Chickens in Africa

October 24th, 2013

I have finally finished 12 short stories that I hope to publish in the spring. They are all about the two years in Zambia. It is mostly my viewpoint right now but a new inspiration is to have the now grown kids look back and write something they each remember about the experience. They were all very interested to be a part of the book. The next step is to choose pictures from the many color slides and the black and white prints.

A World View

July 18th, 2013


I am writing some stories about our almost two years in Zambia, Africa (1970  –1972). Lester had a contract to be the Poultry Officer on the Copperbelt Province. The goal was to increase available protein. What I am thinking of now is what this experience was for our children, Patrick, David, Alice, Donald and Chris and how this adventure expanded their world view. Many opinions, decisions and our direction in life are affected by our view of the world, it’s size, it’s customs, it’s needs, it’s resources, it’s governments and most of all, getting to know people not just reading about them.

When we left home the children were looking forward to an adventure but that was weighed against their unhappiness at leaving their friends. I believed then and now that it was a plus. They also gained some knowledge of other countries. We spent a month traveling and on our way we stopped in Ireland, England, France, Greece and Israel.

When we landed in Lusaka we were told that our accommodations would not be ready for a while, so we stayed in the Victoria Hotel; although we didn’t know from day to day, it turned out to be almost another month. The kids had become somewhat used to “bed and breakfasts” and small hotels but it was a challenge to keep them amused? There were of course card games, checkers and chess. Believe it or not there was none of the electronic diversions we have today.

One day someone told us that there was a river, not far away, where we could see hippo’s. Looking at the old pictures brings back all the excitement of seeing our first really wild animals not in a zoo. It took a few days to buy a car; what with the money exchanges between banks, authenticating our resident status and I can’t remember what else. We were surprised to find there was not the same freedom we have here; on our drives there were many checkpoints where we were stopped and had to show identification papers. One day we explored a road to the soapstone mines and were surprised to see monkeys in the trees just outside the car windows. A great find was soapstone that had fallen off the trucks. We picked up pieces and the kids spent many creative hours in the hotel carving little statues. In the evenings as the sun went down we watched out the window to see little boys collecting flying ants from the bushes and were surprised to learn they would fry them to eat.

Existing in a hotel was a different way of living: a knock at the door in the early morning when they brought us morning tea. We were all dressed in proper clothes when we went to the dinning room for breakfast. We also had lunch there or could ask for boxed sandwiches to take on our excursions. There was a rather loud bell that announced dinner and as I recall we had a limited time to appear. The waiter always called Chris, “Little Bwana.”  A woman from India told the boys that the geckoes that came in the rooms were good because they would eat up the creepy crawling bugs and mosquitoes. The point of this is to say that living was different. When we finally settled in Ndola, we lived almost as we always did. Even then there were changes.

When I talk about expanding their world view, I don’t mean just because of the places they visited but also the experience of living where everything in day to day life was different and also that they met people, who not only looked different, they had different goals in life, some who had a lot, some who did not.

NOTE: Writing stories based on events that happened more than 40 years ago, I rely on more than a faulty memory. There are some letters I wrote at the time, there are some things I wrote in the early 70’s in a class at UCSC  and there is my play, “Nshima” which was produced in the late 80’s at Santa Cruz County Actors’ Theatre. My current goal is to publish a book of these stories.




When I Used to Like to Cook

March 12th, 2010

When we were first married I used to like to cook.  We lived in a small apartment over a garage.  The kitchen was tiny and the dinette, just big enough for two, with a window looking over the back yards of Bakersfield. As a new Lieutenant, Les was a flight instructor at Minter Field, an Air Force Training Base in World War II; he had to be at the field by daybreak.  I had all day to plan and dream and we always had candles on the table.

I used to like to think of something interesting, but usually fell back on my mother’s recipes of meat loaf, stew, chili, baked beans and homemade bread. Then I learned that men like their own mother’s cooking.   Les liked Nina’s cooking; my opinion then was that she was a lousy cook and as the years passed, my judgment was confirmed.

He kept asking for fried apples and one Sunday morning, I cooked some. Mama taught me to dip the thin slices of apple in a light batter, brown them gently in butter and serve them hot with a dusting of powdered sugar.  No!  He wanted his mother’s fried apples: chop bacon and fry until crisp,  simmer chopped apples in the bacon drippings ’till tender, smother with brown sugar and cook until slightly caramelized. Yuk!  But he was happy.

I used to like to cook when Les was overseas and I lived with Nina who would ask me now and then to be a fourth at bridge. I enjoyed the praise of her friends when I made fancy desserts for the card party: ginger bread with whipped cream or cheese cake with pineapple.

I used to like to cook when the kids were little.  I dreamed up different ways to serve a tuna casserole on Friday nights. I read that book in the green cover by — I forget her name — she died of cancer in her leg or something.  I concentrated on low fat foods and wheat germ brownies; honey instead of sugar.  And, oh yes, Tiger’s Milk.

I used to like to cook when I got over my complex about my mother’s cooking.  She was an excellent cook. Mama taught me all the basics and how to improvise.  When I stopped trying to do something just as she did and realized I could do it my own way, I really began to like to cook.

There has been no time when I didn’t have to cook.  When I was in high school, Mama was ill for a long time and I did the cooking for the family. Then through the years, cooking for my own growing family. Later when I spent a full day at work, doing market analysis and calming a seller who thought the termite inspection should have been written with a more positive point of view; I came home to find the family waiting with a familiar greeting, “What’s for dinner?”

A time did come when I didn’t like to cook, a time when cooking began to feel like work.  What did I want to do instead of cook? Maybe it was to be a ballerina.  Well, how could I with wrinkled tummy from babies and although I had nice legs, I’m sure ballerinas don’t have varicose veins — or — well, maybe they do. Someone gave me a plaque that said “work is love” or some such sentiment. It was hung on the wall in the kitchen and I left it up for a week.  I hadn’t thought ’till then that cooking was working.

©Patricia Grube
October, 1993
revision, 2010