Kellers in Africa

our life in Zambia

Category: Family (page 2 of 9)

3 Crazy Reasons to Love Africa

“You, WHAT?!” Imagine the stunned look on the face of my fellow missionary mom, as I replied,

“Yeah.  I really love it here.  I mean it.  This is home.”

Long, incredulous pause……………………………………………………….

We went on to discuss things we missed like family, quality chocolate, Amazon.com, and Costco.  But it was one of those defining moments for me.  I realized that somewhere in the last few years I transitioned from thinking of Zambia as where I am “stationed for now” or “where I live” to truly feeling like it’s my home.

 

"Home is where your heart is"  That's complicated when your heart is split over many places.  But it's true all the same.

“Home is where your heart is,”
a complicated concept when your heart is split over many places. But it’s true all the same.

As I contemplated this unexpected development, I discovered three utterly insane reasons to love this wild, backwards continent.

1) It’s exotic.  I mean, let’s face it, do YOU get to go see wild zebras, spy on rhinos, or walk rehab cheetahs on YOUR vacations??  Didn’t think so.

We are surrounded by different cultures.  There are dozens of languages whirling around our lives daily.  Some men working outside are speaking Bemba.  A friend in the other room is on the phone speaking Nyanja.  My kids are outside in the yard and their friends are screaming at them in Afrikaans.  The English accent they are most acquainted with outside our house is, well… English.  Like the original one from England.  Exotic people from exotic places are part of our every day lives.  I LOVE it.  I never know who is coming to get-togethers or what interesting food they will bring.  Amazing people from far-off places just drop in to have tea.

Of course… “exotic” has a dark side.  We try all kinds of food that, frankly, we’d rather not (dried, fermented, fried fish, anyone?)  The diseases here are also exotic.  We just had a family encounter with Amoebic Dysentery.  For Tim this was on the tail of a years-long round with Chronic Giardia.  We sleep under nets faithfully to avoid mosquitoes and the malaria parasites they carry.  Some kinds of exotic… I could live without.

photo from www.zambia-advisor.com

Don’t even ask

 

2) It’s beautiful.  I know, I know-  Niagara Falls is beautiful too.  So is the Grand Canyon, the Pacific Ocean, and the mountains behind my parents’ house.  They are.  I love visiting all of those places.  But I find Africa absolutely captivating.  Every evening God paints a stunning, unique watercolor sunset with colors you would never expect- bright purple, dusky pink, and green.  They span over fields of maize, giant anthills, and tall, branching flamboyant trees.

The people here work hard to create beauty.  When you can’t run into a store to buy wall art or rugs, even the simplest object can create beauty.  Squatting inside a hut to avoid the rain, an old lady will peel carrots and glance at the one picture she has of her son, taken many years before when he finished school.  It’s badly faded and the edges are worn from the many times she’s caressed it, but she would never consider taking it down.  For one, it’s the only picture she has.  More importantly, it’s a beautiful expression of what she cares about most- her now grown boy.

The beauty comes with savagery, poverty, filth, and a lot of hard work.  But it’s there.  And it’s incredible.

 

The love of a grandma

The love of a grandma

3) It’s a free country.  No I haven’t gone crazy.  Yeah, there are all kinds of weird rules here and permits or fines for a lot of things, but I have come to the realization that it is NOTHING compared to the Western World.  I home school my kids.  Nobody cares.  I grow whatever trees I want in my yard.  Nobody cares.  I have 2 dogs, a cat, and I’m about to have chickens.  Nobody cares.  We built an addition to our house and Tim’s wiring it himself… yep.  Nobody cares.  Now, this is not limitless… there are LOTS of rules here.  Just not as many as a lot of other places!!

 

I don’t think Africa is actually better than anywhere else.  I’m a “have suitcase, will travel” kinda girl so I’d pick up and shift for an Australian experience or a sabbatical in South America.  I’d love nothing more than a fieldtrip to Russia, roadtrip through Canada, or backpack through the Andes.  But for now, this is my home.  And I love it here.

 

I'm so thankful that our kids love it here too

I’m so thankful that our kids love it here too

 

Amoebas

For years my tummy felt splendid-

But from bad water, it up-ended.

I spent a week in bed;

I thought I was dead.

Amoebas have come, and I’m bested.

 

Still I can really eat nothing.

Broth is no longer enticing.

I’m still in my bed.

So bored I feel dead.

All I really want is some ice cream!!!

amoebas

an original limerick by Ashley Keller (who is operating under the influence of bowel-enforced house arrest)

 

 

 

 

Grow Carrots They Said…

It’s easy they said!

