Trip to Botswana

When Ryan and Sean were little, my dad (grampa) used to hook up a small trailer to his riding lawnmower and drive them around the yard. I often held them when I cut my lawn. Some say this is irresponsible. I don’t think there was much risk to safety and it was fun to get this picture from Ryan with Evan carrying on the tradition.

Ryan and Evan

June has started out slow at the Arts Cafe and unless we get some group bookings in the next few days, it will be a poor month for revenue. Zambian tourism seems to be in real trouble and 2011 is shaping up to be not much better than the previous two years which saw a sharp decline in numbers. Approximately 900,000 tourists visit Zambia and most come to Livingstone to see Victoria Falls but this number should be 1.5 to 2 million to really help the economy and tourist operators thrive.

itcMarilyn's latest group "Mama's Chocolate Cake"

As most of you know, all the staff we hire whether in the kitchen or on stage are singers, dancers, and drummers. This makes for some fun times when suddenly all the waiters and chefs get up on stage. Marilyn has been working with several of the girls and they have formed the group “Mama’s Chocolate Cake” which has nothing to do with skin colour. Marilyn makes a great chocolate cake and we have often taken one to share at work….thus the name. (In the picture above from l. to r. are Twaambo (Chef), Cecilia (Kitchen staff), Jane, Sandra, and Doreen (performers). Faith is missing.)

We don’t take much time off but look forward to Monday’s as the only day we are closed. Yesterday we took Kayleigh to Chobe National Park in Botswana. The day starts with a pick up by Walter at our house at 7am and the 1 hour trip to Botswana. A private boat takes us across the Zambezi which is quicker than waiting to get on the Ferry. On the Botswana side we were met by a driver whose name is ‘Six” who took us to the Safari Lodge for coffee. Guide ‘David” then walked us to the boat for a three hour trip down the river. Afterward we had a nice lunch and then a three hour game drive through Chobe National Park before returning to the boat back to Zambia and pick up by Walter. It is always a great day and this is our 6th time visiting the park with friends and family. However, this particular trip turned out to be one of the best ever because…………

On the Botswana shore with Walter

The other way of crossing the Zambezi

A male Kudu


Gentle Giants up close

Pod of Hippos

Mongoose family


Notice the roots on this tree

All this would have made for an amazing day but then something else happened. A group of tourists stopped our safari truck and told us they had just seen a pride of lions with cubs. Our driver asked us if we wanted to divert our route to see if we could find them and we all agreed. First we stopped to stretch our legs at a spot along the river.

Kayleigh and Six at the rest stop


Up close with a pride of lions

Resting up for the next hunt

Meanwhile back home we all had a short nap and then Kayleigh wanted to take us out for dinner. We went to an Indian restaurant for some delicious (hot and spicy dishes)

Here’s a picture of Mwangala and Kayleigh at the Green Market

These women were fishing on the Zambezi in a dugout canoe

There are many signs of growth around Livingstone. The government is building a new ‘one stop’ centre for registering businesses, Spar grocery chain is building a new store in the town centre, and a new hotel is about to open. One sure sign of progress is the new (and very first) stop light which is being installed.

Livingstone's first stop light

The Internet

Usually I write my blog as a word doc. then copy and paste it into the web site. Before I start writing, I download my pictures from the week before which are on my camera, resize them, and pop them into the text once it is on the blog page. Things are done differently in Zambia and I didn’t follow this process when  I posted in Canada.

Local Bus Service

It is often the ‘infrastructure’ which most causes one to adapt in Africa. The water supply to houses is unreliable, apparently okay to drink, and often filled with sand or dirt when it comes out of the tap. So one learns to shower with a trickle if the water is off in the morning, shave dry skin, or accept the fact that the toilet will have to be flushed when I get home from work.

Poor roads anywhere off the main streets of Livingstone causes me to always expect longer to get where I’m going.

Final Training Workshop

The electricity supply is regulated through ‘ load sharing’ which means eating early or eating late but knowing which night will be which.

Sandra on the Livingstone Football Team

The Internet is painfully slow and very expensive. During most months, especially if we have guests, I get two warnings. Somewhere around the 18th of the month, Microlink lets me know I’ve used 75%  of my bandwidth. A week later the warning changes to 90% used and when the month end comes I get two bills…one for my monthly charge ($49.00) and another for the extra useage charge ($20-$25).

USA vs Livingstone

When people send videos (Evan laughing), I have to wait until Sunday to view them. That’s because everything is closed on Sundays and the internet works best. So that brings me to the point about my blog and why I usually write it out before pasting it. Otherwise, I use up a lot of time on the internet thinking about what to say.

Welders at the market

We’ve had a busy month with several large group functions at the Arts Cafe. We have another on the 31st which will make this the best month ever. Of course that still only means that we covered our expenses and don’t forget Marilyn and I volunteer.

