September 21, 2010

Home, sweet home..

Well, I am at home. I had a safe flight back from Lusaka, and only two days later I had a business trip to NYC for a week, so until now, I haven’t felt back at HOME. I want to remember and tell my last hours in Lusaka…My NGO colleagues picked me up in the hostel and took me to Alliance Française to have some beers together. I spent a nice soirée with Nyachi, Carol and Sharon: the Go Sisters girls, great girls, and very good dancers, oh yeah! And with Michael, the director of the Foundation, always with a smile. When they went away, they gave me a very nice souvenir from EduSport (an small soccer ball signed by all of the Edusport staff, and Go Sisters t-shirts from the Program). Then I stayed with Kahale who came to have dinner with me by last time (this year, who knows?). And when we were about to leave from Alliance F I ran into Senja! She is the finish girl who was sitting down beside me in my flight to Lusaka…it was such a big coincidence! It was a sign…I arrived with her, and I left Zambia giving her a hug!
I’ve made many good friends and I hope this friendship never ends.. Zambia treated me so well, I have been very happy these weeks there, even arriving there alone, I have never felt alone.. Somehow now I miss my life there…kind of different to my current life in Madrid …Last week was weird to jump from the bed without mosquito net (specially in NY, in a king size bed in front of Times Square J).
It is not a myth. I’ve been "touched" by Africa. And I want to come back, to Austral Africa. Thanks to all of the people who have supported me from the distance! I strongly recommend to any reader of this blog, and to anyone, to join to an NGO in Africa. No better way to spend a time of your life if you want to know this part of the world, the real life there, and try to help somehow! Before going I felt skeptic about my help in Finance management/ accounting…
But it is a chain…in order to help communities NGO’s need money, and to raise new funds they must provide to funders proper reports, financials, improving their skills..
Thanks to AFID (Accounting for International Development) as by becoming a member of them, I got this chance to join a volunteering ..
Skomo kuambi!

September 10, 2010

Last days at Edusport

After a second computer things look better.I obtained also uK's approval for installing a new antivirus system..We have worked more into Quickbooks as well as hold a meeting with director and the next volunteer of Afid on a periodic basis. Now that we got the internet codes for bank statements it seems not is a very long process! last days at office i have been telling them guidelines not to miss, despite they keep very busy organising community events. Finally I got Kelvin to take me to Kalingalinga for meeting communities, as I insisted them a lot on attending to any activities before coming back to Spain. Kevin is only 17 years old, but he's been with Edusport since 12, as peer leader, as a kind of mentor for youth. when he visits communities many people request him for advice, he is a very good example for youth, very concerned on helping communities even he's been on Tv advertising! I spent a nice time joining kids with peer leader in their games.

In this last week I have gone out a lot!Shepherd (another guy at Connect Africa), Kahale (my japanese mate's brother in law at guesthouse), Dion (he offered me a very very nice bbq at his garden, i shared my Rioja bottle with him), and yesterday Myanda invited me to dinner with him and his girlfriend Audrey who speaks spanish (she went to study to Cuba as Cuban government provides grants to Zambia). I also went with the Edusport boys to have lunch at their favorite place, the Divine Power inside the kabwata market, close to the carterpillars' stall (!!)

Today for my last day at Edusport I dressed myself with the african chitenge. I wanted to do it, and in Spain i know i am not wearing it (except for being at home or at the beach..). They liked it very much! we took many pictures with all the staff...And when i came back to guesthouse i couldn't avoid a tear while i was walking across the people. I am going to miss Zambia and Zambians a lot!

Moreover, I had an appointement with Mike , the guesthouse guard, this afternoon, as I promised him I would visit his compound to know his family...a long trip (two buses and half a taxi) I visited his compound near kalingalinga, and met her daughters and wife, offered them some presents for kids and a mosquito net as well (he told me he didnt use it now as have school expenses bigger..). He looked so proud and happy because I have visited them! He always says he keeps on praying for me :-)

And the formal farewell with Edusport is this evening, so i must go now, and enjoy my last night at Lusaka..i don't know what plans they have for me but must be ready in half an hour!

