Tag Archives: Zambia

Why I Do Not Make a Good African Woman – Reason #2


The actual bird is not problematic.  Chickens are actually kinda cute, some are downright beautiful.  I’m not afraid of chickens or anything.  I’m okay with them being alive.  I’m okay with them dead all ready to be cooked.  And I’m especially okay with eating them.




Bake it, fry it, roast it, whatever.  Yum yum yum.

Where I fail as an African woman is getting said chicken from that live state into that ready to be cooked state.

Throughout Africa, it is not unusual to see a woman on the bus or minibus carrying a live chicken (the eating kind, not the laying kind) tied into a plastic bag with only its head out, or in a basket, or the like.  This chicken is for dinner.  The African woman will kill it, pluck it, and break it down in order to cook it for her family.  (And it will be amazing because African chicken is soooo much better than any chicken I’ve ever eaten in America).

The only time I’ve been faced with any part of that process was in Zambia back in 2006.  In case you’re new to my story, prior to my summer in Zambia, I had done very (VERY) little actual cooking.  Didn’t really know how.  I had never even made fried chicken.  However, being very brave, I had purchased a number of chickens in order to make fried chicken for my team of TWENTY SEVEN people.  Knowing it was likely that I wasn’t accustomed to slaughtering chickens, the woman from whom I purchased them quietly did that business out of my eye- and ear-shot and brought the now-dead chickens to me.  She must have seen the rather horrified look on my face when I saw the pile of white feathered headless bodies as she immediately smiled and asked if I knew how to clean them.  Which of course I didn’t.  I also didn’t have a knife that would cut through bones even if I wanted to tackle the butchering part.  So I paid her a little bit extra to do the job for me (and told her she could have all the “insides”).  Less than an hour later, she returned with a big bowl of chicken pieces that looked a whole lot more like what I was used to seeing at home.

How I was used to seeing chicken for sale...

How I was used to seeing chicken for sale…

...what the chickens I bought in Zambia looked like...

…what the chickens I bought in Zambia looked like…

I would have tackled the plucking part, but it would have taken me about a day or two to do the job.

I’m not sure I would ever be able to do the killing part.

And for that, I would not make a good African woman.


Tent Sweet Tent

I’d like to welcome you to my home!  This was it this past summer in Malawi.  Some nights I almost couldn’t wait to crawl inside it and curl up on my air mattress and soak in the night sounds.  In Zambia two years it ago, it was soooo cold at night that I dreaded “lights out”.  This year, despite being the neighbor to the east of Zambia, the Malawi nights were relatively warm.  Perhaps this was due to the proximity to Lake Malawi?

Home Sweet Malawi Home by you.

Despite its relatively small size, I was still able to often lose fairly important articles inside of it.  I lost my toothbrush once for almost a week.  You can’t just run down to the store to buy a new one, ya know?  I finally had the time to tear everything apart and find it, but by then the brush and interior of the case had mildewed.  Pretty gross.  So, what do you do?  You pop it into a pot of boiling hot water!  Good as new…almost.  (ew)

Even though I was very comfortable at night I often did not sleep much.  If I got five hours of sleep I felt pretty lucky (this from a 9 or 10 hour a night sleeper).  Since I didn’t have much time to myself during the days, I decided to embrace my sleeplessness and enjoy the nighttime “solitude” in my little home.  I would spend the hours thinking, remembering, planning, and praying.  It’s funny where one’s brain goes when one is lying awake on top of an air mattress and sleeping bag listening to the distant waves of a lake on the shore with the bright African moon illumunating brightly when one is in the uttermost part of the earth…I’d get flight of ideas and wonder…

…how well would I be sleeping if my cat was here with me…(and then I’d miss her)…

…will anyone puke tonight?…(and I’d pray not)…

…are the dogs in my “kitchen” again?…(and if they are, did I prepare well enough so they couldn’t rob me?)…

