Tag Archives: electricity and water

True Adventures on 1st April

Friday night it rained. And rained. And rained. We’re nearly at the end of the rainy season, and things have been slacking off, but Friday night was like walking into a shower.

I spent the evening with the pilot’s family, Gemmeke (one of the Dutch students working at the hospital) and Marvin (German guy teaching at Macha Girls for a year), playing The Construction Game. There were tasty treats, as per usual, and the half-expected power outage didn’t last any longer than fifteen minutes. And then it started raining. It didn’t rain continually, but by golly it rained, and before too long we realized that a small army of inswa were battling their way through the mosquito net curtains so that they could fly all over the house.

(Probably at this point you can tell where this post is going. If that somewhere is a place that distresses you, you might want to stop reading right now.)

We closed the windows, but there were already a lot of inswa milling around in a confused sort of fashion. Once inswa are inside, really the only thing to do with them is catch them. (Possibly you could lure them outside again by turning off inside lights, turning on outside lights, and waiting. But that would let mosquitoes in, and usually one doesn’t feel like sitting in the dark until all the inswa have bumbled their way outside.) Luckily, inswa are slow, and, so far as I can tell, stupid, and they have large wings that are easy to grab, especially if they’ve gotten tired of flying and are crawling around on the floor. I’m told that they are capable of biting, but I’ve never been bitten by one, and I’ve caught lots. (My theory is that so many portions of the Zambian landscape, flora, and fauna are harsh, prickly, poisonous, ferocious, or some combination thereof, that there needs to be something that’s slow, loaded with nutrients, and easy to catch.)

This batch of inswa was small, bigger than some I’ve seen, but nothing like the zepplin-sized ones at the beginning of rainy season. Still, I figured, I definitely won’t get a chance again this year . . . so I filled a bowl with water so we could collect the ones we caught. (If their wings get wet, they can’t fly.) By the time we’d caught all (unless it was most) of the inswa inside, my bowl was so full that new additions needed to be poked with a finger to make sure that they actually got wet, and didn’t just land on top of the wings of their kinfolk.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this with white people,” commented Gemmeke. Clearly she hasn’t spent enough time with me.

After some excellent die rolls ensured my victory, I packed up my collection of damp insects in a Parmalat Salted Choice Butter container and walked waded home. After brief consideration, I stuck them in the fridge, because I wasn’t sure how well they would last outside it, and I didn’t want my last chance to eat inswa spoiled by spoilage.

Yesterday we didn’t have power for most of the day, so early afternoon, after I’d finished a number of other puttering tasks, I fished out my inswa and spread them out to dry on a washcloth, before heading over to measure Gemmeke’s windows (long story, not particularly interesting). ZESCO came back, and there was cake, and what with one thing and another, I stayed until bedtime.

Before brushing my teeth and climbing into bed, I checked the washcloth to see if the drowned insects were drying out, and discovered that they were — but they weren’t. Drowned, that is. Several of them were wiggling feebly, and a few had even wiggled themselves off of the washcloth and onto the floor. This was an ISSUE. They didn’t look terribly lively, but most of them still had all of their wings, and I didn’t feel like catching the lot of them again if they decided to perk up enough to start flying around. Especially since I’d probably never get the disembodied wings out of the carpet, not to mention the ones that might crawl off under things.

Having just dried them, I didn’t want to put them back in water. Some of them were stuck to the washcloth, too. So I de-winged them, a task that needed to happen presently, but which I’d hoped would occur to a greater extent naturally, just from the soaking and drying. (Possibly if I’d used a bigger bowl, they would’ve been dead the first time and fewer of them would have retained their wings. Or maybe the big ones aren’t as firmly attached to their wings.)

I have to say that of food preparation tasks I have participated in, pulling wings off of small insects that are wiggling feebly is only surpassed in unpleasantness by accidentally pulling said insects in half while attempting to de-wing them. Definitely worse than killing the chicken, which at least, after I’d killed it, was then dead, and stopped thrashing relatively quickly. The inswa remained alive, and I was suspicious that having your wings pulled off probably hurt.

But I finished the lot and stuck them back in the fridge. It seemed the kindest thing to do.

At any rate, they weren’t wiggling when I took them out this evening to fry them up.