I'll write again when i have a chance since Europe, and will hang more snaps as a brief of all of the people i've met and of zambia!! fly back tomorrow

September 7, 2010

Awesome long weekend trip!

Note: I am not able to download pictures and I keep on trying since yesteday!! I promise as soon as I can you'll see a lot! ---- I am able now! from Intercontinental Hotel
Thusday 2/09/2010:
So on Thursday afternoon I took a local long/distance bus to spend the weekend in Livingstone and to join any safari nearby...The bus station of Lusaka is a complete chaos of people, fake parfum vendors, cutlery vendors (for foreign i guess) workers, inter/country buses (botswana, malawi, zimbabwe...) Not very confortable for sitting down to wait a bus. However bus arrived on time,..and only 2 hours later it suffered a breakdown. We stayed in the middle of nowhere for nearly 3 hours to wait for a new repaired bus...Meanwhile I started talking with two guys that looked european travellers...and in fact they were staying in the same hostel as me in Livingstone, so we shared amusing trip despite the conditions. The new bus arrived, so continued the trip..and only 20kms before Livingstone the new bus attempted to suffer a new breakdown,..that finally could be amended. So when we arrived at the Jollyboys backpackers hostel, the bar had closed, but one of this guys persuaded somebody to sell us cold we chilled out in the nice African hall of the hostel, before going to bed (after a 10 hours trip..). We shared the same dorm.
Friday 3/09/2010:
Next day we went together to visit the amazing Victoria falls,'s stunning! wonderful..I think I suffered the syndrom of Stendhal again :-) Because of the flows of water falling (900.000 litres per second, i think) it causes a sound called the Thunder. You also see the rainbow in the middle of the falls. See the pictures better...After a long sightseeing walk, we went to the upper side of Zambezi to chill legs into the water for a while. Some local zambians offered themselves to take you (walking into the water) till the edge of falls...I preferred not to risk my life so easily.. Instead, I came back to hostel to have a bath in the small pool. In the afternoon I booked a Sunset cruise in the most charming boat..The African's Queen. Beautiful views along the Zambezi river at Sunset. I always think about "Out of Africa". In the boat I met a couple of spanish people just married! they came from SouthAfrica and were travelling around. As it was the first time any of us met some spaniards in Zambia we celebrated it ordering for Gin cokes with our canapes dinner on board..(included in the price!)
So I came back to hostel so gin/happily that I convinced these guys (the austrian and the german young doctors) to go out. We found a place of makishi dancers (the typical african dancers) very amusing!! They performed most of the time the same song dancing a lot, and next to this group, another performance of an african singer (dressed in chitenge, as most part of women here). So we spent long time in this funny place. tHE only non african people, us.
Saturday 4/09/10: Next day, these guys were going on rafting (I would have loved to join them but I already have booked my activity) so I went to Botswana for a safari day and night. It was so exciting!! during all the morning i did a canoe safari through the river, and from mid/day the inland safari in the Chobe National Park, enormous land plenty of giraffes, elephants, impalas, warthog, birds, and also could see the beautiful leopards (it was a matter of patience and time)! All of the day into a Jeep without velts nor windows and running so fast specially when elephants seemed angry with us...At sunset we arrived to the compound to sleep, in the middle of the savannah. I slept in an individual tent on the floor with the only light of my torch (hopefully I remembered to put it into my bag), and the sound of wild life...The guide men left a fire burning all night to avoid animals coming near, despite they come sometimes (elephants) at night. We were told not to go out from tents to pee until it was extremely urgent .. Before going to bed we had a dinner sitting in the chairs around the fire and with the torch in left hand to light the food dish. I slept very well! and didnt feel afraid of the strange sounds...We wake up very early to see the sunrise, and the lions!! we got to see 5, 2 males and 3 females...But my low battery ran out only few seconds before watching lions. Then, I came back to Zambia, crossed the Botswana border (passing the cleaning mandatory steps to avoid transferring the mouth&feet animals illness), and arrived to hostel. I had a quick lunch with Dara and Davud, and said goodbye with a hug! I really liked these guys. they are travelling around southern Africa now, but in past they did their doctors training in countries like SouthAFrica or Armenia and Barbados. Brave boys! They are invited to visit me in Madrid:-)
Before taking the bus, I bought chitenge materials, and took the bus. This time bus was better, and we arrived on time to Lusaka..I also shared seat with a very kind zambian guy who loves MTV so much! he was excited of having met me , hahahahah!!
Pd/ i am updating posts with pics today, and previous posts as it was impossible before due to viruses in downloading that even attacked my camera !!