…are those REALLY waves I’m hearing?…

…if he has Aspberger’s…(or what?)…

…when the propane tank is going to run out, again…

…why the dusk malaria mosquitos are so small and the dawn dengue mosquitos SO HUGE…

…how much more food can I buy with the money I have left “in the food account”… and will there be anything more than sugar, tomatos, yams, oil, and eggs to be bought next time?…

…how it is possible that it’s going to be three years already since Connie died…(and then I’d miss her, too)

I would pray for whatever and whoever showed up in my mind and eventually I would drift off to sleep.  Occasionally I would dream.  But every morning, when I unzipped my tent and crawled out, I was met with the most brilliant skies reflecting off the lake and I’d forget how tired I was and I’d wrap myself in the beauty and wildness of it all.  And I’d wonder what I ever did to deserve this amazing life God had given to me…

Food? or Fuel?

To be completely honest, I used to be ambivalent about the using of corn to create ethanol.  Make it, don’t make it.  Use it, don’t use.  I didn’t care.  But that was because I didn’t know a darn thing about it.

Take some corn, turn it into fuel, reduce the use of fossil fuels, right?  Simple! Cheap!  Renewable!

Well, now that I’ve taken exactly two minutes to look into ethanol production, I have quickly become non-ambivalent.  We need to stop making and burning ethanol up in our cars.


Well, I learned that it takes 21 pounds of corn to make a single gallon of ethanol.  TWENTY ONE pounds of corn to make a SINGLE gallon of the stuff (26.1 pounds according to another source!).  To fill the relatively small tank of my own Honda Accord that would conservatively take 351 pounds of corn.  To fill an SUV?  I am a little sick to think about how much corn that would take. 

I also never considered how much FOSSIL fuel it takes to plant, grow, harvest, distill, and transport the final ethanol product.  It takes a considerable amount.  It looks alot to me like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Having spent time in countries where people starve to death, and having seen babies and little kids with swollen bellies and hair discolored by malnutrition, it seems to me to be the height of waste to take food that could fill the stomach of starving person and put it my car so that I reduce my “carbon footprint” and feel better about myself for doing it.

Corn is the staple food in Zambia.  Wherever I went I saw corn drying on the tin roofs of houses.  I now wonder how 21 pounds of corn would look up on those roofs.  I wonder how many people 21 pounds of corn would feed, and for how long.  


In Haiti, they are eating dirt cookies, just to stave off hunger.  I don’t think there’s much nutritional value in a dirt cookie.  A dirt cookie might make you not feel as hungry, but it’s not going to keep you from starving.

Corn is a renewable resource, but individuals are not.  I’d think about dying babies everytime I put that fuel into my car.  Corn is not fuel.  It’s food. 

There are lots of other problems inherent in the widespread use of ethanol, like the health of our nation’s farmlands.  Instead of restating them all, just take a look at this webpage:  Ethanol from corn – burning both corn and oil.  If you’re a proponent of corn as fuel, this might make you rethink your position.

Even with all the very good reasons for not utilizing ethanol, at the heart of this issue for me is how would I EVER explain to a starving person that I was burning up FOOD in my car?  A starving person doesn’t care about my carbon footprint.  A starving person doesn’t care about whether the earth will be here for their grandchildren.  A starving person cares about whether THEY will be there tomorrow for their children, and whether their children will be there tomorrow for them.  

Our fuel needs to be their food. 

Surely we can do better than this.


“Photographic Art” – Photo Friday


(click above for more information)

Photo Friday

Today’s Photo Friday entry is entitled: Photographic Art © Jan Marshall 

Photographic Art.  Photos as art?  Photos OF art?  Photos enhanced to be more “artsy”??  I can’t wait to see how everyone will interpret this assignment!  I’d been thinking about how *I* was going to interpret this assignment since Jan (of the blog “A Curious State of Affairs) came up with the idea two weeks ago. 

