Sunday, October 19, 2008

Back home!

It's good to be back home from Zambia, it's unfortunate though that since I was there for business I never got the chance to go see anything outside the city of Lusaka. The trip home was brutal, 2 hour flight from Lusaka to Jo'burg, 2 hour delay due to weather in Jo'burg, then 8 hours from Jo'burg to Dakar Senegal, where they tear apart the plane, look under seats, confirm baggage belongs to you and that you belong on the plane, then 8 hours from Dakar to Atlanta (where I missed my flight and had to catch a plane a little later).

All was good though, on the big flight from Jo'burg to Dakar to Atlanta I made friends with the two guys next to me, who were traveling from South Africa to the USA for business, the two girls in front of him (they were from Kansas and said that South Africa was like Kansas with Elephants), and the girl in front of them (who lucked out with a row to herself, got to lie down and sleep), she was in Africa to work with Aids Patients with the Peace Corps (I was very impressed with her, it's good to see people get out and give of themselves like that). My favorite though was a couple, probably in their late 60's who were in Africa celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, they were very lucky to have each other, I pulled the husband aside and told him so.

If you ever have to make a trip like this, try to be under 6'1" and if you're taller than that be sure to get up and walk some :).

Friday, October 17, 2008

Last Day in Zambia

Well today's my last day in Zambia. I'm looking forward to going home, but I'm also disappointed that I wasn't able to get out of the city of Lusaka. Everyone here has been very friendly, I'm amazed at the energy and warmness of everyone I've run across. It really does make you want to do more for not only this country, but for the African continent. Given the riches we have in the States, Africa seems to be very poor, but they have a rich culture and warmness that they are both proud of and is hard to find in the States. While I am looking forward to going back to Virginia, and all the day to day problems that exist there, I am also looking forward to coming back to Africa, to getting to know more of the people, to hopefully get out of the city and into the wild.

Just about time to start the day, I board my plane at 1:50pm local time (7:50 EST) and get home just after 11:30am EST. It's going to be a long day ;).

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Another Day in Zambia

Impala for Dinner

One of my good friends insisted that since I was out here in Africa, that I should have something "different". I tried having Ostrich kabobs here in the hotel, but they were out of them, so instead I had steak. Yesterday, the Procurement Team went out to a hotel and took me and my brother. On them menu were several normal items, but two stood out, Kudu and Impala. Since I had never heard of Kudu, I went with Impala (I've been for a ride in one of those before). Both are beautiful animals:



My Impala went down well, though I think being the fast animal that it is, it speed right though me ;). We had a gentleman there, it was interesting to see him eat, because he didn't enjoy spices, so anything hot wasn't good for him, shellfish, etc... was off limits to his stomach. Others stayed away from Pork (which I love). We had spoken about other cultures eating dog or cat, we all agreed that we would all stay away from either.


Well my brother should be happy about this trip with me. It seems that everyone things we look identical. Maybe it's just us both being big white guys with beards. We look similar, but I'm not sure if we look identical, but we've had some of the staff mention that we look identical though. Our driver said that he had spoken to some of the hotel staff and that they call us "the twins" (not sure I'm happy about being said I look like my older brother).


It's interesting to watch the news here, it's a lot more open than what we get in the USA. By open I mean that it talks about the rest of the world and not just what happens in the USA. Everyone here is happy to see the USA having elections to replace Bush, I've seen plenty of Obama hats and stickers here, too bad these people can't vote ;).


I'm not sure if this is very funny or sad. When having dinner last night, one of our hosts mentioned that he had lived in the States for a few years. He mentioned being at a bar and a woman asking him if he was from Africa. When he replied "yes", she grabbed his arm to feel it and said "you look healthy, you don't look like you're starving". I had to laugh, but it's a sad comment that all Americans know about foreign countries is the negative about them. We are even trained to see the negative, instead of the importance. Our host said that in the States he saw a homeless fellow, he said here that if that person lived with his tribe, that the tribe would have taken care of him, found him a place to sleep and something to do. Why can't we do that in the States?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Lusaka - Zambia

Well not much going on here really. We've had meetings with the customer, good and bad, but that's to be expected with a customer, I'm the same way with vendors. I haven't had much opportunity to get out and explore, today has been my only down day, we're off until a 2:30pm meeting, unfortunately I didn't get much sleep last night (should have popped an Ambien, I'll probably do so tonight).

So far the people have been nice, though things operate at a different pace here, than in the States, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, since in the States (especially on the East Coast) we run at a torrid pace, that we hardly have time to sit down and have a spot of tea (they do have tea time). I was reminded in what was said in the movie Blood Diamond, they kept saying "TIA" or "This is Africa". If you come here expecting to have things as easy or as quick as you would elsewhere, then you best stay put ;). Personally I don't mind it that much, I realize that things will get done and for some things, I'm in no hurry.

