Thursday, August 6, 2009

What Happened to Summer?

On my last entry I reflected on our first year in Zambia and was looking forward to our return home for the summer. Well it is now August and summer is almost over. I have returned back to Zambia and anxiously await the arrival of Beth and the kids this weekend. This was the busiest summer I can remember. We spent two weeks in Durango which included attending a wedding over the 4th of July. We left Durango way before we wanted to and didn't accomplish everything we needed to do with our house nor did we see all the people we wanted to see etc. So for those we did not see, believe me it was not intentional.

It was nice to be back and as far as we could tell Durango didn't seem as affected by the recession as we had heard and read in the Herald but there did seem to be less people in town overall.

Our hastened departure from Durango was born out of necessity as our next stop was Maui, Hawaii. Maui provided us with a much needed vacation and a chance to just relax. The weather was cooperative and the accommodations were great. I got to reunite with my buddy Sam Grim who has pretty much lived on Maui since we both graduated from Durango High School. We were able to get plenty of beach time in and the surf was excellent to the point where it got too big on our last day. I also was able to show the kids where I used to live on Maui and took them to a few out of the way secret surf spots.

After buying our fill of t-shirts, moo moos, flip flops and all other things Hawaiian, it was time to return to Denver as the girls each had Volleyball camps to attend and Beth had shopping for school clothes in her sights. I had five days left in Denver before I would return to Zambia. Those days were spent visiting relatives, shuttling volleyball players, sitting in line at the DMV so that Rianne could get her Driver's permit, shopping, coordinating meals with relatives and moving to three different houses in five days!

Before I knew it, I was arriving at Lusaka International Airport and looking forward to my home and my things and looking back at the whirlwind tour that was our summer vacation.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Almost a Year.

Well Blogettes it has been almost a year since we touched down in Africa. It has been quite an evolution for the Candelaria family. Reflecting upon our arrival, we were definitely novices when it came to living abroad. Everything that had been so certain in our lives was suddenly uncertain. Not knowing what to expect or who to trust, we waded through or first month very skeptical and overly cautious.
The biggest obstacle to overcome was security. Coming from Durango, security was a concern but not an issue. However, upon our arrival at the airport we were greeted with security guards carrying AK-47 machine guns, police check points on the way to our new residence, and a 24 hour guard for our residence. Once at the house, there were bars on all the windows and locking iron gates over every door entrance. We were given a quick lesson on how to arm the alarm system and we were introduced to our guard. I could tell it made a big impression on Beth and the kids as there was an uneasy quiteness present in each of them. Never in my life had I ever really had to worry about my security or be in a position where my only defense was a call to the Marines.
When nightfall came and our Embassy sponsors drove away, the realization hit us that we were suddenly alone in a new country, did not know anyone, had no transportation, and we would have to totally rely on others for our basic needs until we got our bearings. I remember walking around the inside of the house looking for the safest place to take shelter should we ever come under attack. A place that would remain hidden from windows or doorways to buy us time while we waited for the Marines to arrive.
The following days we began to venture out. The first trip was a walk to the grocery store which was about 4 blocks away from our house. I purposely waited until about noon and then Beth and I briefed the kids on what we were doing, where we were going, and instructed them to stick close to mom and dad. As we left the confines of our walled yard and began walking down the street we were greeted with stares from the numerous Zambians that were walking on the street. I can't help but imagine that we looked like a duck family walking down the road. Me on one side herding the kids and Beth on the other doing the same.
When we arrived at the grocery store we were greeted with unfamiliar products that were very expensive. Once again it felt as though all eyes were upon us. (and they probably were because I'm sure we looked awkward and out of place). We bought a few things and left the store to walk back home. There was a lot of activity with cars, buses, and taxis whizzing by, horns honking and of course numerous people walking around.
As we made our way back into our safe haven, I painstakenly made sure all our doors and windows were locked and all alarms were on. As the first week wore on, we felt as though we were in a little better shape than when we arrived. The next week, I brought a vehicle and our world opened up quite quickly. As the weeks turned into months, our fears and concerns softened. But in Africa, there are constant reminders that you must stay vigilant even when things seem relatively calm. For instance, around Halloween a person who lived about 5 Kilometers down the road from us contracted an unidentified viral hemorraging fever (Ebola type). That person died within a week, the EMT who evacuated her to South Africa died about two weeks later and the person who tended to her in South Africa died about a week after that. To make matters worse, the original patient had a nephew living with her who just happened to sit next to Trevor at school and come to find out he was at home with a high fever. My anxiety level has never been higher as we waited to hear whether the nephew had the virus and wondering if Trevor had been exposed. For about a week every time Trevor sneezed or coughed I was in knots thinking that he may have the virus and what an idiot I was for bringing my family to Africa and exposing them to these things. In all honesty, we were about a day away from pulling up stakes and leaving. But as time wore on and the threat lessened, we held the course and all our worries were unfounded as the nephew did not have the virus and he returned back to school. (To this day, the virus has not been identified as any previously known virus, which is common in Africa as people die everyday from unknown illnesses.). Having survived that scare, the fact that all our worldly possessions and vehicle from the States still hadn't arrived seven months after they were packed seemed somewhat trivial, but nonetheless made life more difficult than it had to be.
Now that a year has almost passed, we are gearing up for a return home but not for good, as was the original plan, but instead just for the summer.
It turns out that we have adapted well and we were able to overcome our early fears of the unknown and unfamiliar. Our perceived security issues turned out to be nothing more than standard precautions. The kids enjoy their school, and as we had envisioned, they have been exposed to people, places and opportunities that simply do not exist in Durango, Colorado. We have travelled to numerous destinations on this continent, taken several safaris and visited one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world. (Victoria Falls)
So as I look back at our year abroad, and knowing that our decision to uproot and move to Africa is tested on a daily basis, I can only wish that anyone reading this will have the good fortune of experiencing those same trials and tribulations that we have because in my view it is the trips outside of our comfort zone that make life worth living.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

