Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Tuesday - on the road and in the air


Tuesday's a blur right now. I'm on the plane from Dubai to New York, and it's already Wednesday morning-ish or at least I've crossed from Tuesday 9:45 Pm to Wednesday after having had dinner, breakfast twice and lunch and we're overflying Great Britain somewhere on the way to JFK.

Big day Tuesday. Started early. Awake at 4:30 up at 5, checked to make sure everything was hoovered up at the chicken farm and packed. Appointment a 9AM at the American Embassy.

(You can't just show up and expect anyone to see you like I did on Monday. You can't even get past the Zambian rent-a-security-guard screen to talk to someone inside unless you have a specific "need". It was explained that there are too many "departments" to choose from and that there is no "general" category. That, my friends is frustrating and a royal pain in the ass! That a US citizen can't get in without having to go through the equivalent of a foreign national screening!)

I got snarky and insistent enough that they finally got me on the phone with one of the Zambian Admin Assistants who was able to get me an appointment with someone in the department that oversees the small grant program to give assistance to At Risk families in rural Zambia.

I arrived an hour early and was informed that I could cool my jets outside the entrance on one of the benches until my appointed time. Now I know what it feels like to be part of the "unwashed multitude". I collared one of the Americans arriving for work and after venting about how keeping a US citizen parked on a bench outside the perimeter just didn't feel right. She actually called the lady that I was to meet with and got her to agree to meet with me early and escorted me in where I met up with the really nice Admin who got the appointment for me in the first place.

Met and told her about Hope Fellowship Ministries and what they are doing and asked her how that might fit into the PEPFAR small grants program. Her response after my describing what Charlie and Margaret have been doing over the pat 15 years were extremely positive. There is a grant application process that closes at the end of the month and she was very anxious that Charlie apply for one. I do not begrudge any of the "Foreign Aid" dollars we are committing in Zambia -- HIV prevention, HIV+ counseling, support of AIDS orphan programs, support of community schools, clean water and waste systems, agricultural education - all desperately needed.

So I am encouraged that Priscilla was so encouraging vis-a-vis the PEPFAR grant program. She provided a contact information about a previous successful grant recipient in Ndola which I passed on to Charlie with the urging that he reach out to that person. That program has actually achieved self-sufficiency and should be able to give Charlie some pointers and maybe even mentor him through the process.
(I see more reasons for the creation of a Council of NGO's in Zambia -- read 501(c)3's.)

After my meeting I was accompanied by two of Charlie's daughters on my adventures in Lusaka. The plan was to find the manufacturer's outlet store to purchase plates for the noonday meals served at the Hope School. They feed both the 350-some students of the Hope Village School and the resident orphans, plus staff, Monday thru Friday -- so almost 400 luncheon meals every day!! That's a lotta nshima - fills their brand new 60 quart brasier full of grits!!

I'm also encouraging Charlie to reach out to the Twapia Village Council (the local governing body) and instead of complaining about how they don't do anything, invite them to come and visit and meet with him and staff and talk about how they might work together. Not to ask them for money but to ask them how they can be useful to each other - look for opportunities to work together, especially as might impact the PEPFOR grant program

The other thing I've said is the story of the man who cursed the darkness, while sitting in front of matches and a candle, and rather than taking any initiative at all..... I've talked about that in context of the atrocious condition of what once were paved roads and now more akin to a rollercoaster ride than a public street. Invite the fathers of the children in the school to come on a Saturday and just fix their stretch of the Twapia Road that the Hope Village has frontage on as an example.

I've suggested that he take a page from what seems to work for us Lutherans -- promise food and they will come. Cook a big pot of nshima and have an Open House and invite everybody to come. My experience is that more gets accomplished when breaking bread together. The big thing....get people talking!! If nothing else, the prospect of a free meal tends to be attracting.

