Home, sweet home

I have been working from home in Zambia for the past three months and it’s been great! I haven’t spent so much time in Zambia in the past several years and I am enjoying it. COVID-19 has been devastating and I took the time to be with my family since my office is closed indefinitely.

I have done some projects that were outstanding and hope to continue with more while here.

A friend suffered from COVID and the doctors have given her at least six months before her lungs get back to normal. She had a few scary days. Some relatives have had it as well and one got well after two weeks after having ‘light’ symptoms and then today started having acute chest pains. She will get her results tomorrow, and she is worried that she may be a long hauler. She is one of those people who used to believe that COVID only affected rich people and she thought she was exempt because she is ‘”not rich”. Unfortunately, many people believe that and so are careless.

How have you been?

I miss sugar!

It’s suddenly dawned brightly on me that I am not getting younger, so a couple of months ago I decided to get as healthy as I can so that I am a fit old woman in my eighties, should I get there. I know ill health can happen to the fittest, but I want to ward off whatever I can through cleaner living.

I thought I was a healthy eater, not by choice really, but simply because I enjoy eating home cooked meals made from scratch with plenty of vegetables more than eating out. The only snacks I have at home are fruit. I used to fry some foods but I have stopped doing that, just like I have stopped eating red meat and I am surprised that I don’t miss them at all. I want to continue keeping away from fried foods, but won’t feel guilty about having red meat once in a blue moon.

However, I soon realized that I don’t eat as healthy as I used to think I did as I used to eat quite a lot of sugar regularly, be it in ice cream, very sweet lemon tea and once in a while, chocolate. As a result, I am STRUGGLING with sugar craving. The first month was a breeze and I would eat only eat fruit when I craved sugar with no problems, but it’s another story now. I bought some fruit tea and I put a quarter teaspoon of sugar, just to placate my craving but it’s not helping – at least as far as I can see.

I hope this craving will leave me alone, it’s getting irritating! 😦

Anyone else with food cravings they are not supposed to have?

My Mother, the Traditional Birth Attendant

My mother is a woman of many talents – natural leader, excellent at knitting (won third place in a national championship), excellent gardener and these are only some talents I can think of. She has also been a community leader for decades as she has a heart for the communities she lives. She started volunteering with the Red Cross in the early sixties and is now a “Life Member” since the early 2000’s. She only slowed down because of age.

Her involvement with the Red Cross years earlier, led to her desire to be a Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA) as my township did not have a clinic nearby. Labor waits for no one, so my mother wanted to be on call at any time, especially at night, and help local mothers-to-be deliver with someone who knew what to do albeit at a semi-professional level.

Mum’s employer allowed her to take every Thursday afternoon off so that she could go to our nearest clinic to learn how to deliver babies. She did this religiously for a couple years. Upon qualifying, people in my township were informed that my mother was a TBA and they should call on her first when they are in labor. I must say that mum was kept very, very busy.

I was spending the night at my parents’ home one day when there was a knock around 1.00 am and a man announced that he was Mr. S from directly across the street and that his wife was in labor. My mother woke up immediately and went off. She came back 30 minutes later. I asked her how the baby and mother were, but she said Mrs. S had not yet delivered. She started making a fire (since we had no electricity) and put a pot of water on the fire. Apparently Mrs. S was too weak to deliver so mum cooked some porridge for her. I must tell you that this was the fastest cooked porridge on record! She went back to Mrs. S’ and returned home after about 30 minutes. My mother was so exhausted that I felt sorry for her, but thankfully the baby had arrived healthy and perfect. Mrs. B had regained her strength after eating the porridge and had not had a problem with the delivery after that. I was amazed at how mum took this all in her stride and woke up the next day as if nothing had happened. I would have been beating my chest and telling everyone about the good deed I had done – uhm, maybe not.

She has delivered dozens of babies, but one story she told me has stuck. One of my parents’ neighbors, Dave, called my mother when his wife went into labor. The baby was born with the umbilical cord around its neck and was weak. My mother and Dave’s mother-in-law ran to the clinic on foot with the baby. This was the first time my mother had delivered a child born with a baby in that condition, so she did not wanted professionals to take a look at her. The mother was left at home to rest a bit, clean up and then hitch a bike ride from her Dave.

My parents’ relationship with the new parents grew a lot after this. I must mention that mum was a volunteer and was never paid for her services, but one thing that she gained more than money are the relationships she has formed with people around her. There have been many times when we would be walking and a child shouts “Hello, grandma”. I wasn’t surprised because most neighborhood children call older ladies that as a sign of respect, but one day mum smiled and said she couldn’t believe that the child she had delivered was already such a big girl. I expressed my surprise and mum told me that parents tell their children that mum was their midwife. When those children say “grandma” they mean it in the literal sense and show her more affection than other neighborhood children. So not only do my parents have deep relationships with parents, but equally meaningful relationships with the children too.

