Saturday, January 8

The Upside-Down Carrot

One of the most impressive and distinctive trees in the world is the Baobab, which looks as though the roots grow up, towards the sky. Livingstone described it as an upside-down carrot.

Baobab Tree (image courtesy of encounter.co.za)

There are many myths surrounding the Baobab. The truth, though, is that the Gods became angry with the Baobab, uprooted it, and punished it by sticking it in the ground upside-down.

Said to live for thousands of years, the Baobab is an extremely hardy tree that serves as reservoir (rumored to be capable of holding 45,000 liters of water), food source, healing agent (protecting against malaria), and shelter (one in South Africa served as a post office for over 100 years). I never get tired of seeing these unique trees.


Friday, January 7

Shhh, I'm Listening To The Radio

Few rural Zambians own a TV or receive a newspaper. How do they get their news? Recently, community radio stations -- broadcasting local-interest stories -- have become popular.

The Zambia Community Radio Project, a USAID project, broadcasts its popular radio program, Kumuzi Kwathu ("In Our Village"), in Chewa, and Chikaya Chitu in Tumbuka. According to APC Africa, the shows motivate their 600,000 listeners (!) by broadcasting inspirational stories about "fish farming, agro-forestry, beekeeping, sourcing donor finance and project management," as well as childbirthing methods, basic health maintenance, and especially HIV/AIDS prevention.

One Zambian bestowed this high praise: "'Our Village' has influenced behavioural change in response to HIV/AIDS. Many [people] who saw the disease as witchcraft now believe the disease is real." In case you haven't ever tried, folks, motivating someone to change their behavior is among the hardest things to do.

Thursday, January 6

What A Hack

Recently, the Computer Society of Zambia cried foul when Parliamentarians passed The Internet Crime Bill -- making hacking crimes punishable by 25 years in prison -- according to crime-research.org. The CSZ is concerned the law will curb Internet access in a country where only 0.1% of the residents are estimated to own computers.

Zambia's "most famous" hacking case involved someone hacking a government website and replacing a picture of then-President Chiluba with a cartoon. Charges against the alleged hacker were dropped, because Zambia did not have a hacking law.

Lusaka National Museum

The Lusaka National Museum features some pretty impressive contemporary art (downstairs) and an interesting installataion (upstairs) presenting what Zambia looked like in the past (and still looks like in rural communities today). If you're in Lusaka, the museum is cheap and worth a visit. Unfortunately, there is no website.

However, an American named Erik -- who is traveling around the world for 16 months! Cool! -- visited the museum and posted some photos and and an accompanying narrative on his excellent blog. If you've ever dreamed of going somewhere, Erik has been there (or is on his way) and has written about it.

Snake in the Grass

My neighbors were deathly afraid of snakes. All snakes. If a snake got into the village, they would go after it with hoes, machetes, bricks -- whatever they could find. Ironically, Zambia is home to one of the world's deadliest snakes (ranking #11): The Black Mamba!

The Black Mamba (image courtesy of animal.discovery.com)

Here are a few quick facts about The Black Mamba, according to Animal Planet:

  1. Known as the world's fastest snake, the black mamba can reach speeds of between 7 and 12 mph and possibly as fast as 15 mph for short distances while chasing prey.
  2. When striking, the black mamba delivers quick multiple bites, then dashes for freedom.
  3. Despite its name, the black mamba is rarely black, but uniformly dark olive to brown or steel gray above and grayish-white below. It often has black speckling along the back half of its body.
  4. Black Mambas mate in the spring, and copulation can last for hours or days.
  5. Death from a black mamba bite can occur in less than 15 minutes. However, the average time from bite to death is four hours.

Tribal Textiles

Tribal Textiles, begun in 1991 by Gillie Lightfoot, produces 100% cotton, hand-painted (read: no two are identical) textiles in both traditional African motifs and modern designs. Located in a fairly remote part of the country, Tribal Textiles offers employment opportunites to rural Zambians, increasing their quality of life and self-sufficiency.

Wall Hanging (image courtesy of africantribalcrafts.com) Duvet (image courtesy of africantribalcrafts.com)

Although the process sounds easy, I'm sure it's time-consuming. The end results, however, are beautiful. I gave some of these as presents, and the recipients were thrilled.

"Memory of African Hunger Haunts U.S. Volunteer"

Lara Weber is a friend whose service in Zambia overlapped mine. Today, she is a news editor for the RedEye, an entertaining and informative offshoot of the Chicago Tribune geared towards a younger audience.