My thoughts are racing right now and I feel like I should be here for six or eight weeks, or longer, to get some things started and the ball rolling. I can't send thousands of dollars, but I could inspire and nag them into action. The basic concept is there. Charlie is good about starting! That's the big positive thing that I take away from this visit - the vision is there and it's pretty focussed - the means are where it is a real challenge. For example, the church structure right now is walls and a rough floor with plastic giving some basic, but not completely effective shelter form the weather, but in need of funds to put a roof on, pour a real floor, doors, windows, etc. The second school building is roofed and some of the rooms are plastered, but again, kudos to him for starting!!

The chicken farm is a step in the right direction. They're getting 20,000 chicks and feed next week and that will the be defining six-week trial to prove that they have their act together for that operation and then they will be able to add a second chicken house that will let them do 40,000 chickens at a whack, but that is only going to cover about 10% of the cost with running the Village.

We need $10,000 to purchase 25 acres of land so they can do some ag-related programs teaching effective techniques for subsistence farming to the local villagers -- who have corn and squash planted together in every nook and cranny available. I've suggested exploring dairy goats and the wonderful products that can result from that and that they wouldn't need hundreds of acres of land to do that. Another suggestion was beekeeping and honey production coop. And growing the necessary vegetables for the Hope Village needs.

This has been an eye-opening experience for me and the possibilities ... well suffice it to say that all they really need is a ton of encouragement to DO. Failing is part of the success story and they need to risk failure on some of these ideas in order to be successful.

One other thing that I will say again is the lack of solar! Grid connected or just stand alone without battery backup -- what that could do in a rural village! Huge business opportunity for someone to make a ton of money!!  I'm undecided as to which of the three key ingredients is missing: vision, leadership or money It can't be all three.

I spoke with the bartender at the Lusaka Airport whose dream is to do a "peanut whistle" radio station in a village to broadcast educational information, especially as pertains to AIDS prevention and at risk advice. Another reason to have solar power at the village level.

[Side note: the disastrous effects of media misrepresentation and slanted "news" reporting, especially by CNN, in the African subcontinent especially, are appalling!! So many people here in Zambia and in transit, actually the majority,  that I've spoken with tell me what a disaster our current President is -- racist, female hater, etc. I find this distressing and it undermines any positive efforts we might have in the country.]

Monday, February 13, 2017

Monday Morning

Moving church service yesterday. Said goodbyes and headed off to Lusaka on the same road we used to get to Ndola. At the resk of being redundant, driving on the roads here is a challenge. You go like crazy and come to speed humps in the highway! And then there are the Traffic Police checkpoints -- four of them between Ndola and Lusaka. I'm told they're looking for people operating scab taxis, although they did ask Charlie for his driver's license at one of the checkpoints.

We stopped at this roadside market called John. Probably 300 yards or more along the road of women hawking vegetables -- tomatoes, butternut squash, green beans, okra, small white eggplants, regular purple eggplant, red onions, several different greens, among them okra greens.

We drove through isolated rain that varied from a light drizzle to a torrrential downpour. The disconcerting thing was that the sun was shining brightly as we drove in the rain.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sunday Morning

Well it's been a lot of waiting around Saturday morning. 11:51 and time for a Mosi, the local lager.

It is afterall Saturday 😬  Waiting for a new tire and tuneup on the van before we head off to Kitwe and then Lusaka tomorrow. Gorgeous day again. Beautiful breeze. While we were waiting we walked around and saw the Museum of Zambia. Really interesting. That's a whole different post when I have time to go through the pictures and give some sort of text to go with it.

We  finally got to the village at 2:30. Grabbed a bite of lunch and then off to an adventure and a half. We decided that going to Kitwe and copper mine were too much for the amount of time that we had, considering that we were supposed to be at Hope House (the actual orphanage) for supper with the kids there. (Never heard a target time as to when we were expected.)

The next stop was the United Nations Heritage Site Dag Hammerskjold. This is where his plane crashed and he was killed. Controversy still exists as to did the plane crash on it's own or was it shot down by a second plane -- why did it take first responders 13 hours to get there....and so on.

