My visit to New Orleans

Well, my employer decided that it would be a good idea for me to attend an event in New Orleans a few weeks ago.  I went because I felt obliged to (like I told my manager after the event), but it was a very productive time and I am glad I went.

Bourbon Street:  I went to Bourbon Street on the first evening.  Some girls seemed to have fun baring their chests for a couple of cheap beads – I mean dirt cheap beads.  The girls also gladly posed bare chested for any young man who requested for photos.  I think this is all fun and games until the photos pop up on unsavory websites, but who am I to ask.  There were people dancing to a street performer and I could not believe their XXX rated moves!  Zambian traditional dances are sometimes considered risqué, but they are G rated compared to what my eyes saw in New Orleans.  [(No, I don’t have photos or videos of the bare bosoms and X rated dances :)]  I visited a couple of jazz bars after this and they had very good music.  However, Bourbon Street is not for me, and visiting once is more than enough for me.

Garden District:  It is very beautiful and the residents seem to have plenty of money.  I saw the house where Peyton Manning grew up and where his parents still live.  I did not know him before this but the tour guide insisted on us knowing it, so there you go.

An example of the trees in the Garden District:


Mississippi River:  Monday evening saw me going on a Mississippi River cruise.  This was for no reason other than that this is one river I have always wondered about and wanted to see since childhood.  This is all because of a song I heard about the Mississippi River.  The songstress had strong feelings about the river and one of the words that hit me as an seven/eight year old were “Bye bye, my darling.  Hello Mississippi River”.  I couldn’t understand how someone would want to leave another human being and go see a river.


Katrina/ City Tour:  I went on a tour of New Orleans one afternoon.  I was interested in seeing areas hit by Katrina and hear the narrative from a local.  We saw the superdome where countless people took shelter.  The tour guide said the superdome has been renovated to act as an emergency shelter should another catastrophe hit.  A sizeable area all around it has also been upgraded to block out water from entering the dome. The interchange struck me the most because this was the first place of refuge for people before they continued on to the superdome.  I can’t begin to imagine the terror, helplessness and hopelessness they must have felt.

The dome:


Too bad I didn’t manage to take a clear photo, but there was a very well made “bedroom” for a homeless person under one bridge, complete with a teddy bear.  One would have thought it was in a house.  Apparently the homeless man has been living at that spot for several years and makes his bed everyday and keeps the area around very clean.  His room is cleaner than my bedroom!

Aboveground Cemetery:  Cemeteries in New Orleans are aboveground because of the high water table.  Families with a bit of money have their own graves like the one below.


Families short of money are ‘buried’ in these slots (not sure of the correct name).  I found the cemetery visit very interesting.


Frenchmen Street: I later went to Frenchmen Street the night before I left.  Boy oh boy, what a blast I had.  I thought the first street band I saw was the best band in New Orleans, then visited a tiny jazz club, changed my mind and changed it again after going to another club.  I still haven’t made up my mind as to the best band – it was a tie, I guess.

Café Beignet:  The Café is small but has a lot of character.  I couldn’t sit in the garden because it was too hot.


I had heard a lot about beignets at this Café and was really looking forward to tasting them.  Imagine my surprise when I realized that these are just fritters that I grew up eating, minus the powdered sugar though.  What a major disappointment.


Now talk about the jambalaya!  It was the best meal I had in New Orleans.  Simply delicious!


Now about work – the reason why I went to New Orleans.  It was great, especially one young motivational speaker.  [When I think of the great jazz I enjoyed though, I think work was just an extracurricular activity and not the other way round :)].

The only reason I would return to New Orleans is the live jazz, something I really enjoy.


Missing someone else’s target, but finding yours

Society, church and our families have certain expectations of us. Indeed, we also have certain expectations of ourselves.  A general expectation is that people should complete high school, have some kind of training and get a job.  However, what happens when someone does not hit the expected target ?  What do you do when you are surrounded by successful people whose achievements seem to magnify your failures?  Of course, you will look dull and maybe even seem lazy because people will assume that you are not studying or working enough.

