MEET JERRY JUNIOR!!!!!

8 03 2012

If you have followed this blog, you have come to know the guys in the metal shop.  Mabine, Gift and Charles.

 Mabine, Gift and Charles

 As we make preparations to leave Zambia, I am finding it is a whirlwind of emotions.  Every time I go in to the shop, I look at “the guys” in a different way.  I will readily admit that I’m really going to miss them.  It has grown in to a special bond in my life…unlike any other connection I have had with other people.  When I look back, I feel bad for how hard I have been on them at times.  But in the end, we have come out with a very special friendship.  They invited me to come visit them in their homes quite a while ago.  Today, I finally took the time to do so.  When I got back, I wondered why they wanted me to see where they lived.  They are tiny, tiny brick buildings, two small rooms with a tin roof overhead.  As soon as the sun comes out, it is an oven inside.  They don’t complain about it.

Today was a holiday.  I went to work until about 3 o’clock and then took my motorcycle over to their compound.  I found out later that they spent their entire day off waiting for me to arrive.  It ended up involving friends, family members and even a landlord.  I was touched that they wanted to share what little they had.  At one house, I was offered a soda and some biscuits.  I know that this was a huge sacrifice for them and accepted it with a combination of gratitude and guilt.

A couple of weeks ago, Gift told me that his wife was due to have a child soon and if it was a boy, they planned to call it Jerry.  I must admit to an embarrasing level of vanity with my wishes for a boy.  Last Monday, March 5th Gift and his wife

 HAD A BOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Heeeeeeerrrrrrrreeeessssss....JERRY!

When I was at Gift’s house today, he informed me that he can not officially receive that name until I give him a gift.  I can’t give it to Gift or his wife….I have to give it directly to Jerry (Junior).  He also asked if I could take his wife and baby to the clinic on Tuesday morning.  It is all very confusing, but I can just add it on to the rest of the confusion over the past two years.

I’m smiling INSIDE

Over the past month, I have been working with Grace to get a grant for bicycles for the guys.  Their walk to work takes about an hour (hour twenty for Gift)….that’s each way!  We WERE able to secure the grant and I am so happy that we were also able to get the bikes before I left.  They’re used, but very nice ones (for Zambia)  The guys are very proud of them, as others notice how nice their bikes are and their commute has been cut down to 20 minutes each way.  That’s eight more hours a week of free time.  But one caveat is that we now expect them to use this new mobility to go out and find their own orders for the shop.  A final piece toward the goal of sustainability.

Next week is FILLED with dinners, lunches and gatherings all in preparation to say good bye to a number of good friends.  I’m looking forward to having this time together and dreading the goodbyes.

The magnitude of this past couple of years is really starting to sink in.  It’s funny that I couldn’t “really” feel it until I start to prepare to leave it.  I wish I could feel these things more…..as they are taking place.

Hmmmm

On the other side of all of this, I’m really looking forward to reconnecting with friends and family in Seattle and then on back home to the Methow.  See y’all soon!

Jerry





Africa Cup of Nations – – – ZAMBIA!!!!!!!!!!

13 02 2012

Congratulations Zambia! The Chipolopolo rise from the ashes of Gabon to be crowned champions of Africa Cup of Nations 2012: Zambia Upset Ivory Coast After Thrilling…

(Chipolopolo is the name of the Zambian National team…Grace told me it means “bullet…a BIG bullet!”

This was absolutely HUGE in Zambia.  After qualifying for the African Cup of Nations (football/soccer), Zambia wasn’t really expected to go all that far.  They made it through the qualifying rounds of the tournament and in to the semifinal.  A few games ago we played Sudan, and were really outplayed, but squeeked out a win.  That was nice, but then we had to play Ghana, one of the tournament favorites.  Again, we were outplayed, but managed a 1-0 win to make it to the finals and Ivory Coast…the pre tournament favorite.  All of the announcers were picking Ivory Coast, but were very “sweet” as to Zambia’s accomplishment up to this point.  It was a great game.  This time Zambia did NOT get outplayed.  It was a nail biter for the whole 90 minutes of regulation and ended in a 0 – 0 tie.  Next, a 30 minute tie breaker game (two fifteen minute halfs).  Again, no score.  So, it goes to a shoot out against the goal keepers.  Five shots for each team, most goals wins.  Both teams made all five shots.  Now, sudden death.  The teams use whoever hasn’t had a shot yet.  First team to make when the other team misses, wins.  Ivory Coast MISSED their seventh try!  Everybody went nuts…..until….Zambia also missed.  Then Ivory Coast missed their eighth try.  Zambia drilled it and won the cup.

