There are a couple realities about our lives: 1) We are from America and are used to all the amenities of living in a first-world country. 2) We currently live in Zambia, and this ain’t Kansas anymore, Toto. So, here is a glimpse into five ways we have had to adjust our thinking and living because of that.
1. Garbage Pick-Up
Our garbage is “supposed” to be picked up on Saturday around noon. But in reality, it is anytime between Friday morning and Monday afternoon. There have been several times where we have missed getting our garbage collected, because we have been at church or hanging out with friends or something. People ask us why we can’t just set our bags of garbage outside out gate, in case the truck comes while we’re gone. Well, the couple times we have tried doing that, we come home to our garbage bags open and having been rummaged through (or in the process of being rummaged through) for any valuables (glass bottles, plastic containers, food, paper to help start fires, etc). Not only is that dangerous and bio-hazardous, it ends up being so messy, because the things people don’t want, like dirty diapers, get picked up by the dogs and strewn all over the street, which we then have to pick up.
So, consequently, we have gone up to 5 weeks without getting our garbage collected at times! As each weekend approaches, we wait with baited breath to see when, and if, our garbage will get picked up.
2. Grocery Shopping
Going to the grocery store is “like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” I was just lamenting yesterday to Derek that one of our favorite cereals has been nowhere to be found for over a year. Same with Doritos and Fritos. Sometimes there’s canned tuna or popcorn or all-purpose flour or frozen corn or peanuts or limes or butter…and sometimes there’s not. It’s as simple as that.
Mexican might have been what’s for dinner, but can I really settle for burritos without cilantro, which is out of season? And what about the chipatis (the terrible, oily cousin to flour tortillas), which are already molding on the grocery shelf? Once, we bought a bag of charcoal to grill kabobs. After the meat had marinated and the kabobs were ready, Derek opened the bag and found that all the charcoal was completely full of mold. One sign of having learned tricks of living here is to check all expiration dates, especially of dairy products, on the grocery store shelf. We have wasted so much money buying milk, yogurt, and cheese, only to get them home and find out that they’re all spoiled, even if they haven’t officially “expired.” Charlie was learning his food adjectives, like salty, sweet, sour, spicy, etc. Once, I gave him a glass of milk, and he said, “Sour.” I said, “No, milk isn’t sour,” thinking that he had mixed his adjectives up. Nope, it was definitely sour. Poor kid.
3. Getting Fuel for Car or Air for Tires
We have to buy a certain kind of fuel for our diesel Land Cruiser Prado, but not every gas station has this kind of fuel. And even the places that do have it sometimes don’t have it. Or if we need “pressure” in a leaky tire, many of the air pumps are either out of air (how does THAT happen?!) or are broken. You can see that a simple chore of getting fuel becomes…precarious and absolute drudgery at times. Will they have fuel today? Or do I have to travel around town to see who has fuel? And will any of those places have it?
Our house has two hot water tanks – one on either end of the house. Of course, the one that supplies hot water to the bathroom side of the house has problems. Every couple weeks, we get something that we lovingly refer to as an “air lock.” We open the hot water tap, and we get air. So, we leave it running for hours on end – usually, an average of four hours – to push all the air through and get a steady stream of hot water running again. But when this happens at evening bath time for Charlie and Sam, Derek and I run back and forth from the kitchen sink to the bathroom bringing stock pots full of hot water to let the boys have a warm bath. For showers in the morning, some of the wimpier of us skip our shower, and some of the stronger of us just take a cold shower. Okay, okay, I will admit that I have been known on occasion to rather smell of yesterday than take a cold shower.
Our power is not always stable. Since living in this house for 1 1/2 years, we have had 3 30-hour power outages, 15+ 8-hour outages, and plenty of 30-minute or an hour outages. Whenever the power goes out, we call the power company to see if they have anything helpful to tell us. We’ve learned that the words “load shedding” or “routine maintenance” bring hope, and words like “fault on the line” or “digging” or “transformer” are very, very bad. The latter words mean, “Find someone whose power is on and take all your perishables toothier fridge or freezer and make sure your phones are charged.”