plant, (in the) morning, seeds for mercy,
Plant (in the) afternoon, (in the) evening;
Wait (until) the time for havesting much,
With joy*, we shall bring in our maize**.

Bring the maize, bring the maize,
With joy, we shall bring in our maize.

Plant in the light, plant in the dark***,
You shall not fear clouds or cold;
We are finished work, our work for the fields,
With joy, we shall bring in our maize.

In crying, you plant for the Lord,
Though heart may be suffering;
(When) we are finished crying, you shall receive us,
With joy, we shall bring in our maize.

*or ‘smile,’ or ‘love’
**or ‘grain.’ Maureen says that maila is ‘big Tonga,’ that if I went to Mamba and asked for maila, I would be given cassava, that it’s a generic word for the staple grain. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a generic word for food, actually; if Zambians haven’t had nshima, they don’t feel like they’ve eaten.
***or ‘the good times, the bad times.’ As an interesting side note, mu-salala (‘in light’, I think) is very like the name of the Holy Spirit, ulya muuya usalala, (where I think u- is a third-person pronoun, although it might not be). You can also just say muuya.

And now for a familiar one (would you like phonetic spelling, too? I can write some up):
“Ndilakondwa” (Inyiimbo Zyabakristo #103, I AM SO GLAD)

Ndilakondwa nkaambo Leza wesu,
Waamba luyando lwakwe MwiBbuku;
Muzigambya zili mu-Malembe.
Cipata** ncakuti wandiyanda.

(Refrain)
Ndakondwa kuti wandiyanda,
Wandiyanda, wandiyanda;
Ndakondwa kuti wandiyanda,
Wandiyanda, mebo.

Wandiyanda, ame ndamuyanda,
Nduyando lwakwamuleta kunsi;
Nduyando lwamucita amfwide,
Ndasinizya kuti wandiyanda.
(Bold for corrections to typos)

Ndabuzigwa inga ndilaambanzi?
Majwi ngenkonzya kuvuwa ngaaya;
Muuya wa-Leza ulaandyambila
Kuti Jesu lyoonse wandiyanda.

Translation:
I am rejoicing* because of my God,
He talks (of) his love in the Book;
Surprise which is in the Scriptures.
That big thing** that he loves me.

I am rejoicing that he loves me,
I am rejoicing, I am rejoicing;
I am rejoicing that he loves me,
He love me, me.

He loves me, and I love him,
His love of me brought him down;
His love of me caused*** him to die,
I’m truly convinced that he loves me.

I am being asked, what shall I say?¥
Words that I am able to answer here;
Spirit of God, you continue to tell me¥¥
That Jesus always loves me.

*It’s possible that ‘glad’ is in fact a better translation, but I think this is an active verb.
**For those of you playing along at home, I’m pretty sure this word is related to ndupati in “Luyando Leza Ndupati Maninge.” Ci- is a noun declension/adjective agreement/thing relating to luyando, love.
***lit, ‘to do.’
¥We spent a lot of time on this line, and I STILL don’t have any idea what the heck inga means, if it means anything. But I can break down ndi-la-amba-nzi: I-(progressive/future tag)-say-what.
¥¥Similarly, u-la-(a)-nd(y)-ambi-(la), You-(progressive)-(?)-to me-say-(?).

And to save you a google, here are the English lyrics, courtesy of this site.
I am so glad that our Father in Heav’n
Tells of His love in the Book He has giv’n;
Wonderful things in the Bible I see,
This is the dearest, that Jesus loves me.

Refrain:
I am so glad that Jesus loves me,
Jesus loves me, Jesus loves me;
I am so glad that Jesus loves me,
Jesus loves even me.

Jesus loves me, and I know I love Him;
Love brought Him down my poor soul to redeem;
Yes, it was love made Him die on the tree;
Oh, I am certain that Jesus loves me!

If one should ask of me, how can I tell?
Glory to Jesus, I know very well!
God’s Holy Spirit with mine doth agree,
Constantly witnessing Jesus loves me.