"Just give me some time."

Hey Bloggettes, I'm trying to catch you up so I'm doing multiple Posts.
After the departure of my parents, we had a week to decompress and then get ready for our next guests, Ryan and Peyton Woolverton. Ever since we moved to Zambia, Ryan has wanted to come visit. Early on, Ryan would talk a big game but he wouldn't pull the trigger and actually commit to buying the tickets. He continued to toy with the idea well into the Christmas season when I finally called him out on the carpet and essentially told him that if he was going to come out he either had to SH*& or get off the pot. It wasn't but a week later when I checked my emails and there was an itinerary for Ryan and Peyton sitting in my inbox.
Three months later, there they were walking in through customs at the Lusaka Airport. However, Ryan's bag didn't travel as well as he did and it was no where to be found. (Not uncommon for flights through Johannesburg, South Africa). Unfortunately, the following day once again failed to produce his bag so I provided him with some shirts and shorts and Trevor did the same for Peyton. With he and Peyton now looking exceptionally cool (due to the new duds) we headed out for Chipata, Zambia.
Chipata is on the eastern border between Zambia and Malawi and is about an eight hour drive from Lusaka. The drive itself was uneventful except for Ryan's amazement at how the Zambian women could carry so many things on the top of their heads with perfect balance. We would also slow down on numerous occasions to snap off pictures.
We spent the night at Mamarula's Lodge in Chipata. Again, somewhat uneventful except for the unintentional entertainment provided by Ryan. Shortly after check in Trevor came to our room laughing hysterically. Apparently, Ryan picked up a hot water kettle in his room thinking it was a flashlight. (Just for the record, the kettle looked nothing like a flashlight!) He proceeded to spill all the water in the kettle all over his tv and other electronics in the room just as Trevor and Peyton were walking into the room. As both kids burst out in laughter, Ryan could only react by stating "just give me some time guys". As we watched the hotel staff bring towels and mops, we kept hearing Trevor in the background saying over and over "just give me some time". For the rest of the trip, whenever someone did or said something that wasn't up to par, we would all say "just give me some time."

Already gone!

