The Last Blog – Zinkwaze South Africa and Kelsey Graduates!

Our beachside home

Our beachside home

Alas, my African sojourn has come to an end. My last few days on the Dark Continent were spent on the beautiful Kwazulu-Natal coast of South Africa north of Durban in an opulent beach house owned by Anne’s sister-in-law who lives in Capetown.

We knocked around there for three days, filling up only a tiny bit of the large residence (“Which living room should we sit in this evening?”) and enjoying sun bathing by the pool and daily forays to the beach.

On Zinkwaze beach

On Zinkwaze beach

What a journey from my simple lifestyle for six months at Sega school in Tanzania to my busy month working on the Girls Negotiation project in Zambia, followed by the varied tourist adventures of the past few weeks in Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia, with a final exit point of total luxury in South Africa. My head is spinning!

Zulu basket

Zulu basket

While at Zinkwaze beach, I admired the Zulu baskets that were part of the home’s décor along with the lovely paintings by Anne’s late father in law, all of which appealed to my interest in art collecting and interior design.  I wanted to buy an open Zulu basket to display the ostrich eggs I’d brought from Namibia but the place to buy them, Ilala Weavers, was a two hour drive north of where we were staying and this amount of excess driving didn’t fit with our focus on relaxation.  Anne even spent some time in the hammock de-stressing from the excess excitement we’d had in Namibia.

Anne nap time

Anne nap time

We mostly cooked for ourselves as Zinkwaze is a residential beach community with little commercial activity, especially at this time of year when most of the homes are empty, waiting for their owners to visit during school holidays over Christmas.  The majority of the human activity in the area is the multitude of African hired help who protect and care for these vacation homes and are evident walking and biking to or from the home in their care.

After Zinkwaze, I flew to Montreal to attend Kelsey’s graduation from McGill. I had a house exchange banked from a few years ago so my dad, Gail, and I lived in comfort in a lovely Montreal home in the leafy neighborhood of Westmount.  It was cold and rainy at first which was a bit of a shock after so much African sunshine over the past several months and I was woefully underprepared, especially in the footwear department as I had only sandals and a pair of running shoes.  Luckily, I was able to borrow one of Kelsey’s roommate’s Hunter boots, a life saver.

The graduate

The graduate

Kelsey graduated this afternoon.  Congratulations Kels!  It was a beautiful, sunny day and the graduation was an efficient, well-oiled event that lasted exactly two hours.  Afterwards, we hosted a party here at our nice exchange home for Kelsey, two other graduating girls, their families and many of Kelsey’s friends.  It was fun to meet everyone and celebrate such a happy event.

Kelsey returns to Berkeley in a few days to start studying for the MCAT’s in August.  In October,  she is off to the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, VA to intern with Dr. John Garrett, a heart surgeon, for eight months before applying to medical school next summer.  It’s fun to finish the blog this way since it started when I dropped Fraser off for his first year at Drexel University in Philadelphia and it’s ending with Kelsey’s graduation from McGill – nice symmetry!

There is the possibility that I will go back to Africa soon as the folks running the Girls Negotiation project in Zambia have asked if I would return to manage it through to completion, which would be at least until the end of this year and possibly through the middle of next year, but I’ve made no decision. I’m just very happy that the time I had in Africa over the past eight months was rewarding and interesting, the people I met were warm and welcoming, and that I come away with a knowledge of new places, an awareness of different cultures, the experience of two wonderful projects, and several new friends.

Thanks for reading the blog and I look forward to seeing you soon!

Namibia!

Big Daddy dune and Dead vlei

Big Daddy dune and Dead vlei

I’ve come to the end of an exciting and varied nine days in this beautiful, sparsely populated country. With only 2.2 million people (to Tanzania’s 45 million), Namibia has the lowest population density of any country in Africa and the second lowest in the world (after Mongolia).  The emptiness and open spaces combined with the variety of natural landscapes is a unique and wonderful combination. In addition, the tourist infrastructure is quite good so there are terrific places to stay.

