Interesting hobbies

I had male relative back home who I really loved.  His best hobbies? Reading thick high level books of chemistry and physics.  Woe to you if you visited and he had just read a particularly interesting (to him) topic.  He would tell you what it was about, the one who discovered whatever that thing was and any related dates.  I remember him looking into space while talking – it was as if he was alone.  That’s how lost he would be in the subjects he was reading.

We would always say what a shame it was that he never even completed school and life’s problems overtook his life early in life.  I can only imagine how far he could have gone had he had the opportunity to put his intelligence to use.  Maybe he didn’t miss much because was quite successful in business, but an education may have made him go further.

Maybe I should start reading physics for relaxation.  Yeah, right!


US mortgages vs. Zambian ones

I was almost shocked to death when I moved to the US and heard that people take 30 year mortgages.  What?!  I could not imagine being in debt for just one item for so many years.  Why?  Well, because at that time Zambians did not generally have access to loans.  We just built our houses slowly over the course of many years.  We would save a bit monthly and then build one stage, take a break while saving some more and repeat the whole process.

The biggest loan I ever took was a five year one to buy a piece of property.  I knew I would not default, but still found it to be a burden.  Even after moving to the US where I had all the credit I could ever dream of at my fingertips, the fear of taking it was too much.  I, like millions of my fellow countrymen, built my house slowly.  It took me at least ten years to bring it to a standard where I could say “The house is now finished”.  In spite of this, some relatives had been comfortably living in it for at least eight years.  All we need for habitable shelter in Zambia is 4 walls, a roof, one secure door leading outside, clean water (from a tap/well) and a loo (indoors/outdoors, no difference).

Every year when I go home, I am amazed as how much people are building.  It does not matter whether the person has the lowest income or not, the culture is that one should have at least “one room”.  We have basically no social security and majority have no pensions, so we have to make sure that we are not homeless at any point.

I believe here in the States, the normal thing is for one to have a down payment, get a mortgage and ‘buy’ a house immediately.  For me, ‘owning’ the house immediately is fine but the issue of having the loan for decades is something I can’t wrap my head around.  Also, what about that interest?  It scares me.  We are told that houses appreciate, but hmmm… I am still scared even with a secure job.  I guess it’s just my background that makes it difficult for me to accept.  Different economies, different home acquiring strategies.


Neigbour’s Perplexing/Scary Behavior

I had a very interesting neighbor back home.  He was an older man, no kids and no wife, no known lover but lived with a couple of adult nieces.  He never talked to anyone in the small eight townhouse compound that I lived in.  We all deduced that he was just a sullen man and we did not bother about him.  In fact, children were afraid of his stern countenance that they ran away whenever they saw him.

One day when I came back from work my 20 year old maid, Aunt R, had a look of fear on her face and asked to speak with me.  She could have just started talking as she always did, but not that day.  Aunt R said our neighbor had been behaving strangely for the past month.  Apparently, Neighbor would knock on my door every morning and ask whether I was home.  Aunt R always responded I had already gone for work.  Neighbor just say “OK” and go back to his home.  When Aunt R asked if there was a message for me, he would say no.

This scared Aunt R because, like she said, what was Neighbor planning to do when she was alone at home?  In order to get to the bottom of the issue, I went to Neighbor’s home the following morning before going for work.  He opened the door and scowled when he saw me.  I told him that I had got the message that he had been asking for me.  His expression immediately changed and he looked like he was a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar.  He said he had just wanted to know if I was home, nothing more.  This was an insufficient response, but I decided not to press the issue.  For me, the fact that he knew that I knew about his ‘visits’ to my home was enough to deter him from doing anything silly.  I would have pointed a finger at him had anything happened to Aunt R.

Well, I came back that day from work and Aunt R greeted me with a wide smile.  She said Neighbor had paid her another visit and complained (for lack of a better word) that she had told me about his visits.  Aunt R said she thought he had wanted to see me, hence her telling me about it.

Needless to say, Neighbor never came back to my home and also stopped talking to Aunt R, who was more than happy that she was now ‘normal’ like the rest of us.  His visits had unsettled me because no one knows what he wanted to do in my absence.


Twins – the good and the bad

No, I don’t have and am not having twins :), but they are interesting.  On my father’s side, his aunt’s descendants have so many twins it is not funny.  Unfortunately, that gene is from the side of my grandaunt’s husband, so we missed it.  The twins in my grandaunt’s lineage are usually a boy and girl and not same sex twins.  I wonder if the twin gene breaks down further to determine the sex mix of twin.

Anyway, I want to write about my former neighbors’ twins years ago – a boy and girl. They had different personalities – the boy was outgoing but mature and serious about life, while the girl was outgoing, loud, an attention seeker and did not take her future into any consideration.  In spite of having different characters, the twins were so close that they felt when there was something wrong with the other.  I did not this when my niece first told me about it.

