The most confusing places on earth

Government buildings in foreign countries seem to set out to confuse everyone, even (especially?) in countries where they speak English.

In Zambia the ‘official’ language is English, though it is not the language that most Zambian’s speak at home. However, you can expect to find out what you need to know if you speak English. Usually.

Collecting my work permit in Zambia would have been absolutely impossible without the assistance (hand-holding, really) of our local admin staff at AISL. It wasn’t a language issue, it was an organisation issue. Luckily, we were walked through the whole process, which involved standing in several unmarked queues for over an hour, being sent “over there ” with a vague flutter of the hand. Our school representative knew exactly where to go and what to do – she’d done this dozens of times before. We got the work permits, job done and dusted. Mine was valid for 2 years.

Fast forward a couple of years to France, 2015. I have ‘misplaced’ (i.e lost) my Carte de Sejour. This is effectively my visa and work permit, which is valid until 2018. So back in September,  I trundled off to the prefecture to apply for a replacement. I joined one queue. Once I got to the front I was told I was in the wrong queue, I needed to go to Window 9 and get a number. Then you wait until your number is called. I go to Window 9, there is no real queue, I am pleased to see, but a couple of people loitering nearby, I realise they are the ‘queue’. Meanwhile, a couple of dozen people are littered across the bench seats facing the service windows-  ‘guichets’ in French.  They appear to be waiting for their number to be called.

As there’s no real system, I smile at the man at the ‘end’ of the queue and stand a bit further back so it is clear I am also waiting.

A woman comes through a door behind me and marches up to the window.  She stands behind the woman currently being ‘served’. It is all taking a very long time to simply get a number, so I’m not really delighted to have a queue jumper. When she looks at me, I indicate the other two poor saps and myself and say ‘Nous attendons’.

This is when it got embarrassing. A very kind young woman came over to me – she spoke English thankfully or perhaps I would have been lynched when I still didn’t understand. She quietly told me (with dozens of, now I think about it, angry watchers sitting on benches facing the service windows) that she was also in the queue, as were all of the people now glaring at me with real hatred in their eyes.

As the lightbulb came on, my embarrassment multiplied. I wanted to run out and forget the carte de sejour – I don’t need to work in France, do I? Not really…oh wait yes I do.

No, I stood my ground, apologised profusely in two languages and went to the back of a very long slow queue. Once I got my number, I did it all over again.

Misunderstandings are a daily occurrence for me here – I waited for 5 months before chasing them- I was under the impression it would be sent to my house. Apparently I have to collect it, and the first opportunity I’ve had to do that is today.

Which brings us to another frustrating morning standing in queues.

When I finally got to the front of the line, to mystical Guichet 9, the woman puffed out her cheeks at the date printed on my paper. December? I explained that I thought they would send it to me. She took my passport (my photo is on the paper she just looked at but luckily I remembered to bring my passport ‘just in case’). She then garbled something quickly about paying something and wafted her hands toward the door to the street. What? Where do I need to go now? I heard ‘impôt’ – I have to pay a fine? What for? Because it was lost. Oh.

She sent me down the road to the centre des impots – except that it’s not called that and she only gave the road name, not the full address. She smiled like a great white shark as she told me I’d need to be back before 12:30. The oh-so -important lunch break. Oh, and she didn’t tell me, but I figured out that they won’t reopen today after lunch. Don’t be silly. It’s Wednesday.

No address, wrong sign- no big deal, I found it. I stood for a short while in a somewhat shorter line than at the Prefecture, after which I was told that , no he didn’t have any left. Any what? Timbre fiscale. Is that what I need?  A stamp? Apparently it’s not a rubber stamp on my paper to say I’ve paid, it’s a physical adhesive stamp like a postage stamp. But he didn’t have any, and not only that, he couldn’t imagine any shop in St Germain having one, so he sent me several miles down the road to the Bureau de Tabac in the next town, Chambourcy.

When I got there I realised it wasn’t THE ‘Bureau de Tabac’, which I thought had to be different to an ordinary ‘tabac’ where people buy cigarettes and lottery tickets. No, no it was exactly that sort of tabac, begging the question: there must be dozens of those in St Germain en Laye, why did I need to go to Chambourcy for that?  Ho hum. No idea, he didn’t tell me that, or if he did, I didn’t understand him.

