Amsterdam, August 30, 2013
I am on my way to Lusaka, Zambia to conduct 8 days of business management training to owners and staff of private medical training institutions. I won’t bore you with the stress and hysteria of creating these materials on topics I know nothing about (thank goodness for subject matter experts Katie and Piotr).
Just let me tell you about my days of travel.
My flight left at 6:45 p.m. from Madison on August 29th. In the shared taxi ride to the airport, I spoke with a woman who has not needed to have her own car for the past two years. There are loaner cars parked throughout the city that you can schedule to use. The organization takes care of gas, insurance and maintenance. The price is $10/hour. I think that is wonderful!
Checking in at the Delta kiosk in the Madison airport went fine. I even got a chance to change my seat on the flight from Detroit to Amsterdam, because I wasn’t on the aisle, which I prefer.
I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Delta doesn’t charge for the first two bags. Given that I had just spent $1200 to send two boxes of training materials that could have fit into a large bag, that was a rude awakening. Next time, we’ll know better.
When we landed in Detroit, I needed to reset my digital watch to EDT. I absolutely could not figure it out. I worked on it for a good 20 minutes (I was in the back of the plane) and my seatmate worked on it for the same length of time. He was just as unsuccessful and I was. But he gave me stellar advice. He told me to find a teenager.
When I was waiting for my carryon luggage, I asked a young man who reset it in 3 minutes and showed me how to do it!
I discovered that my departure gate was completely across on the other side of the airport. In order to have an aisle seat, I had to select one at the very very back of the plane right opposite the toilet. I found out, however, that although I had selected an aisle seat, that is not what my new ticket was for. Luckily, the young woman sitting there was willing to move over.
What I learned on the flight that might be useful for anyone planning such a transatlantic trip:
After you select your language on the personal TV, you can’t do anything else by touching the screen. You need to use the remote.
Trying to edit and create documents on a laptop in flight in cramped quarters is difficult for many reasons, not the least includes having to keep my right arm next to my side and dealing with lots of bumps.
I worked on the materials for Zambia, I worked on a proposal that needed to go out on the 30th, I fiddled unsuccessfully with trying to watch a movie- the stewardess finally had to reset my TV from the front of the plane, whatever that meant). When dinner was served at 9 p.m., that was my second meal of the day, so I was ravenous. Not typically a messy eater, I dropped something with cream sauce on my clothing.
When we arrived
At the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, I had to get a transfer for my flight to Lusaka the next day. Then I went to baggage to get my luggage, because I had been told I had to pick it up and bring it through customs. The last time I went through Amsterdam and had to change planes I did NOT pick up my luggage, so went without anything for my first three days in Jordan. You can bet I wasn’t going to let that happen this time.
However, my bright pink (can’t miss it) suitcase never came. So, I had to find a KLM/Delta customer service center, where I was informed that my luggage was already stored to go to Lusaka with me the following morning.
That was fine, except for the fact that I had been planning to take out clothing and toiletries for my hotel stay…
My next challenge was to purchase a ticket for a train to the City Center, which is where my hotel is located. I tried to do it at a kiosk, but was unsuccessful. Then I met a young college student from Vermont who was having the same difficulty. She thought we might be able to get on the train without a ticket, so I followed her down to the tracks. Feeling nervous about this, I located a conductor, who assured me we needed tickets.
So, we went back up into the airport and finally located actual people who could sell us the tickets. When I tried to pay with my Visa, she told me it wasn’t acceptable because it didn’t have a “chip.” Luckily, I had some Euros from my last trip, so tickets purchased, we both went back to a different platform and got on the train. OF COURSE NO ONE ASKED FOR OUR TICKETS…
City Center is enormous and when I walked out the door (to a balmy 75 F day at noon) I had absolutely no idea where to start walking to get to my hotel. I discovered a tourist information center, had to wait my turn, and learned that my hotel was very close.
Let me tell you. The architecture of the station and the buildings is absolutely beautiful, with different colored bricks and stone- and there is a two-way bicycle lane on the streets. There were bicycles everywhere, being ridden by young and old alike in every kind of attire, from business suits to casual wear. And no one wears a helmet, not even the children.
I had to walk maybe four blocks to find my hotel, the Convent Hotel (no habit required. I know, bad pun but I’m very jetlagged so you’ll have to forgive me). The first thing I noticed was that they had ice water, with lime, with lemon, with mint leaves available at the check in counter, as well as my favorite apples, granny smith. How gracious!
My room is a tiny postage stamp, but clean and complete with everything one might need- including a bathrobe, since, as mentioned before, I wasn’t able to pull anything from my suitcase.
I had a banana and a small breakfast sandwich on the plane at 9 this morning and now it is 10:30 p.m. and I’ve decided to just eat some fruit and granola bars for my dinner. Tomorrow they serve a huge breakfast, which is part of my reservation. I’ll have to get up at 6 a.m. and get the train back to the airport by 7 am., so I can check in 2 hours ahead of time. My flight to Lusaka leaves at 10 a.m. and will arrive in Lusaka at 11 p.m.
I really wish I had been able to sleep on the plane coming here, because Amsterdam is beautiful. It would be fun to go to museums, walk the shops and neighborhoods, see more of the culture and the people. That will have to be left to another day.
So, welcome on my journey to Zambia. My next missive will be from Lusaka.
Amsterdam Airport, August 31
Hello. So much to tell you before I get on the plane.
First of all, yesterday the young woman from Vermont who was my fellow traveler on the train told me about Air B&B when I asked her where she was staying. Apparently, people open up their homes, with couches, cots or the floor. So that was where she was staying. Fascinating.
On my way from the Tourist Center to the hotel, a man streaked by- completely painted hot pink, with black shorts and a black bra drawn on his chest, plus makeup on his face. Unexpected, to say the least.
This morning at breakfast, I met Kathleen Walsh, who is an artist/psychologist now located in Virginia. She is traveling to Lusaka to see her husband. Get this. There is such a shortage of diplomats, her husband, who retired from the diplomatic service, is now taking assignments. They have lived all over the place.
Although she no longer practices psychology, she is still very interested- particularly in the focus on wellness and optimism instead of the traditional focus on dysfunction. She is planning to sit in on some lectures on the topic in Lusaka.
Breakfast was lovely, with lots of fruit, including apricots, my favorite! Yogurt, fruit, nuts, lovely pastries with chocolate filling. Very nice. I took two apricots with me. We’ll see how well they fare in my purse.
She told me about a country called Burkina Faso, which is near Mali and the Sahara Desert. The women weave cloth from cotton and then dye it with indigo. The actual patterns tell stories! Kathleen was particularly taken with one cloth and was told that if a woman wore it past a neighbor’s house, it would mean that I’m sorry we had a disagreement and I’m ready to move on. Isn’t life fascinating?
I took photos of buildings, bicycles, the canal, as I walked to the train station, which was a straight shot from my hotel. 5 minutes, max.
On the train, I met three British women who were a stitch. When I asked about baby George, they said “WHO?” They are still not over Diana and feel she was the only interesting royal.
In no particular order:
They love their royalty, who do a lot of diplomatic work that no one sees. They also love the pomp and circumstance.
Fergie and Prince Andrew are dating again, after living in separate quarters in the same house all this time.
They are very understanding about Charles and Camilla, saying that they have been in love all their lives, but the very traditional advisors around the Queen refused to allow Charles to marry someone with a past.
They felt very badly about Diana, that she was chosen because she was a virgin, and used very badly.
They think that something intentional happened in that Paris tunnel that resulted in her death.
They also said that ginger-haired Harry doesn’t look like his father at all, but instead favors a military aide who taught Diana riding- and whose family she visited in Wales…
The train is very clean and comfortable, by the way. So are the stations. So, the ride was very pleasant. I’m so proud of myself for taking the train, getting on the correct train, getting where I needed to go on time. Yeah for me! And no one asked for the ticket this time, either. I wonder if everyone is on the honor system or what.
Because Kathleen told me that she had been advised KLM would only allow 20 lbs. for carry on, I worried about mine. I remembered being scolded by a young KLM attendant full of his own power when I was last in Amsterdam going to Nigeria. When I told him, because of my surgery, I could not lift my carry on onto the conveyor belt, he lectured that if I couldn’t lift it, it wasn’t carry on- holding up the entire line. I was furious!
So, with that fresh in my memory, I stopped to see about buying another bag I could use for my meds and laptop and assorted laptop items. The very kind woman in the store had this little gizmo with a hook that she could hang my bag from to weigh it. She said it was just a pound over, so I thought I could, if necessary, put something into my handbag.
As it was, absolutely no one weighed anything or cared at all. Isn’t that always the way?
I raced through the huge airport terminal to get to Gate D47 for boarding two hours early, which I had been advised was necessary. Nope, no one there for a good hour and a half… I found a rest room and splashed cold water on my face for a while.
There I met a young woman from I can’t remember where in the States, who was returning after spending time in Uganda working with children. I didn’t think to ask if it was a college trip or a church trip.
Are you getting the idea that I should stop listening to whomever is advising me???
Lusaka, September 1, 2013
Hello. I am in Lusaka, it is a gorgeous sunny day and all is well in my world. I’ve had a good night’s sleep and a short nap. I can’t say that I’m raring to go, but I’ll fake it just fine.
Let’s talk about the flight from Amsterdam to Lusaka. As we were queuing up to get on board, there was a woman in front of me pushing a tiny tot in a stroller and carrying three large bags. We chatted and I offered to hold the baby while she arranged for the stroller to be loaded, etc. So, I did that. We ended up seated in the same row and I took on the role of mother’s helper for all 12 hours on the plane.
The kindly stewardess moved the sweet man sitting between us to a different row, so we had three seats (these were small rows).
Little Anna is a typical 1 ½ year old, beautiful little girl with a mind of her own. And her choice was to walk, not sit in a special seat belt attached to her pregnant mother. So, she wiggled and threw herself around and screamed. A lot. I spent a lot of time throwing her up in the air, swinging her around, holding her upside down, playing with her, anything to keep her distracted so her poor mother could get a bite, go to the restroom, just get a breather. Luckily, she was often very easy to distract and she responded with a beautiful smile.
Talk about it taking a village to raise a child. People up and down the aisle were happy to flirt and play with her as she toddled along- not too far away from her mother but far enough. The stewardesses took her, crooning to her in German. She smiled and loved up everyone.
She ate anything offered to her, most of her mother’s food, some of mine. Wielded a large fork and managed to get pasta salad into her mouth, as well as all over herself, her mother and the seat.
Anna slept only 2 ½ hours of the entire trip.
So, by the time we got to Lusaka, I was both tired and physically exhausted. My choice, I know.
