Life on the Mekong and Other Rivers

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog, including strong statements in support of weinerdog-riding monkeys, are our own, and not those of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. government.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Clearly not a well-updated blog. Going to make it official. Going on hiatus for a while. Maybe we'll post high school graduation photos of Jack and Sam. Maybe we'll return to the blog sooner.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Babba and Grandpa came a'callin'

Nightly dance parties ensued, including some very nice surf safaris.

Diana and Alan were the vanguard. In 2 weeks Luther and Marilyn arrive -- 1 week after their departure Stephen and Bonnie arrive. 2 weeks after their departure Maren and family arrive, then Sarah and family arrive and overlap for a week. Then we have a bit of a break (4 weeks or so) and Marilyn and Luther return with Lise and Tor (an international delegation). Word is Gunner arrives from Bangalore the following month.

All fun things!

Saturday, April 30, 2011


So today was the AISL (American Int'l School of Lusaka) Triathlon. They had different versions of the race, including a "junior" race, which was a 25 meter swim, a 1 km bike ride and a 300 meter run.

The swim

The bike ride.

Finishing strong on the run!

And because at 4 y.o. he was the youngest competitor, Jack got a prize. A free milkshake at Blue Moon Cafe...really the best prize one could get if you ask him.

All very exciting!!!

Monday, April 25, 2011


...Jack's school has an outbreak of lice.


shaved it off. Easier than trying to keep them at bay when you can't see them.

We did Sam for good measure...he used the haircut to blend more into our surroundings while stalking game on our porch in the Kafue National Park over the weekend.

We were at Hippo Lodge in a lovely little cottage. Unfortunately, Jack arrived with a raging fever. How raging? We don't know as we had no thermometer. Better probably -- we just got him all hopped up on motrin and he was all the better for it.

But while waiting for the motrin to kick in he wanted to do little more than lay in bed, maybe watch some TV. Sam was happy to provide moral support.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

At least we have a constituency of one

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy On The House Budget Allocations

MR. LEAHY. Mr. President, last week the House Appropriations Committee announced its 302(b) budget allocations for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2011. I am sure other subcommittee chairmen have views on what this proposal would mean for the agencies and programs under their jurisdiction, but I want to speak briefly about the impact the House action would have on the Department of State and foreign operations.

It is notable that the House defines diplomacy and development as “non-security” spending, even though the integral part they both play in promoting our national interests and protecting our security around the globe was explicitly recognized by the Bush Administration, which even viewed the HIV/AIDS pandemic as a national security threat because of its destabilizing impact on the world’s poorest countries.

The notion that the only budget functions that relate to national security are Defense, Veterans Affairs, Military Construction, and Homeland Security is bewildering. It flies in the face of the complexities of the world today and ignores the strongly held views of current and former – Republican and Democratic – Presidents, Secretaries of Defense and State, senior U.S. military commanders, National Security Advisors, and Administrators of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

According to the House, we might as well shutter our embassies and fire our diplomats, particularly in the Middle East, South Asia, Mexico, Indonesia and other regions where U.S. security interests are threatened, because if they are not there to help protect those interests why do we need them? We should also curtail our aid programs in countries like Israel, Colombia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, because the House apparently sees no relation between these programs and our security either.

Of course, that is absurd. Our Republican friends in the House know that we cannot counter the influence of al Qaeda and other violent extremists through military force alone. They know that helping countries rebuild after conflict, building stable, democratic institutions, preventing the trafficking of nuclear material and other weapons, educating and providing jobs for youth who would otherwise be fodder for terrorist recruiters, combating the corrosive influence of organized crime, preventing the spread of deadly viruses, supporting NATO, the International Atomic Energy Commission, and United Nations peacekeeping, are all about our national security. And it is the diplomats here and abroad, and the funds they administer, that make it possible.

There is no mystery to the House’s decision to lump the Department of State and foreign operations with other “non-security” domestic functions. Since those are the programs the House leadership has targeted for the deepest cuts, and there is little domestic constituency for the Department of State and foreign operations, it is an easy target.

In fact, most Americans are under the mistaken impression that these programs comprise 15 to 20 percent of the Federal budget, when they actually comprise 1 percent. Rather than set the record straight, that misimpression is a convenient excuse for House Republicans to slash these programs without having to worry about complaints from voters in their home districts.

I doubt they will call attention to the fact that in doing so they will be cutting funding for programs to promote U.S. exports which are the fastest growing sector of the U.S. economy, especially small businesses, which face fierce competition from China. In fact, I doubt they will call attention to China at all, since the Chinese long ago recognized that its security is directly tied to its foreign relations, and its investments, on other continents.