As a potter I am interested in pottery and Margaret allowed as how there was a village where they made pots. Now the key word here is "village". We in the States have zero concept of what a Zambian village is. It's not a bunch of thatched huts. The indiginous building material now is the red sandy clay that is all over. They form blocks of this and then fire them in a huge pile. Portland cement is made locally so that is used for the mortar to hold it all together.  The closest thing I can describe is think "Bags End" with zero grass and these houses tight together in a rabbit warren-like arrangement.

The quest for the lady who makes pots was quite an adventure. Not knowing exactly where it was, I nagged Charlie to ask one of the local residents for directions. Two women said they knew where it was but the directions were way too confusing, so they got in the van and off we went, not without some very close passages up and down through the village market.

Finally we got to a place where Charlie parked the van and stayed with it while we went off on foot to find the lady. Traditional coil pots, beautifully decorated, and one just keept saying "buy me, buy me" so I did. It's going to have to be carried onto the plane because I don't want to chance it in the check baggage.

And after I told her I wanted that one and why, she went back into the house and came out with a lid for it. I was perfectly happy to pay the 50KWA for the pot and lid. I'll treasure it and it will  also be used for beans soon after I get home.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Saturday Morning

5:30 AM alarm went off. Up, get ready to leave at 6 for the Masala Market, the main market in Ndola where all the street vendors get their wares. HUGE complex. Everything from fresh vegetables, dried caterpillars, dried fish, and about anything else you can imagine.

Dwarfs the Rochester Public Market --n you could hide it multiplem times in there and still have room left over. I suppose "primitive" by our "standards" but by no means ineffective.

The fresh produce comes many different ways -- truck, van, car. A truckload of tomatoes from the  farm 300 km away, a car full of freshly picked and bundled greens from a few km away.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday Afternoon

On the way here on the Twapia Road they are digging a trench for the local telecom company (MTN) to connect to a cell tower that exists about 5km from the road. No ditchwitch! Pickaxes, shovels and LOTS of labor, backbreaking labor!

The school gathered in the chapel building -- the one that is under construction and roofless -- to say farewell to me. That was a truly humbling gesture. The video is too large to upload from here. (The WiFi access is through a 4G hotspot in my pocket.) Spirited is an understatement. Singing, dancing, drumming....all I can say is, Wow!

Helped serve the daily portion of nshima (about a cup and a half) and about half a cup of stewed cabbage. 

Friday Morning

Well Thursday...busy day and I got back to the Fatmol's Lodge and that was the end of that. No writing. So instead I'm sitting out on the back porch at Charlie's while breakfast is being prepared. (Yeah I was wide awake at 5. No, I didn't get up, I rolled over went back to sleep and woke back uipn at 7:30 in a panic. Shower, get dressed do the five minute walk over to Charlie's apartment.)

Interesting day yesterday. There is another school just upn the road from Hope Village School, Eagle's Wings. They're sponsored by a large Baptist congregation in Australia. Been going since 1999. Theirs is the secondary school that the children from Hope go to after grade 7. Quite a complex.

Had an interesting dialogue with the son of the founder at EW. We spoke of the common challenges that the organizations face here in Zambia -- decreasing funding from foreign sponsors, lack of collaboration between organizations here. My suggestion was why not form the Council of Non-profit Agencies in Zambia. Get all the directors together and talk about their common problems and brainstorm as to how they might collaborate without giving up their individual identities.  Maybe that thought will take hold and they will at least begin to dialogue amonst themselves. One can hope.

We had a meeting with the Hope Village staff and teachers to discuss "Time". I've been told that the mindset here is that if there is a meeting scheduled, time set for the meeting, the local thought is that if I get there today it's fine. We talked about the value of time. Time as an asset that needs to be valued. How timeliness is important, and why it is important. Talked about respecting time and how timeliness is a sign of respect, and being late is a sign of disrespect, and often interpreted by the person who is waiting as arrogance.

Went pot shopping for the village kitchen. Next to the soccer stadium is a Chinese-built mall. Well, mall by our standards is overstated. All the sales people are Zambian. There are a couple Chinese who sit and watch, but ask them a question and they have no answers. Don't speak Bemba or English. I guess they're just there to keep an eye on things. Everything in the shops is direct from China.