Originally published by the Tribune, this article describes what it's like to live in Zambia during the hunger season. It's sad but very well-written.

Where's The Nearest "Apakushita Amafuta Yamumotoka?"

Although English is the official language, there are 72 tribal dialects in Zambia. In some case, tribemembers from adjacent areas -- say, a Tumbuka and an Ngoni -- could communicate, because their languages are similar. However, if tribemembers from non-adjacent areas tried to communicate, there is a good chance for misunderstanding.

Amazingly, Webster's provides an online Bemba dictionary. Bemba is a popular language spoken largely in the northern and central portions of Zambia. Before a Bemba traveled to Eastern Province, though, he might want to check out an online Chewa dictionary.

(BTW -- Apakushita Amafuta Yamumotoka is a gas station.)

Rain, Rain Go Away

The rainy season in Zambia is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, rains nourish crops, fill wells, and generally bring a renewed sense of life to Zambia. On the other hand, rains are potentially devastating: roads wash away, people drown, and maize -- Zambia's staple food -- can literally rot in the fields.

The Times of Zabia recently reported that rains in Kitwe demolished 55 houses over the weekend.

There Are Other Blogs About Zambia?

360 Degrees Of Sky is written by an Irish NGO worker living in Ndola, Zambia. She recently posted an amusing blog detailing the difficulties associated with ZamPost, the national mail carrier.

The only thing worse than ZamPost, I'm convinced, was dealing with the teller at Zanaco, my bank in Zambia.

All the best, Claypot.

Wednesday, January 5

Oh . . . Nyau You Tell Me

Nyau is a small, secret cult. Allegedly, the Nyau sneak into villages at night, kidnap boys, and take them into the bush, where they live and train. Upon "graduation," the grown boys live in villages but must hide their "secret identities" from their neighbors; when they appear in public as Nyau, they must wear masks (hey, kinda like Superman!).

Axisgallery.com has Nyau masks for auction. I've never seen them for sale before, so I bet they're expensive, but the artistry is fabulous.

Nyau mask (image courtesy of axisgallery.com)

In 3 years, I saw exactly 2 Nyau. Each time, they were standing on the side of the road, waving their arms, and generally being scary. However, I heard about their exploits often, because everyone was terrified of them. If you ever take their picture, you better run! I hear they'll steal your camera if they catch you.

And On the Sixth Day . . . It Rained?

Here's an interesting article explaing how the Chewa people -- many of whom live in Zambia -- believe that all living things were created by Chauta (God) during a thunderstorm.

"I Am A Missionary, Heart And Soul"

Dr. David Livingstone (1813-1873), a Scotsman determined to uncover Africa's secrets, explored much of the southern half of the continent. Credited as the first white man to see Victoria Falls, he explored much of Africa's interior.

He was more than just an explorer, though: he was a doctor who cared for indigenous peoples; he crusaded against the slave trade; he learned the languages of and lived among the tribes he met; and, most important to him, he introduced Christianity to Africa.

For his time, he was a major celebrity, thanks to his writing. After several years without contact, the American journalist Henry Stanley ventured to Africa in search of him. After a year, Stanley found him and asked the now-famous (and ironic) question: "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"

Livingstone died in mid-prayer; he was found the following morning, still kneeling at his bedside. There are plenty of extracts about Livingstone available on the web. However, to get a more thorough account of his life, try crawfurd.dk or hornpipe.com.

Adrenaline Junkies: Here You Go!

African Adrenaline is a company offering killer adventure opportunities near gorgeous Victoria Falls, on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. They offer several heart-racing activities, including:
  1. A 111-meter bungi jump from the bridge that spans the gorge.
  2. Helicopter, microlight, and fixed wing flights over the Zambezi River, providing an awesome view of the river (look for crocs hunting!) and the Falls.
  3. And my favorite, the Gorge Swing -- seen on the first season of The Amazing Race -- which "entails throwing youself off the edge of the cliff attached to a body harness and free falling for 50 metres before being swung out into the middle of the gorge. The jump ends with several pendulum swings . . ."

I PAID for this?!? (image courtesy of africanadrenalin.co.za)

It's scary as hell, but I did it repeatedly. I still wear my t-shirt with pride.

