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

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bring It On!

I have just come from my SureSlim support group meeting. I have been on the SureSlim programme on and off for about two years. As a woman, I have tried a 101 diets and weight loss programmes, but this is the only one that has worked for me and that I have genuinely enjoyed. Why? Because it is basically all about healthy eating and making lifestyle changes that can be applied to the whole family, not just for weight loss reasons but for eating better and living longer.

Each member shared their weight loss journey and for confidentiality reasons, I will only share mine in a nutshell. I began the programme and lost about 13kg over six months. I could and should have lost more, but laziness and a half-hearted attitude didn't help. I transitioned to the maintenance programme and kept at my weight, losing a further kilo or two for about another 7 to 8 months. I started gaining when I stopped exercising altogether and began to drink about two coca colas a day and consume a tube of pringles in an afternoon. This went on for several weeks, followed by a period of intensive workshops and you know what that means? Hotel and workshop food is notorious for packing on at least 2kg for a four to five day meeting. We had them at work for about 5 consecutive weeks = disaster.

Finally, late last year, I decided I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle and needed to get with the programme. This was partly inspired by seeing pictures of a slimmed down Jennifer Hudson who lost 25kg in about a year after having a baby. I decided, I didn't really have an excuse and I knew it would be healthier for me in the long run. So, celebrity endorsement really does work. At today's meeting, we each shared our goal for the year and wrote it down. As a procrastinator, I tend to make public announcements in order to lock me into doing something. So, here it is:


I will reach my goal weight by 30th April 2011 and maintain it up to 31st July 2011.


This means that I have three months to lose 10.2kg and another 3 months to stay that way. The idea of 31st July is because in this part of the world, winter weight gets packed on during the cold season, from late May to early August, but especially June and July. So, if I can keep at it through the cold season, I will be ready to to take part in the 2011 Run Leopards Hill Race which is held in September. This year, I want to run the 10km in an hour. Last time, I took 1 hour, 19 mins and some seconds. If, I can do under an hour, I will be very happy indeed.

So, that is my goal for the whole world to see and keep me accountable.

30th April Here I Come!

Bring It On!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

In Swahili

I have decided to take up a language class. Instead of heading down to the local Alliance Francaise culture centre or the British Council to learn French or improve my English, I will be huddled in a small room with a Mzee (elder or old person) learning Kiswahili.

Frequent Kenya Airways travelers will be familiar with the official greeting on all KQ flights, "Karibuni mabibi na mabwana" or, welcome Ladies and Gentlemen. My other Kiswahili phrase is "Funga mkapa unapoketi" - fasten your seatbelt while seated. Lol. They don't actually say that, but you read it all the time on the seat back in front of you.

So, why have I opted for Kiswahili above Portuguese or Spanish? One of these fine days, when Masuka is invited to speak at the African Union, I will be representing Africa and I want to speak an African language. Current Tanzania President, Jakaya Kikwete proposed Kiswahili as an official AU language in 2004. In the same year, Swahili was recognised as an official AU language ...more.

While trying to learn more about the language, I came across 'Swahili baffles African Leaders' in this BBC article. It tells the account of how Mozambican President, Joachim Chissano addressed the AU assembly in Swahili. The ensuing discussion/comments of this BBC article, highlight how many people do not view language as an important thing at all.

I think this is very sad. There are many languages that are widely spoken in Africa. Swahili was the first indigenous African language adopted by the AU. From what I have come to understand, a few others were considered, but discounted because of ethnic sensitivities since they are also widely associated with a people/tribe/ethnic group as well. These are, Hausa, Fulani and Zulu. I don't know how true this background information is, but it definitely makes sense to me. At least in Bantu speaking East, Southern and (parts of) Central Africa, we can all understand at least some Kiswahili, making it an ideal choice over foreign languages imposed on us by our former colonial masters.

In Zambia, we have seven official languages, some more widely spoken than others. Language is very closely linked to identity. As many young people grow up unable (or unwilling) to speak their mother tongue, we need something drastic to ensure we are proficient in our own languages. The challenge for Zambia is that most of our languages are not written, the vocabulary is undeveloped and even the lowly literate find reading the local language mentally exhausting.