I looked at MSNBC News today, and the story didn’t even merit a headline.  Yes, a former olympic swimmer proposing on the medal stand was a big story, but not this huge story that has overwhelmed the continent of Africa.  We went to bed at 2 AM and the streets were still going totally nuts….All over.  Today, at every intersection people would break out in honking, yelling, blowing those crazy horns.  Cars were dressed with the Zambian colors and flags flying from all over the place.

At lunch today, I was asking myself “So these sports victories…are they really all that productive?  Is it a positive thing, overall, to boast your superiority over another?  Is this joy people are feeling based on anything that can be looked at in a positive way?  It certainly is fun, but is it really all that healthy?”

In this case, my answer is YES.  Many people in Africa feel like they are a lesser people.  Most idolize America, yet it seems like an impossible dream to experience.  They know that many parts of the world are more “developed”, and it just isn’t happening here.  Today, Zambians are very proud of their country.  They have watched their team rise to the top of the African continent and they have taken the ride with them.  Today, Zambians are not feeling like a downtrodden, forgotten people.  I can’t help but think that a little part of this feeling will stay with them.  Actually, it is an essential step in changing from an AID focused economy to a productive, investment worthy, job creating society.

I have been living in this “downtrodden” environment without really realizing the weight of it….until today.

PLEASE LET A PIECE OF IT LAST IN ZAMBIA!!!

On another very sad note, let me share another part of life, probably throughout Africa.  One of our assistant housemothers was watching the game at the village last night.  In the excitement of the win, she collapsed and was unconcious.  Her pulse was very weak, and they put her in to a car and went to the hospital.  I don’t mean to disrespect this situation, but I want to share how this is handled here.  Upon LEAVING for the hospital, you need to get a bunch of people together to go with you.  I would not have known that they (hospital staff) not only don’t greet you at the entrance, they won’t even assist with bringing the patient in from the parking lot.  You have to go in there, ask for a stretcher and they have to search all over to find one.  You then bring it out to the car (in the parking lot), load the patient yourself and bring her in to the doctor.  A doctor finally came over and soon after pronounced that she had not survived.  So, now it is YOUR responsibility to take the body, in the stretcher, to the police station…which is nearby.  At the police station, they said that a doctor had not signed a death certificate and they would need to go find a doctor to do so.  So, the doctor had to come over to the police station, check the body and sign the certificate.  So now, the body has to be taken (by the same people that brought her in and still on the same stretcher) to the morgue.  They put the body in a storage locker, give you a tag number and send you on your way.

In another incident, some very good friends of ours lost an unborn baby who was 8 months along.  Ilene and I went to support them through this, but when the time came to take care of the body, a nurse asked me if we had transport.  I said that I had driven here.  She said “Oh good, we will let you take the body then”.  We ended up putting the baby, wrapped in a blanket, in the back seat of our car and drove off to a cash machine so that we could pay for the burial in a couple of hours.

What I am getting at, is that in the West, we address these things with such sensitivity and care.  Let me say that “It is a luxury”.  In an environment where so many people die and there is so little money, there just isn’t room for the care and compassion that we are accustomed to.  In fact, it is a very cold and numbing experience.

I can’t say that it is very easy to adjust to.

Hmmmm, that’s about it out Zambia way.  The good, the bad and the ugly….where’s Clint Eastwood?

Ilene and I will be arriving in Seattle on the sixth of April and can’t wait to see family and friends.  We had to bag the trip to Lake Tanganyika and the chimps, as it is in the heart of the wettest season.  So it is off to Cape Town (mid March), then a stop over in London, a quick overnight to Paris, back to London and then home.  The last of the “worldly travels for a while” and hopefully a nice transfer back in to Americana.

See you soon!!

Jerry





Go, no don’t go….mixed emotions

23 01 2012

Hours in a day seem to accelerate as the time to depart Zambia gets closer.  For the past four months, I have been getting more and more excited to return home.  I do miss my friends and family.  I long for the beautiful surroundings of the Methow Valley.  I long for clean water without crocodiles or bilharzia in it.  I want a shower (have been bathing out of a bucket for the past two years).  I will appreciate quality products, which just aren’t available here.  And oh, to drink water out of a tap.  Cool, clean, unfiltered, unboiled water.  I am tired of litter….everywhere!!!!!!