It’s been a long and tiring and emotional week for me.  An excellent friend of mine passed away on Monday morning.  My mind has been a bit occupied with things other than doing something fresh and exciting for Photo Friday.  Despite not getting much in the way of inspiration, I still very much wanted to participate.  Hoping my entry isn’t a complete cop-out.  I messed around with a number of photographs doing different affects and enhancements, but didn’t end up with anything that I really liked.  So I ended up deciding on a photo OF art.

In one of my curio/collection cabinets I have a small oil painting on canvas done by an artist in Zambia.  I’m pretty sure it’s a painting that the artist recreated often to sell to foreign tourists, but I bought it anyway because I loved the bright colors, the long lines, and the general grubbiness of it.  I look at it and I can hear the excited chatter.  I wonder “What is it that has captured the attention of these ladies?”.  It’s only about 4″ X 8″.  I’ve not yet framed it.  But I thought that this would be a good place and time to share it.  I don’t know the name of the artist, but his cell phone number is on the back!  Perhaps I should call and ask his name!

In Zambia, as in many African nations, it is unrealistic to string phone lines, but very reasonable to set up cell towers.  People who can afford phones don’t have land lines, they carry cells.

Here is my unnamed, unsigned, Zambian work of art…

Don’t forget to check out the other participant’s work!  I’ll be posting links as they become available.

“A Curious State of Affairs”

“Idea Jump”

Next week’s assignment?  “The View Through My Window”…

A Different Kind of “Big Give”

And he looked up, and saw the rich men that were casting their gifts into the treasury.

 And he saw a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.

 And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, This poor widow cast in more than they all:

 for all these did of their superfluity cast in unto the gifts; but she of her want did cast in all the living that she had.

Luke 21:1-4 

One of the blogs I read regularly shares intimately of what life is like living in Zambia as a full time missionary with a young family.  I often can’t bear to hear of the physical suffering that exist there, but it inspires me to read about people who have given up the life that they know so that others can know life.  We have poverty in America, but nothing like the grand scale poverty that exists in so much of the rest of the world.  It seems like an overwhelming amount of work that needs to be done.  How can one person even make a difference?  I know that there are many people who don’t even know where to start when it comes to “helping”. 

Wanna hear about two little kids who aren’t overwhelmed?  Wanna read about two little American kids who made a difference?

Here’s a different kind of “Big Give” I’d like to share with you from the blog “Alive in Africa”.     

Click to read “The Tooth Fairy Would Be Proud“.

…and a little child shall lead them (Isaiah 11:6)

“Pathos” – Photo Friday

 pa·thos  (pā’thŏs’, -thôs’) n.  

  1. A quality, as of an experience or a work of art, that arouses feelings of pity, sympathy, tenderness, or sorrow.
  2. The feeling, as of sympathy or pity, so aroused.

There’s is nothing quite like the visual art of photography to evoke our emotions.  I love that it’s an art form that is available to everyone.  Most cannot paint, most cannot sculpt, most cannot draw, but everyone can point and shoot.  With the advent of the nearly idiot-proof digital camera, even the most unskilled eye and wavering finger can inexpensively capture wonderful images.

I love taking pictures.  My primary camera is a Nikon Coolpix S4.  The lens swivels 170 degrees allowing me to easily get shots from all kinds of angles.  Often my best pictures are ones that I did nothing to set up.   

I took this picture during the summer of 2006.  It was taken in Kansoka, Zambia.  This was “foot washing day”.  We had hundreds of orphans come to get loved on/hugged on/held/played with, as well as to get, in most cases, their very first pair of shoes and socks.  This particular little girl had captured my attention throughout the day.  I don’t know her story.  I don’t even know her name.  I never learned the stories of most of the thousand or so orphans we met that summer.  But most of them shared at least part of the same story.  In Zambia alone, more than three quarters of a million of them have been left alone in the world having lost one or both of their parents to malaria or AIDS.  The “lucky” ones had older siblings to care for them.  One 10-year-old we met was the oldest left in his household.  He had become the man of his family and was now responsible for the care of his four little brothers and sisters.

