Saturday, December 27, 2008

Off to Namibia

It's time to get ready for our trip to Namibia.  Over our Christmas break we mulled over several options on where to go.  We quickly discovered that we were late getting into the game.  Most of the popular destinations such as the Seychelles, Zanzibar, Comorros and Capetown were booked up as early as September as most of southern Africa visits these places over the break.  So our November brainstorming sessions on where to go were somewhat short and limited.  After asking a few of the more seasoned ex-pats on what was available, we decided to head southwest to our neighboring country, Namibia.  Namibia is a fairly new country having gained its independence in the early 1990's.  It has a very strong German influence as it belonged to Germany back in the day.  Namibia has several different attractions from the highest dunes in the world to the Kalahari Desert to it's coastal gem the city of Swakopmund.  Of course there are great game parks and we plan on staying at Etosha game park.  At Etosha we will encounter cheetah, black and white rhino and ostriches.  All of which are not available in Zambia.  Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, is a modern city about the size of Colorado Springs.  We are looking forward to good shopping and good roads and infrastructure.  Something that is truly lacking in Zambia.  We will fly in to Windhoek via Johannesburg, South Africa.  Stay tuned as our cameras will be rolling and we plan on flooding the blog with numerous pictures. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Best Christmas Ever!!

Merry Christmas Blogettes!  May our blog find you and yours happy and healthy this holiday season.  We are experiencing quite a different Christmas than years past.  It is about 80 degrees and raining off and on.  Such weather makes it hard to distinguish Christmas from any other day here in Zambia. However, this Christmas we had the honor and privilege to experience the true meaning of Christmas.  Last weekend, Rianne, Deryn and Trevor participated in a gift wrapping party at the Ambassador's residence.  The Marines had collected presents for their "Toys for Tots" program.  On Christmas Eve, Beth and the kids accompanied the Marines to deliver the toys to Lusaka's poorest Compounds.  I had the misfortune of having to go into work so I truly missed out.  Fortunately, Beth snapped some great pictures and I could tell from the accounts given by the kids of their experience that they got it!  
Beth indicated there were several moments where she had to look away to try and keep her composure, especially when the Compound children began singing "The Good Lord Loves Us".  A few times she looked up and saw Deryn with tears in her eyes as she talked with the children and held some of the smaller ones.  Another classic moment was when all the presents had been passed out and there was a little girl in the front about Trevor's age who was holding a younger sibling.  She did not have a present.  Even her sibling who she was holding had received a present.  The girl went over to the gentleman who had the list of all the names of kids and looked to see if her name was on it only to be told it was not.  She quietly walked back over to where she was without a word.  The Marines scrambled around and found her a gift.  They gave it to her and she thanked the Marine.  She then turned around and gave the gift to her brother who was standing behind her.  Even now, while I'm typing this, I can feel the lump building in my throat and my eyes welling up.  It was the most unselfish act and really epitomizes what Christmas is all about.  As the Mastercard commercial states:  Move to Africa $50,000 - 1st class Safari and Victoria Falls $5000 - the look in your children's eyes when they actually see how fortunate they are - PRICELESS!  
Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good night!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Training Programs

The last two weeks I have spent training Zambians not to beat their wives and entertaining instructors from the US.  I'm not joking about the not hitting your wife thing.  It seems that it is traditional for men to beat their wives as a sign of affection.  At least that is what the men believe.  They also believe that the women expect it and would be suspicious if their man did not beat them regularly.  Great system huh?  So I have my work cut out for me.  BUt so far I am making some headway.  I have been on a media blitz tour in order to get out the message that you cannot beat your wife, even if the beatings are only once a month.  I have been on call in radio shows, all three newspapers have interviewed me several times and I even appeared on "Kwacha Good Morning" Zambia's equivalent to the "Today Show".  It is kind of funny because people have come up to me and said they had seen me on the show.  I am known as the American "GBV guy". But don't worry blogettes, if I turn sideways I can still get my head through most doors.  
My first two training programs were very successful and I look forward to continuing the process.  My women students have also reassured me that they do not believe they need to be beaten in order to feel loved.  So only time will tell what impact, if any, the program will have.  