I wish I could live my life half as fruitfully and satisfying as my mother has with hers.

These Swedes believe they are Zambian!

There is this Swedish man I knew years ago who moved to Zambia with his family for a four year job contract and they loved it.

When his contract was up, he refused to leave and said it would be detrimental to his children’s development as they were “Zambian” and they would miss their homeland. They were definitely not Zambian, but his argument was that they had settled down well and loved Zambia and did not want to leave. His employer rejected his request but it still took about three years before the Swede agreed to move or risk being fired. He only agreed to relocate because his family could live in Zambia legally on the farm he had bought.

It was interesting but not surprising to see how much this family loves Zambia. The man gets a very high salary in US dollars and that goes an extra long way. This affords the family to have house help, driver, gardener, security, you, me and any other staff their hearts desire. They also have a community that they interact with, so socially they are set. I saw this Swedish man last year at a mall in Lusaka, but he was too far for me to talk to. So, I guess his family is still in Zambia. Good for him.

My Ten Year Build

It is not uncommon for someone to take several years to finish building her house in Zambia. This is because most people don’t have access to credit. I started building my home in 2006 and did not finish it, including the landscaping, until 2016. I have access to credit but I didn’t feel the need to get some so I just didn’t.

What usually happens is that people save, buy a plot and ‘forget’ about it for a while. However, they are actually in the meantime saving to start building. They do the slab, stop and save for some more months then continue. When a few rooms are finished, they put a roof and a main door and windows then move in. There is no power at this time but that is fine as long as the occupants have a loo, washroom and access to clean water (usually outside). Usually after this, the construction moves faster as the money that was being used for rent is now pumped into the building. The authorities don’t mind this, so that helps. The only disadvantage of doing this is that it is rough living in unfinished quarters.

You can only imagine my shock when I heard of 30 year mortgages here in the US! I realize that it is more expensive to build here and the rules are more stringent.

A slice of my ‘heaven’ which took a decade to achieve. Some family members lives here.

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The easier rules in Zambia have helped people from all levels of life being able to own property, now matter how small. In fact, it is almost a requirement for one to own a house even if it’s a one roomed one because we don’t have social protection.

How can one own property in your part of the world?


We have been here before. What currently is, already has been.

I wrote about this issue a while ago here: https://zambianlady.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/just-because-i-am-black/

There is more racism than non-minorities realize. The catalyst for the current situation is something that has just brought race issues to the fore, something that has been going on all along. The everyday racism (in the smallest of things) is painful for me as a black person – having eyes on you when you are in a shop, being treated with respect just because you are in the company of white people, etc. My experiences may be insignificant in comparison with what others have gone through but it’s still painful and a quick hop, skip and a jump before something goes majorly wrong.

As blacks, we have to be careful how we behave so much that when my young male relative visited me here in DC from Zambia, I was worried when he went out alone. He is not American and I was worried that he would be naive and find himself in trouble because just his being is considered a threat by some. Am I hopeful for the future post-protests? No not really, because how many protests have there been before this? How many times have these discussions taken place? How many black people have been killed? I think the only way forward to a more informed and accepting future, is for ‘privileged’ households teach their children right from wrong from infancy. Don’t expect children who have been trained (taught) that blacks are inherently bad, evil and criminals to suddenly change their attitudes when older. Some may be open enough to learn new ways of thinking, but I guarantee you that many will continue with their warped thinking.

Again I ask myself, do I see a brighter future? No. The proof will be in the pudding for me.

That’s my job, the maid told me

On my last visit to my parents’ place, my mother and I took some time to prepare some veggies at the kitchen table while the maid (Sarah) was cooking.  As usual, we were chatting, laughing and having a good time.  At one point, the maid spilled some water on the kitchen floor.  I knew that she could not stop was she was doing and dry the floor, so I did the mopping.  As I finished, I noticed Sarah looking at me.  She then said:

“That’s my job, Auntie.”

“I know, Sarah, but I thought I should help since you are busy.”

“I do all the cleaning when you are not here, and I would have mopped the floor.”

“I am sorry, Sarah.  It’s just that I am used to doing all the housework in the States and so I did not think twice about mopping the floor.”

She did not respond but her expression said “Do you want me to lose my job?!” I understood where Sarah was coming from because this job is something that not helped her take care of her family, but was the only income her family had for several months when her husband was in between jobs.  I really felt bad, but I cannot help being used to doing chores back home even when there is a maid.

I hired Mary for a week a few years ago when I went home to hep with a big family gathering.  (This was long before Sarah was hired.)  At the end of her contract, Mary said she had been surprised that I was doing half the work.  She had experience as a maid, and said none of her former employers before had helped chores because she was there to do it.  She asked me why I was helping her.  Well, my answer was the same as the one I later gave Sarah.