Payroll and rent are the big killers if you don’t count lack of enough guests. Month end is like sticking pins in your eyes when your in such a varied business as ours. I still don’t really see how restaurants make lots of money and the it takes a lot of beer to cover costs when the mark-up is less than K4000 per bottle.

I’ve been working really long hours this week trying to see if I can feel caught up enough to actually just sit and enjoy the Sunday night jam. I already have payroll done for Tuesday, I’ve compiled a report for the agency which has recently given us some funding for marketing and training, and all my accounting is up to date.

Daisy brings Zion to work each day

Marilyn has a lot of things to finish up by Tuesday and doesn’t get much quiet time to work. However, when the music starts tonight and she plays piano or accordion with the bands, she’ll forget about everything else. She has brought so much to the lives of artists, artisans, musicians, dancers, singers, etc. and they love when she plays with them.

I heard via a Canadian in Livingstone that Vancouver is in the Stanley Cup finals and the city is celebrating. Go Leafs Go.

Kayleigh working the bar

Tomorrow is our regular day off and we are going to do something (maybe the Victoria Falls Bridge Tour) with Kayleigh. She has been such an amazing help this past week. We are really enjoying having her with us and sharing late night conversations.



A Bit Of This And That

I felt like I didn’t have much to say this week which was not ‘more of the same old..same old’. As a result I considered sharing some thoughts about Africa based on my own experiences and the books I have read. I discarded that notion in favour of making this blog more ‘educational’ by discussing witchcraft, traditions and culture. Thinking it would make too much reading, I decided to be more ‘psychological’ and try to explain why I think Zambia is such a poor country despite its wealth of natural resources, why Africa  is………but when I looked at my pictures, I realized I had some interesting information to share.

First, Marilyn and I were guests at two functions this week; 1) the NATAZ school festival which celebrates dance, drama, choral works and poetry and 2) the Entomological Society of Zambia conference being held in Livingstone.

Last year, I was the guest of honour at the NATAZ festival and Marilyn has been asked in the past to be a judge. It is a great event and fun to watch the young talent.

A man named Crispin came into the Arts Cafe about a month ago looking for a place to host a dinner and entertainment for conference participants at the scientific conference. I found out he had a large collection of insects and told him about our son Ryan’s work at the University of Guelph. Ryan ended up sending a video link to the conference and we were invited to come and watch. Of course, as his father, I had to answer all kinds of scientific questions….ha ha.

We also conducted a workshop this week for curio shop sellers. I have wanted to do this for a long time because they are, for the most part, quite aggressive towards tourists and lose sales because of it. The workshop was called “How to Improve Sales to Tourists” and dealt with hospitality, cultural awareness, and sales. Fifty participants attended and we served them soft drinks and lunch. We are running it again on Wednesday for another 50 sellers. I think they were pleased and will actually try to introduce some of the lessons into their encounter with potential buyers of souvenirs.Small group discussion at the workshop

We also have Kayleigh Clegg visiting us from Canada until June 8th and she is anxious to volunteer at the Arts Cafe. We will be able to keep her busy.


Finally, we decided to downsize our bar offerings, in part, due to having a new bartender-in-training  and to reduce the constant complications involved with having too much selection.  We brought all the extra alcohol home and now have a big job ahead of us to drink it all….ha ha again. Does anyone know if they sell Campari in Canada. It is a really nice drink with orange juice.

Our personal supply


Rasta Night

The ‘dude’ above is Haile Selassie, emperor of  Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. The dude below is Bob Marley who died 30 years ago on May 11th. My name is Bob. How are the three connected?The Answer is simple

  1. Emperor Selassie is known as God incarnate of the Rastafarian movement
  2. Bob Marley is known as the most famous Rasta
  3. Often I say my name is Bob and when people in Zambia don’t hear it properly I say “like Bob Marley” and they all laugh

On Sunday we had a big celebration in honour of Bob…. (Marley…not Gregory). We’ve had a lot of Rastas (Rastafari) coming out to our Sunday night jam and a group of them asked if we could help them organize a tribute to Bob Marley. We offered the venue and helped with advertising. They got the ticket money and we ran the bar and restaurant.

Marilyn the new Rasta

It turned out to be bigger than I had imagined with about 200 people coming and going throughout the night. Marilyn joined a lot of the bands either on the piano or ‘the piano on her chest’. She could be a Rasta but she doesn’t have dreadlocks, doesn’t smoke weed, and isn’t black.

The Rasta movement is sometimes referred to as Rastafarianism but Rastas don’t like being an  “ism” anymore than I would so they reject that term. They are often artists, musicians and talk like they are from the 60s only less coherent. They believe in ‘one love’ and do give off a lot of nice vibes. They believe in the ‘spiritual’ smoking of marijuana which is about the best ‘religious’ philosophy I’ve come across….ha ha.