I miss…..

Dependable cars.  Kitchen utensils that aren’t broken.  Stop signs that get replaced when they get taken out (or stolen).  Being able to go for a walk at night.  Not living behind compound walls.  Not needing a guard to keep me safe at night.  Four seasons.  Being around productive people with varied interests.  My quiet peaceful neighborhood.  Streets without huge potholes.  Being able to understand conversations around me.  Cultural events, art, sports.  The NFL playoffs.  My cat (although he got eaten by a cougar a couple of weeks before I left for here)  Having access to my bank account.  Sea kayaking.  Skiing.  Flyfishing.  Mountain biking.  My African drumming group.  Travel without having to worry about malaria.  The drive up the Twisp River.  The Twisp Saturday Market.

Oh, I’ll stop there

But, as I get closer to leaving, I realize that a number of things have crept in to my heart around here as well.  I haven’t had the opportunity to work with a group of colleagues in over 30 years.  I will miss saying good morning to them as I walk through the village every day.  And the overall energy of this village.  It’s a school, a living area, a metal shop, an administration building, a wood shop….I have grown accustomed to having all of this in my life.  The metal shop was not even a thought before I arrived.  It is going to be difficult not being “The Big Cheese” and turning it over in a more thorough way.  I’m going to really miss the guys in the shop.  I know that I have said it before, but they have been a very meaningful part of my life….one of the most important connections that I have been able to experience in my life.  They work hard, they don’t complain, they show up on time, when they work late – they never even mention it.  They are making enough money to where they asked me if I would help them open up a bank account (as opposed to asking for a loan, as it used to be).  It fills me up to have helped them get to this point.

And Grace.

The Pestalozzi alumni woman that will be running the metal shop when I leave.  She is a very special young woman.  Both of her parents “passed” a long time ago.  She is fun, funny and bright.  I have tried to share what little I know about running a small business and the day is coming soon where the past 6 months will be put to a test.  I am well aware that I won’t ever be her father, but at times, our relationship seems to border on that type of a interaction.  I can only hope that we will be in contact for a long time to come.

And the kids.  This evening, I was set to go home and saw the young boys that just came to the village, down playing soccer at the field.  I brought the camera down there  and took these photos.  They are just precious kids.  I have been so lucky to be surrounded by such energy for the past couple of years.  And I will really miss it.

When you can’t go home….it seems that the pull becomes greater and greater to do so.  But when the time comes that you CAN go home, I am finding that other aspects gain more importance than I may have realized.

Oh, and here is the latest on the shop…we will be moving in soon.  We just got a grant from a group called “Friends of Africa”, that will help us finish it out with work benches, work tables, a forge and other finishing touches.  Thanks FoA!

I have decided to stay a little longer, until the middle of March, as there is just too much going at present.

And oh, Christmas break, can you say

ZANZIBAR!!!!

a shot from our balcony

Ahhh, I can’t upload any more photos for some reason.  More photos on my facebook page if you care to take a look.  But, if you get a chance to go to Zanzibar….GO.  It is wonderful

Been watching the weather in Seattle the past week.  Hang in there homies!!

Jerry





The Metal Shop

16 12 2011

It is very exciting that the new metal shop will be completed before I leave Zambia.  This little project seems to be picking up steam and my goal now is to leave it in a state that Grace, Maybine, Charles and Gift will carry on in a self sufficient manner.  It has been a lot of work, but we are also getting wonderful support from the folks at Pestalozzi.  We are able to show that it is a viable business and they are doing a great deal to make it happen.

So, we broke ground a while back

Breaking Ground!!

foundation work and then a slab

slab and corner bricks

Keep going guys….we need walls!

ahhhh, Dats the ticket!!

Now, I don’t mean to be a pain….but, do you remember the conversation we had about “high ceilings”?

That's where we are today!!

They say the plaster and roof will be done by next week.

Very exciting….we will be moving in shortly after the new year.

Ilene and I are headed to Zanzibar over the Christmas holiday.  We take a two hour bus ride up north, to Kapiri Moshi and then jump on an OLD, unreliable train for two days through northeastern Zambia and in to Tanzania to Dar Es Sallam (sp).  From there we board a boat for a two hour ride to the island of Zanzibar.

We’re staying in a pretty low key spot, under palm trees, with a few feet of white sand beach to the Indian Ocean.  Can’t wait for the break from a VERY hectic last two months.

