Bring everything!

We seem to have much more excitement in our life in terms of things breaking down daily.  This past Sunday (after a day-long power outage) the well pump went out (again).  Fortunately, in Zambia, the plumbers/electricians/construction workers are willing to work any day of the week, any time.  (So different from Italy where they only work from 8am – 2 pm Monday – Friday; well, maybe not on Friday.)  So, it’s pretty easy to get things repaired.

However, while we ex-pats call service persons at the first sign of trouble, we’ve noticed that the locals attempt their own repairs first.

Here, Mr. Phiri (who lives up front) tried to fix a water pipe leak by wrapping a plastic bag around it and then a piece of black cloth for added support.  He was satisfied with his fix and wanted us to turn the water back on but Thom called the landlord instead, who sent out a construction foreman who fixed it that afternoon.

We were worried about borehole (well) contamination but the landlord said that all plastic pipes were outbound from the water tower, so no worries.

Our landlord keeps apologizing for what he calls substandard parts.  I’m not sure where these parts are made but I notice that the furniture and appliances available at local stores here look really cheap (though they’re very costly, like $2000 for a sofa).  They look like something you might buy at Value City.  Even the garden equipment is really poor quality compared to anything you might get at Walmart even.

Here is the rake our gardener is currently using.  He never has complained about it and when it broke just fixed it with wire.  He uses it everyday and only recently was I up close enough to see how jerry-rigged it was.  (The two hoses on the property are similarly jerry-rigged with plastic bags tied over the leaks.)

I looked to buy him another rake that was larger and sturdier but couldn’t find anything — even at the priciest garden shop in town, the one targeting rich ex-pats.  In addition to cheap products there are many things you can’t get here including tomato cages and trellises.  (That is why we made our own out of bamboo and branches from downed trees.)

We had another jerry-rigging, or rather, just deal with it experience when we borrowed our neighbor’s truck.  The brake lights would stay on after the vehicle was parked and turned off.  He said to just pump the brake and eventually they would go out.  (This truck has almost 300,000 kilometers on it by the way.)  One day after Thom and I ran an errand and had come in the house the guard came knocking at our door and said there was smoke coming from the truck.  Thom went out, opened the driver side door, and out jumped 2-foot flames!  The guard ran for the hose and they quickly put it out.  The owner thought it must have been an electrical fire given the long-standing brake-light problem and the flames coming from the mass of wires under the steering shaft.  Sure enough, when the electrician came out, here’s what he found, all of the wires had melted together in one gelatinous black mass.

He said that if the truck had used petrol (gas) instead of diesel, it would have exploded on us.  Good to know, I guess.

I think I mentioned it before but when I came out in September on a reconnaissance trip I was told by several ex-pats to “bring everything!”  I’m really glad we did.  (It’s all in our sea freight, which has yet to arrive by the way.  We’re still living out of suitcases, 3 months now.)  I keep telling the gardener, just wait until you see all of the goodies I brought — a wheelbarrow, hoses, rakes, shovels, tomato cages, trellises, even trashcans. (I really did bring everything.)

So, in total, though these minor inconveniences are frequent, we are blessed to have such a responsive and cheerful workforce.  Makes it easier to roll with the punches. Here’s hoping you’re having a smooth, carefree day!

p.s.  Note to people moving to Zambia:  Bring everything! It’ll be better quality and save you a boatload of money.


About Kimm X Jayne

Gravatar Photograph from the exceptionally talented Ben Heine.
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6 Responses to Bring everything!

  1. Lisa Murray-Johnson says:

    okay wow–they are experts in the jerry- rigging dept. I’m really impressed. Must be frustrating to the landlord with so much to fix!

  2. Kimm X Jayne says:

    I think it is because he lives in Mozambique now. Previously they lived in South Africa and were used to better quality products.

  3. Sandy Firestone says:

    I love to read the blog because I learned about the “ways of life” in another country. I can’t wait to see the fruits of your labor in the garden. I have to fix our net fence pretty soon. My amaryllis are about to bloom.

  4. Christy says:

    I love how great Zambians are at reusing everything. 🙂

    Off-topic, I was wondering how you guys manage banking in Zambia since the move? Did you transfer all of your funds to Zambian bank account or do you have your account remaining from home? Just curious about all the logistics for a move so far away.

  5. Kimm X Jayne says:

    Hi Christy — we transferred a very large amount over here so we’d only have to pay the wire transfer fee once. We set up an account in local currency only because many transactions are in currency. You get the best exchange rates with credit cards but only high-end places ex-pats frequent take them, and even then sometimes the machine doesn’t work. Often, really good restaurants don’t take credit cards either. However, I do buy all of my groceries with a credit card. (BTW, you gave me an idea for a post! I’ll post a more thorough explanation tomorrow.) Thanks, Kimm

  6. Kimm X Jayne says:

    One last note — I don’t want to give the impression that you can’t get anything here — you can, it’s just that it’s often at least double the price from the U.S. For instance, a bundt cake pan is $30 whereas I just found one online at for $12.60. Things are often double here because of transport costs and tariffs. (The exception is things made here, which are much cheaper.)

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