Thursday, March 25, 2010

Locked up at home

(by James)
We’ve been adjusting to many different changes in life here. There are some that have gone rather quickly and smoothly. I’ve gotten quite used to driving on the left side of the road, although I still occasionally walk up to the wrong side of the car to get in. When that happens and I realize it just before, I try to casually keep going around to the driver’s side without looking foolish! In fact, once Megan and I were somewhere, and when we came back to the car, we BOTH walked to the wrong sides, and then realized it and had to switch. On another occasion, I went in front of Megan to open the door for her, but she went to the other side thinking I wasn’t being gentlemanly, until she saw the steering wheel inside the door on her side.

An adjustment that has taken longer is getting used to how long it takes to open up and close up each day at the house. Sometimes I feel like a school janitor with about 15 keys on my key-chain.

Most of these are used in the course of the day. For example, each morning that we wake up, we unlock an inner iron gate that leads to the hallway and bedrooms of the house, separate from the living room and kitchen.

Sarah, Ian, and I head out of the house after breakfast at about 7:30, and have to unlock the kitchen door that leads to the outside and the iron gate over that door before getting into the car.

( note from Megan: you can notice on the door a pink sticker. Because each key is for a separate lock and they all look alike it was hard to know which keys were for which doors. So James put color coded stickers on each door and the key to match that were labeled and now we can find them easily. So smart I tell you!)

On Lord’s Day mornings, we also have to unlock two locks on the main gate at the wall of the house.
We also unlock two doors for the front door on days we will be around here through the day, and then the back door and gate. There is also a key for the storage shed for the workers’ tools, a key for the gate around the pool, etc. Most of the day, the front and back doors and gates stay open so that we get airflow through the house, since there is no AC and it can get hot. (Of course, we haven’t seen “HOT” yet for Zambia—that will come in Sept-Oct.)

Most of the windows are open through the day as well, though they are barred also. On top of that, we have an electric fence on top of the wall (which is about 8 feet up), and that stays on at all times. One cost associated with our car was an alarm system that not only makes the usual alarm sounds and flashes when someone tries to open the door, but also warns and then disables the car within a couple of minutes of leaving if you don’t know where inside the car to press a special safety button. It is an “anti-hijacking” feature.

You would think we are in a war zone, but all of this is simply to protect against what the Zambians call “petty theft.” With so much poverty, people are willing to risk getting into someone’s yard or car just to grab a few things they might be able to sell for a little money. Pastor Mbewe’s wife Felistas was telling us of some thieves who broke into the church only to steal some parts out of the toilet! We’re told that most of the time, thieves who strike randomly like this are just there to get a little something for money. When someone would actually come into the house, it is because they know the house and the situation, etc.

At this point, I’m sure I’ve alarmed some parents and other caring, protective readers. It might surprise you, therefore, to know that the Zambians often feel unsafe in the US just because these kinds of security measures aren’t in place. Without seeing the security, they don’t feel as secure. Of course, those with property have to rely on their own means of security more than in the US, since the police force is less mobile and responsive than what is available with a 911 call in the States. As well, I can say that even in the downtown areas, there is much more friendliness and openness of people than back home. Zambians explain that there is a great degree of fear/concern that if anyone assaults or offends foreigners, then they will stop coming and so will the money flow. So, they are generally wary of doing anything to harm those from outside.

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