Life on the Mekong and Other Rivers

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog, including strong statements in support of weinerdog-riding monkeys, are our own, and not those of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. government.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Eve fun

We had some friends over for our traditional Christmas eve dinner of tacos. Our neighbors Ryan and Julie and their girls came over, and Cory and Roxanne and their two kids came too.

Everyone agreed that tacos for Christmas just feels right, and the homemade double decker tacos that Katherine and I make are going to make us famous.

Julie had a gift specially made for Ryan. You see, Ryan is a fan of the beanbag toss game. The great thing about it is that it is yet another "sport" that you can do while holding a beer.

So Ryan got his gift early so we could all enjoy.

Dead-eye Langston takes aim as everyone else looks on.

Maya has a bit of an unorthodox throwing style. Kind of a slow-pitch softball backspin-type toss. It was effective, though.

So Christmas in Lusaka. It's tacos. It's the beanbag game.

What it isn't is chestnuts roasting on an open fire or jack frost nipping at our nose.

Which is fine by me.

Christmas weekend

Jack and Sam relaxing on the back stoop with Olipa and Tisi.

Sam went swimming today for the first time. Feet in, crying. But a bit more time and he was splashing around like a champ.

They had a christmas bazaar at Jack's school where kids could go in and adults would help them pick out gifts. Jack went in and picked out a gift for me. Nothing for Katherine. Take THAT!

Anyway, Jack brought home a wrapped gift in early December and proceeded to say the gift was for me, and that it was a wooden crocodile. We tried to impress upon him the need for secrecy, to keep the surprise until I actually opened the gift. It didn't work. He told me about the wooden crocodile a half a dozen times in the few weeks leading to Christmas.

Anyway, Christmas morning and I opened up the gift. And guess what?!?!?!

It was a wooden crocodile.... and some rum-raisin chocolate.

It's the thought that counts.

The christmas spirit.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

To everyone in Minnesota, New York, Washington, DC, Kyiv, and other places where people are having a white Christmas.

Taken 9:00 am on December 25.

Monday, December 21, 2009

School's out

As of last week, Jack is on a month-long holiday from school. Before he left, though, there was a school assembly. My first, and I think it kind of represents our entry into the next phase of our life as parents.

We sat up in the stands, camera in hand, waiting for Jack's class to take their turn on stage. Alas, our good camera was acting up so we used our little point and shoot with no zoom. As such...

That's Jack, 5th from the right. Best we could get of his first official assembly. Bad parents, we.

After the assembly I went to work and Katherine hung out at school for a holiday party in the classroom and the playground.

Jack and his friend Keira driving some sort of playground equipment/vehicle commonly found at parks in the developing world. It must have been part of Soviet propaganda back in the day, because they are found everywhere except, it seems, the U.S. and western Europe.

Later, Jack took the opportunity to take a peek up Keira's skirt on the slide.

Jack's buddy Rudiger is the product of an American mom and Zambian/German dad. He and Jack play well together, so of course Rudiger is moving to Germany in two weeks.

Anyway, Jack loves school.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

best referral to the blog ever

So the free counter thingy called sitemeter tracks visits and a bit of detail about visitors. Where they come from, how many pages they looked at, etc.

You can also see whether there was a referral page that someone clicked on a link to get to our blog. Every now and again when I'm bored I check to see how people getting to the blog.

Most of you just type in the internet address or, if we are super special to you, maybe you just click on one of your "favorites" to get here.

Every now and again a google search brings someone in. I don't tag our entries with subject matter or anything, but it still happens pretty regularly.

Today was the best I've found so far. Someone apparently decided they wanted to search for a bilingual website about knocked up chickens.

Anyway, I', I guess, to say that if you google "pollo pregnant" our little blog is the fifth result down the list. And this entry in particular. Strangely enough, it was right there in the title. an elephant's eye

So when we moved in we had some corn growing in the back of our property near our staff quarters/storage rooms. The guards were tending to the corn (and tomatos) while no one was living in the house. Cut to December 13 and the guards' corn is tassling and stands about 12 feet tall.