Went to comparison shop at Z Mart, another store selling not only restaurant supplies, but sewing machines (treadle--looks like a turn of the century Singer machine with a new coat of paint and Made in China label on it -- pretty paint job!), beauty parlor hair dryers, boomboxes refrigerators -- a cross between Walmart, BestBuy and Restaurant Depot. (Interesting sidenote: that store is run by a Gujerati family, multi-generational Zambian.)

We bought a 60 qt brazier with lid for 995KWA - comparable price with US price of $98, this morning and delivered it to the kitchen where the water was already heating for the daily nshima preparation. No more spilling over the sides of the pot onto the floor. Reckon that the pot will pay for itself in less than a year from the lack of spillage.

Along with the nshima there is a healthy green vegetable -- pumpkin leaves! Actually very tasty, a bit like kale. I'd be happy for a bit of lemon juice in it, but that's a personal thing with me that I like some sour with the greens. Actually it's a mix of cabbage and pumpkin leaves.

Today we visit some homes in the Village of Twapia where the children come from at the school. This should prove enlightening and I'll report this evening on those visits.  This afternoon we have another session with staff and teachers at 2:30. It is myn hope that they will loosen up even more and participate in the discussion. I feel that this is foreign to them to be asked for their input in anything, especially anything having to do with strategy.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Wednesday Afternoon

Well I guess I finally got my "wish" -- daytime rain. Timing? Interesting to say the least. Today I was at Hope Village, visiting the school. I spent a bit of time in each class, from pre-school through seventh grade. Hope that what I said in each class will help reinforce the importance of these at-risk children staying in school. Parental encouragement is not always forthcoming. Asked them to promise me that they would stay in school because the future of Zambia rests on them!

I had remarked to several of the adults that the one thing that I found really jarring was the lack of infrastructure maintenance, specifically the side roads and side streets in the city. Those roads/streets are in horrendous shape. When I said the word "maintenance" Pr. Daka (one of Charlie's long-time friends) told me that there is no word in Bemba (the local language) for maintenance. So, given that fact, then there is no concept of maintenance either! That explains a lot. The local mentality is we use it until it breaks and then try to fix it. Having said that, I think the roads and streets are broken and still don't understand why they don't fix them I'm talking about potholes that are sometimes 18" deep and troughs in the roadway a foot deep. You crawl through some stretches...if you try to go any faster you'll either hurt yourself or your vehicle.

Talking about vehicles, most of the vehicles on the road here are Japanese. Interesting business, that. They are used vehicles, shipped from Japan to here, "refurbished" and sold. Cars, vans, mini-busses, larger busses, delivery trucks, etc., all second hand from Japan. New cars are only purchased by corporations and the very rich. I've seen one Mercedes since I've been here. Toyota reigns supreme.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tuesday Morning

Tempus fugit! And I'm up before the chickens this morning. So, no coffee for me while I write :-(

It rained last night. Thunderstorm that actually knocked out the power for half an hour. It was very quiet except for the rain. Rain on the roof is such a comforting sound when you're not out in it getting soaked. Now this morning it is just dripping pleasantly off the roof into a puddle outside my window.

Bemba lesson one yesterday morning. Gotta practise!! Being able to at least greet people is one way not to be just rude, ugly American. I do see the occasional white face, a few Indians and I'm not aware of a single Asian face so far. But everyone is friendly!

The children at the school are no different than school children anywhere else. The infrastructure is harsh by our standards, but learning is happening. A difference is being made and that's the important thing not to be overlooked. Yes, they need $$$, and a lot of them! The challenge is to figure out sustainable revenue stream(s) to support the work that's being done. Self-sufficiency is the ultimate goal. How to get there is the challenge.

Took a break for breakfast then off toward the Hope Offices in Ndola, stopped for a coffee on the way (expensive by Zambian standards -- 20 KWA, probably equivalent to $10, makes Starbucks not seem quite as outrageous. Stopped at the grocery to get stuff for lunch, now on the way to the Hope Village.