Before I tell you my sad tale, there’s something you should know about Africa.  Everything is bigger here.  The trees are bigger.  The animals are bigger.  The insects are bigger.  Everything that can be bigger IS.

Then there’s something you should know about me. I can’t grow anything. At all. Horticulture hates me. Bring me the vegetables and I’ll give you an entree that Jamie Oliver wouldn’t turn down. Bring me the plant and it will shrivel on the way in the door, begging for mercy all the way.

In case you thought I was exaggerating.

In case you thought I was exaggerating.

However, I firmly believe “nothing ventured, nothing gained” and this last year I determined to conquer my nemesis: the vegetable garden. After talking to a variety of home gardeners I found a general consensus: Carrots. Anyone can grow carrots. After considering the fact that preschoolers even grow carrots from carrot tops, I decided even I could not screw this up. I sallied forth with seeds: carrot, onion, and cauliflower (because I am a masochist at heart). I cleared, mulched, and tenderly planted those tiny seeds in the soil. I’ll confess that I was skeptical. After decades of failure (my preschool carrot didn’t survive the week) could I hope to see those seeds germinate? Survive??  Produce some FOOD?!

While I waited to see if Tim’s fond epithet “the Minus Touch” might be overcome with a little care and patience, Monica planted some flowers. Apparently the plant kingdom does not hold one’s unfortunate genes against them.

white fluffy flowers and pink puffy flowers. I am such a horticulturist. Ok, Monica grew these.  I had nothing to do with it.

white fluffy flowers and pink puffy flowers.
I am such a horticulturist.
Ok, Monica grew these. I had nothing to do with it.

With time, water, and sunshine my carrots did grow.  And much to my surprise they actually looked… great.  Lacey green fans promising a juicy, crisp harvest before long.  As the carrot tops began to expand I decided to take a little sneak peek at my gardening victory.

Frankenstein's salad.

Frankenstein’s salad.

Apparently the nematodes are bigger in Africa is well.

Freakiest carrot I have ever seen and apparently NOT edible (unless you like ingesting nematode egg sacks).

Freakiest carrot I have ever seen and apparently NOT edible (unless you like ingesting nematode egg sacks).

 

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. At least we have flowers!!

Olivia takes time to smell the... whatever those flowers are :)

Olivia takes time to smell the… whatever those flowers are 🙂

Please share your gardening failures so I don’t feel like such a loser.  You know… unless you don’t have any of those stories… in which case you can just go away and enjoy your garden.

Nobody loves me, everybody hates me…

Guess I’ll go eat worms!!

Remember that song from summer camp? So cute.
“Long, thin, slimy ones; short, fat, squishy ones; itsy-bitsy, fuzzy-wuzzy worms!!!!!!”

Well, it’s all fun and games until you see them in the toilet!

Roundworms can be passed from our furry friends.
They cause severe bloating, intestinal pain, lethargy, etc.
They are disgusting and they can be living in YOU.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ah yes. While parasites are common in EVERY part of the world (yes, friend, you too could have them!), they are a particular menace in Africa. Parasites seem to cling to every leaf, rock, crevice, droplet, hair, and fiber.

You’ve seen a dog frantically scratching it’s rear on the grass right?
These bad boys are known for causing, ahem, “perineal itching”
Good times.

But, wait! There’s more!!!

so many options

So what’s a mom to do? Well, there are a few great anti-parasitic medications out here, but you just can’t take them as often as you get exposed (infected!) with the nasty little buggers.

ah, Albendazole, my friend. By the time a year lapses we are soooo ready for you.

too bad it’s also REALLY toxic for humans!

Fortunately there are many other safe options. We’ve tried all kinds of herbal concoctions and have our favorites.

Paragone… it tastes likes strawberries and the capsules are TINY. Need I say more?? Even Olivia will beg for this one.

Yes, he is wearing elephant pjs. I’m lucky if he lets me wash them.
Down the hatch, Freddy!

Raw pumpkin seeds paralyze tape worms.
Puree a big handful with some honey & eat a generous helping on an empty stomach.
You’ll find out what’s on the inside.
Try it. I dare you. 🙂

Homemade wormwood and black walnut capsules. When I made these I wasn’t sure they’d be worth the effort………… oh, they so are.

You see where it says “1/2 pound”. Notice how much of that we’ve already consumed? Before making our home here in Zambia I didn’t know it was humanly POSSIBLE to put down that much clove powder. Desperate times, desperate tummy aches…. hey, Christmas flavored burps- can’t go wrong!

But the best, the strongest, the all-time heavy weight champion:

Oh yes. It burns going down. It burns its way through. It burns coming out again. But it burns those parasites too….
DEATH… by cayenne pepper.

bottle half empty
in the 4 years we’ve lived here I’ve bought nearly a kilogram of cayenne pepper.
That’s over 2 pounds.
And it’s almost all gone.
Burn, baby, burn!

