or The Kellers in Africa
We are finally back home in Africa! After a marathon container pack and load in March and April, we packed our THIRTEEN suitcases up and headed home. (Don’t even ask me how I ended up with that many check-ins after we shipped an 18 ton container. Life happens!)
The flights went much better than expected. Frederick (now 3) had a meltdown or two, but for that little OCD monkey… that’s not too bad! Fortunately his “blank-let” was along for the ride and totally saved the day (and the sanity of a few hundred haggard passengers) Olivia did GREAT. She didn’t sleep much for 30 hours… but she did great nonetheless! One of the kind and attentive flight attendants said to me at about 3am, “My. She doesn’t stop moving, does she??” Nope. I’m very thankful the check-in lady was kind enough to get us as many bulkhead seats as she could manage (God bless British Airways)!
We arrived bright and early and our friends brought not one, but TWO cars to pick us and our luggage up and transport us all back to Kabwe. Driving home was a little strange- Lusaka has such a burgeoning economy that even in our absence much had changed. Most noticeably: the roads were even more congested. Ah well.
Our first day home was great (if exhausting). We kept the kids up late so they actually slept pretty well (midnight to 9am!) Friday morning all seemed well….. then Olivia seemed to be melting. I mean we’d set her on the floor and she’d just kinda slump over. :L I called it jetlag and carried on. By bedtime a fever set in… and I spent half the night nursing, jiggling, patting, walking, and cleaning up diarrhea diapers and puke. You know, for a 15 month old, she has GREAT projection. Just sayin’. But that was only half the night, right? Good catch. You see, the other half was spent with Olivia AND Frederick. Who also has projectile vomiting down to an art from. Who knew? Our family is so talented.
Saturday and Sunday are now kind of a blur. I remember changing about 2,465,894 pairs of diarrhea pants from Frederick and another few million diarrhea diapers from Olivia. Oh, did I mention that we hadn’t gone shopping yet?? Praise GOD we had left a bunch of wipes in the cupboard and the cloth diapers were ready to go!!! I did NOT have enough disposables in the diaper bag to get through that putrid marathon! I would have been resorting to desperate measures like wash cloths inside ziplock baggie pants! And yes, I have really done that. (Desperate times, desperate times!) I’m also incredibly thankful for our neighbor, Christel, who had the food basics waiting for us in our kitchen (and a camping fridge for us to borrow since ours somehow broke while it was turned off!) And for water kefir! I had NO yogurt, NO probiotics, NO dry toast for these poor diarrhea bellies. But I DID have all my precious cultures, packed with TLC (by another amazing friend, Joy) and carefully transported all the way to Zambia.
It’s amazing how God supplies, though. In the last week I’ve probably averaged 3-5 hours of sleep a night. Any one who knows me will tell you that I do not function on less than 8 hours. 9 is better. 10 is awesome. (How am I surviving motherhood???) But I am really feeling ok. Now, I’m not volunteering to add anything to my to-do list… Fred and I are still dashing to the bathroom every 45 minutes or so… but I’m very thankful for the energy needed to take care of my babies. (And Timothy… who’s also sick. But he takes himself to the bathroom.) Then there are the
little big things like there being an ample supply of wipes in our cupboard. Seriously, I would have been outside hosing their little butts off at 2 am if not for those precious packages of prelubricated, disposable convenience!!
Oh, one last thing. Our sewage pipes are blocked. Diarrhea goes down and………..
welcome back to Africa!!
I mean, really. You’d think I could find a few stolen moments to update the ol’ blog during this furlough!
Well, the truth is… I DID find a few quiet moments here and there…
We’ve been having a great (busy!) time in the States. Timothy has been able to gather tons (literally) of books and materials for the Container Project. The kids have gotten to spend lots of time with their grandparents. And I’ve been tanking up on Starbucks whenever possible.
