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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Love Letters (Life): The Un-typical Day

A few people have asked what a typical day is like living in Zambia. Here are a few different perspectives:


In Zambia, anything unexpected can happen at any moment. There are two ways of dealing with this: Schedule your week and fail every time to accomplish what you had planned, or go with the flow.


I've never really liked schedules anyway, so going with the flow works pretty well for me. However, if you are a highly productive American, you may have difficulty understanding how I get anything done. Well, first of all, I'm not here to "do" anything. I'm here to build relationships. The most important relationship I want to encourage is between each Kaonde and God. This isn't like a task I can complete and check off. It requires a lifestyle of building relationships with the Kaonde myself and constantly encouraging them to love and serve God. A "productive American" will never succeed at this task. The biggest flaw in the American culture is that people are too busy to build relationships. This is a major reason why marriages fail, children rebel, and Christians ignore God. It really is a great blessing to slow down and live close to the earth.


Let me try to give some practical examples of how this works.


Even while typing this, I can expect to be interrupted many times. Karen asked me to start a fire, someone came over asking to borrow a chair, some guys in the backyard (who are finishing a thatch roof that will provide shade for the children's jungle gym) needed a hammer, and Matthew and Lydia have been playing around me.


If my mindset is one of productivity, I would quickly become very frustrated. However, I accepted years ago by learning from other missionaries, that there is no productivity in Africa. If I am interrupted to do something else, that is fine, I will do something else. I can finish this later.


My highest priority is building relationships. That will trump anything else I am trying to do. If I am busy working and someone walks by and greets me, I will stop what I am doing and spend 15 minutes talking with them and "wasting time." That is the African way. It is a major reason why things seem so inefficient here. But it is also a major reason why people are so happy, have strong family values, and work together as a community.


The situation is very ironic: We Americans wish that we would spend more time with our families and less time working. However, we criticize the Africans who spend most of their time building relationships and neglect their work.


[I just spent 20 minutes going to get some more grass for the thatch roof for the jungle gym in the backyard.]


So each day is different. I have a few different projects that I need to finish around the house:

  • Finishing the closet/storage in our room
  • Building a storage room outside for my tools
  • Improving our solar system in terms of safety and efficiency
  • Combining the solar system for the water pumps into our houses' electrical system so that we can power the water pumps off our house batteries or generator
  • Building more storage space in the kitchen area
  • Building some shelves in the living room for pictures
    [I just spent 10 minutes trying to find something to entertain Lydia because she was done swinging.]
  • Fixing the torn screen on our back door
  • Securing our gas bottles to the wall to make them safer
    [I just spend 10 minutes talking with Don Boyd, checking the water level and turning the water pumps off, and getting an electric plug adapter for Phil Sullivan.]
  • Building a water level indicator for the water tanks
  • Building an overflow pipe for the water tanks so the spilt water can be used for watering trees

I usually try to work on one of these projects during the morning. Then in the afternoon, I try to prepare a Bible study, teach a Bible study, or learn KiKaonde. However, often I might switch things around or end up working on a project longer into the afternoon in order to complete it because I am interrupted so much in the morning.


Well, now it is time to eat lunch. I'll try to get Karen to tell us about her day soon, but it is difficult for her to spend much time on the computer. I will watch the children and even then she will be interrupted more than I usually am.



My average day. Hum... I get up when our little early bird (Lydia) wakes up. Feed her and change her diaper. By then Matthew is getting up. After I've played with the kids for a little while I start preparing breakfast. Generally cereal though once in a while I pull out a real American treat (Pop Tarts), or make Matthew's all time favorite (pancakes).


Rick generally eats with us but a lot of times he gets interrupted by workers coming who are wanting to talk to him. "Is Mr. Leike here?" The Kaonde have trouble pronouncing their "R's" (Poor guy, sometimes he can hardly finish a cup of hot chocolate).


After breakfast, I grab which ever kid is the closest and get him or her dressed for the day and then grab the next one. After the kids are dressed, I play with them for a while. Sometime around 9:30 I start to prepare lunch. I get interrupted a lot due to the fact that our front door has turned into a revolving door. Either workers are coming, fellow missionaries have questions, kids want to come over and play with the "Muzungu" (white) kids, or people come to ask for something just because we're white. Also, our sweet Matthew and Lydia want to play with their Mama.


All throughout the morning I'm preparing lunch (in between interruptions). Finally around 12:00 lunch is ready and we send all the kids home, wash hands, and eat. After lunch it's time to clean up dishes, play with the kids for a bit, and then nap time. Then, during nap time the whole revolving front door cycle begins again. Also, I am trying to prepare for super until about 5 o'clock when we tell the kids that it's time to go home.


After 5 we have only a few kids knocking on our door wanting to play (which we send home) and then the parents start to come (especially mothers) wanting to spend time with me (which I understand since they've been working in the fields or working all day). We sit down and swap stories and share about our day. Also, we share about each others' culture and laugh as I try to learn new KiKaonde words. After the mothers leave with their babies, tied to their backs I rush and give the kids their daily bath and finish up super in hopes to get it done by 6. After super, it's time to tuck Lydia in bed (around 7) and play with Matthew. We read bed time stories until 8:30, then lights out for him. After he's in bed, I finish cleaning up the supper dishes. Then, I sometimes prepare meals that I can freeze, catch up on e-mails, or just brush my teeth, call it a day, and crawl into bed.


Our days may sound busy, but they are the good kind of busy in which relationships between ourselves as a family or our friends have a chance to deepen. Sometimes, Rick kidnaps me and the kids and takes us away for a surprise picnic or a trip to town(about 45 minutes away). In town, we do our weekly grocery shopping (or market shopping). Also, we eat at this little crack in the wall place with really good french fries and chicken. Yumm. Well, that's pretty much it for me.


Rick: Matthew, what do you do during the day?

Matthew: I do the slide, Mommy tries to swing me outside.

Rick: What else do you do?

Matthew: I push Daddy's button right here. Turn off, Daddy.

Rick: What else do you do?

Matthew: I do broke your computer.

Rick: No, you don't, silly. What else do you like to play outside?

Matthew: I play number games. [Matthew starts singing.]

Rick: Do you play the letter game on the computer.

Matthew: Yes. The letter game's... you push the button and click it.

[Matthew walks away to play with the Thomas the train toys in his room.]


Matthew spends most of his time playing outside. He can jump on a trampoline, go down the slide, swing (although he needs someone to push him), play in the sand, or play with any of his outside toys. When he is not outside, he is often playing with the toys in his bedroom.

Usually, in the afternoon other children come over to play in the backyard. He always enjoys playing with them.

About three times a week we play a game on the computer to help him learn his letter sounds and simple words. A few times a week we can even play his favorite game on the Wii, Mario Party, for about 15 minutes.



Rick: Lydia, look at me... What do you do during the day?

Lydia: ...

Rick: Do you like to play outside?

Lydia: ...

Rick: Do you like to play with the balls outside?

Lydia: ...

Rick: Do you like to jump on the trampoline with Matthew?

Lydia: ...

Rick: Do you like to swing outside?

[Lydia gets down off my lap, walks across the room, and starts playing with some toys.]


Although Lydia may not converse much, she does like to play with Matthew outside. However, she demands much attention from Karen and won't play for long on her own. When other children play with her (like Noah and Bryson Davis or some African kids we trust), it gives Karen some time to get work done. But if Karen really needs to focus on something, she either does it at night when both children are asleep or asks me to watch them for a while.

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