This is a blog about me and the things that make me laugh, smile, hurt or cry!

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Hospitality Industry In Zambia -- A Home Away From Home?

Over the last few years, the Zambian government has been making a lot of noise about the 'Visit Zambia' campaign. We are told that tourism is the answer to our national economy's dependence on the mining industry.

Recent economic growth resulting in increased disposable income has seen the appearance of a guest house on every other street corner. Curiously, 90 per cent of these boasts the slogan, 'A Home Away From Home'.

Wonderful news, you might say. Not in my experience.

During my working life, I have stayed in various hotels, guest houses and lodges in Zambia, Africa, Europe and North America. Recently, I traveled to South Luangwa and Kafue National Parks respectively. En route, we spent one night in Chipata and two nights in Mumbwa.

In Chipata, we spent the night at the relatively new Crossroads Lodge. Of the four that currently exist (in Mongu, Livingstone, Chipata and Lusaka), the Chipata branch is considered the nicest. Immediately I entered my room, I knew that the same logic behind the design of the room (lodge as a whole), was the reason for the kind of services I could expect from this establishment.

Open the door to the bathroom and the door will not open all the way. Why? because it is obstructed by the toilet. What follows next, is a manoeuvre familiar to any traveler in Zambia. You must squeeze your body around the door and stand almost inside the shower or bathtub. Close the bathroom door behind you and shuffle over to the toilet. If you forgot your toothpaste or toothbrush before embarking on this bathroom journey, you must go through the same experience all over again.

Many guest houses and lodges actually use narrower doors for the bathrooms in their establishments. Or else they go to the other extreme where everything is so spaced out, you must take several steps onto the cold floor coming out of the bathtub or shower in order to reach your towel or toiletries.

I could write so much more, but maybe let me end with my experience in Mumbwa where a colleague checked into his self-contained executive chalet in hopes of relaxing while watching some TV. He switches on the wall-mounted flat screen TV, only to find it was not plugged in and the cable did not appear to match the socket. He goes to reception to complain and is told "there is no adapter Sir; if you want to watch TV, you will need an adapter."

25+ Random Things You May Not Have Known About Me

1. I have always wanted to learn Kick-boxing as a way of indulging my inner Charlie’s Angel. We all have one.

2. The first album I ever bought was Step By Step by New Kids on the Block on cassette tape. It was £5 from a friend who probably doesn’t even remember

3. Similarly, when I was much younger, my secret fantasy (if I wasn’t Masuka) was to spend a summer working in the Coyote Ugly bar. Weird, but true.

4. One day, I would like to own a Hattori Hanzo Samurai Katana sword (think Kill Bill vol.1)

5. Between Coke, Sprite and Fanta, I choose to Obey My Thirst.

6. I’ve been robbed so many times I think I have become less attached to material things. My favourite thing (and first major item) that was stolen was my electric frying pan – taken from my room at the University of Zambia. The thief stole it complete with the chicken stew I had prepared earlier. My friend came to console me by praying for God’s comfort after the loss of the frying pan. It was both hilarious and touchingly sweet that he did that – which is why I remember it so well.

7. I am a major procrastinator, as evidenced by the fact that I first received one of these over 18 months ago. But, sitting in the hair salon last weekend and bored with mobile Solitaire and Sudoku, I ended up navigating the depths of Facebook mobile and ended up in the friends’ notes section; which reminded me that I needed to do my 25 Random Things About Me at last.

8. I have a lot of talk time. According to a colleague, this means I really take long to explain things and use ten words instead of five, and repeat myself. I have joined Toastmasters in an attempt to fix this problem.

9. Last year for my 30th birthday, I asked people to give me airtime for my mobile phone if they couldn’t think of a present to buy me. I received about K800, 000 (just over $150) worth of units and didn’t have to top up for several months.

10. I have been told that my marketing skills are so persuasive and I can be so convincing that I can sell a corpse. With great power, comes great responsibility.

11. When I watched Superman Returns in the cinema, I was overcome with a sense of joy and hope when we first see Superman in his suit, holding up the plane on the baseball field. I felt goofy happy and had a ridiculous smile because it seemed that the world was alright again.

12. Superman is cool because he is the only superhero whose natural self is actually a superhero. However, my favourite superhero is Batman: he knows who he is and he is just sad because his mummy and daddy died. It also helps that Bruce Wayne is rich. I can’t stand the whining whingeing wimp that is Peter Parker. Suck It Up and get a life dude.

13. The first big item I bought when I moved into my own place after graduating from campus was a four-plate cooker/oven. I couldn’t handle life without an oven and baking any longer. It took me another four years to purchase my first TV.