What was absolutely amazing was to watch little Anna work a computer tablet, finding her programs, changing them, and turning things on and off. Talk about children born with a technological gene.
I had a long chat (of course) with her mother, although we never exchanged names. Isn’t that funny? Her mother is Zambian, now living in the Netherlands and taking Anna home to visit her family. She has a 13 year old and another child due in February. She originally worked for the Zambian government as a hospital inspector, with a nursing background.
Since I just finished creating a 22-module mini Health MBA program for small hospitals and clinics, this was quite coincidental.
Just before we landed in Harare (and again just before we landed in Lusaka) the stewardess explained that she was required by those cities to spray a disinfectant throughout the plane. I never got a chance to ask her why.
We had an hour stop in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, to refuel and clean the plane and take on new passengers after others deplaned. We had to stay on the plane. A little girl, probably 7 or 8, dressed in a beautiful bright yellow party dress with lovely brown embroidered decorative openings on the bottom of her skirt and an embroidered bolo top over it, wearing white party shoes, came on board. She was seated across from us (so only a few rows away from where the stewardesses stayed. She was traveling alone- to LONDON!!!
She had nothing to play with or read, all she asked was how to find Marvin Gaye music on the tv/audio remote and she sang along happily- at least from Harare to Lusaka. Imagine a child traveling that distance, changing planes several times, all alone. The stewardess assured us that she would be helped along the way and monitored carefully. However, as we descended into Lusaka, I had to tell her to put her seat belt on.
She had assistance from the sweet man who had originally been seated in our row, so I didn’t feel that I had to offer to help her carry anything off the plane.
Oh, I almost forgot. It was fun to watch her, and then other Zambian mothers, bend over, lay their babies on their backs, then wrap them with a colorful cloth, tie it either under their chin or both under their chin and at their waist, and carry the children off the plane in that fashion. Anna slept through the entire thing (I guess by that time she was also beyond tired).
Two surprising things I discovered as we deplaned outside the airport:
First, the air was cool and dry. Probably 65-70 degrees F. Second, the air was full of wood smoke, and so was the airport.
Once in Lusaka airport, the line for customs was not very long. I think it may have taken us 40 minutes or so. I didn’t pay attention, because I was chatting with three folks from California who had sponsored a school to be constructed two hours outside of Lusaka and had come for the opening ceremonies.
I had no trouble finding my bright pink (!) suitcase and, outside, a sign for the Taj Pamodzi hotel where I located my driver and two other women going to the hotel.
Kia is from Connecticut and had only learned that Tuesday that she would be going back to Lusaka for fieldwork. Sharon was working with Columbia University, also doing fieldwork. They told me what for, but I’m foggy on that now. By the time we got to the hotel, it was past midnight.
What I do remember is Sharon mentioning that the Zambian government tripled their salaries recently, which is why it is so difficult for private organizations to keep their professional staff. I can see that advising the owners of the private medical training institutions simply to raise their salaries and benefits may not be the most realistic suggestion.
When I gave my Citi Visa card to pay for the hotel, it was denied. I didn’t discover until I went on line that they had frozen it because of “suspicious activity.” Of course, when it was denied in Amsterdam when I tried to purchase a train ticket. I had called them before I left and asked them to note that I was traveling, so this wouldn’t happen (it had happened during my trip to Nigeria last year and took forever to work out, because the only way to do it is to CALL them). I’ll try to do it on Skype later. Luckily, I had also told my credit union that I was traveling, and they had clearly noted it in their records, because I was able to use that card.
I got to my room at 1:15, exhausted but also very hungry. When I went to use the phone, it didn’t work. I considered just eating an apple I had taken from the hotel at breakfast, but then realized that I would want to contact housekeeping the next morning to ask for an ironing board and an iron. So back downstairs I went, spoke to a manager, who eventually came back up with me so he could move me to another room next to mine. He checked that phone and said it worked. So, I picked it up and heard the same buzz I had heard on my phone. Apparently, the buttons at the top of the phone- for reception, room service, wake up call, housekeeping, etc. don’t work. You have to dial numbers instead.
But he asked if I would like to move to the other room because it had a nicer view (as well as three pieces of fresh fruit and a live rose bud in a vase). So, he moved me- and he was right. I look out over the pool area and can see trees everywhere, including purple jacarandas.
For those of you who are wondering, if any of you are wondering, I did not order anything from room service. First, most of the food was pretty exotic so I had no idea how I would like it. Second, I could eat the fruit, which was just enough.
I had a good sleep, got up to go down to breakfast. It was sufficient for me, but a far cry from the opulent breakfasts I’ve enjoyed on other trips.
So, you are now up to speed with me. It is 1:45 p.m. and I’ll be meeting Vivian and John at 2:30 in the lobby to chat and then go over to the venue to set up.
Lusaka, September 2, 2013
Hello. John and Vivian were an hour late, but once they arrived we had a good chat. They’re very nice people. I did discover that they had been unable to purchase anything on my wish list- and had not told me- because, if they had, I would have brought the items with me.
My cultural assumptions were completely in error. In Jordan, they were able to provide index cards and Mr. Sketch fragrant flip chart markers without any difficulty. Not so and not available in Zambia. John asked me what M& M’s stood for. They have nothing like it there. They have McDonalds and Burger King and Subway, etc. But it looks like American candies have not entered their market.
This leaves it up to Vivian to find round or oblong candies to fill a glass jar for our class tomorrow. I’ll be breaking the group up into different types of management decision-making styles (expertise, authority, authority after a group discussion, majority, collaboration, etc.) and have them guess how many candies are in the jar. The incentive is that the group that guesses closest to the actual number will get the jar.
One glitch came, not because of them in any way. Abe at Banyan Global had sent me a pdf of a medix insurance card with the charge to print it and keep it with me at all times. Well, the business office here in the hotel was unable to do that. John had to take it home and use an older computer in order to print it out. So, I have it now.
We went to the hotel, which had set up the room exactly as my layout design requested. That may be a first in my years of training! The challenge was needing an extension cord that was 10 or more feet long to reach my computer. We managed that the next day using three extension cords with plugins, so I had to avoid tripping over the cables and the plug in boxes!
The next morning, which was breezy and cool (!), John and Vivian picked me up at 7 to go to the hotel. We set up- and then I discovered to my chagrin that, although my two adapters look exactly alike, one allowed me to plug in my computer but the other had no place for me to plug in my iPod player. The hotel didn’t have one for us, but I recalled that I had another adapter that I got when I was in Jordan that could probably work. Unfortunately, we discovered the problem at 7:50, the other adapter was in my hotel room 15 minutes away, and the class was scheduled to start at 8.
Well, we might as well have gone to get it and then gone for a long walk, because we didn’t start the class (half full) until 9:45. I’ve had groups start a half hour late, but never an hour and a half late. Good grief!
Exactly when the training began, someone started with a whining saw outside, which went on the rest of the day. With that noise, plus the noise of the ventilator, plus the very very very soft spoken and deeply accented communication from the participants- I spent the day trying, through humor, to get them to PROJECT! It was really a losing battle. I learned to simply nod my head when someone spoke, because quite often I had no idea what was said.
The group of 15 was comprised of private medical training institution (PMTI) management and a few owners. We actually had 16 at the end of the day (1 person came in during the last hour…)
The training went very well. We began with a cautionary tale of a PMTI that was closed, due to actions and inactions of the owners. The group analyzed it very deeply, I was quite impressed. Then they identified their challenges and created an affinity chart. Their challenges are significant: lack of financing, students can’t afford to pay and the government doesn’t provide financial aid, high costs of associating with hospitals for clinical practice, overcrowding, inability to find permanent qualified staff (the government pays triple what the PMTIs are paying right now), lack of textbooks for students, etc., etc.
What occurred to me was that, if they organized, they could negotiate lower prices for the clinical placements, lobby the government to extend student aid to private school students, reach out to sister schools in the US for their discarded textbooks, and more. And apparently, that is exactly what they are doing.
The best comment on an evaluation was: “Today has been one of my best moments in running my school. The information learnt shall help me climb Mount Everest.”
Prior to class, I had a long conversation with Yusuf, who was fascinating. It is a fact that their doctors leave for greener pastures (better salaries, better equipped hospitals) in South Africa or Europe. He said that, rather considering this a brain drain, he looks at it more positively as Zambia exporting labor. The rub is that Zambia isn’t getting anything in return.
He wants to persuade the doctors to purchase a home in Zambia before they leave. At that time, they are thinking that they are only leaving to work for a number of years. So, they would be very open to the idea.
But once they get to their new location, eventually they will want to purchase a house. And your home is where your house is. His thought is that, when they are ready to buy a house, they will remember that they already have one in Zambia and come back.
His other strategy (and he is working on both through different associations) is to create health care insurance at the private level- with the thought that, once it is piloted and successful, the government will nationalize it. This insurance would benefit the hospitals and doctors, because they would know they would be paid for their services. It would benefit the people, because they would go to the doctor when they first felt ill, soon enough to be treated for malaria, etc. The money could go into building the hospitals’ infrastructures and paying better salaries. That will entice doctors to stay in the country.
Yusef also told me something that John reiterated in a different conversation earlier. When I told him that the only other place in Africa that I’ve visited is Nigeria, he laughed and said I had gone from one extreme to the other. Zambians are very laid back, quiet, docile and follow the rules. Nigerians are very aggressive and live in disorganized chaos, because they don’t follow the rules. Hmm…
Yusuf’s wife works for the UN, so they are separated for long periods of time. He says they get together for what becomes a default vacation. Then he laughed, saying that he had never imagined vacationing in Liberia or in Fiji, or any of the other places his wife is stationed.
Tomorrow, the same people will be in attendance, with a few new folks. We’ll be focusing on strengthening their business management skills. This will include looking at different personality types, decision-making styles, and time management. It should be a fun day. It will also be one of the last sessions where I’ll actually know what I’m talking about. The classes on Wednesday and Thursday relate to budgeting and financial management!
On an entirely random note, the bottom of the tree trunks along the roads are painted white. The paint washes off with the rain, which will come in November. The reason for the paint? John thinks that it provides a road marker at night since they don’t have street lights. It’s a very practical solution, don’t you think?
Well, that’s definitely enough for today.
More on my Zambian adventure tomorrow.
Lusaka, September 3, 2013
Hello. This morning I left my key in my room, so had to ask for another one. Then went to wait outside for my pick up, only to discover that there was a stiff breeze and it was 60 degrees! This is unusually cold for them this time of year. I complained that I thought I was back in Wisconsin (not sharing the fact that we’ve had such terribly hot and humid days recently).
