Tuesday, 24 September 2013

How I survived our move to Mpika....

Life has been nothing if not hectic these past few weeks. We spent about 3 months in the flat in Kabulonga (in Lusaka) while Sydney finished up some work/engagements there at Lusaka Baptist Church and we awaited his ordination service. We finally had moved everything, including pets, into that flat- although it remained in boxes waiting for our move to Mpika. We had to reschedule the ordination service due to scheduling conflicts with the Reformed Family Conference, which is hosted by Lusaka Baptist Church, and therefore had to move out of the flat since it was overdue going back to it's owners.

This posed quite a dilemma in terms of our belongings and our pets. The church put us up at Dream Valley Lodge- which was just a hotel room, so naturally none of our stuff could come with us, but they graciously cleared one of the rooms at the church for us to store our stuff. The door to that room had no lock so Sydney and the guys had to remove the handles from one door upstairs and replace the other handles so our things would be secure. IT all just fit with inches to spare! The dogs were brought back to Kabanana to be “babysat” by Faith Baptist Church (Curtis & Fanny's church) and we snuck the cat into the room at the lodge with us (shhh!). Since we were told at pretty short notice- we had food in the fridge and freezer but we were able to “donate” it to the kitchen at the lodge, much of which was then served back to us. It was quite an interesting time having absolutely no idea when we were moving and having to be ready to leave at either a moments notice, or a week or two! Thinking we'd only be in the lodge one night- maybe two- I under packed considerably and so I ended up hand washing clothes in the bathroom sink and hanging them for us to re-wear for about 4 days. We were there from a Thursday, and on Saturday we were told we should have been in Mpika on Friday but there was a mix up in communication. By then it was too late to leave so we decided to go on Monday morning.

We started off early Monday, but then ended up delaying for a while at the church doing last minute arrangements for our accommodation and arrangements for our belongings to follow on a truck behind us later in the day. From there we left for Kabanana to pick up the dogs, and of course spent time saying our goodbyes which delayed us even more- and THEN as soon as we exited Kabanana on to the main road, we got a flat tire. Not just flat but flat flat. By God's grace we were RIGHT next to a fuel station- with a sign that said “tire repair”- but as these things go, there was no one to fix it. Sydney started off down the road in search of a repair man and I gave water to the dogs and tried to calm the panicking cat. Finally it was fixed, not without the price tripling from what he had told Sydney when he saw him WITHOUT his white wife-- and him claiming he needed a new shirt cause his got dirty while he was working- but in the end it was fixed. The ride itself was relatively un-eventful except needing multiple stops for the dogs to do the necessary. At one of the fuel stations a man seeing us with the dogs (completely ignoring Sydney) started telling me that he trains dog's and will work for me and train them and went ON and ON... finally we ignored him long enough for him to go away and the gas attendants called Sydney over. Apparently they were “placing bets” if we worked together or I was their “sister in law” (a polite way of asking if I'm his wife) They were shocked and interested to hear that I was his wife.

Toward the end of the drive we had a “near miss”. The drives on these roads are notoriously dangerous due to trucks carrying goods from Tanzania etc., which drive recklessly. We were behind a line of about 4 of them and suddenly we saw a giant rock right in the middle of the road. There was nothing we could do but hit it dead on- to swerve either way would've meant an accident. The car started put-ting and we pulled over to find the tire had a huge sort of... lump. We were literally in the middle of bushland and there was nothing we could do but pray and keep driving. We made it safely by about 9:30... which I wasn't to happy about cause the last few hours were in the dark and driving in the dark is even MORE dangerous for numerous reasons. When it got dark we actually stopped to find a hotel in Serenje, but it wasn't worth the money and with the animals in the car we had to just pull through.

We were met in Mpika by a member of the church who brought us to our accommodation that was supposed to be for 3 months. We panicked because it was another hotel room. Just one room, with two beds and a questionable toilet. We knew right away we couldn't stay there for 3 months (first of all, there was no where for two dogs and a cat to stay, second of all when we brought in the backpack and laptop bag, there was no room for anything else- barely even for us to walk ergo no room for our belongings which were (we thought) en route, also there was no kitchen which meant buying out food 3 meals a day for 90 days which we definitely couldn’t afford, and the room itself, which just had a thatched straw roof was sort of falling down on us.) We couldn't deal with it then because we were WAY too tired, and in God's providence our belongings were delayed due to problems with the truck and were due the next day- so we slept.