This is why I love travelling to East Africa where they have entire newspapers written in Kiswahili talking about science, economics technology etc. This is what we need.

In Africa, we have so many nations, so many people, so many languages and even more problems such as poverty, disease, corruption and conflict that divide us from one another. I think it would be fantastic if Africa could speak one language. Kwame Nkurumah wrote that Africa Must Unite, and I think that all of us speaking Kiswahili is one way we can do that.

Please take time to read more on the history of Swahili on wikipedia; on Swahili language and culture and at the Nairobi Institute of Swahili.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Educating Our Leaders

Another of my favourite TED talks is one delivered by Ghanaian Patrick Awuah at TED Global 2007 (or TED Africa). He entitled it, Educating leaders. This was the subject of our December 2010 Development Discussion Group (DDG). We chose this talk because DDG is all about how and what we can do differently to develop our country.

It was definitely one of the liveliest DDG meetings so far. It was hard to take notes and talk at the same time, but I have tried to summarise the main points and conclusions of our discussion as follows:

My highlight from this talk was one sentence that came from a student of Patrick Awuah's who felt his eyes had been opened. He wrote to Mr Awuah, "I am thinking now". These four powerful words have resonated with me since then.

Zambians are fond of complaining about how much our President, Rupiah Bwezani Banda travels, and yet, how about our own presence in our own homes. How much time do we spend with our families, our children, our households?

Elder idiots
The concept of respect must be redefined. This also leads to a phenomena where even if young people are given a new kind of education or training, such as in Patrick Awuah's Ashesi University, young people take on what the see around them. So, once you enter the workplace, you imbibe the surrounding environment, work culture, attitude, ethics etc. So, changing our education system is one thing, but it is not enough when the rest of the world remains the same.

The Elite 5%
In many of our African countries, there is a 5% of the elite who become our leaders. For you or I to have completed grade 12 and made it to University, we remain the exception to the rule. We are the privileged few, strategically positioned to change the Zambia that we live in.

Entitlement or Responsibility
Patrick Awuah asks why our young people have more of a sense of entitlement than a sense of responsibility. We could not come up with a definitive answer to this question, except to agree that this is a disease that permeates all aspects of our society. Be it i the home, in the church, in the school or in the work place.

Our poor work ethic in Africa
Ever wonder why many contractors prefer to get chinese workers. In Zambia, many workers on construction sites are Zimbabwean. This is not only because they are skilled and expereinced, but their work ethic is also much more professional and their output cost effective.

Problem solving vs Rote memorisation
Our schools in Zambia value rote memorisation over problem solving. When you go for a driving test, the examiner is not interested in whether or not you understand the highway code, he wants you to recite the ten rules of driving

How do you develop solutions to problems you have never encountered before?

  • Reward innovation -- Memorising formulas does not give us growth
  • Demonstrate leadership at the most basic level -- Impact happens at local government level. Most of our leaders want to aim for the Presidency. No one wants to stand for the municipal, district or city council except cadres. And yet, this is where the bulk of the government's work happens.
  • It's the smallest approach that will change things -- The bigger picture is not always the answer. We always want to follow someone in a herd but inter-personal interaction and one to one works, one person at a time. We shouldn't always look to numbers as equal to success.
  • Challenge what you know and think differently -- Our political leaders will not change. The enormity of the task is depressing. You leave university with zeal and get heart broken by reality and business as usual.

We always look to the glamorous, the big pictures. Many of us hesitate to take the first step to do or change something. Just Do It

Thursday, January 13, 2011

If there are rain puddles in heaven...

I have just finished watching US President, Barack Obama's speech delivered on January 12 in Tuscon, Arizona. Wow! You can read the text of that speech here. The title of this post is an excerpt from the speech. Alternatively, you can watch the President's speech here or below.

