Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Which stands for ZAmbia Wins Again

Monday started out with such promise. I had sat up late the night before laying out my to-do list for the week. I still use Remember the Milk, and I was happy to see all my tasks outlined in an orderly fashion.

I got up early and, remembering the sermon we listened to on Sunday afternoon about idols, I set aside time to do my devotions first. It was a good lesson, and then I got right to work.

The only fly in the ointment was my headache. I mentioned it to Tom and he suggested that I go back to bed. Not wanting to abandon such a promising day I stuck it out at my desk.

Before long I was crossing things off my list at a rapid pace. I felt good about it!

However, my head still ached terribly and I began to feel so cold. We only have one airconditioning unit at the orphanage. It is a window unit for the office to keep our computers and printer more free of dust and heat. It does make for a chilly environment for those of us with thinned out Africanized blood.

By 10:30 I couldn't take the cold anymore and crawled into bed. My body was shaking with chills. 

Tom took one look at me and declared it to be malaria

Bye bye productivity!

Hello 3 days of bed and about a week of weakness. 

So much for heightened productivity. I'm trusting that God still has a plan in all this, and I'm trying not to fret. 
And, on this third day of illness (I'm still dizzy if I sit up) I'm getting done what work I can. Thank goodness for laptops. So far I've submitted W2s to the Social Security Administration, and researched companies for Tom, and written this. 
I might do a bit of bookkeeping work too, if my brain cooperates.

And I'm rethinking the whole planning bit. It feels a bit too much like tempting fate.....

What do you think?

(Almost) Exactly Five Years Ago: Keeper, Sleeper, Weeper
(Almost) Exactly Four Years Ago: It's the Little Things That Make Me Smile
(Almost) Exactly Two Years Ago: Snake Bites Can Be Good (apparently I was just recovering from malaria then too....)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Photo of the Week: Michael

A rare, and therefore precious, smile from Michael

Michael joined our Kazembe Orphanage family in September, 2012 after losing both his parents. He was only five months old.  Michael is a sweet kid, but he struggles with life sometimes. He often runs fevers and we've yet to discover what causes them. Outwardly he is healthy and well developed. I'm hoping that as he moves past his toddler years (he turns 3 in April) he'll settle in a bit and become more confident.

When I saw this photo, which was taken by Sarah (one of our volunteers), my heart rejoiced. 

One of our challenges in running this home is helping the kids' hearts heal after their losses. Even those that are so tiny when they arrive carry with them the scars of abandonment. Only God's love and our care can fully patch up those hurt places.

Michael is one of our many unsponsored children. In order for us to provide good care including nannies, food, and all that goes into living, we need $350 per child. You can become a part of the team that sponsors Michael and helps him grow up into an amazing young man for as little as $50 a month. Or you could meet his entire need. The sky is the limit!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Thing One and Thing Two

As I mentioned in my last blog, while Tom and I were in Lusaka we were told about twins that had been born in the local hospital and how their mother had died just afterward. Born to a mother who had already had six children in the last 10 years. These twins made eight. Her elective cesarean surgery was just too much for her body to handle.

Troy and Sarah with the twins on the way home from the hospital

Meet Impundu Humphrey and Kapya Maggie. 

Impundu means twin #1 and Kapya means twin #2. Since we already have a Maggie we are calling the twins Humphrey and Kapya.* 

We still haven’t been able to figure out if these babies were born early or are simply tiny. Humphrey at the time of discharge from the hospital at six days old weighed only 2.2 kg (4lbs12oz) and his sister, Kapya 1.9 kg (4lbs3oz).  They are not only skinny, but tiny too in an almost unbelievable way.

Despite being so small, they seemed to be healthy. Their mother tested negative for HIV, so we could breathe a sigh of relief that they wouldn't be battling a depressed immune system due to HIV exposure. However, their low weight carried its own concerns. They would have very little natural cushion in case they got sick at all. When we brought them home we were encouraged to see them eating so well.

A few days after we brought them home Humphrey started looking peaky and weak. The next morning when I checked on them (they were staying in a room with a nanny), his eyes were sunken in and he’d lost the will to eat. It was very scary! We jumped into action right away with mixing ReSoMal (like Pedialyte, but for malnourished babies) and changing his bottle to a softer nipple. Kapya also had very little appetite, but at least she was eating—20-25 ml (about an ounce) at a time.