I’ve been told that inswa taste like groundnuts, and the first few I tried (the well-done ones) did taste a great deal like fresh-roasted groundnuts. Also like fried food. After I tried a few more, I decided that no, it wasn’t exactly groundnuts: they tasted like the little crispy bits of scrambled egg along the edge of the skillet, the ones that are very thin and soaked in oil. Mostly, yes, they tasted like oil. There wasn’t much to them, really: one crunch and they were gone, though you might find yourself fishing a bit of exoskeleton out from between your teeth later. Possibly the bigger ones have a little more substance, but maybe not.

I ate several, but didn’t finish them: they were SO oily that I didn’t want very many, even though they tasted nice. But Martha et al. are Nyanja, not Tonga, and were happy to eat the rest.

I did take pictures, but not on my camera (which unfortunately seems to have gone entirely kaput). Check back later.

—————

On the subject of eating insects, on last weekend’s excursion to Livingstone (the one that killed my camera), I had the occasion to eat mopane worms (caterpillars). I’ve seen them in the market in Choma, but was always leery of buying them, because how do you prepare caterpillars? but none of the Tongas I’ve talked to eat them.

However, Chris and I went to Zambezi Cafe our last night in Livingstone, after everyone else had left, and it served caterpillars. I was strongly tempted to order some, but was also trying not to entirely exhaust the funds Alison had brought me from Lusaka, and fifteen pin seemed like a lot to try one and decide that they were interesting, and Chris had already spent enough that he didn’t want to split an order. So I didn’t order them, but kind of regretted the decision even as I made it.

BUT, after we finished our meal and before we left, a woman came around with a plate of them that she’d ordered and wasn’t going to finish. So Chris and I each had a chance to try one. They were interesting, and, I have to say, only marginally more attractive cooked and arranged artfully on lettuce than they are in the market.

“How do caterpillars taste?” I’d asked my roommate Nobubele, back in orientation.
“Like . . . like . . . like caterpillars.”

And I have to say that she’s right. They didn’t taste quite like anything else I’ve eaten. The closest thing I can think of is kalamari, but that’s texture, not taste: the mopane worms are rubbery in a similar sort of way, only they’re a little bit more substantial/chewy. Chris said the taste would be pretty good, if not for the texture. Me, I didn’t find them objectionable, per se, but I wouldn’t have felt the need for a second one even if the texture hadn’t been weird. But I could eat them again to be polite, if necessary.

And you find yourself picking bits of leg or shell or something out of your teeth as you walk home afterwards.

———–

Also on the topic of insects, but not on the topic of eating them, this morning’s excitement was the swarm of bees that descended on The Wooden House 3 today. I first noticed them while ironing clothes before church, when there was a collection of them buzzing angrily at the closed windows, and a swirling cloud of them next to the house/on the roof. By the time I came back from church, they’d settled down a bit, which was good, only they seemed to have settled into the hole right next to the front door, and were furthermore scattered across the floor inside.

Things did calm down enough that I was willing to make bread this afternoon, and by this evening I didn’t see them flying around anymore, but I still spent most of the day either away from the house or hiding in my room with the door shut. And I’m not sure if they’ve left, or just chill out in the evenings. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

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I’ve been silent for long enough.

I was waiting to post this, until the dust settled. But Monday will be a month after the second round of layoffs, and the dust hasn’t settled, and looks more likely to hang in the air for months, or perhaps even be swept up into a localized dust bowl, and I feel awkward and constrained, not talking about what’s been going on.

A while ago, the beginning of February, I think, all of the Machaworks pieceworkers were laid off due to lack of funds with which to pay them. Most of my fellow computer teachers at LITA were pieceworkers, so this was more than a little weird. But what was there to do? Belts were tightened, I started teaching an extra class a week, and we kept going.

In mid-February, Moses and Clare mentioned to me that they were still waiting for the paychecks that should have come at the end of the month, and that their December paychecks came in mid-January.

On March second, all of my remaining coworkers — all of the Machaworks people, with the exception of the teachers at MICS — were summoned to a meeting and told that there was no longer any money to pay them.

Hypothetically some people would be rehired in two weeks, but we’re coming up on four weeks this Friday, and I haven’t seen any signs of it.

And last week the excitement was that the ZESCO bill had not been paid, and our electricity (which powers both the water pump and the computers I teach on) would be shut off on Monday. It’s still here, and possibly the bill, or some portion thereof, was paid yesterday, but I don’t actually know that, because a) there are no formal avenues of communication (officially, I don’t even know that anything is going on) and b) a bunch of the former Machaworks employees formed a mob yesterday over at the restaurant, asking for the guy in charge of the company and the expatriate who set up all the Machaworks stuff before turning it over to Zambians, and demanding either their jobs back or the paychecks that Machaworks is in arrears on (all of February, I think).