One of my favourite lines was this one, "These men and women remind us that heroism is found not only on the fields of battle. They remind us that heroism does not require special training or physical strength. Heroism is here, all around us, in the hearts of so many of our fellow citizens, just waiting to be summoned - as it was on Saturday morning".

And the other quote also is "and that we can question each other's ideas without questioning each other's love of country".

The Tuscon, Arizona speech reminded me of one of President Obama's other great speeches, A more Perfect Union. The full text and video of that is available here. It really touched my heart in that it tackled the issue of race one of the hardest things we struggle to confront in our societies. He came right out and said it. It was a huge risk and he was immensely brave to do it. For me, this is when I truly believed that what he was trying (and is still is) to do was sincere, and that is bringing people together to make a better world - a more perfect union indeed.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Look Back on 2010

Ever since I can remember, I have marked my life by major world events. This is primarily because of following news coverage of various stories. Certain images would stay in my mind. Many things happened in 2010, but for me, the Chilean miners was THE story of 2010. But, I will start with some of the other news items (big and small) that stood out for me.

Barack Obama clocked one year in office -- still alive (thankfully), but not doing very well. Now it is two years in office. I am one of those that wept on election night. I never ever believed that America could elect a black man to the presidency in my lifetime. Still, even when he won, I was never comfortable with the hype around the man. We built him up to be larger than life, more than a man. An impossible target to reach. Nevertheless, I do believe he could have done so much better to communicate -- the way we saw him do before he won. I believe that posterity will look at him more objectively and treat him more kindly than we are doing now. Whatever the result of his presidency, he will remain a symbol of hope and what is possible for anyone to achieve.

In January, an earthquake struck Haiti, thousands of lives were lost. In September an earthquake of similar magnitude struck New Zealand and no one died. The difference? Preparedness and planning. The location and structural engineering of buildings in New Zealand ensured that minimal damage was caused to buildings and lives were preserved. When will we learn?

Additionally, I was saddened when local churches fell over themselves to jump on the media bandwagon to send relief donations to Haiti, when across the border in northern Malawi, thousands were equally homeless and destitute following their own earthquake which struck just before Christmas. I am not saying it was not a nice gesture of solidarity, but I think the money would have been better spent nearer to home where church members could even have been encouraged to jump in their cars and go to physically help our comrades next door. It's only about a thousand kilometres from Lusaka after all.

A long walk to freedom
11th February 1990 was the day Nelson Mandela took that first long walk to freedom. It was one of the most moving days of my childhood. We lived in a small town called Bridgend, in South Wales at the time. We all gathered at the Adjepong's. By we, I mean Aunty Hannah invited every black person in the town, even the ones she did not personally know. She just went up to them and asked if they wanted to attend the party. And they came. Why? Because we all knew what that day meant to us as Africans and people of African descent. 11th February 2010 was the 20th anniversary, but I still remember that day in 1990 as though it were yesterday. 

Go get 'em Tiger
Tiger Woods had to apologise in front of the whole world on camera. What a circus! Once again, this was a reminder of how with one or two foolish actions or decisions, we can throw away our legacy, and for what? I hope he gets back to winning golf tournaments soon, so that people can talk about something else. 

Something called an iPad went on sale. Yaba! I attended a kitchen party where the Matron had her programme, annoucements jokes etc on her iPad. I was seriously impressed.

Gay Wedding in Malawi
I dislike NGO/donor propaganda where people try to make something out of nothing for their own agendas. What NGOs will do for money is pathetic, and I never cease to be amazed at the tricks donors will fall for. I never believed the gay wedding in Malawi story for a moment. Gay people do exist, in Zambia and Malawi, but although I may be wrong, in my view the story had 'fake', 'gimmick' and 'stunt' written all over it. I remember several years ago when some people in Zambia decided to start a lesbian, gay, trans-gender etc association. Almost two million dollars of mainly Scandinavian tax payers money disappeared in a few months. For a non-infrastructure project, that is a colossal amount of money. Of course, as many suspected and expected, many of the activists later confessed that they did it for the money.

