Burglars and Home Security

When Erma Bombeck complained that it takes so long to secure the house (Detroit Free Press: 03-02-90) before she and her husband retired to bed because of increased crime I was amused. Because it sounded more like the neighborhood I lived in until recently – only a hair worse.

Burglarizing homes and stealing of cars at night while owners are enjoying their sleep is so common that securing homes and property has become very demanding. Our home was surrounded by an eight foot brick wall with jagged sharp glass along the top edge.

Before going to bed every night the security routine was that we first locked the metal front gate between the walls entrance. We made sure the two dogs were fed, alive, and barking and the outside security lights were switched on. Then I practically disassembled the automobile engine and took it to the security of our bedroom upstairs. The front and back doors were triple locked and all windows around the house were shut. Valuables like T.V, stereo, and computers had to be shipped from the living room to our bedroom. All the doors leading from the kitchen to the dining to the living room were locked. In the morning all of this had to be undone including reinstalling the car engine before driving the kids to school at 7 a.m. The bit about undoing the car engine might be a little exaggerated but doesn’t this sound like What Erma Bombeck was describing but only a tad worse?

Incidentally, this was life in the Capital City of Lusaka in my home country of Zambia until recently in December 1989. Yes, many Americans and millions of Zambians live there and it is no more dangerous than in many neighborhoods here. My wife and I and the two American neighbors we knew were never robbed. Except one  time when I parked down town Lusaka and my spare tire  was stolen. But then I had parked there safely millions of times before the incident. Perhaps the lesson in all of this is that it doesn’t matter where you live in an urban environment these days, the world is becoming more similar than different. Urban crime is escalating in most cities of the world.

****Unpublished article to the features editor of the Detroit Free Press, 321 W. Lafayette, Detroit, MI 48231, 7th March, 1990. After many visits to Lusaka in Zambia since 1990, the urban crime is not as bad as it was in 1989.

Children Scare Me

I love children. But it is the five year olds that scare me. My anxiety and fear are not so much over what they do, but what they can say, where, and when. This was brought to me recently when I had to interact with a group of very cute five year olds. My son’s kindergarten class was having a “parent(s)-eat -lunch-with- their-kids” program. As a precaution, I made sure I wasn’t dressed as a clown. I took a bath, wore a regular nice shirt, shoes, pants, and even a tie. I drove through the rain and made sure I had an umbrella to avoid being a soaked father; then I could have looked worse than a clown.

As soon as 1 walked into the class, I was greeted like a celebrity and was surrounded by excited kids. 1 felt like 1 was a rock star. 1 could see my son was very proud to have his dad there.

“So you’re Mike’s dad!?” one kid asked or sort of stated.

“You look Just like your son. Mike”(not his real name) another kid quipped.

“You must be twins.” (Ever hear of twins being born thirty years apart? one asked me.)

“Why do you have balls in your hair?” another kid asked. (I have very curly hair.)

Then my own son said:

“My dad’s hair is turning white. He is an old man.”

They all giggled.

With my son joining in the offensive, I felt helpless and vulnerable.

1 was saved from this bombardment when another male parent walked in. Then one kid said to another; “My dad is bigger than yours”.

A courageous parent tried to smooth things over and said:

“Com’on Joe, dads come in different sizes.”

The continuous action and body movements the children made were incredible and made me momentarily dizzy. We ate an enjoyable and amusing lunch as the French fries were in the shape of letters of the alphabet. We took the opportunity to ingeniously brush up on the letters of the alphabet. One of the children took some liberties and reversed the order of eating and started with the ice cream dessert. Predictably, she never made it to the main course: a meatball sandwich.  Being a responsible parent, I was tempted to report the kid to the teacher and write down the kids’ name and his home address, and phone number so I could inform her parents of the naughty behavior. But I thought better of it.

I commended the teacher for doing such a wonderful job handling these active but curious kids. I had enjoyed the visit. But as I left I could not help but feel relieved that I had escaped just in time to avoid becoming a P.O.W. of that class of kindergarten kids.

****A version of this article appeared in: Mwizenge S. Tembo, Kids Scare Me, The Bridgewater College Talon, February 11, 1991.

Themba Chako Radio Comedy

Radio Chikaya in Lundazi
Who are the Tumbuka people? They live in Zambia, a country with a population of 10 million people with 2.02% annual growth rate. It has a life expectancy at birth of 43, and adult literacy rate of 78.2% 1. The country is landlocked and shares borders with seven countries; Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola, Congo, and Tanzania. The Tumbuka are one of the many  Bantu ethnic groups that are found in Southern Africa. The Tumbuka speak Chitumbuka which is one of 72 bantu languages and dialects that have been recorded in Zambia. They are located in the Eastern Province of the Southern African country of Zambia straddling the border between North-Eastern of Zambia and Northern Malawi. Approximately 750,000 Tumbuka people live in Malawi and 400,000 in Zambia 2

Since the early 1920s when the British established and colonized the then Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, the Tumbuka have maintained their traditional lifestyle, cultural values, and subsistence farming. But their life has also been influence by Western medicine, education, and Christianity. The Tumbuka who live in the Lundazi district of Zambia  where this radio comedy was broadcast, are predominantly subsistence farmers growing maize or corn as the staple food including peanuts, beans,  peas, finger millet, sweet potatoes, cassava. The Tumbuka grow and sell cotton cash crops. They use the cash proceeds to pay school uniform and fees, modest clinic fees, and the purchase of modern consumer goods such as bicycles, soap, radios, batteries, sugar, clothing, and traditionally brewed beer. They also raise livestock such as chickens, goats, cattle, and pigs.

The Tumbuka still lead a predominantly traditional life style in which family and close kin reside in small villages surrounded by farm lands divided according to the needs of each family. The Zambian government provides clinics, schools, and agricultural extension services. The Tumbuka have certainly been influenced by modern institutions such as schools and clinics. For example, dozens of schools including Lundazi Secondary School, Musuzi and Mphamba Basic Schools, Mchereka Schools are located in the town of Lundazi and surrounding region where these radio programs were recorded. These social influences may have created some unique ways of approaching life.

Radio Chikaya is broadcast everyday predominantly in English and Tumbuka. The one hour weekly Tumbuka show is the character Themba Chako. When I first heard the Themba Chako program, I almost on my food with laughter. It was in the evening under moonlight 30 miles west of Lundazi in my home village. We were eating dinner with my family. The 4 radio programs of YouTube:

1 F. Jeffress Ramsay, Global Studies: Africa, 8th ed., Guildford, Connecticut: Dushkin/McGraw-Hill, 1999, pp. 166-167.

2 The Tumbuka of Malawi and Zambia, www.imb.org/southern-africa/peoplegroups/tumbuka.htm