The next morning we met with someone for the church and arranged to just move into the house we stayed in the last time we visited. It was the same one I had adamantly put my foot down against on the last trip ( I think I wrote about it in a previous post) because it has power issues, NO running water whatsoever, it's right in the middle of the compound/town and there are people walking through the yard all day going to and from town, the front door had no handle, there were cockroaches etc..., but comparatively it was looking like a penthouse. It was a bit nerve wracking because a contract had already been drawn up and a check written so they had to handle the matter delicately. They were gracious, however, and only made us pay for the two nights we stayed there. I was humbled, to say the least, and learned never to complain because it doesn't always get you a step up, sometimes you go a few steps down!

We got there but the previous pastor's belongings were all still there, as he hadn't moved out his things yet. Our truck was on it's way, so a woman who works for him and another member of the church who lived with him came and started packing and cleaning. The truck arrived two days later than expected but everything was in tact. Unfortunately, a few things were left behind because there was no room on the truck for them but we were told they'd be sent later. We emptied the house of some of the pastor's things and then filled the lounge with all of our stuff. The boy who lived here with the former pastor had one room full of his stuff, and the stuff the pastor wasn't taking was moved to the other room which left us with a bedroom and lounge. We couldn't live 3 months with boxes filling the lounge so we went to the room with the pastor's belongings, sorted and re-arranged them to make space, then moved the boys stuff to the other side of the same room, (and some into the kitchen) so we could move our stuff out of the lounge and into the now empty room. Needless to say we were cramped- and still wearing the same clothes over and over- now on day 7 or 8! Our first order of business was to get some furniture because all we had was a bed. The next day- we went into town and got a kitchen table and chairs and some sofas, as well as groceries.

The boy came and got all but one of his boxes which he needs us to keep til December, and the Pastor came last week and got the rest of his stuff except a broken motorcycle and a bike and a few boxes that belong to the church, but there's no room at the church for them. That freed up some space in that room so we pushed the motorcycle and bike in the corner and went about moving the boxes, AGAIN, from the middle room to that room so that Sydney could have an “office”. Unfortunately, the desk and chair and bookshelf are some of the things that didn’t fit on the truck from Lusaka, so he used some of our boxes full of stuff and improvised a desk and chair. I think he was tired of me sweeping under his feet and moving 27 books for their “spots” while he tried to work in the lounge!

I would be lying if I said I am finding life easy at the moment. There is no running water, so twice a week a lady from the church comes and draws buckets of water for us. Which means washing dishes with a pitcher, doing laundry in a small bucket, every time you use the toilet you have to move water from a giant bucket with a smaller bucket into the cistern to flush. This house is extremely old and there are cracks and the floors are very uneven which makes the furniture and chairs and stove and fridge all sit at an awkward angle. We have to heat up buckets of water on the stove or with an electric heater and then use a bucket and cup to bathe- so a simple bath takes 4x as long. The roofing sheets are quite insecure so when the wind blows ( and it BLOWS gail force daily here because we're in a valley)- it sounds and looks like they will blow off any second. So far, so good. The cockroaches are a major problem- we can not get rid of them but they literally are on EVERYTHING- you have to wipe them off the toilet seat before you sit and rinse everything before you eat off of it ( which is a problem with no water!! ) When you turn on the stove about 7,000 of them come from nowhere to escape the heat. I have been fortunate to not have many cockroach problems in all my former homes in Lusaka (not to say I didn’t have them, but they were manageable with spray), so this has been a challenge. A few days ago the ants came- in thousands- and since there are no cupboards or counters in the kitchen and everything has to just be... out... they have penetrated into every box and bag and I am at a LOSS for how to keep our food safe. The cat is doing a little damage control, eating lizards and the giant cockroaches but she is scared of ants (go figure), and I can only imagine the reason we have no rats is because of her presence. We also just discovered that the sink hole for the sewage seems to be right at capacity, and getting fuller every day which is emanating an interesting smell.