Humphrey was not eating at all and we had to drip the milk carefully into his mouth. Sarah took over his care which meant giving him either ReSoMal or formula every hour around the clock. Since he couldn’t suck on the bottle, it could take 30-45 minutes each time.

I looked after Kapya who was doing OK, but still not eating much. Her feedings also took 45 minutes to accomplish. Both babies had dropped weight and we were really concerned.

Thanks be to God, after only a day Humphrey looked much better, the day after that he was drinking faster (though not sucking), and on the third day he was sucking properly.
We are happy to report that both Humphrey and Kapya are drinking like champs now. Over the last two days they gained 140 and 150 grams each (about 5 oz). 

Please continue to pray for their growth. We can hardly wait until they are chubby and real baby sized.

*Tom's a little disappointed with the names because when we heard there were twins we first said simultaneously "We can name them Jack and Jill!" But we already have a Jack and a Jackson, so we decided on Mark and Mindy......When we got to the hospital we found they were already named [which is unusual for newborns here] so there you have it. Oh well, there's always next time. LOL

Exactly Five Years Ago: Mr. Tom's (and Amy's Wild Ride)
Exactly Three Years Ago: Kute Kids

Monday, February 9, 2015

We Make Plans, and Then Life

So, my commitment to you this year was that I would write at least three times a week. Aaaand, that lasted less than a month. 

However, in my defense, there have been some major extenuating circumstances. Let me elaborate:

In the middle of January, on one of the wettest mornings we've known I hurried into our washroom to collect a battery-operated bubbler for our fish. Not only had it been raining for over 12 hours straight, but the power had also been out all night and I was worried about my Christmas goldfish.  I'd waited years to be gifted with a fish tank and I wasn't about to let the little pretties die.

I was also rushing because Tom and I were heading out to Mansa to do the bi-weekly shopping trip. Rushing is never a good idea

As I stepped down from the dining room into the washroom I had just a moment to register the huge puddle before my feet flew out from beneath me and I crashed to the floor knocking my head hard on the edge of the cement step behind me. 

It was a good thing we were already headed to Mansa because I ended up needing five stitches. Since the doctor refused to examine me fully, I may or may not have had a concussion. All I know is that I was pretty useless for nearly a week, and am still pretty draggy. My head hurts a ton at the end of the day--especially if I have to use it which at this time of year is pretty much a certainty.

Just when life looked like it was returning to normal and I was able to put in nearly a full day's work, Tom returned from a day of work at Terra Nova and was unable to sleep due to pains in his chest. 

This has been ongoing for several years now, but we both felt strongly that it was not something we could ignore any longer. A good friend of ours (who happens to be exactly the same age as Tom) just had to have a stint put in very recently. We're getting up there in years and can't keep pretending we are immortal. 
We spent much of the night praying and by morning had decided to travel to Lusaka to see a doctor.

A week later we rolled back into Kazembe feeling much better. Tom's heart seems to be fine but we need to make some changes in diet and exercise. More about that later.

While we were in Lusaka we were contacted by the mission hospital near us to say they'd had a mother pass away during a cesarean delivery leaving behind twins! So, the day we got back to Kazembe we drove over to the hospital and brought home a new baby boy and girl. I promise to introduce you to them properly very soon.

So, as you can see. Life has been moving along at a right clip already this year. I'm just hanging on for dear life. 

I'll leave you with my Facebook cover photo for this month. 

And the struggle continues.....this was supposed to auto post on Sunday, but something went wrong....oh well.

Exactly Two Years Ago: Keep Praying for Missionaries
(Almost) Exactly Three Years Ago: Checking In
Exactly Five Years Ago: My Week in Review 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Delight of an Unexpected Date

One of the things that Tom and I had placed on our to-do list for Lusaka was a visit out to SugarBush Farm. Several months ago, after attending church in Lusaka we took a Sunday drive--what a concept!--and discovered this little farm which hosts a leather shop and cafe. Since we had already had lunch at the time of our discovery, we weren't in the mood to eat, but just wandered around and took in the beautiful scenery and looked at the handmade leather goods.

When we knew we were going to be in Lusaka for a few days this month, we thought it would be wonderful to visit again and perhaps have lunch. But, as our list of important things to do got longer, Sugarbush Farm was pushed farther and farther down until at one point we simply laughed and mimed it dying as it fell off entirely.