This changed when one day I saw the girl, Lucy, coming home around 6.00 am. This is a girl who never got up before 11.00 am for anything. My niece later that day told me that Lucy had spent a night out partying but woke up early because she felt that her twin, Larry, was not well.  When she got home, Larry was surely not well.   I found this surprising.

The next time I heard about their closeness was when Lucy announced that she was  pregnant (outside wedlock and at a tender age, so no one had been expecting the news).  Larry got angry with Lucy because he had been having the morning sickness and swollen feet instead of her, even before Lucy announced the pregnancy.  Larry had gone to different doctors, but none could diagnose the issue.  Larry had to wear big size sneakers throughout Lucy’s pregnancy.  Lucy had no problem with her pregnancy and she always teased Larry about his pregnancy symptoms.

One evening Larry fell ill but he could not put his finger on the problem.  He spent the whole night tossing and turning.  Lucy called in the morning and said she was in labor, so Larry found out why he was ill.  Larry only recovered after Lucy had delivered.  Needless to say, Lucy had a pain free labor and Larry bore it all for her.

Isn’t it interesting how twins can be so close that they unknowingly bear the other’s burdens?


My flying lesson

I had a great labor day weekend with a one hour flying lesson tucked somewhere in between.

My instructor handled the take off and landing because I would not have managed those on the first run.  The lesson was in Maryland and we went over Fort Meade, Ravens stadium, downtown Baltimore, United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Key Bridge and the Bay Bridge.  I did most of the flying.  The instructor would point to a site and tell me to go around it or towards it.  It was quite easy because I quickly realized that flying is just like driving.  I don’t like driving at all and unfortunately, that is how I felt about flying.  It was just a one hour lesson and I could see myself not going back for another lesson.

All in all it was fun and one item off my bucket list.


My Parents’ 60th Anniversary

That’s right, my parents have been married for 60th years.  I went to Zambia in May not only for my yearly visit, but to attend my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary.

Well, the story started in 1958 in Livingstone, Zambia (then Southern Rhodesia).  My mother was going home one day and a young man greeted her and introduced himself.  The next time she met him was when he escorted his friend to visit my mum’s brother-in-law (mum does not remember this part, but apparently this was a strategic move by my dad to see her again).  The third time is when my mum came home one day and found a delegation of elders meeting with her father.  The young man was there as well.  Mum was asked to join the meeting and was asked if she knew the young man.  She said she had met him once but didn’t really know him.  Grandpa informed her that the young man was interested in marrying him and asked for her response.

Though mum was caught unawares she agreed to get to know young man, as she  was impressed that the young man had respected her and her family.  Thus began a 60 year old journey and here we are today.

I took my parents to Lilayi Lodge,, for a late lunch the Friday before the bash.  The Lodge is beautiful and the food was more than delicious, while the portions were huge.  Of course we took doggy bags.

See those portions?

Lilayi Lodge.jpg

I spent the night with them at Sandy’s Creation Lodge,, in prep for the following day.  The party was on Saturday at Sandy’s and all their kids, grandkids and great-grandkids attended.  I was my parents’ matron-of-honor and I know I got more pleasure from the celebrations than they did.  Of course, we were busy informing everyone who seemed remotely interested in us on what was going on.  They clapped, ululated or said congratulatory words much to my parents’ delight.

The thing that touched me the most was my mother saying “I never in my wildest dreams ever thought that I would have a wedding in my old age”.  I almost cried.  My parents only had a traditional ceremony when they married, so this was a delayed wedding for them.

I am grateful that we still have our parents with us and that we were able to appreciate them.

Feeling “Over the hill”? Not any more!!

A friend, Suzie, and I were talking about life in general three years ago.  She said all that was left for her (and by extension me, since we are about the same age) was retirement and then death.  She also said that we should have already done what we needed to do by our age.  Unfortunately, Suzie got me at a weak moment.  I agreed with her and felt very low and as if I was a failure.  I told myself that:

a) I could have gone further with my education

b) I could have had a better career

c) I could not have cared less about what people said and done what I wanted as long as I did not hurt others (God, how I could have cared less!)

d) I could have spent less resources helping others.  I thought I had helped too many people too much.

Of course these thoughts made me feel as if I had wasted my life.  It took me a couple of days to realize that I was not doing myself a favour.   I usually dwell on positive things in my life when I am feeling low and that is what I did at this time.  Yes, I may not have done as well professionally as I could have, but I have not done too badly either.  I could have saved some more money by not being ‘over’ helpful.   There are other things I did very well and got a lot of satisfaction from, like paving the way for prisoners to be receiving free ARV drugs.  I told myself to count my successes and blessings one by one and I would be amazed at what I had achieved and been blessed with.

I felt much better after looking at my life from a non-judgemental and non-dejected point of view.  I did not feel ancient or as a failure any longer.

I am amazed that I could have thought that I was ‘over the hill’, the term Suzie used.  I have done a lot of things since then and travelled to several more countries.  Life has been good to me and my family, knock on wood.  I have become adventurous and have some interesting adventures lined up.

How could I have possibly thought that the only things left for me were retirement and death?!!!




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