Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Our Garden

Ok, so I must apologize.  It has been a few months since I have posted anything.  Long ago, I promised to post photos of our house soon.  I finally have some photos to share.  These are the pics that I took of the outside of our house and our garden (or "yard" for our American friends).

 Here is the view of the inside of our gate and our driveway.

This is the front of our house

and here is the back.

This photo was taken from our back door, looking left.  The pink building in the corner is the servants' quarters, where our housekeeper and her family live.

This is the view looking to the right.  The pink building is the pump house for the pool.

I know that our lapa ("gazebo") shows up in another photo, but it is one of my favorite aspects of our yard, so here is a photo.  We spend a lot of time here!  The girls and I eat outside most days and I like to sit in the nice wicker furniture and read or respond to emails while the girls play outside.

Finally, here is the side of our house and our garage.  The garage has some fun acoustics.  Once a week, we host a group of toddlers for a playgroup.  When they all come over, they love to go to the garage and shriek because the garage amplifies their sounds - imagine how loud a group of shrieking toddlers can be!

Stay posted for photos of the inside of our house.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

We have internet!

The middle of last month, we moved into our house.  A few days after moving in, we started the process to get our internet.  We expected the process to take a few days or maybe a week, but were shocked that it actually lasted about a month.  We finally got our internet just over a week ago.  The process, like many things in Zambia was complicated.

First, we had to go to Zamtel (the phone company) and request that a survey be done of our house to see if it would be possible to get a phone line for internet.  At that time, we had to submit a letter from our landlord stating that we did live at the property and had permission to get a phone line and internet.  After making the request, we waited about a week for them to come to do the survey.  As it turned out, though, as soon as the technician arrived at our house, he remembered our property from a previous tenant, so an actual survey of the property was not necessary.  In fact, he never even came through the gate into our yard.

After the survey, we returned to Zamtel to fill out two forms (see photo below) to request a phone line.  The form required a lot of information and a passport-sized photo.  It took the technicians another week to come and install our phone line.

Then, I went back to Zamtel to fill out the same form again (with another photo) to request our internet. Again, we waited over a week for the installation.

While we waited for our internet, we used internet through the cell towers.  USB drives with SIM cards can be purchased at the cell phone stores here.  The internet was not great and did not do well for uploading photos, but it was better than nothing.

Thankfully, we now have real internet and it has been working well.  Now, that we have internet, I have a lot of posting to do!  I have house photos, vacations, and other fabulous activities that I can't wait to share, so stay tuned!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Kalimba Reptile Park

This afternoon, we visited Kalimba Reptile Park, which is located about 45 minutes from our house.  

Kalimba has several snakes including a python and mambas, but our favorite thing was the crocodiles.  

We saw crocodiles in a variety of sizes.

And, we saw some of the largest crocodiles enjoying a lunch of chickens.

We got within a few feet of many of the large crocodiles.

After seeing the animals, the girls had a fabulous time playing at the playground.  

We had a lot of fun at Kalimba and I am sure that we will go again!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My First Time Driving in Lusaka

This morning, I did something that was both exciting and terrifying.  I drove for the first time in Zambia!  Since we first started talking about moving here, I have been dreading driving in Lusaka.  They drive on the wrong side of the road and I read in multiple sources that many of the drivers are a little crazy.  

For the first two weeks that we were here, Mark's company lent us their driver.  On the weekends, Mark has been driving our car (a Toyota Prado).

This week, the girls and I have mostly stayed home. Yesterday, we needed to run some errands at the mall and hired a taxi (with a driver recommended by a friend) for the afternoon.  I was thankful that the taxi driver was available to drive us as the traffic around Manda Hill shopping center can get a little crazy!

Today, the girls had art class, which is only about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) from our apartment and on the main road near us.  I did not want to pay a taxi for such a short drive, so decided to drive it myself.  The girls and I loaded up into our car and headed to art class. 

While it was scary at first, driving in Lusaka was not that bad.  I am still not ready to drive in the busy parts of town and it feels weird to drive on the opposite side of the car and the road, but I feel confident about driving near our house.  

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Lunch at Revolucion Mexican Bar and Grill

For lunch today, we decided to try a Mexican restaurant here in Lusaka.  Having moved from Texas, we like our Mexican food and we are accustomed to eating at Mexican restaurants on a regular basis.  We saw that Revolucion Mexican Bar and Grill had 4 out of 5 stars on Trip Advisor (and is one of the few Lusaka restaurants with any reviews), so we decide to try it.  They do not have a website, but you can see their Facebook page here.  

With the tropical trees and the Mexican decor, I felt like I was dining in Mexico.

We did not expect the food to be as good as what we got in Texas, but we were still hopeful for good food.  As it turned out, the food was mediocre; not bad, but not great either.  

We had chips and salsa,

chicken burritos,

pork tacos,

and meat and cheese quesadillas.

I was told by another American that the Revolucion has great margaritas and is a wonderful place for happy hour, so we might have to try that sometime.  We have also heard that there is a very good Mexican restaurant, owned by a Nicaraguan, close to our house.  The next time we are craving Mexican food, I think that we will try it. 