A Rough Start
However, this chapter of my travels had a hard start. My friend Anne arrived the day after I did and we had a lovely first dinner at NICE, the Namibia Institute of Culinary Education.

Dinner at NICE

Dinner at NICE

The next morning, a Sunday, Anne had her purse stolen (interesting story how it happened but not how I want to spend my blog time) so we had to spend an extra night in the Windhoek to file police reports and to allow Anne to go to the US Embassy to order a temporary passport.

By mid-morning Monday, we were once again ready to head off. Within an hour, with me driving, we had a very scary car accident that included several 360’s on the B1 southbound highway, a damaged vehicle, but luckily no injuries. My fault, I’m afraid, and Anne decided she needed a couple days to recover and regroup so she headed back into Windhoek. Meanwhile, with a new 4X4 from the rental company, I proceeded to Zebra River Lodge in the dramatic Tsaris mountains.

The Tsaris Mountains
My drive was a long one and for the last hour and a half of it, I was driving in the dark (and I mean totally dark), a “no-no” in an area with a lot of wild game that come out at night. Attracted by car headlights, they cross the road as though they have a death wish. One rabbit and two kudu ran in front of my vehicle and while the rabbit would be just a nauseating thump if I hit it, the kudu could have been a life or death experience (and I’d already had one of those that day).

Hike to the quiver tree in the Tsaris mountains

Hike to the quiver tree in the Tsaris mountains

Luckily, as I’d been warned, I was on the lookout and therefore quick enough with the brakes so that all three animals that ran in front of my car made it across the road.  The next morning, I took a guided hike and got a good look at the geology of what was an ocean a long, long time ago resulting in the amazing layers that make up the mountains.

The Desert
Leaving the mountains, I drove a manageable hour and a half to Desert Camp, my “glamping” (glamour camping) home for two nights near Sossusvlei, the area filled with beautiful, sculptural mountains and dramatic orange dunes for which Namibia is so famous.

Tiny pool at Desert Camp

Tiny pool at Desert Camp

Many springbok, the South African national animal, and oryx, a much larger antelope with two long, straight horns, live in this area, along with the funny ostrich with very strong legs that allow them to outrace cars if they so choose along the highway.  My dinner each night at the Sossusvlei Lodge featured numerous kinds of game meat I could choose to have grilled for me including eland, oryx, springbok, ostrich, kudu, crocodile, and zebra.

A dune near Sossusvlei

A dune near Sossusvlei

At 6:30am the next morning, I was off on a tour of the dunes and they really are spectacular. The orange color is due to iron oxide and is found only in this area.  After driving by and admiring many dunes, we continued on to “Big Daddy,
the tallest of them all at between 350 and 400 meters and climbed part way up.

After our climb up and run down the dune and some time spent in Deadvlei with its 600-year-old petrified trees, the guide drove us to Sossusvlei itself where the trees are green as they are fed by a vast underwater stream that is 150 to 200 meters below the surface (imagine those roots). He set up a luxurious breakfast for the five of us on a white tablecloth covered picnic table. What a treat after all that climbing.

Anne with seals

Anne with seals

Happily, Anne had by now recovered her nerve, gotten her replacement passport, and arrived at our next stop at Swakopmund on the Atlantic coast.  While I drove for many hours on a washboard dirt road to get there from the desert, Anne had a wonderful kayaking trip surrounded by hundreds of seals and flamingos.

The next morning, it was time for my sand-boarding adventure. It has been at least three years since I’ve snowboarded but I hoped it would come back to me enough that I could enjoy the stand up boarding and not just the sliding down on the stomach version. I did five runs on the snowboard, meaning I had to climb up the dune five times (phew!) and one run on the stomach board (hitting 68 km/hr). Both were really fun and while I didn’t manage a clean run on the snowboard, I was able to carve lots of decent turns. I know that if I’d had a few more runs, I would have gotten it down! The dunes in which I was boarding were gorgeous, though not orange, lacking the iron oxide of the Sossusvlei area.

