Open Roads, VA

I took the bus on Tuesday to work and was happy with how quiet the streets were.  I also got a seat on the bus, something normally unheard of.  I marveled at all this good life until I remembered that it was because of the Government shutdown.  Government workers are on furlough. That slapped me back to reality!

I have not been personally negatively affected (yet), but my heart goes out to all people involved directly or indirectly.

I never thought I would ever say this, but I am yearning for the good old days of annoying traffic would come back, because furloughed workers will be back at work.

Have a great weekend, all.


Las Vegas, National Parks Tours

I had a great time over the Christmas period, well, mainly.  I went to Las Vegas so that I could use it as a base for national parks tours.  I found Vegas pretentious, I must say, and was not very impressed.  My young relative who visited over the summer would have loved it, I know.  I spent most of the evenings in my room when I was in the city and I quite enjoyed it.  I gambled once in Durban years ago and did not enjoy it, so I spared myself the agony of doing it again.

On my second day in Vegas I went on a tour of Zion and Bryce Parks in Utah.  It would have been better to do this on my own as we only stopped to get photos, especially Zion where there is a hiking trail.

The Great Arch in Zion National Park


Bryce Canyon – the hoodoos were interesting


Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona.  I really liked walking through this canyon and seeing the different formations.  This was my second best activity.  Only Native Americans are tour guides at Antelope Canyon.  I did not realize how much I can manipulate my camera phone to take more interesting photos like the one below.  My normal setting is boring as shown in the other photos that are just brown.


Horse Bend Shoe, AZ, a very interesting natural formation.  Some younger people sat right at the edge of cliff to pose for photos.  Wouldn’t they just fall in if they as much as sneezed?


Lake Powell, AZ.  I could have saved my little fee – there was not much to see.  The lighter color shows the highest level of water ever in the lake.


Hoover Dam.  I know I shouldn’t have compared, but human nature took over and I found it quite small compared to Kariba Dam.


Hot air balloon ride – this has been on my bucket list for 12 years!  The feeling of tranquility and calmness was something I did not expect, but welcomed.  All my problems, real and imagined, remained on the ground and I think I picked them up when I landed.  I really enjoyed it and glad I took it. This made me decide to be going for at least one ride per year.  We saw the Red Rock Canyon in the distance.   That is the shadow of ‘my’ balloon on the mountainside – I like the heart shape.

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Grand Canyon – I was not wowed, mainly because I found the Antelope Canyon which I had seen earlier, more beautiful.  Antelope also had more ‘character’, not sure how I can describe this.  Grand Canyon is just a big ditch in the ground [geologists may not agree with me, I know :)]


One think I  could not do was tandem jumping because of a health issue I have been battling.  I will do that when I fully recover.

All in all, my trip was neither bad nor good.  It was just OK, because I had expected more from both the city and the Grand Canyon.  I had heard so much about them.  However, I realize that people have different tastes and that makes the world go round.

Happy New Year, all.




My friend, the 13 year old bride

My family moved to a very poor township when I was 11/12 years old.  It was a shock to my young system to see such poverty.   One thing I quickly came to learn in the area was that marrying off girls at a tender age was not only a possibility, but a reality.  I knew this was wrong, but its gravity did not hit me until when I was much older.

One of my bossom friends, Lydia, was a casualty as was her baby sister, Tamara, many years later (I will write about the tragic life of Tamara another time).  Lydia was 13 years old when she was married off to a newcomer to the area, David.  Money is usually the motivation for marrying off children, but in Lydia’s case, it was because her mother wanted her daughter to be a ‘respected’ girl.  Respect means a lot in my society.  David was less than a year in the area having come from a far flung village to look for a job.  He was dirt poor and was renting a room.  For some reason, Lydia’s parents thought he would be a catch for her.

The bride price?  David had to chase and catch a chicken (which belonged to Lydia’s parents) and give it to them.  ??!  He took Lydia home as his bride after that.  It’s the first and only time I have heard of this, as usually the groom-to-be has to give something of his own.

Lydia had to stop playing with us  because we were still ‘children’ while she was now a fully-fledged ‘adult’ at 13.  She spent her time doing housewife duties, but had a lot of extra hours especially since she didn’t have kids at the beginning.  One day, Lydia bumped into us ‘children’ at the communal tap and invited us to visit her as she was lonely, what with her husband at work the whole day.  We went later that day and we had a great time playing – in her backyard I might add, otherwise neighbors would have seen her and reported her to her husband.  We continued going to Lydia’s house for another couple of years and only stopped when she had a baby.  We used to leave at about 4.00 pm so that she could clear the yard of all traces of playing.  

This makes you realize how wrong it is that children are forced into marriage.  Lydia may have claimed to be happy, but I don’t think that the loneliness and isolation were worth it.  She was too young to mingle with the older wives, so that left her in a vacuum.  She had to carry herself as an adult and ignore us when she was with her husband. A child should not have to such unnecessary conflict.

I thought of Lydia because this is still happening in this day and age in my childhood township.  Children are now protected with laws put in place and enforced, but child brides still abound.  I was fortunate because my parents were progressive and always told me (since I was a girl) that there was a big world out there for me to explore and enjoy as an individual.   They said I should work hard, support myself and the world was mine for the taking.

I am grateful for my parents.  I wonder how Lydia would have turned out had her parents told her about the big wonderful world out there.

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?


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