The World Cup
Africa had been waiting for this for a very long time. In 2006, I wasn't going to make it to Germany, but, with a friend/colleague, I pledged that there was no way South Africa 2010 was going to pass me by. The FIFA World Cup is one of those Bucket List kind of things I gotta do in my lifetime. As things turned out, I decided not to go. Fortunately, a friend who was based in Canada at the time, encouraged me to attend. I knew that I would not forgive myself for allowing this once in a lifetime opportunity to pass me by. Watching it on TV and actually being there was an amazing experience. I loved how it was alright in the end. All the doom-sayers were proved wrong. South Africa pulled off a great World Cup. Crime was not an issue and although Africa didn't make it to the finals, we saw some great young talent (especially from Ghana) that bodes well for the future. 

The BP Oil Spill
I remember when the oil spill first started and everyone thought it would be over soon. I remember commentators saying President Obama is determined this won't become another Katrina. I remember watching while he appeared to be doing nothing till it was a major disaster. I remember thinking 2011 editions of PR text books will lead with the BP Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster as a case study of what NOT to do. 

Mosque Issues
In the land of the free, Americans got very upset because someone wants to build a mosque in New York, somewhere near to ground zero. In the same way that Christians should be free to worship God in China, Russia or wherever, freedom of worship should apply to all faiths. However, I know enough Christians who through their very real words and actions give our faith a bad name, to know that the same happens to other faiths as well. Because of the location, and genuine sensitivities of 911, it is a pity that what to me appeared to be a positive community development project has been overlooked and turned into an anti-Muslim debate and campaign.

My favourite comedian (Jon Stewart) had this to say, "Unless we're going to find out that the aliens from Area 51 killed Kennedy, stop with the drama". So many issues were raised with this whole Wikileaks saga. My own view is that much of the stuff released was unnecessary gossip. I believe there should be secrets in this world. We do not need to know everything about everyone. There is a difference between what the public has a right to know and what the public is interested in knowing. I wish more coverage had been given to those cables which revealed major corporate cover-ups in areas such as the Niger Delta.

Aung San Suu Kyi is released from seven years of house arrest. I wonder if she considers her struggles worth it. She has had to sacrifice so much personally, but the the gains are for future generations. She may never see the fruit of her life's labour. This is such a sad sad story.

A Royal Wedding
Prince William announced his engagement to Kate (now to be called Catherine) Middleton. We take so many things for granted in our lives. I wonder what it is like to be born and know that you have absolutely no choice who or what you want to be in life. Everything is mapped out for you before you are even born. I would not trade places with Prince William for all the riches and glory in the world. He was born to rule a kingdom, I was born to choose my own destiny. 

UK Viva
Students in the UK took to the streets to viva over the tripling of tuition fees. This basically now means they will pay what African students have been paying all along to study in the UK. 

The Chilean Miners
On Wednseday 13th October, 33 miners trapped underground for 69 days were freed. This story captured mine and the world's imagination. I followed it on the BBC website and on tv. I hardly slept once the miners started coming out. I went to work late and I got home early. I watched amazed as instead of taking 72 hours to bring them all out safely, it took less than 24. I wept as each miner came out and embraced his family, knelt and thanked God for his rescue. I loved watching the great publicity for President Sebastien Pinera who did everything right (and his mining minister) who are to be commended for the great job they did. Many other leaders can learn from the Chilean government's actions. I loved this story because it happened in a developing country which had just survived a terrible earthquake earlier in the year. Yes, there was help from many countries and corporate organisations (the very chic Oakley sunglasses the miners wore when emerging to the surface and for the days afterwards), but the fact is that they did it themselves. This story was the stuff my favourite movies are made of. An epic tale of bravery, sacrifice, overcoming all odds in the face of certain death. The triumph of the human spirit. It gave me hope and reminded me that miracles do happen. In this terrible world that we live in with poverty, disease, corruption, greed and all manner of nastiness, we need stories like these every once in a while to give us that warm fuzzy feeling. Not long afterward, we were 
sobered by news of the death of 29 New Zealand miners. But, while I feel for the Kiwi families, this did not take away the memory of my 2010 Beacon of Hope. Chi Chi Chi Le Le Le, Los Mineros De Chile!