Mr. President, no function or program in the Federal budget should ever be immune from budget cuts. I have no doubt that we can find programs within the Department of State and foreign operations budget that are not performing, just as we can within the Defense budget or any other function. Some programs succeed, some do not.

But we cannot ignore what our allies, competitors and adversaries have clearly recognized – the threats and challenges we face around the world are increasing. Why else do you suppose that in Great Britain a conservative government that is slashing spending exempted international aid? They recognized that it is a critical national security investment, for both the immediate and long term.

The House would cut funding for the Department of State and foreign operations 17 percent below the President’s budget request, and 7.5 percent below the current Continuing Resolution that expires on March 4. The irony of the House’s action is that while cutting foreign aid will cost lives and weaken our influence around the world, it will do virtually nothing to reduce the deficit.

Does anyone doubt that helping rebuild Haiti – a country of 9 million desperate people a short distance from our shore – is in our national security interest?

Does anyone doubt that supporting the international body that monitors nuclear testing is in our national security interest?

Does anyone doubt that averting widespread hunger in Africa, and the violence and instability and massive displacement of people it could cause, is in our national security interest?

Does anyone doubt that helping to mitigate an environmental and humanitarian calamity caused by melting glaciers, widespread drought, and rising sea levels, is in our national security interest?

Does anyone doubt that helping Mexico, with which we share a 2,000 mile border, build a professional, accountable police force and justice system that can uphold the rule of law in the face of drug cartels and other criminal gangs that have infiltrated every facet of Mexican society, is in our national security interest?

Does anyone doubt that averting the resurgence of polio and other diseases that can easily cross national borders and threaten the lives of hundreds of millions of children, including Americans, but can be prevented with low cost vaccines, is in our national interest?

Budget cutting should not be a numbers game. Nor should it be a political game that fails to acknowledge what is at stake. At the very least, the American people should know the consequences. No matter what they call it – security or non-security – or how they attempt to justify it, the House allocation for the Department of State and foreign operations would require drastic cuts in critical programs that are essential to maintaining U.S. global leadership and protecting our security.

Mr. President, on February 5, 2011, the Washington Post published an editorial entitled “Killing the Patient,” which highlights the importance of foreign aid and the folly of cutting funding to fight polio overseas. I ask unanimous consent that it be printed in the Record.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Danger at every turn

So we just got back from a harrowing visit to Cape Town. We couldn't turn around without facing some new and horrific risks.

The first one, sure, I can see the danger. We were, after all at a Lion conservation center (or something) in Stellenbosch, the best-known wine area of South Africa and home to some delicious whites and reds.

Okay, so the second one. Yes, baboons could be dangerous. Mostly they are either skittish around humans or so acclimated to humans that they will basically walk up to you and steal a sandwich out of your hand.

But they are kind of all over the place. How do you know when they are around?

How do you know when to beware?

How do you know when to be... OH MY GOD!

But seriously, birds? Really? Birds?

Okay, so ostriches have a nasty kick and they have those tough feet or claws or whatever. But my dad rode one in a race at a rodeo when he was a kid so they must not be the most dangerous creatures around. And again, they are birds. Just really, really big birds.

But you've really got to be kidding with this one. Do penguins have teeth? Do they chase you down and attack you?

Mind you, the African penguins we saw were about calf high, maybe knee-high at best. Not too scary.

Truth be told, one did bite Sam. Sam was waddling after a penguin as we left the beach and the penguin must have thought he had food. Sam was pointing, the penguin bit him on the finger.

Sam is 18 months old. Sam was not hurt. Sam did not cry. Sam was a bit perplexed but seemed to find the whole thing somewhat amusing.

I think they could do away with the penguin warning.

Although I'm not quite sure why this activity did NOT/NOT come with a warning of some kind...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

the boys

They are actually starting to play together a bit, although it usually ends up with Sam crying and Jack saying he didn't do anything.

The indoor jungle gym.

Rain gear. It is the rainy season, afterall.

And ice cream season, too.

Jack and Phil

The first father-son golf outing.

While Jack and Phil are off "golfing", Sam is napping and Katherine is relaxing.

A good Sunday afternoon for all the Nervigs in Lusaka.

update from Phil:

It is now 4 hours later, Jack and Sam are fighting, the house is pretty well destroyed, and we have to go to work tomorrow.

But on the upside, Jack hit a few balls relatively well today. He had a bit of a hard time getting the whole feet apart, grip the club correctly, address the ball, swing like a pendulum, eye on the ball thing. But it was fun.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sam Dance

More dance party. It's pretty much what we do.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Return of the dance party

So we got away from the dance parties for a while. Sam and Jack have reintroduced them to our nightly return.

