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.


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.


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.



Filed under Uncategorized

7 responses to “Let me tell you a story

  1. Dottie Baumgarten

    Whoot Whoot! Good food, good company, and meaningful work (in and out of work). Sounds spectacular. Add to that a hymn sing, positive interactions with children, and some creative storytelling. Oh- and your own increased learning. Couldn’t be better.


  2. Esther

    Sounds like you could hardly have had a better Thanksgiving. I love your description of language acquisition through singing….but seeing someone else understand what you’re trying to teach them, that is great.

    on to other adventures!

  3. Anna Hoover

    What kind of parents would call a child Ichabod?

  4. All shetland ponies are nasty.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s