Monday, November 26, 2007

Thunder & Lightning

I think I owe my love of a good storm to my mother. I remember when we had the rare thunder & lightning storm in Edmonton, she’d wake the whole house up to come & watch the light display from a window. I’ve always felt sorry for people who fear the loud cracks of thunder, and who can’t appreciate the natural lightshow. Or maybe I should owe my fearlessness of a good storm to my Pop…after our drive through Edmonton’s notorious tornado in the 80s. Or maybe it was the time we went to Ottawa and my folks let me & my brother throw on our bathing suits and play in the warm rain. Perhaps it’s because rainstorms were so rare in the parched prairies of my memories. Any way ya cut it- I love a good storm!

But today I must confess that I was nearly in tears after an hour on the Lusaka roads in a rainstorm after dark last night. For those of you who know me well, you know I’m probably the worst back seat driver ever. Yesterday I had my own brakes in the passenger seat and was busy telling Alvin everything he was doing wrong (he has the patience of a Saint). But seriously, after we’d had a brilliant afternoon of (indoor) basketball, we decided to head home in the downpour. We had to drive a couple friends home who live in the boonies (which is why we couldn’t stick to the main drag and be home in minutes).

For those of you who know Lusaka, you can picture the pot-holed dirt roads that lead to the residential areas. Last night they morphed into muddy lakes, illuminated only when there were flashes of incredible lightning. With the sheet lightning, the whole sky lit up, thus becoming the most effective (though brief) streetlights in a town with few streetlights.

I should also add that I have a bit of a phobia of driving at night in Lusaka on the weekends. Sadly, drinking and driving is the norm here, and after a weekend of drinking, Sunday evening the drunken folks are starting to head home. For a couple of very long stretches of road, we followed (at a safe distance) a man who continually popped his head out of his window thanks to zero visibility through his completely fogged windshield. In doing so, he regularly swung over to the wrong side of the road into on-coming traffic. He did have his hazard lights blinking, but that small fact didn’t help me breathe easier.

After dropping off the guys, we high-tailed it home. But not without incident; Alvin thought a back route would be nice to take because the drunk drivers were sticking to the main routes. We headed slowly into a road that looked fairly flooded, but manageable. Thanks to another flash, the sky lit up, & we were able to make out just how flooded the road was. Alvin pulled to higher ground to turn round, as a Corolla chose to dive into the same road without caution. I was watching out the back window as the water nearly reached his tail lights. Unbelievable. I wonder too if that gentleman made it home last night.

After these travails, I will admit, I was almost in tears from exhaustion (and I wasn’t even driving). I was so happy to be safely home, and thankful to be in a dry house that I didn’t even lift the curtains to watch the light show- sorry Mom!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Updated: Zambian time

I had a date at the internet cafĂ© on Friday; I was hoping to resolve the difficulties from uploading photos to my blog. Well, the rains came & swept away the internet connection (after my anti-virus was 70% updated) GAH. But today things seem to be working out fine. I’ll just need to make another date with my laptop to upload the long awaited shots of my “peach” flat, and my favourite chickens.

I’ve managed to update a post I drafted a while back…so if you go a few posts back you’ll see photos of the other weekend’s festivities!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A close call

Yesterday I felt like I defied fate. I seemed destined for a head-on collision with another cyclist (who trusted his brakes less than I trust mine)*giggling*. We each managed to slow and turn just enough to eke out a passing route of inches. I was indignant, it was not my fault; I am very aware of when I am in the wrong, because I’m still getting used to the rules of the road here (& the fact that we drive on the left-hand side of the road).

Number one rule of the road (ok, the only rule of the road): the person driving the biggest vehicle has the right-of-way. Read: I’m on a bike; I’m n-o-b-o-d-y. I learnt that this morning…I did not feel like yielding to the gentlemen in the fancy little Toyota because I was driving straight & he was turning. I figure he had to prove his superiority in driving a car because nearly every other vehicle in Lusaka is bigger than his, so he must take his hits where he can; mzungu on the bike must yield or crash.

Confession: I love the bike despite the hard Lusaka road rules…

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Technical Difficulties

I'm experiencing some trouble uploading photos. My goal is to resolve the issue by keep checking in. All 1 or 2 of you*wicked smile*.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Matabeto (mat-a-vey-toe)

Unfortunately my plans to attend Diwali were foiled- by the time I found a place from which I could purchase tickets, they were sold out. I’ll plan better for next year:-(

On the other hand, I was lucky enough to be invited to my colleague’s “matabeto”. This is a traditional Bemba ceremony where the soon-to-be-bride’s family cooks up a big feast, & brings it to the soon-to-be-groom’s family. Starting Friday night, a whole bunch of ladies get together to start cooking; I arrived late Saturday morning, so I didn’t have to embarrass myself in trying to cook a massive pot of nshima*giggling*. After the food is ready, there’s a bit of a ceremony with the almost-wife cooking the nshima and opening all the pots to show her elders what will be brought to her almost-husband’s family. (She remains behind…once the feast has been delivered to his family, all of the women come back to the house where they were cooking, and eat the portions of Zambian cuisine they left behind).

Here is Monica showing off all of her hard work!