The large crowd was a mixture of whites (30%) and blacks (70%). A lot of people got pretty  drunk (or so I suspect) because I couldn’t understand half of what they were saying with their arms wrapped around my shoulders as though we were all best friends. Of course it could be my hearing problems but just nodding and saying yeah a lot seemed to move the conversation along. The evening went along without any real incidents.

A chance to dress up in cool Rasta/Marley garb

In Zambia there is a lot of drinking and driving. You can get into real trouble if you run over someone but otherwise it is quite acceptable (I think because everyone does it.) Generally everyone comes with a drink and leaves with a drink. It’s like a bottle exchange  program. Some also want to bring in their own flasks or full bottles of wine but I discourage this because otherwise I’m going to go broke. Many others make numerous trips to their cars to drink out of the trunk. Since they can’t bring them into the arts cafe they just hang out in the parking lot.

Outside drinkers

I quite like Rastas and so does Marilyn and we have a lot of laughs with them. Dan Rasta (not likely his real it?) was one of the organizers and I have an awful time hearing his soft voice (well soft to me) and he suggested I should get some marijuana and put it in my hear to cure my hearing problems. Okay, can you get me some? No Problem.

Later I was joking with another young man when I said, “I heard about putting marijuana in my ear to cure my hearing but when I lit it I burned my ear.” I thought he would get the joke but he didn’t so I kept it going. “Uncle Bob” he replied with shock. “You aren’t suppose to light it. Make it into a paste and push it in your ear”. He said he would bring me some on Tuesday. Drugs are frowned upon in Zambia as almost everywhere else in the world so I don’t think I’ll stick any in my ear. Can you imagine getting pulled over at a police roadcheck and trying to explain that one? Medicinal be damned.

Marilyn and Natasha - a regular at the Arts Cafe music nights

All in all it was a pretty fun night although owning and running the place does take a bit of the edge off the fun. Our staff did a great job and were all pretty tired when we ended around 1am. Maybin and I stayed later to fix a broken water line to the toilets (which is just one of the little tasks owners take care of).



Our grandson Evan makes a new friend -literally

When Marilyn and I decided to move to Africa many people asked us ‘for how long?”. I said permanently because I couldn’t think of a better word to describe that we had no particular time-frame in mind. Marilyn said “indefinitely” which was more accurate.Ed and Nancy pose at the airport before leaving Zambia

We have now been living and working in Zambia for two years and four months and we now find ourselves assessing what ‘indefinitely’ may actually mean. We have accomplished much and gone way beyond our dreams but one goal alludes us… leave LiPAF in the hands of Zambians so it can continue to run long after we are gone. The big stumbling block is earning enough money to hire people to replace us.

Charles made a drum and Edward made a lamp shade for Ed

Since we now have the Arts Cafe and many additional activities beyond just our cultural dance group our potential for revenue is greater but so are the expenses. The Arts Cafe and LiPAF give employment and revenue generating opportunities to more than thirty individual dancers, kitchen staff, artisans, musicians, and artists. We employ another three staff at our home for security and housekeeping. Marilyn and I volunteer our time which keeps management costs much lower than will be required if/when we leave.  We also wonder how it will ever be possible to find the energy and commitment in others to take on the roles and responsibilities we perform.

Bob Marley Festival at the Arts Cafe next weekend

Living and working in so many facets of Zambian life has given us a perspective on Africa impossible to describe. We operate within the framework of the local culture, associate with many business people and politicians, and greet numerous international tourists from all walks of life. We personally know some of the poorest people in Livingstone and some of the richest and most powerful. We move freely in many circles which make up this diverse tapestry and are privileged to share their traditions. We can only be thankful for the way they all have embraced us into their community, enriched our lives, and made us think deeply about the world.

Kelly's book bus

However, as they say “we aren’t getting any younger”. We have a new grandchild in Canada who is growing rapidly and another in Japan whom we still haven’t visited although Sean and Makiko have been living there for four years. It is time to engage in some deep reflection and make some decisions.

Unfortunately, we are still new in the overall scheme of things and support for our endeavours has been less than anticipated although growing daily. We have to renew the lease on the Arts Cafe on August 1st if we are going to stay in business. The success of our operations in the next few months at the height of the tourist season will influence this decision greatly.  All the lives we touch must enter into the equation and there are some ongoing issues to resolve.

I have had a health problem this past two months and seriously had to consider whether it was significant enough to pack our bags and get treatment in Canada. This brought to the forefront how difficult it would be to make such a decision and the consequences for us and many others. In the end, I opted for surgery here in Zambia with Dr. Shafik and probably gained another chapter for a book in the process.