Ok, funny little fine stamps bought, back to the Prefecture to stand in another queue. I didn’t dare jump the queue (again), even though the shark-woman had given me a number- it corresponded to nothing on the monitors calling people to the various windows.

A very self important man jumped the queue in front of me, not really asking, saying he was just coming back with his photocopies. When I showed him my number, indicating that I, too had already waited in the very long queue more than once, he turned his back and held his place in front of me.

He proceeded to cross two different ‘lines of confidentiality’, rudely pushing his body in front of other people who were being served  – because he was (obviously) much more important than they were. Luckily he didn’t try to get back in front of me again as I would have been tempted to kick him.

I waited and was rewarded, if not with a smile, then with my new valid,nCarte de Sejour. I am once again able to prove I’m allowed to live here and legally work as well- at least until 2018. I think that’s good news. Phew!

I look happy, don’t I?


New Location, New Blog

Hello, very nice of you to stop by. Welcome to my new ‘old’ blog.

Apologies if you have visited my page before and are currently experiencing some confusion. I will explain the ‘left turn’ in content and header picture in just a moment.

I will introduce myself first. My name is Jerri Ryder, and I am, among other things, an aspiring writer. Wow, that feels very bold and scary to announce it just like that. Almost as though I’m planning to publish a book, or something. Oh, wait, I do plan to publish my book.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Back to the intro. I currently live just outside Paris for the second time around, with my husband, our teenage son, one Manx Border Collie and two cats. We have a grown-up daughter at University in the UK, and life is pretty busy.  We have moved around quite a bit, having lived in Yorkshire, Isle of Man, Paris and Zambia. My husband and I also lived in Kingfield, Maine for one memorable winter, but that’s another story, from a different lifetime.  

We returned to Paris from Zambia in August, (a real case of two worlds colliding) and I now find myself regularly defending my atrocious French. Time to stop defending it: either improve or accept that I am no linguist. I hate to admit defeat, and have come to accept certain OCD qualities. So I shall try to improve. It is a bit unnerving at my age to discover new flaws, however we’ll treat them as strengths instead.  Perfectionist. Optimist. Mmm. Moving along…

Let’s finally get to the raison d’etre of this blog: I am attempting to finally, ultimately and against all the odds, (the ones I place against myself) finish my very first novel.

I have several projects in the pipeline, but my main focus is my novel which hovers around 46,000 words at last count this afternoon. I hit one or two hiccups a few weeks ago and read a few ‘writer blogs’. I decided to follow one excellent piece of ‘writerly’ advice –  ‘just write’. Brilliant. Why didn’t I think of that? That makes it sound as though I’m mocking it – I’m not. Write every day, that is my new motto. Every Damn Day. 

The second piece of advice I decided that made sense was ‘get on with it and publish’, even if you aren’t ready to publish your masterpiece. (I’m calling my novel my ‘masterpiece’, because if you don’t blow your own trumpet, who will?) Not a rhetorical question, I’m asking – who will?? Anyone? 

Blogs apparently count as publishing in this context, which is lucky for me – I’ve been dabbling in blogging for a little while. Not that anyone reads most of them, other than me. That could be because I’ve set the privacy settings so high that I am literally the only person who can read them.  I’m scared people will be able to read them. And comment. Numpty. 

I started this blog when we moved to Zambia in 2012 and called it And That’s All She Wrote; I feel this format could still serve me, even though my African adventure is over, for now. I had not posted on this blog for over a year.  I decided it is time to resurrect it.

I religiously posted everyday during our Coast to Coast walk last summer, 192 Miles.  Of course, once it’s over, you can’t keep posting about it. Not when you’re back at home with your feet up, cup of tea in hand. It would just seem wrong. 

And voilà! Here we are, my new blog, where I plan to waffle, babble, repost helpful advice and generally try to inspire myself to get on and finish it. And get this. I’m going to make it public. Yup. Public. People can read it. They might not, they probably won’t in all honesty because who cares about what I’ve got to say? But they could. They might. And if you’re reading it now, I have one reader. You might even decide to follow me, how exciting would that be? And you might not even be my mother. 

What’s even more exciting, you might click on one of those links up there, and see what I’ve written before. Why would you? I don’t know, but if I was reading this, I would. 

Next time, I will discuss my work in progress, let you know how it’s going and request advice on the problems I have encountered while trying to write fiction (of which there are many). I won’t give away any plots or spoilers, (other than the fact that I’m writing fiction) – don’t worry. I want you to buy the book.  Especially if you are not my mother. 