I think that John and Vivian were so concerned about picking me up on time (for today, 7:15) that they got here early and parked in the parking lot. The reason I know this is that I could watch the entrance and saw their car come from the lot.
The first thing I wanted to know was whether or not Vivian had found candy for the glass jar. Yes, she had- candy that looked exactly like regular M & M’s. She told me that there were 1008 in the jar! I learned later that she had her two daughters count them. And I had thought counting 568 peanut M&M’s was tedious!!
When we got to the training site, instead of saws whining, we heard a rooster crowing!
While setting up the room, I spoke at length with Vivian. She had been exhausted the day before- and she explained why. Apparently, one of her nieces is getting married. So more than 20 women from her family congregated at Vivian’s home to cook their traditional family foods over open fires for over 12 hours straight. All of this food was then delivered to the potential groom’s family for their celebration. Vivian’s family was not involved at all in the party. They will have their own in a few weeks’ time- and Vivian said that they were going to have that one catered!
I asked her what people do for recreation. The answer is- nothing. Most have to work at least two jobs. She and John have a farm where they raise chickens, in addition to both of their jobs. She has four employees to handle the farm activities during the week, then goes to the farm on the weekends to work with the chickens.
As for teenagers, she bemoans the fact that they spend all of their free time on Facebook or watching movies on their computers. She said that they were becoming very lazy.
This was the second day of training: Strengthening Business Management Skills. I decided that I would start the class as soon as I had five people in the room. By 8:15, I had my quorum and began. More came in before 9 and a few came after 10. I’m going to continue with that policy.
At noon, a few participants left. Devout Catholics, they were going to attend the funeral of the Zambian Cardinal.
The issue of funerals came up again when John took me to a travel agent to
finalize arrangements for my travel to Livingston to see Victoria Falls over the weekend. Despite the fact that: (1) I am an international client; (2) we have communicated a number of times over the past two weeks; (3) I was paying a lot of money for the travel package; (4) she knew I would be coming between 1 and 1:30 p.m.; and (5) John had confirmed with her on the phone that morning that we were coming- she wasn’t there when we got there. Not only that, she had left no instructions, no paperwork, and no information with anyone else in the office. She, too, had simply left to go to the funeral.
I wasn’t happy and John said that this lack of commitment to a job or to customers was very prevalent in Zambia, to his chagrin.
He also spoke about the fact that people in Zambia consider even extended family members as dear as their parents and siblings. So, when someone in the extended family dies, everyone comes- and there might be over 2000 people in a funeral procession. He said that people leave work to go to a funeral and walk to the gravesite in the heat, are gone 5-6 hours, and then return to work too exhausted to do anything but go home. As a result, an entire workday is lost.
The day went quickly and the evaluations were again very positive. Each day, more people are coming. Tomorrow, we may have 25 or more for the Budget Management session. So, the word is spreading and owners and managers are sending more of their staff.
Vivian told me that most of the business owners are family- either brothers, husband and wife, or mother and son. She pointed out the relationships among the participants.
I’m tired, so I’m not going to be very chatty this evening. I do want to tell you something a woman said yesterday. When I asked where the female participants were, since they had not returned to class after a break, I was informed that they were “washing their feet.” I thought that this was some ritual, until they explained that it was a euphemism for going to the rest room.
Lusaka, September 4, 2013
On the way to the training site, we sat in stalled traffic while the Vice President of Zambia, who is white, drove by. I can’t remember his name, but I think he may be the only white Vice President in all of the African countries. He is appointed by the President (although there is a move afoot to have him be a running partner in future elections). He has been in office for two years, ever since the new administration came into power. The president is limited to serving 2 5-year terms. This VP goes all over the country, visiting villages. He is a strong proponent of women’s issues and programs for the disadvantaged.
Today’s session: Budget Management, was rocky. It’s hard to teach something you yourself don’t really understand. I relied completely on the facilitator manual. Thank goodness we were thorough when we drafted it!
I began the session with a quorum of 8 people. Very early in the session, the participants were paired up to analyze an operating budget and answer questions. The questions were very simple and it was supposed to be a ten-minute activity. It ended up taking an hour.
First, the manual was not printed back to back, so the pagination was off and participants couldn’t see the page numbers on every other page. Second, neither John, Vivian nor I had caught it- but the budget the participants were supposed to analyze was covered with xxs all over the numbers. Something had happened when the materials were converted from word to pdf. I had to tell people what the numbers were.
Third, people strolled in for the next hour. So other participants kept having to explain everything. God, it was a mess.
Fourth, there was confusion for some over the fact that we used both “income” and “revenue” interchangeably. There was a major snafu: When we got to the point where the table groups were supposed to make budget projections and place their calculations into an operational budget template, it turned out that a number of our calculations on the answer key up on a PowerPoint slide were incorrect. A bit embarrassing, to say the least, but they took it in good stride. They still really appreciated the activity. We had a long discussion what these private medical training institutions can do to get students to pay their tuition on time. Ideas broached and currently implemented by some: use a debt collector, refuse to let the students take exams unless they pay, have written payment plans and give people a few days deadline to pay before they will be asked to leave, etc.) It’s a terrible problem for these institutions.
The last activity of the day was on calculating the cost of training one medical student. There were three steps the groups had to take. After over an hour working on step 1, with an accountant (or two) at each table, the groups only got halfway through that step.
Rather than having the groups report their conclusions for discussion, then moving on to the next step and repeating the process- we had to talk them through the entire thing.
Actually, my colleague John did that. It was an enormous amount of lecture and I got a headache, even though he was working through materials I developed!
Apparently, even though I was uncomfortable with how the session went, they liked it and gave it high ratings.
Some comments: “more of such workshops are important as they highlight the key issue that we at times consider irrelevant.”
”The accounting figure, though not balanced, the principle was nice. Very good and good luck.”
“The workshop should be conducted at least twice a year.” ”Has been hard, but I have taken something of use and beneficial. I’ll apply: controlling expenses and involving staff in budget making. I would attend such meetings regularly.” ”It has been a worthwhile day- budgeting sessions. Especially will apply the operational budget.” A number of folks suggested that more time was needed. Yup. We could easily use another day on the topic.
That’s all for now. I need to prepare for Module 4: Financial Management. Wish me luck!
Lusaka, September 5, 2013
I forgot to tell you about lunch yesterday. I had quail for the first time and it was absolutely delicious!
My other choices included braised oxtail and bream (a fish, white meat, a trillion bones, complete with head).
I’m actually eating very well at lunch- some chicken, seasonable vegetables, fried rice on Tuesday. Quail, curried potatoes, seasonal vegetables and salad on Wednesday. We eat out on the patio, with a lovely breeze.
Today, Financial Management, went very well. As a matter of fact, we ended at 3:30 instead of 5 p.m. So, I’m thinking that I’ll move a complicated costing exercise from Module 3 to Module 4. That will address the stated desire and need for more time on the other content in Module 3.
Vivian and I had a long chat at lunch. She is the youngest of 8 children and grew up on a farm where she worked in the field growing and harvesting maize and carried water on her head.
Four of her siblings died of HIV Aids, leaving 13, 10, 7 and 4 children respectively. Vivian has assumed responsibility for any of the children who want to go to school, paying their tuition directly to the schools.
Here are other snippets from our conversation:
In Zambia, the wedding, the bridal shower and the wedding reception are all held on the same day. The gifts given in the bridal shower are all for the kitchen and may include a $2000 refrigerator! I told Vivian about wedding registers at stores- and that I’ve never seen a requested item of that size on those!
The bride’s family pays for what she needs for the wedding, but the groom’s family pays for the wedding itself.
Pre-marital sex and cohabitation is not culturally acceptable. As a matter of fact, if an unmarried girl gets pregnant, her parents can sue the father.
Vivian is very unhappy about her niece’s wedding. Since she is her late sister’s daughter, Vivian feels responsible for her. Apparently, the girl already has a 1 ½ child with the man she wants to marry. The niece is 27 and works, although not at a well-paying job. Her groom does no work, just lives with his brother.
Vivian said that a lot of Zambians are very lazy. She has a very strong work ethic, due to her rural upbringing. She said that land in Zambia is free- all someone has to do is talk to the village chief and ask for it. But she also said that Zambians in the city do not want to move to the country.
There are about 26 million people in Zambia and 3 million of them live in Lusaka.
On the way back to the hotel, John and Vivian drove me around a bit. I saw the American Embassy, which is an enormous fortified and highly guarded place. Understandably.
The President of Zambia lives in the middle of a huge forested area in the middle of Lusaka. Right across the street is a military barracks and a military hospital. John said that you don’t want to have your car break down there, because the military will get you out of there in a hurry.
Vivian had told me about raising chickens on their farm, which she visits on the weekends. They also harvested 20 TONS of maize.
Other miscellaneous items: John had told me the first day we met that I should hold my handbag close to my chest when I walk. That way, no one will try to steal it.
John mentioned that expatriates live in gated compounds for safety and security. They are too vulnerable living separately.
As in Nigeria, there is barbed wire on top of walls and fences.
A young woman, Lorraine, had very long hair in many braids. I asked her about it- it takes 3 hours to weave in synthetic hair to make it so long. When I said that I would never have been able to bear having my hair pulled so tightly, she told me that it hurts so much that she can’t sleep on it for two days. Good grief! What women do to be stylish.
So, four modules down, four to go next week. The participants have been very appreciative of the programs.
Today was a real eye opener for me. Here they are, running these medical training institutions, worried about financing- and they have no idea what an income statement, balance sheet or cash flow statement is. With the exception of the largest institution, their record keeping systems, if they have even have them, are comprised of paper files in filing cabinets. I know that they left the session with a much better idea of the importance of those documents and a new ability to read and interpret them. They also left with a long list of questions that they need to be asking their accountants on a regular basis.
Tomorrow (Friday), I go to Livingston to spend the weekend at Victoria Falls. My flight from Lusaka is at noon and will arrive around 1 in the afternoon. I’ve got a hotel booked. I’ll be there until 1 p.m. on Sunday. After I get back, John and Vivian will pick me up so that we can go set up the training room again, in preparation for the 5th day of training that starts on Monday.
Lusaka, September 6, 2013
I’m waiting in the airport for the flight to Livingstone, writing down snippets that I have noticed but not mentioned in my earlier messages. So here they are, in a stream of consciousness format.
This morning, I jam packed everything I would need for my two day trip into my small carry-on bag, then realized that I wouldn’t have any place to pack anything I might purchase there. I’m told there are great woodcarvings. I’m hoping so- the hotel where the training is held has wonderful, graceful woodcarvings. I’ve been particularly taken with a tall giraffe with large eyes and long eyelashes- and an elephant whose lines simply flow. Lovely.