Nairobi, Kenya

I left Lusaka around 11:00. I was headed for Nairobi but had a lay over in Lilongwe, Malawi. My three Zambian proteges managed to make it to the gate with about 30 seconds to spare. I would spend the next week with these three as I was escorting them to the Cybercrime conference. Their names were Mulunda, Nkandu and Omari. Malunda and Nkandu worked together as prosecutors for the Zambian Government and Omari was a senior investigator for the Zambian Police. They turned out to be great guys and we had a great trip. However, it did not start out that way.
We arrived in Nairobi around 16:25 and made our way through customs. By 17:00 we were standing out on the curb awaiting our transport to the hotel which was about 25 Km away from the airport. Our transport turned out to be some guy with an unmarked Toyota Corrolla who assured us he was hired to take us to the hotel. The four of us piled in and fortunately none of us had very much luggage or we would have had to leave it behind. As we left the airport I noticed a very high wire fence about 20 ft tall lining the road exiting the airport. As we travelled down the road, I quickly realized why the fence was there. On the other side there were giraffes and zebras casually grazing in an open field. Unfortunately, I failed to get a picture as I was not expecting to see any wild animals at the airport.
The next four hours were spent navigating the streets of Nairobi until our arrival at the Safari Game Park Lodge 25 kilometers away from the airport. During those four hours I saw four accidents, I saw two lane roads turned into three lane roads, we had a flat tire that required us to get off the main road so that the driver could change it and then try for twenty minutes to get back on to the main road. I later learned that this was standard fare for traffic in Nairobi. Let me just say in no uncertain terms, THIS WAS THE WORST TRAFFIC I HAVE EVER BEEN IN ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD! Four hours to travel 25 kilometers or 15 miles. I could have walked quicker. But hey, shortly after the fourth accident, as we were waiting for traffic to begin moving again, a dude comes cruising up from behind us on a camel. As he continued to move, and we didn't, the camel looked at us and bellowed a loud grunt as if to say "what are you looking at." Once again I failed to snap a picture as I truly was not expecting to see a guy on a camel in all that traffic. Plus, I was a nervous wreck because we narrowly missed at least seven accidents ourselves as our driver continually made lanes of traffic where there were no lanes of traffic and drove on the shoulders of the road in order to move ahead a maximum of two car lengths only to argue and cuss out the guy who was angry because we cut in front of him.
The rest of my time in Nairobi was much more pleasant. I was able to meet up with my counterpart, Rob Bowman who holds down the fort for Kenya. He is in charge of the same program I am but he also has a few more duties that I don't have. The interesting thing about Rob is that, for those who don't know, he is a Durango High grad just like me. He is class of 79 so a few years my senior. His mother, Mary Ruth Bowman, was my health teacher at Miller Jr. High. Small world isn't it! Who would have thought that two Durango High School graduates would go on to represent the Department of Justice in two African countries. What are the odds? Must be something in that Durango water. Pretty good testament to the public school system.
Nairobi is a big city compared to Lusaka. Millions and millions of people, pretty large skyline and lots of shopping, including malls. I couldn't find a Starbucks but there were plenty of good coffee shops selling Kenyan coffee. Plus there was an excellent sushi restaurant at the hotel. I have not had sushi since my last trip to East by Southwest a few weeks before we left. I ate sushi three out of the five days I was in Nairobi.
All in all, I had a good time in Nairobi despite the unbelievable cluster$#@% that was the traffic. I was able to snap a few pictures of the city and of some of the students who attended the conference before my trip was through.

Wow, it has been almost a month!

I finally visited my own blog and was reminded of how quickly time passes around the holiday season.  My blog inactivity is directly related to the non-stop whirlwind tour that is Africa.  First there was Thanksgiving.  We were able to have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with Turkey and all the trimmings.  We hosted two other families and a guy who was out here working temporarily over the holiday.  All the kids went swimming as it was about 90 degrees and sunny. As I read the Durango Herald, I smiled when came across the forecast for Thanksgiving.  I can honestly say I do not miss the cold weather.  Thanksgiving went off without a hitch as we had plenty of food and drink and the expandable waistline pants once again proved to be worth their weight in gold.  The days after were spent preparing for my upcoming trip to Nairobi, Kenya for a week long cybercrime conference involving about 10 African countries.  I was anxious to travel to Kenya and to meet with some of my counterparts who would also be attending. 

Monday, November 17, 2008

Busy Busy and Busier!

Hello Blogettes.  Just a quick note to let you all know that we are still alive.  Things have been pretty quiet here as we are gearing up for Thanksgiving.  Rianne and Deryn had another school volleyball tournament over the weekend.  Rianne's team (Varsity) won the tournament without losing a game.  Deryn's team (Jr. Varsity) had a rougher go of it.   But the real story was that we finally received our household goods!  Yes nearly six months ago we were packed out of Durango and low and behold, all our possessions magically appeared last Friday.  Well I shouldn't say all our stuff made it, but most of it did.  It had been so long that we had already forgot what we shipped.  Even with the extraordinary delay, it was nice to have our stuff and it made our house feel more like home.  Now if we could just get our car!   

