Thursday, May 28, 2009

Africa Freedom Day

Curtis here again...

Monday May 24th the kids had a day-off of school, so we could celebrate Africa Freedom Day. We started in the morning with a lot of singing and dancing. The kids all had a lot of fun with this. There was also a little poetry, a quiz, and a lot of games. All the kids and all the teachers participated to make the day a lot of fun.

In the picture are (left to right) Mary (2nd grade), Wendy (1st grade), Ireen (3rd grade), Rebecca (1st grade), and Lydia (2nd grade). These are “Chitanga” dresses, specially made for the girls for the celebration.

This picture is of (left to right) Ng’andu (6th grade), Pamela (5th grade), Abigail (6th grade), Esther (6th grade), and Harriet (5th grade). They read us poetry about what freedom means.

This picture is one of the opening dances, led by Muti, the one who helped us with the ants.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Beating the Maize

This is Curtis,

It is the season for harvesting. Over the last few weeks we have been harvesting all the maize from the field and piling it up in the courtyard. This maize will be ground into a fine powder, so that it can be turned into the staple food here, which is called Nshima. Nshima is maize flour mixed into boiling water until it becomes about the consistency of mashed potatoes. It is always eaten with some kind of “relish”, which is usually either vegetables, tofu, or beans. We knew the same food in Kenya, there it was called Ugali. Some of the teachers taught Katie and I how to prepare Nshima with an eggplant relish, it is quite good. We also eat with the kids a few times a week, and get Nshima then. Eating it is an art that we are still working on. Nshima is eaten with the hands, and can get very sticky.

Saturday, it was time to beat all the kernels off the cobs, which was a good job for the kids. They grabbed some nice beating clubs and went to work.

Here is a picture of Nelson (5th grade) in action, and also a video of all the kids working in the courtyard right outside of the dormitories.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


The other day Debra knocked on our door and asked if we wanted to see our first African Cobra. I, of course, grabbed the camera, and followed her to what was at the time teacher’s housing under construction. This was the last day of construction, and just as the room was getting cleaned out, Debra moved a box and found a nice surprise….a baby cobra! Kingston, one of the boys’ over-night caregivers, was helping with the cleaning. He came to our rescue and killed the snake (these are very poisonous snakes and should not share a living space with 48 children and us). As he was taking the dead snake to our trash pit he found what he thought to be a dead mama cobra. We followed him to the pit and found a very much alive HUGE (at least 5 feet long) mama cobra in the pit.
News spread fast to the boys, who all came running with rocks in hand. Thankfully, she couldn’t get out of the pit. Apparently here, the way to kill snakes is to stone them to death. After many blows to her entire body, she was barely alive. Because snakes die so slowly, they can still attack during there last moments. Kingston took a shovel and cut off her head and carried her to her grave – the deepest hole we have here…the latrines.
On the way to the latrines, mama’s last meal fell out of a hole from one of the rocks – 2 large frogs (gross). This all was a big game to the boys – as it happens here often.

As gross as it was to watch mama and baby be killed, it needs to be done for the safety of everyone here. Debra said she once found a snake with a baby goat in its stomach. These snakes really are massive!

This picture is mama while she was still alive and angry – you can see her flaring her hood. This picture doesn’t even show how massive she was, her widest part was about 6 inches in diameter, and at least 5 feet long!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Rhythm of Life: Dancing to a Healthy Beat

On Saturday, Curtis, Debra, and I got to go to a Rhythm of Life Festival…we also got to take two of the kids with us. Curtis and I got to pick which kids came – we picked based on how the kids were doing during our study time. We brought Shelly – grade 5, and Samuel – grade 7. These two have been really on-top of their studies, attending every day, and just all-around being good kids.

The Rhythm of Life: Dancing to a Healthy Beat Festival was very fun. The whole day was a free concert, many bands, some acting troops, and other entertainment. It was sponsored in part by USAID, so there was also a tent with all sorts of information, lots of free pamphlets and booklets, which will be great tools when teaching the kids.

We sat and listened to the music all morning. Curtis was teaching Shelly how to use our mini-video camera and I taught her how to use the camera – she thought they were both pretty cool. We took a break for lunch and were walking towards the food vendors when all of a sudden Shelly turned to me in a panic and said “where is the camera, I need the camera, where is it?” I was so confused and told her I had it and she could play with it again after lunch…she persisted and seemed very urgent – so I gave it to her. She started taking pictures of these two, young, good looking men. I asked her if she knew them, and she said she did and they suggested I take a picture with them, her, and Samuel, so I did. Apparently these two men are the Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt of Zambia – a pretty big deal! (I had no idea!)