Down goes the first one, down goes the second one……….
oh how they wiggle and squirm!

Actually, though, we’ve been pretty lucky. We have our occasional outbreaks of ringworm and pinworms, we’ve had a few rounds with giardia and amoebic dysentery, oh, and I suppose Tim has had roundworms a few times. And tapeworms… but considering our level of exposure…. I’m grateful it hasn’t been worse.

Don’t even go there, Mom

Why do we do this again??

Missions is so glamorous. We get to do all kinds of awesome, world-changing activities everyday, dynamically affecting every person we meet. When we get sick we are at least consoled that the diseases are exotic (read: involve diarrhea)- no humdrum headcolds for us!  We regularly enjoy flavorful, indigenous foods like boiled cornmeal and okra. We live right alongside magnificent and dangerous wildlife like lions spiders and giraffes snakes.  We get to tell thrilling stories about parasites, broken vehicles, and cultural disasters.  It’s the dream life, baby. Why don’t more people sign up???

Delicious local cuisine. Yum.

“Wait, I sense sarcasm.  Do you mean you aren’t actually riding around on an elephant, passing out tracts and singing ‘I’ll Fly Away’ in the local language??  I’m so disillusioned!”

Ok, so if it’s not everything that the big fund-raising gigs and missions conferences crack it up to be, then what’s the real story? If every day is not a Billy Graham crusade, then what is it? Do we not chase down every man, woman, and child in Kabwe and ascertain their stance on Christ and eternity? And what about the starving? The orphaned? And AIDS, yeesh, shouldn’t that issue alone take up at least 2 or 3 days of my week?? “Reaching the lost”, “discipleship”, “building relationships”… what does it all MEAN?

The short version? It means we work our butts off against a daily list of challenges and difficulties, and we do it because we’re crazy. Wait… that’s not right. We do it because it makes us feel good about ourselves. No, that definitely doesn’t apply to the last 5 weeks of my life. One last try:
We work in Africa because it needs to be done and because the Lord loves the poor.  Serving pleases Him so we do it (those are Tim’s words, I couldn’t figure out how to say it without sounding oh-so-hyper-spiritual and la-di-da).  Serving others, making disciples, and increasing His kingdom makes God happy, whether it’s through the “daily grind” in your community in the States or in the great Battle Against the Elements in Africa.  As the Body of Christ we are (or should be) working with a “kingdom mentality”.  Ok, there I go again, what does THAT mean?!

The bottom line is: we, the Kellers, work and serve in many ways.  Sometimes it’s teaching Zambians about Christ or how to evangelize.  Sometimes it’s preaching, teaching, discipling, leading, training or preparing for those things.  Sometimes it’s spending three days trying to get the correct pipe for our water tank because the local “shops” all carry EXTREMELY cheap Chinese-made GARBAGE and you have to find it in their backroom yourself under piles of other cheap garbage (after waiting in line for hours on end).  Ok, done ranting now.

Home Depot

In my experience, “making a difference for Christ” is never easy.  And here the “devil is in the water” so to speak (well giardia and E.coli are anyway).  The physical challenges are daunting.  Overwhelming, occasionally mind-crippling, frustrating, discouraging- these are all part and parcel of our work.  Disease (not just germs, I’m talking real disease), parasites, heat, language barriers, cultural barriers, government finagling, financial restrictions, distance from loved ones, poor food, bugs, rats, thieves…. the list can go on and on and… anyway….

And WHY?  “Why did I sign up for this again???”  Is a question I ask myself every once in a great while at least once a month week more often than a woman on a mission should.  Why?  Well, I can go super-spiritual and tell you that the devil has a foothold in Africa (which would be true). I can be practical and tell you that this continent has not had the benefits of millennia of civilization like Europe has (and even North and South America to a lesser extent).  This would also be true.

But the real problem?  The actual reality?  The difficulty, the challenge, the issue we deal with in missions?  It might surprise you.  In fact, I bet you can relate on a personal level:

It’s a fallen world.  It’s a world that does not embrace Christ and grace.

Being a part of the Body of Christ means taking on the bad with the good.  And there’s a lot of bad here.  But there is a lot of GOOD too.  A lot.  There are a lot of people who respond JOYFULLY to the news of redemption- true forgiveness and grace.  We so take God for granted in the States, but in Zambia, enslaved by animism, people shake off the shackles with incredible joy.

Joy in adversity

So there it is.  We’re in Africa because…

oh come on, we’re here because we are definitely, positively, at least a little bit crazy.

And we like it here.

God bless Africa.

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