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Zambian Grasshoppers

This morning, the girls and I looked out our door and saw a huge grasshopper sitting on a chair.  I told the girls that it was a grasshopper; Abigail replied "I thought it was a chair hopper".  

We went outside and watched the grasshopper for about thirty minutes.

When the maids arrived, the girls showed them the grasshopper.  Carol (one of the maids) told me that some tribes in Zambia cook and eat grasshoppers.  Of course, I had to learn more, so I googled it and found some information here and here.  I learned that the Bemba tribe in the Northern Province uses grasshoppers, caterpillars, and other insects in a variety of dishes.  Insects are a good source of protein and fat and are easily accessible.  You can see a video of a family cooking and eating grasshoppers here.  Carol watched this video with me and said "that is real starvation".  She told me that other Zambian tribes also eat rats and monkeys, but told me numerous times that she does not eat any of those things!

While I do plan to try a lot of new things during our time in Zambia, I don't think that I will be cooking or eating any grasshoppers (or rats or monkeys)!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Home Sweet, Temporary Home

When we arrived in Lusaka last week, we were immediately taken to our temporary home - a furnished apartment in a new complex.  There are eight apartments (or "flats") in the complex and we were the first tenants to move in.  We will be living in this apartment for two months while we look for a house to rent.  The apartment is not perfect, but it meets our needs for now.

Many friends have asked what our accommodations look like here, so I took some photos to share.  It is very modern and looks like an apartment one might find in the US.

Here is the outside of our apartment.  You can see our car out front (I will write more about it later).

This is the living room.

We also have a very small living area upstairs.

Our kitchen is smaller than the kitchen in our Texas home, but still meets our needs.  I am missing having a microwave, though!

Our dining area has a table and a wine cabinet.

The apartment has three bedrooms, a master bedroom

and two smaller bedrooms (both look like this).

We have three bathrooms.

The apartment complex also has a communal swimming pool and a fitness area.  I did not take a photo of the fitness area, but it has exercise bikes, a treadmill, an elliptical machine, and weights.

The apartment complex provides a 24-hour security guard at the gate to the complex, as well as maid service (there are four maids, plus a head maid).

Our apartment is nice, but we are glad that we don't have to live here for our entire two years in Zambia.  The stairs aren't safe for the girls (they are uneven and there is a huge gap between the railing and the stairs).

Plus, there is no place outside where the girls can play.  And, there is not a good spot indoors for a play area.  Their temporary "playroom" is under the stairs.

I will be glad when our two months here is over and we can move into a real house!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Day with No Electricity

Electricity in many houses in Zambia works differently than it does in the United States.  Many houses are on a prepaid meter (meaning you have to pay for the electricity before using it).  Our temporary house is in a new apartment complex and the prepaid meters were just installed yesterday (until then, the electricity worked similar to the US - a bill came at the end of the month).  When the electricity company installed the meter, they put 50 units of electricity on it and assured me that we would have enough to last for a few days.  They also explained to me how to add more units.  

At 5:45 this morning, I awoke to a clicking sound.  Our electricity had run out.  So, we headed to the electricity store (located at a local mall) to buy more.  When I arrived, I was told that our account had not yet been activated, meaning that we could not yet buy more electricity.  The employee told me that by early afternoon, I should be able to add electricity to my account.  The girls and I did a little shopping and then headed home.

When we got back to our apartment, the landlord was outside.  I told him about my trip and he told me that he would add more electricity as all bills are included in our rent.  He assured me that it would be taken care of within an hour.  Although we have only been in Zambia a week, I knew that "an hour" really meant either later today or tomorrow.

Because the house was hot and we needed to pick up dinner (no electricity means no stove and no oven), the girls and I returned to the mall in the afternoon.  Anticipating a night of no electricity, we bought a battery-operated lantern.  We also enjoyed some playtime and chocolate cake at the coffee shop.

When we returned home, the electricity was still out and it was getting dark.  I was thankful that we had purchased the lantern as we used both it and our flashlights to see around the apartment.  Abigail loved using the lantern and flashlight and explained to me that it was "just like Caillou" (there is an episode where they lose power and use flashlights to see).  

While we waited for the electricity to come back on, the head maid came over and stayed with us.  While she was here, I got the chance to talk to her and discovered that her sister lives in Topeka, Kansas (not far from my hometown).  What a small world!

Finally, around 7:30 this evening, the electricity came back on.  The girls and I enjoyed the adventure, but we are glad to have lights and air conditioning again!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Munda Wanga

We have had a busy week of getting settled into our new home.  We have bought a car, looked at houses, been shopping, etc. Today, we decided to take a break and headed to Munda Wanga.  Munda Wanga is an environmental park and includes a botanical garden and a wildlife preserve.

We saw beautiful plants

and animals.

Munda Wanga also has lions, but we did not see them.  I think they must have been sleeping in the grass as it was hot and sunny when we went by their enclosure.