Zambia Ranks Low in World Indicators

According to the UNDP, there are 175 independent nations on Earth. Of those, 29 of the 30 poorest are in Africa (the only non-African country is Haiti, at #150). Sadly, Zambia is ranked #163. Here are a few startling facts about Zambia (numbers in parenthesis are for the US):
  1. Life Expectancy at birth: 33.4 years (76.9)
  2. Adults (age 15-49) living with HIV/AIDS, 2001: 21.52% (0.61%)
  3. Population without sustainable access to an improved water source, 2000: 36% (0)
  4. Population living below $2 a day, 1990-2001: 87.4 % (n/a)
  5. Physicians (per 100,000 people), 1990-2002: 7 (276)
  6. Cellular subscribers (per 1,000 people), 2001: 11 (451)
  7. Internet users (per 1,000 people), 2001: 2.4 (501.5)
  8. GDP (US$ billions), 2001: 3.6 (10,065.3 )

"Water Project Gives Zambian Community A Clean Start"

In many villages in Southern Africa, women and children often have to walk long distances to fetch water (image courtesy of alertnet.org)

Alertnet.org, explains why officials closed a school in the Zambian village of Macha, due to a lack of appropriate sanitation facilities:

". . . 72 per cent of the population was using the bush for toilet, 82 per cent did not have refuse pits and more than 60 per cent were using water from the river. With people unable to practice good hygiene, rates of oral faecal diseases were high."

Ultimately, the Red Cross educated the villagers about hygiene and provided boreholes and sanitary platforms. Unfortunately, the article failed to mention that boreholes are notoriously fickle, and villagers are rarely able to afford replacement parts (or soap, for that matter). Also, they often feel no sense of ownership ("The borehole belongs to the Red Cross, not us") and refuse to make needed repairs. Nevertheless, kudos to the Red Cross for their hard work!

Moving Up

According to AllAfrica.com: "ZAMBIA received a record Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) commitment totalling over US$122 million and 121 investment projects during the whole of 2004, Zambia Investment Centre (ZIC) director-general, Jacob Lushinga, has disclosed..."

Tuesday, January 4

Being a Zambian Woman Might Be The World's Toughest Job

Gender inequality is a serious problem in Zambia's long-standing patriarchal society.

Zarina Geloo, of the Inter Press Service News Agency, has written "If You're in the Dock, It's Useful to Be a Man", an excellent, albeit disturbing, article exposing gender inequality in Zambian courts.

The article cites several cases in which women -- who were routinely beaten, tortured, and abused -- were sentenced to life imprisonment for killing their husbands. However, when men kill their wives -- for serving cold food -- they often received suspended or very light sentences because the court found "'...the deceased was to blame'." In another case, one judge warned a man who had killed his wife, "not to be violent when he remarried, '...because you may not be so lucky next time.' "

Something Fishy

I just took a very enjoyable walk under a beautiful blue sky. It made me think of going fishing. In Zambia, they catch and eat a lot of kapenta, a perch-like fish 1 to 2 inches in length, with a very distinctive "fishy" flavor, which Zambians love and foreigners, uh, learn to love.

Kapenta (image courtesy of lowdown.co.za)

If you stumble upon some kapenta this weekend, maybe you can try out a new kapenta recipe.


Show Me The Money!

Banknotes.com presents images of money from around the world. For example, there are 45 images of Zambian money, from the 10 Shilling note used in 1964,

10 Shilling note (image courtesy of Banknotes.com)

to the 50,000 Kwacha note,

50,000 Kwacha note (image courtesy of Banknotes.com)

which wasn't even in circulation when I was there. Since Dr. Kaunda is on most of the bills, you can easily chronicle his appearance over the years. Really neat.


And You Thought Clinton Was Slick

Former President Frederick Chiluba (image courtesy of bized.ac.uk)

Frederick Chiluba, Zambia's President from 1991-2002 -- along with four former government officials and two businessmen -- has pleaded innocent to 169 counts of corruption, abuse of power and theft totalling $43-million, according to The Star.

On January 12, a London high court will hear arguments concerning the allegations.

Monday, January 3

Tiyende Pamodzi

Dr. Kenneth Kaunda,  (image courtesy of countries.ru/zambia)

TheZambian.com has a lot of information about Zambian music.

For example, you can listen to the original recording of Tiyende Pamodzi, ("Let's walk together"), a song popularized by Zambia's first President, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, who used the song in his election campaign. For his purposes, the title would likely be translated as "Let's move together with one heart." (And Clinton thought Don't Stop was meaningful.)

And don't forget to listen to The Long Walk to Freedom, by Roby Mathew, a song commemorating Nelson Mandel's struggle.

For other Zambian music, or to see the current Top 20 Albums in Zambia (no more Celine Dion PLEASE!), click here.

Woman To Sell 2 of Her Daughters for $133 Apiece

While enjoying all the fun stuff Zambia offers, it's easy to overlook the tragedy afflicting this poor country. In order to overcome drought, famine, illiteracy, and AIDS, some Zambians feel forced to sell their own children to survive.