Happy Holidays to all.  After experiencing a very serious car accident within our family this past month, I am especially wishing you good health and warmth amongst you, your families and friends.

Cheers,

Jerry





I forgot a title….how about “My days are numbered!”

8 11 2011

The dial has surely been turned up a notch here at Pestalozzi.  I have been able to see this coming for quite some time, but the metal shop is in “full speed ahead” mode.  As I will be leaving early in 2012, there is so much to coordinate and a lot of work to do in the shop.  We are currently making 48 beds, with a ladder up to them.  Underneath, we are building 48 desks and chairs, as a small study area for the more senior students that will be moving in to this area.  We are starting two large “Rocket Stoves” (eco friendly, wood burning stove) and a braii (barbeque) pit.  We also are extending a roof over this area.  Then for the new kitchen, we are building 24 more benches.  This is all taking place as we work on other smaller outside jobs that filter in.

So, I am very happy that the village is utilizing the resources that we offer in the metal shop.  The guys are really doing nice work and put out a great deal of effort…..and NEVER complain.  It is really one of the best experiences of my life to be able to share with them.

I am also training one of the Pestalozzi alums as a project manager for the metal shop.  SHE is also putting out a very good effort and is a joy to work with.  She is currently in charge of 4 projects that we have going, and is proving to have good attention to details.  Again, she is a wonderful young woman and I feel so fortunate that our paths have crossed.

On top of all of this, Pestalozzi UK has recently committed to a new shop building, as the current one will be a kitchen next January 1.  I have been very busy coming up with a design/site location, working with the architect, corresponding with the people investing in the project, working with the builder…..and then…… trying to get a business going that is worthy of all of this effort.  And at the same time that I try to build the business up, I have to prepare to leave it and assure that it is sustainable.

The foundation of the new metal shop

The last few months are going to be a real whirlwind.   But it’s FUN and surely a challenge.

Of course there are plenty of difficulties.  But it seems the busier things get, the less comsuming the difficulties become.

I will very much miss the interactions with people from all over the world.  For instance, last Saturday, Ilene and I went running with a couple of Dutch VSO volunteers and then sat around our apartment for a couple of hours, drinking tea and sharing stories from back home.  Then it was off to Julius and Sarah’s house for a birthday lunch.  They are good friends, from Uganda and we always have fun conversations.  They want us to come to their wedding in a couple of years.  They promise to make us a traditional costume for the ceremony.  Julius informed me that he would like a cow for a wedding present.  I really can’t wait to deliver on this one.  I envision shopping around some small village for a good cow, negotiating a price and herding it to Julius’ house…probably with a couple of little boys to help out.

Julius, Sarah and "the Muzungu"

Then on Sunday, a lunch at a very nice farm owned by one of our board members.  The guests were almost exclusively white Zambians that have lived here for fifty years, at least.  They lived here when Zambia was Northern Rhodesia, in the Colonial era.  They also lived through Independence, a change of government and the country name change to Zambia.  The stories they tell of the old days and also of surrounding countries and their own struggle for independence are nothing short of fascinating.  These folks won’t be around a whole lot longer and I feel so fortunate to be able to share in their stories.

I find that I have grown very used to this exposure to folks from all over the world.  I think it is one of the things that I will miss the most when I leave.

Ah, that’s about all that is on my mind for this evening.  I do miss the beautiful Pacific Northwest and my home in the Methow Valley and family and friends.  But on my prior posting, I was reminded to “take in” all of these adventures, as I will be home soon enough – and I have “sat” with that.  I have no doubt, I will be home for a while and will long for these opportunities once more.

It has been noticeably hotter than last year’s hot season….but rain is on the way!

Cheers,

Jerry





Kafue National Park

24 09 2011

It has been presidential election week for Zambia.  VSO filled us with all kinds of information and preparations were made for anticipated and associated violence.

Ilene and I addressed all this news by deciding to “get out of town”.  (Oh my, what a surprise!)

So, it was off to Kafue National Park for all of last week.  It was a very remote lodge with a beautiful camping area – our own private insaka (open hut – for shade), another private shower/toilet/sink area (with all the wood heated hot water we could ever want to use) and right on the Kafue River.  It’s a great place called Kaingu Lodge.  It involved three hours of paved road (if we wouldn’t have missed the turnoff that is), one and a quarter hours of pretty good dirt road and then about an hour and a half (again, that is if we would not have missed the turn off, down in to a steep creek bed) (40 k’s)  of very tight single track, with moderate sand ruts and trees immediately on the side of the road to keep the driver quite “puckered” for the entire length of the travel.

