Thursday, January 27

Suddenly, Trump Looks Good

OK. I know it's not nice to poke fun, but c'mon.

Judge in funny wig (image courtesy of


The address for this blog about Zambia is So, what does "yewo" mean?

There are a number of websites indicating yewo means "thank you." But to stop there is to lose much of the nuance of this cool, versatile word. Indeed, it can be translated as "thanks." However, it also means:
  • I agree
  • OK
  • I understand
  • Hello
  • Excuse me
  • Yes
  • Uh-huh
  • Bye
As you might imagine, it's never really inappropriate to say yewo. Probably the single most important translation of yewo, though, is an expression we don't have in English. We can translate it as something like "Respect to you." For example, when meeting an old man, you should say "Yewo, madala," meaning something like "Respect to you, Sir."

Thanks for checking out my blog. Yewo.

Wednesday, January 26

"What Is Your Staple Food?"

When I lived in Zambia, hardly a day passed when I was not asked about America's "staple food" -- the food Americans eat most frequently. In Zambia -- and much of Southern Africa -- nshima is the staple food. It is often eaten two or three times each day. Zambians love nshima so much they insist that if you have not "taken nshima," you have not eaten.

Nshima goes by many names (nsima, ubwale, ugali, pop, etc.), and is made by adding corn meal to boiling water until you have a very thick porridge, somewhat like mashed potatoes or thick grits. Nshima is bland and eaten with your hands. It's usually served with ndiwo ("relish") -- meat or vegetables.

Dr. Tembo has a very extensive description of nshima, including historical background, recipes, anecdotes, songs about nshima, do's and don't's, etc. My favorite line is:
"Adult men are not advised to eat nshima ya cimbala as it is believed to cause weakness in the joints and also likely to usurp a man’s sexual energy."
Take a few minutes and look around.

(BTW -- "Americans have long consumed more potatoes than any other food except dairy products and wheat flour.")

"Ms. Banda, Will We Have To Make These Days Up?"

Zambia's school teachers are often among the last to be paid by government, sometimes waiting months for their checks to be deposited. Nevertheless, they often dutifully report for work.

However, according to the Khaleej Times Online, "Tens of thousands of public school teachers in Zambia have embarked on an illegal strike to press for better wages and housing benefits from government, unionists said on Wednesday."

In Zambia, the schoolyear runs from January to December, so the teachers are starting the year off with a bang!

Microsoft Takes Aim at Zambia Piracy

One of my first blogs concerned Zambia and music piracy. Now, Microsoft is urging Zambia to implement its Information and Communication Technology Policy. According to Microsoft, "between 2003 and 2004, it lost about $12.4 billion worth of revenue through worldwide software piracy, with 81 percent of the loss coming from Africa."

Zambia lacks software piracy laws, and Microsoft has had difficulty prosecuting alleged pirates. Nevertheless, Zambia's new ICT policy does not include distribution in its anti-piracy laws, meaning Microsoft will likely continue to face prosecution problems.

Tuesday, January 25

I Got Blogged.

Erik Olsen's personal website is kick-ass. He posts all kinds of awesome photos and panos on it (although none of Zambia). Also, I love Gadling, his online magazine about "engaged travel." I check it every day.

So I was thrilled when I saw his blog on Gadling about An Exorcism in Zambia, a story I wrote about Mr. Phiri, a Zambian witch doctor who exorcised the ancestral spirits of a woman I knew. African exorcisms are cool, but probably not what you think.

"Excuuuuse Me, Could You Moooove Over?"

"Stock theft" -- theft of farm animals -- has become a big problem for Zambia's neighbor, Zimbabwe. Fueled by a desire for cheap meat, nearly 9000 cases of stock theft were reported in the first half of last year alone. Officials in Zimbabwe have cracked down on the activity by passing anti-stock theft legislation. Last week, for example, a Zimbabwean man was sentenced to 9 years in prison for smuggling 2 head of cattle into Zambia.

This week, "Zambian cattle rustlers" (who knew there was even such a thing?) managed to ferry 200 head of cattle across the Zambezi River. If sentenced by the same judge, the 2 men together could face 900 years in prison. Several questions leap to mind:
  1. Does 4.5 years per cow seem a reasonable punishment?
  2. Will Zambia introduce an "amber alert" system to foil cownappers?
  3. How do you get 200 cattle on a boat without attracting attention?

Ruminate on that for a while . . .

"How Much For A Cup of Caterpillars?"

Here's an absolutely terrific photo of a typical Zambian market. Notice that you can buy a small, a medium, or a large cup of beans.

The best part of the photo, though, is right down front: those little black things in the foreground are dried caterpillars! (Fried, they taste like burnt toast. Yum.)

Monday, January 24

Is It "Bribery" If Everyone's Doing It?

According to Transparency International, The National Integrity Systems TI Country Study Report - Zambia 2003 analyzes Zambia's governance system, including the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary, and "makes damning reading." Uh-oh.

The report provides "a devastating analysis of how a government can loot its Treasury, corrupt key agencies, distort privatisation and banking processes, and use the resources of the state to fund its dominance of the election process and pay for its retention of power."

TI asserts that Zambia ranks 92nd out of 133 countries in terms of the Corruption Perceptions Index -- an index that seeks to portray perceptions of corruption in countries.

Unfortunately, this doesn't surprise me. When I was in Zambia, many civil servants openly joked about being on the take. Once they had enough money, they claimed, they were going to retire to their farms and grow maize.

Africa Solo

Rowley Macklin has spent several years traveling through Africa and runs Africa Solo, "a more personal site about travel and Africa." He spent 6 months as an Ostrich tour guide and 1 year setting up and managing Wildlife Conservation Farms in Kenya. Very cool.

Although he states that he was mugged three times in one month in Zambia, he seems to have come through OK. In fact, he says he met

"a really nice family in a small village to the North-east of Zambia, who let me stay in one of their huts for two weeks. That was really different and special for me, and I could have easily stayed there for ages. This really gave me the chance to see Village life for real."

Most visitors to Zambia would never take the time to learn about Zambia this way. Good job, Rowley.

World's Largest Game Board?

Mancala (or nsolo) is a simple game played by collecting stones in your "mancala." Usually, the boards are roughly the size of a carton of cigarettes. If they're carved in the ground, they might be a little bigger. However, this mancala board is freakishly large.

Urban Sanitation Is In The Toilet

The UN Habitat estimates 77% of the people in developing countries will live in urban areas by 2025 -- half of them in informal settlements that may or may not be recognized as legal or permanent by local governmental bodies. Thus, the provision of sanitation services in poor urban areas is a major challenge for the 21st century.

A recent report, Linking Urban Sanitation Agencies With Poor Community Needs: A Study Of Zambia, Zimbabwe And South Africa, claims that while sanitation coverage is lower in rural areas than in towns and cities, those living in poor urban areas face a greater risk to health due to the higher population densities. One of the major consequences of poor sanitation among the urban poor is the threat of disease outbreaks. Diarrhoea is the most common disease suffered, followed by malaria and hookworm.

The most startling claim made by the report's authors is that, in some cases, up to 1,300 people share a single toilet. Read it; then wash your hands.