The first picture is me (as per my parents’ request) with Shelly and Samuel. Shelly got her face painted at one of the booths – it was a festival after all!

The second picture is Shelly and Samuel with the two famous guys (I still didn’t get their names).

House Fire

On Friday night Curtis and I were talking with the kids at the dormitory when Muti (a former resident, now on break from trade-school and working as our handyman) came running up to us and said “the bad insects are on your house!” I asked for a little bit of clarification, and he said; “these insects are very dangerous.” Debra was standing near us and said they were the ants she had told us about that invaded her house once before…I really didn’t want my house invaded by “dangerous insects”. I went to the house to find that Muti had been telling the truth; one whole side of our house was covered in ants- the wall looked like it was a black blob, so did the ground and they were starting to move to the front of the house. Debra had told us that after her house had been invaded some of the locals told her the only way to get rid of them was with ash…after she had spent one night not able to sleep in her house because of all the ants she tried it and it worked. That is what we did –Muti and some of the boys ran back to the kitchen and started carrying down shovels of red hot ash. (Every time anyone walked close to the house to throw ash they would get bit – hard! This is why these ants are called dangerous. I got bit so many times!) I thought it was never going to get all the ants with as many trips as they would need to take, so I was in the process of starting a little fire and then was going to spread the ash…well the boys liked my idea and made a very big fire around half of our house. Thankfully, it worked! The ants are gone and no one got hurt…but it was an experience!

The picture is of Muti spreading the fire around our house. You can also see in the left of the picture where the shovels full of ash were thrown on our house (that is the front of the house).

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Just Hanging Out

On most Saturdays the kids are able to relax, play games, and just be kids. Yesterday, all the kids had to work in the fields for a few hours. It is harvesting time here, and there is a lot of work to be done. Seasons are just opposite of what they are in the States (we are just getting into the cold season, this will last until September). We have had a few rains the last few days (which is very unusual this time of year), which pushed harvest time sooner - if all the food doesn’t get picked it will just sit in the field and mold. Also, because of the rain, the field is too wet to work in.

After the kids finished the work they had to do, they got to just relax. Curtis and I had a meeting all afternoon, so we didn’t get to play as much as we would have liked. But, they still were ready to pose for some pictures.

The first picture is three of the youngest girls we have here. From left to right: Mary, age 9; Wendy, age 7; and Rebecca, age 8. They don’t get there pictures taken often, so ‘just’ smiling for a picture isn’t good enough for them - they wanted the pictures I took to be more like glamour shots! In my opinion, this was the best one I got, from about the dozen I took of them.

In the second picture, some of the older boys (they were waiting for the soccer field - we had let the girls have a turn to play, and the boys didn’t like that). From left to right: Joseph, age 14; Peter, age 13; Gibson, age 17; Kelvin, age 17; and Sydney, age 15…despite there age difference, these boys are grades 6 and 7. Our school only goes up to grade 7. After that we send the kids to a secondary school. We have two houses at the secondary school, a boys and a girls, and house parents at both.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Guitar Lessons

Everyone seems very interested in Curtis’ guitar! We have used it to sing some songs with the kids during our devotions. On Sunday we didn’t bring it (too many new kids and too much to go over we figured it would be more of a distraction) and all the kids who had been around for the break were asking where it was. On Sunday a couple of the teachers who also live on the compound came to our house and said they wanted to learn to play…so of course Curtis gave them a lesson. After about half an hour they both had the G chord down. (We told them next time they come there would be a test.)We will start music lessons with the kids in a few weeks, once the school schedule is all figured out.

In the picture Moonde (pronounced moan-day) is holding the guitar. He is a new teacher here, he moved in the Wednesday after we did. He teaches sixth grade. He is really nice, and had us to his house for lunch on Saturday. He lives right across from us. (From our bedroom window to his is about 20 feet). The other man in picture is Freedom. He now teaches fourth grade. For those of you who knew Curtis and me from Kenya or have heard our stories from Kenya – Freedom has EXACTLY the same personality as Elvis (Curtis’ neighbor in the dorms). For those of you who don’t know (or know of) Elvis, this is a very good thing! Freedom is very outgoing, great with the kids, and very friendly to us. Freedom is currently living in the back of one of the classrooms.