We were VERY concerned for the last couple of hours, as tse-tse flys began to accompany us.  It got so bad, that if we rolled down the window, they just poured in!  And, they are really aggressive biters.  I had visions of sleeping the car and getting the hell out of there the next morning.

As it turns out, they are attracted to anything moving and when you add the methane from the exhaust, they find cars to be amongst the height of their passions.  At the lodge, they have you park for five minutes before entering the premises.  The flies go away!  While there, for four days, they were no problem at all – what a relief.

So we got that information and then were shown our camp site.  Oh how fortunes can turn (for the worse or for the better) in just a few minutes time.

A "Sweet Campsite" in the bush

We went on a river trip that was really beautiful.  There are hundreds of fingers in the river in this stretch and all of it running through a massive boulder field.

They navigate the river with small outboards and as we left I was wondering how they do this without hitting the rocks.  Answer…..

They don’t!  The first rocks that the engine hit, I just cringed…..an absolute “no-no” back home.  Here, you just get used to it (kind of)

We saw vultures circling at one point and our guide (an animal tracker), just couldn’t resist going to find out what was going on.  We found the remains of a carcass and started to follow drag marks, when he stopped and said “we will have to go back to the boat…this is too dangerous without a weapon.”

AS SOON as we got back to the lodge, our guide grabbed the other guide (who is also a tracker), a large rifle and jumped right back in to the boat.  I learned later, that he knew, as soon as we saw it, that this was a very fresh leopard kill and that the leopard would not quickly abandon his “booty”.

They followed the trail for a couple hundred meters and saw a thicket ahead.  With hand gestures, they communicated that the carcass, and in all likelihood the leopard, would be there.  They took off their shoes and slowly proceeded.  Just prior to the thicket, they came to a dry streambed and THERE…THREE METERS AWAY was the leopard.  It eventually wandered off and they were able to follow it for a short way.  In the thicket they did find the carcass, hidden from the vultures and nearby, a tree with all kinds of animal residue in it’s branches.  This was definitely a preferred dining spot for this very large leopard.  They commonly take their kills up in to the trees to get them away from hyenas.  Once a hyena gets wiff of one of these kills (which doesn’t take long in this hot African sun), the leopard can expect a visitor early in the evening, when the hyena wakes up.  And although the leopard commonly kills (and drags up a tree) animals that are one and a half to two times it’s size, it doesn’t ever mess with a hyena.

So, these guides come back to camp, all bubbly and call for Echbert (who runs the lodge) to jump in the boat…they are going to show him a leopard!  He has worked at the lodge for four years and has never seen one yet.  They came over to our site and also invited Ilene and I to come join them.

Echbert (camera) has never seen a leopard. The slump continues!

It was very exciting, following the guide in complete silence (although I just couldn’t walk as quietly as he could) through the bush of Africa.  Sun beating down on us, hot breeze  in our face, sweat drying from our skin before we get a chance to be cooled from it.  Creeping intently by a bush, along the dry streambed, over a burned out grassland, around a rock.

INTENSITY - is it in these bushes?

We didn’t find the leopard.  They were apologizing, but I had just had a most wonderful experience.  The rawness and intensity of the trek will last much longer than the spotting of the leopard would have.  We went back to the carcass and they explained that they knew right when they saw it that the remains were from a leopard kill.  The leopard immediately removes the intestine (which is what the vultures were feeding on) and then drags the prey to another site and eventually up a tree.  When the guide also grabbed, disected and smelled the fecal matter from the intestine, he knew that this kill had happened very recently…within a couple of hours.  They pointed out the puncture marks in the throat of the Kudu – which are from the teeth of the leopard and typical of how they kill their prey.

As with all of nature, this place can be just beautiful on one hand, and unbelievably cruel on the other.

Sata is Zambia’s new president.

There WAS some upheaval in Lusaka, but when they announced the results at midnight on Thursday night, THE WHOLE TOWN WOKE UP FOR A PARTY.  Unfortunately, we weren’t here to witness it.  I guess it was just nuts.  Honking, shouting, dancing going on all night.  When we came in to town on Friday afternoon……….Lusaka was “asleep”.  We were worried about rioting little hoodlums, destroying property and maybe attacking some “muzungus” just for the heck of it.  There was no one around.  We drove right in to town.  No traffic, no shops open, a few people still shouting, honking and doing little “jigs” in the street, but Lusaka is a pretty happy place right now.