Dune boarding!

Dune boarding!

Anne went off and looked for desert insects while I sweated up and down the dune.  Ironically, Beth, who runs the boarding operation and has lived in Namibia for 18 years,  is from Marin county!

The Erongo Mountains
The last stop on our tour before returning to Windhoek was in the Omaruru area to stay at a spectacular place called the Erongo Wilderness Lodge. Situated amongst huge boulder strewn kopjes (rock hills), the lodge is made of luxurious tent cabins perched on top of the rocks. The main lodge has a restaurant area, decks, a pool built into the rocks and all surrounded by the dramatic views. It’s a place to remember and clearly well managed by owner manager, Roger, who happened to be present during our visit.

Erongo Wilderness Lodge, our cabin in lower left of photo

Erongo Wilderness Lodge, our cabin in lower left of photo

Between my guided morning hikes and the evening game drive, I saw a host of game and birds including a large group of Hartmann mountain zebra, a family of dik-dik (small, charming antelope with big eyes), klipspringer (rock jumping antelope), lots of baboons and dassies (hyrax), go away birds, rosy faced love birds, double banded sand grouse, crimson breasted shrike, a Damara hornbill, African hawk eagle, and the freckled nightjar.

Overall, despite the very tough beginning to this week, I’ve loved Namibia, both because of the feeling of space and emptiness after the press of so much humanity in Tanzania and Zambia and, of course, due to the dramatic, picture worthy landscapes. I hope I’ll be back very soon for a more complete tour!

I’m now in my last few days in Africa, visiting Zinkwaze Beach on the Kwa-Zulu Natal coast of South Africa with Anne, and will be in Montreal by the end of the week for Kelsey’s graduation from McGill on Monday.  I will return to California next week – so I am almost “Out of Africa.”

Victoria Falls and Chobe National Park – Wow!

The first week of my three week southern Africa travel blitz is over. I spent some of it at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and some at Chobe National Park in Botswana.

The falls from above

The falls from above

Vic Falls, as people call it, is a hub of activity. The falls themselves are dramatic and beautiful and some of the action revolves around them but there are many activities that have nothing to do with the falls and are simply located there in order to take advantage of the tourist stream.

The Zambezi river serves as the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe and the first thing I did was to take a walk to see the falls on the Zimbabwe side since that’s the side where I was staying.  This was a wet affair as they are almost at peak flow right now and so the spray situation is pretty extreme. In fact, I could see the spray from the airplane as I was flying in to Livinstone, Zambia, the town on the other side of the border. Even though I rented a raincoat to wear, I still got totally soaked including my shoes squelching full of water.

An elderly Vervet gives me the look

An elderly Vervet gives me the look

Walking along the cliffside directly across from the falls was impressive and, in addition to the beauty across the way were many gorgeous creatures living in the rainforest including bushbuck, silver-cheeked hornbill, and lots of Vervet monkeys.

That afternoon, I crossed the border back to Zambia to take a microlight flight over the falls. On the Zimbabwe side there are only helicopter rides and I’d heard the microlight was more incredible so I chose that. It was an amazing experience, pretty much like being in a hanglider with a motor, and a pilot of course.

Microlight flight over falls

Microlight flight over falls

I had heart palpitations as we were going up but quickly got used to it and was able to enjoy the amazing views of the cracks in the earth (visible at left in photo) that resulted in the falls along with the falls themselves. The current location is the eighth for these falls and they can predict where the next one will be in 20,000 years or so!  I also was able to see giraffe, elephant, hippo and crocodile in and around the Zambezi river from the air.

The next day, I went on a lion walk with a lion breeding and release organization that uses lion cub walks with tourists as a way to raise money for the project. The lion population in Africa declined 90% between 1975 and 2002 so this organization, Lion Alert, is trying to help rebuild it. The two lion cubs I got to walk with and pat on the back, Thembili and Thuli, will never be released into the wild but they will become part of a pride that will have cubs that will be released.