In October we were able to make a road trip to California. We took the kids to Sea World and they LOVED it (who persuaded me that taking 3 kids, aged 4 and under, was a good idea??? I should stop listening to my own suggestions.) Part of the reason we went to California was because I received a scholarship to attend a nutrition and health conference in Santa Clara. Wow, it was so helpful! The longer we’re in Zambia the more I find myself teaching mommies how to feed and nourish their little ones. I’m grateful for the resources I have at hand now!
In Decemebr Tim got to go hunting with his brother, Aaron. He didn’t get to shoot anything, but they did spend an afternoon hiding from drug runners. Who says adventure is only in Africa?
We recently celebrated Frederick’s third birthday. Where does the time go? And next week Timothy reaches 35. Party time? I think so.
The next month or so will be spent packing the many, many boxes of books and supplies for the container. This process is arduous and time-consuming… but sooooo worth it! I can’t wait to use the books in Zambia as we reach out to teachers, parents, and new Christians.
Thank you for your prayers!!!
oh, and God bless America!!!!!!!!
Thank you so much for your prayers while we travel and put together the Container Project. If you want to catch up with us while we’re in the States, you can reach us through the Contact Us page on our website.
Living in Africa has a major perk: we are never, ever bored. Ever. (Sometimes I could actually go for a little boredom…) This has been an amazing, crazy summer! Looking back I can hardly believe the opportunites we’ve had to share the Gospel, reach out to those in need, lend a helping hand, and grow together as a family.
Tim has traveled all over the continent! Early in the summer he went to Sudan and Uganda. Recently he traveled to extremely remote parts of Zambia. Our vehicle has been well loved this year!
I think I married Tim for his handy-man skills. Seriously. Who else can fix something the first time they lay eyes on it??
Monica started doing preschool at home too! It’s been… interesting…. Ok, it has been a lot of fun!
This is part 2, part 1 is How Did That Happen?!
The morning of the President’s arrival we scrambled to have everything ready. Many of the Zambian dignitaries and leaders came early and lined up to greet the President and his wife. Most of them were sent home to change from their suit and tie to work clothes, with the injunction to dress appropriately for working. Their perplexed faces were, I’ll admit, quite funny to observe. In the early afternoon, the President’s twenty-four car motorcade pulled up to the clinic. I stood at the end of a line of Zambian VIPs, now dressed in work cloths, to meet President and Mrs. Bush. Some of the Zambians were visibly taken back by the fact that we were all, including the President and his wife, dressed in the most informal clothes imaginable.
Over the course of the morning we reminded the steady stream of arriving volunteers that the purpose of this time was to work and not to dress up and chat. That we were serious became apparent when the President stepped out of his car, briefly shook hands with everyone, and then asked for his paint brush. Culturally Zambians view manual labor, especially dirty work, as the job of the lower class, the poor, and the uneducated. Seeing a world leader hard at work was a tremendous shock. Because we regularly teach Christ’s example of servant leadership, it was gratifying to help a leader of such significance set a godly example of service. After watching the President for a few stunned moments, many of the volunteers followed the President and Mrs. Bush’s example of dignity in labor and began working with exceptional diligence.
Since I had carried out the preparation work, I was asked to partner with George Bush’s contractor in managing the volunteers’ projects. This was a challenge as over 30 people showed up to work the first day, all requesting direction and supplies. This number did dwindle over the following days as the volunteers realized this really was a working party and not a photo-op. Those who remained worked hard and required less management as we all got into the rhythm of our various responsibilities.
Because the project took place over the weekend, I asked President Bush’s coordinator if I could be excused on Sunday morning to attend church. I was apprehensive that this request would cause consternation from the team (or the President). I don’t think a lot of people keep the President waiting while they go to church. However, it was important to me to put God first. The Coordinator’s response was not what I’d expected at all! Surprisingly, he wanted to know where I went to church and if I could take the Secret Service agents to examine the possibility of an “off the record” attendance by the President and his wife. After seeing the church, the Secret Service felt it would be a safe venue, but I was strictly told not to share the information with anyone. Thus on Sunday morning we were able to welcome President George and First Lady Laura Bush to our small church in Kabwe. What a shock it was to the people who came that morning! It was incredible to worship the Lord with this couple and their team of aids and servicemen, many of whom were becoming very good friends. We were blessed with a great message that morning and many of the members of the team shared how touched they were by the service. I’m glad the Lord gave me the courage to ask for the morning to go worship Him!