A few weeks ago we sang “There’s no one, no one like Jesus” at Macha BICC, and I resolved to track down the Tonga words. (Have I mentioned that WordPress gives me information on who searched what and found my blog, and because I like data, I look at it sometimes? My post with the words to this one in English and Ndebele has drawn six different people looking for the words to that song in other languages, which is pretty impressive considering that my next runners-up on google hits are people looking for this blog and people searching “Lusaka,” each of which has three hits. Probably the people looking for lyrics and the people looking for me are more satisfied than the Lusaka people, but one can’t please everyone.) We sang it again last week, and Beatrice, one of my coworkers, does music-stuff at church, so I asked her if she could write down the words for me, so here they are. She also told me that the first stanza is Bemba (one of the other main languages spoken in Zambia), and then the second and third stanzas are Tonga, and then you can sing English if you want to.

Takwaba uwabanga yeesu.
Takwaba uwabanga yee.
Takwaba uwabanga yeesu.
Takwaba uwabanga yee.

Ndayenda yenda koonse, koonse.
Ndalanga langa koonse, koonse.
Ndazinguluka koonse, koonse.
Takwaba uwabanga yee.

Kunyina uyelene a Jesu.
Kuyina uyelene a wee.
Kunyina uyelene a Jesu.
Kuyina uyelene a wee.

Translation is pretty much the same as the English.

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Waiting for the rain

5 November, 21 hours
I think that the rains have come. It looked like a storm this evening, dark, billowing clouds, and wind shaking the trees, and cool breezes, a few of which even found their way into my room. I had bread in the oven during the evening, so I took a chance and didn’t water my garden this evening, and as I listen to the rolling thunder and rain falling on the roof (anywhere between hard, steady drops to light sprinkles that I almost can’t hear over the sound of my fan), I think that was the right choice.

I have been waiting anxiously for the rains. It has been hot, hot, hot. (I think Mary-Ann said that two Thursdays ago it was 42C. Mostly I try not to look at their thermometer; it’s just better not to know.) Two weeks ago the transformer connecting us to the power grid blew, so we only had generator power, and the genset can’t pump water and provide power simultaneously, so we had very little power and rarely water even at the faucet behind the house, and had to fill our buckets at Zambezi House, or, more frequently, at the faucet by LITA, where I teach. It’s not far, but still quite a trek if that’s your only source of water.

Thankfully the new generator was delivered, and both the power and water situations have been much better, but power is still unusually sporadic for reasons I have been unable to determine. We lose power in the evenings more often than not, and while the generator usually comes on, wireless almost never functions on generator power (it’s set lower than regular power, somehow; the lights flicker, too). There were two days this past week that were absolutely AWFUL, heatwise, so bad that it didn’t cool down at all at night, at least, not inside my room, which is admittedly an unventilated oven under a metal roof, and one of them the power was on and off (mostly off) all night, so I didn’t even have a fan. It was so bad that I turned off my alarm (work officially starts at eight, but there’s almost never anyone there then, and if I’m not teaching, no one cares, or perhaps even notices, whether I arrive on time or not, especially not with most of the bosses off in northern Zambia somewhere), dumped my top sheet in a bucket of water, and managed at least a few hours of sleep. I dragged myself out of bed at 8:30 (half an hour late already, and upwards of two hours later than I usually get up), still exhausted, but resigned to not getting any more sleep. (Though I think I actually had slept, at least a little, because I didn’t hear Moses, David or Clare moving around and getting breakfast.) The best part of this story is that when I rolled into work at 9:15, no one was there and the door was locked. It took another half hour for some of my coworkers to arrive and figure out where the keys were.

And ma we, it was HOT. The server room is not (yet) air conditioned, and we didn’t have internet most of last weekend because one of the servers gave out due to the excessive heat.