Easiest route to laying a cable

We have certainly made a significant commitment to Africa and feel comfortable with our accomplishments. Above all, we have developed an understanding of what makes Africa unique in all its good and bad. I have particularly enjoyed reading extensively on African history as well as modern day events. Some write about their experiences while others present more scholarly analysis. Each has influenced my thinking in relation to my own personal experiences here. Much of the plight of Africa is intertwined with the cruelty of slavery, the subjugation of Africans by colonial rulers, racism, tribal animosities, corruption, ill-conceived aid, and now more recently the devastation of HIV/AIDS. Africans are an extremely resilient and Zambians are the most forgiving people I have ever met.

Daisy's daughter Natashia invited us to her b'day party

Now for a bit about our past week.  Our week ended with a trip to Lusaka where our band, `The Rolling Kencheyo` was asked to perform as the opening act for a music festival featuring several of Zambia`s most prominent musicians. We packed up the Pajero with musical instruments, sent two more band members on the 6am bus and drove the 6 hours to Lusaka on Friday.

One of many towns along the road to Lusaka

The traffic in Lusaka is far worse than anything I have ever encountered, even in Toronto. We got hopelessly lost, dodged in and out of narrow lanes, merged into lethal round-abouts and we were pulled over by the police and fined on three occasions. In the end, the concert was great fun and good exposure despite many problems with the sound system which delayed the start by 2 hours.

Stopping for lunch in Monze

Our first encounter with the police was for going straight while I was in the right turn lane. We were lost and everyone in the truck was suggesting something different so I drove on. A police officer jumped out on the road and directed me across two lanes of traffic into a parking lot. Here I walked to a small police hut and was told of my infraction. Of course there is nothing to indicate that it was a right turn lane but that doesn’t matter. I paid a fine and we were on our way.

The band did us proud

The next day while heading back to Livingstone, I got pulled over for speeding. There are no posted speed limit signs but one is ‘supposed to know’. Any resistance leads to the police officer saying ‘we often impound cars for speeding’. Again the fine is paid on the spot. I’m quite certain the radar gun wasn’t even working but in the end I was told I was doing 85km in a 75km zone. Cost K180,000.

Our hut at Lusak Backpackers

A few kilometres down the road I was pulled over again and starting to wonder what was really going on. This time I was accused of ‘crossing the white line” while overtaking a bus. Of course there would be a white line if they had money to paint it on the road but imaginary or real the cost was another K150,000 discounted for reasons I will not explain.Buying a watermellon from one of many roadside vendors

That was all minor compared to what happen when we were coming back to Lusaka Backpackers around 1:30am after the concert. Three guys jumped out in front of our car and forced us to stop. I’m glad they did because there was a dead body (or maybe not dead) of a man lying in the centre of the two lane road. He had obviously been the victim of a hit and run as there were bumper parts spread around the body.

A loaded truck we were following

I was about to get out of the truck when suddenly a mob appeared from seemingly nowhere. Some thought I must have hit the man and were inspecting the front of my vehicle. In Zambia there is often a kind of justice in such situation where the driver of a car who hits a pedestrian is hauled out his vehicle, beaten senseless and has all his stuff stolen from his car. I was glad I wasn’t alone.

Front l. to r. Zulu, Cecilia, Marilyn Back Row: Pax, Bright, Schewa

Realizing I hadn’t caused the accident, some in the crowd started yelling at me to take the man to a clinic. When I suggested my vehicle was full of people and instruments and they should call the police and not move the man, they got quite angry. One woman started screaming for me to “get going, get out of here, you aren’t any help”. I did drive off but it bothered me even though I knew there was nothing I could do in this strange situation and somehow it would unfold without me in an African way.

Our Female Dancers









Stress Factor

After our busy Easter weekend, things slowed down a bit again although we have had a steady flow of guests. This did allow us to spend a bit of  time relaxing with Ed and Nancy who left on Saturday after staying with us for a month. We went on a sunset cruise on the Lady Livingstone, sitting on the upper deck sipping a few beverages.
There were a few clouds in the sky but the sunset was amazing.

A true African experience


Ed brought over a recording device for Marilyn and we set up the Rolling Kencheyo in the theatre for a recording session. That night we listened to the results and it was awesome. The band is sounding so good now after months of rehearsals. They have been invited to Lusaka to play at a festival on May 6th. Marilyn is adamant about going but I’m being practical (or difficult) because it involves expenses for a group of musicians who have no money to pay for transportation or accommodation or meals. I’m also a bit reluctant to have Marilyn travel to Lusaka on her own……we’ll see!

Recording a CD

Remember the story about the bridge and how I had everyone screaming as I drove across it into Malone village. We returned so Ed could have a picture as it is one of his favourite stories from Africa.