I was amazed at how close we got to some of the animals.  We could put our hands into many of the cages if we wanted (we didn't, but we could have).

We had a lot of fun at Munda Wanga and are looking forward to visiting again soon!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

An "Uneventful" Trip and Arrival

On the day of the flight, we got up and, immediately after getting ready, headed to the airport to check in.  Our flight was not until 7:30 pm, but we were checking 11 bags, plus a stroller and a carseat, so we wanted to check in very early.  I felt sorry for the American Airlines employee who had to help us as she struggled to figure out how to charge us for extra bags and overweight baggages (we had four seats, so we could only have eight bags, under 50 pounds each, for free).  Checking in took over an hour, so I am thankful that we did it that morning instead of waiting until two hours before the flight (thank you to Mark for insisting that we check in that morning!)

After checking ourselves in, we attempted to check Mia in for her flight (for that story, see my previous post).  Then, we spent a few hours resting in the hotel room before heading back to the airport.  In addition to the large number of bags that we checked, we also took 8 carry ons (2 each) and a carseat with us, so Mark and I had full hands navigating through the airport!

As we were preparing to move, one of the things that scared me the most was the prospect of flying to Zambia with two little children (our girls are 3 1/2 and 18 months).  The trip involved an almost 10-hour flight from Dallas to London, a 9-hour layover in London, and another 10-hour flight from London to Lusaka.  I had horrible fears that the girls would scream and yell for the 20 hours of flight time and that we would get kicked off the plane.  Luckily, that did not happen.  In fact, the trip can best be described as "uneventful".  Abigail (our oldest) slept for most of both flights.  Charlotte slept most of the first flight and struggled to sleep during the second flight; however, she happily played and cuddled quietly for the three hours that she was awake in the middle of the night.  We only received a few nasty looks from other passengers and a few people even commented on how good the girls were.  I cannot even begin to tell you how thankful I am that the flights went so well!

Our flight landed in Lusaka at about 6:45 yesterday (Monday morning).  After spending about thirty minutes in line, we got our visas and were officially allowed to enter the country.  Mark's work visa has not yet cleared, so we were only issued 28-day visitor visas for now.  

As soon as we left the visa area and headed to baggage claim, we were bombarded with "help" collecting and transporting our baggage.  By the time that all of our bags had been collected, there were 8 people helping us (which was twice as many as was necessary to push the 4 carts).  On our way out of the airport, we were stopped by customs and asked if we had anything to declare.  We said "no", but the lady was skeptical.  She asked why we had so much luggage and what was in our bags.  Our answer of "we are moving here" and "our luggage contains clothes, toys, household materials" did not satisfy her and she sent us for additional screening.  When we were told to open a bag for searching, I immediately thought that they were going to look at each of our suitcases (which would mean a LONG delay in leaving the airport), but they glanced into the one suitcase and then sent us on our way.

As soon as we got outside, the office manager from Mark's company and the company driver met us.  They took us to our temporary home where we spent a few hours resting before we began the process of getting settled into our new home.  Over the next few weeks, I will be posting about our new home and the experiences we are having as we settle into our life in Lusaka.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Saddest Goodbye

Well, we have officially arrived in Lusaka.  Our flight landed about 6:45 this morning.  I will have a lot to post over the next several days regarding our initial experiences, but today I want to share about our sad, unexpected goodbye.

We have been blessed to own the most amazing dog, Mia, for twelve years.  In fact, Mark got Mia before we ever even met, so Mia has been a part of our relationship since the beginning.  When we decided to make this move, we immediately started researching how to get Mia into Zambia.  We were thrilled to find out that no quarantine period is required before entering the country.  We were also so lucky to get connected with a Lusaka vet who helps expats get their pets into the country.  She guided us through the process so that we could ensure Mia's admittance into Zambia.

We thought that everything was ready for Mia to move to Lusaka with us.  The final thing that we needed to do was take her to a vet appointment within 10 days of our arrival to ensure that she was healthy.  She had an appointment in January and the vet said that she was fine.  So, when we made her final vet appointment, we expected it to be uneventful.  However, the vet heard a heart murmur and recommended that Mia see a heart specialist.  An EKG confirmed that she is in the beginning stages of congestive heart failure (which is not uncommon for older dogs).  However, the vet felt that she would be healthy enough for the move.

On the day of our flight, we took Mia to the British Airways cargo area to drop her off.  After a little while, we were told that they would not let her fly.  The letter from the vet stated that she would "most likely" be fine on the flights.  British Airways was uncomfortable with that wording and due to that phrase, refused to let Mia board the plane.  We were told that if we could get the vet to change the words to "will definitely", they would let her fly.  Since we only had a few hours before our flight, there was no time to call the vet clinic (in another state) and have the letter rewritten.

Thankfully, my in-laws agreed to take Mia and let her live with them.  We are all four very sad about moving without Mia.  She is a part of our family and we already miss her.  I know that it sounds strange, but saying goodbye to Mia was probably the hardest goodbye and just thinking about it as I write this post is making me cry.