14. Being a preacher's daughter, I have always been sure I would not want to be a preacher's wife. The call is not for everyone. I'll settle for being bamuka elder (Church elder's wife).

15. I am a devoted follower of which succeeded Mininova and The Pirate Bay as my favourite torrent search index. That said I own about three times more original DVDs than anyone I know. I am addicted to boxed sets and special/limited/extended editions of my favourite TV shows and movies. I aim to complete my Only Fools and Horses collection soon and have pre-ordered The Goonies 25th Anniversary Edition. My all time favourite set is my Lord of the Rings Special Extended Edition.

16. I collect children’s books. Why? Because I worry that my favourite books may be out of print when I have kids and I won’t be able to share this experience with them. My favourite books from childhood were The Silver Sword by Ian Serralier; The Magic Far Away Tree by Enid Blyton; Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Superfudge, both by Judy Blume.

17. I love watching sports. I started following football as a result of watching World Cup Italia 90. I developed a crush on then England captain, Bryan Robson and pledged undying support to whichever team he played for. I have been (and remain) a proud supporter of Manchester United Football Club ever since. My other favourite sports to watch are Athletics, Tennis and gymnastics. I love the Olympics for their diversity of sporting disciplines.

18. My Dad was a very good amateur boxer and my mother almost joined the army after impressing her superiors in national service. She resisted the recruiters and became a teacher instead.

19. All the men in my family can cook and bake very well. My Dad’s specialty is pumpkin cake and sweet potato cake. One of my brothers nails pancakes like no one else. My other brother makes the best cheesecake I have EVER tasted and hammers chocolate cake. My sister does the best marble cakes and I dream of Mum’s coconut cake. I can do mean banana bread/muffins and any kind of savoury pie.

20. My four grandparents were born and raised in what is now called Angola. These artificial borders were set up by the English to divide us, we are all one inside.

21. Growing up as a teenager, my dream man was Keanu Reeves, closely followed by Brad Pitt. For the last few years though, the man that does it for me is Morris Chestnut. He's not the best actor in the world (IMHO), but at least he looks good while doing it.

22. I will watch any movie with Clare Danes in it. I don’t know why, but I really like her as an actress. I also lean heavily toward European and independent or foreign films (with subtitles). I believe an English voice over renders the movie irrelevant. City of God, directed by Fernando Mereilles is one of my favourites.

23. Persistent insomnia is my subconscious telling me I am anxious about something.

24. For security reasons, most of my passwords are not in English. My sister used to be the person most likely to get closest to deciphering any of them.

25. I cry at anything that moves me emotionally – be it anger, frustration, excitement, sorrow, in real life, in books, in movies or in music.

26. I only do Nokia phones.

27. I love dance movies and dance shows like So You Think You Can Dance. Not interested in the acting, just the dance moves. I would love to do the closing scene/credits dance routine from the movie Save the Last Dance at my wedding. My fingers are crossed for a man who can pull this off.

28. Spelling is one of my pet peeves and I have been known to delete/remove my posts or comments on the internet that have major typos or spelling mistakes in them. My most recent one, ‘right’ instead of ‘write’. Oh, the horror!

29. All the jobs I have had have been those that make a difference in people’s lives. Eventually, I would like to teach my own courses at University.

30. I dislike people who beat about the bush and won’t say what they mean or confront you to your face.

31. My name is Masuka M. and I am addicted to the internet. This is the first step in the 12-step recovery programme -- admitting that you have a problem

Modified on Sunday, 20th May 2012


Hitting The Big Three Oh

In 2009, I turned 30 years old and threw myself a party to celebrate my three decades on this earth. In the run-up to this momentous occasion, I listed (in alphabetical order), thirty things that I am grateful to God for in my life:

1. Books
I have been a book lover since I was able to read. Through books you experience worlds that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to and you meet people you would never have known. It’s up to you to imagine the reality hidden in the pages. The Lusaka and Chipata book clubs that I started have been the source of some fascinating discussions in the last few years. I don’t think I could have lived in Chipata as long as I did without the book club to keep me sane. For those of you that don’t already know, my favourite book in the whole wide world is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

2. Brothers and Sisters
There are some memories that you only share with the people you grew up with, and I have been through thick and thin, good times and bad times over the years with my brothers and sister. One of my favourite things is the words and nicknames we developed for so many people, places and things. Case in point, a bajeeba – which means a little bit

3. Chingola
Chingola has a strong heritage of producing people from the arts. A sizeable majority of playwrights, musicians, actors etc hail from this small town on the Copperbelt. Many of these went to Chikola Secondary School which is about two minutes from our house. As a Chingolan, I support the Rampant Lions Rugby and Nchanga Rangers Football teams. Chingola once had the title of being the cleanest town in Zambia. For these reasons, I’m proud to call Chingola my home town.