Petting the nice lion

Petting the nice lion

The lions that have all the human contact resulting from the walks would not be able to make it in the wild but their progeny should be able to if they are not exposed to humans in this way. It was a new experience for me to be petting and walking with lions. You’ll note in the photo that I do have a large stick in my other hand, part of the safety procedures they employ in case a lion cub appears to want to gnaw on something – better a stick than a hand or a leg.

Kudu couple

Kudu couple

After all this activity, it was a nice change to get driven to Chobe Game Lodge in Botswana, located on the Chobe river and inside the Chobe National Park. It was a gorgeous and relaxed lodge with boat cruises on the river to see birds and game as well as those on land in safari vehicles. I took three boat rides and two land trips while there and saw several animals I had missed in Tanzania including a male lion with a black mane (gorgeous!), kudu (stunning) and many birds including fish eagles, giant and malachilte kingfisher, and jacana, also known as Jesus birds as they appear to be able to walk on water.

Holding a future croc handbag

Holding a future croc handbag

Back at Vic Falls for my last night before flying to Namibia, I took a tour of a crocodile farm. The farm has 30,000 crocs, which floored me. I’d expected a few hundred at most. What a production line they have and the shop sells croc handbags, belts, and pelts from other animals – not something one sees in Califormia!

So now I’m in Windhoek, Namibia’s capital, awaiting arrival of my friend Anne with whom I will drive around the dunes and the coast for the next nine days.  Can’t wait – sand boarding here I come!

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow & Lusaka’s Cool Culture

Aside

Tonight is my last night in Lusaka.  Tomorrow, I start three weeks of travel through southern Africa starting with a visit to Victoria Falls, followed by time in northern Botswana and then two weeks traveling with my friend Anne in Namibia, ending at a house owned by Anne’s in-laws on Zinkwazi Beach on KwaZulu-Natal coast north of Durban, S. Africa.  I’m excited!

Yesterday was my last day with the negotiations coaches.

Emilia Week 2

Emilia Week 2

Emilia Week 4

Emilia Week 4

I was taken aback when I showed up for our final day of training together to find a large number of them practically unrecognizable due to hair changes on Wednesday, a holiday. I learned that it’s all about hair extensions, some from real hair but most synthetic.   For a mzungu (white person), it can be tricky to focus on the face instead of the hair in order not to be thrown off course.  I guess if I were here a bit longer, I’d get the hang of it.  One of the coaches even offered to work on my hair next time I’m in Lusaka, though no hair extensions for me!

Likando Week 4

Likando Week 4

Likando Week 2

Likando Week 2

Lusaka has turned out to be quite the culture and food find. In the past week, I have gone out to see some form of entertainment or out to dinner all but two evenings.

I have seen a performance art piece called Tujuka Must Die produced by The Barefeet Theater, a creative arts movement that works with former and current street children.

Tujuka Must Die

Tujuka Must Die

It started with the audience being led in the dark through a field in order to get to the performance space.  We had to sing a song in order to be admitted to the site.  It was fantastic and reminded me of something I could imagine at Burning Man, even though I’ve never been.  In fact, the purple tree you can see in the photo at left went up in flames at the end of the show.

The next night, I went to the Lusaka Playhouse and saw a play called “Not Even the Bible” by a group from the Copperbelt.  It made fun of a pastor who said he was trying to help a couple having financial and marital difficulties but his form of help was to have an affair with the wife, all the while saying “All sins will be forgiven.”

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Francine Week 4

Francine Week 2

Francine Week 2

The fascinating part about the play was the audience participation throughout – like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The night after that, I attended an event put on by InterNation, an Expat/Zambian networking group, with drinks, food, and dancing.  I met people from nine difference countries including, in addition to lots of Zambians, China (Tibet), Germany, England, Nigeria, and Canada. I was the only American.

Fantasia

Fantasia

On Tuesday, I went to Fantasia,  an acrobatic and musical event put on outdoors and well attended by Zambia’s white and Indian population but not so many black Africans.  In fact, looking around, I wouldn’t have known I was in Africa based on the audience.