Is it closed or isn't it?

This sign has been up for years but I always pretend to be surprised to see it.

The bridge

Then the bridge really does look like it has collapsed. As I drive onto it the screaming starts. Such fun ….for meIt has been extremely dry this rainy season although it has rained a lot in the other parts of the country and the Zambezi River is quite high and the flow of water over Victoria Falls is quite impressive.

We faced some real challenges this past week with staffing. Michael, our narrator/bus driver in the shows, gave his resignation notice at the beginning of April and did his last full-time day with us on Saturday night. He has been with us from the beginning and is an incredibly talented performer. He is starting an internet cafe along with his family and will be managing it. However, he agreed to stay on for a while on a pay per show basis.Still, we need to replace him and this means auditioning, training, rehearsals, and ‘starting over.


For Sunday’s afternoon show, Given was missing because he traveled to a distant village to bring his sister to medical treatment after she was caught by a crocodile along the river’s edge. She was bitten in the leg which started to turn black. Then, Mwenya came in prior to the show saying he wasn’t feeling well and Gift, one of our drummers called in sick. At first we Marilyn thought we would have to cancel the show. This makes her stressed and it makes me discouraged. However, Mwenya rose to the challenge and Gift agreed to come and perform. It does point out our need to get some performers ‘in reserve’. Nathan, who has been a stalwart performer arrived late on Sunday and looked as though something was wrong. He too has been with us for more than two years and is a real leader among the performers. Turns out he got offered another job and announced this would be his last show. I must admit I was extremely frustrated at this point. We have contracts with each of our employees which require 30 days notice of termination. Under Zambian law, an employee who violates this agreement must return the previous month’s salary which was just given out on Saturday night.


Nathan has agreed to also come and do the shows for a while but his sense that he can just give us one day’s notice that he is leaving is hard to fathom. We are extremely good to our staff and have paid for Nathan’s brother and sister to go to school. We wonder why this generosity and respect is not always returned.

I also had some discouraging news on another front. I am heading up the project to have the LTA website revamped. I started this last year and experienced delay after delay. This year I was determined to get it done, formed a working committee and got three quotes for the service. We are also holding a fund raiser at Olga’s on May 31st to pay for it. Just two days after awarding the contract to a web designer she withdrew her services. Her reasoning ?…..because a long time ago some member of LTA said something bad about her.Now I’m back to square one.

Market Tailor

Marilyn and Nancy each bought some lovely material last week at the market and had some dresses made. I need to take a picture. We also got some shirts made for sale at our curio shop. This took us back to Maramba Market with Ed and Nancy. It is always fun to wander around the market stalls and Marilyn is so well known there. It is where locals shop, including us, and few tourists ever venture there.

At Maramba Market

There are always some interesting signs around which you would never see in Canada. Here are a couple I saw this past week.

You know you are in Africa

That just about covers it

We did  make a major decision this week to ‘refocus” the Arts Cafe operations. In the beginning we looked for a location to perform our shows as that was and is our main activity. We opened the bar and restaurant to compliment the theatre but both have turned into operations of their own. As a result, we open at 9h00 each morning and finish with our shows late at night. Sometimes people come just for the bar and hang around drinking after the shows finish and our cast have gone home. Not something we really want happening.

So…. we have decided to no longer offer lunch in the restaurant. That means we will open the Arts Cafe at 12hoo for the handicraft workshops but only open the restaurant at 16h00 for dinner. The restaurant will now compliment the theatre shows and we will continue to offer a dinner/show package. It will cut back on the hours for Marilyn and I and allow us to operate more efficiently with existing staff.

Look closely for the birds living in caves along the river bank


Easter in Zambia

It has been a four day weekend in Southern Africa and people have flocked to Livingstone. There is so much traffic, all the lodges are full, and we have had our busiest time ever at the Arts Cafe. It has been exhausting for all the staff but we are ecstatic about number of people coming for dinner, the show, and the live music. Despite all the excitement we are so happy to have today off.

Standing Room Only

The Arts Cafe needs tourists to be a success but our connection with the local community is what often makes us most proud of what we have accomplished. A few musicians met with us yesterday and want to plan a Bob Marley Tribute Festival on May 11 (the anniversary date of his death). The N’cwala also came to ask if they could do a fund raiser at the Arts Cafe for their cultural group.

Sunday night jam

During this past week, our bar tender (David) had an inflamed colon and missed two of the busiest days. Ed and Nancy (Marilyn’s cousins) took charge of the bar and Ed set up a computer program to track sales. If you have never run a bar, you have no idea how hectic and stressful it can be. By night’s end both Ed and Nancy were exhausted. When David returned he makes it look easy.