Then, providence struck in the form of a lost bag at the airport. Suddenly, with all our important work done, we had the gift of an extra day in Lusaka.

After a quiet morning at the hotel where Tom got a much needed sleep-in, and I spent a couple hours working to the soundtrack of a Psych episode, we drove out of town on a rare and special DATE.

Sugarbush Farm has winding lanes that take you past corrals with horses and beautiful trees. We looked for the Irish Wolfhound type dog we'd seen last time but he was no where to be found. It's the kind of property that says it has been around, seen a lot and stood the test of time. It's not something you see everyday in this relatively new country, and so it is always a delight. It carries a type of restfulness with it, if that makes any sense.

 Then we arrived at the main attraction: A farmhouse converted into a cafe and a shop called Jackal and Hide.

Out back there is a large garden which provides produce for the cafe and sometimes even for sale, though this time it looked a bit overgrown--probably due to the heavy rains we've been having.

We wandered through the leather shop for a while. I need to replace my stolen wallet, but while there were many beautiful things, I didn't find exactly what I was looking for. That's OK! The hunt is half the fun.

Afterward, we settled on the wide porch to enjoy lunch. And here is when it got really exciting for me. The menu looked legitimate! It featured dishes that made it easy to forget we were sitting in the backwoods of Zambia--including Louisiana Crayfish with a Remoulade. A remoulade! In Zambia?? For real??

Tom chose the crayfish and I settled on a pasta dish with crispy bacon and fresh herbs because I wanted to see what the garden produced. And boy, was I glad I did! The pasta turned out to be homemade! I've never seen homemade pasta in Zambia (other than in my own kitchen, that is) and it was amazing!

We relaxed and enjoyed the cool breeze for a time, before heading back to the city. 

It's moments like this that I remember that All Things Work Together For Good. A forced delay in our plans gave us the gift of a Special Date. 

P.S. Poor Tom didn't enjoy the day quite as much as I did due to the fact that, knowing he needed a good night sleep, I gave him a sedative (2 in fact) the night before, which did in fact allow him to sleep really well, but which also meant he wandered around in a fog all day and all he could think about was crawling back into bed. Poor man! ha ha

Exactly Three Years Ago: Pause Life for a Moment (a guest post I did)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Crazy 35 Hour Day

Warning: Long Post Ahead

After a very busy Christmas season Tom and I looked forward to a few days together. We needed to take care of some business in Lusaka and a volunteer was expected to arrive on January 8, so following the New Year festivities, and after taking care of the bi-weekly shopping,  we headed down to Lusaka.

It's much easier to drive the roads here if you start off at 2 or 3 AM. The roads are clear, it's cooler, and you arrive in Lusaka 12 hours later ahead of the rush hour. It's perfect. And this is exactly what Tom and I did. We had the car loaded the night before, got a few hours of sleep and drove off at 2:30 AM. 

Tom did most of the driving, but I did 2 of the most boring hours so I think it was fairly even. Ahem.
On the way we prepared our to-do list. As is typical for trips like this, a list that started out with about 4 items on it quickly grew to include about 20. All to get done in two days. Yep.

We were thoroughly exhausted when we got to Lusaka so after a quick stop for dinner at a Thai place, where I discovered Tom Yum Kai soup, we got to sleep early since the next couple days would be BUSY!

The next morning we were out the door at 8 AM. The first stop was Immigration where we collected my residence permit. No more renewing work permits every two years. And the People of God say Hallelujah!!

From that point onward the next day and a half moved forward in a methodical way. At each shop, office, or business we found either the people or things we needed. We sat in traffic a few times, but for the most part we just moved from point to point and crossed item after item off our list. It was wonderful and by no means typical for this part of the world. We were amazed! 

On the way to pick up our newest volunteer, Zach, from the airport we marveled at how smoothly the trip had gone so far and how thankful we were for that fact.

This was about to change......

We arrived at the airport just after Zach's plane had landed and so we took our time to grab a couple bottles of water and a snack. Volunteers have to stand in the 'tourist' line so they are usually some of the last people out. However, as time passed and there was still no sign of Zach we got a bit concerned. Finally we spotted him--but where he was meant nothing good. He was at the Lost Luggage counter!

Eventually he filled out the necessary forms so the airline could locate his suitcase and they promised to call when his luggage arrived. This particular airline has 3 flights a day from South Africa to Zambia so there was a good chance his suitcase could even get in later that day. There was nothing more to be done so we called the hotel to extend our stay (we had been planning to begin driving that very next morning--at 2 AM again), and headed home.