The house that the previous pastor is building is where we will be shifting to, and it isn't near done yet. We had been told that by August it would be habitable, but that changed to November which is now December. It won't be done when we move in- no ceilings or finished floors- but he's promised us running water (for two hours a day- which is all you get here in Mpika, no matter where you live!) and power- and security bars on the windows and doors. Because of that move, and because of the fact there is nowhere to actually unpack our boxes, we are still dressing out of suitcases and eating/living out of boxes for the next few months. When we move- I am praying there will be counters and cabinets in the kitchen to unpack into- but I am sure it will be a challenge as builders will continue working as we live there- which means we will continue to move things from room to room.

It's a challenging time of life for us but thankfully we are still in the “honeymoon phase” which means we are looking at this more as an adventure than a challenge. Some days are better than others- some days I feel like if I see one more giant Madagascar hissing cockroach on my curtain or if I open a another bag of sugar crawling with ants I may scream.

Certain things in the neighborhood are a challenge. Like I said, we are right in the middle of where everyone walks directly through the yard to go here and there so it's like we are on public display- which has it's downsides and upsides. Two days ago I was lying on the couch with my legs hanging over the side checking emails and behind me I heard someone sit on the other sofa. Assuming it was Sydney, I glanced over and saw.... some strange guy. I BOLTED upright and was like... um hi? He simply asked if the pastor was around. He needed $2 to go and pick up his cellphone from the repair shop and figured we were the best people to help him out. He just strolled into the house, walked through the kitchen and hallway into the room where I was laying and plopped down on the couch. WHAT!? There were about 500 other knocks on the door that day. I was warned about this- but it's always different to hear about what happens in the village at the pastors house, and a whole different story to experience it.

The next door neighbor, (who can speak fluent English but speaks to me only in Bemba, and every time I tell her I can't understand her she laughs and says, “you have to learn”, then speaks in Bemba, and I tell her I haven't learned in the past two minutes and STILL don't understand her so she laughs again (It get's old. Fast), brought over some spinach cooked with peanuts, a traditional dish here I have eaten numerous times having lived here over 3 years and traveled here twice before that- but when she gave it to me she said “since you don't know how to cook any traditional food I made this for you to taste”. Another woman was with her and looked at the clothes on the clothesline and said “you are washing? You know how to wash?” When I said yes they both giggled. Now, on another day this might have just blown over but it came on a day where one thing was piling on top of another and I was at a breaking point! I wanted to cry- I felt like saying... “for crying out loud I cook Zambian food all the time for my husband- if fact we eat Zambian MUCH more than American... and laundry? I have two hands and a brain of course I can do laundry. I am not an alien stepping foot on earth for the first time! am I ever going to be accepted here or will I always just be “the white lady”!?!?! After that rant in my head and a good cry to a slightly baffled Sydney, I realized they DON'T know how long I've lived here. They've never had a white neighbor before. I am sure she was trying to be nice and welcome me into the neighbor hood and I was strangling her in my head!

I am learning a lot about my own attitude here. Lusaka was very different than the states, yes. We had power and water “glitches”. But we also had shopping malls, supermarkets, walmart (which is Game here) movie theaters, concerts, sports games at the stadium, restaurants (including KFC and Subway), spas, massage parlors, Mexican food, Indian food, Chinese food- really ANYTHING I could need. Maybe not the same brand (although every week there seemed to be something new in the store from the US or UK). I kept thinking it was gonna be so fun to live like the 1920's using water in buckets and burning candles. It's fun for maybe a week. Maybe.

But then I see the church, and I am getting to know and love the people, and there are visitors who have come to our doorstep ready to ride to church two weeks in a row. Last week we drove 2 hours to Kasama to shop at a real grocery store, because the shops are small and sparse in Mpika- and I was delighted! We hit them when they just got a shipment from Lusaka so the store was fully stocked! We filled two carts full- and got food and supplies to last through October (we don't want to have to spend the fuel to drive out there more than once a month). It's a very different life here.

Saturday- we missed prayer meeting because the woman who gets us water took long and we couldn't leave the doors unlocked. We got there after it ended but literacy class was just starting. I decided to stay and observe how it runs, and Sydney went out with the tracts we folded that morning and invitation cards. I started to get excited seeing how much potential and need there was in the literacy class. I am told it used to be booming but there are now only 10 kids. The teacher had no materials, the kids used backward chairs as desks and had only notebooks. I saw the need and potential and started to get so excited. Just then I glanced out the window and watched Sydney. He was walking up and down the street near the church all by himself talking to people and handing out tracts, explaining what the church is about, laughing, learning their names and where they live. I realized THAT is why we are here. Yea, our water is in a bucket- but we have water. Yea, our power shuts off without warning- but we have power. Yea, the house is perpetually dirty and dusty and there are bugs- but we have a house. What we came he for wasn't water or electricity. It was for the people he was shaking hands with as they walked by. It was for the kids who came to learn English so they can provide for their families when they grow up.