Through the door in the background is our yard. And a large, flowering bougainvillea, of course.

And through the door...our four banana trees under the bougainvillea. And our generator. It puts in overtime, as Zambia has an electricity deficit and they practice load shedding pretty regularly.

Behind the generator is one of our mango trees, now hanging low with ripening fruit. We think they'll be ready by the end of the month.

So, not to beat a dead horse or anything, but we've got fruit and veg in our yard. So if you visit, you won't go hungry.

And Geoffrey will now officially be our first visitor, as he is finalizing his timing for a visit around the weekend of January 29.

'tis the season

Jack has decided he needs to build a chimney for Santa to come down. Our backup plan is to have Santa come down our neighbor's chimney and walk over to our house. I think we'll probably go with that.

Today we put our tree up. We went for the smaller of the two -- count 'em -- two artificial christmas trees we own as the larger tree would take up a substantial portion of our living room and probably hit the ceiling about 4/5ths of the way up. We used the other tree last year in our 14 ft ceilinged gargantuan Kyiv apartment.

This year we're going a bit more modest.

And our Christmas-time experience is a bit different down here compared to Kyiv in other ways, too. Today we skyped with our friends from Kyiv Corinne, CeCe and Addie and they said it was too cold to go outside.

We had to make sure we put on sunscreen before hitting the pool.

Sam even got into the act, wearing a clever facsimile of what I think was termed a "swimming costume" back in the '20s.

He wasn't really so much a fan of the water, though.

Clouds chased us into the house about ten minutes before the heavens opened up.

Rainy Sunday afternoon. Perfect time for some wine and a cartoon for Jack.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Jack, Santa. Santa, Jack

So we had the embassy Christmas party today at the Ambassador's house. Santa made an appearance. Jack was quite excited. He ran in circles for a while in the yard until he settled down enough to join the rest of the kids on the floor.

Then, as Santa started passing out presents, Jack yelled Santa's name about every 10 seconds until Santa finally paid attention to him. Jack just wanted to say hi.

Very exciting, and better this year than last, when Jack saw Santa changing clothes and noticed that it was daddy. Maybe now that he has seen Santa and daddy in the same room he'll stop talking about daddy being Santa. I always tell him I was just being Santa's helper, but he's pretty sure I'm Santa. Until today, hopefully.

He also jumped in to sing Jingle Bells with some of the bigger kids.

Christmas time in Zambia.

And when we got back home, our power was out. Christmas time in Zambia.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Claudine and Greg are on the hook for a visit

So as I mentioned before, today is our 6th anniversary. We are watching our wedding video. Cliche, yes, but we've never seen it through. We're on the "what people say during the reception when a camera gets thrust in their face" portion of the evening.

Claudine and Greg Hutton said something that means they now have some planning to do, whether they want to or not.

Sometime during the evening of December 6, 2003, Claudine said this:

"As much as your professional aspirations are very important to all of us, I for one will be supremely pissed if you move to Africa because we have a really good time hanging out and I'll be bummed if you leave. Unless of course we can find a way to get to Africa and visit you. Which we will."

To which Greg added - "which we will."

So Claudine and Greg...we're waiting.


There is a spider that seems to be quite common here. It's flat, and gets rather large, but we are told it is not dangerous, so we generally leave them go about their business. It is a bit jarring every now and then to walk into a room and see a big ol' spider just hanging out on the wall.

We've had a few other spiders that aren't flat that we just assume would bite us if given half the chance. In Laos we tried to get spiders out of the house alive because it is bad luck there to kill a spider indoors and Vone probably would not have let us kill them. No one here has said it is bad luck to kill spiders. Thus, the non-flat ones get the shoe, or the book, or whatever is handy.

About a week ago at work I was getting my allergy pills out of my backpack. Backpack in lap I grabbed the pill bottle and twisted off the top. Just then I see two or three black and yellow legs emerging from my backpack onto the hand holding the pill bottle.

