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.