Blog Posts

  • Zambia Stories - Entry 8

    I’ve only covered the courthouse beat a few times in my career, when other reporters have had the day off and I’ve had to fill in. But from the looks of the “From the Local Courts” page in the Sunday Mail, it’s a Springeresque job in Lusaka. In this week’s set of news briefs: - “Woman fined for marriage interference”: “A 26-year-old woman has been ordered by the Chingola local court to pay K400,000 (around US$80) as compensation for marriage interference…This was found after the court found [the 26-year-old] guilty of interfering in the marriage of [the wronged woman] by flirting with her husband.” - Two other stories I’ll mention only by the headlines: “‘I impregnated my friend’s wife’” and “Two women claim one man as husband.” (In the latter, one woman accuses the other of being an...

  • Zambia Stories - Entry 7

    If you want to get Internet access in Zambia, here’s what you have to do: - Call ZamTel, the national phone monopoly. Wait about five minutes for someone to answer the phone (with a simple “hello” and no indication you’re calling a business). Say you want to buy an Internet account. The woman will make you repeat the word “Internet” four or five times, then seem to understand and say “Go to the main post office.” - Think about that, realize that post offices often play multiple roles in Third World countries, and head down to the corner of Church and Cairo roads, where the main post office is. Ask the man at the counter where to get Internet access, and he’ll tell you the second floor. - Walk up one flight of stairs to the second floor. Ask someone there if...

  • Zambia Stories - Entry 6

    A few technical notes: - It appears that the cell phone number I gave you needs a slight tweak. From the U.S. of A., one drops the initial zero in the cell area code. So to call me, you’d dial 011 260 97 815475 (not 097 815475). - If you would like to call, Trisarahtops found a cheap calling card to use. Nine cents a minute! Sarah confirms that it works, too, after you jump through a few hoops. The best part: unlike in the States, it doesn’t cost me minutes if you call my cell. So call away!

  • Zambia Stories - Entry 5

    Had lunch today with two representatives of a major international non-governmental organization (which, for our purposes today, shall remain nameless). They took turns tearing into Zambia’s problems — a pathetic economy, political corruption, educational collapse, rampant disease, drought, floods, starvation. One told the tale of a Norwegian fellow arrested a few weeks ago on trumped-up charges (for arguing with a cabbie who ripped him off), secretly held in jail overnight, and released only after a friend gave a bribe of 20,000 kwacha (all of four American dollars). She was clearly disgusted with the place. I asked: “Is there any reason at all to be optimistic about this country?” Her reply: “Well, the sun is shining.” Some of you may be wondering why I picked Zambia as the site of my fellowship. One reason is that the country’s failure seems so nonsensical. Think of what the...

  • Zambia Stories - Entry 4

    On a different tack altogether, two non-Zambia questions for the audience: - F.O.Z. (Friend of Zambiastories.com) Kim has pointed out that the red-links-on-green-background motif of this site gives her a headache. I agree — while I was trying to match the color scheme of the Zambian flag, the red is largely a holdover from the crabwalk.com code I so ruthlessly stole when setting up this site. So, any HTMLers who have a better idea than the current red are encouraged to speak up. - My iBook’s power supply is rated for both American voltage and European (220V, which is what Zambia has — along with those freaky S&M U.K. three-prong plugs). But when I charge my laptop, it gets freaky hot. As in, no longer tolerable on my lap and hotter than what I’m used to from standard charging...

  • Zambia Stories - Entry 3

    One housekeeping note: As some of you know, I’m in Zambia as part of a Pew Fellowship in International Journalism. But I’m not the only one! I set up blogs for six of my fellow Fellows as they roam the globe on their fellowships. You, dear reader, are the beneficiary! Two of them already have posts: - MJF on Iran (I’m not using her full name so the Iranian Googlebots don’t find her) - Noel Paul on Russia Four others will launch soon: Antrim Caskey on Argentina, Suzanne Marmion on Iran and Egypt, Jeremy Kahn on Ivory Coast, and Jessie Deeter on Sierra Leone. (Don’t mind the test posts at those links at the moment.)

  • Zambia Stories - Entry 2

    The Lusaka airport has the same sort of shabby charm as most Third World airports I’ve been to. It’s the first impression of most foreign tourists to Zambia, so the government has tried to make it an imposing ’60s-style building. But no one would confuse it with Heathrow. When you approach the immigration desk, you’re confronted with what appears to be the airport’s official welcoming art, a painting by Stepphen Kaputa, “Zambia’s foremost native artist,” entitled “We Welcome You to Our Safari Lodges in Zambia.” It depicts a scene straight out of a Cecil Rhodes fever dream: a half-dozen fat, middle-aged white tourists being served drinks and toured around by happy natives. The other big sign at immigration is one directed at what appears to be a group of Habitat for Humanity folks who are building some local homes: “Lusaka...

  • Zambia Stories - Entry 1

    I know that the next six weeks of posts will be filled with intricate details of Zambian culture, extensive epidemiological studies of sub-Saharan HIV strains, and Serious Journalism — so I figure I’m allowed a moment of boyish excitement before I hit the hard stuff: I have been in Kate Beckinsale’s bedroom. To explain: My flight plan first took me from Washington, D.C., to London, where I had a 12-hour layover. I’d planned to bum around the city aimlessly, with my only planned event being grabbing lunch with Tod, my newspaper’s London bureau chief. But a happy change of circumstances meant I ended up wandering around town all day long with Tod, his awesome nine-year-old daughter Fiona, and two of Tod’s journalist friends. Along with swapping a bushel of old foreign correspondent stories, we even tracked down David Blaine, Mr....

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