Everyone worked really hard over the next few days, and we watched the dilapidated clinic transform into something attractive and serviceable. I had several opportunities to talk to President and Mrs. Bush. I appreciated how down-to-earth they were and enjoyed the President’s dry sense of humor. He even took as much hassling as he dished out.
I asked President Bush why he came to Kabwe to renovate a rural clinic. He replied that he didn’t want to just be “president”, but wanted to roll up his sleeves and really help people. I have to say, regardless of political opinions or affiliations, I appreciate anyone who is willing to work with their own hands to help the underprivileged and suffering people in Africa. It was an honor to work alongside someone with an appreciation for good, hard work.
On Tuesday there was a re-opening ceremony for the clinic and their new cervical cancer program. The local and international media finally had their chance to take photos of the President and Mrs. Bush and interview them about the project. I was asked to open the ceremony in prayer. Before everyone, I was privileged to give glory to God for everything that He had done to bring about this event.
After the ceremony, the President and his staff, many of whom I’m proud to call friends and brothers in Christ, returned to Lusaka. As he left, we exchanged thanks and I gave him one of my favorite books of prayer, Valley of Vision.
It was a privilege to be a part of this clinic renovation project. The opportunity to serve our community alongside President and Mrs. Bush and their incredible staff was both unexpected and incredible. I’m not sure why the Lord allowed me to be a part of all of this, but I’m glad He did!
More photos of the clinic project from The Bush Institute on Flikr
Why Kabwe? Hear it from him.
More information about the Bushs’ trip to Zambia:
Ashley’s experiences are also recounted in Not My Average Week
While my interactions with the President and Mrs. Bush were not as exciting or intimate as Timothy’s were, they were great in their own [less glamorous] way.
I was not able to spend very much time at the clinic. Throughout the renovation process, there were moments when I really wished that I could be on-site, enjoying the work and excitement of helping the community (with the President!!!) However, with three little ones at home this is just not “my time”. Fortunately, there were many small ways that I could be involved.
When Timothy left early Saturday morning to prepare for the President’s arrival, I stayed home with a little boy who, for lack of a dignified way of describing it, perpetually LEAKED out his backside (and howled all.day.long). Suffice it to say it was one of the longer days in my life! By the afternoon, I decided that although Frederick seemed much better, it would probably be best for me to stay home from church with him. As I told Tim, he gave me a wide-eyed stare, willing me to understand him, and said, “Tomorrow is not the day to miss church.” Stare. Stare. Stare. OH. Um… ok… Well, I prayed pretty hard that night for a healthy boy in the morning! Obviously I wasn’t going to be able to go if Freddy was still sick. Even though I was pretty sure it was food poisoning, not anything contagious, visions of him dripping you know what all over Mrs Bush danced through my dreams. Thankfully, the next morning saw a healthy, happy little boy!
We arrived at church to see Secret Service agents all over the street. Because Tim had clearance and was friends with many of the security guys, we were able to park near the building. As we entered the church I was shocked to hear the SS guys tell Tim that they had saved seats for us… next to President and Mrs Bush! Now I was really praying! Never have I watched so diligently over a juice cup than I did during that church service!! (Don’t spill it down their backs. Don’t spill it down their backs. Don’t spill it down their backs!!!!!!) It was really pinch-me, unbelievable to sit and chat before church with them. I was also glad the kids got to meet them. Monica, upon being introduced, responded quite calmly, “Hi.” and returned to her book.
You can see us in church from 1:20-1:35
Sunday afternoon I sent a huge box of homemade cookies to the site for all the volunteers and Secret Service agents. I figured that President and Mrs Bush were probably not allowed to eat random, home cooked food, so it was fun to hear that they not only ate them, but the President personally carried them around to everyone. THAT batch of cookies was definitely worth the effort!
