Monday, April 27, 2009



Lunch time always consists of chit-chat, or actually, a better description would be gossip.  We eat nshima, which is a porridge like corn meal, and this is accompanied by some sort of fish or meat and one vegetable cooked in oil (such as pumpkin leaves).

I am always the last to finish even though I eat the least amount. I carefully chew on every ounce of food, the rest of the guys and girls swallow nshima almost like jello. 

More than half the time the conversation is in Lunda, so I have a hard time following the intricacies of the conversation.  Partly I feel the guys get tired of speaking English at work, and partly I feel they want me to catch onto Lunda and this is my chance to learn.


Today Chris decided to eat with us, normally he goes home to eat with his wife Lisette.  Chris has emphasized English within the company for 7 years - so when he's around the conversation always flows in English, and today the gossip was kicked off by the mention of a funeral, and that funeral was due to a young guy being HIV positive.  As usual, there was no official mention at the funeral about the person being positive, instead they are understood to have died of some illness….maybe malaria, maybe TB or just anything else.  A sad twist to this funeral was that the boy was only 15 - and his parents had died long ago, so chances are that he was born with HIV and he may have never even of known it.  Imagine the confusion at the age of 14 when you start losing weight and feeling unlike yourself, then it just gets worse and worse….


The conversation was then fuelled by the relation between drinking and promiscuous late night activity.  A very intelligent, hard working young guy at work was caught drunk last Saturday when he showed up to work saying he had to do a job and borrowed the motorbike only to wipe out.  This person is very well trusted and I consider him a friend - yet a few drinks led him to risking his job and injuring himself.


Then there was another story of a person who is well respected who started drinking and everyone knows they are HIV positive….and we talked about the local "guesthouse" which is like a cheap motel, or hostel.  Truth is - it’s a full blown brothel for soldiers, truck drivers and many others.   We talked about a song that a local musician made - where they sing about a government guesthouse which is also known to have sex workers 'servicing' the guests.


Before I knew it the gossip went from one person to another about who you knew that was HIV positive, and how they got that way, and about all the children these people will leave behind before long - about how some women, when they don’t have a strong man in their life, will pass the children to their mothers to raise.  A full half hour went by and I became a bit frozen, the guys would laugh once in a while when they talked about a certain person many of them know - I guess its hard to condemn something that is so prevalent and depressing - so laughing helps a bit, not laughing at the persons situation or anything like that, but just laughing at the ridiculous simplicity of it.  HIV comes to those who fool around and don’t use a condom, everyone knows it, yet 40% of adults in Mwinilunga have it.


And there is zero mention of ARV's to keep people alive once they have it.  (It was announced a couple years back that Anti-retrovirals are free in Zambia, but I figure its just free in the big cities)


Now I sit and type on my computer and I still feel frozen, numb.  The weight of the situation is incredible and I don’t know what to do about it.


People make logical decisions, and based on a given persons reality, one may choose to risk contracting HIV.  Everyone knows how you get HIV, and everyone knows how to stop it - you can preach ABC (or just AB if you're the pope!) for an eon but it wont change the fact that underlying the disease is a persons belief that their future is not worth much.  At least not worth enough to never risk getting HIV.


How can this change?  How can a person in Zambia believe in a good future? 


Sunday, April 12, 2009

"fast" internet

Ok, so I'm in Solwezi and they have fast internet here - well, fast enough to easily upload photos, but not fast enough to see youtube, so I feel compelled to put up some photos.

For Easter weekend I'm visiting a friend who lives in a village 50km from Solwezi (so just 350km from Mwinilunga).   

This is Marissa admiring Joe's earings from his Samaritan's Purse box.

So Marissa has been in Zambia for a year and I got a chance this weekend to go visit her and see what her project is all about.  She is working on building a high school 50km from Solwezi.  Learn more on her website -

This baby was named after Marissa.

Here is Kalusa sewing together used sacs to create a bee suit.

And Mr. Matulu shows off the result.  Is he going to crop honey or launch into orbit?

After all the Samaritans purse boxes were open, the kids still played with their 'truck'.

Ya, this truck is amazing.  First of all, the one kid made it all on his own, and if you have a good eye - you'll notice that it has real stearing capabilities.  Ya, they hava rack-and-pinion system just the same way a real car would have.

Total inginuity from 8 year olds!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Stability - Growth - Jobs

Is it any surprise that people in Zambia want the same thing?  Jobs, stability and Growth... 