September 5, 2010

Unexpected virus...1/09/2010

Hi there, regarding the following days, I started implementing a new Chart of accounts at Edusport structured by allocations (the P&L), and I have been teaching them on using Quickbooks monthly reports, it seems very easy but the problem is that their computer (where the accounting software is located) is very old and so very slow...But also something happened. I thought that we should use the anti/virus for a check as they usually dont do it. Then after spending long time to processing, the scanvirus detected threats, and so apparently eliminated it. But I couldn't imagine that afterwards when we tried to work on this computer it was not possible..all of the icons we clicked on (word, excel, qb..) showed the same message of being impossible to open because of a file... I paniced...They didnt realize the problem ( i preferred no to tell them until I found a solution...) but times went slowly, and I wasnt able to ammend it. I firstly thought about phoning someone in Spain to explain the problem...But i thought twice; And then I turned to be more realistic and find a more feasible solution. Then I decided to phone Dion, a south/african guy very nice that I met recently and who works for another NGO called CONNECT AFRICA (they connect rural areas of Africa) to ask him for help...And his support was so big, ..he came with another guy who knew about computer, then this guy phoned another one who was very skilled on this, and came to the office...and finally ammended it...but the restoring proccesses lasted several hours....For some time before I felt terrified about the fact that the computer turned useless. But finally there was a happy ending. God provides. Apparently the current antivirus any time you execute it if it finds a virus, it deletes the file and in our case at it was blocking the accounting program, it blocked totally. Solution in short/medium term is to disable the current antivirus Karperstky as it is not practical the way it proceeds, and then install a new one.. I paid 70.000kw to John for his work, and invited to dine to Dion (we went to a very nice restaurant called Golf grill...awesome beef!) and the same night I bought my ticket for travelling to Livingston at the weekend.
So next day I could continue teaching them on the use of Quickbooks for providing financial reports..I also have implemented the current bank reconciliation template, to make it easier every month..

August 31, 2010

Monthly meetings at Edusport

Monday, 30th August: My second morning working at the NGO. That morning the first scheduled thing they have is the monthly meeting and the director kindly offers me to join them, very good idea, to integrate myself in their daily work routine. Basically the message he gave to the staff was a warning about the timetable they must accomplish (no delays...), the acknowledgment to the goals achieved by them, and the introduction of me to them. This morning for me has not been very efficient as I couldnt stay much with the finance staff because of their meetings and also the lack of a computer for me is a handicap (If I had known before..I would have rented one in Spain). As a matter of fact the lack of resources in the office forces to follow a different routine at work (nothing to compare with my daily work at mtv). There is only one telephone that they all must share for their work, and also there are less computers than staff (so even they share computers). But despite this they are able to achieve the purposes of NGO. Edusport fights for empowering disadvantaged communities. The main pillars are: Leadership, Health well being and prevention (HIV/AIDS), education, gender equality & equity, and safe spaces for good environment to play sports.
I ate the traditional Nshima (and with fish), the zambian dish, and by first time with my hands. don't feel very comfortable, but as far as the restaurants have a washbasin in the cantin (close to the tables) you can wash hands as soon as you have finished (they dont usually place napkins in the tables). I think the difference with the western culture, is in many of the cases a matter of comfort (not development). Greg gave me an extended overview of the current illnesses and problems of youth nowadays. Certainly some of the Edusport staff were children of these communities to whom Edusport helps.
Well for today it is enough. The interent cafe rarely provides a proper connection and it has failed twice today (and I am afraid my pendrive has got a virus from here...) . it's a pity i cannot download more pics!