Check out Sam's sweet pose when he copies his big brother.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

'tis the season

the rainy season, which makes for muddy kids.

the holiday season, in which Jack decided that he needed to wear a tie -- my tie -- to his school holiday assembly. He was quite dapper.

swimming season. Jack is an actual swimmer now -- Sam just likes the water, which makes it dangerous as he just walks into the pool these days.

He really likes it.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Remember us?

So we went to Liuwa Plain with our friends Jason and Kelley (of Sausage Tree fame) and their kids.

It was fantastic.

A few pics here

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ships. Night. Passing. Whatnot

So Tuesday I went to Johannesburg for a conference that brought together economic officers from around sub-sarahan Africa. Pretty cool, and a good conference to boot. Colleagues from Liberia, Guinea, Togo, Chad, DRC, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Eritrea, etc. etc. etc. You get the picture. A bunch of people working in interesting and difficult places trying to do the kinds of things I'm trying to do here. So it was useful, and enlightening, and fun.

Plus, I stayed at the Sandton Sun hotel, which was nice, and was also attached to a mall that had a McDonalds AND a great place for falafel. It's the little things, ya know? And, I got to take the famous GauTrain from downtown Jo'burg to the airport. It was very posh.

I know Jo'burg has quite the reputation for, you know, outrageously high levels of violent crime. But in Sandton, where I stayed and where crime still does happen, you basically have to be aware and not do stupid things, just like in any big city around the world.

So anyway, I was in Jo'burg for 3 nights. And it was great. And now I'm home, having arrived last night at 9:00 pm. So this morning Katherine and Jack went to a birthday party, this afternoon Jack, Sam and I go to a birthday party, and tonight Katherine and I go to a masquerade ball to benefit an elephant orphanage in Kafue National Park.

Tomorrow we have a barbecue at 1:00 then are having people over at 4:00.

Monday Katherine leaves for a work trip and will be away for 4 nights.

We are overscheduled.

The view from our patio

in Luangwa.

Giraffe conference.

Elephant Parade

pretty much daily.

Anyway, looking at dates for a Nervig family reunion next June/July.

Saturday, October 02, 2010


The kid has skills...newly acquired and not yet mastered skills.

Friday, October 01, 2010

C'mon people

32 of you viewed this here blog yesterday. If each of you gave just $25 for the elephant charge, that would be 25 X 32 dollars which is probably a lot but I don't have a calculator nearby and my public education has left me bereft of math skills.

Anyway, it's for the animals. And the people. Because conservation means wildlife means tourists means jobs for people in communities around the parks means they can stop being very poor subsistence farmers means they have a stake in the future of those animals means reduced poaching means more wildlife and so there Geoffrey.

$25 is just an indicative number. You are welcome to give multiples of that if you so desire.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The weekend at Sausage Tree

Simply awesome 24 hours in camp.

Lionesses and cubs (just the one lioness here). But a few of them were being chased by elephants when we came on the scene. It was a bit chaotic. Seems the lions had killed a baby elephant a few nights before and, as you know, an elephant never forgets...especially after only two days.

Protecting the babies. We weren't such a threat but at least the bigger ellies were at the ready while the little guy ran away.

Leopard. We actually saw 2 leopards. Doin' it! It was pretty cool. This was the dude, post-coital.

Hippos, hippos everywhere.

Sarah Ford and her new husband, Spence, are arriving October 21 for their fancy-pants honeymoon. We're completely jazzed, as we were unable to get to Boulder for their wedding in August. So we'll hang with them in Zambia instead. Hoping to get back to STC with them for a weekend.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Katherine and I are back from Sausage Tree Camp. 24 hours is not enough. Fantastic time -- leopards, lions, elephant everywhere.

The rest of the gang remained, and will be there until Wednesday...yes, very jealous.

Jack and Sam were champs back home with Olipa, Tisi, and playdates at friends' houses (for Jack).

For now it's time for bed.

Friday, September 24, 2010

More guests

We've thrown Katherine's brother Christian, her aunt Joanie and family friend Nancy (or Chachi, as I like to call her) onto the pile of guests that already included Diana and Alan.

We put them all into a car tomorrow am for a trip down the escarpment to the Zambezi, where they will get into a boat and head 2.5 hours downriver to Sausage Tree. We, being much more civilized, will then head to the airport and take a 30 minute flight to Sausage Tree, thereby arriving about 3 hours ahead of them.

Sadly, Katherine and I will stay just a night before coming back. Happily, we'll be doing it without Jack and Sam, who will be staying home with Tisi, Olippa, and friends. 24 hours with no kids. I'll probably just nap most of the time.