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Day!

Hey Bloggees,
Election day has come and gone and we now have a new President Elect. It is strange watching it from afar. No campaign ads, no mass mailings and no phone calls seeking opinions. No letters to the editor trying to sway my vote, no vandalism or desecration of yard signs, no idiots in gas masks or holding doom and gloom signs, just CNN reporting the results and providing world views. The most positive thing to take away from this election is that from the outside looking in, the process of democracy in the U.S. fared well.
Here in Zambia, we just finished a presidential election last week. There was some campaign mudslinging, some outrageous and comical campaign promises and a few veiled threats. But nothing like the campaigning that goes on in the U.S. There is very little media coverage, a few rallies and no debates.
However, individual Zambians are very willing to speak with you about their issues and the candidates they support. One marked difference is that the Zambians are not disrespectful to others who hold opposite views and don't engage in personal attacks on the candidates. Whereas, I cannot say the same for my hometown where I have been following the Durango Herald throughout the campaign.
It always cracks me up when I read a letter to the editor written by a Durangotang endorsing a presidential candidate. First of all, what egomaniac thinks that they possess such foresight and knowledge thrust upon only them that the rest of us dolts of La Plata County do not possess. Secondly, what makes them so egotistical to think that they are somehow able to harness such incredible knowledge and foresight of the Country's and World's issues from their home in Durango, Colorado, and thereafter, disseminate it into golden nuggets of literary treasure so the rest of us who have been anxiously awaiting to fill out our ballots can now do so after being fully enlightened. Yet these party stalwarts (and you all know who they are) are not deterred. OK enough with the campaign rant.
Another thing that was markedly different between the Zambian election and the U.S. election was that here we had to plan for for emergency evacuation just in case violence broke out after the results. Fortunately, the Zambians remained true to their label as a peaceful people. The election was decided by less than 40,000 votes and the projected frontrunner did not win. However, there was no violence which is something the Zambians can be very proud of.
It was the first election ever where I actually had to think about whether or not a transition of power would go smoothly. Never once in the U.S. elections was I worried that the incumbant would refuse to acknowledge a new leader nor did I ever feel threatened to vote one way or the other. I guess what I'm trying to say is that we should all be thankful we have the form of government we have and not take it for granted.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tiger Fish Fishing on the Lower Zambezi

Tiger Fish fishing is quite an experience.  Not only do you have to worry about crocs, hippos and elephants but you also have these prehistoric fish swimming in the water just waiting to make a nice snack out of various body parts.  I've caught a 3ft Northern Pike and thought it looked pretty scary but it pales in comparison to the Tiger Fish.  The teeth on these creatures are unreal and they will chew right through a metal leader.  We (as a family) engaged in a few short battles with these freaks of nature and Trevor almost got one in the boat, but alas, they all got away.  (A blessing in disguise I'm thinking).  Nonetheless, as the saying goes - "I'd rather have a lousy day fishing than a good day at work."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Walking Safari

Hello Bloggettes.   The Lower Zambezi is known for many things: tiger fishing, elephants, hippos, crocs, monitor lizards, arts and crafts, beautiful sunsets and the original home of canoe safaris.  We were out to experience all of them.
We started out our day at 5:30 am for coffee and tea which was brought to our veranda of our chalet.  The verandas overlook the river and provide a personal view of the morning sunrise over the Zambezi River.  As the red rubber ball slowly rose over the horizon, I could hear hippos calling back and forth, elephants splashing in the river, and the king of beasts roaring off in the distance.  Each chalet is very private and set up to make you feel like your are the only ones for miles.  As we sipped our coffee, we could here some stirring and scuffling down the trail.  As the sound got closer three little faces appeared. It was the kids making their way up from their chalet.  Arguing, pushing and name calling.  Our brief moment of peace and serenity vanished.  For today was to become another day of high activity and more risk taking.  It was also Trevor's 9th birthday.
The plan for the morning was that Rianne, Deryn and I would head over to Kanyemba Island for a morning walking safari.  Trevor, because of his age, was unable to go on the walking safari.  (even though if push came to shove he can probably out run all of us).  I could tell he was disappointed but he bucked up and he and Beth climbed back into bed to get a little more shut eye.
As the girls and I boated over to the island we came across some noisy hippos who seemed to be protesting our early arrival.  As we neared the bank of the island, two crocs (at least 8ft each) scurried partially into the water.  Undeterred, our guide, Ricardo, docked the boat on a sand bank and treated the crocs as though they were a couple of stray dogs waving his arm and saying "get out of here ya bums."  Reacting to Ricado's hospitality, the crocs slithered into the Zambezi without making a sound.
Ricardo, began the safari by giving us the dos and don'ts (no sudden moves and absolutely no screaming) and making sure his .375 magnum rifle was ready for operation.  I asked him if he ever had to use it.  He said not today he hasn't.  Feeling fully reassured, I gave the thumbs up to the girls and off we went.  We walked for about an hour without seeing any animals.  During that time Ricardo filled us in on the local flora and fauna.  Then, without hardly a sound, two elephants were right in front of us about 50 yards away.  They turned to look at us and took off in the other direction.   We continued down the path and happened upon a herd of ten.  They too were very close (within 30 yards).  They looked at us, postured around a little bit, let us take some pictures of them and then disappeared into the bush single file.  For the next two hours we came upon numerous elephants.  We discovered that the male adolescent males are the most annoying as they will "mock charge" you as kind of a game to try and scare you.(It works!)  Taking about four steps toward you, spreading their ears and trumpeting.  Ricardo said, "just think of it as a nineteen year old male at a pub who is trying to impress the ladies.  As long as you don't challenge him, he won't have to embarrass himself."
When we returned to the lodge, Trevor and Beth were waiting for us with breakfast on the way.  English breakfast, two eggs, bacon, sausage, beans and grilled tomato.  Ah!! Life is good!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lower Zambezi