I woke up with a migraine, after 10 hours of sleep. My poor body doesn’t handle the extreme of going from 5 or 6 hours to that much time in bed. I actually woke up minutes before my 8 am wake up call. After waking up at 5:45 for the past four days, it was a luxury to “sleep in.”
I tried to convert my Nigerian naira left over from my trip last year. No one will touch it. John explained to me that, other than the South African rand, African currencies are only negotiable in their own countries.
There was a lovely cool breeze this morning, so I walked around before I needed to board my 10 a.m. shuttle to the airport. There are palm trees, beautiful vibrantly colored flowers and flowering trees, a pond with water geysers- and in the parking lot, there are tents to cover the cars. I noticed a lineup of about 30 chairs along the entry way to the hotel- and was informed they were there in preparation for a group photo.
Speaking of photos, on Wednesday, the two young junior accountants I sat with at lunch wanted my photo eating with each of them. Yesterday, John wanted a number of photos of me behind each table of participants, up in the front near the screen. I was wearing a dress I bought in Nigeria under the mistaken impression it was Nigerian. It is not the most becoming outfit I brought. However, several of the women serving lunch mentioned how much they like it.
Oh, in this “buffet,” there is a server behind every dish to ladle it out.
We went through two checkpoints to get to the airport. In both instances, the hotel shuttle was waived through.
Transportation: 50 people packed into the back of a pick-up truck. Similar numbers crammed into private blue mini vans, which drop them off miles from their final destinations. You see people walking everywhere, in suits and ties, high heels, women in what must be native dress (blue cloth with white oblong circles wrapped around their waists).
The stylist topiary here is having bushes extend small thin leafy branches in arches to attach to other bushes.
The major domo at the hotel has small pins from all over the world studding his long jacket. Guests have given them to him. I had nothing to add, but I certainly enjoyed one of the pins that said, “Listen to women.” I agree!
The long pointed toe shoes I noticed young stylish men in Jordan wearing are also the style here for some of the men.
One gentleman, Oswall Chilikiwonda from Livingstone (he drove the 5-6 hour trip here with another gentleman) wears the pointed shoes and zoot suits! Tall and very skinny, I told him that he was a vision of sartorial splendor (and explained what I meant). His response- Yes, he’s told that a lot, in other words!
On the way to the airport, I noticed a man standing in the middle of a half-acre plot of struggling grass, using a hand held hose to water it. That must take him all day!
The Lusaka airport is very loosey-goosey. When I tried to check in, I was told they weren’t checking in passengers to Livingstone yet, come back at 10:50. At 10:50, they told me another 10 minutes. Around 11:20, I finally was checked in. But previous to that, there were five airport personnel having long involved conversations, even during the check in process. I’d like to believe that they’ve done this before, but the state of confusion and disarray makes me wonder.
Going through security, I wore my shoes, jacket- I took out my computer, but I don’t think anyone was watching any monitor.
My seat assignment is A (alpha). I have absolutely no idea what that will mean when I get on the plane.
While I was waiting to board, I met Paul (Jamaican) and Nada (Lebanese/Australian) who have been married for three years. Paul is an interpreter for the UN, so he is in Lusaka for a conference. He interprets French and Spanish into English.
We discovered that an A assignment meant that you were seated first on this small prop plane and could sit anywhere you wanted. As we took off, I saw a crane (bird) next to the runway. It must be deaf!
It was a very bumpy ride, always within sight of land. It took about an hour and just before we landed, I saw the fabled mist from the Falls.
I located my driver with no trouble and went to Maramba River Lodge, which is right along the Zambezi River. As we drove along, I noticed a lot of devastation on a forest of trees. According to my driver, who is a Livingstone native, it is an elephants’ playground! I was very alert, but I didn’t see any.
He also told me that this is the dry season, so there won’t be much water going over the falls. A lot of it is diverted. Now, if I went to the Zimbabwe side, I would see water. However, that would require getting a visa to go there and another visa to come back (since my visa was for a one-time entry).
My room is Chalet 2, a small cottage with a straw roof and mosquito netting around the bed. There are candles in case the electricity goes out.
I was hungry, so I went to the restaurant, where I was the only one. It was 2:30 and I really needed some lunch. While I waited for my chicken and pineapple salad (which was delicious) I watched the river. I realized that there was a small crocodile just below the surface of the water. I don’t know if he expected me to throw him something to eat. I had nothing to offer (not that I would have thrown food into the river for him!) and he suddenly disappeared.
After lunch, I went to the Activities Center to see about some Zambian activities. I passed on the bungee jumping from the bridge over the falls, white water rafting, a helicopter ride, walking with lions, walking with elephants. I opted for a safari walk (you walk for a while and then they drive for 3 ½ hours. I also opted for a sunset cruise along the Zambezi, hopefully to see the animals. There are no promises, but we may see hippos surfacing, elephants coming to drink, lots of birds, crocodiles, etc.
I decided to go into Livingstone ($10 for a taxi there) to the craft market to shop. He dropped me off at 4 and I told him to come back at 6. He told me I could pay him then.
Trusting or what? He also gave me his card to call him. When I told him that I didn’t have a phone, he said people would be very willing to help me out.
The craft market was two city blocks. I forgot how stressful it can be to have every merchant (usually young women or young men) try to steer me into their little shops. Over and over again, I heard, “Mother, where are you from?” One fellow had a map of the US on his wall so I could show him where Wisconsin is. Jewelry, wood carvings of different animals, stone carvings, fabric, paintings, drums, bowls, baskets, on and on.
If I went into a little shop, the person would always tell me that either he, she, or someone in the family had done the carvings or made the earrings out of bone. I noticed, however, that there were many of the same items in a lot of the shops. In the very last one, the woman explained that the women get together to make the earrings and teach women in the prisons so that they can make them and get some money.
I found a giraffe with eyelashes, an elephant and a hippo carved out of the roots of the teak tree and very very hard. I did my Christmas shopping for friends and family. A lot of the vendors would tell me, I have two items for you for 10 Katcha (that is $2!)
I was exhausted physically and emotionally (all of the vendors said that I was their first customer that day and couldn’t I buy something for them to take back to their village!) by 5:30. I waited for Victor, the driver, to return. After a while, a fellow asked me if my ride was late, and then offered to call Victor for me, which he did, bless his heart.
When I got back to my cottage, I realized that there is no phone. I have no alarm with me, so I walked back to reception to see if someone could wake me up at 6 so I could get ready for my 6:30 a.m. pick up. No one will be here until 6:15, but she promised to wake me up then. I’m hoping that, if I go to sleep early, I’ll wake up on my own.
I had the chicken and pineapple salad for dinner and got two bottles of water so that I’ll have something tomorrow morning. I asked about a sack breakfast to take along with me. Since the only option was a cheese and tomato sandwich or a cheese sandwich (I don’t eat cheese), I asked if I could get fruit. Yes, I could. So, I have two apples and two bananas for my breakfast tomorrow.
I had my shower under a trickle of water and I’m ready for bed. It appears that there is possibly a wireless connection here, but I don’t have the password. If I get one tomorrow, I’ll send this then.
Livingstone, September 7, 2013
Note to self: get a travel clock ASAP! I was so worried about oversleeping my 6:30 pick up time that I woke up almost every hour of the night to check my watch. I went to bed to the sound of drums and animal noises. When I finally let myself get up at 5:30 and opened my chalet door, there was a HIPPO right there munching noisily on the grass!!! I couldn’t believe it! I watched it for a while, and then a security guard came over to me to ask if I would take photos for the fellow in the next chalet, who had wanted to see the hippo.
I tried, but it was still dark. So finally, I rapped on his door twice, and when he opened it and I told him about the hippo right there, he was ecstatic. He got his camera and sat there for about an hour watching it.
Later, I found out that this hippo had been orphaned 4 years ago and raised on the property. They call him Maramba, after the name of the lodge. Much later, on my safari walk, my guide, Charles, told me that hippos are very dangerous. As a matter of fact, more people die on the river because of hippos than because of crocodiles. The hippos do not like boats with oars, so they ram them then bit the humans. Yikes! I’m glad I didn’t try to get up close and personal with this one!!
Charles picked me up t 6:30 and told me that I would have a personalized safari walk. I’m going to try to remember as much as possible from our two hour walk. First, we saw baboons and then young velvet monkeys playing by leaping on each other. The baboons only live about 15 years because they eat anything and everything, including dead animals. The baboons feel safer on the ground, while the velvet monkeys seek refuge in the treetops.
We saw scads of little deer-like impala. There are no predators in this national park, so they are entirely safe. One male will have 60 females- he’s a busy guy for 3-4 weeks, then when he weakens, another male pushes him out and takes over. Their gestation period is 3 months, so they are able to procreate very quickly.
The ousted male joins others in a bachelor group until he becomes strong enough to confront another male.
We saw zebra, wildebeests, warthogs, white rhinos and elephants! We saw the spoor of buffalo, all of the aforementioned animals, giraffes, and porcupines.
Random facts: there is a 24-hour guard over the 8 white rhinos to keep them safe from poachers who want their horns. There are 5 adults imported from South Africa and three babies born in Zambia. They are trying to reintroduce the species, which poachers decimated. All of the rhinos are named for ministers of the interior!
I think Charles told me that the males are 3.10 tons and the females are 3.3 tons. Their gestation period is 18 months! They are not really white, it was a misinterpretation of a Dutch word. These white rhinos have long snouts to graze on the ground.
Black rhinos, so-called not because they are black but simply to distinguish them from the white rhinos, have a prehensile lip and a pointed snout, so they can eat tree bark.
They have a bathroom area, which, given the size of their poop, is a great idea.
Michael was our armed guide. He is one of the select team of responsible rangers who guard the rhinos. When I asked him later what his rife was for, he said for poachers.
Michael walked in front, with Charles behind him and me taking up the rear. The day started so cold that I was happy to have my sweatshirt. There was a good breeze almost the entire time, but I was pretty hot at the end of our walk.
I also took a sliding dive when we went down a steep embankment, but I’m fine.
Charles told me about the sausage tree that the natives have used for years to treat cancer and now the scientists have verified its effectiveness. They are growing many in South Africa for this reason.
He showed me where the elephants had chopped away the dirt to get to tubers, some of which are very sweet and hold a lot of water during the rainy season. He picked up some branches to show me how to tell how old the elephants were that were eating them. Elephants get 6 full sets of teeth, replacing teeth one by one over the course of 70 years. The young elephants crush the branches, while the older elephants show teeth marks.
We saw where the elephants take mud baths- and the mud that they scraped off on the surrounding trees.