Life has dealt this little princess a very hard blow.  Life in sub-saharan Africa is difficult for most in the best of circumstances.  To be a child, perhaps even a baby, and to be left parentless, makes an already difficult circumstance a precarious one.  And yet many of their young faces still shine.  They laugh and play just like children do.  They are full of hope.

I look at her face and my heart is both completely broken, and yet paradoxically full. 


(Click HERE for links to more Photo Friday submissions.  And please consider playing along with us!  We’re only three, we’d like to be more!)

Next week’s Photo Friday topic is “Joy!”.


Fuzzy, Opaque, Floating Globes

I’m stumped by what they are.  They have showed up in quite a number of my digital pictures.  I’ve asked around to see if anyone knows what causes them.  And I’ve started to look for them in the photos that others have taken and often find them floating about virtually unnoticeable, only now I notice them, cuz I’m looking for them!

These blobs are in pictures taken indoors and outdoors.  They are in pictures taken throughout the day (though the worst seem to be at dawn, at dusk, or in suboptimal light).  They show up whether a flash is used or not, though more so with the flash.  They are different in every picture.  They might show up in one picture and then in the very next picture when the conditions SEEM to be the same, they won’t be there.  It’s a mystery.

The worst theory I’ve heard is that they are spirits which have taken on the appearance of “orbs“. 

The best theory I’ve heard is that they are dust (or other) particles in the air reflecting light back to the camera.  BUT I get them when I don’t use a flash, and in postively non-dusty places, soooooo….  what ARE they??

Some pictures have literally hundreds of them, some only one, or two.

Do YOU get these??  Do you know what they are and how I can avoid them?

This is the worst picture I’ve taken when it comes to blobulosity:

So many blobs here that the picture looks washed out!

What do you think? 

(FYI, this picture was taken in Kansoka, Zambia, during our team banquet – summer of ’06)


While in Zambia in the summer of 2006, we (the girls), in order to be socially appropriate and inoffensive in our manner of dress, wore “chitenges” (pronounced chi’-tengies) over our pants whenever we were not in our tents.

Chitenges are a large pieces of material that are used as skirts, dresses, blankets, baby carriers, and probably a myriad other things.  The patterns on these chitenges are regional and many of the prints are quite lovely…fabric art, really.  The pictures in this post are a few of the prints on the chitenges I purchased (about 3 USD each) while in Zambia.  These are not the chitenges I wore every day while I was there.  I had three of those, and they are sort of beat up, have burn holes from when I got too close to the cooking braziers, and aren’t quite as pretty as these!

They are sort of difficult to walk in though, and we often found the edges of the garment getting caught between, or tangled around, our legs.  I decided a good term for this phenomenon was to be “chitengled”.  This is a similar phenomenon to being “pajangled”, which is what I have learned it’s called when your pajamas get all twisted up around you while you are sleeping.  🙂

The women of many African nations utilize similar pieces of material in the same way.  They call them by different names.

I am anxious to find out what they are called in Malawi, for that is where I will be going next summer when I lead a team there with Teen Missions!

Yep!  I got my letter of invitation from TMI to lead the “Malawi Matron Unit” team!  I’m mailing back my letter of acceptance today.  What a privilege to be able to serve again next summer.  To be able to return to Africa to do so is beyond exciting. 

Malawi shares a border with Zamiba.  I wonder if it will feel like I’m going “home” again.


I was lamenting to a friend earlier today about having nothing specific I was really wanting to blog about today.  I have lots of posts started (seventy plus, actually), but none of them are calling to me to finish them.  So, almost without hesitation, he suggested that I write about bacon.  Bacon?  Why Bacon?  Because that’s what came to his mind.  So, I accepted the challenge, and will write about…bacon.