Hello blog readers!  I figure it is about time for an update.  The Kids were out of school this week so we decided to head down to the lower Zambezi River which is about 2 1/2 hours from Lusaka.  We stayed at Kanyemba Lodge.  I highly recommend it as the chalets were nice and clean, the food was great and the wildlife was abundant.  Kenyemba is known for two things: Elephants and Tiger Fishing.  And we had plenty of both.  Mix in some hippos, crocs, tons of birds and vervet monkeys and you have a recipe for safari success.  The only thing missing was those "friends" who keep saying they are coming to experience a once in a lifetime opportunity at resident rates.  You all know who you are.  Did I mention it was hot.  We had to utilize the pool at the lodge on several occasions to cool down. (No big sweaters or mittens and gloves for us).  
The tiger fishing was interesting to say the least.  You have to use metal fishing line and a hook the size of my index finger.  You put on a chunk of beef (2"X 2") or a half a fish (about a foot long) and let your line drift behind the boat as you float down stream.  When you get a bite you have to keep the line taut or the tiger fish will shred your metal line in half.  We spent more time re-stringing line than we did catching fish and never did get one of those medieval looking fish in our boat.  So I guess we will just have to go back and try again.

The Zambezi river is beautiful.  As we trolled up and down the river we saw tons (figuratively and literally) of elephants, many hippo herds, crocs and local people who live in villages near the banks of the mighty Zambezi.  Once again the sunsets were stunning and beyond description.  I've included some pictures but they just don't do it justice. 

Friday, October 10, 2008

Cricket is in the air

Now that school is in full swing the sports season is heating up.  Rianne is starting Varsity Volleyball and is team captain.  They won their first Lusaka tournament.  She also is starting for the junior varsity basketball team and has played sparingly on the varsity basketball team. In Lusaka Volleyball and Basketball are played at the same time on alternating weekends.  Deryn made the U15 volleyball team and her serves are getting better every game.  Trevor is playing cricket with the U11 team and has had three matches.  He is the wicket keeper and the team captain.  This week he was asked to play with the U13 team in a tournament in November. Cricket is the most boring game!  (sorry Peter Marshall).  Trevor's first match was a test match that lasted a total of 7 hours.  They got beat 197 to 104.  About two hours into the match on the first day, they stopped and broke for tea.  It was about 95 degrees and there I was sipping tea in Musakili, Africa.  There were no chants of "nice hit" or "way to go".  Rather it was "good show my good man" or "well done Trevor, well done."  The match took place at a boarding school and Trevor and I camped out in our safari vehicle because the match continued until noon the next day.  A few of the other participants camped also.  Let me just say this, it doesn't matter where you camp in the world, there is always going to be somebody right on your a#@.  I actually had to take a picture of it because it was too unbelievable. :-)      

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Shopping in Zambia

On my trip to the Western Province I snapped a few photos of some of the store fronts we encountered.  The "climatic shopping center" was a big hit.

