Tuesday, December 28, 2010

State of the Unions

Have not yet learned results of the leadership election at the Quadrennial Conference of the Zambian  Confederation of Trade Unions taking place this week.  But here's an article from The Post of Zambia reporting comments of one observer re. the state of organized labour in Zambia.
- Bill

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Munda Watu (Our Garden)

Nearing the end of an afternoon we all gathered with Mr. Phiri, our gardener, to help plant the seeds for all sorts of yummy veggies in the beautiful garden he had just tilled and mounded. Finishing well into dusk with the night settling around us we hurried to water the beds. One part of me wants the rains to come soon so that the garden can grow but another part hopes they stay away for some time yet. I’m not ready for the constant mildewy smell of all our clothes, shoes and whatnot. After Lebo’s suggestion we decided to experiment using charcoal as a way to prevent too much water runoff. When it rains here it really pours. You don’t want to be caught outside in it that’s for sure. So Lebo’s picked up a theory that the charcoal will retain more moisture in the soil by absorbing the water. We put charcoal down with the manure only on the first mound. The mound next to it has the same plants growing but no charcoal. We’re expecting that the plants in the first mound will grow better but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Library Conference in Gaborone, Botswana

19th Standing Conference of Eastern, Central, Southern Africa Library and Information Associations (SCECSAL) 2010

"Enhancing Demoncracy and Good Governance through Effective Information and Knowledge Services"

Hosted by the Botswana Library Association, 6-9 December 2010 at University of Botswana, Block 252, Multi-Disciplinary Conference Centre, Gaborone, Botswana.

Attending this conference confirms for me how knowledgeable and articulate African librarians are about the needs, realities and potential for library and information services in Africa.  Conference participants arrived from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia,Botswana and several of us from the UK and the States. There were 400 + participants, all engaged in listening, discussing, reflecting on how libraries and information services support, enhance and contribute to democratic civil societies.

The conference keynote speakers, including the Minister of Sports, Culture and Youth for Botswana, address the following themes:
  • Freedom of access to information, censorship to information, Internet monitoring and good governance and information privacy and confidentiality
  • Libraries, democratization process and promotion of sustainable good governance in Africa
  • Libraries, Human Rights, socia-economic, good governance and democracy
  • Advocacy and smart partnerships between libraries and government in national development
  • Learning organizations, democracy and good governance
  • Information and Communication Technologies(ICT'S) and good governance
  • Digital divide and achievement of democracy, E-government/e-government and libraries in Africa
  • Universal access to information and disadvantaged groups
  • Information literacy and democracy
  • Local content, knowledge management/services, and good governance.
I attended presentations, moving back and forth between the parellel sessions trying to capture the essence of each theme. Attention was given to all types of libraries but especially the role of school libraries and public libraries in making information available to students and adults.  Special attention was given in several of the papers to how best to provide access to government information and documentation. Issues of availability and access to communication technologies figured widely in the papers. Open Source software is used in several countries as one way of increasing accessibility to information. There was a lengthy discussion on the necessity and sustainability of a reading culture throughout the region. Most of the cultural groups in Southern Africa are predominantly oral cultures.  Reading as a sustained habit is not practiced by most individuals. This is a concern in relation to the growing use of ICTs - how does the role of the library change, what is the value of a book collection, how should resources be distributed - all questions we address in the U.S. but here there is a different urgency given the greater lack of resources to support libraries, literacy and technologies. Surprisingly, library education programs fared much better at this conference than they do at ALA conferences.  There is close cooperation between practicing librarians and library educators in the assessment and evaluation of curriculum; most notably, how information ethics is included in library education was the topic of several papers.  These papers instigated much discussion following their presentation.

In addition to the very lively discussions following each presentation, there were a number of vendor booths to visit. A professor from the University of Iowa MLIS program exhibited his eGranary Digital Library. He and library science students copy Web sites and deliver them to intranet Web servers inside partner institutions in developing countries. By doing this, institutions with no or poor Internet connectivity are able to access resouces quickly and without incurring bandwidth costs. The eGranary Digital Library includes books, journals, video, audio and Web sites. The "internet in a box" costs $1,500 - making this a viable way to teach searching skills as well as providing students in many disciplines access to materials.  I hope to do a presentation on the concept and technology to the LIS department - and if there is interest, start looking for funding...