Charles told me that the elephants push down the trees, but they are doing the other smaller animals a great service. Many of these trees reroot and grow along the ground, making the leaves accessible to the smaller animals.
He picked up dried elephant dung to tell me all of its uses. Because elephants eat medicinal grasses and bushes (knowing what they need if they feel ill) boiling the dung in water and adding it to something helps the digestion. They even give it to newborns to drink. Lighting a piece and inhaling it daily heals a bloody nose. Soaking swollen feet in it helps decrease the swelling. I considered grabbing some to bring back to the States, but I can’t imagine talking anyone (including myself) into trying it out!!
Did you know that an elephant uses its nose to smell, to lift things, to dig, to bring water to its mouth, and to push over tree? How versatile is that?
Getting back to the rhinos, the park is building a dam to have water deeper in the park so that the rhinos don’t go to the edge of the park where the poachers would have easier access to them. They also feed them corn and grain during the dry months. The wildebeests stay close by to share their food.
Warthogs are very shy and have bad eyesight. So, whenever they hear a noise, they run away. They only fight if they are cornered- and you want to avoid that, because their tusks are razor sharp.
Hippos are part of the reptile family! They stay in the river to feel safe (from humans) and because their skin can’t handle the hot sun.
It’s amazing that these multi-ton animals (hippos, rhinos, elephants) are all grass-eaters. Elephants need to graze 18 hours a day!
We saw a small black “tut tut” beetle, so called because it crawls to very firm ground and bounces its butt on the ground, making that noise, to attract a female.
Charles also showed me small depressions in the dirt, where the larva of some dragon-fly-like insect captures other insects. He even dug one up for me to see (very tiny, with pinschers).
Charles was really a wonderful guide, telling me the habits, gestation periods, length of life and the size of every animal we saw or every animal whose spoor we saw.
We also saw birds. One like a cormorant, that was drying its wings the way a cormorant does. The nest of a stork (it looked like the nest was big enough to hold me and at least another friend or two!) Hook-beaked birds that were very noisy and had nests in many of the trees. Storks circling the river, waiting to scavenge for fish.
After our long trek, we got back into the jeep (terribly bumpy rides!) to have a picnic by the river. I was warned not to get too close to the river, because some of the crocs get so big they can kill and eat a baby elephant. The Zambezi has a crocodile every few yards.
We sat under a thatched roof for “tea”: egg salad and cheese and tomato sandwiches on white bread cut into triangles without the crust. Carrots, cucumbers, potato chips, muffins, and both tea and cold drinks. A veritable feast, particularly since I only had two bananas for breakfast 5 hours earlier.
While there, I was able to watch men thatching two other huts. I also saw a man saunter down to the river with an empty bottle and fill it with river water. When I asked Charles what the man was going to do with it, he said drink it. There are no polluting industries along the Zambezi and the water runs quickly, so that is where the people get their drinking water. They cautioned me that I wouldn’t be able to drink it. That was the farthest thing from my mind, to be honest!
There is a graveyard, with white concrete raised rectangles filled with white pebbles, in the park. These were people who settled after Dr. Livingstone. There used to be an entire village, with shops, etc. However, the government made them move away from the river, because of the mosquitoes carrying malaria.
When they were first building the village, men crossed the Zambezi at its narrowest point with oxen-drawn wagons. Men sat on top of the oxen with rifles to shoot the crocodiles.
Speaking of crocodiles, when elephants cross the river, they place the babies where the crocs can’t reach them.
On our way out of the park, we drove right behind a baby elephant walking down the road, then saw two more elephants going down to the water to drink. What a treat!
Charles was kind enough to drive me to Victoria Falls (so named by Dr. Robert Livingstone in honor of his queen). A side note told me by my driver from the Livingstone Airport to the lodge: Dr. Livingstone died of malaria in Zambia. His heart and intestines were buried in Zambia and the rest of him was carried by two men to the coast for transport back to England, where he was buried. So, he is buried in two places.
During the rainy season and afterwards, the falls extend a huge distance, resembling a sheet of water continually flowing down the rocks. Now, the dry season, there was water tumbling down only in a few areas, but it was still spectacular. You could also see the mist rising from the torrential water tumbling such a distance.
A choir of Zambian men and women in white shirts or blouses and black slacks or skirts was singing in front of the falls and having their picture (actually, it looked like a video) taken of them. A young man escorted me around them and became my guide, pointing out spots on the water and the rocks, explaining what I was seeing. He also took me to see the bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe, where people were bungee jumping off the bridge as well as zip lining beneath the bridge between the two countries. He told me that you don’t need a visa to do that, you just get some token that doesn’t cost anything. I demurred.
He showed me a carving I had seen in the market yesterday, explaining how the different shapes and lines represented the falls, the gorge, the two countries, etc. He wanted 100 katcha for it. I told him I would give him 20 and he tried to bargain with me by doubling it to 40. I held my ground, started to walk away (I really didn’t need to buy it- but I had intended to give him something for being my guide). He gave it to me for 20 Katcha, then quickly lost interest in me. That was all right. I just followed the path back to the gate, and then found a taxi to take me back to the lodge.
He had a gourd shaped like a cup and I asked him what it was for. The answer: their beer, which is very nourishing after long days working in the sun.
I came back to my cabin and took a shower, because I was covered from head to foot with sand and dirt and goodness knows what else. I had to continually watch my step so that I didn’t walk into or upon different animals’ spoors.
In an hour, I’ll be picked up for a sunset cruise, hopefully to see more animals as they come down to the river to drink.
After our long trek, Michael (the park guide with the rifle) had told me I would sleep well. Add to that climbing many many stone steps to get to the falls, plus my lack of sleep last night, and I’ll be ready to fall into bed as soon as the cruise is over.
What an amazing adventure!!
I’ll write about the cruise in my message tomorrow.
Livingstone sunset cruise, September 7, 2013
Hello. My pick up for the cruise was 45 minutes late- and then couldn’t open the side door to the minivan (despite the fact that there were already people in there!) The driver struggled for 8 minutes, finally having me sit next to him in the front. Smart move on his part, because I was definitely not going to get into the van if the door was going to stick!!
This turned out to really be a booze cruise. Since I don’t drink, well, there you are. However, I did meet some wonderful people. A couple from Zimbabwe who farm tobacco pointed out a lot of animals on the shore that I wouldn’t have seen: baboons, impala, a baby elephant, certain birds who next inside deep holes they poke into the river side, and of course, lots and lots of hippos. The husband told me that they call the hippos the policemen of the river. When I asked him why, he said because no one wants to upset them!
There was a small boat moving along the shore, but it gave very wide berth to the hippos. My friend explained that one hippo, coming up under the boat, would easily tip it over.
We noticed that the hippos would open their mouths very wide. My Zimbabwe friends explained that was because our boat was boxing the hippos in next to the shore, so they were baring their teeth to scare us away. I had thought they might be yawning or drinking. Every time I tried to get a photo, by the time my camera flashed, the hippos had submerged. I think I have a lot of empty water shots!
The food was very basic: appetizers with small sausages, tiny chick legs, cheese straws and tiny pizzas. We were also given roasted peanuts (very tiny and very salty). Since I hadn’t eaten since 10 that morning, I was pretty hungry.
The “barbeque” dinner was coleslaw and salad, chicken legs and sausage. By that time, most of the people on board were feeling no pain, so they didn’t care.
It was the company that I enjoyed. I met a woman from Australia on a month-long tour that started in Cape Town, South Africa and went to Botswana, Namibia and other places. One place she stayed had elephants roaming the place. Usually they put out water for the elephants, but there was some problem. So, the elephants smelled this woman’s bottle of water and banged against her tent-like structure. Pretty scary.
I met a couple from Yorkshire, England who had gone white water rafting, riding elephants, walking with lions, two river cruises- and were thinking about volunteering at the native village (apparently, that was an activity option).
On the shuttle back to the lodge, I met two young folks from Boston who had been in Lusaka for three months working on some water=related project. The woman had lived in Kabul, Afghanistan for three years prior. She said that after a while, you don’t notice the gunmen on the walls!
I even ran into the same older man from California I had met while waiting in line for Customs at Lusaka Airport. Small world.
Goodness! It is only 8 p.m. and I’m tuckered out. I’ve asked them to wake me at 8 tomorrow. I’m just going to relax before I head back to Lusaka at 1 to set up and get ready for Monday’s session.
Livingstone to Lusaka, September 8, 2013
Good morning. It is a cool, serene morning. A small crocodile is sunning itself on the opposite bank of the river. You can see where the hippos climbed out of the water to graze on the grass further inland. They have left their spoor as calling cards.
Small birds, that look like they have white sides to their faces, then black heads, brown rounded bodies, and long legs, flit around on the bank, seemingly too close to the croc.
A huge water bird, grey or dusky blue, like a heron and perhaps a heron, is fishing not too far away.
As I sit on the restaurant veranda, having juice, yogurt and fruit, there is a tiny (1 and ½“ lizard sunning itself on the railing in front of me. You see them everywhere; so much so that I keep my handbag zipped up for fear that I’ll find one tagging along inside it!
I had a good night’s sleep and woke up at 7:30, so I was all dressed by the time the fellow came to wake me up. There are all sorts of birds and birdsongs. There is also the constant drone, sometimes very loud, of the ultra-lights flying back and forth to see the falls. If I had more energy or were more adventuresome, I might try to forget my fear of heights and try it out.
Instead, I’ve wandered around the lodge grounds, to find that there are other types of accommodations here. In addition to the small cottage “chalets” such as the one I’m in, there are tent like structures, as well as actual tents. There was a path behind the tents, but there was also hippo spoor, so I decided not to venture alone into the woods. I’m curious but not foolish.
There are very flat banks along the river in spots, so I can easily imagine that the hippos have no trouble climbing up out of the river. It would have been fun to watch that process.
After my week of training and getting up early, and after having to get up early yesterday morning as well, it is nice to sit here languidly in the shade on my little porch, listening to the breeze through the trees and occasional birdsong.
In my brief wanderings, I discovered that, in addition to the grass and the plantings, the lodge also waters down the parking area (to keep it from getting so dusty, I imagine).
It seems like many adventuring activities here begin very very early, assumedly to take advantage of the cooler morning before the hot sun takes over. I asked the woman in the buffet line if it is always so cold in the morning and she said it was very unusual. By this time of year, it is typically hot- and then gets much hotter.
Surprisingly, there isn’t the humidity that we now “enjoy” in Wisconsin. It’s not quite the arid heat you might experience in Arizona, but it’s pretty close. It’s actually very comfortable. It was so cool in the night that my bottle of water stayed cold.
