Our First Christmas in Lusaka

I am so thankful for the global relevance of Christmas.  Even here, in sub-Saharan Africa, the significance of the birth of Christ is celebrated.  It could be easy to assume that Christmas is a typical American holiday – lots of food, shopping, and parties can seem like specifically American traits.  Yet Christmas is so much more than that.  It’s about the incarnation of God in the form of a baby.  In the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 1, verse 21, an angel tells Joseph that the little baby boy, Jesus, will “save His people from their sins.”  He came to die to pay the penalty for our rebellion and sin.  In the end of the book of Matthew, chapter 28, verse 19,  the resurrected Jesus has all authority and power, and charges His disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” Clearly, Jesus’ mission is global in scope, and Christmas is just as significant here as it is in the US.   It has nothing to do with trees, snow, Santa Claus, wrapping paper or cookies.  It has everything to do with humility, faith, obedience and worship.

Tim and I enjoyed various occasions to celebrate Christmas.  We went to the Lusaka Music Society’s concert a few weeks ago, and heard selections from Bach, Britten, carols, jazz, etc., in the large Anglican Cathedral in town.  Last Friday, we went to an American family’s house for snacks and singing, meeting other Americans to celebrate in a familiar way.

On Sunday, we went to a small church not far from here.  During the service, the children put on a Christmas play.  Parts of it brought back memories of many children’s Christmas plays, but this had a different “flavor.”  There was Santa Claus banner strung across the sanctuary, a white baby doll, a stuffed toy camel the size of a cat, many of the sheep wore reindeer antler headbands, and the shepherds wore santa hats!!  The kids recited part of Luke, chapter 2, passing a microphone from hand to hand.  It was great!

Here is a picture of our front courtyard,courtyardshared with the other 7 apartments – you can see that it is lovely out – the rains have turned everything green – some of the shrubs are flowering, although you can’t see them in this photo.  I think it was in the 70s on Christmas Day.

Christmas trees

These are our “Christmas Trees!”  I got the idea off Pinterest – although mine did not turn out as well as the ones shone on Pinterest.  Yes – it is another incarnation of our refrigerator box, which made it’s second appearance (after holding the ‘frig!) as our bedroom’s window treatment!  Hmm – did I ever post that picture?  maybe not….

Here’s the dining room.  Our table was supposed Christmas tableh8to be delivered on Dec 21, then on Dec 22, but it was held up at the border.  It is made of African teak, in Zimbabwe, we think.  The furniture store offered to deliver it on Sunday morning, 12/23, but we said we’d be at church, so they came Sunday afternoon!  It is 1 meter wide, by 2 meters long.  We bought 6 chairs, although we could probably fit 8 around it.  Once we know that many people here, maybe we’ll order more chairs?!  The tablecloth is made of 2 curtains (that we have not hung up yet), to get the width, and you can see that it is barely long enough to cover the length.

Can you see the Christmas “crackers” at the head of each plate?  They are a tradition we have for Christmas that started when one of my sisters moved to England, and Christmas table closeupmailed us a box.  They make a loud “pop” when the ends are pulled, and have crowns, small toys, and lame jokes inside.  Usually they also have confetti, that I am still vacuuming up months later, but these crackers had no confetti.  And I have no vacuum, so that’s probably a good thing!

If you look closely, you can see that we are all wearing our “crowns.”  Our guests were Christmas guestsgood sports about it – one of them also brought a box of crackers, so we had 2 sets to open!  It was fun to share a tradition we both had in common.  All 3 of our guests work at the hospital – one is a volunteer from Germany, helping out as a media specialist, one is a volunteer from the US, working for CURE Kids – fund-raising, by showing pictures, and recounting the patient stories, and one is a speech therapist – now living and working in Lusaka.

We wish you all a Merry Christmas, and trust you enjoyed your celebration of Christ’s birth!


Food – part 2

I had been commenting (well, whining – it was not pretty!) to a friend in an email about how hot and tired I am when we get home from the hospital.  Part of it is the nerve-wracking 40 minute drive, part of it is that it was in the 90s, and part was that I was just complaining.  veg JIKAnyway, she kindly suggested that having a salad would be a good option for dinner.  She’s right – it would hit the spot!  Unfortunately, throwing together a salad is a bit more complicated here, than back in the US.

First, the veggies (or any raw fruit we want to eat) have to be scrubbed pretty hard.  I often use a scrubby sponge, running water, and sometimes even a little soap, depending on how dirty the produce looks.This picture is of a bottle of “JIK.”  As well as a new item to add to my grocery list, it is a new vocabulary word, also!  “Have you jikked the vegetables yet?”  Actually, it’s just a bottle of bleach.  I add 1 or 2 capfuls to a sink full of water.

