Monday, August 20, 2007

Zambia, here we come

I (Steve) arrived in Zambia August 13 to the welcome of Wiggan, our agriculture director. He took me to a hotel on the outskirts of town as the ones in the city center were filling up with delegates to the SADAC conference held in Lusaka. It was a quiet more out of the way place. My suspicion is that only thing that keeps it afloat is the outdoor small bar. The room was clean and outside of the usual, (you have to turn on the water heater before using it), the only real surprise was that there was only a bottom sheet on the bed. With no top sheet what do you do? Sleep under the blanket I guess. Well it was a wool one, doubled over. It felt good since it was cool, but during the night I warmed up considerably and ended up sleeping just under the top spread. I couldn’t help but wonder, is that what everyone else does too?

For supper we ordered the T-bone steak for $5. Wiggan asked if it was tender and the guy said yes. As we waited, we heard someone in the kitchen really whacking at something with a wooden hammer. We looked at each other and I asked, is that what makes the meat tender? Apparently it was supposed to, plus it was cut about as thin as you can cut meat to cook quickly and make it less of a glob to chew. I still had to mince it up to get it anywhere near chewable.

Travel to Mongu is along the only tarred road heading west out of Lusaka. Roughly 200 Km out of the city, the road enters a national forest/animal reserve that is one of the largest in Zambia. We passed though another 200 Km of reserve land seeing lots of varieties of deer, a few impala, monkeys, multiple groups of warthogs with this year’s litters, (little guys in batches of 4-6 and about 10 pounds), a couple of elephants, and new to me were ibex, a black Onyx and something that looked like a shaggy cow with a donkey-like head, plus one more long-haired shaggy thing.

For breakfast the next day they brought me a hot dog, 2 eggs, baked beans, cabbage and two pieces of bread somehow pre-moistened and scorch-pressed together. I don’t know if they have a device to make it or what, but it was unique.

We spent our day discussing the potential income generating projects that the team here might be involved in and got to about number 10 on our list of a potential 16. We took a lunch break and the pepper steak sounded tempting. Well, no fancy pepper here, they just loaded the gravy up with black pepper and that was it. Tough too, so lots of little pieces again. One plus was that I got plenty of vegetables for the first time since Sunday. It will be chicken from now on. At least the chickens weren’t out pulling a cart last week.

It really felt like it was time for a change of dietary scenery so I asked to go to ShopRite thinking I could find something with cereal or even dairy. Was it ever out of the way. The town store owners protested that ShopRite would cause them to lose business, so the council gave them a piece of scrub land at the edge of town. The sad part is that the many people who want to go there have to pay extra for transport, so it hurts the small consumer, who could probably benefit the most. People go there and buy up all the eggs that are brought in from Lusaka, 6 hours away and resell to the public by the piece (business opportunity with egg laying hens here!).

On Thursday we did some community visits and met the ambassador’s sister who is organizing the school for orphans in her community. Our donor/partner has asked that we see what we can do to help the teachers with some kind of support, either through helping them start a business or having profits of a business we start help sustain them. It looks possible, so we will see. The school itself is a house that was never finished as a house and is in very poor condition. They rotate 500 kids through every day. There is a new one under construction, but the American designer has taken a western contractor view of construction and this has added to the cost, complexity and time to achieve the desired results. It will be nice when it is finished.

Overall the visit met my goals and expectations and we are planning a trip for November when we get back to Southern Afica.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Pictures of Maputo

Recently we met a couple from Malaysia. A cell phone company recruited the wife to set up their billing process on a short-term assignment. The husband is freelancing and volunteering. He may help us market coconut oil. Here is a blog he set up with pictures of Mozambique I thought you'd enjoy. Keep in mind he has only been here a couple of weeks and has not seen all the sides of Maputo. (Sorry, the link feature does not want to cooperate.)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Life moves on

Life moves on and the blog has been ignored for awhile. We just wrote a newsletter so that should be posted here soon or coming to your mailbox so you can catch up with us that way as well.

Some big news that you may or may not have heard is that we have another wedding coming up soon. Joanna and Keith announced their engagement and will be married in Oct. at Winona Lake. We are excited for them as they make plans for their future together. Our exchange student from Norway will come to the wedding and we are really looking forward to seeing her and her new baby.

Steve has been working really hard at marketing coconut oil. We got jars and labels (thanks to Keith and Joanna who designed them). The woman we got jars from wanted to know what product we had so Steve gave her a short spiel and she was sold! She wants to be our distributor in South Africa. Now we need to find out what the process is for taking it to SA and what taxes need to be paid etc. Steve is working with a Mozambican young man, Ricardo, who is doing the bottling and some marketing. They took a sample to a grocery store run by Indians and you should have seen them all passing it around, smelling it and smiling. But then they asked, "Has this been tested by the Health Dept? Has the label been approved?" Well, no because in our earlier research we had not been told that this was a requirement. Yesterday Ricardo and Steve went to the Health Dept with a letter and a sample but after much time and bureaucracy they were told to come back with a different letter that has to be stamped. Eventually we will jump through all the hoops but the process can be frustrating and we need the income from sales to keep the plant in operation in Maxixe.

We have enjoyed several visitors the last couple of weeks. I'm getting pretty good at stripping the bed just in time for the next person to fall in (usually exhausted from traveling). I've been reminded that visitors bring gifts, not just material, but spiritual and emotional as well. One of them has offered us his beach house in North Carolina if we are ever in the area! We have met some very interesting, beautiful people the last few years.

Steve will travel to Zambia next week to work with the agriculture project that is just starting there. Please pray for safety, stamina, good health to keep going and do all that needs doing. Thanks, we appreciate your support and communications.