Western Province The Barotse Kingdom

Earlier this month I ventured out of Lusaka to the Western Province.  The Western Province is made up of mostly flood plain.  During the rainy season there are several parts of the Western Province that are only accessible by boat.  I went out with three other embassy officers on a good will tour to check on U.S. funded projects and visit villages to promote the U.S. Mission.  It was an awesome feeling traveling around the Western Province as the face of the United States.  The Western Province is home to the Lozi people and the Barotse King known as the (Litunga).   Because we were the U.S. delegation we were formally invited to have a meeting with the King at his palace.  It was like a scene out of Coming to America.  People bowing down, receiving lines, and every phrase begins with "yes your Royal Highness" or "no your Royal Highness."  The King was a very nice man who enjoys a very cordial relationship with the United States.  He thanked us for our country's support of his people and personally invited us back to his Kingdom any time we were in the Western Province.  Let me just say this, "it's good to be the King."  
The remainder of my trip was spent driving or boating through small villages and meeting with Chiefs, Headmen and children.  Most of the schools we visited were very poor yet the children were always happy and filled with curiosity.  The schools put on several drama's for us and sang wonderful songs in our honor.  I was amazed at how articulate the children were and extremely impressed at the obstacles they had overcome just to be going to school.  Many schools were held under a tree with a blackboard leaning against the tree.  Others were in grass huts with dirt floors and no electricity.  Cafeterias were basically campfires next to the school. Yet these kids were learning about the world and proudly displayed their knowledge to us in song and dance.  It was hard not to cry seeing the joy in their eyes when we handed out red white and blue soccer balls courtesy of the USA.   You would have thought we had given each one of them a million dollars.  Of course each red white and blue ball had imprinted on it "Made in China."
My digital camera was a big hit as many of the people had never had their picture taken or seen themselves in pictures.  I would take a picture of a kid and show him or her the picture on the monitor.  Before I knew it the whole village was clamoring to see the monitor and then requesting that I take each ones picture.   Most of them asked how long it would take to get to the United States.  I found that question very hard to answer because their only mode of transportation was by boat or by foot so "17 hour flight" didn't mean a whole lot to them.  I was amazed at how any kids could learn anything while attending school under a tree without running water or electricity.  Yet I met some truly bright young people full of promise and hope.  It really gave me a new perspective on that 84 million dollar bond we passed a few years back.   

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lord Livingstone

Well we finally made it to Livingstone and Victoria Falls and all it took was a whim and a prayer.  The trip to Livingstone from Lusaka is 472 Kilometers (that is about 293 miles for you non-metric folk).  About 250 miles of the trip is uneventful paved road and takes about 4 hours to travel.  However, the last 43 miles is driving hell.  It took us 2 and one half hours to travel those 43 miles.  There are more potholes than road and they are the size of small cars that are strategically placed so there is no way of avoiding them.  The local kids provide relief by standing on the side of the road and filling the most egregious potholes with dirt to ease the jolt given from the axles hitting the frame (and your head hitting the headliner).  We didn't realize until we spoke to a few folks in Livingstone that the kids fill the potholes to earn money.  So on the way home we loaded up on 500 kwacha notes and handed them out to our cheerful pothole filler uppers.  The real story, however, occurred during that stretch of bad road on the way down.