I don’t feel personally in danger. Everybody knows that I wasn’t ever getting paid, and while there’s anger and frustration, it’s not directed at me or at white people in general. I haven’t even seen any signs of disturbance. I just keep teaching, because LITA is still open, not because anyone there is being paid, but because my teaching boss decided that it would be better, both for the students and for the long-term future of the school, if classes continued. I think that’s a very responsible decision on his part, but flows of money and accountability are getting increasingly weird, and for myself, I’m more and more dubious that Machaworks can hold it together long enough that we’ll finish this term.

Clare left on 4 March, and Moses left the Wednesday after. I have new neighbors who moved in right away, and we get along okay, but we still don’t really know each other, and there are a lot more kids and a lot more chaos than there ever used to be. I miss Moses’ friendly companionship, and the joy in Clare’s voice when she’d come home and hug baby K. The new baby cries a lot more, and I miss baby K’s near-constant cheerfulness and huge smiles.

I’m managing. I teach, and try to work out boundaries with the new batch of kids, and try to figure out who all the kids belong to, and how many of them actually live here and how many live somewhere else. I go over to Ester’s and take shifts as company/extra baby holder, and wonder how people ever survive twin babies. I’m beginning to be able to believe that the power won’t disappear forever with each new power outage. Life goes on.

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Water!

It’s been raining a lot, at least once every three days, and frequently a few hours a day for several days in a row, or raining hard several nights in a row. We’ve also had more of the pouring, exuberant rain that we got a few times at the beginning of rainy season, the kind of rain that completely overwhelms the rather inadequate gutter system on the Wooden House, sending water almost sheeting off the roof on all the low points. If I put my biggest basin — the one that’s so large that I almost can’t move it when it’s full, much less lift it — under one of these drip cascades, it fills in a matter of minutes. This also cuts the heat marvelously, and while it’s still hot some days, I haven’t needed my fan in weeks.

——

All last week, there were signs that running water would return.
The pilot’s family had water from all of their taps, including the kitchen sink.
There was water at the upper Zambezi outdoor tap for the first time in weeks.
The Dutch kids in the Zambezi six-plex had running water, and we had water at the taps behind the house.
One night I heard the toilet filling, slowly, slowly, slowly, and a day or two later Clare scolded me for dumping water in the toilet to flush it, because there was water in the tank.

This was very exciting. (Except for the scolding.) It was also rather prolonged, due to the fact that we kept having power outages, and I think I’ve mentioned that the pumps don’t run when there isn’t any power. Thankfully they do seem to have acquired more diesel for the generator, which mitigated the power situation somewhat, but still meant that water was very slow in returning.

And then — and then! Friday at lunch, I happened to glance at the sink, and it seemed wetter than usual, not wet like someone had poured something down it, but wet as if it had been dripping, and the drips had splashed . . .
Cautiously, cautiously, I turned the tap, and water came out! I let out a whoop that startled the poor fellow that had wandered in with Clare, and did a small celebratory dance.

Even with continued power fluctuations, the water situation is as good as it’s been since the first month I was here. I am incredibly pleased. It’s nice to have running water in the house, of course, and also to be able to rinse off in the shower (though mostly I haven’t been, because a lot of the time it’s a bit chilly for cold showers in the morning or at night, and there usually isn’t enough water pressure for a shower in the late afternoons, when it’s hot enough) but the best part is having a toilet that flushes reliably.

——

What’s odd, though, is how quickly I forget. Not when I’m actually using the running water, which makes me happy pretty much every time (although I have noticed that I’m using more water for things like washing dishes. But I do still collect rainwater). And I haven’t forgotten that there is running water; I don’t find myself getting water from the bucket when I could be getting water from the tap. But if I’m not actively using the water, I forget that there being running water is unusual, something to be happy about. On Saturday I had to go the Choma to sign papers for the Ongoing Saga Of My Work Permit, and Eric asked me how things were going in Macha, and it didn’t even occur to me that THERE IS WATER AGAIN was exactly the sort of thing he was asking about. I meant to post this last weekend, but the power kept going out and I didn’t get around to it, and then by this week, I’d almost forgotten that this was news that ought to be shared. How quickly luxuries become normal.