We pass the Levy Soccer Stadium, capacity 45,000, on the way to the village.. Built by the Chinese who are investing huge amounts in infrastructure in the third world. Long rail line to the Port of Dar es Salam, for example.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Monday Afternoon

Wow. I slept last nite like a log. This is not disagreeing with me at all. And, all the fear that this was going to be one big long soggy stay.....I'm pleasantly not disappointed by the lack of non-stop rain, in fact the weather has been gorgeous! Sunny skies mostly with an occasional shower, but the anticipated non-stop thunderstorms predicted by the Weather app on my phone -- not so much. The one real thunderstorm was on the way from Lusaka at night and that more than made up for the lack thereeof subsequently.

Church yesterday was great! Enthusiastic congregation, praise choir and school choir, all envigorating! They can "make a joyful noise" and how! You had no idea that the rain the night before had any impact on them at all. The church in that place is truly the body of Christ and not the incomplete building, plastic tarped makeshift roof or muddy floor! This all in the poorest part of Ndola, the Village of Twapia. Ten years ago this was bush with nothing here at all. Amazing what a bit of vision, faith in the Lord and helping hands can accomplish and it's truly a work in progress.

Chatted with one of the local supporters, John, former editor of the Times of Zambia. I'm told it's a prayerfully shared vision. We had long conversation about the hows that made it happen. God truly works in mysterious ways and our timeline is not necessarily His timeline, but if we persevere it happens. I'm reminded of what our brother Al Sieg has said over and over: "Think Big, Start Small" and I would add: "But for Heaven's sake, START!" We've learned that there may be mis-starts and perceived "failures" but face it, Life is a learning experience!

The need here could be overwhelming. It is real and it is large, but the faith that the Lord will provide in His good time prevails and is the driving force behind it all. They are looking at ways to drive sustainability while maintaining the original vision and growing the ministry. DREAM BIG!!!

School in Zambia is not a free ride! So the 350+ children here at Hope School receive the education for a tuition contribution of 15 KWA per year, good faith money from a very poor family so their child can get an education. The support at home can be very grudgingly given, given the fact that I could send that child out with a basket of product along the road to make some money to supplement our meager income.

So the parents need to be encouraged to see value in an education. That 15 KWA could mean the supply of the staple, nshima, that would last a week, so not an insignificant amount of money in a country where 60% of the population live below the poverty line (Source: CIA Worldbook). Teachers at this school are compensated at base rates mandated and need to be encouraged that they are truly making a difference in lives that matter.

Sunday Afternoon

Charlie picked me up a little before 10 am and we went to his place and had some breakfast and then off to church with the Hope Fellowship at Hope Village. What was raw bush several years ago is growing into quite the complex.

The service itself consisted of quite a prelude by the praise choir and then the children's choir from the school there at Hope Village. Prayers and Charlie introduced me and asked me if I would bring greetings from Reformation.

I did greet them from not only Reformation's family, but also the upwards of 70,000 people who have crossed our threshold and/or purchased bottled water at the Xerox International Jazz Festival over the past nine years. I told them about selling bottled water and the rationale behind the $1.50 price -- to give those purchasing water an opportunity to give extra support by telling us to "Keep the change", and described the awesome outpouring of generosity by those folks.

That money has made a difference. But there is more to this than just throwing money over the wall, and that's the real reason I'm here -- to find out exactly how to help toward the goal of self-sufficiency.

We have already talked about some agriculture-based schemes, possible partnership opportunities related to pediatric nursing and medicine. Interesting fact is that honey in Zambia is mostly wild-foraged, there is no formal apiculture

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Sunday Morning

Sleep clock is adjusting.

The Great North Road. The highway (two-lane) stretching from Lusaka to Ndola.

We finally arrived in Ndola last night around 8:30 after a rather harrowing drive thru rain at times nearly unnavigable. Driving on the wrong side of the road is offputting to start with, but in the dark with mostly invisible road striping....well I have to say I'm just glad we made it in one piece.

The number of people is nearly overwhelming...walking in the pouring rain, in the dark, alongside the road....certainly unnerving. During the daylight there are markets along the highway, at times it seems like it's just one long public market rife with fresh tomatoes, butternut squash, forraged mushroms that look like chanterelles, okra, green beans, cucumbers, all beautifully displayed and inviting.