So, the former president is living in the presidential palace on Thursday evening.  They announce the election results at midnight.  At one o’clock the next afternoon, they have the inaugeration (sp) and the new president sleeps in the presidential palace THAT NIGHT! (Friday)  I guess the first ladies don’t spend much time talking about the style of champagne glasses and whether the carpets match the end tables in the sitting room…..let alone essential administrative issues that would affect the transfer of the government to a new leader.

It’s the start of  the “hot season” and will go until the rains come in November.

Oh, there is a local (cheap) beer called Shake Shake.  It is packaged in cartons and the locals swear by it.  I was under the impression that it was brewed locally, but on the way home we saw that it comes from TREES!

A Shake Shake Tree.....I wasn't kidding about this one!

Fall in the Methow……. what a wonderful time of the year!

Hello to everyone back home!





1 in 7

24 08 2011

There is a guy that I met when I first arrived here named Tennes.  We bought over a hundred desks and chairs that were handmade by him in his funky little woodworking yard, in an area called Kalingalinga.  I really liked him after the first minute that I knew him.  A good business person, very personable, great smile, can remember a measurement from two months ago….just a really good guy.  Recently, I have had a job with him, where he was supplying some boards for benches that the metal shop is making for the village.  At one point, we received a bunch of “bad” quality boards, so I went and met with him to see how we could resolve it.  He didn’t look good at the time and told me he wasn’t feeling well.  Well, things dragged out and the boards issue wasn’t getting resolved.  I went to talk with him again and he wasn’t around, but sent me a text that he had to use all of my money on medicines and that he was really sorry.  I experienced two responses.  1) how serious is this illness?  Is it now life threatening and, 2) you have all the money plus the rejected boards and there is no one else to resolve this with.  I wish I could say my only concern was for his well being, but I struggled with both aspects of the situation.

The statistics vary, but let’s just settle for 1 in 7 people between 18 and 45 years of age are infected with HIV.  You are driving along, turn the corner, there’s seven people walking along the street….one is probably infected.  My apartment building, 8 units, 16 adults…..2 are probably infected.  My street, 15 apartment buildings….30 people infected.  A walk thru the mall, say 2000 people, 285 infected.  It’s staggering and it is a constant source for aid funding, education, grief, corruption, drain on medical resources and on and on.

But today, it was not one in seven…..

It was one of my friends

Tennes died

He leaves behind a wife and four children…one a little girl that he named after a former VSO volunteer.  Her name is Jeanette – she is only a few months old.

I am very saddened by this, but let me end on a “somewhat” lighter note…..unless you are the subjects of this story.  Jeanette recently returned to Africa, and after a stop by our village, she went up to Tanzania to do some research for some studies that she is undertaking at Stanford.  I will try to copy one of her facebook posts….it’s a true story!!

Latest tales from the village – big town meeting happening next door to resolve a conflict between 2 of the church choirs. The small choir wants the big choir’s organist to play with them. The big choir says no. Small choir has suggested that they will chop the organist to pieces with a panga (aka machete) if the big choir refuses. I think the organist might be feeling a little nervous right now. Yep, time to get outta this village.

And finally, a few photos from our boy’s football tournament a couple of weeks ago.  I stopped by the village for something and said, “hey, if anyone wants to go to the boys football match, jump in the Hilux”  I should have made it “by invitation only”.  TWENTY kids jumped in to the truck….how are you going to kick anyone out?

Who wants to go for a ride?

 

The starting lineup

 

Zambia version of "Hotwheels"

 

The playing conditions. Our kids just got "boots" (cleats). The used to play barefoot, or in sneakers

 

Oh, and one LAST (I mean really last this time) little bit.  Ilene is currently in the northern part of Zambia, right along the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on a selection trip of new students for next year.  They are at a refugee camp, interviewing kids, testing them academically (I better have spelled that right!) and doing home visits.  From the short texts that I have received from her, it ain’t no vacation beach in Hawaii, but I bet it will be a very amazing experience none the less.  I am quite jealous and happy for her.

Her longtime friend, Janet, is coming to visit for a couple of weeks on Friday.  We are very excited for this and Ilene is downright “Giddy”