As my friends in the Bay Area know, eating out is one of my favorite activities and I like knowing about new restaurants and where to go for what.  So, I figured I’d better check out a few of the Lusaka options.  Night before last, I had a delicious pepper steak at Marlin, and last night enjoyed tender slow cooked lamb Kleftiko at Eviva.  I’ve been to Smuggler’s Inn more than once and had tasty rib-eye and creme brulee courtesy of talented chef Jamie.  I’ve also been out for Chinese hot pot and had a delicious brunch so I’m back in my stride and ready to get back into the Berkeley, Oakland, SF food scene in a few weeks.

Baby elephant with bottle

Baby elephant with bottle

I also took a fun trip on Sunday to The Elephant Orphanage Project about 20 minutes south of the city in Lilayi.  This is only the second orphanage for elephants in all of Africa, the first being one in Kenya that has been operating for 30 years.  The one here is only a few years old but, like its Kenyan cousin, its goal is to reintroduce the elephants into the wild once they are old enough (10 years).  These babies are generally orphaned because their mothers have been killed by poachers.

As it’s been going only 6 years, its oldest elephant is 8 so there has not yet been a re-introduction.  The teenage elephants, age 3 to 10, move to another site in South Kafue National Park.  There are 5 baby elephants between the ages of 0 and 3 currently at the orphanage.  They drink their bottles of formula in under 10 seconds so I had to be fast with the camera.

Chomba Week 1

Chomba Week 2

Chomba Week 4

Chomba Week 4

It’s a world of difference between Lusaka and Morogoro on the culture and food front.  In fact, Zambia, or at least Lusaka, is experiencing an economic revival that folks tell me is fairly recent.  New malls, new restaurants, lots of action.  Some credit goes to changes at the government level, including tax policy, that is helping small businesses and creating an entrepreneurial spirit.

Many young Zambians who went to the US or other Western countries for university have decided to return in the last few years because they want to get in on the ground floor of this economic revival.  It’s an exciting place to be right now.

A Triumph at Chazanga!

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Coach Abigail presenting to the girls

It was a tiring week but I am so excited about how well it went! The 32 coaches that we’ve been training for the past two weeks spent six days taking turns presenting the negotiations curriculum to about twenty 9th grade girls at Chazanga School on the outskirts of Lusaka.

By yesterday, it was clear that, due to the fabulous job our coaches had done and the excellent curriculum, the girls had really gotten it. They showed us that they understand how positions differ from interests, the importance of taking the right approach when entering a negotiation, stepping to the other person’s side in order determine what their underlying needs are, seeking common ground, and brainstorming in order to build win-win solutions. I was so impressed that I got choked up hearing them describe how they plan to use these new skills in their lives.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I will be fascinated to see how the research turns out once the full program happens next month with 2,000 girls in 41 Lusaka schools and data is collected once in May, again in September, and then finally again next year.

The curriculum, in addition to being important material, was fun for the girls to experience as they got to hear and participate in role plays that were about things that are relevant to their lives like a man offering to give a girl a cell phone if she will go with him to have a “drink” or a girl having to negotiate for her exam fees to be paid by a mother who is a widow with nine children.

Lina, with big smile, playing Lion-Zebra game, a prisoner's dilemma simulation

Lina, with big smile, playing Lion-Zebra game, a prisoner’s dilemma simulation

Or a girl whose boyfriend wants to have sex even though they had previously agreed they weren’t ready, and so forth. Despite their shyness at first, they were quite willing to participate in these scenarios and discuss the nitty-gritty of the situations and by the last day, almost everyone was speaking out.

In order that we separate out the impact of getting so many hours of time with such terrific role models from the actual impact of the negotiation curriculum, an equal number of girls will get a program for the same number of days and hours where they spend time in the presence of the coaches but without getting the curriculum. Instead, they will play with their friends with the coaches acting a bit like lifeguards. This acts as an additional control group for the experiment, along with a complete control group that doesn’t get any time with the coaches at all.