There were many opportunities to socialize during tea breaks and the Cultural Evening. Participants looked forward with great eagerness to the Cultural Evening.  Each country presents songs and dances from their local tradition and in several countries, traditions.  There was a panel of judges drawn from the participants. The excitment and anticipation for the evening was high - throughout the hostels all week long I heard small groups practicing their songs. At the end of the evening, the Lesotho delegration handed over the trophy they had won at the last conference to the delegation from Swaziland amid much singing and ululation. The Zambian delegation received third place and are determined to win at the next conference in 2012 to be hosted by Kenya. The judges allowed a small interlude so that the 5 of us representing the U.K. and U.S. could present our rendition of "Abiyoyo", a story-song popularized in the U.S. by Pete Seeger. The story of a small boy and his father who save their village by destroying a monster that plagues the villagers by eating their crops and livestock, is based on folktales from many cultures in the Southern African region. A doctoral candidate at Syracuse University narrated, the U.K. participants became father and son and I, of no great dramatic ability, acted out the role of the monster.  Conference participants knew the storyline, sang along on the chorus and gave us loud clapping amid much laughter as we left the stage. 

There are many many conferences to attend.  Librarians here are good at finding funding from NGO's and other sources.  They are well educated and certainly current on issues facing libraries, information services, technologies, funding, and policy development. 


Thursday, December 16, 2010

life costs thousands of Kwacha in Lusaka

1pin= 1,000 Kwacha
4,700pin= $1

250,000 Kwacha will buy you….
The basic Nokia phone with flashlight

2pin500 and a 10minute walk will get you from our house to the arcades shopping mall in a blue and white van steamy with the bulk of 16 people, in about fifteen minutes

9pin is an hour at the Internet café if you use your own computer
11pin if you use their machine. From now on if the Internet café does not bring coffee to your table, it is not an Internet café, but more of an Internet hot spot.

3pin500 is a bottle of sparkling water SPAR brand

90pin will get you from Lusaka Intercity bus to Livingstone on the Mahzandu Family bus service, the nicest of the buses. You can also take the post bus for 70pin and it is faster and empty, but only runs twice a week when it has mail to deliver. We know this for next time.

30-40pin should get you from Arcades shopping mall in a registered cab at night to our house, provided you bargain well.

15pin is a movie ticket Mon-Thurs; it jumps to 30pin on the weekends

3pin500 will get Nora from our house to the Millennium, pronounced Merrenium bus station in town where she can then walk to the clinic for work.

2pin500 gets mom to UNZA (University of Zambia) and she has to scale the iron scaffolding/highway passover twice a day.

7pin gets you a liter of yogurt or 15pin when you need a Greek yogurt splurge.

40 minutes and at least three calf deep puddle crossings can bring Lebo and Bill to the Tiny Tim Farm if you get lucky and pick the road with the least flooding.

2hours in the boardroom at the Theological University College can upload four pictures and one video for the moowag blog page.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Moving House

The Monday after Thanksgiving we moved from the Zebra Guest House, home for two months, to Justo Mwale Theological University in Chamba Valley on the outskirts of Lusaka. We left the Kumweda's and the guest house staff who all were very very generous and welcoming. We miss them.  Zikomo kwambili!

The new house on an academic campus is also a guest house.  Our neighbors are faculty, staff and students lecturing and studying theology, preparing for ministry in various churches. It is a term break so the campus is quiet with only faculty and their families in residence.  There are several other families like ourselves - renting houses while working outside the university. Our new address where we can receive mail is:

            Justo Mwale Theological University College
            Plot 19, Munali Road, Chamba Valley
            P.O. Box 310199
            Lusaka 15301
The photos can't tell all the stories taking place in these spaces but hopefully do give a glimpse of  the places we consider home.

Zebra Guest House - Bill and Mary
Zebra Guest House - Lebo and Nora

Justo Mwale DRC Guest House

with ripening mangoes at both front and back doors

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

From Where We Are

Here is a better idea of where we are on the map. The dark brown on the map of Africa is us and we are living now In Lusaka. Chamba Valley to be exact if you want to check google maps.

Here are some pictures of the new house, Dad when the power goes out, and Nora at breakfast in the guest house.

