Thursday, January 31, 2008

Love Hate

Before the trip to India, I was haunted by words that came flooding back to me from my high school days. My teacher for World Literature- while introducing a book on India- explained that India is a place you either love or hate. When you step off the plane, the decision will be made. There is no in between and no opportunity to change your mind once it’s fallen in or out of love with India. I’m happy to report that I’m NOT a hater! (And that I must have come to the right city at the right time- all of the warnings of the heat & smells of sewer have not inundated me)*grin*

Things I love about New Delhi/ Agra (home to the Taj Mahal):
- that an ox & cart can cause a traffic jam on a major motorway
- that cows wander everywhere (including rush hour traffic in Agra) in search of something to graze. And if they find something on the ground that smells nice, they will stop regardless of what chaos surrounds them
- the shopping (& I am not a shopper)!

- the cacophony of the streets (except when I have a headache)- cars ever honking, cyclists and motorbikes taking over what one could consider a ‘sidewalk’, rickshaws tugging along passengers, and the alleyways that lead to more shops that lead to more fresh chapatti & masala tea
- that an elephant can be found being driven on the busy by-ways of Delhi. I thought nothing would beat that sight…but en route to Agra we found proper camel caravans. I attempted several photos in my excitement, but never captured one. Truly an amazing sight!
- Perfectly rounded, packed, and stacked cow dung patties- ready for trade
- Child beggars will paint their faces & perform acrobatics & bang a drum to attract attention & Rupees (I know, this is not something I can really count as a ‘plus’ for India…but I’d never seen such creative kids during my travels in Africa)
- The diversity of India- the people, the religions, the regions. One could take years to truly get a feel for Indian culture

Despite my excitement as a ‘medical tourist’, my heart couldn’t let me gloss over all of the wonder of India. The poverty is overwhelming. The slums, the public taps open on the side of the highways for public bathing, the mangled bodies asking for handouts, the mothers who maim (or fake injuries) on their children to increase alms. I hate that in the evening when I get back to the hotel room, my throat is irritated from pollution, and when I blow my nose I toss away a black tissue (reminiscent of my days of horseback riding & long days at the stable). Each day at the hotel, something doesn’t work: no electricity, then no Internet, then the toilet doesn’t flush, then there’s a problem with the lights. I’ve had exactly one bath with hot water since I’ve been here (oh, & it’s two weeks worth of bucket bathing here- no luxurious showers or bubble baths)*giggling*. There is also an underlying tension here, as much as I can appreciate the diversity of Indian culture, there is a long messy history of oppression and pain here. It’s sad that I can feel it from the outside.

All of this adds up to one heck of a great experience, though I would certainly never sign-up to live here*smile*. Already, I would love to come back & explore more of India…but it would be best to have a local friend to help understand all that is lost in language etc.
I’m so fortunate to have had a wonderful India experience, but I’m also looking forward to heading back to my second home on Sunday!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The good news is...

Greetings from New Delhi all.

It's been a hectic few days, but Alvin has come out of his ACL reconstruction very well. We both really liked the surgeon & trust that he's done a good job. We are a bit disappointed in a few other things at the hospital, but we knew we were in for adventure, right?! I'm just thankful that he's not in much pain & is in good spirits (though he already wants to head back home to Lusaka)*grin*
Here he is praying to the Indian gods for a swift safe surgery

Post surgery smiles

And this is the view from the hospital room. Not too shabby eh? Though check the haze. I'm convinced it's smog...Or else it's the weather. It's bloody cold. So much for my hopes of 20 degree weather. It's winter- realistically it's about 5 degrees. I'm an ice block:-(

We've been running from appointment to appointment, chasing doctors & nurses, but have finally left the hospital for a couple of days of rest. Well, apparent physiotherapy...but we couldn't get a hold of the physio to come what with not having electricity the whole of yesterday*sigh*. We'll see what today brings.

Since I haven't yet had much time to poke around the big city...I don't have much to report.
Except that I wonder how many people die in motor vehicle accidents in this city every year. A three-lane highway becomes seven lanes (not including the weaving motorbikes) Check the woman riding a motorbike side saddle. And the traffic is MAD. Though to be honest I've only seen one crash.
Here she be, please note NO HELMET either! Yipes.


My huge sweeping general observation is that Indians (in New Delhi) walk a heck of a lot faster than Zambians. I was literally running to keep up with the porters who pushed Alvin all over the hospital. It really made me giggle.
I've been LOVING the Indian food. A bit too much I reckon. I think I overdosed on paneer & did the unimaginable.

For some reason Dominos made me think of Cousin Al & sitting at my Auntie Martha's table in Saskatoon...but then that was Pizza Hut pizza, wasn't it?! Well, I savoured every bite & think I can now go back to local cuisine. Without paneer though...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Christmas Bonus

2007 proved the first year that I've ever received a Christmas Bonus. I remember watching my brother longingly when he came home with an envelope of cash during the Christmas season. No such generosity with the companies for which I worked:-(

Now, many of my friends say I'm good with money (Tom would say 'frugal', Pop would say 'stingy') so I decided I would "blow" my Christmas bonus.

I'll be traveling to NEW DELHI INDIA this Monday. Imagine. It's all a little crazy, it seems last minute but it's been in the works for awhile. It's going to be a first attempt at medical tourism as well. Alvin needs to have his ACL repaired, a surgery which cannot be done in Zambia. (Well, at least not with the most recent technology), so we're off for adventure. I hope all goes well so that we have lots of time to poke around the big city. I think I have no idea what I'm getting myself into*grin*.