Likando leading coaches in an energizer

Likando leading coaches in an energizer

The energizers we did to keep us and the girls going were also quite fun. Dancing, including much swiveling of hips, is very popular here and I think the girls loved hanging out with the attractive, confident, young women who are our coaches.

We finished the Chazanga training yesterday with lunch and photos and the girls and the coaches seemed sad that it was over.

Our graduates!

Our graduates!

We were all on a high, hoping that learning these skills will help these girls to navigate themselves toward a better future. I, for one, will be rooting for them!

Happy Birthday Nalishebo and Theresa!

Two of the young women training to be coaches in the girls negotiation project had birthdays in the last few days so I thought I would profile them in my blog this week.

Nalishebo Mwale

Nalishebo Mwale

On Friday, Nalishebo Mwale turned 23. This makes her about 11 months older than my daughter, Kelsey. Nalishebo grew up in Lusaka South Farms, a suburb on the outskirts of the city.

She told me that she didn’t have many friends in her home area and has always been quiet and shy. One of her goals for herself is to reach out and make an effort to be more outgoing. Now in university, she has more of a social life as well as a boyfriend.  During the week, she stays with her cousin who lives closer to campus.

The youngest child in a family of six children, Nalishebo has three brothers and two sisters, the oldest of whom is 37. Her mother is a nurse at a clinic near their home where she lives with Nalishebo’s immediately older sister who, speech impaired, is in college studying catering. Her mother worked full-time while raising her six children while Nalishebo’s father, who was 30 years older than her mother, died when she was 9. Before his death, he was retired and before that was an accountant for the ministry of finance. Nalishebo’s mother was his second wife.

Nalishebo has one semester left before earning her bachelors degree in Development Studies at University of Zambia. She would like to get a Masters in public health, a 2 ½ year degree, and then become a lecturer in public health at the university. She anticipates she will need to work for a few years to earn the money to pay for graduate school and may also need to take out a loan. Recently, there has been an increase in university fees.

Nalishebo has traveled around Zambia and Malawi. She also visited France for three weeks in August 2011 with a trip organized by the United Church of Zambia. She likes to read Danielle Steele novels and loved the Twilight books and movies. She also enjoys watching TV.

Theresa Chileya

Theresa Chileya

Theresa Chileya turned 27 yesterday. She was born in the Copperbelt but her family relocated to Northern province and then finally settled in Lusaka when she was in grade 7. Her father, who has a degree in mechanical engineering, works as a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for World Vision, an Evangelical Christian relief organization based in Washington state. Her mother is a businesswoman who deals in second hand clothing.

Theresa is the middle of seven children and has three brothers and three sisters. She graduated in 2010 from the University of Zambia with a double major in Library and Information Studies and Development Studies. While at university, she met her fiancé, Harrison, and Theresa became pregnant. She now has a 6-month-old daughter named Chilombo. Harrison is a teacher in a secondary school and lives in the Northwest province.

Theresa loves to travel in order to see new places and meet new people but especially new places.  She enjoys spending time with friends but when she is not socializing, she is an avid homemaker and loves cooking and keeping her home neat and clean.

She hopes to pursue a Masters degree in Gender Studies and would like to start her own non-governmental organization working with vulnerable girls and women as that is her main interest. She told me that GBV (Gender Based Violence) is rampant in Zambia.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is a billboard across the street from my apartment that indicates Theresa is not the only one concerned about the treatment of women here. Let’s hope that some of the negotiating skills these coaches will introduce to a thousand young teen girls next month will be a step in the right direction.

 

Lovely, Livable Lusaka!

I’ve been in Zambia just over a week and am feeling right at home. And I’m finally getting a moment to write! The weather is just like Northern California, sunny and dry and not too hot. The dirt is no longer the reddish orange of East Africa but the more common brown I’m used to and it doesn’t seem to get into everything the way the dirt in Tanzania did. I’ve been able to start exercising like I do at home, which feels great.