Where traffic is heavy there are young men hawking everything from car chargers for mobile devices to toilet paper.

At one point there were piles of sacked up potatoes (10kg, 20 lbs, the size of chef's), newly harvested  for around 60 kwatcha (roughly US$6.00) which struck me as being expensive given that the majority of the population subsist on 15 kwatcha a day. Other places were bundles of freshly made charcoal, the common fuel for cooking, then there were bundles of sweet potato plants which will be grown and stored.

There were two toll-plazas where the car toll was 40 kwatcha. Wierd, but you stop pay the toll, then go through a dirt d-file and then back onto the highway. With all the rain the d-file was muddy and in some places reminded you of the great black hole of Calcutta.

There are rumble strips (similar to the ones on the Thruway) across the highway marking the beginning of a town. There are speed bumps, real bumps, more  like logs of asphalt that you navigate very gingerly. "Town" as we think of a town, not so much. More like a cluster of mini strip malls with unpaved frontage and vendors selling everything and people, people, people. The mudpuddles are horrific in some places.

 The Weather 

Okay, so it's the Rainy Season. Even though that moniker, Yesterday was a beautiful day--sunny, breezy, in the mid-70s for the most part. We didn't hit rain until we were underway fromn Lusaka to Ndola. But we were told that it wasn't the next Great Flood....
Doubly so, to boot.

Everything is lush and green. The corn is tall and tasseling out. Missed the mango season which is a pity, since they aren't really farmed but forraged in the wild. There are pumpkins and squash planted in the gardens along with the corn. Strange bugs feeding on the pumpkin blossoms.

Sunday promises to be interesting. The first trip to Hope Village, some few kilometers outside the city in what Charles referred to as a "shanty town". Full report later. Right now off to shower and get dressed to go to breakfast at Charles and Margaret's apartment.

Saturday Morning

Well I slept like a log last night! Woke up fresh and raring to go....gotta slow down here! Way different pace to everything.

Breakfast, way more than I usually eat, but good.

Got overview of the chicken farming operation here. They raise 20,000 chickens at a time. Five weeks from delivery of the chicks to harvest. Things are quiet because they're inbetween crops. The chicken house has been cleaned and prepped, ready for the next delivery of chicks.

This venture was funded by Sparc Ventures out of Chicago to help them on the road to self-sufficiency. I'm told that they are pretty far along the learning curve and that it is starting to pay off.

We left to go to Ndola, stopped along the way to get some fresh-caught tilapia for the orphanage and when we came back to the van ... problem. It suddenly won't idle. Goes like crazy once you get started, but woe unto you if you go slow enough that it can stall and it will. So, Plan B. We're back at the chicken farm waiting for the mechanic to show up to adjust the idle so we can leave for Ndola.

Meanwhile. It's a really nice day here. Breezy, broken clouds. Cool-ish. The humidity has dropped quite a bit over yesterday, so it's actually pleasant sitting here on the stoop, writing. The birds chirping all morning. The flies are a nuisance, but so far no mosquitos.

There are huge puddles all over--some more lake-like than puddle. People everywhere along the roads. It's people traffic as well as the jitney busses and diesel trucks and cars. I've see a few bicycles and one motorcycle. Makeshift wheelbarrows made of rebar, sheet metal, and what look like auto wheels/tires. Bustling is the right word.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Friday Evening

So we arrived in Lusaka. 777 got us there and they drove the stairs up to the plane, we got off and walked across the tarmac and up the sidewalk to this:

Brand new, modern facility under construction due to open 2019. Steel is up. Took about half an hour to get through immigration and from there it was a walk in the park. Charlie was waiting along with their driver and we were off  to get some groceries and botrtled water and Mosi, the local premium lager.

Navigated the amazing traffic to go to the chicken farm where we are now. Gorgeous sunset here.
Great welcome to Zambia.

We will stay at the chicken farm tonight after we go get some supper in town and then in the morning we're off to Ndola.

