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:

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?


Slugging in the DC Area

There is an interesting form of commuting in the DC area called “slugging”.  This is a form of carpooling where drivers pick up riders, who are total strangers, from designated spots and drop them off at designated stops.  A friend works downtown DC and lives in Woodbridge, Virginia, about 40 kms away.  She drives 5 minutes to a park-and-ride lot, stands in the queue going in the direction of her office and hitches a ride.  She has been doing this for years, saves money and time, loves it and says it’s very safe.

This works for both driver and riders as the former does not have to pay for using the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes which are faster, while the riders get a free ride.  Yes, passengers ride for free.

This form of commuting has been around for a long time in DC and helps both people who save resources, and Mother Earth who gets less pollution.   In Zambia, drivers now pick up people on the way and charge them lower fares than regular buses.  It helps drivers with fuel money while passengers save a bit of money, have a comfortable and quiet ride, and don’t get hustled by bus conductors.

Do you live in a city that has a form of slugging?

Just because I am Chinese???

she responded to me.  I was shocked and confused.

There is a Chinese woman that I regularly bump into and we usually chit chat.  Well, a few weeks ago I met her again at a time when the news of coronavirus was getting more media coverage.  I know that most of her family is back in China and I was concerned for them, so I asked her how her family was doing.  Her response was:

“Are you asking me just because I am Chinese?  I do not have coronavirus and neither does my family.  I have not traveled to China in a long time and neither have my parents who live with me (I did not know that her parents live with her).”

That went in a direction I had not been expecting fast!  I explained that I was only concerned for her family.

Around the DC area when something happens in a given country or region, people from other places ask concerned nationals how their families are.  Therefore, it did not cross my mind that the lady would take my concern in a wrong way especially since I sometimes ask after her young son who has a chronic illness and she willingly gives me updates.  I know that there are now some attacks against Chinese or people perceived to be Chinese, but it was disappointing to see that this lady would think so low of me.

I have moved on and learned a lesson not to show concern for people except if they I am close to them.

I hope you are all keeping as safe as can be.

I don’t eat Avocado

I find the craze for avocado very interesting.  I grew up eating avocado a lot especially if we couldn’t afford butter or margarine, which happened frequently.  I don’t like the taste or texture – especially the texture as it seems like a ‘mistake’ to me.  So, you will not find me eating avocado to look cool, healthy or anything!

My parents have countless avocado trees which are very fruitful.  My mother does not eat butter, for medical reasons, and so uses avocado as bread spread.  Fortunately, she enjoys it and she always tries to get me to eat some when I visit.  It’s always a “no” from me.

I hope you enjoy your avocado toast.  Let me know if my mother should send you some! 🙂

Adoption is wrong!!

That is what a good friend said when she was chatting with another friend and I.  The following conversation followed:

Friend 1: “No one should ever adopt”.

Friend 2: Why?

Friend:  It is just wrong!

Me:  What about couples who are full of love and have enough resources but cannot have their own children, even with the latest medical intervention?

Friend 1:  They should just live without children.

Friend 2:  What about children who live in poor orphanages without their basic needs being met?

Friend 1:  They should be left in the orphanages.

Me and Friend 2:

Friend 1:  OK, maybe people can adopt but it is still wrong.

Friend 1 and I didn’t continue with the subject because our friend could not justify her opposition to adoption and was definitely in no mood to listen to a different opinion.  It was unfortunate because Friend 2 is planning to adopt since she has not been able to have children.  She told me afterwards that she did not want Friend 1 to know about her plans because she may get resistance and negative feedback.  By the way, Friend 1 has got two children and a growing brood of grandchildren so she has no idea of what people who can’t have children go through.

I am still very good friends with Friend 1, but this conversation made me start thinking more about what subjects to talk to her about.  Have you ever had a conversation on whether or adopting is right?


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