Hello Blogettes.
It has been quite while but in my defense I have been pretty busy. Over the past month in a half we have had many visitors and explored some new and familiar landmarks here in Zambia. Our first visitors (my mom and dad) toured Victoria Falls. It was their 50th Wedding Anniversary and my friends at the Zambezi Sun International surprised me and them when they put them in the Presidential Suite. It was the perfect start to a great few days. While in Livingstone, we visited Victoria Falls and engaged in some of the local craft markets. Unlike my first visit to the Falls, this time the water was flowing. So much so that it was very difficult to snap off any pictures because the backsplash of the Falls rose up so high it was like being in an intense rainstorm.
My parents and I (the kids had school and stayed behind), also embarked on a river safari for a chance to brush elbows with the hippos and the crocodiles. Fortunately the animals obliged and my parents were able to take in the safari experience while floating down the mighty Zambezi river with the sun setting in the background. It was just before the sunset that I could see my Dad's eyes glazing over. I imagined it was because he was hit with the realization that he, a Durango native who grew up on the end of East Third Avenue, and who as a boy sold newspapers to the men in the pool halls and bars to help make ends meet, was now 74 years old and floating down the mighty Zambezi River on the Continent of Africa with his bride of fifty years. Or maybe it was because he was on his 4th gin and tonic and wasn't feeling any pain. Either way, we had a great time!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Time to Reflect.

As with all whirlwind tours, eventually they wind down. So was the case today when we waved goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa. It went by so fast that it almost feels as though they were never here. They were afforded a small taste of Africa in the time they spent here. From the crafts and curios to the majestic falls of Victoria to safaris down the mighty Zambezi River and a few cold ones and some steaks by our pool. I hope they enjoyed their experience here in Africa and that their trip lived up to their expectations. I know we sure enjoyed seeing and hosting them and sharing our African experience with them.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tiny Tim's

One of the stops on our whirlwind tour was Tiny Tim's Orphanage for children that are HIV +. Grandma was able to give her homemade blankets away as well as some other supplies. Beth was able to donate the money she has raised by holding local Bunco tournaments. The Reverend Zimba was most appreciative and we walked away feeling our efforts, although not huge considering the scope of what is actually needed, were necessary and very much appreciated. As we drove away from the orphanage the children were smiling and singing "Goodbye friends, goodbye friends, we love you we'll miss you, goodbye friends."

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Hey Blogettes,
Our visitors (Don and Karin Candelaria) arrived looking alive and refreshed and no worse for the wear. They have been here about a week and have had a whirlwind tour of Zambia. We started off with a trip across Lusaka to watch Rianne's soccer tournament. She is on the Varsity team and they won the tournament.
Next was a trip to the Ambassador's House for an intimate brunch with the Ambassador Donald Booth and his lovely wife Anita Booth. We had some great food and conversation and grandma and grandpa got to get to know the Ambassador on a personal level. By the time we left, they were buddies.
After about 150 games of ping pong between grandpa and Trevor (split about 50/50), grandpa grandma, and I headed off to Livingstone to spend some time at Victoria Falls. We grabbed a quick flight and stayed at the Zambezi Sun located right next to the falls.
The Falls were raging and it was difficult to get good pictures because there was so much water that you get drenched immediately.
While in Livingstone we took a short safari game drive and saw plenty of animals. We also took a boating safari above the Falls and listened to the hippos while sipping gin and tonics as the sunset over the mighty Zambezi River.
Thereafter, we flew back to Lusaka and relaxed back at home hitting the pool and sauna. Trevor was anxiously awaiting the return of his grandpa to continue the non-stop ping pong, washers, and Oh hell tournaments. The two of them are inseparable.
On Friday we had a trip to Tiny Tim's Orphanage. Grandma had been crocheting blankets to donate to the Orphanage and Beth and the kids have been collecting clothes, toys and school supplies to donate to the children of Tiny Tim. All the children at Tiny Tim's are orphans and HIV positive. Despite their health and their environment, the kids are very upbeat and extremely grateful for the donations. As we spoke with the director, Reverend Zimba, the children sang "Welcome, Welcome, we love you, we need you." Unfortunately, there are too many Tiny Tim like places throughout Zambia.
Today we went to the local craft market to pick up a few things. Grandma and grandpa picked up several things that will undoubtedly push the limits of their allowed baggage weight.
Overall, I think it has been a great experience for grandma and grandpa. It's not exactly what they were expecting and actually better than they thought. We are so glad they got to experience a little of what we get to experience because with many things in Africa, you really have to experience it to understand it. Words just can't do it justice. The little couple that got married back in 1959 in Durango, Colorado is now celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary in Africa. What a strange ride it has been!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Clearing the Way

