Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Motivated by boredom and Zebra Guest House fever we decided to take a weekend trip to see the great Mosi-oa-tunya (Victoria Falls). Joining us was Mr. Bambang, a friend who is also staying at the Zebra House. Before leaving, everyone was sure to tell us that it was not the rainy season and that the falls would be at best a trickle. But we wanted to go anyways to see the rocks and perhaps swim in the devil's pool. By paying a fee, visitors can walk or boat out to Livingstone Island to swim in a pool that is only a few meters away from the edge of the falls. Exhilarating thought Lebo and I. Too dangerous thought mom and dad.

We left early Friday morning to catch the bus from town. After 6 hours we arrived at the Fawlty Towers hostel where we immediately partook in the free poolside pancakes. To our delight pancakes were served daily at 3 pm. Saturday morning saw us up bright and early for Mr. Bambang's micro flight above the falls. We all then took an hour and a half walk across the dry Zambezi riverbed with our guide Phineas. He took us right up to the edge of the falls at several different points. Dad made sure to always have a firm hand on a rock and good feet positioning just in case there were to be a great rush of water.

We saw birds and very aggressive baboons but no elephants. One baboon was so bold as to shove a sitting man after the man took his backpack away from the baboon. Mr. Bambang told us that in Indonesia, where he is from, the monkeys are so clever that they steal tourists' cameras and will only give them back when presented with food!

Other highlights from the weekend included the Livingstone museum where we spent all morning walking through history beginning with the Stone Age. A fascinating place with lots of information. Dad was surprisingly one of the first to finish but only after we left did he realize he missed the Natural History section and then we all understood his quickness. Lebo, Bambang and I went up the road to to the Capitol Limited Theater to see Social Network for 14,000 kwacha ($3). Too bad it was an illegal download with the Columbia Pictures watermark appearing every five minutes throughout. We are planning to go back in April after the rains that have started in the western part of the country reach Livingston so that we can see the mist and the roaring falls.

Tiny Tim and Friends: Pediatric Care

I found a place to volunteer this week! It's called Tiny Tim and Friends. Dr. Tim Meade started the organization six years ago in Lusaka in order to provide antiretroviral drugs to children and caregivers of children who are HIV+. On Tuesdays and Thursdays the staff hold clinic days in which the enrolled patients come for their monthly checkups. The rest of the week the staff go into the communities to either give workshops on health issues or to work in coordination with Grassroots Soccer to test children for HIV. I'm hoping to mostly work in the clinic but also get involved in the adherence counseling and workshops. I went on an outreach to a grade school were we tested 17 kids. They all tested negative which was great but we were disappointed because only 17 of the 86 children had gotten their parents/guardians to sign the permission slip allowing us to test them. Phoning and house visits will be the next steps to complete testing all these kids.

The clinic is in town so I take the bus in every morning. It takes about an hour and half due to the traffic. I went to lunch with the guys in the office one day and experienced the real Lusaka. When mom, dad, Lebo and I first visited town it didn't leave any lasting impressions - dusty, busy and dirty with not much to see. However with 5 Zambian men leading me to lunch in the city market I saw a whole different kind of town. We walked past the storefronts that I only initially saw into a maze of pathways where stall after stall showed women cooking inshima and chicken. As you walk by each stall you see white balls of cornmeal floating in boiling water and chicken frying in vats of oil. Then you look past the women tending to the pots into small little huts where men in business attire sit crammed in at little tables eating. One of the guys told me that this is where you come to have real nshima. I wonder where you would find fake nshima though.... Lunch was good although I don't think I will ever eat the okra again. Something about having to pick up a snotty mess of greens with sticky cornmeal was not appetizing. I think next week I'll eat with the women of the office and see what they do.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Building libraries for children

November 23, 2010

Lubuto Library Project

President Kenneth Kaunda leading the audience in singing.

The Lubuto Library Project provides libraries as spaces for children to learn, read, do art and drama. There are now two sites within the city of Lusaka, Zambia. The first site, located at the Fountain of Hope orphanage in a neighborhood named Kamwala, began in 2007 and the second opened last week in Garden Compound.

The libraries consist of three buildings – an insakha or gathering space to sit, discuss, reach decisions affecting the community, a building for art and drama activities, and the largest building for the library collection of books for children and teens. The libraries are open to anyone in the community – child or adult – but have a special emphasis of services and activities for orphans and the street children who cannot afford to pay school fees and attend school. (50 % of the Zambian population is below the age of 15 and there are many many orphans as a result of HIV/AIDS).