We hit the bad road about two hours before sundown.  Conventional wisdom tells you that is plenty of time to travel 43 miles right? Wrong!  The potholes were so severe that about 30 miles in I started feeling a vibration and hearing a loud noise.  I got out and had Beth drive ahead as I walked behind (always mindful that the bush was on both sides of the road).  As I trailed our $4000 Safari car, I noticed one of the rear wheels was about to fall off.  I stopped her immediately and began to assess how bad this was really going to be.  First, we had no idea how much further we had to go before we got to Livingstone.  Second, given the state of the wheel it appeared as though some studs may have broken off.  This would mean the vehicle would be inoperable and we would have to figure out a plan of action including at least one of us or possibly all of us leaving the vehicle and walking to Livingstone.  Oh and did I mention the sun was beginning to set and one universal rule of thumb is that you don't ever travel at night in Africa?  As I assessed the damage, I realized that the lugs holding the wheel to the axle were tight but that the wheel contained a 1" spacer between the wheel and the axle.   A spacer is used to push the wheel further out from the wheel well to provide more space between the tire and the wheel well.  So since the wheel was tight, that meant the lug nuts holding the spacer to the axel had backed off (unthreaded) and became loose or the studs had broke off.  Either way I was screwed because I knew I did not have a lug wrench that fit the lug nuts holding the spacer on so I could not loosen or tighten them.  As I began jacking the car up, I kept thinking to myself, this could be really bad because if I can't tighten up the wheel to the axle we would be stranded and would have to make a less of evils choice on staying with the car and be subject to whomever may come along, or walk along the road to Livingstone in the dark with everything else that is in the dark.  I tried not to let on to Beth and the kids how bad it could be. (Not true!! He let me know that it was a bad situation and I was really frightened-b). Once I got the tire off the spacer I realized that the all the lug nuts had become loose and that no studs had broken.  Remarkably, I was able to take all the lugs off with my fingers and to my amazement none of the studs had been stripped.  A rush of relief came over me as I took off the spacer and put the tire on the still threaded studs.  With Beth holding the flashlight, I tightened up the wheel to the axle and lowered the jack.   We loaded back into the car and began to drive away.  I remained somewhat quiet the rest of the way as I was thinking to myself how close to disaster we were.   
Fortunately, from that point on the trip got better and better.  We stayed at the Zambezi Sun.  It was a very nice hotel and sits right next to Victoria Falls.  In the mornings we had a marvelous buffet and were accompanied by the local monkeys who were not afraid to jump on your table and steal your waffles right off your fork.
The Falls were stunning.  We learned that the water levels are low from September until November and that it was a good time to come because you could actually walk across the top and go to Devils Pool.  Foregoing those activities, we instead embarked on a journey to the Flying Fox and Gorge Swing.  The Flying Fox is a zip line that spans a huge gorge close to the Falls.  They put you in a harness and then you run off the cliff and travel down the line.  The gorge is about 200 yards straight down about 500 yards wide.  We all did the Flying Fox and it was quite a rush.  When we finished we were asked if we wanted to do the Gorge Swing.  The Gorge Swing is a 200 ft bungee cord attached to the middle of a cable that spans the gorge.  You harness up and then jump off the cliff.  You free fall for 3 seconds and then the bungee kicks in and you begin swinging back and forth above the gorge.  When its over they lower you down to the bottom and you have to walk back up.   The Gorge Swing held no entertainment value for me or Rianne.  However, Trevor was all over it and Deryn was somewhat interested.  Beth stated that she liked to swing so she said since Trevor wanted to do it she would go with him as a tandem.  After signing all the liability waivers, Beth and Trevor were briefed and taken to the edge of the gorge and began backing toward the edge.  (Yes that's right you go off backwards by just leaning backwards until you fall.  As Beth got within 6 inches of the edge and looked down she declared with no uncertainty that she was not going to do it.  As she began unharnessing, you could see the look of disappointment in Trevor's eyes.  Deryn then turned to me and said "I'll go with Trevor."  I told her you better be sure because you don't want to chicken out like your Mom did. :)   
Beth was so relieved to get the harness off, that her motherly instincts did not kick in.  Before we knew it, Trevor and Deryn were harnessed in and were backing toward the edge.  Beth looked at me and said I don't think "we" should let them do it.  She grabbed my arm as they began leaning back and left imprints as they plunged to the depths of the gorge.  Cheers rang out from the 15 or so other thrill seekers who witnessed the jump and slowly the feeling in my arm returned.  It wasn't until Deryn and Trevor gave us the thumbs up as they swung precariously high above the gorge bottom, that I was able to appreciate the feat those two little people just accomplished.   Needless to say, there would be no "Parents of the Year" awards being handed out that day.  However, we are now the proud parents of the world record holders for the youngest tandem to ever go off the Gorge Swing.  So we got that going for us (which is nice).  Check it out 
The rest of the trip was comparatively anti-climatic.  We returned to the Falls and basked in its mist.  The Falls were absolutely beautiful.  As the sun set over the Falls, I thought to myself,  "We can chalk this up as just another notch on our African adventure belt." 

Thursday, August 28, 2008

House Update

Just a quick update on our house.  It is nice, real nice!  We have four bedrooms and a separate guest quarters off of the pool.  The guest quarters has its own full bath with a full sauna next to it. It also opens up to the pool.  The Guest quarters could accommodate four easily and five comfortably and we have WIFI so you can connect while lounging around the pool.  Fenson, our gardener (who has been terrific!) keeps the pool sparkling clean, planting more and more flowers everyday, and keeping the place well manicured.  I guess what I'm trying to say is, "you better take advantage of it now because we are only here for a year".   So if you ever wanted to take that dream safari you have a place to stay and we can get you "local" rates which are up to five times cheaper than if you book through an agent.  What are you waiting for?

A Solemn Occasion

I regret to inform our readers that Dr. Levy Mwanawasa the President of Zambia has passed away.  He was the first Zambian President to die.  All the other Presidents are still alive.  It is a major event as he was well liked and respected.  The Zambian Government has declared a 21 day period of mourning.  After that, a Presidential election must be held no less than 90 days after his death.  His funeral is on September 3rd and that day has been declared a National Holiday.  So far everybody has remained remarkably calm.  The Zambian Kwacha lost some strength against the Dollar but has remained stable.  The Zambians we know are concerned about who will be their next president.  So it will be interesting to experience a Presidential election in a foreign country.  Hopefully when it is all said and done, we won't have to be evacuated. :-)  Because things are so quiet around here, we have decided to scoot on down to Livingstone this weekend.  We anxiously await Victoria Falls one of the seven natural wonders of the world.  Everyone who has been there has told us it is a must see.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

School Starts!