The Zambian people are very welcoming, smiling and saying hello just in passing. That is definitely not the case when passing most other nationalities. Even if I start to say, hello, many just keep on walking. We could learn a lot from the loving nature of the folks who live here.
People come from all over the world to see the Falls. Many carry specialized cameras and binoculars. I really have to learn how to use binoculars. Charles offered his so that I could see various birds and animals, but after unsuccessfully trying to focus them properly and find the desired objects, I gave up. I know that I would enjoy being able to see the birds and animals more clearly,
I’ve heard Spanish, French, Chinese, Australian and English accents. There was a Peruvian family on the cruise. Everyone you meet shares where they are from, which is a fun conversation.
The Zambezi River here seems deceptively placid, with green water plants, probably comparable to our watercress, sometimes extending quite far into the river. There are palm trees, different deciduous trees, baobab trees (the largest in Zambia, according to Charles yesterday), tall dry grasses, and occasional bursts of brilliant orange or yellow or scarlet blossoms or berries of various shapes and sizes.
Surprisingly, and thankfully, I haven’t been bothered by mosquitoes at all during any of my stay here. I suppose that might change when the rainy season starts. It lasts from October to February, maybe April. Then it will pour for an hour or three hours a day and everything will become lush again. The waters will splash over the long length of rock walls at Victoria Falls, sounding like thunder and raising a mist that can be seen from the sky. I don’t have to see it this visit to imagine its awesome splendor.
I haven’t had many occasions in the past six months to simply sit, breathe deeply, and relax without deadlines or obligations. There is no television and no phones. This is pure bliss- and I wish that, somehow, I could share the dappled light and the deep sense of peace that this beautiful place evokes.
My ride back to the Livingstone Airport comes in 2 hours. I’m going to recharge this laptop and sit and read on the porch until then.
Lusaka, September 8, 2013
I’m back in Lusaka. The wait in the Livingstone Airport was interminable, and the flight was just as bumpy, but this time we were in a larger plane, with six seats across separated by the aisle.
Something that happened when we arrived in Livingstone and again when we arrived in Lusaka- instead of the luggage going to some conveyer belt, airport guys load up carts 5 ‘ high with the bags and push them into the small room where all of us are standing around waiting for them. If I hadn’t gotten to know Paul and Nada, who were old hands at this, I never would have realized that I had to wait for the luggage rather than seeking out a baggage claim area.
It was different when I first came to Lusaka because we had to go through customs. Then, we picked up our bags in another room (again, no conveyer belt- just conveyer guys)
I’m exhausted. I was picked up at 12:15 to go to the airport and the flight didn’t leave until after 1:40- and I’ve just arrived (finally!) back at the Taj Pamodzi hotel at 4. Good grief!
Now I’m wondering how and when John and Vivian will get in touch with me so that we can go set up the room for Monday.
Lusaka, September 9, 2013
School started on Monday, so there was a huge traffic jam and John and Vivian weren’t able to pick me up until after 7:30 a.m. The students wear uniforms, different colors and patterns for each school.
Today was the fifth module: Human Resource Management. It went beautifully, with no need to make any changes. During the day, I had them create a complete job description, including the skills, knowledge and abilities (SKA) necessary to perform the job- and useful for screening potential applicants. They also created qualitative and quantitative performance standards. Many of them had never created a job description, certainly never considered identifying and using the KSA, and had no experience with establishing performance standards. So, they were delighted with their new skills and so was I.
I didn’t write on Monday night because I was exhausted. Sorry about that.
Lusaka, September 10, 2013
Today was the sixth module: Facility and Records Management. There were many new faces today, including two women: Dely-Lyn and Evelyn, wearing native costume. They looked beautiful and were kind enough to let me take their photos. Evelyn even took time to wrap her scarf around her head, so I got the full treatment!
When I first learned I needed to have a session on this topic, I couldn’t imagine that it would be very important or interesting. Boy, was I wrong! If these folks don’t keep the facilities clean and safe, parents won’t want to send their children there and the institution will have to close.
We first looked at the issue of housekeeping, giving them sample cleaning standards checklists and schedules. They had none of this- and spoke about how lazy the cleaners were. We explored the fact that: (1) if no one has given them the standards, how would they know what is expected of them? (2) if they are not trained, or given the necessary supplies and equipment, it is unreasonable to expect them to perform well; and (3) if they are not motivated, it is probably due to the fact that everyone looks down at them for performing such menial labor.
I gave them some examples of how to help “menial labor” recognize how important they are. For example, the first thing we look at when we sit down in a restaurant is how clean the silverware and glassware is. That is the direct result of the work that the dishwashers perform. It is possible to help them come to their dirty, hot jobs and perform them with pride.
So, I gave the table groups the assignment to plan how to help their cleaning staff feel important. The groups were wonderfully thorough in their answers, including treating the cleaners with respect, including them in their own classroom training, and getting them the cleaning supplies they need.
That raised the issue that the proprietors of these small private medical training institutions discount the importance of the cleaning staff and delay approving expenditures for the cleaning supplies that are really necessary to ensure a clean and sterile environment. So, we discussed how to talk to the owners using language that they understand, by showing them that the consequences of ill-trained and ill-equipped cleaners are potentially terrible for the image and sustainability of the institutions.
We next looked at preventive maintenance, where they said that the owners waited until something broke down before they spent any money on it. There certainly wasn’t any schedule for preventive maintenance in any of the institutions.
I had each table select a piece of equipment and draw the consequences of that breakdown. Their drawings were magnificent, listing many severe consequences to the institution (in language the owners would understand).
Then we moved to looking at safety and security. That was terribly depressing, because they don’t have those policies, systems and training in place. It was also somewhat frightening, because they personally could be sued if something happened to a student or employee.
It was at this point that a few participants said that we really needed to provide a change management training- one day for owners, to help them become open to the idea of change and to listening to the managers when they raised these issues; one day for staff, to help them learn how to promote change to their owners. I will pass the request along to the powers that be back in the States.
The relay race, competitive brainstorming, scavenger hunt for record quality and security assurance best practices- all went beautifully.
There was also a debate, pro and con having a computerized record management system. To my surprise, the young woman who represented the con side essentially won the debate! She was fantastic (and had apparently debated in school). We really want the institutions to computerize- and to back up their records. I think that message came across, even if the debate didn’t clinch it as I had hoped it would!
The participants have been very happy with the practical skills and job aids we’ve given them. So, I’m gratified that we were on the right track as we planned these sessions.
At the end of the session, one of the men came up to me with a thumb drive because he likes the music I’ve been playing and wanted to download it. Well… I have hundreds of songs in my iTunes- and we couldn’t figure out how to transfer any of the albums (he was interested in the country music!). So, we connected my iPod to his computer so he could download some songs that way. 40 minutes later he was 1/3 of the way downloading the necessary software. He’s sending someone to the workshop tomorrow who might be able to complete the transfer. I have my doubts.
Then we packed up and drove to the US Embassy, where John was to pick up his visa and passport. I think it took over an hour, while Vivian and I chatted. She told me about her “hobby” farm. I mentioned in an earlier message that this farm produced a huge amount of maize, that she sold to the miller to grind into grain. Well, she also has 2000 cockerels and has just arranged to sell 500 of them every two weeks, for a profit of $1000!!! She has plans to raise pigs, buying 10 pregnant sows, each of which is likely to produce 10 piglets per litter, and selling the 100 piglets as she started the process again. She said that the need for pork was huge.
She is amazing! She is a consultant, but work is sporadic, so this keeps her busy and makes sure that she has an income.
She did say that she didn’t need to touch the cockerels or the pigs; she just had to research how to raise them and then give instructions to the four people who work the farm for her. She doesn’t want to go live at the farm, because there are a lot of snakes. Eeuw, I cringe just writing about that.
We waited for John parked next to a field from which maize had been harvested. Vivian was sure that the field would never again be planted because the land was now very very valuable. Why? Because it is across the street from the American Embassy and people would want to put up a house and live there- because they would be safe there.
That’s it for tonight. I really am wearing down. I’ll be in bed by 9 p.m., up at 5:45 again tomorrow.
Lusaka, September 11, 2013
Today was the seventh module: Marketing and Stakeholder Management. Two young women, Judith and Monica, were there when we got to the training site at 7:40! Tabo came 10 minutes later, and Alex came 30 minutes later.
I didn’t tell you that I gave out plastic puzzles yesterday as the metaphor for facility management- and they absolutely LOVED them. They loved them so much that they worked assiduously on them all day and that evening, and these four came back for more. So, I’ve learned that if I give out puzzles, that can keep the early and on time participants well occupied until either the others arrive or I break down and start the session.
So that is what the first three worked on, and when Alex got there, I decided enough was enough and we started at 8:45. Eventually 5 more trickled in, for a grand total of 9 participants. The program went as planned, but because we lacked a lot of conversation (I had been told to expect 25 when I was back in the States and 15 yesterday, so the activities were paced accordingly. We were able to end at 1:15, so everyone could go to lunch and then leave.
Tabo, who is the 28-year old Administration Manager for Dovecot Nursing College, sat with me at lunch (which included quail again!) He lives with his extended family (grandmother, parents, siblings) an hour and a half away from Lusaka. He is Adventist, so said grace, doesn’t eat pork or bottom feeders like lobster, etc.-very much like a Kosher diet.
He studied in the UK and we had a long discussion about the national health care they offer for free to anyone, even those there on visa. I bemoaned the fact that national health care in the US is a very hard sell. When I asked how the UK financed health care, he said that there were a number of taxes. There is also a graduated income tax, so that those who are very wealthy pay 40%. I explained that the Republicans have fought against changing the US tax base, which lets the wealthy essentially avoid paying taxes.
He said that if he were very wealthy, he would not mind paying a higher tax because it would be the fair thing to do. He and Warren Buffett should get together!
We discussed the fact that poor Zambians make $100 a month!!! so they can’t afford a car. I had noticed that gas was about 9 K a liter, which he explained is approximately $2. Since I think he said that there are 3 liters to a gallon, gas is $6 a gallon. He has a car, so he feels very fortunate.
Tabo also told me that he plans to have a chicken business, so I advised him to speak with Vivian to get some tips. He wants to be up and running before Christmas, because Zambians cook a chicken the way we celebrate by cooking a turkey.
We talked about discrimination. He said that Zambians were very welcoming to foreigners, they just discriminated among themselves. There are what he called ethnic groups (from specific villages) who have high paying jobs in the government. He said there is a lot of nepotism. In Zambia, everyone looks similar to each other, so the only way you can tell who is who is by their names. This is opposed to another African country (I can’t remember now, sorry) where there are two ethnic groups that are physically very different, so it is very easy to tell them apart.