The opening of the Garden Library was colorful and full of activity. The children prepared a drama on the life of Martin Luther King based on the book Martin’s Big Words. This was followed by a teens performing traditional dances. Later another drama explained why the tortoise has a hard shell complete with paper mache props.

Jane Kinney Meyers, director and founder of the Lubuto Library Project welcomed everyone, representatives from the Ministry of Education spoke as did the U.S. Ambassador. The President of the Zambia Library Association read a letter from Ellen Tice, President of IFLA and the chair of the Zambian Board for Books for Children read a story. The celebration culminated with Kenneth Kaunda, (see picture above) the first president of Zambia leading the children and guests in singing and then spoke of the importance of reading and education for the development of the country, Interrupted once by rain, the celebration lasted well into evening.

Many people came to the opening celebration including neighborhood children pictured below - those who will use the library and those who we hope will come with their mothers and sisters and brothers.

Building Lubuto Library in Garden Compound

Many workers built the Lubuto Library including cement workers, carpenters, plasterers and thatchers. I spent many hours watching the thatchers at work and tried to capture the process in the following photos (and learning much about what works and doesn't work when uploading/sizing/placing of images):

Lubuto Library buildings under construction.

Preparing the grasses and bundling them.

Delivering bundles of grasses to the thatcher.

Thatching the roof peak.

Library roof from the inside.

I plan to spend one day a week at the library telling stories, reading picture books, perhaps a middle grade book chapter by chapter and poetry to children and their care givers. And, of course, hope to hear stories and poems in exchange.


Labor News

Check out a recent article from the Zambia Post re. working conditions in one of Zambia's coal mines.

- Bill

Thursday, November 11, 2010

November 9 2010

It is summer. I know this because the sun is hot and the flowering trees and shrubs have burst into bloom everywhere. During my first week in Lusaka I saw several flamboyant or flame trees in bloom. I thought how lovely and what a shame to have missed seeing them at their height of flowering. I thought that like many flowering trees in MN, spring was the height of flowering trees and shrubs. Then, last week, all the flame trees burst into bloom – reds and oranges filling the spaces between green leaves. It is glorious to see. I especially like the way the branches are capped by the umbrella of leaves and flowers. Since the outburst of these trees, other varieties are starting to bloom as well including the golden yellow mimosa.

Settling in takes time. We are staying at the Zebra Guest House throughout October and November. We have a living room, bedroom and bath with veranda. Lebo and Nora are next door in a large bedroom with bath. We gather around our coffee table for meals which we cook in the kitchen and then carry to our space. The four cooks of the guest house are most gracious in accommodating us using their stoves, sinks, knives and pots and pans. We are starting to share recipes and learn from each other. The Kumwendas, our hosts, are very welcoming as is all the staff. In December we will move to a house on the campus of Justo Mwale Theological University and College. This house is twice the distance from the University of Zambia as the guest house but will have more room with a large kitchen/eating area.

The Library Studies program has 600 students at the diploma and BA level and started its first graduate class last year with 6 students. I will guest lecture in several courses, still to be determined and also help develop a curriculum for school teacher librarians. November is exam month and the end of the first term. The second term begins the day after Christmas so for now I am reading, learning about the library collections to support courses as well as learning how the University is structured and operates. I am also working with the School of Education to obtain a temporary work permit and with the U.S. Embassy to obtain a temporary resident permit – all before the current visa expires in a week’s time.

Nyanja is the most common of the 72 languages spoken in Zambia so I am trying by all means to learn the greetings and simple sentences which allow me to meet people, take public transportation, and to shop at local markets. We have a tutor who is an adept and natural teacher. Today is Friday and it is now time to study for a lesson later this afternoon.

Musali bwino – stay well.


It all comes back to tomato chips for me. I saw them in the store, I crunched them in my mouth and I was back to being five again running around in front of our white house in Lesotho in my red and white checked uniform jumper. I found the chips once before, at the snack cart parked outside the MET in NY freshman year of college. I think I paid four times as much, and they were stale from transport. Here in Lusaka, they are all I could ask for. Since last Monday I have also snacked on roasted corn and Zambia’s version of fried dough, every country has one and here it is worthy of 10 cents.

We eat lots of yogurt, juice, fruit, crackers and cheese and then are more adventuresome for dinner. Last night we had a Brai (bbq) with some fellow guest house mates. We made steak and chicken and had veggies and chips and peanuts and watermelon and ice cream, topped off with some nicely chilled Mosi: “As mighty as the Mosi-oa-tunya”. That is the beer slogan in Indebele, one of the local languages, meaning “smoke that thunders” or in English, Victoria Falls.