It's not easy to get the “American”... or even “Lusakan” out of me- who wants her pots on a shelf, her clothes in a drawer, tiles on her floor, paint on her walls and her kitchen tap to do something when she turns it. Sometimes I am caught in an attitude of feeling I deserve that which I don't. I have learned a lot about humility. I am perfecting the art of repentance. I am STILL struggling with patience. BUT I have a man beside me who is making life easier. Who is constantly making sure I get rest and who gently redirects me when I lose my cool, but still tries to fix the problem. He makes sure the buckets are full, he replaced the handle on the door, he sprays the bugs diligently, he moves boxes in a way that kitchen supplies are accessible, he bought me 4 bars of chocolate when we were in Kasama.... He quietly goes behind my bad attitude and sweeps up the messes I complain about.

I can see Gods plan and purpose in the steps I have taken. From America to Lusaka- then Lusaka to here. Easing me into it instead of throwing me in head first. If I had moved here straight from the US I may have drowned but he kept my “floaties” on for a while til I truly learned to swim. Sometimes I get a little water up my nose, but I never sink.

Sydney is full swing into the work here- nose in books one day- grazing the town for new friends and people to invite the next. He had one deacons meeting to discuss the future of the church- but they only got through about ¼ of what they needed to so they're meeting again today. On Saturday, he's holding a meeting and re-instating all the ministries- (ladies, men, youth, home fellowship mtgs etc) which have not been functioning for quite some time. We've been visiting the visitors (or attempting) and the sick in the church. We also in the coming weeks will start sourcing for funds to finish the church building- we have the money for roofing sheets, some of which which was generously donated by a church in Lusaka but we need the timber to make the base. Rainy season will be here in a matter of weeks and we need a roof!

On Friday, I've asked all the ladies to come meet with me. There hasn’t been a functioning ladies ministry in what looks to be over a year, but there are two chairwomen who are meant to be talked to on Saturday to restart it. I just want to get to know the women on a personal level- one of the benefits of being a small church at the moment- and start a book study. I have about 4 ladies devotional books for now- and I want us to start pushing through them so as we get to know each other we also encourage and help each other grow. This will be my first time leading something like this- and ironically I am the youngest “lady” and the only one without children so there are some challenges. I am thinking back to Pr. Kalifungwa's sermon to Sydney at his ordination. “Let no one despise you because of your youth”. I know that wasn't directed at me but I think the principle applies. God made me Sydney's wife, and he sent us to Mpika. I feel quite inadequate but His grace is sufficient.

I hope this isn't read as complaining. As I always have done on my previous blog- I will write things bluntly. I think it helps people know how to pray and what we are doing here. It's not easy sometimes. Sometimes its encouraging. I guess that's the same as anyone's life- this is just our particular story.


  1. Hi Katryn,
    My name is Amanda. It is REALLY seeminlgy random how I found your blog. I recently started following your Facebook page after finding a comment from your husband on MY husband's best friend, Kondi Nyanda's facebook page. Apparently Kondi has met your husband at a couple or maybe just one conference. Anyway, I started reading your old blog a bit. I admit I was a bit interested because you are an American that married an African and are now living there. I am American and my husband is from Malawi and we plan on moving there next year. Anyway, I read a bit about how you met Sydney with a title that said something about "cloud 9" and I saw that he used to be an intern under Conrad Mbewe. Right now I work at Grace to You which is hosting a conference in California that Conrad will be teaching at next month.
    All that to say, hi! :) I think I will definitely continue to read your blog. I'm sure it will be, well, it already is, encouraging!
    Thanks for writing.


  2. So I finally had time to read this whole post (I'm not saying it was too long, just that I didn't get time at work) and I know for sure that I will be encouraged by this blog! It sounds like our husbands our very similar and I, like you, often feel very undeserving of mine. God is so kind! I don't think this post sounded like you were complaining at all. You were just being honest about how things are and what God is teaching you through it. And that's helpful to me as I prepare to move with my husband. Keep it up! I'll be praying for you!