Also a video of some great dancing and music we have been hearing and seeing can be found if you go here. Hopefully we will have a house tour up real soon!


Sunday, December 5, 2010

How it looks

          The earth is sandy and pink or orange in color, depending on the light. Grass grows beside roads, on the boulevards and centers of roundabouts, and in the walled yards of wealthier people. But under trees and in the shade of shrubbery, the soil is bare. The sky, during the dry season when we arrived, was a cloudless pale blue. Now, most days, clouds pass over, sometimes white, puffy ones or mackerel clouds; other times solid gray banks which usually bring rain. Towering walls of cumulus clouds are especially beautiful when the setting sun shines on them.

          It can be hard to find a place to see the clouds or much of the sky, though. Trees and bushes grow everywhere. I don’t know the names of most, but recognize the flame trees from their brilliant flowers and the mangoes laden with still green fruit. The grounds of Justo Mwale Theological University College, where our house is, are a park-like campus, with much grass and many trees and bushes.

          Lusaka is a city so there are many streets and roads. The main ones, like Great East Road, Church Road and Cairo Road, are four or six lane thoroughfares, sometimes with boulevards or dividers down the center. In some places, access or “slip” roads run along one side or another of the main road. Deep drainage ditches run beside nearly all streets (a clue to the volume of rain in the coming rainy season). Except in the very center of town or in front of shopping malls, dirt and gravel shoulders serve as sidewalks. Stoplights are rare; roundabouts are the rule for major intersections. Often they will have a statue or monument at the center, surrounded by well tended lawns and flower beds. There, are few street-name or directional signs but numerous billboards, some of them massive structures supported on steel posts 2 or 3 feet in diameter. Cell phone service providers, banks, car dealers and building supply companies  dominate the ad space.

          Traffic is dense, and crowds of pedestrians move up and down on the shoulders and sidewalks, dodging vehicles to cross the road. At intersections, women sit on the ground selling bananas, tomatoes, onions, rape and other fruits and vegetables. Shoe and bicycle repair men ply their trade at roadside benches and tables, and sewer cleaners sit at the ready beside their signature teepees of roto-rooter rods topped with rubber gloves.  Vendors stroll through traffic jams, hawking newspapers, talk-time, hats, toys and other wares to passengers in buses and private vehicles. Women in yellow lab coats, stoop with their stubby brooms, sweeping trash from the medians and boulevards.

          Side streets are generally less well maintained than the thoroughfares. Few are paved, and, if they are, the pavement often is crumbling along the edges. There are stretches where large trees line the street, providing welcome shade for pedestrians – everywhere people are walking. But the main feature of the landscape are the walls that line both sides of the road, except in the very poor compounds (townships). In the wealthy and middle class neighborhoods, people live behind 8-10 foot walls, generally of concrete block topped with glass shards or razor wire or electrified wire. Often they’re painted – white or green or pink – or decorated with patterns or stonework. Sometimes a line of shrubs runs in front. But, basically – aside from your fellow pedestrians – there’s not much to see as you walk down a street, just the road ahead, the sky above, trees and shrubs, the roofs of houses . . . and the walls. Each plot (lot) does have a gate, often staffed by a uniformed security guard, so if the gate is open, you can get a glimpse of what’s behind the walls. But the only place I found a good view of the neighborhood is from atop the pedestrian flyover that crosses the Great East Road by the University of Zambia campus. From there you can overlook some of the very nice houses, yards, gardens – even some swimming pools – that the walls conceal. You can also see the taller buildings in (down) town.

          Many Lusaka drivers like to go very fast. This usually isn’t possible on the crowded main streets, but drivers make up for lost time on the side streets. Residential streets and some others are littered with large traffic bumps and potholes, but drivers often accelerate wildly between them, braking hard just before the next bump or crater. Walking and biking along the streets can be very hazardous, more particularly for those who are used to a right- as opposed to left-side driving system. I’ve lost count of times I’ve nearly or actually stepped in front of approaching vehicles, after looking left instead of right. Lebo gets very nervous walking with me. So far, I’ve only been nudged by a slow-moving mini bus. My constant mantra is, “Look BOTH ways: Right, left and Right again!”

