Wednesday, July 30, 2008

African Photo Diary Three: Kids

I took these in a rural area outside Lusaka while on a field trip with some German geogrpahy students. More on that trip later.

This kid calmly jumped into the back of the pickup with us. Zambians dress pretty well, but I think he just might be the best dressed kid in Zambia. Look how he rocks that yellow tartan and the two t-shirts, amazing. Unfortunately, I forgot his name.

This is the greatest graffitti found on the wall of a rural school:
Just in case u have forgotten
am Bob the game
Cash Money King
of the Daso

These kids stopped their game of scocer to watch us go by. I love the hand made nets.

African Photo Diary Two: The Economy

If some of these photos look like they were taken from the back of a moving pickup truck on a gray day it's because they were.

Many of the stores here have wicked paint jobs featuring all the great stuff you'll find inside. Also, I love that font.

Zambian women have a superhuman ability to carry massive weights on their heads for great distances. Notice the busted cars in the background.

Not sure what the trailer is about but the ad on the right is for Shake Shake, the local millet beer that apparently tastes like yogurt and has grainy bits floating in it. I haven't yet gotten the nerve up to actually enter places that sell it so you'll have to wait to hear how it stands up to Kokannee. Mosi Lager, the other popular beer here, is actually much better than the vast majority of Canadian ones.

Just doing the laundry.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

First Week Notes: Fifty Billion Zimbabwean dollars

I saw a fifty billion dollar Zimbabwean note yesterday. No, that isn't a mistake: 50,000,000,000 Zimbabwean dollars. A five and ten zeros. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what inflation was, but this completely baffles me. Something that cost one Zimbabwean dollar before is now fifty billion times more expensive? What does that mean? Are Zimbabweans fifty billion times poorer than they were before?

Could someone better versed in economics please explain this to me?

Another baffling thing, this time Zambian, is the price of living in Lusaka. According to the United Nations Human Development Index, 94 per cent of Zambians live on less than two dollars a day. I spend more than two dollars a day on local minibusses. The cola I'm drinking just put me back a buck fifty and my meal of cornmeal and chicken another two.

Someone told me, on good authority, that Lusaka is the fortieth most expensive city in the world and I believe it. Lusakans drive mostly late model Japanese cars if they aren't four wheel drive Land Rovers or shiny pickups. The shopping malls here feel ominously like home but most insane is the price of gas: almost double the Canadian average.

What I'm not seeing, of course, are the large townships, or “compounds”, spreading westwards from town. The ones that if you zoom in on Google Earth contrast with the genteel grid of eastern suburbs because of their anarchic streets and d.i.y. rooftops. Here people can survive, I'm told, on 5000 kwacha, worth of corn meal with a smattering of fresh vegetables and dried fish or chicken for protein. That's less than two dollars.

Monday, July 28, 2008

African Photo Diary One: Zebras and Giraffes

I know you've all been wondering what I've been up to since arriving in Zambia and I think it's only appropriate that I get through all the clichés in the first few posts. We were booked for the first week into a place south of Lusaka that had wild animals on the property. Kinda like a national park but smaller with a bunch of little huts and a bar that played the Euro top 40 music videos. Here's some photos, with the customary black and white shot of Zebras.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Harnessing Qi to Burn Paper: From Ring of Fire

I watched the documentary Ring of Fire: East of Krakatoa as a young child. I was at an age where everything was mysterious and possible, especially after having lived in a country like Indonesia where, as clichéd as this is, traditional beliefs still had a prominent place in people's minds.

At that time I could accept the idea of a man burning things with only his hands as just another new thing I'd learned about the world. For years after I quite firmly believed in Qi and harnessing energy through meditation. Slowly through socialization and school I completely forgot about it and if you asked me last week I'd have said I didn't. Last night, for some reason, this came up at a party and remembering the film I argued that people can set things on fire using just body energy. Of course everyone laughed at me. Well here's the video.

There are many things that science has only vague notions of but that are explained in traditional healing traditions as mystical and secret. The conclusion is that things like Qi do exist but they haven't yet been explained by science. In fact, under Canadian health insurance you are fully covered if you go to an acupuncturist for treatment. Many people I know swear by it, and it certainly helped my dad's back problems. The acupuncturist's practice is based on the same principles as the man's in the video.