The weight of the economic crisis has been on my mind for quite a while.  Everyone knows that GDP is shrinking so it can be called a global recession now, but there is something about the tone of that word…or maybe its the fact that a recession is capable of leading to a depression, and this stirs a very sick feeling deep in our stomachs.

Two of my uncles have lost their jobs because of the recession, many of my friends are also recently unemployed - some are now living back at home "temporarily" and taking any job they can just to get by.  I remember two years ago when I put up the HELP WANTED sign at Springbank Cheese, and after 4 weeks of waiting, I might have received 6 resumes from high school  students or recent grads, and I hear that these days, the same sign in the window draws dozens of resume's from people, even with university degrees.

Here in Zambia the global recessions' effects are delayed because it isn't tied into the system nearly as closely as Canada is tied in.   However, this also means that Zambia hasn't seen all the benefits of being tied in over the past 40 years.


The times, they are a changin.

Last week I met a pretty cool group of Americans who are with Peace corps in Zambia.  I quickly realized how far I have come in the past 5 years because I use to be the left leaning guy who thought socialism was necessary, that things like welfare, free health care, and free education are the way to go…and really an overall safety blanket for the public.  I also thought the more aid to developing countries the better.

Now my thinking is almost on the other end of the spectrum.  After working as a manager, travelling the world a bit and analysing how people are motivated and what income generation really means….well, ya, my conclusion is very much in line with what Mr. Barack Obama said last night;

  "the market is the most effective mechanism for creating wealth and distributing resources to produce goods and services that history has ever known,"

During the conversation I had with these Peace corps volunteers, I made a statement which would've been totally counter intuitive to me 5 years ago.  I claimed that "to reduce the gap between rich and poor, what's needed is for everyone to be given a fair chance, NOT for the rich to be taxed more such that the money can be given to the poor".  In other words, I believe the current set of rules, which includes both international trade rules and various government regulations even in Canada…I believe that on a whole, these rules are not fair.  I also believe that if they were fair, I would be content to go home, mind my own business and focus on being a decent member of my own community.  If they were fair, I believe absolute poverty wouldn't exist, I believe people would have a justified feeling of hope and the vast majority of us would work hard to ensure that life for the next generation will be just as good if not better.  For me, this might mean protecting the environment, for others with less money, it might mean sacrificing today so their children get a good education and a better life tomorrow.

However, this is a pipe dream.  The current situation is not fair.  The current situation kills hope.  Rules are in place which put women at a huge disadvantage.  The WTO (World Trade Organization) monitors a set of trade regulations which work to the advantage of the rich countries, not because the WTO itself is evil or even bad, but because the power lies in the hands of very few who want to protect their interests. 

If I had a magic wand, I would change these rules.  But I don’t.

In a couple of my blogs I mention the idea that peace comes through business transactions, or on the global scale, it comes through trade.  I also believe that the exact same tool for bringing peace also is the key to development and wealth creation.

Trade trade trade …. maybe I am way off, but I would love to hear why.  Its not going to be easy, but I only have to listen to the stories of how my grandpa only went to school up to Grade 6 and would go for days away from home chopping wood in the middle of winter, and where they would even sleep in the same shelter as the horses to help keep warm.  Lets not forget where we came from, we still have one foot in the past and we need to appreciate how far we've come.




I liked this Q&A with Mr. Obama at the G20 summit.

 Q: My… question is(on behalf of the world): politics is very local, even though we've been talking about global solution... How can you make sure that you will do whatever you can so that local politics will not trump or negatively affect good international economics?

Answer from Mr. Obama:

"I'm the President of the United States. I'm not the President of China…And so I have a direct responsibility to my constituents to make their lives better. ... how concretely does me being here (at the summit) help them find a job, pay for their home, send their kids to college, live what we call the American Dream. And I will be judged by my effectiveness in meeting their needs and concerns.


But in an era of integration and interdependence, it is also my responsibility to lead America into recognizing that its interests, its fate is tied up with the larger world; that if we neglect or abandon those who are suffering in poverty, that not only are we depriving ourselves of potential opportunities for markets and economic growth, but ultimately that despair may turn to violence that turns on us; that unless we are concerned about the education of all children and not just our children, not only may we be depriving ourselves of the next great scientist who's going to find the next new energy source that saves the planet, but we also may make people around the world much more vulnerable to anti-American propaganda"