Monday morning we and about a dozen other missionaries from around Zambia were invited to have breakfast with President and Mrs Bush. President Bush explained why they had come to Kabwe and what they hoped to do for HIV/AIDS communities in the future. I really admired their down-to-earth approach and their commitment to leadership from the top down. That was a breakfast I will never forget!!
Later that afternoon I received the phone-call highlight of my week. During lunch President Bush asked Tim, “Where are my cookies??” Timothy called me and said, “I hope you have more cookies… because Someone is asking for more!” Fortunately, I DID have more (that’s what moms are for, right??) The kids and I navigated our way through the township, found the clinic, and brought the President his cookies. We were allowed to have a look around and meet many of the great people who were working on the site. Hearing, “Here comes Mama with the cookies!” from Mr President really made my day.
At the end of the project we were invited to an Independence Day party at the Ambassador’s house in Lusaka. It was slightly unreal to interact with real “celebrities” in such a casual environment! Monica made several determined attempts to get to them during the anthem. I was grateful for our friends, the Hamelryks, and all the extra hands that were available to keep track of Monica and Frederick!!! That evening brought the realization of what Tim had been doing for the last week. While I knew that he had the opportunity to spend “real” time with the President, I was still surprised to see the casual way they spoke to each other. I was gratified to see that all of Tim’s hard work was appreciated. Most of all I was happy to meet the many volunteers who worked with Tim and have become good friends.
I’m very grateful that we had this opportunity. I think I’m most grateful for the new friends we made. We were able to have several of the aids and Secret Service agents with us at the weekly neighborhood braai. It was nice to have a bit of AMERICA right there with us. They were all incredible people who it’s a pleasure to call friends.
and now, for those of you who’ve asked for the Presidential cookie recipe… I made quite a few different kinds, but from what I understand, he’s a peanut butter guy
President Bush Peanut Butter cookies… with adjustments for Africa….
1 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter (I used sort-of chunky… because that’s as smooth as the local brand gets!)
1 cup sugar + 1 tbs molasses (because the brown sugar out here is flavored with artificial syrup and oil!!)
1 tsp vanilla (mine is the homemade, vodka variety)
2 1/2 cups flour (I divided cake & bread flour to make an All Purpose substitute)
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
no salt! Because the local peanut butter is SUUUUUUUUUUUPER salty
Method: Preheat oven to 375. Beat butter and sugars until fluffy, beat in peanut butter, beat in eggs, stir in vanilla, fold in flour. Place 1 tsp balls on a cookie sheet and mash in a light criss-cross pattern with a fork. Bake 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven when they still look slightly unfinished. Cool 5 minutes then move to cooling rack.
So when President Bush comes to visit, you’ll be prepared with his favorite cookies!
“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; like the rivers of water, He turns it wherever He wishes.” Proverbs 21:1
I still can’t believe it all happened. Nor can I understand why I was in the middle of everything that took place. I’m still expecting to wake up and say, “I just had the strangest dream. President George and Laura Bush visited Kabwe and I helped them renovate a clinic.” What is really strange is that it actually happened!
In mid-June all US citizens in Kabwe were invited to a meeting with the US Consular. After discussing the various services offered by the Embassy, the Consular asked if anyone might be able to help with a construction project for an unnamed VIP who was coming in a couple of weeks. Since I was in the middle of building our house and had contacts with various contractors and suppliers, I volunteered.
I was contacted immediately by the project coordinator in Lusaka. She came to Kabwe, and we assessed the condition of the clinic that had been chosen. The idea was to have the clinic renovated to the point that the VIP’s volunteer team could finish it over the course of a few days. While this sounds simple, it actually meant that the roof, ceilings, and floors had to be ripped up and replaced, along with most of the electrical work. Additionally, all the supplies for the volunteer team needed to be in place, and some of those materials had to be ordered from Lusaka. The material quantities had to be carefully considered, as the weekend the volunteer team was to arrive was a four day public holiday for Zambia- no shops would be open. From what I’ve experienced building my own house, this sort of work can take a few months or more. With only two weeks until the team arrived, I knew this was an impossible scenario. However, only when the impossible is engaged, can the miraculous be witnessed. I figured if God was behind this, then I wanted to see Him do it. With that in mind, we jumped right to work.