Ed the bartender

A friend of mine came to the Arts Cafe on Saturday. I haven’t seen him for a few weeks and was shocked to hear he had been mugged at Dry Monsi. This is an area where the river comes closest to the road leading to the falls and looks very much like a picnic area. Unfortunately, it is also the place of frequent muggings and/or robberies as thieves hide in the surrounding bush waiting to pounce. The tourism association, of which I am a Director, has been lobbying to have this area guarded by the police.

Anyway, Kelvin is a Zambian who owns a tour bus and while driving to the falls to pick up clients a woman ran out onto the road in front of him at Dry Monsi. Thinking she might be running from an elephant, he pulled over and opened the bus door. That’s when three men reached in and grabbed the keys from his ignition and dragged him out of the bus. Fortunately, another car came along which scared off the muggers but not before Kelvin was injured. He spent three days in the hospital. It is rare to see violence combined with robbery in Livingstone but it does happen here as in all cities in the world.

Ed ordered a drum from Charles

I was so pleased to hear that the letters and pictures of our sponsored students reached Amy in Hawkestone. It has taken about three weeks and I was afraid they had been lost. Amy is going to distribute and/or mail them out to our sponsors in Canada and I’m hoping this connection will encourage everyone to continue helping these kids get an education.

On Tuesday we have the annual general meeting of the Livingstone Tourism Association (LTA) and I’ve been asked to stand for treasurer. I’ve agreed. Can’t seem to say no.

Charles making the drum

As we enter our third year of living in Zambia, Marilyn and I have come to the point of looking ahead to our future. Do we stay in Zambia indefinitely, return to Canada, or seek out another adventure. Much depends on the next few months at the Arts Cafe. If we are able to generate the revenue to hire competent managers (hard to find), the Arts Cafe can be truly self-sustaining and continue to run without us. On the other hand, if this is not the case……..well who knows. We will decide soon what the future holds. Regardless, it will be hard to leave Africa where we feel so much at home.

Edward is making a lamp shade for Ed and Nancy

It is great to have Daisy back at work. She has hired a nanny who sits with baby Zion at the Arts Cafe so Daisy can breast feed when required. Little Zion has been to our show several times and seems to love it.Zion and his Nanny backstage

Ed and Nancy will be leaving on the 30th. It has been such a joy having them visit and help out with so many projects. I’m sure they have never had a vacation quite like this visit to Africa and in some ways their lives will be changed forever. Today, we’re surprising them with a sunset cruise on the majestic Zambezi River.

Progress on the lamp shade

During the past several blogs, I have been loading up pictures of bugs which come into view during my day. Ryan, our scientist son, has left a comment on these blogs identifying the species. Go back through the blogs if you might be interested in knowing the scientific names of these ‘critters’. Ryan also sent me a picture of his class at the University of Guelph during exams. I have also been busy marking papers for year end.

Ryan's class during an exam

Zambian Law

Giraffes at Chobe

Having guests visit us is such a pleasure and forces us to take some time off to enjoy the activeties we sometimes now take for granted. Our trip to Chobe National Park once again reminded us how wonderful it is to see the many birds and animals of Africa. We also took Marilyn’s cousins to Mukuni Village and arranged for our friend Victor, who live there, to tour us around. For those who have never been to Africa it is a real eye opener to see how people live.

Buffalo: a very dangerous animal

When we have guests we also get lots of help with jobs that never seem to get done and at the end of the day it is nice to have others around to discuss the many challenges which face us in trying to run a business and NGO. We’ve been playing a lot of scrabble which is also fun after a hard day of work.

Up Close with the Giants

Unfortunately, we had a robbery at the Arts Cafe in the early hours of Friday April 9th. It was obviously an inside job and about K6,000,000 was taken from our filing cabinet after it was broken open. The thieves entered through a back door which was not properly locked by our staff.


This robbery has taught us a lot about the legal system here in Zambia. We managed to discover who, on our staff was guilty. I won’t tell you how because we may need to use the same trick again. As it turns out, it was one of our drummers (let’s call him AT)and a friend of his. He is one of our newest employees and it was good to discover it wasn’t one of the others whom we’ve come to trust.

Bee Eater

In Zambia the decision to lay charges rests entirely with the victim. Our drummer has never been in trouble with the law before but is friend has a long criminal record. Within a few days,  AT’s parents visited us to beg for forgiveness for their son. The parents are nice people and we have met A’s dad in the past. AT’s mom was in tears and I couldn’t help wonder how I might have felt had my boys ever done such a thing.  When I told them I didn’t mind giving AT a second chance but wanted the other ‘boy’ charged AT’s mom got down on her knees and clapped her hands which is a symbol of respect and thanks. (This always makes me feel too ‘white’ and a bit uncomfortable when someone does this)

To arrest the ‘boys’ I had to arrange for and pay for transport for the police as they don’t have money or a car to do this. Even when they came to the Arts Cafe to discuss the case, we had to pick them up. The ‘boys’ pleaded guilty and the police brought them both to the Arts Cafe to walk through how they entered and what they did while stealing the money. The police can be very rough here and it was a bit disturbing for someone like me who would not expect this in Canada.