4. Communication
The year 1989 stays in my mind because of four major news events that captured the worlds and my attention. The Berlin Wall came down; the Exxon Valdese ran aground off the coast of Alaska and the oil spill caused untold damage; the Tiananmen Square Massacre in China, where scores of students and others were killed while protesting the death of a prominent critic of the communist government; revolution in Romania leading to the downfall of Nicolai Ceau├žescu and culminating in his execution on Boxing Day.

I wanted to be a journalist ever since I was about ten years old. I loved current affairs and watching news, discussion and documentary programmes on TV. I believe in the power of the written and spoken word to change lives and nations.

5. Family
Where would I be without the people whose blood runs through my veins? I value my extended family more and more, the older I get.

6. Films
There’s nothing like a good movie! Many of my favourite films have similar themes of sacrifice, passion, a cause, justice, resilience, faith and courage against all odds etc. These include the Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Gladiator, Braveheart, The Shawshank Redemption, Casablanca

7. Food
I thank God that I am one of those people that appreciates food. Sadly, most Zambians are not big on food. They like eating, but they don’t like food, which is why every restaurant in my country be it Italian, Indian, Chinese, Portuguese etc also serves chicken and chips to cater for the average Zambian. I will never say no to Indian food or pizza. For a long time, my favourite dish was lasagne – Italian food is still on my list of top three favourites. I also love seafood and Thai food.

8. Friends
You don’t choose your family, but you do choose your friends, and sometimes, they choose you. I lost touch with most of my friends from primary school, but I’m glad that almost 20 years later, I still have friends I met in high school. Some came aboard at college and then university; more at the various places I’ve worked and others along the way in meetings and conferences in various countries across the world.

9. Girlfriends
They are my inner circle and a point of reference in my life. By coincidence, almost all their names begin with M, with some R and S to mix it up. You know who you are…

10. Health
Health is something we often take for granted. I have no major health issues as yet. I’m in good health and can pretty much do whatever - for that, I’m grateful.

11. Local Church
Moving to Lusaka from Chingola was not easy, neither was settling in to a new church family. Like all of us, they are very far from perfect, but my peeps at Great East Road assembly are sincere, passionate, dedicated and loving and that’s why I count myself one of them.

12. Music
I’m not a huge music person, so I’m the last person to consult on latest music. But I do appreciate the divinely inspired music and lyrics of Fred Hammond, Cece Winans, Twila Paris, Rita Springer and Third Day. Nobody rocks it like vintage Michael Jackson, The Beatles or Abba. I’m also partial to India Arie, Bon Jovi and John Legend.

13. My House
Accommodation is hard to come by these days, so you know when you got a good deal. I love my house and I have a great landlord – I have no complaints, only thanks.

14. My Parents
My Mum and Dad made it a priority to make Christ the foundation of our home and the focus of our upbringing. This was the inheritance they built and passed on to their children. It is from them I learned the value of learning and reading.

One of the most important things for a woman is to be secure in her Father’s love for her as this makes her secure as a person. I have always been sure of my Dad’s love for me. Growing up my Dad was very strict. One of the rules was that ironing of clothes had to be done in advance as ironing one item was a waste of electricity and evidence of poor planning. One day I was made to attend church in un-ironed clothes. I am eternally grateful for that and I think it contributed greatly to my being the detail-oriented person that I am today.

When I read Proverbs 31, I think of my mother and how hard she works for all of us. She gets up early and sleeps late. She is a rock. She senses and knows things and loves me in a way that only a mother can. If I can be half as good a person as my mother has been, I will have achieved much indeed.

15. Opportunities
Throughout my life I have graciously been afforded many privileges and opportunities that have given me advantages that others have not and do not have. This goes beyond just education and employment; to many things such as exposure and travel to just plain good things happening.

16. Pearls of Wisdom
We all make mistakes in life and have ups and downs. I am so grateful for the people who have influenced my life with well spoken words of wisdom. My uncle has intervened with sound advice as have friends, my mother, my brother in-law to name but a few. Sometimes you need someone to tell you the right thing at the right time and it helps when you know that person genuinely cares for you and has your best interests at heart.

17. Pictures
They say a picture tells a thousand words and that the camera never lies. I think both of these are true and that’s why I love photographs. Thank you PM for teaching me so much about pictures and for making me feel that I’m not alone.