When I agreed to the project, I had no idea who was coming. I was half expecting it to be a PR event where ribbons are cut, babies kissed, and every move choreographed to create extravagant photos of important people in their formalwear doing good. I figured however, that even if the mystery VIP was someone I didn’t particularly like, I could at least be a witness to him for Christ while helping the Bwacha community get a better clinic.
You can imagine my surprise when I heard that instead of a pandering politician or applause-seeking star we were to receive someone who already had their laurels- the 43rd president of the United States, President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush! As I was informed that he was coming, I was given strict orders not tell anyone. If word got out, half of Zambia would camp outside the clinic. Aside from this creating a big security issue, I was told this was not to become a media stunt.
The following two weeks were incredibly busy. I came down with a nasty head cold that wouldn’t let up. It gradually developed into chest congestion, and my voice sounded like a dying mule. While the preliminary work wasn’t entirely seamless, it did come off far better than I expected. By God’s grace we managed to evade many of the usual problems like power outages, water shortages, funerals (labor force takes days off to attend these), theft, sickness, injuries, etc. Incredibly, procuring the supplies and materials didn’t require too many logistical gymnastics either! We were actually ready for the President and his team when the big day came, with almost everything right where it should be.
Like I’ve been busy or something. Seriously, what am I doing with all my time???
I’m trying to incorporate the kids more in the kitchen. It’s very difficult for me. I’ve seen my mom with both kiddos on the counter, flour EVERYWHERE, egg splattered cheeks (HERS!), and smiles all around. SO not me. But we’re working on it! In this case Monica was helping me make marshmallows. For some reason the simple recipes never jump out at me.
Tim found this bad boy on our porch- a black mamba. Later in the year we found all kinds of baby mambas. Ah! Not a good mix with little kids! So far Monica has been really good about leaving them alone. She generally comes SCREAMING in the door: “DAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! QUICK! GET YOUR SWORD!”
For my birthday this year Tim decided to spoil me rotten. I have no idea what went into this cake but Tim made it completely from scratch, all by himself. It was triple layer with chocolate smothered and stuffed all over it. I cut the rest up into slivers, froze them, and stretched it out over the next four months.
The beginning of my trip to South Sudan wasn’t quite what I expected. Then again, what isn’t expected should be the expected here in Africa! After saying goodbye to my family and catching a two hour ride to Lusaka, I arrived at the check-in counter at the airport only to hear that my ticket wasn’t actually booked. The fact that I had an email with a confirmation number in my hand was irrelevant. Apparently my credit card purchase online didn’t go through- not that they ever took the time to inform me of that little detail! With the plane minutes from departure, I rushed to the office at the airport to officially purchase a ticket. But wait: the airline doesn’t accept credit cards at the airport, only at their office in town… which was closed. I had no choice but to find another ride home (two more hours on the road!) The airline promised me a flight out the following day.
Deciding it would be better to drive to Lusaka and visit the airline office in person, we packed up the kids and made the journey the following morning. I arrived at their town office even earlier than they had suggested… to find that the flight leg from Addis Ababa to Juba (South Sudan’s capitol) had not been properly pre-booked the day before and was now full! Sorry, not leaving today either! To make matters worse, I sprained my ankle that afternoon while walking from the car. So once more I made the two hour drive home (this time with a throbbing ankle and three very tired children!) The day wasn’t a total loss, however, as the kids were glad to have an extra day with their Dad! Later that night, as though God knew I needed a sign that He wasn’t trying to convince me not to go to Sudan, a friend offered to lend me his brand-new-from-Germany ankle brace… even for the left ankle- the very one I injured! As soon as I strapped it on my leg I felt instant relief. I knew the brace would enable me to do the extensive walking that would be required in Sudan and Uganda.
The following day, after painfully hobbling through three airports and waiting in some very long lines to clear immigration and customs, I finally made it to Juba.