I am indebted to the excellent 2010 Year in Review coverage of The Guardian UK for help in remembering the dates and sequence of some of these stories.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Competent Communicator

In the year of our Lord 2010... Lol, just kidding!

Last year, I did about four major things in a five month period (from June to October). One was go to the World Cup. Two was to start this blog. Three was to go on a holiday which I called The Excellent Adventure. Lastly, four was joining Toastmasters in a quest to become a Competent Communicator. 

Most people know Toastmasters to be a public speaking club. This is true, although there is a lot more to it. Toastmasters is an international association that has been around since the 1930s. It began in America. There are thousands of clubs all over the world.

In Lusaka, we meet every 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month from 18:15 to 20hrs. You learn public speaking, communication and leadership skills. The current most famous ex-Toastmaster is Barack Obama.

Membership is about ZMK400,000 annually. You receive a members kit, which includes a communication and leadership manual, plus a monthly magazine. The first manual has ten speaking projects that you must complete in order to be certified a Competent Communicator.

Guests are welcome to attend three Toastmasters meetings for free. Thereafter, you must pay your membership fee in order to keep on attending meetings.

During the meeting, people give prepared speeches and we also have an impromptu speaking session where everyone can participate, guests included.

Since August, I have learned so much about speaking and communicating. As somebody who is supposed to communicate for a living, Toastmasters has helped me to become more aware of myself and how I communicate. So far, I have completed two of my ten projects. I look forward to becoming a certified Competent Communicator.

Decision 2011: Same old story?

On 31st October 2010, US comedian, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show held an event that he called the Rally to Restore Sanity. As an avid Jon Stewart fan, I followed the run-up to the rally online and in my own way, attended it in spirit.

The main point of the rally was about restoring some sanity to the political landscape in America. "Take it down a notch" was one of the catch-phrases. This was premised on the whole aspect of angry rhetoric being espoused by the left and the right. "I don't agree with you, but I'm pretty sure you aren't Hitler" was my favourite slogan. Many of the signs and banners that were displayed at the rally poked fun at the depths to which politics have sunk.

Why did the Rally to Restore Sanity capture my imagination so much? In 2008, we witnessed the US elections and in 2010, the UK elections. It always saddens me to watch the candidate debates knowing that we are a very very long way from such issue-based campaigning in this country. The United Kingdom still very much operates under the British reserve and stiff upper lip, so the negative campaign adverts of America would not work as well there. However, in America, there is at least room for candidates to debate their manifestos with each other for the viewing public. The different parties actually have manifestos and we all know what they stand for.

This is not the case in Zambia. How many members of political parties can give you a succinct summary of what their party stands for and tell you how it differs from other parties? Even the new younger politicians who claimed to represent a new way of doing things, also join the old guard in the politics of insults.

As we approach the 2011 elections, oh what a pleasant surprise it would be to witness an issue-based campaign that does not require cases of chibuku and bales of sugar. How delightful to see candidates taking time to engage with the electorate to help them understand their plans and policies? Wouldn't it be lovely indeed?

Forgotten Renaissance - TEDxLusaka

About six months ago, I was sitting in a friend's living room discussing various development related issues when the conversation turned to ideas and thinkers etc. Eventually, we moved on to talk about TED, an organisation I thought I had never heard of. But, by the end of the evening, we had watched several of his favourite TED talks and discussed some of the ideas put forth. It was at this point that I realised the video of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie giving a talk on The Danger of a Single Story was actually a TED talk. I made a point to learn more about TED and went on their website to read up about it and download some more of the talks.

It was inevitable that the idea of organising our own TED conference in Lusaka would soon rear its head. Fast forward to January 2011 and we are about 8 weeks away from TEDxLusaka to be held on Friday, 4th March 2011 at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre under the theme, Forgotten Renaissance.