It has been thankfully cooler these past few days, although still really hot, and I have been thinking longingly of rain. I’m warned that everything gets horribly, horribly muddy in rainy season, and that it’s very possible to find yourself abruptly horizontal in three inches of mud, but I think that I’ll take mud over heat. I have almost never been unable to sleep because of excessive mud (and I think that the two or three times it’s happened have all been while tent camping), but cannot say the same about excessive heat. So I’ll take the rains, thanks, even if I did leave that one shirt out on the line.

The upshot of all this is that I still haven’t written the post about camping at Lockinvar two weekends ago, or the one about the Lwiindi Ceremony mumblemumble ago, but it’s not going to happen tonight, either, because they’re both picture-intensive, and it’s extra bother to write picture-intensive posts when there’s no internet. Anyway, it’s nearly bedtime.

The other excitement in my life is that I am not moving (or shifting, as they say here). I first heard the rumor about shifting from Mary-Ann and Guillermo, close to a month ago on my way back from Mboole: Everyone is moving out of The Wooden House, and they’re moving in teachers for the innovative school (who currently live half an hour’s walk away, if you walk like a muguwa, which is to say (relatively) quickly), and was I moving, and would I be in Zambezi, and had anyone bothered to tell me? It took another week and a half for me to confirm that Fred and Esther were indeed moving, and Esther said that I would be moving ‘if I wanted to.’ When? ‘Soon.’

And a week went by, and nothing happened (this was now the week after Mary-Ann and Guillermo said Fred and Esther would be moving), and last week was going by, and then yesterday they up and moved, and the whole household is now in the other half of the duplex with Mary-Ann and Guillermo, where my garden is (I checked with Esther, and she says we can share it. It’s pretty sorry these days, anyway, since I didn’t really water it that whole week when there wasn’t any electricity). And then today, Mercy et al. moved out of the back apartment into Zambezi, so I just assumed that it was a matter of time until I moved, too, and wondered if anyone would bother to tell me before a truck showed up at my door, and decided that I would move when I moved, and it wasn’t really that important, although I couldn’t help but wonder if the female American who was supposed to show up and move in with Lidewÿ last night was in fact me and no one had bothered to tell me.

But there were some guys wandering around counting rooms and occupants after Mercy et al. left, and while I didn’t know who they were, they seemed to be in some sort of authority position, so I asked them if I was moving and if so when (you might say, “But Miriam, why didn’t you ask before?” And I did try. Clare said that it was in the air but not confirmed, and no one at the office knew anything, not even the bosses (actually, Abraham was pumping me for my rumors), and my actual boss is on leave and doesn’t know what’s going on . . . Eric and Kathy visited on Tuesday and decided that the reason I don’t know what’s going on or who’s in charge is that they’re restructuring everything and not even the Zambians know what’s going on), and the most in-charge guy told me, “Ah, you, I think you can stay. You’re here until when? January?”
“July.”
“Ah. Well, then, perhaps, something might come up — but next year. Not until next year. If something comes up, we will tell you.”
I don’t actually know who they were. But I’ve decided to switch from assuming that I am moving at some point in the indeterminate future to assuming that I’m not moving, at least not for the next two months. It’s less bother to not move, but I am a little disappointed: Zambezi House has indoor bathrooms, and hot running water, if you’re lucky. And toilet seats. (Actually, I discovered the other week that the Mercy et al. unit’s bathroom has a toilet seat, too. Perhaps, if I’m not moving, it would be worth the effort to convince Hospitality to install one in my bathroom, too. They could fix the lights while they’re at it.)

Moses is going back to Zimbabwe this week, so he’s well out of it, but I still don’t know if Clare is moving or staying, or if David will take over Moses’s room or move to Zambezi or get kicked out when Moses leaves. I’ll find out, I guess.

And power is back again. There might be internet to post this. Or not.

——-

At time of posting:

N.B. not that it’s directly relevant to most of you: Since Zambia doesn’t do daylight savings time, I’m now seven hours different from the east coast of the US, not six.

For reasons unknown, we haven’t had water in the house since Friday night, when we had it just at bedtime, and Moses says that there isn’t even any at the back tap now.

Also, a bird just tried to fly into my window.

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