The next day we called the airport and were told the suitcase was in their system, but would only arrive the next day at noon since it was still in Germany. 

So, with all our work done we ended up with a free day. What a gift! 

The next morning we woke up early ready to check out from the hotel and get to the airport at noon after which we would begin driving back to Kazembe. Whether the bag had arrived or not we would have to head north and make other arrangements for the suitcase because we'd been away from the orphanage too long already. And this is where the long day began. Had we known what it held in store for us, we may have just crawled back into bed.....

Car fully loaded we drove out to the airport, arriving right at noon. The Lost Luggage office showed the suitcase as being loaded on the flight and due to arrive. Only problem? The flight was delayed by 90 minutes. So we decided to wait. It was only 90 minutes, right?

Two hours later we found out the suitcase was actually still lost. No one seemed to know where it was. Tom found a courier that would get it out of lost and found and all the way up to Mansa whenever it actually arrived. That was good news, but now it was after 4 PM. We were going to hit rush hour traffic, be stuck behind buses also headed out of town, and be driving this congested traffic area at dusk. Not good!

We made a decision to check into an inexpensive hostel for several hours so we could sleep and then start driving at midnight. It sounded like a good plan in theory, but the reality was that we weren't really able to sleep and then we got a call at 9 PM that the luggage had actually arrived. So, back to the airport we went at 11 PM, collected the suitcase and right at midnight we were headed out of town. 

The road was reasonably clear, but we were already tired and staring down the barrel of a 12 hour drive. Poor Tom only managed 2.5 hours before he had to pull over. I wasn't able to help much with the driving because when my wallet was stolen back in November my license was taken along with it. We had decided that I would only drive in areas I wasn't likely to be asked to produce a license. 

After an hour of sleep Tom got back to driving. And immediately encountered pea-soup thick fog. We crept along at about 30 miles an hour. It was very stressful. I sat up straight, peering ahead, and 'helped' keep an eye on the road. Another 2 hours and we had to stop once more. An hour after that Tom drove again. There was relief in sight though because we were about to reach the 'dead zone' as we call it. It's a lonely stretch of highway where there are few villages and no police checkpoints. I'd be able to help with the driving finally.

When I took over the driving it was about 9 AM. We'd pretty much been up for 24 hours with just a couple catnaps to tide us over. I put in my earphones with my audio book and hoped I'd be able to stay awake.

About three hours later we got close to civilization so Tom woke up and took over with the driving. We were an hour away from Mansa at this point and after that it would only be two hours. We would survive this!

In Mansa we picked up some lunch, but decided to eat it on the way because We Were So Close!

The only thing left to do was to stop off at Terra Nova to drop off some tomato seedlings we'd picked up in Lusaka. It didn't make any sense to take them all the way to Kazembe only to take them back again a few days later. 

As we drove north the rain started up. This is so good for our garden, we remarked. However, Tom did wonder if the dirt road that winds through Terra Nova would be too muddy to drive on. We have gravel down for the first hundred yards but the next stretch is still just dirt. 

When we got to Terra Nova, there was so much grass growing on the dirt road we figured we'd have some traction and decided to risk it. 

Big mistake.

At this point the rain was coming down pretty good. We jumped out, pulled the seedlings out of the car, and deposited them inside the 'greenhouse' tunnel. Soaking wet, we got back in the car ready to have this trip over. Just an hour and a half to go.

 Aaaand the car wouldn't move. We were mired in the mud!

I dragged a bamboo mat out of our Gilligan's Hut, but it was too rotted to do much good. We pulled apart a fence made out of bark pieces, but they too did nothing. Our front tires just spun uselessly. 

Tom had been in the driver's seat trying to maneuver while Zach and I dashed around in the rain pulling random objects over to try and help free the tires. Tom finally got out and asked me to do the driving so he could help more. I've never worked to unstick a car from mud, so I didn't really know what I was doing. This became apparent when Tom asked me to put the car in reverse and I revved the engine spraying poor Zach liberally with mud. The look he gave me was priceless. We told him he was being baptized into African life.

Thankfully, the village headman and his fifteen year old son happened along. They knew where some logs were and helped us to jack up the car and pile debris beneath the two front tires. A full hour after getting stuck we were finally free!
We left behind several layers of rubber on one of the logs--it was literally smoking!--but we were FREE!