This article, first reported by The Independent News, tells the story of Memory, 8, and Hildah, 13, whose mother, Elvin Mudyakuvinda, is planning to sell them for $133 apiece to raise enough money to feed her other 8 children. "If anybody comes and wants them and can pay the money I need, they will take them away. It pains me that I have to do this but I have no option," their mother says. Of course, having to sell your daughters is terrible, but isn't eight years ridiculously young?

Sadly, these girls are not unique in Zambia. When I lived there, one of the girls in my village was married at age 13. Her lobola (dowery) was 1 cow.

Homer Simpson Would Love Zambia

Zambian men drinking beer (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)Mmmm . . . beer.

Zambians love beer -- and the cheaper the better. While a bottle of beer might cost 50 cents, local homebrews might only run you a nickle a gallon!

To supplement their meagre incomes, many Zambians have started their own, uh, microbreweries. Usually, their product is brewed from maize, millet, or honey; other industrious brewers even ferment "moonshine." In order to provide a stonger brew -- and attract more business -- a brewer will often "tweak" a recipe by adding fertilizer or battery acid.

In this article, a BBC reporter explains that a local brewer is upset because the Zambian government has "blacklisted" his brew, causing him financial hardship. The government counters that his beer is potentially lethal and his business is untaxed (and consequently, illegal).

Safari (so goody!)

Elephants in South Luangwa (image courtesy of zambiatourism.comZambia has excellent wildlife, including all of the Big Five (lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino, and leopard). There are many parks in Zambia, but some believe that South Luangwa is the best park on the continent. Situated in Zambia's Eastern Province, South Luangwa offers over 60 animal species and over 400 bird species, coupled with very low tourist traffic. In fact, it's possible to go an entire game drive without seeing another vehicle. South Luangwa also offers walking safaris and bush camping, two once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

Driving to South Luangwa is difficult, because the road into the park is very bad. However, there is a small airport (Mfuwe International), which many visitors utilize.

I've stayed in several places in the park, but Mfuwe Lodge beats them all.

Zambia's Invisible Man

Chrisitianlty has gained prominence over the years, but many Zambians are still deeply motivated by muti, (withcraft). According to this article, Katele Kalumba, the former foreign minister of Zambia charged with plundering the nation's wealth, uses "black magic" to evade capture.

ZAMBIA'S INVISIBLE MAN -- "Claims that the Zambian police removed their underpants in order to search more effectively for a fugitive is the latest bizarre revelation in a row about the role of witchcraft in the capture of Zambia's most wanted man . . ."

Apparently, the police were forced to strip in order to overcome the black magic making Kalumba invisible. (Hmmm, I think I just thought of a great storyline for CSI.)


Sunday, January 2

Pirates? I thought Zambia was landlocked.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has been waging a high-profile war on file-sharing. Now Zambia wants in on the action. The Times of Zambia reports that Zambia's Copperbelt Province has recently launched an "anti-piracy crack squad."

There's an important difference between the RIAA's fight and Zambia's battle. The RIAA argues that it's the recording industry that is losing billions of dollars every year from people downloading music. In Zambia, however, the Information and Broadcasting Deputy Minister, Gaston Sichilima, argues it is Government that is losing tax revenue as a result of piracy. No doubt the U.S. Government hasn't cracked down on file-sharing, because it doesn't collect a national sales tax, like Zambia's government. I guess that's one more argument against eliminating state and local tax collection in favor of a national sales tax.

The article never mentions exactly what kind of piracy the so-called "crack squad" is combatting, or how much revenue Zambia expects to recover as a result. After all, how many scratchy, bootlegged rhumba cassettes can there be?

Traveling in Zambia

Zambia boasts some of the world's best game parks, campgrounds, white water rapids, and fishing. Although getting to Zambia can be expensive, once you're there, prices are reasonable. If you ever get the chance to visit, you should go.

In my spare time, I've been contributing to Wikipedia's open-source travel guide. Click here to learn more about traveling through Zambia.

Zambia 101

Any new construction should begin with a firm foundation. Therefore, here are 5 quick facts about Zambia:


  1. A former British colony, Zambia gained her independence in October, 1964.
  2. Roughly the size of Texas, Zambia has fewer than 10 million people.
  3. Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, lies along the southern boundary of the country.
  4. Although English is the Official Language, there are over 70 tribal dialects spoken throughout the country.
  5. Mosi is the national beer.

If you need more, here is a link for more more information about Zambia.

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