It is a unique sensation to wake up in the middle of the night thinking you are in your own home, and then suddenly realizing that you are actually in the middle of a foreign land. A different bed, different room, different house…but even more so, a different language, different faces, a different way of living.
It’s been a week since we departed from our humble Tealridge apartment. We’ve since arrived to a house that is turning out to be more than we bargained for. It’s funny how things can seem so simple on the surface, and yet be so complicated when you delve a little deeper.
I’m talking about the honeymoon phase.
In relationships, the honeymoon phase can be a wonderful thing. Being enamored with someone’s beauty, their humor, or simply the way they conduct themselves can be great fun. Eventually, though, you spend enough time with someone to begin seeing past the initial layers of their being and exit this stage of infatuation; and sometimes the end result of this is catastrophic.
The honeymoon phase is as real with new experiences as it is with relationships (be this good or bad).
We arrived in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia, on Thursday, August 19th, greeted by my cousin Meagan, and an air-conditioned ride on nicely paved roads through a city that seemed well-off enough. The three of us arrived at a hotel that seemed to have been taken right out of the States, to which Meagan warned, “This place is not real life, so don’t get used to it.”
Blake and I forced ourselves to stay awake and shop for a few basic items we would soon be needing along with the company of Meagan, Helen, and Jana. Because of Lusaka’s standing as a large city and the capital of the country, there are certain things you can only get there and not in smaller towns and villages (mainly certain foodstuffs).
When nightfall came, we could only make it to 8:30 before crashing.
Friday arrived with a five-hour drive awaiting us. We stopped on the highway to pick up some bananas and a couple of hand-made baskets. The scenery was a bit bland, everything is so dry from the lack of rain during the relatively mild African winter (the rainy season, which begins in late-October/early-November, will bring some much needed life to the earth here), so the drive was largely uneventful, but I suppose for that we ought to be grateful.
Blake and Helen asleep on the drive home from Lusaka
We drove straight into our home, which used to be home to a family of 8 before us. It’s fully stocked with a refrigerator, oven, dining room table and chairs, running water, the whole nine yards. A team had spent several hours in the house before our arrival to prepare it as it hadn’t been lived in for several years, so by the time we stepped foot to driveway it was move-in ready…or at least it seemed to our honeymoon phased eyes.
We’ve now spent the last few days doing what people call “settling in”. It is custom here for someone who is able to provide jobs for those who need them. Most people here in Kalomo do not have a full-time job (if they have a job at all, that is), so, as strange as it sounds, it is custom to hire a day guard, night guard, and housekeeper.
Our day guard, Richard, also works the yard for us. During our shopping in Lusaka, I bought some seeds to plant a garden. I worked with him to prepare a spot in the yard for some red and white onion, sweet corn, carrots, lettuce, and tomatoes (mostly he worked and I observed so I could learn and have a garden when we move back to the states). Hopefully in a few weeks we will see some sprouts start to peak through!
We also had to dig a hole to burn our trash in (another custom of people here), so I grabbed a shovel, and Richard and I began digging. The trash hole has to be big enough to block the wind, people typically burn about once a week, and it has to hold all of your rubbish for that time, so it’s a pretty sizeable hole. We dug about three feet wide and a foot and a half deep, when Blake called for me to help her with something inside. It must have been ten minutes later when I walked outside to a hole that must be four by four by four. In short, Richard deserves a man award for his ability to dig a hole and make me feel emasculated by his strength and general know-how.
The trash hole
I have plans to put up a chicken coup so we can collect some eggs every day, but I’m sure Richard will end up saying “I’m asking” (his way of telling me, “Just let me do it, you don’t know what you are doing). Yeah, by the way, Richard speaks about 10 words of English, so that has been a fun challenge to deal with.
Richard, day-guard extraordinaire
Speaking of challenges, every day so far we’ve been dealing with what seems to be an apocalyptic ant problem. Remember when I mentioned that this house hasn’t been lived in for a few years? Wonderfully, the foundation outside of the kitchen has been slowly eroding over time, creating the perfect tunneling system for what must be millions, no, billions, of ants to make their way in constantly. I can hardly write words to justify the frustration of watching them find new ways to enter the house each time you think you’ve sealed off their passages.
What are they looking for? Water. Thanks to the dryness of the African winter, the ants have found our usually-abandoned home as a steady source of water. Today I gathered my full wrath and range of weapons and sealed off every crack in every nook and cranny I could find. I’ve even given them a couple of alternative sources of water away from the house as a peace offering (jokes on them, they’re all poisoned).
Needless to say, things have been a wild adventure, and we’re only seven days in. Maybe there’s a reason more people don’t simultaneously marry, move to a foreign country, and become home owners. And maybe, just maybe, we’re actually going to come out of this alive, and with the most memorable first year of marriage that anyone could possibly imagine.
There are already so many stories I have left to tell. Tales of the water pump switch, the bumpy dirt roads, church, the market… And I’m sure things will only get better from here, because the longer we stay committed to this “relationship”, the further we will get from the honeymoon phase; and the further you get from the honeymoon phase, the more you begin to realize all of the quirks and downsides there are to the seemingly beautiful thing you just entered into a relationship with. But the wonderful thing about leaving the honeymoon stage is that you no longer see the world through blinded vision. Instead, you are exposed to the reality that can perhaps be more amazing than the honeymoon phase itself.