But reports from Sausage Tree are that 8 lion cubs are in the pride and the resident leopard has a cub too, so we'll be on the lookout for them.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tell Your friends

Let's make some money for animals people!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Insufferable Do-Goodery

So I'm going to go tearing around the bush in some random part of Zambia in a truck with a team of people and will probably get lost and will likely have to fight a black mamba with my bare hands and will definitely get bit and stung by lots of bugs to raise money for wildlife conservation in Zambia. It's called the Elephant Charge (yes, patterned after the Rhino Charge in Kenya).

So we go tearing around in the bush and you sponsor my team by giving me money to do so. Then, 100% of that money goes to ensure that elephants and giraffes and leopards and lions and whatnot are well-protected and conserved and not poached so that you can see them when you come to visit us. It's win-win.

Send me a message if you are a good person and want to sponsor me. Our team needs to represent -- they raised the most money last year. Info on the event is below.

I'll take anything, even fatcat corporate sponsorship like some of my friends get for the Rhino Charge. Animals in Zambia need love too.

Or, I think you can donate through paypal by clicking here:

Update: Cool, the donate button totally worked.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

B-day Boy!

So the boy turned 1 on September 3. We waited for the big celebration until Diana and Alan were in residence. I mean, Sam doesn't care, or know, so we figured better to have some grandparents here to help fete Sam and his success in making it a year.

Anyway, today was the day. Some friends came over to help us out. Swimming, snacks, playing in the yard...

....and, oh, what have we here?????

Ah, cake. Other people seemed to be eating it, so Sam dove right in. He's not much for baby food anymore, even fancy homemade baby food. He wants to eat what we're eating. So, once he saw us doing it...

...two-handed, with gusto

Yeah, Cake!!!

The grandparents were relatively well-behaved.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Oh yeah

And I did go to Swaziland (or, the Kingdom of Eswatini to those in the know) for work.

Happened to be during the annual reed dance, or Umhlanga.

It was very interesting. Newspapers reported variously that 80,000 or 100,000 young ladies took part. While difficult to judge, I think it was probably 30-40,000.

Some of the thousands of young women out on the field.

King Mswatii III and some of his guys out paying homage to/thanking the girls for their dancing and singing.

Hello there

Yesterday Diana and Alan arrived, and they brought instructions that we must start posting things to our blog again. The 10s of our rabid fans demand it. Well, fine. Here you go, then.

So we've been back for a while but have not been moved to post anything on this here blog.

That is not to say that we have been idle and have had nothing to report. Quite the contrary. Over Labor Day weekend 8 adults and 11 kids all went camping in Kafue National Park. Pretty nutty.

By Sunday night we were down to just 6 adults and 8 kids. The others went back on Sunday - they weren't eaten by wild animals or anything. We did hear lions in the distance at night, but they were not close to the camp site. Our friends did see a leopard about 2 km from camp, but leopards are wussies.

The 8 kids.

Sam taking a bush bath.

The African pike. Smaller than his American cousin (at least the ones we caught were) but much better fighters.

Then last weekend we went down to Lake Kariba with some friends to stay at a private home on a private island. It was very nice. Very, Very Nice.

Jack and Keira got a grilling lesson. Perhaps a bit premature, but at least now Jack can cook his own dinner.

The Nervigs enjoyed some corn.

Jack and Keira had plenty of pool time. Come to think of it, we all did. Keira is a swimming champ. Jack, still uses the assistance of a flotation device, but he's getting there.

Keira keeps her eye on the ball as she jumps into the pool. Really great concentration. Jack was not interested in jumping and/or trying to catch anything near the pool.

And, well...when your 1-year old kid has a 104 temperature, is lethargic, and you are stuck on an island with no medical care...

Actually, it was filled with boiled water. An island, you see. No potable water to speak of, so empty bottles become water bottles, no matter what they started out as.

Sam did have a fever throughout the weekend. On Saturday night it spiked at about 103.9. But it was dark, we were on an island, and 2.5 hours away from Lusaka. Safer to just wait than to try to drive at night. And the next day he was better.

But I pulled/strained my hamstring trying to waterski. Getting up on 1 ski after 12 years of not trying was not a good idea. And, as Lake Kariba is generally considered to be chock-a-block full of very large crocodiles, it was probably not a good idea regardless.

But I got out of the water with all my limbs intact, if a little humbled...

We did get a new camera. And while I dislike it greatly because for some unknown reason the technology geeks at Sony decided that users don't need the option to turn off the auto-preview so we have to wait 3 seconds after every picture to let the camera show us what picture we just took, at least it takes pictures. Good thing, too, because the shutter button on our other camera popped off all on its own and it is now being repaired.

Would you send your fancy camera by mail to a camera repair shop called that you found by googling "Sony Cybershot shutter button"?

Yeah, me too.