Friday, May 30, 2008

Influential Countries

When I think of the powerful/influential countries in the world, I automatically think of the United States, China and more generally, the G8, and even Brazil and India.

I guess it doesn't mean a whole lot what I think, but apparently our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has been having similar thoughts and feels that Canada is not on this list of countries.

"If a country wants to be taken seriously in the world, it must have the capacity to act. It's that simple," is what Harper said two weeks ago in Halifax.

"Otherwise, you forfeit your right to be a player. You're the one chattering on the sideline that everyone smiles at, but no one listens to."

This is his reasoning behind the announcement made for a 20-year, $30B plan to beef up military.

$30,000,000,000 is a lot of money!

If I were Prime Minister and my goal was for people around the world to listen to Canada, I know this money would be better spent on something other than the military.

What people around the world are we trying to get to listen to us?

What are we saying now that they aren't listening to?

In my first blog, I mention how I believe that business can create peace between people and between countries. If our economy is dependent on trade with various countries, then we have a huge incentive to keep our international relations with them in very good order.

And really, to me, the amount of influence and power we have in the world is directly related to the amount of trade we do and has little to do with the size of our military.

If we aren't happy with a country, then we enforce sanctions.

I watched a 15 minute video on the topic about a year ago and still believe it rings true. The talk is given by Robert Wright, the author of the book - "Non Zero" -

Would love to hear what you guys think on this one.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


my mug for those who haven't seen it in a while


Maybe I've mentioned it before, but nature is overly abundant here. What I mean is ... there's a lot of competition for life, not sure what they call that in more scientific terms, something like - high density of biodiversity?

Anyway, last night we were working late, we had a huge shipment due out to Lusaka for export. Finally, around 8pm, it was time to go home. Evans offered a lift and I explained that it would be great because I was exhausted after working 14 hours, and really I just wanted to get home, lay down and watch a movie.

We pull up to the house and sure enough there is no power. I get off the motorcycle and Evans says 'just wait, do you see that' and of course, its really dark and I don't see anything. He gets off the bike and asks for my 'torch'. He points out that there is a highway of huge red ants going right along the side of the house. I remember being bitten by these ants once and decide to cautiously step over the line and enter the house. As it goes, there are even a few random ones inside and within a minute I feel one biting me halfway up my leg...then another, and soon after, another. I take my shirt off as I feel one even biting me on my stomach. So here we are, in pitch black being eaten by ants! We try to see them with our flashlight (aka torches) and fail to avoid having them on us. I remember I bought some bug killing spray and quickly Evans takes care of the ones inside. He then goes outside to investigate. I opt to wait inside after he explains that they have been known to kill people. Yikes, maybe I don't want to sleep here tonight.

we found out later this bunch was taking care of a snail

I hear him yelling "Mark, come take a look." I yell back, "no thanks". He asks for my camera and takes a few photos and then tells me to sit tight while he fetches some 'medicine', which is really just another word for chemicals.

20 minutes later the power comes back on! So nice to have lights. I smile thinking back to growing up in South-Western Ontario and how each year, when the ants arrived in the spring, my mom would announce it one random day when walking into the house and yelling, "they're here!".

they make a highway, this is just 2 feet from the door to the kitchen

Evans soon returns to kill all of them in sight, I happily observe the job and feel comfortable sleeping again. (only after he further explains that the only time these ants are fatal is when you 'take too much beer - pass out - and you can't feel them crawling on you', at least until its too late and you're out-numbered a thousand to one.)

Life is busy at the moment, I am back in Lusaka and dealing immigration and trying to comprehend the reality of having so many people I know who are in the hospital, both here and back in Canada.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Around Town

Well I'm home alone for this week in Mwinilunga. Chris and his wife Lisette have gone to Congo for a Zambia/Congo trade exhibition.

It's quite nice to finally have time to sit and allow things to sink in. Its amazing how little time alone I get here even though I don't know very many people.

So lets see what might be interesting.

I went to church! Religion plays a huge role in peoples lives here so I figured I should attempt to re-kindle my faith. There are many different religions practiced here, including Seventh Day Adventist, Ba'hai, Jahovah's witness and Catholic.