Guys thanks a lot for your comments! sorry that i cannot reply you individually, but it's great to read you


Saturday 28: The previous night I asked my japanese mate at hostel, and he provided me very useful advices and recommendations about places (specially craft local markets), so I took a bus (see picture, it's a very small vehicle where at minimum 20 people usually fill the content). I stopped at Kabulonga village, and stayed in the Duch church local craft market. Christian church has very strong charitable mission in Zambia, and also encourages local artisans to sell their products. I bought several nice things. The place was full of people buying, most of them foreign or expats spending the morning in the drinks area. When I came back I decided to have lunch at the Bistrot discovered by chance the first day when I was in my first taxi trip. the place is inside the Alliance Francaise (i wouldnt had expected to finde one AF at Lusaka!). Then i had a baguette as kitchen was closed. And noticed an advertising about an upcoming concert the followint day at evening. Good! Certainly in the way to AF I took the wrong road and ended opposite the Air Force headquarter..and stupidly tried to take a pictures at the aeroplanes when the soldiers shouted me , so i didnt take pic but one of them came running to me and wanted to start troubles (i felt scared)...finally i explained him (the truth, by the way) that I was lost looking for the AF, then he left me go free...(In Zambia it is forbidden to take pictures of gubernamental buildings..but i wasnt awared..)
I finally arrived home after lunch, and i was resting when Myanda (the eventual Afid volunteer ) phoned me to meet. Perfect! he picked me up from the hostel, and went for a car ride through lusaka main avenues, and so outside closed to the suburbs and more disadvantaged areas (called Compounds) to see both sides of city. Finally we arrived to Chilanga and decided to go to the animals sanctuary (kind of zoo) so unexpectedly I saw the first animals this weekend (zebras, warthog, cheetah, lion,...). Very nice evening with Myanda, he is a very smart guy who's lived in Zambia, Uk and N. Zealand (and I understand him much better when he speaks english..)

Sunday 29: I went to the 10.00 mass service at the Anglican cathedral of the Holly croSS. A very nice and amusing mass despite of the length (2 hours!). People feel closer to each other here, it is a very sharing celebration. And so the gospel chorus! with a small band included. Apart from the priest, there is a predicator (a woman)who vocalized very consciously english. At the end of the mass, Collin (one of the hostelkeeping guys) was waiting for me, as he offered himself in his free day to go for a walk with me to show me the city. People is really kind and even they spend part of the free time they have (to be with their families) to show the town to the guestors. We finally had some soft drinks (I paid, and gave him a worldcup souvenir that i brought from Spain ) and when he went I spent the rest of morning in the local Arcades market, and having lunch in a very posh and expensive restaurant. In my way back, I walked approx 3-4kms..In the evening, I went to Alliance francaise for the concert. A wonderful concert with a chorus and cello, piano, violins band who performed some famous themes from soundtracks. Meanwhile having a cup of white wine in the terrace (in the break) I met some interesting people :-)