Can you believe it?  School has already started here in Lusaka.  The kids ride the bus to school which is about 5k from the new house.  We are the closest Embassy family to the school so that means the kids are the last to be picked up and the first to be dropped off.  So far, aside from the occasional home sickness (Deryn) the kids like their new school and we are pretty happy with it too.  Trevor is on the school cricket team and Rianne and Deryn have volleyball tryouts next week.  Unlike the U.S., travel teams here travel to different countries.  So that will be a new experience for us.  The school is about as diverse as a school can get and the kids have already met and made some friends who are from all over the globe.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

It's True!!

Yes, it has been confirmed that we will be moving in to the new house on Monday. What is the significance you may ask? Well, first of all it is a much better and bigger house. Second, we can finally unpack all our stuff. Third its closer to school, and finally, we will have internet... What does that mean for those of you out in blog land? It means there will be more blog updates, more pictures, and Skype ability. YAHOO!!!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


First off, I apologize to my blog readers for not updating the blog. I have received several emails wondering when we will post some updates. The tone of the emails has gone from encouragement to frustration. So I will try to appease our viewing audience.
We have been busy trying to get moved and settled into our permanent home. We are hoping to be in by this time next week. School starts on the 14th of August. We are just coming off a long weekend as it was Agriculture Day on Monday (Zambian National Holiday). We used the long weekend to take a mini safari about an hour out of Lusaka. It was just a day trip where we packed a lunch and then just got drinks at the safari lodge. The lodge sits on 2400 square Km and has various animals. We saw elephants and lions and got some good pictures. Unlike the national parks, the lodge we were at is enclosed so the animals become quite used to tourists snapping pictures of them. I would describe it as closer to a zoo than a true African Safari. But nonetheless we had a good time.
As time passes we are getting more comfortable with our surroundings and venturing out to more parts of the city. Driving at night is no longer a big deal, and Beth has now mastered the right hand drive, manual transmission safari vehicle. She regularly drives to the school and the Embassy as well as the local grocery stores. We have hired a gardener/driver for our new house. Fenson. I will take a picture of him and Post it. He says he is experienced in gardening, pool maintenance, and driving manuel transmissions. (only time will tell). The new yard is huge so he will have his work cut out for him.
The kids have been our domestic help since we have been here. They have been doing a lot of chores to make money to go to the local craft markets. There are some really neat things there. Baskets, carvings, furniture, masks, spears, shields and clothes. All three kids have started carved animal collections. The girls are pretty tight with their money, however, Trevor not so much with his or mine. I think he owes me about 25,000 Kwacha from the last market visit.
We also bought a Ping Pong table and Trevor is getting in at least 5 to 6 hours of ping pong time a day. (We should have never rented Balls of Fury). He can now beat his mom and me occasionally. We are looking very forward to our first visitors. Who will it be?

