This is a quote from "Hillel the Elder" from the first century. (I thought I was so original!)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Metal Workers of Alick Nkhata

Alick Nkhata was a popular Zambian broadcaster and musician.  This road that is named for him runs in front of the area known as Mass Media or the hub of Zambian broadcasting.  We drive down this street everyday.  Other senior missionaries refer to it as the "Home Depot" street.  If you are building a home or repairing one, this is a good place to start looking for supplies.

One group of craftsmen are the metal workers.  Businesses tend to clump together when they have a similar product much like in the U.S.  There are many metal workers in Lusaka, as there is much building going on.  Next to that trade are the tin smiths.  They produce all sizes of tubs and buckets, along with watering cans and many many chicken feeders.

Door and window frames are a staple.

The metal is laid out wherever there is room.  I am amazed that items turn out flat and square.

Mbaula's are produced and sold everywhere.

Perhaps you would like to splurge and get the sink model but I have never seen one used.

Recently, a new billboard appeared in this neighborhood.  The sign encourages the use of new the improved mbaula.  I don't know where you would buy one yet.  They appear to be more efficient and more difficult to make, therefore more time and materials and hence more cost to the consumer.  These are all the same difficult choices we make.  Do we just look out for ourselves or do we sacrifice a little for the good of the community?

Here is a welder producing a special order.

Some welders specialize in playground equipment.
At the end of the day many men congregate here to chat, sitting on slides and swings.  There are not many places to sit along the road otherwise.

Here is a new project just beginning.

Lately, there have been quite a few water towers for tanks made.
It wasn't placed next to the road.  It was made right there and painted there.

Many people help when it is delivery time and a truck needs to be loaded.
I believe only the main crew of three are going to get paid anything but people are very helpful and very happy for others' good fortune.

Here is a typical shop that does a little of everything.

Most of the metal workers have a storage container to store the raw materials in.
At first I couldn't understand why they would point them at the road.  Every time a 20 foot piece of rebar or angle iron is removed, traffic must stop.  I thought, this is ridiculous.  Now I realize the property they work on is only 20 feet deep.  This makes for a little inconvenience but optimal use of the space they have.

Gates are a big business.  Here is where a metal worker can show off his artistic skills.

I do worry about them being propped up with just one board and kids playing around them.
When I got out and chatted with them one day I noticed they were mostly propped up with metal and it was driven into the ground.  But still ….

Wherever there is room, commerce takes place.

A gate installed will run you about $ 1200 US dollars for a simple one to about $ 2000 for the most intricate design depending on how much steel is used.


There are a lot of funny signs around and made funnier to me by the misspellings.  I believe Xavier was a catholic saint.  I don't think even the Catholics would understand what is meant by "Ex Savior".  

Window bars or grills.

Different designs.

Most stands are wood and cardboard but one metal worker is now putting out all metal shops.  This one is quite futuristic but lately the more traditional square with overhangs for the rain are being made.

That is a lot of heavy steel to be packing!

One grinder and one electric welder and you are in business - as long as the electricity stays on.

New project being laid out.

This one is ready to go.

More options.

This is the type of home made welder that everyone uses.  I have never seen acetylene bottles.

Do you think that looks a little dangerous?  Remember it rains often and hard and there are BIG puddles!

Another layout.

I asked if I could see their welding glasses.  They are just normal sunglasses and none of them were as dark as mine.  What sort of vision will they have in twenty or even ten years?

I never walk in the footprint of these traps.

So life goes on, on Alick Nkhata road.  Hard work, six days a week, some beer and music on weekends.  Slowly, the family improves its' circumstances, but perhaps the welder will have to change careers because of damaged retinas?

I must look for welding goggles and convince them to wear them.
If anyone has an extra box - please send them over.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Rain in Zambia

Last year I was anticipating the rainy season and wondered if all the ditches would be full.
This wet season is not like I expected.  The weather here has been extremely pleasant.
There are clouds around on most days now, but plenty of blue sky.  Most days there is a sprinkle of rain or perhaps a ten minute soak but that compromises the bulk of the moisture that is so essential for all the small gardens to grow.  Occasionally there is an exception and the big "thunder bumper" cumulus nimbus clouds form with accompanying lightning and we know we are in for a treat.

When it comes, preceded by a little wind, it is like someone is holding a garden hose on your windshield and the wipers have no effect.

Here a couple of photos from driving home the other day.

Yesterday it was so loud, Kristi and I went out on the porch of the mission home and just watched it flow and erode the street in front.

We were using separate cars so when I was ready to leave, the gate guard, Jackson, was ready to head home.  It was torrential so I offered to take him home.  I get to speak with Jackson several times a day as I go in and out running errands.  He also calls me when the post or Fed Ex or DHL arrives, so we chat often.  I had forgotten he had a bike, so he put that in the back of the truck and he showed me where he lives.  It is no more than two miles from the mission home.