I know a young lady, Harriet, who was not doing well in college where she was taking a marketing course.  She failed all the subjects even after repeating.  Her younger sisters on the other hand, were doing very well and leaving her in the dust of their success.  I was chatting to her one day and asked how school was going since I had not been aware of her struggle.  She said she had stopped taking her marketing course.  In my surprise, I asked her why.  She said she did not want to continue wasting her brother’s money as she was failing all her classes.  She had now started taking design and tailoring lessons and she seemed quite embarrassed about it.  I said this made sense because she had always been very good with her hands and was business savvy. She seemed surprised at my response.  She had had many small business ventures from childhood and made profits, so why not pursue that which she was good at and was already successful in? Cut a long story short – Harriet has now had a booming tailoring business for many years, and may I add that her products do not come cheap because she is very good at what she does.  There is also a queue of people waiting for her services.

Harriet’s situation is a perfect example of one missing other people’s targets but finding one’s.  I am glad that Harriet went against society’s expectation of having an office job (which most people in Zambia view as something to aspire to) but instead did that which she is excellent in, even though it is a lowly career in our society’s eyes.  Harriet missed the mark society set for her but in the process found her own – one of achievement and fulfillment.

Have we let society tell us how to live our lives even if we know that something else is better for us?  How have we rectified our mistakes and gone on to do that which we are good at and then succeeded in it?

I am currently at a crossroads in my life.  I know what my heart has wanted to do for many years whose financial benefits may not come easy, if ever, but there is something else that I am expected to do and whose monetary benefits would be more immediate.  I guess it is time to follow my own blog post’s advice and do that which I really want to and I am sure will succeed in – after all I have done something similar and been more successful than I ever imagined.  There have been no monetary gains in the activity I succeeded in, but the impact on countless people has continued long after I moved on.  I can never compare the feeling I got (and still get through memories) with having more money.

Deliberate Hit and Runs

I was shocked to hear that there are people out there who deliberately chase down  strangers just to hit them and then zoom off.

Well, that’s exactly what happened to two of my nieces.  NT was walking home from college with her friend in Livingstone at dusk and a motorbike rider rode straight towards them.  NT and her friend ran away and the rider targeted my niece.  Unfortunately for her, it was an open area with nowhere to hide and no other people nearby.  NT tried to escape but could not shake the rider off, so she finally just stood.  She put out her hands towards the motorcycle to protect herself when she was hit.  Fortunately (if you can call it that), only her arm was injured and she needed medical attention.  The rider sped off.

A year go another niece, RT, was headed for work in Lusaka early in the morning.  A car drove off the road straight towards her.  Fortunately for her, there was a tree and she hid behind it.  The driver reversed and tried again to hit her, but luckily someone came along and started shouting.  The car drove off.

My nieces did not recognize the perpetrators and had no running issues with anyone.  It was puzzling to us.  Who were these people? Why were my nieces targeted?

We are grateful all the same that they survived the attacks.

“Welcome home”, said the Immigration Officer

I have lived in the US for many years but it never felt like home until September 10 this year when I returned from visiting family in Zambia.  The Immigration Officer at Dulles Airport asked if I had “XYZ” visa (which he could see in my passport) and whether I resided in the US.  I responded in the affirmative for both and then the Officer said:

“Welcome back home”.

For the first time, I felt that the US was home and not just my duty station. These few words made me feel very welcome.  I am Zambian, yes, but my life is in the US and this is where I spend most of my time and the US has shaped my adult life a whole lot.

I am grateful for the opportunities the US has given me and the positive differences those opportunities have made to my loved ones back home.

Thank you, USA, and it is indeed good to be back home.

I am allergic to the sun – Part 1

I am a Zambian and grew up in Zambia, meaning that my body has no problems with the sun.  At least, that is what one would expect.  That was the fact until my twenties.

First it started hives on my arm when it was exposed to the sun.  A pharmacist gave me some ointment and all was well for several years.  Then a few years ago I started getting hives on my neck when I was in the sun, even for a short period.  A seasoned (aka senior citizen) dermatologist in Austria gave me some medications which did not work.  I asked a pharmacist when I visited Prague and his solutions also did not work.

Well, I went to Zambia and decided to see a pharmacist.  I went into a pharmacy, looked at the pharmacist and immediately turned to leave.  She called out to me and asked if she could help.  In my heart I said “definitely not!”, but my mouth “yes, please. I have this issue.”  She gave me hydrocortisone and I told her that it did not work. She kept quiet for a while and then said “ha! use some sunscreen. Use this every time you go outside, especially for your neck.”  Being the street dermatologist that I am, I told her that I did not need it because I am black. She advised that everyone, in spite of their race, needs it.