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Things I am learning in Zambia

In no particular order:

Tonga, slowly. I expect that I would make better progress if I had more ability to faithfully study my flash cards, but I find it very difficult because no one is checking up on me regularly. I’ve discovered that there are Tonga classes at the MICS school, and hope to sit in on them when school starts again next year. Perhaps sitting with a bunch of (for the most part) native speakers learning grammar, or whatever they’re doing, is not the best plan, but what I’m doing right now isn’t working terribly well, and Craig Davis always says that “social adrenaline is the key to linguistic form,” (that is, people learn language to keep from looking stupid in front of other people), so perhaps the prospect of looking foolish in front of third graders will provide the goad that infrequent visits to Mboole do not.

I’m getting very good at greetings, though. And I can sometimes see other ways that I’m making progress, but it goes slowly.

Zambian English
When I first got here, I frequently had the experience I would be talking to someone, and both of us spoke English, but neither of us could understand the other. It happens much less frequently, and I’m aware that I’m acquiring a Zambian accent, at least while talking to Zambians. (Sometimes in mixed groups of Zambians and expats, the Dutch kids won’t understand something a Zambian says, I repeat it with slightly more explanation, but in my Zambian accent, so they still don’t get it until I say it again in an American accent.)
I don’t really know how much of it is British English and how much is particularly Zambian, although it is clearly a mixture. It’s not just the stuff I was warned about, like pants and napkins, or things that I knew if I thought about it, like zed instead of zee. It’s ‘grade three,’ ‘bath’ instead of ‘bathe,’ and ‘just a minute’ means ‘can you come here for a minute?’ and ‘feel free’ means ‘make yourself at home’ and ‘Sorry! Sorry!’ is not an apology but instead sympathy, a reaction as automatic as ‘bless you’ after a sneeze is at home. (I’ve learned to not say bless you — or gesundheit, which is worse — but I still feel like I ought to.) And even educated people will say he when they mean she, and the other way around. ‘Footing’ instead of ‘walking,’ ‘pick me’ or ‘drop me’ for ‘pick me up’ and ‘drop me off,’ and the answer to ‘How are you?’ is ‘I am fine.’ ‘She said no’ is more frequently ‘she is refusing me,’ although I think that applying this to inanimate objects, for example, ‘It is refusing me!’ when the remote is not working, is particular to Monica’s son Junior.

(He is SO CUTE. The other night he’d gotten ahold of a pair of black rain boots/gum boots/gumbos that fit him like waders and was clomping around in them before supper, but had to take them off to get into the chair to eat with us. After supper,
“Don’t put the gumbos on.”
“They like me!” As he climbs back into them.
Luckily his parents think that he’s as hilarious as I do, so it’s acceptable to laugh out loud at his antics and I’m not in danger of keeling over from an excess of smothered laughter.
It’s also very nice that Monica is a nurse and has enough education that if I comment on the sort of thing that frazzles my nerves around young children (“Are you bouncing around like that with masuku in your mouth?”) she is on him like that. (“Junior, spit it out so you don’t choke!”))

Mind you, what was very peculiar was the Learn Maths At Home! tv show that I caught the tail end of the other day, where the (implied Zambian) sample student had an accent exactly like Hermione Granger’s in the Harry Potter movies. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that the posh accent here is British, but it was weird. Zambians don’t talk like that, at least not the ones I know. And it made it even more difficult for me to believe that she was honestly asking questions from her heart about regression analysis and lines of best fit.

Water Conservation
I don’t know that I’m learning water conservation from Zambians, who don’t practice it, at least not the way all(?) American children are taught when they are small. We don’t pay for the water coming out of our tap (when so many taps are outdoor communal, it would be nearly impossible to set up a system), and I would guess that most of my neighbors grew up with bore holes that needed to be pumped by hand, not taps that keep running until you turn them off, so DON’T LEAVE THE WATER RUNNING is not necessarily the same instinctive reaction that it is for me (especially not with a slow tap and a big bucket, where it can take a very long time to fill up and people may wander off. Usually there’s someone around to see if it’s overflowing), and Zambia is not one of those places you were told about as a child where they bathe in half a cup of water. At the same time, I have yet to meet a Zambian with a washing machine (Zambian women wash impressive amounts of clothing to impressive states of whiteness in incredibly dirty water), have not seen a dishwashing machine in the entire country, and bucket bathing does use less water than showering, pit latrines use less water than flush toilets, and flush toilets don’t use that much water if there’s no water to flush them with.