After a very frustrating beginning, I was incredibly grateful to safely reach Sudanese soil. God is good, all the time.
In all my travels, I have to say Uganda’s capital, Kampala, has some of the worst traffic ever. Don’t get me wrong. I think Lusaka here in Zambia is quite dangerous, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Kampala. Sure, people here consistently cut each other off with only centimeters to spare (here everything is metric, so the gaps are even smaller than inches). Don’t forget the occasional driving on the wrong side of the road or on the sidewalk- that sort of thing is typical, even expected at times.
What makes traffic bad here in Africa? The Taxis. A typical taxi here is like a minivan, except with 30 people inside. Not that 30 people is the limit, because there is always room for one more. Taxis are also usually poorly maintained (Read: needs a push to get started and brake pads are an optional extra). Most taxis have an assortment of dents to show for the lack of maintenance and driving ethos. With these things cruising around you never have a dull moment on the road.
Now both Lusaka and Kampala have lots of taxis. However, there are two big differences, I believe, in driving in these places. One is the speed. Lusaka is messy, but usually slow. Sometimes very, frustratingly slooooooow. This means accidents are not as dangerous as in Kampala. Slow never seems to be an option in Kampala. If you are a pedestrian, then crossing the road always seems like bungee jumping with dental floss. Not fun at all.
The other big difference between these cities is the Boda-boda. These things are legendary to anyone who has ever visited East Africa. They are a small motorbike, a lot like the Trail 110 bike my dad and I rode on our hunting trips in my earlier years. In Lusaka, during heavy traffic, taxis will use up all the space between the other vehicles. However in Kampala, they seem to manage to fit the Boda-boda between those centimeter gaps that the taxis leave behind. When you combine all of this with the speed I mentioned earlier, it really makes for a ride of your life – literally.
I found all of this out the hard way. Waiting for my host to arrive one day I realized: class was about to begin and I wasn’t there. A bit of a problem since I was the teacher. By the time she arrived, we didn’t have time to catch a taxi so we took Boda-bodas instead. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the breakneck speed we maintained while darting between all the big trucks, taxis, and cars. There were times I had to pull my knees in from the sides in order to keep my knee caps from getting completely smashed on the sides of a car. I also wondered if helmets were out of fashion, because no one seemed to be wearing any.
To top it all off, the driver of this rollercoaster on wheels began texting. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. So at that point, I just closed my eyes. When I opened them, we had arrived in one piece, which is a sure testimony that God is completely sovereign and extremely gracious. With a feeling of injustice I paid the drive (a dollar) and rushed into the classroom.
I now know why African’s are such prayer warriors. They get a lot of practice on Boda bodas.
I have discovered a positively fool proof method for ascertaining if your dried beans are organic!
Step 1: purchase beans (if you can convince your already hard-working husband to wade into the busiest, grungiest outdoor market in town to purchase these beans, so much the better)
Step 2: put off moving the beans from the plastic carry bag to a sealed plastic container (coming up with a water-tight excuse for this such as “I had to make a cake for Friday night!” or “The kids had a really bad day” will be good for your morale in the long run)
Step 3: When you notice little bugs flying in and out of the bag, ignore them. After all, they’re probably just curious… and curiosity killed the cat so it has a fighting chance with winged insects too, right?? Logical, that’s me.
Step 4: when you finally decide to open the bag of beans, don’t bother to see what the insects have done to them. Simply soak overnight as usual.
The next morning:
Step 5: After an overnight soak, observe the presence of small holes, larvae, and drowned insect carcasses. Congratulations! Your beans are pesticide free (hence the presence of pests!) If you are so unfortunate as to have whole, still edible, non bug eaten beans, I’m sorry, you are not a winner. Your beans were sprayed with pesticide.
(If you’re wondering if we still ate the beans, the answer is YES!)
(And by “we” I mean the dogs)
Lesson learned: ask if the beans have been treated with pyrethrum, the most common African treatment for dried beans and, ironically- ORGANIC! That or actually put the beans in a sealed container so the bugs can’t eat them……