August 27, 2010

First working day

I've slept from 9pm to 6.30am non stop until my alarm clock jumped. After having a good breakfast sharing table with the only other guest in the house (a japanese boy), I have followed Edusport suggestions and decided going to work by walking as they say it is not far away. Again:40 minutes walking is to consider not using the word "near" so easily. But I do enjoy this first way, as there are not pavements I keep walking among the trees and stall vendors, many of the local buses come accross blowing claxons (by this they are asking you if you want to get in), as well as the taxis. Most of people even say hello or how are you when you pass close to them. I am enthusiast with my way. Nearby the embassies avenue I walk beside the central prison, and finally I arrive to my office.
Today because it is friday they work only until 12-1pm but musts be special this Friday because also the girls I met yesterday today dont work. I perform my initial assessment by interviewing Sydney in order to have a better understanting of the NGO, the proccesses, weaknesses, current controls, accounting policies, etc. Very profitable meeting :-) From monday the hard work will start! I took some picture with the friday staff. At the end I remind to Michael about my safari plans over the weekend. As he initial said, I shouldn't book the trips I saw in my touristic guide because he would provide me better and cheaper options. He drove me to another travel agency and the officer takes note of my mobile no to phone me later and offering me an option for the weekend...but what a surprise when he phoned me (4 hours later) without suitable options (one trip to Lower Zambezi N.Park without safari walk and me as the only visitor in the guided trip, with one night accomodation,per 770$!). I regret not having purchased the Chachacha offer (half a price, two nights all inclusive). As they cannot offer me anything else for tomorrow (I try to profit my spare time of weekend), I took a taxi straight on to the Zambian tourist board, and when I arrive they had already closed (only 5 minutes before). So no safari plans for this weekend...I feel a little bit frustrated, but second lesson learnt: Change my western mind chip to an african mind one. Not to get stressed by trying to take advantage of all of my time. To Do nothing doesn't mean to waste the time. From tomorrow on, I wont go in a hurry, and will let thing to come alone to me... By the way tomorrow I am meeting Myanda (a zambian AFid volunteer based here). And for today, time is over! I'll come back to my place and pay the internet bill (in the same place where today I enjoyed a big dish of noodles).

Arrival to Lusaka

Wednesday 25th of August: I have a safe flight from London to Lusaka and unexpectedly comfortable! My charity fare ticket allowed me to carry 3 pieces of luggage and also a World traveler seat (with extra space, no seats before me, just opposite the business area!). Beside me is a finish girl with whom I have nice chat about Zambia and the NGOs ( she works for Int. Union for Conservation of Nature). Thursday 26th:After watiting for more than half an hour I obtain my business stamp in my visa (following my NGO indications) and half an hour later I obtain my 3 pieces of luggage (one of them with only one handle)..and Paul Zulu was happily waiting for me! He is a a Programme officer in Edusport (my NGO). Fortunately everything has gone succesfully! See attached pics from airport, the main road from airport to town; He took me straight to Edusport office where we are the first people to arrive despite life in Zambia starts up to 6am (as it gets dark at 7pm...).

We hold an initial meeting, Michael (the director), Sydney (Accountant) and Niachi (accounting and administrative) about what they expect from me (goals, what they need me to help to improve) and so I provide my opinion and ideas. Afterwards Paul continue with his great work of helping me in my first day arrangements. As per request of Michael, I changed my current reservation in Chachacha backpackers hostel (ohhh it sounded so cool!) to Makaland hostel, as it seems to be nearer for me in my daily way to the office. So after checking the availability and watching the room offered I decide to stay (see my room below, after my special customization). The hostel looks veeeery quiet, honestly. But in my first day I prefer not to change Edusports plans for me, and at least this is the place where the previous volunteer was accomodated...