Jewel of Africa – Gem 101

Last week, I was invited to take a tour of Zambia’s very own jewelry mecca – Jewel of Africa.

Zambia’s specialities in gem mining terms are its emeralds and amethysts – as luck would have it, two of my favourite gem stones! I love purple and I love green.  Happy days.

This tour was quite the experience – for one thing they put on refreshments for us (wine, cheese, soft drinks).  Very pleasant on a Friday afternoon after a LONG week.  

Once we were ‘refreshed’ (or if you prefer ‘lubricated’… it was just a small glass of wine, don’t be cynical),  we were taken ‘behind the scenes’ to see how their jewellery is made.  Everything is made on the premises, and I have to say I was incredibly impressed.  I know you’re all dying to see the emeralds, but you’ll have to either scroll down or wait patiently and be polite!  

Are you back from your scrolling journey? Good.  Check out the process for the hand crafted pieces of silver.  I was dazzled by the craftsmanship of these guys, working away in a little back room.

This gentleman was making chains by hand for the Masai Choker. It’s on their website priced at $285, which is admittedly quite expensive, but it is beautifully made by hand.  He was soldering and linking these chains all by hand. He even sort of managed a wee smile. (I would think a gaggle of teachers asking them questions as they’re trying to work might be a bit off-putting, but they were very accommodating and patient!). 

This guy hand makes the chains for this Masai Choker.

This guy hand makes the chains for this Masai Choker.


Masai Choker

I found this photograph of the Masai Choker here.

I’m not on commission, I promise. I just like to be thorough!  

There were men working on silver belt buckles, rings, and bracelets, including this very cool one using a 1965 Zambian 5 Shilling piece. I can’t find that one on the website, so perhaps it was a private order. 

1965  5-Shiling piece

1965 5-Shiling piece

It would have been EVEN cooler, in my opinion,  if it had been 1964, which is when Zambia gained independence.  Zambia celebrated 50 years of independence last year.  Even so – it was pretty cool. I have a couple of smaller coins at home… I wonder what I could do with those! Hmm…

Next I saw these Tanzanite and Diamond earrings and pendant being made – one earring was done, the other was in the process. I can’t find them on the website either, it could be because they are a new line and aren’t ready for sale yet. Beautiful, but probably one earring is more valuable than all my jewellery put together! (And he let me hold them!) 


Tanzanite and Diamond Earring

Tanzanite pendant

Tanzanite and diamond pendant

We got to see how they cut the gems, and this was pretty amazing.  They heat wax and stick it firmly to one side of the gem. They cut it using this machine.


They’re pretty steady-handed, although you’d need to be! When they are happy that the cutting process is finished, and the stone is perfect…IMG_4705they wash it and then remove the wax like this: 


I asked, ‘Don’t you have to be careful that you don’t heat the stone and crack it?’  I got a very level, ‘Yeeeees…’ from the guy trying to heat the wax and make sure he didn’t crack the gem stone.  Sorry! Dumb question I guess. Here she is: IMG_4718

One guy had the job of trying to salvage something from a large citrine cut stone that had been dropped on the marble floor of the shop. I missed getting a photo of it, but it was enough to make anyone wince.  

As part of the tour, we also got to see how the CAD pieces are designed and crafted.  They have a 3D printer, which makes a ‘blank’ out of wax. 

Wax ring

Wax ring

Next, they make a mould (think: plaster of paris) around the wax ring. They heat the mould, melting the wax ring inside leaving the inverted shape of the ring. Into this (I think I got this right)  they then pour the gold or silver for the ring. This method is used for the more popular ‘collections’.  

Zambian Emeralds and Amethysts (we were told) are considered to be the best in the world, and they are gorgeous. As you have seen, Jewel of Africa also make jewellery using Tanzanite, Citrine, Aquamarine, Diamonds, Garnet, and Tourmaline.  

We were shown a tray of uncut emeralds that got a gasp of ‘OOoh’ and ‘Aahhh!’ from our little tour group.  Raj showed us how a jeweller decides which stones will be ideal for faceted cutting and which are better for a cabochon. The cabochon will have a flat side underneath whereas the faceted stone is like the one in a diamond engagement ring – the light should refract off the facets and come back to you.  (I learnt quite a lot at this little tutorial!) Here is the tray of little beauties: 

Uncut emeralds

Uncut emeralds

The ‘green beads’ you see at the bottom right of the picture – yup, emeralds. 