My home for a month is the two-story apartment on the left

I’m living in a two story, two-bedroom apartment in a nice and fairly central area of Lusaka. I even got a haircut yesterday! I do miss my friends at Sega and wonder what is going on there but I’ve been so busy getting settled and working long hours here that I haven’t had time to check in.

Across the street is the elegant Taj Pamodzi hotel, part of the Indian owned Taj hotel group.

It has a health club and a pretty pool that I was able to join for a month so I can hang out there whenever I have the time.

The pool at the Taj Pamodzi

The pool at the Taj Pamodzi

In fact, I’m just back from spending the afternoon at the pool preparing for tomorrow.  It even has two squash courts so I played squash this afternoon for the first time in over ten years.  I’m living the life, at least on weekends!

The contrast with Tanzania is stark with the infrastructure here in much better shape including roads, electricity, water, and three (!) nice shopping malls, two of them with escalators. I could tell the difference the minute I got off the plane. I’ve been told this all changes when one leaves Lusaka and goes out into the compounds or townships (very South African terms for the poorer areas the Africans reside) but I haven’t been there yet.

Flowers on African Tulip Tree

Flowers on African Tulip Tree

Apparently Zambia is fast becoming one of the most unequal countries in Africa with a boom in the last few years, due to robust prices for Zambia’s main export, copper. The gains from the natural resource have created a growing group of middle class or wealthy Zambians but not as much for the poor. According to the World Bank’s classifications, Zambia recently became a “lower middle income” country, instead of “low income,” achieved by passing $1,025/person in GNI (Gross National Income). Zambia’s GNI per person in 2011 was $1,160 to Tanzania’s $540. On the other hand, the life expectancy here in Zambia was only 49 in 2011 compared to 58 in Tanzania, probably partly due to the high HIV rate here in Zambia.

What’s happily similar is the that the people are very friendly and welcoming.  Also, there is the same plethora of NGO’s, a sign for one on every corner. And while there are lots of good restaurants here, unlike in Tanzania, the staple for the Zambians is still corn mush, but here it’s called nshima instead of ugali.

African Tulip Tree as seen from my apartment

African Tulip Tree as seen from my apartment

Also familiar are the beautiful trees, although there is a new one I hadn’t seen in TZ called the African Tulip Tree, lining the streets. They are absolutely smashing with amazing orange flowers sticking straight up on top of them. Apparently, July here is gorgeous because the Jacarandas are in bloom but, unfortunately, I will miss them.

It’s been an exhausting week work wise, as I had to hit the ground running in order to give 38 young Zambian women a crash course in win-win negotiations. I’ve done three of four days and will finish the general overview tomorrow. Then, they will be introduced to the actual negotiations curriculum that they will teach to the 8th grade girls starting in late May. Luckily we are getting reinforcements as one of the project organizers is flying in from New York to introduce the curriculum to the coaches this week. The Zambian coaches have a total of six weeks of training and I will be here for four of them, coaching them as they learn to teach the curriculum.

Me with my Zambian coach pupils

Me with my Zambian coach pupils

It’s very fun to meet these young women and see how they react to the material and hear about their aspirations. Most are recent college graduates, although some are still at university. I enjoy them immensely and hope to get to know a few better in the next three weeks before I leave for my three weeks of travel around southern Africa and then return to North America.

The office I’m working from is run by IPA, Innovations in Poverty Action. Started 10 years ago by American academics dedicated to bridging the gap between academia and development policy in practice, its focus is on running randomized control trials, the gold standard of research studies, in order to evaluate a variety of efforts designed to alleviate poverty.

Some of the staff in the IPA office in Lusaka

Some of the staff in the IPA office in Lusaka

They, and their partner J-Pal, have about 350 projects running in approximately 50 countries around the world. Here in Zambia they have three offices including this office in Lusaka, which runs 3 to 6 projects at any given time. The girls negotiation project I’m working on is just one of them.