In a future post or two I plan on sharing my “loaves and fishes” experiences from this summer.  There are so many times that God provided in the arena of food for my team that it’s been a daunting prospect to get it all down into one cohesive story.  There are the “miracle barrels”.  There’s the money that never ran out even though it probably should have.  There’s the bread that never went bad.  The bananas that only went bad when there were just enough left to make banana bread.  So many truly miraculous things.  And then…there was the bacon!  No, really!  I am going to be able to share a moving tale about bacon even though this was a topic challenge off the top of my friend’s head!

Bacon.  Most TMI teams take the majority of the food they’ll need for the summer from Florida.  And they haul it all the way to wherever the team will spend the summer…the Ukraine, Wales, Brazil, Camaroon, etc.  And they do that because it’s cheaper and you’re guaranteed the food to feed your team.  My team would be taking lots of supplies (shoes and other items) which are not readily available in Zambia.  So, in order to make room for these supplies, it was determined that my team would purchase its food when we got to Zambia.  Having never been to Zambia, I didn’t have any idea what it would mean to “shop for food” there.  I had learned that food was extremely expensive, especially meats.  So, I talked with the woman in charge of the food warehouse at “boot camp” in Florida.  We decided that I’d take 70 pounds (one large duffel bag) of meats and other things that would be nice to have in case staples were hard to come by (like some cookie and cake mixes – I had SEVEN birthday girls that were going to need something special on their special days!).  So we set about deciding what to bring.  I loaded up cans of chicken, and beef.  Some vacuum packed bags of tuna.  Some pepperoni and salami.  Some (gag!) SPAM.  A few freeze dried chili mixes and some freeze dried cheese sauces since they were lightweight).  AND I threw in three boxes of pre cooked bacon.  They, too, were fairly lightweight.  I’d never really seen pre-cooked bacon, but I’d heard it was good.  So I figured it might come into good use.  The boxes measured about 16″ X 10″ X 3″.  I figured there was probably enough bacon in a box for 30 people to have 2 or 3 pieces each for a good two meals!  I WAS WRONG!


(Not a picture of bacon I cooked.  A picture I borrowed from a guy by the name of Lenn Thompson which I found searching by Google for “bacon”.  Thanks Mr. Thompson for the photo.  And the recipes and cooking tips at www.lennthompson.typepad.com are certainly worth checking out in the future!)

As I was saying before I digressed onto Lenn Thompson… I was WRONG!  Those boxes didn’t just hold a few servings of bacon!  Those boxes held seemingly endless amounts of bacon!  And it was AWESOME good bacon, too, mind you.  You just quickly fry it up over a brazier, or put it in a big baking pan and bake it until crispy in the oven!  Tastes as good as the stuff you cook “from scratch”!  We had bacon for breakfast at least three times a week (3, 4, or more pieces!).  We had bacon, tomato, and cheese melts.  Bacon found its way onto pizza, into sandwiches, and into sauteed green beans.  Sometimes I thought my kids would get sick of bacon.  But they didn’t.  And those three boxes of bacon lasted us FIVE WEEKS.  It was crazy!  I never counted up just how much those boxes held, but I’ll bet if I did it wouldn’t equal the amount of bacon we actually ended up eating.  I’ll bet that we ate enough bacon to have filled six of those boxes. 

He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to the sky, he blessed them, and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude.
They ate, and were all filled. They gathered up twelve baskets of broken pieces that were left over.  Luke 9:16 and 17

Addendum 10/26/07:  Not that I needed the confirmation, but I got confirmation that the bacon boxes were a miracle.  This past summer in Sicily, I took more of the same bacon.  We stayed right down the road from a grocery store and I had access to a vehicle, so the getting of food wasn’t such an issue as it was in the Zambian bush.  There were 27 of us on my Zambia team and three boxes of bacon were way more than enough.  In Sicily there were only 15 of us.  And I had to feed them for a week less than the Zambia team.  I took two of the boxes of bacon.  And I had to ration it.  We ate it only occasionally.  And we ran out at the end!  So there!  🙂  My Zambia bacon miracle was truly a God given miracle…

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