Thursday, July 24, 2008


This week I embarked on a journey to Chipata, Zambia. Chipata is located very close to the Malawian border in the Eastern Province. There are about 300,000 thousand people and about 5 paved roads. Unlike Lusaka, Chipata is in a narrow valley between mountain ranges. The economy is agriculturally driven although there is a bicycle factory there. I have never seen more bikes on the road than in Chipata. There are more bikes than cars. But not like the fancy Mountain or Road bikes our weekend warriors ride, these bikes are about as old and broken down as you can imagine. Some bikes didn't even have tires (just the rims). There were no Taxis in Chipata only bikes equipped with a board extending over the top of the back wheel where a passenger would sit side-saddle. I can only imagine what commuting is like here during the rainy season. My flight from Lusaka to Chipata took about an hour. The airport in Chipata was just a step up from a crop dusting airstrip. There was no security and no baggage claim. They just unloaded the plane on the runway and you grabbed your bag from the opening in the back of the plane. As I was looking around at the scenery I noticed the other ten passengers began walking down a red dirt two track road. So, bag in hand, I followed. After a short walk through the bush, we came to a small clearing about 500 yards from the airport building. I soon discovered this was the parking lot and my transport was waiting. We then made our way to a local lodge (there are no hotels in Chipata). The lodge turned out to be someone's home. But, it had a bed, a bath and a TV so I figured it was not too bad. I unloaded my suitcase and got ready for some afternoon appointments I had with the local police and magistrates. I returned to the lodge about 3:45 p.m. tired and just really wanting to watch a little tv and relax. I went into my room turned on the tv and quickly realized it didn't work. Upon further inspection, I found out nothing worked. No electricity. I thought, no big deal, power outages are quite common in Africa. By nine p.m. that evening there was still no power. The power did not return until shortly before I finished up my candle lit homecooked meal. I quickly excused myself from the dining room and headed for the solace of my room. I turned on the tv and waited impatiently to see what entertainment awaited me. As it slowly came into focus, I could see that the station was ZNBC (Zambian National Broadcasting Company). ZNBC has some of the worst TV imaginable and is usually broadcast in tribal languages. So not only is the programming bad, but you can't even understand what anyone is saying! I quickly changed the channel only to realize there were no other channels. ZNBC was it. My five hours of tv anticipation was shot in one press of the remote button. Oh well, at least I brought my Sudoku book and IPOD. So I got ready for bed, snuggled under the mosquito net and began working my Sudoku. Just as I was finishing my first puzzle, the power went off again. When I woke up the next morning, there was still no power and it did not restore before I had to leave for that day's appointments. The next day was more of the same. Came back to the lodge, power out. Eat dinner by candlelight, power would come back on. Get in bed, power out. Wake up the next morning, power out. The flight home was uneventful. I can say that I departed Chipata with a higher appreciation for my temporary digs in Lusaka. However, I'm going to go out on a limb and not recommend Chipata as a travel destination for those of you so inclined. Call me bias, but that is just the conclusion I've come to.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

More Pictures!

We finally had a chance to post some more pictures. We are looking forward to getting into our permanent house which should happen in a few weeks. Especially since we discovered that there were some unwanted guests in our Master bedroom bathroon. Some termites took up residence in the vanity. We were not aware they were there until Trevor accidently kicked the side of the vanity and his whole foot went through! Oh well, fortunately it is a temporary house.

Once we move into our permanent home, we will explore hooking up internet service. It is very expensive ($150- $200 per month and about $1200 to install) and service is sporadic at best. But hopefully it will allow us to start using Skype.

We are still waiting on our air shipment to arrive. Supposedly it arrived in South Africa on July 6 but still has not made it to Zambia. Our shipping people, who say they are "working very hard on it" keep telling me it has not arrived yet. (Smart money says it's been sitting at the Lusaka airport for over a week waiting for someone to claim it). I also found out that our household goods and Lexus are supposed to be leaving port (in Houston) today. This means we will get them in September or October. I will believe it when I see it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


We are happy to report that we have received the first shipment of several care packages sent by Grandma Pat! The chips and grits were a little worse from the wear but everything else arrived in original condition. Yahoo!! The packages were well received especially since we recently learned that our car and household effects are still sitting in Denver, Colorado!!!! Thanks Grandma Pat! Keep them coming!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Safari Prep

It's Thursday July 3, 2008. We are getting prepared for our safari. I spoke with a co-worker who has stayed at the lodge where we are staying (Puku Pan) and he said it was very nice and we should have a good time. It will be about a 4 1/2 hour drive from our house. The weather should be good (as it is everyday). I drove to work today so that I could gas the 4X4 up at the embassy which is about $4.50 a gal. Otherwise, fueling up at a regular station costs about $2.20 a liter or right around 8 bucks a gal. (and to think people back home are crying about $4.00 a gallon). Fortunately, everything here is pretty close and we can actually walk to the grocery store from our house so we don't drive much.

We have been informed not to take oranges with us. Apparently, elephants love oranges and can actually smell them when they are inside a vehicle. One embassy family had oranges in the back of their Mercedes station wagon and came upon two bull elephants on the side of the road. As they stopped to look at the elephants, one of them took his trunk and swung it into the back window of the station wagon and broke the glass out. He then rummaged around the back compartment until he found the oranges and took them and walked away.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Our Jekyll Trip (before the Africa Adventure)

We took a week long trip to Jekyll Island the week before we left for Zambia. The weather was gorgeous and the kids played in the surf everyday. Grandma Pat came down for a visit and we loved spending a few days with her enjoying the beach. We rented an oceanfront house and spent time at the Jekyll Island Club. One of our favorite activities at Jekyll is renting bikes and riding around the island - it takes about 4 hours to ride around the entire island. We loved the beach but were so anxious to get back to Durango and get on the plane to London!! We took a "turtle walk" but unfortunately didn't see any of the loggerhead turtles that lay their eggs on the island. We ate lots of seafood and Beth got to sample a few different hushpuppies (a favorite and a must-have when we travel to the south!!).