Watching the white rhinos

On Friday, AT’s aunt and brother came to also ask for forgiveness. This basically means that they are asking if I will drop the charges if they make restitution in the amount of money stolen. They told me they are trying to raise the money from family and friends but it is a lot for them even though some of them work full time. Every aspect of this crime is sad.

touring Mukuni village

All week Marilyn and I have wrestled with the decision. We would have no difficulty in giving AT another chance but the police said either both ‘boys’ go to court or they both go free. I told AT’s family there was nothing I could do as I wanted the second thief to experience the consequences of his actions since he obviously had learned nothing from his other times in jail…..more sadness, more tears, more begging for help….more anguish for Marilyn and me. It was nice having family staying with us to share some of the dilemma and seek feedback from others.

There is, of course, another variable. If the ‘boys’ both go to court on Monday and probably to jail I will not get any of our money back although I will get the items they purchased with the funds they stole.

Children love to greet visitors in the villages

Today, Marilyn and I made a decision and now will see how it unfolds. We are going to drop the charges if the family of AT can come up with the money by the end of April. We feel AT has probably learned a big lesson by spending the last week in jail, hurting his family, and losing his job. We also think it will be better to let his family deal with him. Unfortunately, the other ‘boy’ will also go free and probably get caught stealing again down the road.

Cousins singing at the Arts Cafe jam

The whole matter has been extremely time consuming and costly and has kept us from doing other work. We had a large group come for lunch on Saturday but still aren’t getting the business we need to call ourselves a success. More enquiries are coming in but now some lodge owners we know quite well are saying they don’t have the prebookings they would expect and everyone is worried 2011 still won’t be the year of recovery after two very bad years for the tourism industry. Can we hang in another year?

Thieves showing the police what they did


We’re having a great time with Marilyn’s cousins visiting. We love to show people around Livingstone…..those places off the beaten path which most tourists never see. Livingstone has many different lifestyles depending on socio-economic status. By and large people are poor.

This Baobob tree is estimated to be as much as 2000 years old. From the platform on top you can view Victoria Falls off in the distance. The legend of the Baobab Tree is that it was the most glorious tree in the heavens but it started to gain more favour than the gods and they got angry. It was tossed from the clouds and landed upside down. That’s why it looks like the roots are reaching up for the sky.l to r  Marilyn, Ed, Nancy, Kathy and RonWe had a band this weekend from Lusaka playing at the Arts Cafe. Mathew Tembo and the Dark Black Band are well known performing artists and they launched their latest CD. We had a nice crowd but not nearly as many as we had hoped for. People often complain in Livingstone that there is nothing to do but disappoint when they don’t come to something you’ve arranged for them. Prior to the band taking the stage, Marilyn and her cousins did a couple of numbers they had been rehearsing. (From l to r in the picture above is Marilyn, Ed, Nancy, Kathy, and Ron.

Ron’s bed

As I mentioned last week, we moved our dining room table into the porch and set up Ron’s bed in the living room. Kathy and her daughter Jess are in one bedroom and Ed and Nancy in the other. We’re pretty happy about having a place for people to stay. Ron, Jess and Kathy are leaving on the 15th but Ed and Nancy are staying until the 30th. Everyone has been helping out at the Arts Cafe. On May 3rd we have a young woman named Jess and her cousin coming for two weeks. They are friends of our friend Karen Lawrence and have never been to Zambia. On May 17, Gary and Karen’s daughter Kayleigh is coming for two weeks.

Mathew Tembo
Members of the “Dark Black” Band

Mathew and the band are really talented and hard working. They took the stage before 9pm and played non-stop until after midnight. In the end we were all up dancing.

We picked up 5 group bookings this week spread out over June to Sept. It is nice but still not nearly enough to sustain us. More tourists will be coming soon but we rely quite heavily on tour and lodge operators to book them to see our show or live music or have a traditional meal in our restaurant. Time will tell whether the Arts Cafe is truly something which can thrive in Livingstone.

Sing a long with the cast

Today, the cast sat around with Ron and Kathy and started singing songs from our first play “African Shoes”. It almost brought a tear to my eye thinking about how long ago it was when we first held auditions. We have such great and talented staff and it was lovely to hear those old songs sung so well.

Outdoor Banking

This picture above was taken while I waited in line for the ATM. Every bank in Zambia sets up a desk outside where they open new accounts and conduct other ‘form filling” tasks. Very unusual to a Canadian.