Frankly, I'm ready for bed and have no doubt that I'll sleep tonight.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

In the air - Thursday/Friday

Day One--Thursday

Early start this morning......alarm rang at 3 AM which normally wouldn't be so jarring, but having only gotten to sleep around Last minute packing, no time for to airport at 3:35 .. and so the day began.

Uneventful flight on JetBlue to JFK. Changing terminal at JFK is the pits!!! You have to go out of the secure area to get to another terminal and then do the whole darn check-in thing all over, including going thru security. Somebody is making a ton of money from this whole TSA boondoggle! (I'm just jealous that it isn't me I guess.)

Breakfast at the Palm Grill....$6 for a coffee at Pete's and $16 for two eggs over easy, bacon, toast and pedestrian cross between tatertots and french fried home fries. Welcome to Airport food.

Wait around to board Emirates Flight 204 to Dubai. Big double-decker Airbus 380-800 which fortunately is not full even though the woman on the other end of the four-seat row that I'm in is insisting on stretching out across the three other seats. I think she'd be quite happy if she had the entire row to herself. Long as she doesn't kick me I guess I'll survive that indignity as well.

They've passed out sleep masks, headphones and the menu. Torn between the lamb, chicken or Paneer Makhani. The galley is right behind me and it's a beehive of activity right now, and they're actually starting to distribute the lunches, although I think it's just the "special" meals that are being served. (Full review to follow...)

We're five hours into a twelve-hour flight. I dozed off a bit after lunch. Lunch was "interesting".... Paneer makhani with way too little makhani, dal, couscous salad with a wedge of cardboard tomato, some tiny toasts (about the size of a nickel) and a chocolate mousse with cherry. Not hateful, the dal was good, that much I have to admit.

I still have to master the touchscreen in front of me. Doesn't want to respond to my touch....the remote works so if I find something worth watching I'll be in good shape. Meanwhile I have a ton of reading that I'm supposed to be doing, so off to that for a while.....or, waddayaknow they just came through and handed out a Primo Gusto Pizza Quattro Fromaggi.

Much later----actually Friday Morning, Dubai/African time -- on the plane from Dubai to Lusaka

Well I was surprised in Dubai when going from the A concourse to the C concourse everyone was herded through security ... ugh..empty pockets, take off belt, take off watch....but the good news was that they zipped right through the process.

More food...croissants, sealed in cellophane, kinda turn into rubber. Ripe fruit? Not so much. But it did look good.

The ride right now is too bumpy to write so I'll pick up later this PM.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Tomorrow I Leave

I'm Mike Otto. I'm a member of Reformation Lutheran Church in Rochester, NY and also on the Board of Directors of Loop Ministries, Inc. also in Rochester.

Tomorrow the journey begins, as my sister would say, at 0:dark:30, meaning waaaaay earlier than I'd like, but that's the way it is, so I'll suck it up and leave for the airport at 4AM. I'll arrive in Zambia Friday in the early afternoon, so plenty of time to read and think on the way there.

Why this trip, you might ask. Long story, short, "because". What cause? AIDS orphans. Over a quarter million of them. Where? Zambia. (What used to be Northern Rhodesia for those of my generation.) Specifically, Ndola.

For the past 15 years or so Reformation Lutheran Church in Rochester, NY has been supporting Hope Orphanage, and over the past 10 years I have been selling bottled water at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. 

We set the price of the water at $1.50 after much discussion back and forth whether it should not be $3.00 because that's what others are selling it for. I wanted very much to challenge folks to be generous and we posted signs reading "Keep the change. 50¢ will buy a brick or buy a lunch and put a smile on a child's face". Over the ten years that we have done that I can count the number of people who have asked for the 50¢ back on the fingers of one hand. The generosity of the crowds at the Jazz Festival has been truly humbling!! I'm so proud of them!!!

Now it's time to see what we need to be doing to make a real difference. I'll be spending 12 days in country to get a handle on what we might be doing and then coming back and working to put a plan together.

I'm going to try to discipline myself to keep this journal up to date. You can help. Pray for me.