The staff working there seem nice and very hard workers (everything is very clean)

Third task in which Paul helps me: we go (in his car) to exchange dollars per kwachas (I sell 200$ and obtain 1.000.000 kw), and buy a zambian sim card for my stay in Lusaka...But when Paul goes and I try to use it, it doesnt work. So i decide to go again to Arcades (a far away mall to go walking from my guesthouse) and they say that I need to charge credit in the sim (logical, but I thought my colleague had already requested in the initial visit to the telecom shop...). Following his instructions I hadnt takent more money than the recommended by him ( 40.000 kwachas) .However, in my first walk outside i learnt:

- I must take three times the money recommended, as lunch costs not much less than in Europe (If you go to a western food restaurant, like Subway, that I hate by the way)

- Distances according to Zambians dont mean the same as for westerns :walk took me nearly one hour, and I decided to call a taxi(*) and thus, pay private/public transport for the way back

- Credit mobile cards run out so fast! the initial credit ran out with only one international call (to mama) and 30 seconds to the zambian taxi driver phone number!

So without kwachas I could manage to take the taxi (*it is recommended to call taxi drivers that someone you know offers you, not whatever you see in the street) that Mike from the guesthouse provided me, and he allowed me to pay him in the hostel (when I obtained more cash from my locked suitcase!).

After a very busy morning (and non-stop night on board) i suddenly fell asleep in my bed at 4pm till 5pm (without opening the mosquito net, nor putting insect repellent in the room or my western cautions.. an unexpected y rewarding siesta.)

When i wake up I decide to go to my initial Chachacha hostel to cancel personally my reservation (I want to be polite, and they already knew me because of all of my previous e/mails). I took advantage from the place and had dinner in the nice bar full of people (expats, zambians, backpackers....I still dont consider as definitive my new accomodation in the other hostel..) Even some people of the hostel talk with me, very nice travellers. Well, its time to go home. I fell asleep at 9pm

Zambia is on the list of the 50 World's poorest countries. It has a population about 12 million of people, Lusaka the capital over 3 million, and Livingstone (the old capital when the British age, Northern Rhodesia ), 100.000 inhabitants. HIVS/AIDS is in a proportion of 1 of 7 people; and also malaria is a major cause of mortality specially in the rainy season; children until 4 years old are more likely not to survive than the rest.

August 23, 2010

Finance team survivor kit!

Hi there,
It is my last day at office (during the season..) and my finance colleagues at MTV have surprised me with a very nice “emergency” kit for my imminent stay in Zambia!!!! It includes:

1 flyswatter (flip-flop shaped!)
1 little Spain flag (We are the champions! And Edusport seems to be a very big football supporter..)
1 Muji stylo
1 Muji notebook
1 small table lamp (same size as an stapler!)
1 nail polish and cotton remover (a bit of glamour to take away!)
1 small hand ventilator (pink), gorgeous!
1 rain cap
Thank you guys!!

Tomorrow I start taking the Malarone pills (glub..!). My suitcase is nearly closed! And I almost have finished reading the John Cammak’s book (and so all of the feedback regarding financial organisation in EduSport!),..I think I am ready?
See you!

August 11, 2010

It's the final countdown..!

There are 15 days left to start my own adventure in a part of Africa, and I can’t avoid writing my first impressions on the blog. I feel excited, thrilled, challenged, some times frightened, but with great expectations;

Since I made up my mind to joining an Afid project, I have progressively been receiving floods of documentation, gathering information , undertaking necessary tasks (vaccinations, visa stages)… Every night before going to bed I read something new about Zambia or EduSport.

It is a challenge, and I expect to be useful for them…at least I’ll do my best
Building capacity through financial management….that’s the idea! (Thanks John Cammack ). Some of my goals:

Support accounts staff…
Strenghtening of accounting systems, programming, implementation
Best practise in accounting… . So familiar to SoX (Sarbannes Oxley Act.) oh my God!

Look forward 2 arriving 2 Zambia
(and struggling with my old pc to upload this comment ,,,!)

July 27, 2010

Ready, steady, go!!

Good night...
I have just set up my blog!! does it work?
(This blog is in English because of international purposes, requested by my partner Afid (Accounting for International Development) but feel free guys to put your comments in spanish if some of you prefer :-)

Pd-.By the way, the zebra armchair is not mine! I took the picture in a nice hostel in the mountains (Gredos, Avila) last winter..