Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Living in a 3rd world country….

I have been to Zambia two other times. I should know that in spite of being 3rd world, it is still on our planet. They do have civilization and Lusaka is a very large city. They have grocery stores, general supply stores, drug stores, movie theatres, internet cafés and restaurants. Nevertheless it seems to be an instinct of mine to try to bring everything but the kitchen sink with me.

Living in an unknown environment can sometimes bring a little fear. For this reason I tend to try to be prepared for any unknown emergency that could befall us. Since the medical facilities are not very up-to-date and since you may find a hospital stay more detrimental to your health than a local witch doctor, I came prepared to solve my own health issues. That meant packing a little of every conceivable medication or treatment on the shelves of Wal-Mart. I now could open a local Zam-Mart with what I have. In fact, I think the local pharmacy would be jealous. Anyway, our health is great and we try to take precautions so we don’t end up sick. Malaria is a real threat but we take Malaria medication daily. We boil the water and use that for cooking and food preparation. We drink bottled water. We put chlorine in the dish water and rinse water. We use hand sanitizer all the time. In fact, we are probably much more likely to get sick at home than here in Zambia. But I am prepared…just in case! I even have a snake-bite kit!

Now I like to cook so I also had to bring everything I could possibly need to make every dish in my cookbook. Not really knowing what exactly was available on the grocery store shelves left me trying to pack a suitcase full of kitchen equipment and food necessities.

I brought a small baggie of at least 50 spices and herbs. I packed knives, cake, bread, pie & cookie baking pans, measuring tools, scrapers, whips and graters. Upon arriving here I have found them almost all available, but I know our food will taste better coming from my familiar equipment! The cost of getting everything here would have been very high, so it wasn’t wasted energy in bringing what I did. Plastic is pretty pricey here. Things you can pick up very cheaply at home are sometimes 5 or 10 times the cost. Yet other things are quite cheap. It will cost about $200/week for us to buy food.

We don’t really care for nshima (shee-ma) which is the mainstay. People eat it twice a day. It is finely ground corn which is cooked in boiling water. It is like cream of wheat cooked with half the water. It is served on a plate with “relish” which is a meat sauce and vegetables. You use your hands and roll the nshima in a ball and grab some meat and gravy and vegetable with it and then eat it…all with your hands. This saves on dishwashing with no silverware to wash. It is rather bland and does not taste bad. It just does not taste. The meat sauce that our hostess, Edah Chikusu cooks is always very tasty … beef or chicken cooked in a very good gravy. I have found a really good way to use the powdery fine mealy meal is to make corn muffins with it.

The sugar is like raw sugar at home. Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies are a bit different consistency, but noone seemed to turn them down.

Our living arrangements are coming together quickly. Kathy rented a small newly –built home for a year and we are moving in this week as soon as we finish the final touches.

This cottage has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms with a kitchen and livingroom. One bedroom will be an office for Mothers Without Borders. We are busy buying furniture for it so we can move in within a few days. Part of the deal with having a home is that you usually can hire a maid for helping with the cleaning, cooking and laundry. The usual pay here is about $50/month. Our laundry is all done by hand since we don’t have a washer. We will be planting a garden very soon.

The owner, Mavis, is very nice. Her husband died very unexpectedly last April. This house helps support her. She is a seamstress for the teams that come and can make some pretty snazzy African outfits. She thought she also could raise some money by selling chickens. So right across the yard from us is a shed with 200 chickens in it. Now I don’t know if any of you have ever lived near chickens, but they have a very distinctive odor! Some days it isn’t too bad, but it can be pretty foul, or should I say FOWL!!!

The people here are wonderful. We feel very comfortable with them. In spite of their hard lives they are amazingly cheerful. We are humbled by what we learn from them daily. Whatever we may be able to contribute here is but a small thing compared to what we are gaining ourselves.

Life here is very different from home. Things are slower and less efficient. I feel like I am at girls camp. It is a challenge to try to figure out how to make things work without the tools we are used to. Different doesn’t mean bad…we are learning patience. We are learning to appreciate what we left behind.

We will continue to publish here….thanks for joining us! All is well and we appreciate your comments.

Love, Mike and Pam

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