Saturday, 3 November 2012

Our New Home - Kitwe, Zambia!


After spending 1.5 weeks at Kachele Farm, we arrived in Kitwe this past Monday afternoon, anxious to get settled into our new home and to start working with our new team (more on them in a future post). After being in Kitwe for a few days now, here’s the 411:

Kitwe is the second largest city in Zambia with a population of approximately 1,000,000 people. Naturally, one would think that, with a population that large, it would have all the benefits that the big city provides – lots of restaurants, nice roads, convenience of stores, etc. Wrong on all fronts! The only chain restaurants we’ve been able to see so far are Barcelo’s (a grilled chicken joint) and Wimpy’s (a fast food burger joint). It’s not really part of the African culture to eat out at restaurants (mostly because a large majority of the population can’t afford to eat out) so it’s not like there’s many local restaurants, either. As for the roads, it’s a good thing that we decided to buy an SUV! To get to our home and to our office, we have to drive along extremely bumpy dirt and gravel roads. Even some of the main roads through the core of Kitwe are littered with giant potholes that are impossible to avoid (the locals call them “dancing roads” because you can’t help but bob up and down and side to side!). By the end of our 6 months here, our car will have taken a serious beating.

The road leading to our house
With respect to stores and shopping, there’s really only a couple supermarkets. There is a Shoprite (a pretty big chain in Africa) where you can buy most groceries and household items. We went here on our first day in Kitwe to pick up everything that we needed and it was an absolute gong show. The store was packed full of people and the lines were ridiculously long. Outside, in the parking lot, people aggressively beg for money. Luckily, our team showed us another grocery store called Supa Save that is close to our home, and much cleaner and less hectic than Shoprite. In a few weeks, there will be a giant, brand new Pick n Pay (the largest grocery chain in our region of Africa) opening up just 5 minutes from our place. Much excite! There is also a large market in Kitwe where locals sell food and grains, clothes, fabrics, arts and crafts, etc. For those of you that have been to Hong Kong, think Ladies Market, but much more ghetto! We have been advised not to go there by ourselves because, odds are, we’ll walk out of there with our wallets, watches and wedding rings mysteriously missing. Our team has promised to take us there in the near future and be our guides and bodyguards!

Shoprite
Supa Save
The main industry in Kitwe is copper mining. Trucks fill the outer roads of the city transporting materials and resources in and out of the mines. One interesting thing is that most of the copper mines in Kitwe have been bought up by the mainland Chinese and put back into operation. Because of this, we have seen quite a few Chinese people in Kitwe and have even driven by two Chinese restaurants! Due to our complete lack of Asian food since we’ve been here, this has us incredibly excited! We have committed to spending our weekends here trying out all the Chinese restaurants we can find and maybe making friends with our fellow Asians (even though they’re Mainlanders!). We’ll report back on how this goes in a later post.

Our new home is … modest, to put it kindly. Here are a few of the things that we’ve grown to “appreciate” about our new place:
  • We live in a guesthouse. Our house is actually a stand-alone building, separate from the other guesthouses, since we are here long-term. The landlord also operates it as a drinking hole, so more often than not, there are random people sitting at the outdoor tables drinking beers. This hasn’t been much of a problem except for the couple nights where the music was blaring from 6:00 pm until 10:30 pm. That got annoying, real fast.
  • It is a furnace. It is actually hotter inside our house than it is outside. With the temperature being 40+ degrees everyday, our place feels like an oven inside. Over the last couple days, we have been doing our P90X workouts inside the house. Byron nearly passed out (we’re unsure if it was because of the heat or because he is extremely out of shape). To make matters worse, we are hesitant to open our doors and windows to prevent insects from entering and because we don’t want the randoms drinking beer outside of our place to have an open view of everything we’re doing inside our home.
  • The windows don’t close all the way and doors aren’t sealed which allows mosquitoes and other dirty little insects and rodents to enter at will. We’ve been finding rat droppings under our sink and in random places around our house. Gross.
Notice the gaps at the side of and underneath the door
  • Speaking of insects, as is to be expected anywhere in Africa, they are everywhere. Ants, big and small, crawl all over our kitchen sink and our floors. When we first arrived, large spiderwebs could be found in most corners of our ceilings. The first couple of nights, we were eaten alive by mosquitoes (probably because we didn’t realize there was a mosquito in our net the first night). We are now taking all the precautions of sleeping under a mosquito net at night, plugging in a Doom destroyer mat that releases an anti-mosquito odour throughout the night, and spraying ourselves with mosquito repellant once it hits 5:00 pm. Byron also picked up an electric bug swatter (it looks like a tennis racquet!) which has been a lifesaver. He’s been killing those filthy little bloodsuckers like it’s his job. Because we’re not on any Malaria medication, we’re quite paranoid about the mosquitoes. However, we’ve been told that the mosquitoes that carry Malaria only come out really late at night so we should be ok, for the most part.
  • Our bathroom consists of a tub, which has a broken hand-shower nozzle, and a toilet. There isn’t even a sink. At times, we have next to no water pressure in our sink (which is in the kitchen) and our bathtub. There is no hot water (although, given how hot it is most of the time, we rarely need it). We bathe by filling a bucket full of water (which can sometimes take up to 30 minutes) and then use a water jug to pour water over ourselves. Sexy times! On a positive note, we probably save lots of water doing it this way! On yet another negative note, doing our laundry (by hand in a bucket in our tub) is a 2-3 hour process. Sucks to be Diane.
Our deluxe washing machine!
  • The kitchen is made up of a two-burner stove and a sink.  There is no freezer, but there is a small fridge in our living room. Up until today, we had no storage space and were using a small coffee table, which we moved into the kitchen, to place all our food and kitchen stuff on. Other items were stored in plastic bags underneath the table on the floor. Our plates and cutlery are placed on top of our fridge. All of our food is kept in containers or plastic bags to keep the rats and insects out. Luckily, our landlord provided us with a bigger table today that allows us to more room to store our stuff.
  • Our toilet leaks from the bottom every time we flush it, which leaves a yummy smell in our bathroom at all times. Our landlord has promised to bring in a plumber to fix the problem soon. He can’t come soon enough!
  • Our bed, up until today, was quite small, somewhere in between a twin and a double. This made for very uncomfortable and unromantic sleeps on those hot nights as we focused hard on not allowing any part of our bodies to contact the other. We were, however, provided with a bigger bed by our landlord today! The upside is that it’s bigger. The downside is that the mattress consists of a few inches of foam, which is so flat in the middle that we can feel the wooden beams of the bed frame, and looks like it has pee stains all over it!

