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.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Jack finishes the song...

A continuation from the previous video.

For the grandparents, primarily

The boys.

The boys.

The boy and a stick.

The boy in a hoody.

The boy on a horse.

2nd riding lesson tomorrow morning.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Jack catches the beat in the back seat

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Justifiably Skeptical

A few weekends ago Jack and I went on a little trip to a crocodile farm just outside of Lusaka.

Jack was none-too-thrilled with my suggestion that he sit on the wall of the croc pen while I took a picture.

But they were small crocs and all far away (you can see them massed on the other side of the pond) and Jack has good balance and I was close.

They did have larger crocs there. Jack did not sit on the wall surrounding these guys.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The SACA Inaugural

So since Christmas we've been playing quite a bit of the bean bag toss game. It's got another name, a more appropriate name since the bags aren't actually filled with beans, but with corn. So Cornhole it is.

Within the embassy community we now have three cornhole sets. And they are pretty much regulation according to the American Cornhole Association (ACA).

Yeah, seriously.

Anyway, our friend Jason and I decided it was time to organize a cornhole tournament. So on Saturday we co-hosted the First Annual Cornhole Tournament and Memorial Braai. Well, it's not likely to be an annual event (probably semi-annual or more, given the success of the day), and we weren't memorializing anything. But we needed an excuse to get together, drink beer and play cornhole.

So more than twenty of our closest friends and well-wishers gathered for the event.

We decided early on that, because we were not ACA members and the event would not be ACA sanctioned, we would create our own association. To heck with the ACA and their hidebound, stuffed-shirt cornhole players. So the Lusaka Cornhole Association became the Zambia Cornhole Association became the Southern Africa Cornhole Association (SACA) in no time at all. We are nothing if not empire builders.

We explained the rules to the gathered masses, then had everyone draw for teams. Note the kickin' birthday gift on my hip. I think there will be more people sporting the beer holster at our next SACA tourney. It was a coveted item.

Once teams were created, we were off. 11 teams, three courts, lots of beer.

Priscilla was, perhaps, the classiest player that day. Glass of Sauvignon Blanc in the left hand, heels, and a dead eye. She had the highest score in any one round, putting three bags in the hole and leaving the fourth on the board for a score of 10. Not bad.

Katherine trying to psyche her teammate up for a shot while Jeff looks on.

Like the Saturday Wide World of Sports of our younger days, the day had its share of the thrill of victory...

...and agony of defeat.

The tournament structure had to change slightly on the fly when people who had RSVP'd failed to show. I'm guessing a few cases of nerves caught up with people as the day of the big event neared. I mean, who wants to embarrass themselves at the SACA Inaugural?

But anyway, like the World Cup and Olympic hockey, we had a group round robin stage followed by a knock-out round.

When teams were chosen at random, we all said Pat and Dave were the team to beat. But no one did. They came away with the championship, going 5-0 on the day and taking home the grand prize of a "Veterans for McCain" t-shirt and a "Proud American" t-shirt.

They were justifiably proud of their victory.

Second SACA event is tentatively scheduled for August or September, so start looking into flights if you want in.

Ants and Elephants

On Friday Jack's class put on a performance with the other classes from the Early Learning Center at the American Int'l School.

They started out with a lovely little song about Ants (I think). Jack was ant #3, or something.

Next up. Elephants. It was a song about an elephant playing on a spiderweb and having so much fun that he invited more, More, MORE elephants to join him.

Jack was elephant #1, so, in a sense, he had a solo.

Jack's start turn as elephant #1.

He called each elephant out in turn -- all the while walking around, elephant-like, on the stage.

Note the cool elephant trunk.

The third song was about hammering with one hammer, then two, then three, then four. Then the kids went on strike, or something.

This was Jack and Keira on strike.

And after three songs, and other songs and "plays" by the other classes, a three-year old boy starts to get bored.

After the final bows were taken and the furious clapping had subsided, Jack and Keira put on an impromptu show of their own.

Helmet hair from the first picture gone as of Saturday morning.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Camping at Mvuu

Our campsite was right on the river. Given that we were 5, we wisely chose to put up two tents. Jack and I were in the dudes' tent and Katherine, Diana and Sam were in the ladies' and guys still in diapers' tent.

Luckily for our marriage, there was a guy, Peter, whose job it was to help me put up the tent so that Katherine and I wouldn't kill each other while trying to figure out which way the rain fly goes on.

He also brought ice, charcoal, and firewood, so was considered pretty much indispensable for the entire weekend.