Hoping to venture into town soon to go to the real market and get lots of fresh fruit and veggies, but transport is tricky here, especially as a newcomer. There are buses, but they run on what Wild calls a spoke and wheel system. So to go across town you take one bus into Town and then another one out of town in a different direction. Mostly people just walk places, no matter the distance, they start early and get there when they get there. For example to get to the new Library site, Nora and I walked about an hour to where we could catch a bus that reached the library in ten minutes. If we had continued walking it would have taken us another thirty on foot. There seem to be enough back roads that are less trafficked that would be bike friendly, but I am still getting used to traffic on the opposite side of the road. And anyway, we really only go a few places now and mostly it is to the Arcades where the grocery store and the internet cafĂ© are and that is only a 40 minute walk on a good non humid cloudy day when the heat doesn’t slow us down. Slowly figuring it out, one minibus, one math mix-up of thousands of Kwacha in my hand, one Nyanja jumbled Zikomo (thank-you) at a time.


Adventure City- an oasis in the midst of dusty Lusaka

Based on the Flintstones television show, Adventure City features lots of rocks and a prehistoric mood with caves and boulder bridges across the pools of water. Lebo and I discovered this waterpark on an outing with the Kondwa orphan center. Deborah and Gary, two Canadians that fund this orphan center and who we met at the Zebra Guest House, invited us along to help with the 90 children. We met the children at the center as they were sitting down to their breakfast of juice and bread. Each child waited with their arms crossed around their little bodies until everyone had been served. It was incredible to see that amount of self control. We learned that since many of these children receive breakfast and lunch at the center, their guardians don’t give them any dinner and sometimes the children don’t eat all weekend because they will have the chance for food come Monday morning.

After breakfast the children were split up into groups of 6 and I struggled to learn the names with my very basic Nyanja. We then piled into two buses and drove to Adventure City. Some of the children had never been in a vehicle, so of course they wanted to stick their heads out of the window and any other limbs they could manage, to see what it was all about.

At the park we swam or at least splashed a lot since most of the children had never been swimming. There were numerous moments of panic when I realized how lax the safety was-no lifeguards or at least ones who were paying attention- many rocks which posed dangerous threats to anyone running and jumping, which was everyone and then 90+children who had never been swimming all in the water! It was madness! We all agreed afterwards how lucky we were that none of the children drowned or even got hurt. After lunch the kids put on a Nativity pageant for us complete with Angel Gabriel and the flock of sheep. The costumes were adorable but nowhere near as cute as the kids. Santa Claus then made an appearance and brought gifts for each child, mainly consisting of new clothing.

All in all it was a good day as it should be any time you make kids smile and laugh.


First I felt the heat. It surrounded and enveloped me. My nostrils and mouth warmed as I breathed, then my lungs: A penetrating heat. I felt sweat oozing from my feet, my socks growing damp, my whole body baking under my clothes.

Next, I was conscious of how almost everyone was black, or brown. Suddenly I was conscious of my pink complexion. I felt conspicuous and uncomfortable: No way to blend into the crowd.

Welcome to Zambia! It’s a lovely place. People are friendly, hospitable. There are brilliantly flowering trees and shrubs everywhere and, a month on, the heat feels more tolerable – or perhaps temps are cooling a bit as rain begins to fall occasionally.

The day after our arrival in Lusaka, Mary and I were invited to supper by the couple who are living in the house we expect to occupy in December, Corliss and Gordy Lentz. They’re Texans. Corliss is a Fullbright Scholar who has been guest lecturing in Political Science at the University of Zambia. Gordy is a retired petroleum engineer. When it was time to go home, I called a taxi and Gordy suggested that he and I walk up to the gate of the compound to meet the driver there. When we arrived at the gate, the two security guards were just about to eat their meal which they had prepared over a burner in the small guard house. After we exchanged greetings and explained why we’d come, the men invited us to sit in their chairs beside the house, then drew up two other rickety ones for themselves. One poured water from a jug over our hands so we could wash, while the other fetched plates and began to dish food for us. Gordy and I thanked them and explained we had just finished eating. But the guards insisted we must have something. We agreed to a small serving and joined in their meal of nshima and vegetables (stiff white maize porridge and greens sauteed with onions and tomatoes). Then we sat, talking in the dark until the taxi arrived.