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, June 18, 2010

And I'm off

Heading to the U.S. -- 16 days without Katherine, Jack and Sam gets boring after a while.

Will swing by my hometown, Wadena, to check out the tornado damage.

Saturday, June 05, 2010


Chatting with the folks in Ushaa, Western Province.

Jack and Keira hanging on a hippo skulll at Sausage Tree.

Sam enjoying a boat ride and a binky.

Just chillin' by the big exhaust pipe.

Bath time.

Bath time. It was a relatively sunny day, the sun blocked out by the mist from vic falls. Luther and I crossed the bridge and came back completely soaked, rain ponchos did not really help.

The falls are just to the right.

Jack trying out a purchase we made in Livingstone.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Western Province

On Monday I got up at 4:40 am to get to the airport for a 6:00 am charter flight to Mongu, the capital of Western Province. I went with the U.S. Africa Development Foundation, a U.S government agency that provides small grants ($100,000 to $250,000) for enterprise development and expansion projects. It supports private sector development and is focused on the more marginalized populations around rural Zambia (and other African countries).

The President of USADF was visiting Zambia, and went to Western to sign three new grants, two for rice cooperatives in rural villages and one for a dairy cooperative right in the metropolis of Mongu (population 44,000).

Upon arrival, we jumped into cars for a one hour (30 KM) trip to Ushaa for the first signing. Western Province represents the easternmost area of Kalahari sand, although for a sandy area it supports significant agriculture and forest. But the rural road to Ushaa was basically a sand track. We got stuck in the sand once. While getting hooked up to be pulled out, another car in our convoy drove by and sideswiped the truck pulling us out -- and kept going. Then, the guys attached the tow rope to our bumper, pulling it halfway off while extricating us from the sand.

All in all, it was a bumpy ride.

So come with me as we travel to Ushaa.

About 200 of Ushaa's inhabitants were gathered to greet us. They were the members of the Ushaa rice growers' association, and were about to get $100,000 to help them develop marketing and business plans, make some capital purchases and help them access markets for their rice.

They were justifiably happy, and the ladies expressed their happiness in song and dance.

A jarring one hour ride back and we headed south of Mongu to Nanjucha, where we were greeted by another group of cooperative members who got a similar grant from USADF. More dancing and singing ensued. Note the guy in the red cap (and dress-like clothing) who joined in. He's the area chief. Nice cane, too.

We hurried back to Mongu in order to get back to Lusaka by dark. We just made it too.

Fun day.


On Saturday we visited a village just outside Livingstone that is set up to receive visitors so we could satisfy Luther's desire to see traditional life in Zambia without barging into unsuspecting people's lives.

The village is relatively well off. It has three bore holes, afterall, so plenty of water for all within easy walking distance.

And the kids looked healthy and happy.

Most people in the village live in traditional mud houses. We learned that after each rainy season people have to do some work to repair their houses. Mud house + torrential rains = less mud house.

A kitchen.

Cooking up some relish for an nshima snack.

After our village visit we headed 15 KM over to the Royal Livingstone Hotel, just upriver from Vic Falls. Rack rate starts at $860 per night, including breakfast...

...where we had drinks and watched the sun go down over the Zambezi.

The people at the village also have a good vantage point to enjoy Livingstone's beautiful sunsets, but I doubt breakfast is included.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The view from Katherine's office last week


Katherine, Jack and Sam got on a plane this afternoon with Luther and Marilyn bound for Jo'burg. They'll stay overnight, spend the day, then catch an overnight flight to London, then a connection to Minneapolis. Seems a shame, as a perfectly good BA flight from Lusaka to London was supposed to take off tomorrow morning but was canceled due to the strike.

The long and short of it is that I'm kicking around an empty house, looking forward to a night of uninterrupted sleep, and cursing my wife (who I love, and who is wrangling two kids, with help from the grandparents, on a series of what I'm sure will be more and more hellish flights) for feeding the kitten that set up shop in our yard a few days ago because now the wretched thing won't stop mewling loudly outside my window, thereby throwing into question my ability to get a night of uninterrupted sleep.