Living in the west has changed me a lot.  I used to think that I am a very lazy pre-west living, but I continue proving myself wrong every time I go home. 🙂

“He is on ARVs,” they said

“He is has gotten better since he started taking panadol (painkillers)” the guys doing piece-work at my parents’ place said to my mother.

“Oh? Has he been having headaches?” my mother asked innocently.

“No.  He has HIV/AIDS and so he is now on ARVs (which we call panadol) and is improving” the men responded.

My mother was shocked that someone’s AIDS status was being discussed publicly, and it must have shown on her face because one of the men said: “Mum, everyone knows that he is HIV positive and it’s not an issue.  People nowadays mention their status and nobody bothers, because we know that AIDS is just an illness like other illnesses.  All we have to do is take care of us and take our medication.”

On another day, one of the piece-workers mentioned that he hadn’t felt well but the “panadol” was working and he was feeling better.

The fact that people are speaking about their HIV status openly without fear of discrimination is encouraging as it leads to containment of the disease.

we have definitely come a long way from when family members could not even discuss among themselves regarding the positive status of beloved family members.


Yes, clubs/bars are OK to visit

I grew up near a tavern (our local bar, lounge, club) and it was the only place of entertainment for both children and adults.  Patrons would start gravitating towards it around 4.00 pm while the majority went after 5.00 pm with others going there straight from work.  Us kids would only go there on some Saturday afternoons when there were nyau (dancers in masquerade) – good times.  I will do a separate post on nyau.

Most patrons were drunkards while most female patrons were ladies of the night (respectable women did not go to the tavern).  They would also be rowdy after one round of drinks.  This made me vow as a child never to go to one as an adult.  This was very easy as most of my friends (in Zambia) and I am are teetotalers, so we found other ways of entertainment.

I then moved to DC where I did not have friends, so enter music festivals.  I went to countless festivals and discovered that I prefer live music to recorded one, so I started going to live music clubs.  You can imagine my surprise when the patrons who were imbibing did not drink themselves silly and start misbehaving.  It was certainly an eye opener and I realized that one did not need to misbehave when drinking.  The men would also leave me alone apart from small civilized talk between sets.  I still go to clubs (though not as much) when I want to listen to live jazz, my favorite genre.

Unfortunately, patrons at my local tavern back home have continued to associate alcohol with bad behavior.  I wonder if it’s just the culture.

My visit to Seattle, WA

Finally, I took the trip to Seattle after first being invited to visit more so many years ago!  I arrived at night and the city skyline you see from across the river is simply breathtaking.  One that that shocked me was how expensive real estate is.  The two bedroom house that my friends are renting recently sold for $925,000!  I thought my neck of the woods was expensive but apparently not.  I did not have enough time, but I would have wanted to take a day trip to Vancouver, Canada which is about a three hour drive.  Anyway, I have a ten year multiple entry visa to Canada so I hope to go another time.

Some highlights:

The International Fountain and the park around it is really nice.  I am told that many families with young children frequent the area in the summer.  I could see that in my mind’s eye.  It must be refreshing.


Chihuly Garden and Glass – the glass pieces were really beautiful.  My eyes saw what they saw, but my brain couldn’t agree that the art before me was real.  I could have stayed in the glass area the whole day.  We also watched some artists make some pieces.  The process was fast, but difficult and delicate.

This first piece was my favorite.



Space Needle – I saw this in a movie in the nineties and I told myself that I should visit some day.  Apparently, it has been renovated and there is a glass platform at 500 or something feet.  I have fear of heights so I could not go onto or even near the platform.  Even trying to see Seattle from different sides of the Needle was a feat too great for me and I ended up only exploring inside the building.


We visited Pike Place Market which I liked a lot.  You guessed it, the Pike Place Fish Co. was top of the list to visit.  I was surprised to see that it was smaller than I had seen on a documentary. The workers yelled (as was expected) whatever was needed to be said and we, the tourists, cheered.  One interesting thing I noticed though, was that the workers  did not seem to have their heart in it.   I would not either, if I had to do that for years.  It was interesting all the same.



Then on to a nasty tourist site about a two minute walk from the Market.  Yes, I said “nasty” and it is.  It is the Gum Wall.  People chew gum and throw it onto the wall.  I did not understand this tradition, but just had to see it since it was nearby.


Bruce Lee grave – the cemetery was closed earlier than we expected so that was disappointing.  This is one tourist site my dad would have loved hearing about, but oh well.

I am no foodie, but the Indian dinner I had on my last night was delicious.  I would definitely eat there again should I visit Seattle again.

Have you visited Seattle before?  What did you think?


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