Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bee Picture

Yesterday I woke up feeling pretty crappy after eating some questionable food. I was lazy and sat outside in the sun hoping it would dry my hair before I caught a cold to boot.

Sure enough, along came a bee. She looks pretty focused. And you can see on her back legs, there are packs of pollen, they're an orange/yellow colour.

In June I hope to have more bee pictures up.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Weekend

I have a bunch of photos here, and a story below from an event that happened today, Easter Monday.

Driving down the main drag in Lusaka

A fancy mall in Lusaka - yup they have SUBWAY here too

I went to Livingston this weekend with another EWB volunteer, this is where Victoria Falls is.

Ashley and I, she was the one who needed to leave the country for a new visa.

Victoria Falls - Mosi-au-Tunyi (the smoke that thunders)

A nice Zambian couple fishing off the dock on the Zambezi river.

We took a cruise on the Zambezi River and saw some Hippos.

Returned from the falls to find the Easter Bunny had paid me a visit!

Five Dollars

I am the one who is sitting the hammock as the morning sun warms the air. I am the one enjoying the breeze, the birds singing and a great book on this Easter Monday.

The hammock, where I read after work.

In the distance I hear what sounds like the neighbour tapping a nail...I continue reading. The tapping continues and eventually I hear "Mr. Marke" very faintly, I look over and see that someone at the gate is looking through the small hole and sees me. I hear it again, "Mr. Marke", I now recognize its Mr. Ngulube at the gate and its locked. I spent last Saturday with him and another co-worker (Thomas). We walked across town, met Thomas's family and spent a couple hours at the bar where they treated me to a couple of beers.

After he is in the gate he asks if Barb is home, she is the wife to Dan Ball, who is the owner of Forest Fruits. Barb is a trained nurse and is famous among the employees for helping them out with heath problems. Propolys and tea tree oil are the two medicines she has sent my way in the past 3 weeks of living here.

He then explains to me that his wife is pregnant, and going into labour. I realize the severity of the visit and quicken my pace as we walk to the house. I wonder if he is going to ask Barb to deliver the baby. My mind races. He calmly and politely speaks with Barb as I wait inside to give them privacy. She then fills me in that in Zambia, you must bring your own supplies with you to the health clinic. Supplies like - a razor blade to cut the chord, something to tie the chord, a garbage bag, gloves...and a diaper for the baby.

If you don't show up with these things, the clinic will likely turn you away.

Imagine, the fragile state a pregnant women is in...let alone the new life that is in the balance.

My sister in Calgary is pregnant now also. This will be her second. The amount of money and time that goes into preparing for delivering a baby is astounding, it is something that is made a high priority in Canada. Giving birth is just one component.

I go back out to speak with Mr. Ngulube and I ask him how many children he has. A very big smile grows as he says, this will be our fifth. Immediately afterwards he felt it was necessary to justify this if I didn't understand why he had so many. He said "you white people have been blessed, all your children survive. Here we must have many because not all of them live". I explained to him that I understood perfectly, and in fact one of my siblings did not make it through birth, so I have just two sisters instead of three.

"Life is raw here." Barb says to me after he leaves. "Imagine what it's like in rural areas where women have to walk 5 km to even have a chance of getting turned away at the clinic"

I am now the one that feels a bit sick in my stomach as I consider the money in my back pocket. I have $60 american dollars and the equivalent to $15 in Zambian Kwacha's. I can't help but imagine how these couple of pieces of paper can so easily be translated into helping lives here. The difference between a new baby and a miscarriage is sometimes a matter of a few supplies that may cost a dollar or two in Canada, and maybe a cab ride to the clinic which is likely to cost a couple of dollars. In total, five dollars would increase the chances of success. The money in my pocket is enough for 15 women in labour.

Trying to make some sense of it all.

I looked up some stats.

% of population under the age of 15
Zambia --> 50%
Canada --> 18%

Life expectancy
Zambia --> 35 years
Canada --> 80 years

Infant Mortality Rate (# of children who don't make it to age of 5)
Zambia --> 98.4/1000
Canada --> 4.8/1000 (ie. 20 times more likely to make it to the age of 5)

I read about the demographic transition, and maybe I now better understand what is happening and possibly what needs to happen to improve the situation.

As I type I realize Mr. Ingulube may be just arriving at a clinic with his wife since he likely walked the 40 minutes back to his house before heading out with his wife....

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


(photos added just below)

I like to learn. I like to learn that someone figured out a better way to do something, and there is this miracle that exists which allows me to do this new something, maybe its the miracle of literature, or television or radio...or maybe its how to call home from Zambia.

I like to learn that I'm wrong about something too. Each time this happens, I become better at avoiding being wrong in the same way again.

I also like knowing what to learn, and I don't like not-knowing what I don't know. (an unconscious incompetence)

The other day I was at a pretty fancy grocery store, there was no one in line at one of the cashiers so I chose to go there. After ringing everything through, the young girl told me what I owed and I fumbled through my pocket to pull out the right bills to pay. In Zambia there are no coins, so I had to gather about 5 or 6 different bills to pay her. As I placed them one by one on the counter to build the pile, the clerk reached over and said 'can you put it in my hand?'.

I instantly assumed she was talking about the thick stack of money that was I was holding onto because I was a white man (muzungu) and she was the typical poor girl in Africa. It took about 10 seconds before I asked her what she meant, and she told me that she didn't want to reach out and take the money that was stacked on the counter. Instantly my mind flashed back to a time at the cheese shop in Calgary when an Italian lady clearly described to me how she had grown up knowing that it was rude to put change on the counter and make someone pick it up. Almost like it was a step towards throwing money on the ground and letting the beggars stoop to gather it.


I apologized to the cashier and walked away with a cramp in my chest from the idiocy that I had internally experienced. I was humbled because I didn't want to be on a white person's pedastool, I really want to show respect. Meanwhile, it can be easier to understand situations when you know how you are viewed. But not knowing how to distinguish between a young girl who is employed at an upper class grocery store from a girl that is walking down the street without any shoes is a tough lesson to learn.

At this moment I feel that was just like a crack of light escaping below the door and I'm about to open the door to discover how little I know about a culture so different from my own. Where I come from, I at least know the light is produced by electricity, in this new world I have yet to know something as fundamental as how the light is made let alone the details of what is in the room.

The one peace of advice that I've received and hold onto for dear life is that, no matter what, be "humble".

(still 10 days before I head to the rural NW corner of Zambia to life in the bush)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Some Photos

Starting off with a view 3 feet from my door. Yup, I'm being spoiled at the moment, staying at a guest house and eating really well while I get my bearings and meet some of the staff at Forest Fruits.

The pool is beside the guest house - although its out of service at the moment.

Our team during motorcycle training (less JP) - click for larger image.

as you enter the property

Gotta love the vegetation.

The honey warehouse, its full of 300kg barrels of honey!

Just thought I'd throw some pics up for those of you interested in what things look like where I am right now. I will be staying here for two more weeks before going to Mwinilunga.

A real post is soon to come.