That's right Blogettes I will be clearing some of the photos off the blog as we have guests arriving in a week and will need room to post photos of the visit. My Mom and Dad will be arriving on March 5. We are very excited!!! It will be their first visit to Africa and we have many activities planned including a trip to Livingstone to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. It will be nice to have family come out and see where we are living and how we are living. Given the economic melt down back home, the lifestyle here in Zambia (as we are living) is becoming more and more attractive.
The upcoming months will be very busy. A week after my parents leave, it will be Spring Break and Ryan and Peyton Woolverton will be arriving to spend Spring Break with us. Here in Zambia the kids get two full weeks off for Spring Break. We have many activities planned while Ryan and Peyton are here including Safaris to South Luangwa Park - Victoria falls and some four wheeling in Chobe National Park in Botswana, and a trip to Tiny Tim's Orphanage.
After the Woolverton's depart we will have a small respite until Beth's Father arrives at the beginning of May for a week.
It will be hectic because I am also trying to continue to work during this whole parade of guests. Nonetheless, we are overjoyed to be able to share our experiences with our family and friends.
Finally, I will be going back to Washington for a week during May. So before I know it it will be June.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Re-enforcements Have Arrived!

Hello Blogettes. Things are finally settling down here after the Christmas break. We are settling back into our routines and getting back to work. Fortunately, DOJ has finally filled the law enforcement portion of the Women's Justice Empowerment Initiative. My new counterpart is Jim Lane. He hails from Phoenix, Arizona and is a former Investigator for the State of Minnesota. With Jim's arrival we can now begin the process of training investigators on how to put together gender based crimes. Plus it's nice not to be the only Justice employee in the country. So Jim and I have adopted the motto "there is no Justice, there is just us." We are known as the Jims of Justice. (It could be worse.) So we will forge ahead in pursuit of justice for those who can not secure it for themselves. (Sounds much more impressive than it actually is). Stay tuned. (Oh, I still have a bunch of pictures from Swakopmund, Namibia which I will post soon).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More Namibia.

I cannot say enough about Namibia.  About the only thing it lacked was a ski area.  But I have had enough snow in my lifetime to not have that as part of my vacation criteria.  In fact it will be really hard to go back to the snow country and leave my 80 degree swimming pool behind. The ocean was deep blue and the skies were amazingly clear.  I took tons of pictures and since a picture says a thousand words, sit back and look at my "War and Peace."  

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Namibia, Africa

Over the Christmas break we ventured toward and into Namibia.  Namibia is a relatively new country that used to be part of South Africa and gained its independence in 1990.  It has a very large German influence, in fact, there were times (especially in Swakopmund) that I thought I was in Germany.  Most everyone, including the Africans, spoke German and English.  The country itself was a lot like Arizona.  Dry and arid, about 90 degrees and cooler at night.  The landscape was desert sand and desert mountains.  The cities are lined with palm trees and everything was well groomed and very clean.  Windhoek, the capital, was a very nice city.  Many buildings were new and there was a lot of development.  We were very surprised that we saw very few people walking around and no beggars or street vendors.   All of which are prevalent in Zambia.  There were great shopping malls in Windhoek that could have easily been in Cherry Creek or Scottsdale.  Great restaurants with cheap prices.  A steak dinner with a couple of drinks and dessert would be around $15 US dollars.  We quickly realized that Namibia is not characteristic of the Africa we have come to know.  
We spent three days in Windhoek relishing our shopping outlets and soaking up the Western look and feel.  I must admit that it felt good to actually walk around a mall.  Something I do not enjoy back in the US.  If we had come to Namibia instead of Zambia, it would have been a totally different experience for us.  The two countries are like night and day.