So here’s the bit I had to rush – due to a prior engagement (as taxi driver for my son), I had to leave early and unfortunately missed the last bit. I WILL return, but I did get to see lots of beautiful gems that were waiting for their destinies. I learned from Raj’s sister, Rashmi that amethyst, citrine and rose quartz are all simply variations of quartz. The amethyst’s colour comes from iron impurities in the stone.  If it gets heated to just the right temperature (this should happen naturally but we’ll get to that in a minute), it’s colour turns yellow and you have Citrine. Neat, huh? We also learned that it would be unwise to do this deliberately as you would approximately halve the value of the stone!  However: 

Two coloured amethyst - isn't it pretty?

Two coloured amethyst – isn’t it pretty?



Amethysts, citrines (yellow an 'honey' and a quartz at the back there.

Amethysts, citrines (on the left a yellow one, and the oval one is a  ‘honey citrine.’)  Notice the quartz at the back there.

I did see some emeralds, but had to excuse myself before we got to really find out more about them, and I didn’t snap a picture.  As I said, I will be back. 

Thanks, Jewel of Africa! So interesting! 

Isuzu – ISL Colour Run

As part of the Crossfit Amaka community, I was invited (encouraged, pressured, strong-armed – call it whatever you like) into taking part in the 3 hour Colour Run Relay Race yesterday.

Crossfit Amaka entered five teams, with six people in each team apart from one: we had three ladies teams, 1 co-ed and a mens team.

What a day!

Runners could organise themselves however they wished, we all decided to run 1km lap each turn, and hand over to the next person. It was a hot day, with almost no cloud cover, and the course had very few patches of shade, so it was a good tactic.  1km was manageable if you could get out of the sun while your five team-mates ran their kilometre.

Everyone had a great time, did their best and we had a blast running through the colour splashes!

While we were enjoying our little 3 hour relay, others were finishing a  6-hour or a grueling 24-hour relay.  Some complete nutters actually did the 24 hour race on their own.  I know – madness. I think the winner completed something like 140km. I couldn’t even contemplate that!

My husband’s team won the 24 hour team relay race, he ran 49km by himself.  I was a little worried when I saw him at 10am and he looked exhausted, but he finished strong and uninjured. Makes my 6km look a bit insignificant, but I’m OK with that! We had so much fun!

Many thanks to ISL, Isuzu for sponsoring and Crossfit Amaka for being awesome!

And without further ado – some photos of the day!

Trailing spouse – the graveyard of ambition?

Keeping the show on the road in Zambia (while working full time as a teacher). Thank you for the insights, Six Degrees North!

six degrees north

visa copySchool pick-up at an International school looks much like school pick up anywhere in the developed world. Apart from looking like a Benetton ad or maybe morning tea at the United Nations. And sure, there are a disproportionate number of drivers and nannies, say compared to a regular public school in Australia or the US, but the majority of people hanging out in the school yard before the bell goes, are mums.

Mums just like me, and maybe just like you. Women who were brought up and educated to believe that we could do whatever we set my minds to. Highly educated, well travelled, sophisticated, urbane, and overall a broadly privileged set.

We women who came of age in the 80s and 90s, we reaped the rewards of the feminist movement of the 60s and 70s. We are old enough to remember the cat calls, but young enough to remember…

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On my way home…

10 Facts for Bob Geldof

I am ashamed that I didn’t truly think about these lyrics until I came to live in Africa.

GB on tour!

Dear Sir Bob,

Thanks so much for doing the Ebola fundraising thing. We hope you raise lots and lots of money. The only thing is, there is a world outside your window Sir, but it might not be quite how you imagine it. We thought you might like to refer to our handy list of facts and figures to help you along when you do the Live Aid 30 re-edit.

Do they know it’s Christmas? – Lovely sentiment, great tune, huge money raiser, but ever so slightly bonkers!

Lets take a look at the facts:

1. There is water flowing in Africa, really quite a lot of it in fact.

“Where the only water flowing Is the bitter sting of tears”

What? What about the world’s longest river? The river Nile is over 4000 miles long.

(The 5 biggest rivers in Africa are: Nile, Congo, Zambizi, Niger, Orange river)


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