All of the pots are loaded into trucks and we drive off, wrapped in chitenge (sarongs), bearing drums and in high spirits. It’s a bit of a drama; the group of women (all dancing with pots on our heads) only proceed slowly after the groom’s family gives money. Eventually we make it into a packed room full of seated men, temperatures suffocating & place the food down. Again, there’s a hullaballo with drums and dancing & the ceremony to present the food continues. More money is thrown, hands are washed- it’s beautiful. The brides’ side high-tail it out of there while the groom’s family enjoys the feast (I’ve decided it’s much more fun to be on the receiving end)*giggling*.

Here are my lovely colleagues (Left to right)- Alison is my Ugandan colleague (pink top), Mwiya next, Priscilla, & Miriam. (As a side noteI also take yoga classes with Alison & Priscilla. Yes a compeltely irrelevant detail)

It was a beautiful day. AND, I got to sport my new top (which also has a story). I had gone out on project site visits for work & we visited this one women’s club that knits and sells various products. My two co-workers left the women’s club with floor mats in hand, and as the token white person, I suppose they ‘gave’ me a much more elaborate gift- the top modelled below. I ended up having to pay an arm & a leg for it- but I think it’s a gorgeous top & sported it proudly at the matabeto. (Though I will confess I did get a bit of a sunburn through all the holes)*hahahaha*.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

It's certainly not raining cats & dogs

Well, the rains have come! It’s intermittently cooling things off, and disturbing morning runs & basketball training sessions. But it’s a beautiful time of year. Yesterday I got soaked in the morning on my walk to work, had a sunny warm poolside lunch, a gorgeously cool jog to the courts, and rained on again as we cut training short. Oooh the unpredictability!
Along with the rains come countless creepy crawlies. Yesterday morning I was grumpy due to a big dead roach in the bathroom, and a rather large flying black beetle thing that met its fate in my kitchen sink. Eeew. (After three years, I still don’t handle big flying creatures very well).
This morning there was a toad in my kitchen. She’s beautiful. She visited us last rainy season too. I think she’s female because she looked pregnant this morning. It’s either that or she was bloated on eating all the roaches*whoop*. We swept her out (but not too far)- I much prefer the toad to the beetle-y things. But really, in my kitchen is a bit much.

The sky is clear for now…we’ll see if I can squeeze in a run with the Shells this afternoon. Is it already Thursday? Happy weekend!

Monday, November 05, 2007

One for Guy Fawkes

I feel like blogging but I don’t have anything coherent to say; so here are the trials of the weekend.

Guy Fawkes: I always feel nostalgic for Lombard Crescent when Guy Fawkes day/night rolls around. All the neighbourhood kids would watch our parents drink & visit while we were allowed to stay up late watching the biggest bonfire of the year (burning a scarecrow of course). Guy Fawkes celebrations were looked forward to much more than any Halloween sweets...

Face lift: Friday morning I stepped out the back door to put my runners in the sun to dry after having washed them. I was shocked to see a layer of paint on our block of flats; shocked more to see the alarming pink colour. There are only four flats in the block on the plot where I live. But all of the flats are owned by different people…so the upkeep of the block is dismal. Somehow the four landlords finally agreed that the outside of the flats really needed a coat of paint. How they chose “peach” is beyond me…& I thought I left the pink palace over a year ago*sigh*. I do have to admit it needed a paint job…& I think it’ll look fine once all of the coats are on. Now if only they’d clear the trees that are growing out the eaves troughs… I’ll have to take photos

Basketball: Saturday morning both of BSA’s basketball teams had league games. The U15 team (in their second ever league game) got blown away by the 2nd place team in the U15 league. Poor babies. The U18s managed to redeem BSA’s name after a convincing defeat of the Munali Heats.

Suzy Homemaker: It happens rarely that I am in the mood for cooking or baking, so when that urge takes hold, I fly with it. I found the basil I was looking for, and consequently have a freezer full of scrumptious calzone*whoop whoop*. Falafel for lunch this week after my batch last night. Mmm. Admittedly, it wasn’t the most exciting weekend, but I’ll enjoy the benefits!

The heat: After my early run on Saturday morning, Alvin commented that he was surprised it was so warm before 7am. I was sweating buckets on the stairs as usual and thought nothing of it. However, on my walk to work this morning…let me tell you, it’s like an oven before 7am- it’s not fair. This is the time of year I love & hate. It’s close to rainy season, though the unpredictable rains haven’t yet started (I think we’ve had one day of rain). It means days that get so hot, then maybe late afternoon there will be the threat of rain, then nothing but humidity. Sometimes I think the rains cool things off, other times I think it just gets hotter.

Bathtub update: I remember recently raving about a spectacularly gleaming white freshly re-finished tub. The follow-up is that for some reason these people didn't smooth out the sides of the tub, only the bottom. So the walls of the tub are quite rough. I was livid yesterday morning when I cut my hand (from rubbing the back of my hand against the wall) while washing my greying hair. Pretty bad combo eh?

Gecko alert- I almost had a heart attack yesterday when trying to put a book on my bookshelf; this gecko zipped from before my eyes, and disappeared behind my treasured books. I jumped a mile & alerted Alvin (who hates geckos & lizards). I like the idea of geckos & lizards, because they eat mosquitoes (that are starting to swarm in this hot weather) and roaches…but I don’t actually like knowing that one is living in my bookshelf. The only other lizard we’ve had in the flat was a baby lizard (far cuter than geckos) that was about an inch long. T-i-n-y! I found him in the bathroom & wanted to keep him as a pet. Alvin refused. Now I’m left with a big gecko living in my bookshelf*sigh*

I don’t think there’s anything else to report today. Hope you enjoyed a disjointed update*smile*