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Living in Africa
Old 11-01-2006, 11:49 AM   #1
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Living in Africa

I deleted the whole topic as my daughter decided she didn't want her "diary" on the web. She felt it would require too much effort/editing when writing, and that she doesn't have time to do that. So....I'm saving her emails and hopefully she'll eventually put them out on the web or in a book.

Meanwhile, I hope a few of you got a little extra inspiration to travel off the beaten track some time. And to those of you who enjoyed her messages and said so--thanks
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Re: Living in Africa
Old 11-08-2006, 12:44 PM   #2
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Re: Living in Africa

My daughter gave me permission to post her latest email:
================================================== =

There's no daylight savings time in Zambia (or anywhere in Africa to
my knowledge) and I'm not far from the equator which means that it
gets dark quite early (by about 6:15) and light quite early (by about
5:00!) almost all year. I am rapidly adapting to that schedule and am
generally up by 6:00 latest with no one forcing me to do it. There's
nothing to do in the evenings anyway since walking on the streets of
Lusaka after dark is not recommended and really, where would I go
anyway? So what do I do with my evenings? I have no internet at home,
no movies, no cable, and no one to talk to (except you, Ken!). And so,
in my new place, I have resorted to watching the worst television
ever. In honor of my evenings, this email will be devoted to the joys
of Zambian local television.

There are only 3 channels that I currently receive- one is all
evangelical, all the time… OK, so there are 2 channels that I receive,
of which one is all Chinese propaganda, all the time (at least this
past week). And yet, when compared with the one local channel, ZNBC,
it sometimes looks pretty good- at least there are attractive and
appealing images of Chinese culture, life, business, government,
ability to develop, ability to speak English, and ability to work with
Africa… the documentaries are especially good- I particularly enjoyed
the one on the triumph of Mao's army, "the liberation of China."
There's also plentiful news coverage of the China-Africa summit in
Beijing this week, peppered with frequent quotes from African
countries that support the one China (aka no Taiwan) policy. Groovy.
When I'm not sitting back on my very ugly couches watching propaganda,
I sink even lower, watching a dubbed Brazilian soap opera from circa
1986. Really I watch it for the hairstyles- they are amazing… and to
find out if Gabrielle and Mr. Clemente really are seeing each other on
the side.

Of course there are some genuinely entertaining things on Zambian
television, basically the evening news and the commercials, both of
which are really alternative forms of propaganda (there is no private
television station broadcasting news). The evening news is mostly a
series of vignettes on development projects (new bridge, new clinic,
new education project, etc), usually directly crediting either the
president or his government plus the same sort of local disaster
stories on the local news in the US (fires, car accidents, crocodile
maulings, baby stolen from hospital). Recently a major segment was
devoted to the fact that the BA flight the president was taking was
delayed for 3 hours so his entire entourage had to wait at the
airport. Ummmmm… I could also watch European football and some random
entertainment news from Europe, the US, and, of course, China (that's
what I watch most often to be honest). Sometimes there are great 1980s
music videos on VOA (Voice of America), although they repeat every few
hours for days on end.

But the commercials, they are the best. There are two different VCT
(voluntary HIV testing and counseling) center ads, both of which I
believe have USAID money behind them so this is your tax money at
work. The short ad follows a Zambian around Lusaka where he keeps
encountering cheerful people asking, "I know. Do you?" until he
shamefully admits, "I don't know… but I've got to know." I wish you
could see it- it's pretty fabulous (all melodramatic and local cable
channel)… He then blissfully goes to the VCT office and contentedly
receives his results, claiming a newfound "peace of mind." Personally,
I think the level of peace of mind would be positively correlated with
knowing you didn't have HIV- I somehow doubt anyone feels all that
peaceful about finding out they do have HIV in a country where they
probably cannot afford ART and husbandstypically leave wives who are
found to have HIV! … Meanwhile, I felt very Zambian when we had a
meeting at work to make sure everyone knew about the plans for moving
to the new office and people started to go around the table with, "I
know. Do you?".

The other commercial/ mini-program is less amusing and originally
produced in Burkina Faso, but still very interesting, starting with a
woman musing that she knows her husband is faithful, but she also
knows there were other women before (I like the way they are trying to
de-link the association of HIV with promiscuity- especially in Zambia
which has the highest percentage of people who claim active church
membership of any African country- pushing 90% in the city and 80% in
the rural areas…but I digress- don't I always?!?). Anyway she wants to
ask him to get them both tested, but just can't bring it up. Pan to a
gathering of men, her husband included, debating getting tested. They
do a pretty good job of refuting all the reasons not to get tested
without promising that treatment will be available (no easy feat),
including explaining that there are medicines available to prevent HIV
transmission from mother to child. This sells the husband on getting
the test as the wife is apparently pregnant. And so the loving couple
goes off for their HIV test together. It's filmed to be romantic which
is definitely the best part.