Next, the veggies are left to soak in the sink for about 10 minutes. veg in sink I had trouble getting the veggies to stay submerged, so I tried using my pasta strainer, but the veggies persisted in floating,  lifting the strainer out of the water.  I added the bottle of JIK to the strainer, since it is fairly heavy, and kept poking the veggies down under the strainer.  I left them in the sink for about 20 minutes, to compensate for the occasional floating, and having to rotate which vegetables were submerged.  You may not be able to see clearly, but there is celery, cucumbers, green peppers, and tomatoes  this chopped salad.  Plus parsley, but I forgot to “jik” it, so I left it out.

veg dryThe next step is to let the vegetables air dry, so the jik (bleach) can evaporate.  This took longer than I expected.  I didn’t time it, but I checked 3 or 4 times before everything was dry.

I trimmed the celery ends off a bit higher than I would have normally – I didn’t want to eat the part that had absorbed the bleach.  Remember standing up celery in a jar of water, and adding food coloring to the water, to see the colored celery?  veg saladI thought the celery and the salad might have a nasty bleachy taste, if I didn’t trim the ends up a couple of inches.

Add a bit of dressing, and an hour or so later, here’s the salad!!

Food – part 1

Because we live in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, we have access to several large grocery stores.  There is a large ShopRite at a mall that is about 15 minutes away from our flat.  A small shopping center about 10 minutes away in one direction has a Spar (a South African chain), which is not quite as big as the ShopRite.  In a slightly different direction, also about 10 minutes away is a Pick n Pay (another South African store).  These are both about the same size.  And about 5 minutes from our flat is a shop called Melissa!  This is a smaller market, with local produce, 3 butchers standing at a counter with huge pieces of meat, ready to cut to your order, and plenty of staple foods.  I generally shop at the Pick N Pay, but will occasionally go to Melissa if I’m in a hurry, and to Spar if I’m out in that direction.  I always stop in to ShopRite, if I’m at the mall – just to see what is there! These are a few weeks old, but here are a few pictures from the newspaper sales (“promotions”) inserts.

ad coke


Here’s an old stand-by.  Coke is easy to find, Coke Zero is around, Coke Lite is harder to find, and other diet drinks are really hard to find!  I have discovered sparkling mineral water at ShopRite, and enjoy that.  This ad shows 6 16 oz cans of coke for $5.60 or so.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are available in the grocery stores, but are sometimes called by a different name.  ad potatoes and onionsGreen peppers are called “capsicum,” eggplant is “impwa,” kale is called “rape”.  Some fruits and veggies come pre-packaged in bags or shrink-wrap, with prices marked.  There is also loose produce, which one chooses, bags, and then takes to the weigh station, where an employee weighs the bag, and prints out the label with the price.  If the bag is not weighed before arriving at the cash register, a trip back to the produce department can really slow down checkout!  Here is a picture of some bulk potatoes and onions – about 4.5 lbs of potatoes, and about 15 lbs of onions for about $9.  This is too much for Tim and I to store – it’s hot here, and our refrigerator is small!
Another area that is sort of different and sort of the same (and that is the story of our life here, adjusting to Zambia – “sort of different, sort of the same!”) is milk.  ad milk sachetTim and I prefer fat-free milk, and so far, we have only been able to find it in shelf-stable cartons.  Actually, that is pretty handy – I can stock up on 1 litre boxes of milk, keep most of them in the  cupboard, and just put one in the refrigerator!  We buy a small box of “full cream” milk for coffee.  I was intrigued to see a sachet (pouch) of milk sold – these are soft squishy bags of milk, which I assume is poured into a pitcher or jar, once one gets it home!  We have not tried it, yet, since you can see it is “full cream.”  Anyway, this is about 2 C of milk for $0.60.
Meat is pretty good, and readily available in Lusaka.  We have seen a man waiting at the stoplight, holding two squirming ducks by their feet, approaching cars to see who will buy them!  ad meatThere are small shops selling meat behind an open counter, with a butcher waiting to cut whatever piece and size of meat one asks for.  There are also larger, more antiseptic butcheries, selling meat behind a glass counter, with butchers wearing aprons, cutting meat, and bagging it.  Finally there are also supermarkets, where meat is sold pre-cut & weighed, and shrink-wrapped.  Guess which one I buy from??!!
This ad is showing sausage (“Wars”) and ground beef (“mince”) for sale.  The package is about $7.50 for 2.2 lbs.  Some of the sausage is sweet, and some is spicy – I have not yet learned what each type is called – I look for the seasonings, and buy based on how the meat looks – color, fat, seasonings, etc.
This picture is from an old promotion flyer.  We were new here, ad starbucksand didn’t realize what a good price, and what a treat this is.  We have not yet found a coffee that we really like, and if this promotion comes again, we will snatch it up!!
Well, maybe not, this ad shows Starbucks coffee selling for almost $20 for just over 10 oz of coffee.
I will post more about food and cooking in Zambia soon – maybe even later today!