An hour and a half later our poor, wet, muddy, bedraggled bodies drove through the orphanage gate. Never had our bed looked so wonderful!

It was nearly 5 PM and we had been driving nearly the entire time since 11 PM the day before!

The best thing we can say about days like that is that we survived! 

And what an adventure it was!

P.S. Can you believe I got not a single picture?? Just the sight of poor Zach covered head to toe with mud on only his second African day would have been worth having. Somehow my mind was not on cameras.....

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Nothing Like a Burst of Adrenaline to Kickstart the New Year

This year for New Year’s Eve we decided to continue our annual tradition of setting off fireworks at Terra Nova. We did it last year on a camping trip, and now we did it again this year, so it’s an annual tradition, right?

Unlike last year where we climbed up our ‘mountain’ and camped overnight, we wanted to save our legs and backs by setting off the fireworks at ground level and then just heading back home after the midnight ringing in of a New Year.

We invited some Peace Corps volunteers to join us and took Chewy along for good measure. Tom wanted to put in a full day of farm work out at Terra Nova and so we set out in the early morning loaded with coolers and boxes of all the homemade cookies leftover after Christmas.

While Tom, Troy and Peter got to work, I sat down with my stitching (I’m making a baby sampler for good friends) and watched Chewy run around exploring. He had the time of his young life checking out every stick and hole he could find.

Tom and I took a walk, later in the afternoon, around the property to survey the orchard—we had several workers out there cutting the grass—the 100 yard lane leading from the main road into our property—five women were pulling the grass out from the gravel—and the ducks. Most of the ducks were swimming around in the river. They are so happy out at Terra Nova! 

As Tom walked away from the river he collected a tail: Apparently the ducks are used to being fed and thought it was dinner time.

We also found something that the village headman had rigged up to protect the ducks from a hawk that lives in the area.

It’s pretty spooky!

When it finally got dark enough, Tom decided to set off the majority of the fireworks early so the villagers could see them and still get to bed on time.

We had a small group gathered around the elevated roundabout at the end of the our lane. (This roundabout was a termite mound that we cut down to about 5 feet tall and shaped into what will eventually be an impressive landmark). 
Way down at the main road another larger crowd had gathered. Tom started out with some fairly tame fireworks, but they still startled our small group. Everyone scattered at the first bang. It was funny!

Then the big ones started up. Each time a plume of fireworks would spray and sparkle, the crowd out on the main road would cheer. It sounded like a football match.

The fireworks increased in intensity as any good display should. Chewy was a little nervous about the flashes and bangs. He moved from person to person, hid under skirts, and even was held in arms before he begged to get down so he could wander around again.

After a particularly large boom, our small crowd started shouting something about a dog. We eventually figured out that Chewy had had one too many frights and was bugging out of there! Several people took off running and still took time to catch up to that tiny dog. I guess fear gave him wings.

We took Chewy back to the campsite and Tom wound up the first round of fireworks. He just reserved a couple huge ones for midnight.

After that it was a waiting game. There were still 3 hours to go till midnight. We visited under the stars, rested and Tom shot off his shotgun a few times because he could.

Finally midnight drew near and we gathered at the roundabout once more. I prepared our little plastic cups with punch, Tom got his shotgun ready, and prepared the two remaining rockets. The plan was at the stroke of midnight to let off a shot, pop the bubbly and shoot off a firework rocket.

As you might imagine, things didn’t go quite as planned…..

We counted down: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and……

The gun fired!

I wrestled the cork out of the bottle. POP!

And then, we all looked expectantly to the roundabout where Tom was still struggling to light the rocket. He got it lit and we stared with horror as it just sat there getting hotter and hotter and not taking off. Then it shot off—but at a sideways angle right at our car!

Boom! The burst of fireworks exploded right next to us!

When we could all breathe again and had determined that we were all still alive and our car was intact, we chuckled shakily and had to admit that was kinda cool.

Tom set up the next rocket and after a few adjustments to account for the soft, muddy ground, the last rocket shot upward and burst perfectly in the air.

It was a perfect ending and beginning!

Happy New Year!

Exactly Two Years Ago: Tidbits and Updates
Exactly Three Years Ago: Garden Glories
Exactly Four Years Ago: Down for the Count

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