Tomorrow on our day off we are going to Botswana with Marilyn’s cousins. This is a highlight of any trip to Livingstone which includes a boat trip down the Chobe river, a lunch at a safari lodge and a game drive in Chobe National Park. Marilyn has been there two more times than me so I’m looking forward to being along on this one. Chobe has one of the largest concentration of wild life anywhere in southern Africa and it is sure to please our visitors. I should also have lots of great pictures for next week’s blog.



Filling up the house

Marilyn’s cousins from Canada arrived on Sunday and Monday and we rearranged our house a bit. We now have the dining room table in our porch and are using the sink and table in the porch for laying out meals and cleaning up. This is actually what we planned to do when we first moved in and it is really cool. Of course we have Ron sleeping in the livingroom under a new mosquito net so it isn’t totally how it will be in the end.

We did a great drive on Monday to the various areas around Livingstone and out to Malone village. There is an old bridge leading into Malone and it has a sign which says “Bridge Closed”. It looks like it has already collapsed but I have been driving it for two years and know it is still okay. When I approach the bridge with visitors, I always act amazed that there is ‘now’ a sign saying ‘Bridge Closed’. Then I say something like, “oh I can’t believe it and head out onto the bridge. Usually, people are bit shocked and a little worried but Marilyn’s cousins were screaming at me to stop. Even Marilyn hasn’t gone this way for a long time so she was screaming as well. Great joke, I love it.Enjoying a drink at Tjisse'sWe also took them to Maanu Mbwami school. It was quite by accident because we were lost and then came into Lubuyu where I saw the school and got my bearings. It was quite timely as well. We helped the school repair their hammer mill which grinds maize and can be a source of revenue for them. Pastor Smoke Chewe and the teachers were really happy to see us and the kids were great.

Step 1: Smoke feeding the hopper

Step 2: Being ground into mealie meal

Step 3: Ground maize fed into the sock

Ready for boiling into Nshima, the Zambian staple

We had a heavy rainfall today and discovered some more leaks in both our house and the Arts Cafe which need to be fixed. Our yard was flowing like a river. It cleared by 14h00 and it doesn’t take long for the water to disappear once the rain stops.

Lawrence and Agnes with the cousins

We also stopped in at an art gallery and visited with our friends Lawrence and Agnes. They are quite talented and successful and have a lovely studio. As always, we were received with a warm Zambian greeting.

One of Lawrence's large paintings

A painting I really like

Marilyn and I went out to hear a group called “Danny” at the new Fairmount Hotel (which is actually quite old). It was our first night out in a long time and only possible because the bar with the group was open late after our show finished. The manager, Ashok came and bought us a drink. We are going to work together to promote his hotel and our Cafe at the airport and in other ways. Got some important business done and enjoyed some great music at the same time.

A big tree grows in the middle of the Fairmount restaurant

CAUTION: DON’T READ ON IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH. One of our dancers, Malala, who lives with Twaambo, one of our Chefs, cut herself on a broken mirror at home on Saturday. Twaambo called from the hospital at 6:30am to say they had been waiting to see a doctor for two hours and none could be reached and Malala had lost a lot of blood. I told Twaambo to bring her to our house so we could see the injury and decide whether to take her to my doctor who runs a private hospital. When she arrived, she was covered in blood and when I removed the bandage I could see how seriously she had been cut.

Malala's cut leg

I immediately took her to see Dr. Shafik where she got cleaned up a bit and had the cut stitched at two levels. Even here the nurse didn’t even look under the bandage and when I asked if her legs could be washed she just said she had to wait for Dr. Shafik. When Dr. Shafik entered, the first thing he said was “Clean her up”.

Waiting for Dr. Shafik to stitch up the cut

One of my first thoughts about a broken mirror being the cause was that “nothing gets thrown out in Zambia”. I could imagine that if a mirror broke it would now just be a lot of mirrors….dangerous but still useful. The cost of treatment for Malala came to K550,000, the amount of money she earns in a month. Sadly, she will also not be able to dance in our show for at least three weeks resulting in a further loss of income. It is impossible to imagine what she would have done without us and yet somehow she would manage……African’s do!

Tony filming at jam night

We hired a professional videographer to make a full-length DVD of Dancing Around Zambia and also a 3 minute promo video for YouTube, our web site, and for inclusion in the promo videos of other agents. We get a lot of request for a DVD of the show so will also have it to sell to our guests. Tony takes his work seriously and has been at the Arts Cafe a lot to capture the show and our other activities. I want our promo video to be more about ‘cultural tourism’ in Livingstone so he is going to include other dance groups, the museum, Maramba market etc. Can’t wait to see the finished product and it will be a really important marketing tool.

Jam night