By the time we were half way there the rain was easing up, but the streets still had lots of water that needed a place to go.

As we drove down through Jackson's village, I asked him how the locals felt about having their pictures taken.  He said it wasn't a problem, so I handed him my camera and asked if he would take some. You will notice that the ground is fairly dry already.  This is within ten minutes of the downpour.

Jackson's timing wasn't that good with the camera but you can see that a little mud doesn't deter anyone.

Everything had been covered up and now was being uncovered to resume business.

The corn lady had an umbrella, but the fish lady just seemed to keep on cooking.

Jackson very graciously invited me into his home to meet his wife.
This is the outside of Jackson's home.  The door leads to one room.  There is a curtain of three blankets that separates the bedroom from the front room.  The little girl is a neighbor.  That is Jackson's fine bicycle that he keeps inside.  The white cloth is to keep the flies out when the door is open for some circulation of air.

Here is Jackson in front of all his worldly possessions.  They have a one burner hot plate on the left, two buckets of clean water and several jugs of water, a TV and music system and a sign made from beans that says, "Jesus Never Fails".

This home was probably the cleanest one I had been in.  It took a little while for Precious, his wife, to appear from behind the curtain as I think she was putting on some very clean clothes.

I pay the security company that pays Jackson.  The company gets 1300 kwacha for his monthly shift of twelve hours, six days a week.  If he were to get 1200 of that, that would work out to about 46 kwacha a day or less that is 4 kwacha an hour or .72 cents an hour.  He probably receives closer to 200 US dollars for the 312 working hours a month with only Wednesdays off.

Does he look happy?  How about Precious?  Is she happy? 
 Honestly, money does not make people happy. 

It is our life's work to figure out where real joy comes from.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mothers Without Borders, Zambia

West of Lusaka, Zambia, there is a school/orphanage that is called Mothers Without Borders.  The Senior Sister Missionaries were feeling that they should be doing more so they checked with the director and found out what needs could be met in clothing for Christmas.  Below are sisters Lyle, Humphreys, and Skidmore wrapping presents to deliver.

After an hour's drive we found the sign and the gate.

While waiting for someone to come and open the gate Kristi passed out some extra items to some women walking along the road.  Zambians are always gracious.

Once the gate was unlocked the four couples drove in to the complex.

Waiting for us were over forty kids that were left to spend Christmas with each other.  The majority of the kids do have some relatives who will take them to their homes for the holidays.  For these forty two kids though, this was it - a break from the usual routine and some old white people who showed up.

Josephine Daka is in our church Branch.  She is the social worker there.  She had each of the children introduce themselves and tell about their goals for when they are older.

We then had a little tour of the campus.
This is the kitchen.  Lunch was being prepared.  Boiled cabbage and spinach type greens.

It doesn't seem to matter what Zambians wear, it always seems to fit in.

More cabbage.

This was what was left over from breakfast.  It is nshima and ground nuts or peanuts crushed and mixed in for protein.

Washing hands is an important part of living here.

That little clothesline is a result of the children washing their own clothes.

Here is one of the helpers doing more wash.

That logo at first looked like a panda bear to me but I soon figured it out to be a circle of family.

All the presents were given by name and were size appropriate.

There was no rush to open and then hurrying to see what was next.  There was no "next".

Mangos are very prevalent this time of year so everyone is eating them.  You can buy a bucket for about one US dollar.

I would love to be able to paint what I see.

The sleeping quarters were full of bunk beds.

One of the humanitarian projects was to fix the inconsistent power and back it up with solar and batteries.

Kristi was feeling better about Christmas without the grandkids.

Another project the Lyles had worked on here was the building of nice outhouses by the football field.
Another bathroom was built closer to the fields where the crops are grown.

To be honest, I have thought about all the non-government organizations (NGOs) and the work they do in a place such as Zambia.  We all know there is a cost of operation and for those in charge the result seems to be that they live at a level far above their charges.  Yet, without them I am certain that there would be much more suffering in the world.

Should you have a little spare change, I would suggest you find an area that interests you and give of your time first.  When you do, you will know if you feel good to give that spare change.

Of course I still believe that the best buy for giving is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  If your donation is marked "Humanitarian" there is a very, very minimal amount that goes for overhead.  Most of the administrative costs are borne by couples like the Lyles who donate their time and money to oversee that expenditures are appropriate and wisely used.  This all comes under the umbrellas of "LDS Charities" which is very active all over the world.  We hear from friends who are now serving in Jordan helping Syrian refugees, the need is endless.