18. Sakeji
I would not be the person I am today if I did not have the privilege of attending Sakeji School in Ikelenge, Mwinilunga District, Northwestern Zambia. I started school in grade one at the age of five some 24 years ago. Having lived only three decades, I look on my Sakeji years as the most exciting, enriching and nurturing time of my life so far. But I’m pretty sure that if you ask me when I’m 60, I’ll still say the same thing.

19. Salvation
By grace I have been saved through faith, not of works, lest I should boast.

20. Sistren and Brethren
The sistren and brethren keep me on track, rightly dividing the word of truth in the way only a man or woman of God can do. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another

21. Technology
I think that we have some wonderful inventions that make life a pleasure. I am one of those people who love gadgets and ‘tuntu tuntu’. The potato peeler, microwave, electric kettle, geyser, television, the original walkman, tipex, the ball-point pen. I could go on, but I’ll end here.

22. The Bible
My manual for life and living in any and every situation

23. The Bro’s
As a first born, I always wished I had an older brother. Since that ain’t gonna happen, I have honorary older brothers.

24. The Earth
Environmental conservation is one of my passions. I believe that we are stewards of the earth and intergenerational justice demands that we manage her resources sustainably and responsibly.

25. The Navigators
The Nav mission is to know Christ and to make Him known. I was wandering spiritually until providence lead me to the Navigator ministry at university where I was very broke while staying on campus during the vacation. After weeks of strategically visiting my neighbours at meal times (or diving), and their turning a blind eye I felt it only fair that I attend one of their meetings, especially since they seemed so nice and genuine. I took a step of faith, not knowing what I would find and I have never regretted for a moment. I’ve built great friendships and experienced true fellowship. I have learned many important lessons but I will share one; the Bible is not just a collection of words but it has power to transform lives

26. The Netherlands
I spent three months in Holland in 2004 and it was a life-affirming experience. My stay there coincided with my 25th birthday. It was a low time as I felt I was getting old (little did I know). It was also the first time I had really been away from home and I kind of had to find myself. I had an identity crisis and I had to question who I was and everything I had believed in up to that point. I went on to spend a month in Bermuda and I came back home as Masuka – the same but different. It was from this point that I described myself as a ‘journalist and social activist’. I also cut my long hair and grew dreadlocks that I kept for over five years. Currently, I wear my hair natural - rocking a baby 'fro!

27. Travel
I love travelling, meeting new people, seeing new places and experiencing new things. My work takes me to many countries but usually does not afford me the opportunity to go beyond the hotel and one or two tourist excursions. There are so many places where I want to explore the land, the history, the culture, the people etc. Top of my list is to further explore my own country of Zambia, as well as Egypt, India, Ethiopia, Australia, Brazil, Spain, Malaysia.

28. Work
I love that in development work I can look into someone’s eyes and see the change that has happened in their life because of what I do. Obviously every job has its challenges because we have to work with people and people have never-ending issues; but in the midst of office politics, you always get one of those days when you know you’re making a difference. I know I can look back on my career so far, confident that I contributed in a small way to making this world a better place.

29. Young People
Children and young people are my passion. This is what lead me to work in a youth organisation, to study children and youth development and to work to improve the lives of children and young people in my day to day job as well as in my own time.

30. Zambia
There are many countries in this world, but I was born and bred in Zambia. We have lots of bad stuff like poverty, disease, corruption. We have lots of good stuff like a beautiful country, rich culture and traditions and really nice people. I am proud to be a citizen of the Republic of Zambia.

Being thankful is something we all need to do at regular intervals in our lives. There is an old chorus that says, 'Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done'.

Modified on Sunday, 20th May, 2012


Loud and Clear - Good Morning World!

Hi there!

Welcome to Say it Loud, Say it Clear -- my first attempt at writing a blog. I have been wanting to do this for some time, but had no idea where to start or what to say. But, since I must start somewhere, my next two posts will give you an idea of who I am and what's important to me. Then, from there, I will start sharing what's on my mind.

I have many interests and passions. But I am primarily concerned about the the situation of my beloved country, Zambia. So, I will write a lot about development; politics and economics; poverty; the church and religion; women; children and youth; the arts; media and communication; literature and books; music; movies; culture and tradition. That looks like a lot of issues, but it will really depend on what is on my mind or going on around me -- in Zambia or beyond.

I hope to avoid 'speaking from without' as we say in Zambia. I will not claim to be objective on every issue since I will write about what is on my mind and usually from my point of view. Nevertheless, I respect other people's views and defend your right to hold a different view to mine. However, I am opposed to ranting, rudeness or blatant insults. Good manners in our society are already in in short supply.

Once again, welcome to my world...