We had been told that we would have to move to another smaller room for the last day of training. After lunch, the participants left and then we waited and waited and waited for the staff to set it up.
One of the men on staff came in to chat about the music that I play. He wanted to know what kind of music it was and if he brought a thumb drive, could he download some of it. I explained the problem that the other chap had yesterday and suggested that if he brought a blank CD, we might be able to burn some of the songs on it. He’s going to try to do that.
Vivian and I had a long chat (actually, she chatted and I listened) while we were waiting. She is certified to conduct entrepreneurship training for the International Labor Organization. The class should take a month, but frequently is scheduled for two weeks. Because the participants need to complete and submit a business plan for review and then present it, they may work in the training room all night. This is after sitting in training from 8 am until 10 p.m.! They have two facilitators, so they alternate teaching in the am or in the pm.
Her work with ILO has taken her to many countries. She’s been doing it since 1906, so she is a master teacher who conducts train the trainer classes for individuals who want to be certified by ILO to provide the entrepreneurship classes. They have a good system, because the participants need to present in the class and then they are audited when they conduct their first class.
She told me that at one time she sold 5000 chickens a month to the Congo, which has to feed all the miners. Because of the war, no crops were being cultivated.
I asked her how she handled vitamins and injections for the chickens (which Tabo had told me were needed). She said that you take the water away from the chickens for an hour, and then put the vitamins and medicine in the water. The medicine for 1000 chickens comes in a small vial. To make sure that all of the chickens get the medicine, you put a blue dye in the water. Then you can tell which chickens have gotten the medicine because their beaks are blue!
She told me about the four “boys” (I think they’re in their late 20’s) who she employs to tend her gardens and take care of the chickens. Two of them sleep on the farm. She explained that she had to fire the lead “boy” because he was taking the oil and maize and other food that she brings for the workers and giving it to a 46-year-old woman in the village that he was sweet on. He was also drinking. She had already given him a second chance and he blew it. Since she liked him and had planned to finance his college, she was very disappointed.
She likes to go to the farm and work, but she hasn’t been there for three or more weeks (with her attention focused on scheduling and assisting with this training). When she is there, she says she has to wear very heavy gumboots, because the snakes can’t bite through them. She told me about the snakes and I’m going to have nightmares already, so I’m not going to repeat what she said. I’m shivering and cringing just writing this to you!
She also told me about a plague of worms that ate anything green in the fields overnight, so she lost last year’s entire crop of maize. This year, she had one of the boys walk the fields to see when the worms came (she said they come for three years straight, then go away for a while). He found them coming up out of the ground in the middle of the fields, so she hurried there with some pesticide and was able to save the crop.
Vivian said that was why she was interested in focusing only on the chickens and pigs, because they only got sick and could be treated for it.
I misunderstood her yesterday when I thought she said she raised cockerels. Apparently she did at one point, but they fight, kill and eat each other in a matter of minutes. Yikes! So now she raises broilers. She said that she can’t eat any of her chickens (remember, these chickens are in the thousands!) because she thinks of them as pets…
We finally went into the new training room, to find that it still wasn’t set up. I immediately began throwing tables and chairs around. I regret that I sounded like an ugly American, because I was tired and upset that we had waited while nothing happened. I wasn’t very kind to the small man who alone had been sent to change the room (which included moving out very heavy tables).
Vivian and I schlepped the three flip chart easels, two boxes of materials, a very heavy box of what they call mineral water but we would call bottled water (I pushed it along the floor, because it was too heavy to pick up and I also didn’t trust that the flimsy box wouldn’t fall apart.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned that none of the flip charts stay up unless I prop the back leg against a chair. So, I’ve been getting a lot of exercise lifting and carrying floppy flip chart easels, then racing to get a chair to prop them up.
I put up my kites, we put things on the tables, and finally we were done. It is a much smaller room, so my kites and the colors of the Koosh balls and construction paper on the tables are much more vivid.
Oh, we had some excitement. While Vivian and I were waiting for John to come back from a meeting to take us home, we heard a woman shouting, “Help! Help!” I just thought someone was fooling around, but Vivian went to check. It turned out that a woman was locked in one of the restroom stalls. Vivian had to unlock it from the outside! It’s a darn good thing Vivian responded!!
John finally came to pick us up. Vivian made sure to notify the front desk about the restroom stall door situation- and also to tell them that they would need to change the linen on the tables and chairs (they cover the chairs) because they were all soiled from the group that was in there earlier today.
On the way back to the hotel, I asked him about schools in Zambia. They follow the English model that the English no longer use. Kindergarten goes for a half day, from 7:30 to 12 or 1- with day care for the rest of the day if needed.
Primary students go for half a day- sometimes in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon. Secondary students go for a full day.
To move from primary to 7th grade, children need to pass an exam. If they don’t, and if they also don’t choose to repeat a grade, they are no longer in school. There is another exam to go into 9th grade and a third exam to complete secondary school. A lot of children end up without additional schooling, because the available slots in colleges are very limited and so is the job market. It’s probably not the best way to build an economy.
So, tomorrow is the very last training. I have a box full of prizes and materials that I never used because the original count of 25 participants per session never materialized. I’ve toyed with leaving them with Vivian for future training, but since I paid for these myself (not my client, Banyan Global) I don’t really want to do that.
I’ll bring it all back to the hotel tomorrow night and if I can’t fit it all into my suitcase (a strong possibility) I’ll have to go purchase another one. I plan to have one free day in Lusaka (Friday) before I get on the 2.5-hour flight to Johannesburg and then the 16 hour flight to Atlanta and whatever the flight time is from Atlanta to Madison.
Well, I’ve got to prepare for tomorrow.
Lusaka, September 12, 2013
Today was the last day of training: Academic Quality Management. We again began with 5 people (including Judith, Monica and Tabo, who have all come every day this week). By the end of the day, we had had a maximum of 18 (people come and go continually).
The day went well, with some surprises. The first surprise was when an entire table collapsed, just barely missing the legs of the participants seated around it. The second mishap was when a chair I was sitting on broke, tumbling me rather abruptly to the floor.
I probably have a bruise or two, but I’m fine. The group asked me if I’d ever seen Faulty Towers (which I haven’t). I’m sure it’s full of mishaps.
We had an illuminating conversation about the questions they ask potential students; i.e., their religion and their marital status. They also ask students to identify their sex on the college application. These are illegal because they are discriminatory. But this is what I learned:
They felt that they needed to know a student’s religion to determine if the person would support blood transfusions and would work on the Sabbath. I pointed out that they could ask those questions of every student applicant, without raising the issue of religion. I think they bought that approach.
They need to know the sex of the student applicant for two reasons. First, they have a quota for male applicants to ensure that they do not take all of the slots away from the women. Second, they need to know the student’s sex when planning accommodations, since men and women are not housed together. So much for that.
With regard to marital status, they said they need to know because in Zambia, the men rule the family and have a huge influence on what their wives do. All I could do was reiterate the importance of only asking questions that directly relate to the college syllabus requirements- and asking everyone the same questions.
We also had an interesting conversation about the need for the nursing students to be able to run and to lift 50 pounds. The PMTIs tried placing these requirements in their ad and the government told them that was discriminatory. (However, the military ad requires applicants to be tall, and the government doesn’t consider that discriminatory).
So, their fallback position was to suggest during a recruitment interview that student applicants who appeared to lack those capabilities should consider a different career. That was considered discriminatory.
I suggested that they inform all student applicants during the recruitment interview of the physical requirements for nurse training. If the students don’t screen themselves out at that point, make sure to give all students a physical test as part of the screening process. They’re going to consider that.
They had a ball creating learning plans, using a template provided by Katie Garrity, Dean of Health Education and Public Safety at Southwest Technical Institute in Fennimore, Wisconsin. When they were done, two of the lead lecturers said that they could now be training consultants and design learning plans for the Zambian General Nursing Council. They hadn’t realized how easy it was!
I introduced Bloom’s taxonomy so that they understood the importance of identifying the desired level of learning. We also talked about different learning styles, which was apparently an eye opener for many of them. They primarily lecture. When I asked them what other training methods they used, they responded: tests, exams, case study, role play, simulation, discussion, and application activities.
I promised to send them my list of over 50 other participatory learning activities and proceeded to explain a number of them. They were very excited about that.
The lesson plan and participant materials worked like a charm. We had a lot of fun, because of course I was facilitating a subject matter that I love and know very well. I also was very generous in giving them prizes for activities, which they loved.
At the conclusion of the session, the most senior lecturers talked about how they would be changing their teaching styles to incorporate the participatory activities. Hurray!
At the beginning of the session, I had asked Judith to make me a pipe cleaner bracelet. She is incredibly creative- this bracelet is 1 ½ inches wide and very colorful. At the end of the session, Ellah (who had been to most of the sessions, is a senior lecturer and very bright and personable) gave me a box of pipe cleaner creations that she had made for me: a beautiful bracelet with copper balls, two “pins” in the shape of Africa, and earrings, as well as a big hug. All of this is surprising because they’ve never seen or worked with pipe cleaners before!
When Ella gave me her gifts, she asked me if I knew the story behind the Zambian flag (the bracelet she gave me had all of the colors). I didn’t, so she explained: the red is for the blood that was shed, the green is for the vegetation, black is for the black people (although she clarified that it meant the freedom of black people, not the exclusion of non-black folks), and the orange was for the copper.
Many gave me hugs, wanted my business card, and/or kissed me. Judith said that she would miss me, and I will miss her. I really want to adopt Tabo. I’m going to miss his bright mind, sweet nature and beautiful smile. I know that we will keep in touch. It was a lovely conclusion to the 8 days of training and a very warm send off. I’m so grateful to have met them all.
They want me to come back to train in the Copperbelt and again in a year. They were very firm about that. I don’t know that it is very likely, but I guess one never knows.
Then one of the hotel staff came in with a cd to see if I would download some of my music onto his disc. I was gratified that I could actually do that. He happily sat next to me as I copied probably 200 songs onto his disc. However, when I went to burn the disc, it said that there were too many items. It was only then, after 15 minutes of downloading, that he told me his cd would only take 15 songs!!!!! So, I trashed most of the copies and goodness only knows what the remaining 15 songs he actually got include.
I decided to leave the full box of training materials with Vivian, since she’ll be the one most likely conducting the training in the Copperbelt. Vivian had pointed out that these training materials were purchased for the course, so I should be reimbursed for them. For some reason, I thought I had to pay for them myself.