I guess you could say that it’s the environment that’s teaching me water conservation. The rains have not improved the water situation – there hasn’t been running water in the house in over a month, and for most of that time we haven’t had running water out back, either. Possibly we haven’t gotten enough rain. It only rained one day last week, and not that much, either. There were a few days when none of the taps had running water at all for a couple of hours. But it did rain last night, and this morning there was water at the tap next to Zambezi House, which there hasn’t been in a long time. And when all the water has to be hauled from some distance away, one is naturally more careful with it.

I’ve started measuring dishwashing water by the mug-full: my personal record is one (fairly dirty) plastic container, one (fairly dirty) pan, a plate, utensils, and a cup washed and rinsed in half a mug of water (of course, then I used the other half trying to rinse out the scrubbing pad), although two dirty pans, two plates, a cup and assorted utensils in two and a half mugs of water is also pretty good.

I’ve become an avid graywater collector, because no way am I going to use some of our limited supply of clean water, fetched from some distance away, to make the toilet flush, but it really does get gross. I collect rainwater and now see it as a free gift from the sky. I’ve learned to skim the dead bugs off the top of my bathwater and be glad that it fell off of the roof and I didn’t have to carry it, same for water for washing clothes. Yesterday I got soaked, walking home in the rain, so that I would get home before it stopped raining to collect water to bath with. I can wash hair and self in the small blue basin (six liters? eight liters? I don’t really know).

To Carry Water
The first time I tried to carry a basin of water on my head, it splashed all over my skirt and the ground, and I found it very difficult. I used a smaller basin to water my garden, which I could lift easily, but still sometimes spilled while lifting onto or off of my head. Since we haven’t had water, I’ve been using a 20-liter bucket (which I can’t fill too full or I can’t manage it, but luckily there’s usually someone around at the house to help the foolish muguwa who doesn’t know how much water she can lift get it back off her head again, but I estimate that I can manage 15 or 17 liters without too much trouble) at least twice a week, and I was very pleased to discover, while fetching water in the blue basin, that it was not only manageable, but easy. I could probably handle the red basin I had so much trouble with the first time, too, but I haven’t tried. (I should note that this is not hands-free water carrying; I don’t have a suitable piece of chitenge cloth to make the pad that helps to balance a bucket or basin, and I’m certainly not skilled enough to try even the blue basin without, but the balance and muscles are similar, so by the time I go home, I ought to be able to co-opt my mother’s parlor trick of balancing a cup of water on her head.)

To Eat Nshima
I’ll admit that I never found eating nshima to be particularly difficult. I don’t mind eating with my hands, and I’ve done enough work with clay that ‘roll it into a ball with one hand and then flatten it with a thumb-imprint’ is not a particularly difficult instruction to follow, and the flavor is somewhere between cornmeal mush and cream of wheat, which is to say, entirely unobjectionable. I had been puzzled as to how most Zambians seem to wind up with less nshima-residue on their hands at the end of a meal, but I’ve learned that the trick is to not dry your hands after washing them, and then it sticks much less. Still somewhat, but less, and while the feeling is somewhat unpleasant, it’s not that difficult to wash off.

When I’d been here for perhaps a month, N, who is perhaps four or five, showed up outside my room one day and announced, “White people don’t eat nshima.”
“I eat nshima,” I told her. “And I’m white.”
She was not convinced, and we had variations on this discussion several times in the weeks that followed. I came to the conclusion that the only solution would be to eat nshima in front of her, if that, and more or less gave up.
Last week I went to the Christmas pageant put on by the MICS school (where I guess she’s in daycare, or kindergarten, or something to that effect), and I passed N and some of her classmates in the yard. She pointed me out to her peers, and then to the teacher.
“Teacher, Teacher! You know this one? She eats nshima!
Booyah.

Cooking nshima
Eating nshima is easy (though I don’t eat it like a Zambian; I can only manage one or perhaps one and a half lumps, whereas a Zambian might eat between four and seven). Cooking nshima, though, that’s hard. By the time I leave, I hope to have attained sufficient skill that I do not inspire every woman in sight with a desire to grab the stick out of my hand and stir it properly. I console myself with the thought that none of them know how to stir batter.

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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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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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