Most other commercials have very little money behind them, which often
adds to their entertainment value. The mosquito newscast of a mass
murder committed by humans (for insecticide-impregnated mosquito
nets), the party man getting all the girls (no, not a beer commercial,
but a shoe polish commercial- Africans are big on keeping their shoes
clean and shiny), and the trendy men keeping in touch via cell phone
(celtel, with a great jingle "A-fri-ca, it's so good to be home").
Because it's the beginning of the rainy season, there is also a
cutthroat competition between two seed companies, SeedCo and Zamseed
(but you could have guessed that name, right?). Right now my money is
on SeedCo with its "Bumper Harvest" promotion with a chance to win a
free John Deere tractor with plough, hundreds of ox-driven ploughs,
100 kilos of mealie meal (maize, staple of Zambia), chicken feed, cell
phone minutes, and other fabulous prizes. Zamseed is busy touting its
seed as "developed by Zambian researchers for Zambian farmers" and
"seeding Zambia, feeding Zambia" with chances to win prizes as well.
I'm kind of tempted to buy some of each and test them in my backyard,
but unfortunately, the smallest maize seed bags I've seen were 20
kilos apiece.

OK- enough with the television. In other news, I'll be providing
temporary accommodation for the two other women Fulbrighters who
arrive the 14th and 16th. I've also been meeting my neighbors,
including Mwila, a young Zambian journalist in her mid-twenties who
just got back from Abuja and Mary, a 60-something American woman who
has been living in Zambia for 4 years working on all sorts of
different relief and development projects, and did two different
Fulbrights in different parts of the world, one of them just 5-10
years ago. I had dinner at her place last night with two Congolese
refugees who are running peace education projects around Zambia on
essentially no real funding, just because they want to do it. Very
cool. That was a quality evening. On Saturday night I missed a most
surprising opportunity given the location; "The Vagina Monologues" was
playing at the Taj Hotel; alas, but I was just too tired to go.

On the research front, things are finally starting to move forward,
albeit slowly (hence the focus on television). Having finally obtained
full lists of members of parliament from the last two elections, I
discovered that only 21% of Zambian MPs managed to hold onto their
seats in the September election, something that's not atypical in
Africa, but also contributes to weak parliamentary performance as
there's little institutional memory. Just a factoid in case it comes
up on Jeopardy.

And speaking of legislators losing their seats, hope you enjoyed US
election day.
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Re: Living in Africa
Old 11-08-2006, 02:56 PM   #3
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Re: Living in Africa

Astro, you should be a proud mother. You raised a quality daughter!
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Re: Living in Africa
Old 11-08-2006, 05:30 PM   #4
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Re: Living in Africa

Please thank her for letting you post her writings, they are fastinating and Cut is right, we don't care about editing.
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Re: Living in Africa
Old 11-08-2006, 05:34 PM   #5
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Re: Living in Africa

Fascinating look at a world I probably will never see. Thanks to your daughter Astro.
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Re: Living in Africa
Old 11-08-2006, 07:19 PM   #6
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Re: Living in Africa

Thanks, guys
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Re: Living in Africa
Old 11-09-2006, 05:11 PM   #7
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Re: Living in Africa

I was in Africa (The Congo) three weeks ago. China is rapidly turning Sub_Saharan Africa into its economic colony much the same way as the French and the Belgians did during the 1800's.

A few worthwhile news items on this subject:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6120500.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6111256.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/5114980.stm


Nonetheless Africa has its charms. www.capespirit.com
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Re: Living in Africa
Old 11-17-2006, 06:34 AM   #8
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Re: Living in Africa

Quote:
Originally Posted by astromeria
I deleted the whole topic as my daughter decided she didn't want her "diary" on the web. She felt it would require too much effort/editing when writing, and that she doesn't have time to do that. So....I'm saving her emails and hopefully she'll eventually put them out on the web or in a book.

Meanwhile, I hope a few of you got a little extra inspiration to travel off the beaten track some time. And to those of you who enjoyed her messages and said so--thanks
Sad to hear you deleted the topic on Zambia. I'm a Zambian myself, living in Germany for the past 15 yrs and I came accross your daughter's diaries by chance and immediately got glued to her narrations! This is the reason why I joined this forum..really would like to know how she's getting along now down there.
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Re: Living in Africa
Old 11-17-2006, 01:05 PM   #9
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Re: Living in Africa

Thanks for your message, CJ. If you return to Zambia for a visit, I'm sure my daughter would enjoy meeting you and talking about Europe from your perspective--she spent a couple of years in France and now lives (well, her husband does!) in England. She's enjoying living in Zambia, especailly the people she works with and meets. She has slowed down writing those entertaining missives as she's busier with work now (doing research on Zambian democracy).
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