She now has a large box full of: devil ducks, doctor and nurse ducks, reading ducks, motivational ducks, math ducks, googly-eyed plastic fish, bendable pink flamingoes, spinning tops, plastic puzzles, butterfly fans, fake gold coins, small Slinkies, star student pads of paper, and the remainder of the pipe cleaners.
I know I’ll have enough room in my suitcase to pack the training materials (Koosh balls, glitter wands, etc.) that need to go back with me, in addition to the items I bought in Livingstone. Otherwise, I would have had to go buy another suitcase tomorrow.
Tomorrow, I don’t have to get up at 5:45 or put on make-up. I can go for a walk (there is a museum not that far away where I can learn all about the Zambian people). I can relax and pack in leisure.
John said that he would swing by at some point to remind the hotel not to charge me tax. Vivian said she would find time to come to say good bye.
I’ll miss them, too.
So, thus ends the saga of the 8 days of training. I’ll continue to write about my adventures until I get back to Madison. But thanks for keeping me company on this trip.
Lusaka, September 13, 2013
I have a feeling that I’m not going to walk to a museum today. I got up at the luxurious time of 8:30 and went down to find the breakfast room crammed with people. Usually I’m the only one in the room.
Then I arranged my shuttle to the airport (11:15 a.m.)
Next, I called laundry to have them wash all of my training clothing. I decided that I didn’t want to have that hassle once I got back home. They promised that I’ll get everything back at 4 pm (16:00) so I’ll plan to pack then. I learned to roll my clothing from my good friend Diana, so I’ll do that, rolling them around some of the more fragile items I purchased in Livingstone. Then I’ll fit in the training materials that need to come back with me.
I also washed out my underwear in the sink, using shampoo as my good friend Joan taught me to do. It’s all hanging on the line provided in the shower. Hopefully, it will be dry by tomorrow morning. There is no exhaust fan in the bathroom and all of the lights go out when I remove my room key card, so they dry much slower than they have when those conditions are not present.
My next task was to write up the training issues and needs for the Zambian PMTIs in bullet form for Piotr, who will be meeting with John in D.C. on Monday. That took a while, but I’ve sent it on to him. I can’t mail attachments for some reason, so I had to incorporate it into the email.
My plan is now to relax outside by the pool, reading and soaking in the atmosphere.
I did that, and then went into the “cake shop” that I’ve never entered before and got a chocolate walnut brownie. I read for the rest of the afternoon. My laundry came back at 16:00, as promised. I was able to pack up everything (even the wash I did this morning is dry now). I’m not sure how heavy my suitcase is. However, if it is overweight, then it is overweight. I’m not going to worry about it now.
I’m going to Skype with Jenny and then get ready for bed. This has been a grueling visit, so it has been wonderful just to relax without any time pressures. Ahhh…
I want to thank those of you who have written back to me during my trip. I have not felt lonely or isolated for a moment- and communicating with you through these messages has kept me feeling connected.
Lusaka, September 14, 2013
All packed before breakfast, I checked out- making sure that they didn’t charge me VAT (some kind of tax, don’t ask me what).
I had breakfast and gave a tip to the gentleman who has taken care of me in the early mornings when I’m the only one in the restaurant. A sweet man.
That concluded, I went back up to my room, where I saw the lovely gentleman who has kept my room spotless, given me a new rose bud in a vase every day, as well as fresh fruit, small candies, and yesterday, even slippers. He’s also provided loofahs and washcloths. I’ve been very pampered, so I gave him 50 K, (essentially $10).
He kindly helped me trundle my quite heavy hot pink suitcase to the elevator, while I had my ridiculous colorful polka dot carry on. (I can’t ever miss my stuff, don’t you see!)
I left both with the person near the door and decided to go for my very first walk in Lusaka. I walked around the very very long block. What a treat, to walk down a street lined with purple jacaranda, stepping on falling petals. It was warm, but there was a very nice breeze.
The hotel shuttle was jam-packed, so much so that they put our luggage in a small trailer. I asked the hotel rep (who usually sits up front with the driver, I suppose overseeing the transport since he wears a very sharp suit and tie, but couldn’t because a hotel guest took that seat) to help me avoid anyone who would take my luggage and then expect a tip (as happened when I went to Livingstone). He did.
Inside Lusaka airport, it was absolutely crazy. I finally figured out that I had to get in a very long queue (50 people in front of me). Luckily, the gentleman immediately in front of me, Steve, was a friendly, very handsome (and married) man from South Africa now living and farming in Tanzania. We had a lot of fun chatting about travels, Lusaka, and Africa in general. He travels a lot, now looking for a tractor (?) and only sees his family in South Africa approximately every 3 months. What a hard life.
Bless his heart, he guided me through the line, through luggage check (hoisting my pink suitcase onto the conveyer belt for me), through passport check (where I lost him for a while). He was getting saran wrapped around his luggage for a small fee, a very good way to deter sticky fingers. When I finally got to the passport check where I could also give them my suitcase, I discovered that they would only accept 23 KG and my bag was 28. So, I had to unpack and try to cram things into the small carry on. When I hoisted it onto the scale, it was 22.4 KG. Whew!
Steve waited for me, and then led me to where we had to complete a blue customs paper. We then went through security (where I had to get my computer out from under all the stuff I’d crammed on top of it). Then thank goodness Steve was there, because we had to climb up a non-working escalator (he carried my now heavy carry on) and then snake through long hallways, down a working escalator, down another long hall, to check in to board the flight. If he hadn’t been there as my guide, I would have probably lingered in one of the shops and missed my flight!
We had quite a long walk outside to the plane, passing many rose bushes! We then had to climb a steep ramp into the plane and Steve again hoisted my carry on for me. What a great guy!
By the way, I kept running into John in the Lusaka airport, in different lines, since he, too, was heading to Joburg (that’s what they call it) to get his flight to Washington, D.C.
I thought the flight to Joburg would be very pleasant, because for a while I had the window seat (not my preference) and another woman had the aisle seat, with an empty seat between us. Unfortunately, it was filled by an older but large gentleman, who kept poking me with his rather chapped elderly elbows. I spent the entire 2 hours trying to scrunch myself away from him.
We were given a very nice lunch on the plane, so I was well fed by the time we got to Joburg. The elderly gentleman (who, by the way, lives 3 hours away from Joburg and, non sequitor, has the largest hands I’ve ever seen) kindly took down my carry on for me.
As soon as I had gotten down one hall, I sat on the floor and rearranged the stuff in my carry on so that I could almost close it.
Then I was on my own and very confused about where to go. Finally, I decided that international transfers sounded promising. I walked and walked and walked and finally found another very long queue, where I kept passing John, or he kept passing me.
Unfortunately, just as I got to the airport representative, I noticed people handing her a boarding pass. I didn’t have one.
So, I had to go back (not too far) and get my boarding pass. Then I got back into the queue (I suppose I could have jumped to the head of the line, but given that I was going to have 5 whole hours to wait before my next flight, I didn’t see any reason to hurry).
The Johannesburg Airport is huge, with lots of duty free shops and shops filled with African pottery, jewelry, fabric, toys, books, clothing, etc. I spent a lot of time wandering into and out of stores. I did go into a luggage store because my poor carry one was almost bursting at the seams. The saleswoman showed me a terrific tote that would hold my computer and my purse, but it was $100. I decided I’d risk staying with what I have.
In the middle of the shops, there was a Hagan Das ice cream stand. Next to it was a chocolate shop- and there were Tobblerone bars in all the duty-free shops. I refrained from making any culinary purchases. Instead, after wandering around for 3 hours, I found a quiet place to sit and decided to write to you.
I think this airport offers free internet access. I’m going to try and send this to you.
My next missive will be from Atlanta!
Johannesburg, Atlanta and Madison, September 14-15, 2013
I’m home, safe and sound, if pretty exhausted. The flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta was 16 ½ hours. In the future, I will make darn sure that I check my seat assignment a few days beforehand. I prefer the aisle, so I can get up and walk. For this interminable flight, I was seated next to the window, with two people between me and the aisle- and not enough legroom to cross my legs. You should have seen the contortions necessary to simply get from my seat to the aisle!
I’ll not bore you with many details about the flight. I watched movies (wearing the most uncomfortable in the ear headphones provided by Delta), read, even slept fitfully for maybe an hour, walked the aisles, and drank lots of water.
What I didn’t do was eat the orange I brought from the Lusaka hotel. That was a BIG mistake, because after I got off the plane in Atlanta, went through passport security, then went to pick up my luggage (they had told me in Lusaka that it was scheduled through to Madison, but there it was on the baggage conveyer belt just the same). While waiting for it (just in case it didn’t get through, as it didn’t-if that makes sense) a security dog jumped up on me, pawing at my purse. Yup, the orange. The security guard wrote it down on my customs sheet but didn’t tell me to throw it out.
Nope, I had to get all the way up to customs (luckily, there were free carts to tote luggage), to be told to go back to a special room. When I got there, looking rather pitiful, I imagine, they didn’t make me open up everything. They just asked for the orange and sent me back through customs.
I had a two-hour layover in Atlanta, then a 1-½ flight to Madison, arriving home to cool rain and daughter Jenny. After chatting with her and showing her my purchases (and a gift for her), Jenny went on her way. In the ensuring hours, I: put my clothing and training materials away; uploaded, edited and sent to the Zambian participants 250 photos from the sessions; cleaned the cat’s water fountain; cleaned my two fountains and started them again (one on my desk and the other near the front door); went through two weeks of mail; watered the plants; cleaned the bird bath; filled seven bird feeders; cleared fallen willow boughs from the shrubbery in front of my house; tied up a renegade rose bush that blocked the path from the garage to my back porch; tied up or cut down rain-sodden plants that also blocked the path to the garage; watered the plants in the front window boxes (the coleus was drooping); checked email; contacted my email and website provider because I realized to my chagrin that none of the email messages that I have sent through their website while traveling, for the entirety of 2013,
had been saved- and got that fixed from this point on (generally people respond to my emails, so I get a copy that way); cuddled with the cats; vacuumed the downstairs, which was very cat furry; fought with the vacuum cleaner because it was blowing dust out instead of taking dust in; talked to my mother; made a food shopping list; picked some apples from my tree to eat with my Jiffy chunky peanut butter; took a shower; and now am writing to you.
I’ll pay bills tomorrow, write up my expense and invoice for this trip, and, besides food shopping, etc., write two Laurel Learning Tips. I didn’t realize until tonight that my last Tip went out on August 26th. I’ve missed September 2, 9, and 16 (although I might be able to get it out during the day rather than at 7 a.m. when it is usually sent out).
That’s it for me. It’s time to give the cats their nighttime treat and for us all to go to bed. I am NOT setting any alarm tomorrow!
Thank you again for keeping me company on this trip.