Next time- tales from India!!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Mango Passionfruit Daiquiris

Need I say more?

The girls got together Saturday afternoon & whipped up some brilliant cocktails. I was so into the blending that I didn't snap one photo- what was I thinking?

When we ran out of mangoes, we had to hit the road to see if we could find some more. We set out for a nearby corner where a truck usually parks selling mangoes by the dozen. With our luck, there wasn't even a basket full of mangoes. We talked to the other resident guys at the corner (selling a variety of items for the home) and one of them leads us to a house that sells fruit. The gentlemen who sells the fruit has knocked off for the day, so the lady of the house said- "No, please, help yourselves". So our new found friend knocks a bunch of mangoes off the tree & we tread home happily with our booty- all for free!

We were so chuffed the next round involved plenty of vanilla recently deceased dearest Uncle Ted would have been impressed! One of the girls (note: she is a Rhodes scholar, home on her study break), commented that she would like to see me when I'm a grandma because she thinks it's hilarious how I mix drinks(yes, I do pour a stiff drink...but it always tastes heavenly). Of course, the whole story of Unc's infamous "Creeping Peter's" & his advice to be 'careful not to bruise the gin' came out. Plenty of laughs on a beautiful weekend. It was nice to remember Unc warmly around friends who never knew him.

More from me soon.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Inswa- Part II

I stand corrected.

Thanks to an anonymous comment on my blog, I have learned of an error in my ways. I was with some Bemba friends last night, & I asked- so, when people eat inswa, what part of the inswa do they eat? I was answered with blank stares. I elaborated "Do you eat the wings"? Wings? Laughter. No, of course we eat the bodies.

So there you have it. I believe I was misguided by a certain gardener with whom I work. He enjoys terrorizing me with his favourite cuisine (he collects these massive bright green grasshoppers from the nearby trees, fries them up & eats them- whole- just like that. Legs, eyes- all in tact). I have reason to believe that he was trying to mislead me - which I clearly fell for hook, line & sinker. I've been chuckling since yesterday evening, that some random person I don't even know caught my culprit. I'll have to be better about sourcing my stories before posting them up here*smile*

As for Dave (anonymous commenter)- I have never met a Chikanda while living here, but it is indeed one of my favourite Zambian dishes. Do you remember that one? They also call it African Polony...though it's not made from meat- it's made from groundnuts. Delicious with a bit of chili sauce*winning smile*.

Friday, January 04, 2008


I’ve been trying to capture these guys throughout the whole rainy season. They’re these little creatures- which I find quite fascinating- called “inswa”. (Spelling??) Someone once told me they’re flying termites. I’ve come to agree.

Inswa come out just after a rain, or if it’s lightly showering. They come from the ground and gravitate toward light. After a few minutes, wings start to fall off the bodies of the creatures. I thought they all died because countless wingless bodies can be found in puddles of water. But actually, the bodies that make it to dirt will re-bury themselves until a time when they can fly out again. I don’t understand the whole process- how the wings grow, why they fall off so quickly or why the creatures are attracted to water & light- both of which kill them. A bit of Zambian insight: the wings are considered a Bemba delicacy, though I’ve yet to indulge. HA! (Aside: Bemba is one of Zambia’s many tribes, they originally come from Northern and Copperbelt provinces- though plenty have made Lusaka home).

Thursday, January 03, 2008


One of the things I’m most looking forward to in 2008 is my commitment to making less of an impact on the environment. I didn’t think I was doing too badly, until the reality set in that we burn our garbage. I know- horrors. And I can’t actually believe that I’m admitting this so publicly. At the flat where I live, there is a big pit where all of us throw our garbage. When the pit gets to overflowing, the garbage is burnt. It actually hurts me to write this. I’ve always had the option of paying for garbage pick up, but I thought- why should I have my garbage picked up if my neighbours continue to burn there’s? With a little help from Lusaka City Council, and the people who want to get paid for collecting garbage- all of the renters of the flats have agreed to pay for garbage pick-up. This has been something that I’ve wanted to do for sometime, so it looks like 2008 will be a non-burning year for me! YAY! We have invested in hygienic bins, and garbage collection is weekly. It’s all so exciting!

Yes, this is my yard, I’m sorry to admit it. Appalling- I know. I wish I was an expert in composting…I want to convince my neighbours that we need to do all we can to get all of this waste degrading and producing soil that won’t be useless forever. But that’s over-stepping my humble goals for 2008*smile*

I suppose this is evidence of what an awful person I have been. But check the baby chicks…

I will post other “green” decisions that take place. For now I’m chuffed that my herbs are starting to come up (basil & dill), and yesterday I planted tomatoes & cayenne peppers. There will be photos updates of their progress. Promise.

The dill is looking good but I think some of the basil has been washed out by the heavy rains.

My fingers are crossed for some sun.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Admittedly, New Year's Eve was rather a non-event for Alvin & me- though we did manage to stay awake until the witching hour! But New Year's Day was quite busy. Since I didn't get all dolled up for New Year's Eve, I put myself together for a lunch date with Alvin.

We chose to hit a restaurant on the outskirts of Lusaka that is actually quite beautiful- there is a swimming pool, and huge park space. Due to all the rains, everything is lush & green, it was quite lovely.

Immediately after, we were off to a braai (translation: BBQ) at our good friend Sugar's place.

The usual suspects: Kolo, Alvin & Sugar

Esnut & Lombe

The biggest game of Cranium I have ever played ensued shortly after the eating had taken place.

This guy was acting out Britney Spears, we were in stitches!

It was a lovely first day of 2008.