Kellers in Africa

our life in Zambia

Page 2 of 14

Ebola: Uncensored

Warning: Contains extreme snark.

 

This post is motivated by my continuing frustration with the worldwide (and maybe particularly the American) media.  They report what “sells papers” in a way that makes you…. want to buy more papers.  Or read more or watch more or buy more…………. You get the idea.

After several kind and concerned inquiries, it has come to our attention that we should clear up a matter of concern:

No, we do not have ebola.

No, we will not bring it with us on the plane and release it on the innocent and unsuspecting public.

First of all, we are thousands of miles away from the “ebola nations”.  Zambia sees little to no traffic from there.  Actually, most of Europe is closer to Liberia than we are!

Two African countries have beaten the virus and have been officially declared Disease Free through stringent international protocols.

Very interesting to contemplate:

#1: WHO and the CDC have not released either the stat report of deaths that coincided with HIV+ patients,­ or the ages of the persons who died.  (And if any of you can find that information for me, I would be extremely grateful- I have tried!) While ebola would obviously still be the “cause of death” it would be very significant, especially from a containment and treatment standpoint, to know how many of the afflicted/fatalities fall into these extreme risk categories.

#2: while the media is getting a total joy ride out of fear mongering the public, the WHO and the CDC have realized that the threat of infection is extremely SMALL.  Think I’m lying?  Go check the US State Department Travel alerts!  These are probably the most stringent and paranoid alerts in the world.  Traveling to Liberia?  Don’t plan on touching any dead bodies?  Your threat level today will be: LOW.  No joke.  You should look it up.  Even I was surprised.  Now, I’m not exactly signing up for a cruise off the West African Coast any time soon… but it did allay my fears that “we’re all gonna die!” 😛

 

This is WHO's official release that goes along with international standards of infectious diseases and how they spread.

This is WHO’s official release that goes along with international standards of infectious diseases and how they spread.

 

The “takeaway”?

Some people are getting sick- really, REALLY sick.  Some people are dying.  Let’s join together to pray for the brave men and women who are risking their lives to physically serve those afflicted with ebola.  THAT is a grave health risk and the ultimate act of selfless service.  Let’s pray for the families who are left behind after the death of a loved one.

 

Sometimes God gives us incredible opportunities to serve others- serve Him in amazing ways. Pray for those you have responded to the call to serve the dying in West Africa.

Sometimes God gives us incredible opportunities to serve others- serve Him- in amazing ways. Pray for those who have responded to the call to serve the dying in West Africa.

 

And when I come to the US next month, you don’t need to go into hiding, run in fear, or secretly bathe in hand sanitizer.  In fact… you might want to save that for your European friends.  They are much, much closer to Liberia than I am!

 

 

 

 

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)

 

 

 

 

Give me liberty or give me a handout!

TKK_7680Yesterday was “Africa Freedom Day” in Zambia.  Some of our holidays here are nebulous at best (Youth Day and Unity Day are at the top of my ???? list).  But I actually like this one.  I’ll admit there’s a side of me that does a real eye-roll, though.  After living in Africa for 8 years I can tell you that there is still a LOT of work to be done before real freedom is achieved, especially in the political, police, and military corruption sectors.  That being said…. Zambians have come a long way since achieving their independence from Britain in 1964.

First accolades would have to go to LOCAL GOVERNMENT.  They are no longer ruled by a foreign power in an entirely different hemisphere.  While I appreciate a lot of what Britain did with infrastructure and development in Zambia, I do not believe that you can understand a country and her people from thousands of miles away.  The Zambians really own their government now.  They have taken control of their country and they truly want to be a great and prosperous people.  (Unfortunately, many of the government officials have zeroed in on the “prosperous” bit…).

More freedom and poorer education.  The plight of Zambians in 2014.

More freedom and poorer education. The plight of Zambians in 2014.

I also love how Zambia as a country is working to empower women.  This is still a very real issue in Africa.  Women are grossly under-educated and badly mistreated.  I can tell you from personal experience that the average grade achievement for women is grade 7 in the towns and grade 3- THREE- in the rural areas.  And this is African grades 7 & 3, not equivalent to what we see in Westernized nations.  In the bush women are still chattel, sexual merchandise, and slave labor.  I love that Zambia has so many programs to improve the lives of her women.

But I think it would be a mistake to spend the day celebrating Africa’s “Freedom” without contemplating a few things that have gone wrong- and I mean really, really WRONG since Zambia’s independence nearly 50 years ago.

Dependence- While the theme of the holiday might be liberty, the unofficial motto of the government is something like “Trust in me…. only me……”  Political candidates here secure votes by passing out mealie meal (grain for porridge) and promising schools, houses, cars, etc to people in poorer districts.  The medical clinics and government schools are free to extremely cheap.  The care and instruction are less than abysmal but most of the local people don’t know any better and the officials take great care to make sure everyone feels privileged to receive anything at all.  The maize prices are set at a rate that keeps the farmers at a subsistence level (which means they need government loans and subsidies every year) and gives the people cheap staples.  This perpetuates dependency because there is fear of independent farming and selling- the “cheap maize” would go away.  Zambians depend almost entirely on their government for food, education, and care.  They have few options since they are not taught to seek anything else.

Education- I have noticed that many of the older Zambians can read and write in 2 or 3 languages.  They achieved British equivalent certificates in school and could have transferred to British or European universities.  That is no longer possible.  I know a guy here who nearly finished his degree in architecture and wanted to transfer to a university in the UK.  He barely, BARELY passed the entrance exam for Year 1 at a British university.  He was shocked and dismayed at these results.  Then he started the course and was utterly horrified.  The uni was generous to let him in at all.  The education he received in Africa was woefully deficient.

The clinics lack the most basic first aid supplies, have serious structural problems, and often do not have trained or experienced staff available to see the patients.  The situation is dire.

The clinics lack the most basic first aid supplies, have serious structural problems, and often do not have trained or experienced staff available to see the patients. The situation is dire.

Corruption- there is no longer a strong system of accountability for the Zambian government officials.  No “checks and balances”.  No auditing.  Nothing to stop those with power from exploiting those beneath them.  It’s bad.  You can’t get anything done without “making a contribution toward expenses” or “helping” things along.  We don’t participate in that method which means our applications and permits move a lot slower than if we “helped” the department out.

Medical care- look this up online and you will find a wide array of opinions.  Sure, there are more rural clinics.  But believe me when I say that for the most part they do more harm than good.  The hospitals are FILTHY.  I was privileged to save a baby at a local hospital… he nearly died of dehydration from diarrhea.  They refused to put in an iv.  Best I can figure, the mom couldn’t afford the “fee” (bribe) required by someone on the hospital paperwork chain.  The medical situation is BAD.

Africa Freedom Day.  There is indeed more freedom.  But it came at a very real cost to the generations that followed.  Zambia’s hope lies in God’s grace and in the determination of her people to keep going and their ability to look on the bright side.

Thank you, God, for the freedom that you’ve brought to Zambia.  Thank you that you have brought them closer to “a hope and a future”.  Please guide these amazing people into your embrace- into a walk that honors you and in turn creates a culture of Christ, a culture of humility, honesty, and hope.

TKK_7385

 

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.

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2017 Kellers in Africa

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