I jumped, and sent my pills in an arc across the office. After regaining my composure and picking up as many pills as I could, I dumped the entire contents of my bag onto the floor and sifted through it, but didn't see the spider again.

Today it was Katherine's turn as she was unpacking a few last odds and ends. A quick little (not so little) spider popped out at her. Being a resourceful lass, she called to her husband to come handle the thing. It was the least I could do. It is our 6th anniversary today.

A spider that Jack has named Pete hangs out along the floor boards in the hallway to our bedrooms. He's a flat one, so you know, not dangerous. At least that's what we've been told. Jack always wants to touch it. We keep saying no, we leave spiders alone and spiders leave us alone. I guess my smashing the other spider with a shoe sent a mixed message to Jack, but what are you going to do.

Anyway, Pete was back this afternoon. Not a great picture. A little blurry, which makes Pete look much less menacing.

Here's a close-up.

For anyone with a fear of spiders (you'd think they'd have a special name for that. It is quite common. Maybe make a movie about it or something) rest assured that Pete and the rest of our "good" spiders leave us alone. The bad spiders get the shoe. So you'd be safe visiting.

Speaking of creepy crawlies, I was talking to our guards today about what is around the yard. Have you ever seen any snakes, I asked. Our day guard shook his head no, but our night guard (it was shift change so they were both there changing clothes) said "oh, yes. I saw one about 2 months ago back by the generator."

What kind of snake, I asked.

"oh, a little one. the red kind," he said, holding up his index finger to show the size of the snake.

So a small little yard snake, I thought. Is it poisonous, I asked.

"Oh, yes. Very," said he.

But he assured me that they are rare and only come out at night. And, he killed it and threw it over the fence. So problem solved.

The house

A little video of our little house.

I took one of the yard as well but am having trouble uploading it.

Without further ado...

Happy Sam

So he tends to clam up with a camera in his face, but I managed to snap a few pics of a happy Sam this morning.

Katherine went for a walk with our neighbor Julie this morning and Jack and I ate breakfast, then worked on making Sam smile.

And now Sam is sleeping peacefully in his chair. So it's a double win.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Jack got a new set of wheels for his birthday. Diana and Alan wanted to get Jack a bike and were leaning towards a traditional bike with...ya know...pedals.

We have been watching Jack tear around on his scooter, and thought that a balance bike could potentially vault him forward in his (our) goal of having the best balance of any 3-year old in the world.

So we talked Diana and Alan into buying a balance bike instead.

When we first got here, we visited our new neighbors and Jack rode 5-year old Maya's pedal bike. For the next three weeks Jack never missed an opportunity to tell us that he wanted a bike of his own. We'd go to the store and he'd make a bee-line for the bikes. A red one at Game (Lusaka's answer to Walmart, perhaps) was particularly desirable.

What all the bikes had in common, however, were pedals.

Flash forward to Jack's birthday. He got up in the morning and we gave him the bike. He took a long look at it and asked where might the pedals be.

This bike doesn't have pedals Jack, we explained. You push with your feet.

At which point he cried...for a long time.

But he's come around, and now is making laps around the house like a champ.

Even in his PJs.

Jack has really taken a shine to his baby brother -- when he's not motoring around on his bike, that is. Note the fierce frog tat on Jack's forearm by the way. The kid definitely has tattoos in his future. They fascinate him.

Sam's getting more alert daily. He's a pretty smiley guy, but generally demurs in front of the camera.

The rainy season is no joke here. Lusaka has weather, to be sure . In Vientiane, the rainy season generally meant a sunny day with an hour or so of heavy rain that generally fell straight down.

Here, the temperature drops suddenly, the wind whips up, thunder claps and lightning streaks across the sky.

And the rain. Oh, the rain.

Sadly, rain is difficult for an untrained photographer like me to capture on film.

Maybe video is better.