I applied the sunscreen immediately and went about my business which involved a lot of walking in the sun and was impressed with the results.  I had no hives! Needless to say, I have not had hives since except the one time I forgot to apply ‘my’ sunscreen.

Now for the reason why I wanted to walk away from the pharmacy without any consultation.  Well, so called pharmacist was 12 years old (or so she looked).  I thought about the seasoned Austrian dermatologist and Czech pharmacist – they could not help me, so how could a baby pharmacist help?!!  She proved me wrong and I felt really embarrassed.

I hope you are all enjoying your summer.

Austrian Friend Visited me in Zambia

I was in Zambia for a month until last Friday. I have several stories but I will start with the one of my Austrian friend, Lisa.  We maintained contact after I moved from Austria and she visited me a few weeks ago.

I have no idea what fears were instilled in Lisa by well meaning people, but they made her think that Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) was still in 1870.  Unfortunately, also, the YouTube videos she watched to prepare for her visit only showed the bush and wild animals.  The meds I know she had are anti-malaria tablets, insect repellent and upset tummy tablets.  She was also understandably warned not to eat any salad. Lisa spent the first two nights at my parents’ place and continually asked where the insects, especially mosquitoes were.  Well, there were none in the Lusaka area where my parents live.  I took her to Livingstone to see the Victoria Falls on the third day and the only mosquitoes she saw were during a cruise on the Zambezi River, which is in the wild so she disregarded those.  Lisa was also shocked at Zambian infrastructure, my parents’ house included.  It is modern and spacious!

Lisa had a slightly running tummy on the second night but it was over before it began.  How she panicked!  My family and I did not because we knew that it was nothing serious and it must have been caused by a change of diet.  She was perfectly fine by morning though she was still panicking and took some upset tummy tablets.

By the end of her trip, Lisa started asking why she had been given wrong information about Africa (not just Zambia).  She said there were more mosquitoes in Austria than in Zambia.  Without my knowledge, she had also been sneaking in some salad and her stomach did not react.  She also wanted to stop taking her anti-malaria ‘arsenal’ but I said that just that one infected stray mosquito could bite her, so she continued with her meds and spray.

She enjoyed her trip so much that she has told her daughter and son-in-law to visit with their baby.

I was happy about her conclusion of Zambia, but am still surprised at how my continent is still being portrayed by people who have or have not yet been to Sub-Saharan Africa.  It shows that there is a lack of knowledge out there.   Another Austrian friend is supposed to visit next year, but this one has been to SSA and other “third world countries”.

All in all, my family and friends were happy to meet Lisa and I plan on visiting her next year in Europe.


Western Prices in Zambia

Everybody knows that non-locals are charged higher prices almost everywhere you go, except in supermarkets which have fixed prices.  Several years ago, a foreign counterpart visited Zambia with his black Jamaican wife, Sue.  A friend and I decided to take Sue to a local crafts market for some shopping.  We told her not to say anything at the market and just point at what she wanted.  We would do the talking and haggling for her because we knew that she would be charged higher prices even if she was black because of her Western accent.

We got to the first stall and Sue went crazy!  She was asking the vendor all sorts of questions.  We saw the vendor’s expression change as he realized that he was not dealing with a local.  He gave her ridiculously high prices and she said “oh, that is very cheap”.  The vendor’s level of service went several notches up just so he could get her to buy from him.  We told him off in Nyanja and said we were going elsewhere.  He tried to bring down the price but we went off.  Sue protested but we left.

Sue followed us and we told her that she had been charged exorbitant prices.  She tried to protest again, but we said we knew what we were talking about.  We told her again to keep quiet and let us talk to the vendors.  We knew we would be charged higher prices already because we came by car – a symbol, rightly or wrongly, of being “rich”.

At the next stalls, Sue just pointed at various items she wanted and let us do the talking.  She could not believe how different the prices were from the first stall.  We did not haggle too much as we knew that Sue could more than afford the prices and we also wanted our fellow Zambians to make a little more..

A side note – I no longer bargain as much as I used to when I lived in Zambia, even though I know that I am usually charged higher prices when vendors see that I am driving.  The USD goes a looong way in Zambia.

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