          Now that we’ve moved to Justo Mwale, we’re out on the edge of the city and the view isn’t so closed in. You pass a few farms and orchards and houses without surrounding walls. The dusty washboard gravel road heads downhill past the college, and, off in the distance, you can see a tree-covered line of hills. We are about 3 miles from the University of Lusaka main campus and 4 or 5 miles from Arcades Mall. The bus stop is about a mile from our house.

          The campus itself is large and well maintained. It seems to be roughly three or four blocks square, surrounded by a concrete block wall. Two security guards staff the front gate, day and night and patrol the grounds at night. Most of the buildings are fairly new, particularly the classroom block and a conference center. A new church of modern design is under construction.

          Our house, the DRC Guest House (DRC stands for Dutch Reformed Church, but Mrs. Kumwenda says it was actually paid for by U.S. Presbyterians), is maybe twenty years old, built of concrete block, with a tin roof, well-waxed concrete floors and lots of metal-framed windows that swing open and are fitted with burglar bars. There are screens on some of the windows, and loose-fitting ones on the doors, back and front. (We take the precaution of sleeping under mosquito nets, though many people say that malaria-bearing mosquitoes don't fly as high as Lusaka's 4,200 ft. elevation.)

          The exterior of the house is dark gray stucco with white trim. We have two full-size bedrooms, two smaller rooms, a living room, kitchen and bathroom – all on one floor.  The inside walls are smooth concrete painted yellow halfway up, then white. The cove moldings and fibreboard ceiling are also white. The ceilings in the kitchen and small adjoining room that Lebo has taken for her bedroom slope toward the rear of the house.  In each room, high up on an outside wall are one or two small ventilation grates. Outside, to the left of the house (looking out) is a mango tree. Step out the front door onto a stone patio, and, to your right, under the living room window, you’ll see a flower bed crowed with tall, gloriously pink Impatiens. A tin-roofed stoep extends along the back, then bare dirt up to the neighbor’s wall. A wall also runs not far from the left side of the house, so we can’t see our neighbors behind or to the left. Happily, there are no walls out front or on the right so we can sit on the patio and look out on the grass and trees of the campus and the ever busy playground across the driveway.

          Speaking of the neighbors, we’ve met a few (It’s so private here, compared with the guest house, where we were constantly interacting with staff and other guests). Behind and to the right, as you look at the house, are Dustin, an American Presbyterian minister and New Testament scholar, his wife Sherry and their two boys, recently arrived here from Cairo where he taught the past 5 years.  Next door is Dr. Banda, the Academic Dean, and up the hill behind the conference center are Mennonite volunteers Jonathan and Cynthia and their two boys. Nice folks all. It’s the between-terms holiday, so students and their families and some faculty are gone. People say the campus is more lively when classes are in session.

           So that’s a sketch of where we live. I’ve not said much about the people who are, of course, the main feature of this – or any – place. That would be a whole other entry. Suffice it for now to say there are lots of them, and that, by and large, they are young. I think something like half the population of Zambia is 15 years old or younger – but don’t quote me on that (a national census is just winding up and preliminary findings are expected to be published in the next few months.). Lusaka’s a big city, so people go about their own business and don’t greet everyone they pass, as seemed to be common in rural Lesotho when we lived there. But we do meet plenty of friendly people who will start up a conversation on the bus or in a shop or along the road. The owners and staff at Zebra Guest House were very welcoming and kind to us, and a few have already come to visit us at our new lodgings.

          But let me conclude with the observation that, everywhere you look or go here, people are working: Digging deep ditches and holes in the intense heat, offloading cement sacks from trailer beds, tilling fields with mattocks,  cracking rocks into gravel with hand mallets, cutting acres of grass with weed whips and electric mowers, washing clothes by hand, scrubbing and waxing floors, erecting iron, laying block and pushing hod in wheelbarrows, tiling roofs, pulling wire, plastering, painting, setting floor tile,  repairing and washing vehicles, driving trucks, buses and taxis, selling fruit, vegetables and talk-time, caring for children, teaching . . .  and everywhere, always sweeping, sweeping, sweeping.

- Bill 

Friday, December 3, 2010


Lebo and I made 4 pumpkin pies to share with the Zebra Guest House staff.  After pie we ate roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, beans and more pie.  Unfortunately for Nora, there were no cranberries but there was stuffing.