Diana is in the background with Sam walking from what must be considered the best damn open air ablution block (it means bathroom at a camp site in Zambian English, or perhaps regular English) in the area.

The nice, poured concrete cooking area had running water right next to it. In the middle of nowhere, no less. We had a bbq area and a coleman dual-use stove that kicks butt...and a kid hanging out down below. This is where the thieving monkeys hung out too.

The family. We had a good time. Jack is old enough to play in the dirt on his own for a bit and Sam is young enough to hang out and eat dirt on his own for a bit, which leaves time for us to do things like clean the dirt off our children and drink beer.

On Saturday some friends from Lusaka came down to hang out for the night. Jeff, Priscilla (foreground) and Jason worked in Nairobi together long ago. Jeff and Priscilla moved around to other places, including Bogota and Riyadh while Jason moved around as well, and they've reunited here in Lusaka.

Katherine is, of course, wearing a very sexy headlamp while roasting a marshmallow. The Zambezi is just to the right of Katherine. The hungry crocs are a few meters farther right.

On our boat trip on Saturday Diana and Sam both enjoyed the wind in their faces.

Jason helped out by showing Jack how to pee off a boat.

And Katherine and Sam shared a few laughs.

Jack liked the elephants.

And no trip report to Mvuu (which, if you will remember, means Hippo) would be complete without a picture of...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sam at 7 months

Sam at 7 months plus a few days after eating dirt at Mvuu. He loved the dirt.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


120 or so km south from Lusaka, then another 50 km or so on dirt roads, the majority of the time on a single track. We drove from Lusaka to Chirundu, on the Zimbabwe border (which is the Zambezi), then turned left and headed off the tarmac.

We crossed the Kafue river on a car ferry, then bounced down the road past more and more remote villages until we got to this sign, which separates one part of a game management area (an area adjacent to the Lower Zambezi National Park) where people live from another section of the GMA where it is just animals, and lodge concessions. The animals seem to know, as well, as the concentration of game is markedly higher the closer you get to the Park. Beautiful drive, though. And fun!

Mvuu lived up to its name. Mvuu means Hippo. Friday night there must have been a hippo convention in our campsite. All night, all over. Loud, crashing, splashing, the low taunting laugh.

They kept us up much of the night. The second night was quieter. The hippos seemed to be taking a more relaxed attitude towards our desire to sleep, but I did hear lions downriver and Diana swears she smelled baboons...

Each morning when we started making breakfast a small group of vervet monkeys would appear out of nowhere and take up positions around our cooking area waiting for an opportunity to steal some food. One small monkey was particularly aggressive (in his attempts to get food, not violent towards us or anything). I was making pancakes, and every time I turned around to deliver a pancake to someone the little guy would be up scraping away at our now cool griddle thingy that I had set aside. He didn't get too much from us, but it wasn't from a lack of trying.

And there were elephants. Lots and lots of elephants. We ran in to a pair of mothers and their babies on the drive in. We weren't too close, maybe about 40 yards or so, but one mother flapped her ears at us, mock charged and let out a tremendous trumpet. Well, the other mother took notice and must have figured that she would look pretty weak if she didn't protect her kid too, so she took a few quick steps towards us, shook her trunk and let out a huge bellow. Katherine started to get nervous and wanted to protect HER kids so we drove away.

That's right elephants...that's what you can do when you have thumbs and combustion engines.

On Saturday we went out on a pontoon and probably saw about 20 more elephants. It never gets old, really.

On the way home today we pulled up behind this truck. I thought it was a bit de-humanizing to the folks crammed in the back...

Friday, April 02, 2010

Thank you Jesus...

...for the four day weekend...

Zambia does Easter up right. Friday and Monday off. Everyone seems to be traveling this weekend, but we've decided to stick around Lusaka. We are contemplating a trip to the local crocodile farm or a visit to Eureka camp to hunt down our giraffe friends. Hard to get motivated, though.

Jack had a swim lesson this morning. He's has a hard time putting his face in the water, but he's getting there.

And on Tuesday I taught the kids of Kanzala village in Northwestern Province how to throw a frisbee -- a life skill that will take them far.

Thursday, April 01, 2010


Back from Northwestern Province, where for the past three days I had early mornings and long days. Solwezi and Mwinilunga and all points in between. Copper mines, Peace Corps villages, honey and pineapple farmers, refugee camps, community radio stations, and long stretches of road with no traffic but lots of people watching what little bit of the world that passes their villages go by.

Now it's late and Katherine decided to load Jack and Sam into the car and take Diana to Mukambi for the night, so I'm kicking around an empty house.
But I will have a peaceful sleep.