The English mass started at 9am on Sunday and I was greated by the priest. He was just the second white guy I'd seen since I've arrived in Mwinilunga. He asks what I'm doing and learns that I'm an engineer, he then almost excitedly tells me about the idea of using zeppillins to transport goods around Africa because they would be much cheaper. In the back of my mind I scan through reasons why this shouldn't work and mostly I come up with the usual - expertise - capital - government buy in - and then he mentions that in places like Angola, a giant balloon in the air is likely to be shot down. But a cool idea non the less. I wonder what it would be like to have my own personal zeppelin to ride around and pick up honey in?

So church was actually pretty cool. I laughed to myself about 5 minutes in when I glanced around and noticed beside the stations of the cross there were large signs saying 'please turn off all phones'. Everyone has a cell phone, and sure enough, I had forgotten to turn my off. The rest of the service was strangely but comfortingly-familiar, even though I haven't attended mass for some 15 years, the words spoken and actions taken, even in Africa, are exactly as I had remembered them growing up. There were parts where I felt a similarity to meditation.

On Friday night, Evans came by with his wife to keep me company since I'm on my own. I set him up with email and helped him with his application for business administration through distance education. Forest Fruits promotes continuing education among the staff and sponsors them. I put on some old jazz music and Evans asks, 'What kind of music is this?' in such a way I knew he didn't appreciate it, so I asked what music he liked. A big smile comes to his face as he tells me his plan to buy cowboy boots and how he likes the guitar in country music. Without hesitation I switch to playing John Prine and Corb Lund and he can't help himself but to humm along and tap his knees to the music. We had a good time listening "The chev got stuck and the Ford got stuck, but the chev unstuck when the Dodge showed up, but the Dodge got stuck in the tractor rut" So I've burned a disc for him to listen to at home (and probably drive his wife crazy)

Photo of sunsetting at the football field.

Last night on the way home from work I picked up some bread and some more oranges-n-bananas. After that I walked over to check out a noise I heard to find a crowd at the soccer field. I sit down to watch and relax after a long week of work. I couldn't have imagined a better way to spend my Saturday evening. I ask who is playing and it turns out its the local high-school playing the old-timers! I instantly was taken back to memories of baseball and hockey games where we had father-son games and how intense they would get. It was a great game and the skill level seemed quite high. In the end, the young bucks won, 2-0.

Nothing too crazy this time around, which is good for me, however, it makes for less interesting reading... I'm sure there is much more to come on the religion aspect.

I will be doing a two week training safari in July/August, so I can guarantee some ridiculous adventures soon to come.

Oh ya, and for those of you with a green thumb, the flowers here are out of control!! I don't know all the names so I'll just post a few pictures here and maybe someone can let me know what to call them. (except the first one, these are daisy's and wow, you literally can't open your eyes outside without them being there...kinda like dandelions in Ontario)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Another Bus Trip

When you hear about crazy adventures in far away places, you sorta don't understand how people get into those situations.

Now that I'm here, I see its not all that hard. Our bus left a little late, 5:20am from Lusaka, and things really were going well until it got dark, around 7:00pm. In Zambia, you buy food through your window on the bus, its actually pretty convenient. I even bought an chocolate dipped ice-cream bar from a 'Dickie Dee' vendor.

Ice Cream vendor in Kitwe. 3000 Kwacha ($.70) for a frozen treat!

Typical Zambian market stalls

After leaving town, it soon became obvious to everyone that the bus didn't have any headlights. It is determined that one battery is done and that maybe the alternator is on its way out. The lightening storm outside provides some light, but wow, it is pretty much pitch black out there. They even try to shine flashlights out the front window to help see the road. Eventually it is just too stupid to continue, so the driver pulls over and tries to figure something out. After about half an hour of sitting in the dark, a mini-bus pulls beside and speaks with the driver, we decide to follow it the rest of the way. We arrive in pretty good time, 11pm.

For a while I figured we'd just be stuck there, on a bus for the night, a bus which was overfull with people standing and cargo up and down the isles.

Anyway, I woke up this morning to the sound of Laure-Eloise on the phone, and even better yet, today is a national holiday so I have time to check out the feasibility of starting an internet cafe in town as a way to maybe earn some money and help people access information.

Before I finished speaking with Laure, the sun was almost up so I took this photo from my bedroom window.

A foggy morning in Mwinilunga just before sunrise

And great news from Canada today!!

More and Better food aid.