The network coverage in my hotel is spotty. I've been able to do some skype, some IM, but not much. The quality of service I think is in the hotel's network, I'm sure if I could get a real network, then I wouldn't have problems (though it seems what I think of as real and what others do isn't the same). The client we are dealing with have 1mb down and 256kb up and they host on that line, which means that all downloads from their server is at 256kb (not acceptable). I'm thinking that if people really want to expend resources here, they need to work on infrastructure issues, good Internet connectivity will only help improve the quality of life for all.

I might be coming back, I will be in Ghana in two weeks. FYI: I'm told there isn't a McDonald's or Starbucks here, so if you need them stay away ;).

Monday, October 13, 2008

Zambia - Getting there!

The trip into Zambia wasn't too bad. It was about 8 hours from Atlanta to Dakar, where we had a crew change, got some fuel and then got back into the air. Then another 8-9 hours until we got to Johannesburg (Joberg to the in crowd). I sat with a nice fellow from South Africa who had been to Kansas for training, he was wearing a Kansas City Chiefs jersey, seems that he had wanted to see the NBA, but had to settle for the NFL ;) (he's also a budding NASCAR fan and was upset that he missed the Kansas City race by a week).

When I take trips like this, I start to think about how hard it must have been for the initial pioneers, the people who sailed the oceans or went through the brush by foot. It keeps me from complaining too much that my sandwich is cold or that my legs are cramped ;).

We were met in Zambia by our driver (I'm here with my brother on Business), our driver works with COMESA (which is a big group of multiple states in the area), so we got the diplomatic treatment. Strait to the front of the line and straight through Customs, it was great. The driver was very nice and explained some of the history to us on our way to the hotel (I wish I was actually awake and could have paid better attention to him). The Hotel is nice, it had a place to ut my head, which was great. I didn't get to sleep until after midnight (I'm a geek, had to futz with the internet first, it was flaky last night, but seems to be stable right now, who knows what tomorrow will bring). I'm learning the phrase TIA (this means, This is Africa), seems to be a solution to a lot of questions ;).

I have been able to use Skype this morning, I tested it last night and got horrible results. Hopefully with a more stable internet connection, I'll have better results with Skype :).

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Africa Trip - Zambia

I'm getting ready for my Africa trip. I'm going at least to Zambia and possibly to Ghana (either immediately after Zambia or a week later). It's been interesting preparing for the Zambia trip, it will be for business, so I'm not sure how much "site seeing" there will be. So far I've had to get several shots (Flu, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Yellow Fever, Polio). I've been told to eat nothing raw (except for fruits like bananas and oranges), to stay away from the water (even for brushing teeth). I've been given medication for Malaria (this makes me a bit dizzy, it's supposed to also give me wicked dreams, but I haven't had that, damn), Travelers Diarrhea, Ambien (for jet lag) and Prednesone (this is for a weird issue with my platelets and only to be taken if needed). I've also had to spay all my clothes with insect repellent (this will last for a few weeks) and I've gotten plenty of deet 30 for myself (don't want to get Malaria). Finally to get the Visa I had to go up to the embassy here in Washington DC and apply in person (OK, so there is a benefit to living near DC, well other than the first ones to die in a massive nuclear war).

I've placed all my paperwork in folders by country and project, so my anal retentive side is working overtime. It'll pay off when I want to find something quickly, it's just funny to see me do it :).

On the tech front, I'll be taking my laptop, iTouch, and a few odds and ends, but nothing fancy. Upon my brother's suggestion, I only got plug adapters, but not current adapters, it seems that laptops will handle the current change on their own. Items like my iTouch I'll charge off my laptop :). I've purchased a month subscription to Skype, I'll see if I can use Skype to call the people I care about back home (this required me to purchase a USB headset, I need to test that out), Skype is only $3 a month for calls to the US. For business I'll need to have a Ubuntu Linux box set up, so I've installed VMWare and Ubuntu on a virtual machine on that server (I love VMWare, it's very nice and it's free).

Cell phone's upset me some. I can't use my Verizon Wireless phone, since it's CDMA only. I don't want to upgrade phones yet, because ALL the Verizon phones are horrible. I would go with the iPhone, but I'd need to jailbreak it first before using it overseas (which is a tragic waste of technology). My brother will have a cell phone that he can just insert a simm into for the host country, so we should be set there.

I'll go through a test packing today, make sure I've got enough room. I'll most likely google for the most effective way to pack my clothes. I've got a few requests for gifts, my doctor was funny because he wants something, he's a pretty cool guy so I'll get him something, besides after giving me my first prostate exam, I figure we should be exchanging gifts and such.

I'm told that I'll have decent internet connections (if not then Skype, Yahoo, Twinkle, Twitter, etc... just won't work, now will they ;)). I'll be taking my baby camera and will be updating my blog while I'm there :). If it's decided that I go to Ghana, I'll post that also :).