Other than that, our place is SWEET! One positive thing about our place is that it is very secure. We have steel bars over all our windows and our back door; there are 2 rather large guard dogs that are roam the property, nightly, to take care of any unwanted intruders; and the property is gated with a security guard manning the entrance. Also, our landlords are super nice and have been very accommodating.

Our gated property. The Castle signs indicates it's a bar!
Steel bars across the windows

Below are some more pics of our humble abode!

The front view of the property
The front view of our house
Our porch
The rear view of our house

The view as you enter our house

The living room
The kitchen
Our stove/oven
The sink
The "pantry"
Where the bucket baths happen!

Our bedroom (the bedsheets are being washed by Diane in the picture above)

Our closet

Our second bedroom/storage room
To be completely honest (and in case you didn’t get the implications from reading above) we have been struggling a bit (read: a lot) with our new accommodations. It is much easier living in extremely modest accommodations when we know that it will only be for a few days. With our community stay, for example, the home we lived in was as basic as it could get. No electricity; no running water; sleeping on a dirt floor; peeing in a bucket. But we were okay with all of this because we knew it gave us an amazing opportunity for us to further our understanding of the communities and families we serve, and we knew we would only be there for a few days. With our new house, however, it has been more difficult to adjust because we know this will be home for the next 6 months. That’s a long time.

If any of you are reading the above and thinking that we are spoiled brats that need to suck it up … we agree wholeheartedly. But, as stated from the beginning, our goal was to be completely honest with you about our feelings and thoughts throughout this entire journey. We may be in full missionary mode, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we miss the comforts of home or that we don’t, from time to time, desire the finer things in life. We’re human. And we fully admit it. With that realization comes a deep challenge for us to continually examine and challenge ourselves to humble our hearts and be thankful for the things that we do have.

As we prayed about this challenge throughout the week, God answered our prayers with a strong dose of perspective. We will post more about our first week in Kitwe in a future post but, briefly, we had the privilege of visiting 4 of the communities that our Service Center supports this past week. To see the living conditions of the families that we serve was a stark reminder of how our present living accommodations would be seen as luxury in comparison. We have running water and electricity. We have a functioning tub and toilet. We have a bed to sleep on and a roof that doesn’t leak when it rains. The realization hit us even harder when we learned that the team we’re working with lives no differently than the people we serve. They are locals immersed in their own communities, living in the same conditions. These are people that, day in and day out, give completely of themselves to serve the most vulnerable of their people, despite having very little themselves. Who are we to come in, as rich foreigners, for 6 months, to be put up in a house they could never afford to live in, and complain about all the things we do not have? It’s almost like we were punched in the gut with our shame. Does this change the fact that we struggle with our new home? No. It will definitely take us some time to adjust. But it has challenged us deeply and made us change our perspective in a significant way.

To those of you reading this (especially you, Moms and Dads!), despite our whining, please be comforted by the fact that we have MORE than we need to get by and MORE than we need to be comfortable. Please pray that God will continue to humble our hearts and mold our spirits to ones of praise and thanksgiving. We have been blessed abundantly and continue to be blessed daily on this journey. May we never lose sight of that.


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