About TED
TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a four-day conference in California 25 years ago, TED has grown to support those world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives. The annual TED Conference invites the world's leading thinkers and doers to speak for 18 minutes. Their talks are then made available, free, at TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Nandan Nilekani, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Isabel Allende and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

In 2009, TED created TEDx, a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connections. Our TEDxLusaka event is not organized by TED Conferences, but is operated under a license from TED.

About TEDxLusaka
TEDxLusaka is being held under the theme ‘Forgotten Renaissaince’. The objective of TEDx Lusaka is to:
1.    Inspire people to change and to know what to change in their lives, communities and spheres of influence
2.    We want our TEDx Lusaka event to be: Entertaining, innovating, interesting and propose solutions
3.    TEDx Lusaka will bring about paradigm shifts. Participants should discover something new about themselves and their environment.
4.    TEDx Lusaka moves beyond emotions or motivational talk, but will change how individuals perceive their future in Zambia and their role as professionals who have the power to change our future.
5.    TEDx Lusaka will ultimately bring people together to promote ideas worth sharing

Target Audience
We especially want a select group of young professionals that are committed to being change agents.

Our speakers come from the fields of leadership, social development and science:
·         Martin Kalungu-Banda
·         Sara Longwe
·         Kazhila Chinsembu

More detailed information on can be found on the TEDxLusaka website.

The Danger of a Single Story

About two years ago, I received an email with a link to this talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's delivered at TED Global 2009. She entitled her talk, The Danger Of A Single Story. At the time, we were scheduled to read her book, Purple Hibiscus in the book club. I was very excited to watch this and to read the book. I had first heard about Ms Adichie on a trip to Nigeria for work in December 2008. During a break in the workshop, book sellers set up a table outside the venue to sell all sorts of books. I mentioned to a Nigerian friend that I loved to read and really wanted exposure to good (emphasis on good) contemporary African writers. He pointed me to Purple Hibiscus.

Why do I love this talk so much? It was like she was speaking my mind. The opening words where she talks about the kind of stories she wrote as a child based on the kind of books she read was spot on. I remember being obsessed with Enid Blyton books where the children drank ginger beer and spoke to fairies and goblins and pixies. I disturbed my English teacher when that is what I wrote about.

Doing my high school education in the UK also meant that even though I read some amazing books that stick with me to this day (To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies), I never had the privilege of being exposed to African writers or literature. This is why when we read Things Fall Apart in the book club, it was a revolutionary experience for me. I felt my existence as an African validated. For the first time, I recognised and identified with a book in a new way. This lead me to want to know and read more about my own cultural history and heritage.

Ms Adichie's TED talk goes on to talk about why a single story about something or someone is very dangerous. As Africans, we are familiar with being labelled and judged based on a single story. The beauty of this though is that she shares how she so easily ended up doing the same thing. Of all the hundreds of TED talks on the website, this was my first and it remains my favourite.

The Lusaka Book Club

I am starting off the year by writing about two things I am very passionate about, reading and talking. That's the book club and the discussion group. Both are very close to my heart, but the book club is my first born child and very dear to me.

I have always loved to read. Fortunately for me, I had the privilege of going to Sakeji School from grades one to five, which ensured that I not only had access to an abundance of quality children's literature, but I was also encouraged to read age appropriate books and submit a book report at the end of the week. My parents also love the written word and I am forever grateful that they invested in reading material for their children from the time I was born. This means that books are highly respected in our family. You will not find torn or defaced titles lying idly on the floor or propping up a table leg in my parents home, in my home or my sister's home. My brothers are yet to live independently, but I am certain it will be the same in their homes too.

I started the book club in 2005 by placing an advert in The Lowdown. It began life as the Jane Austen book club, since I am a great fan of hers. Coincidentally, around about the same time a book entitled, The Jane Austen Book Club was also released. Many people thought that this was where the idea came from, but they don't know that book clubs have been around for decades, if not longer.

Since Jane Austen only wrote six books, we soon moved on to other titles mainly classics. However, over the years we found our feet and began to read more contemporary titles. Over the last two years, I have been privileged to read books by authors I would not otherwise have come across.

The book club is made up of primarily women. We got our first guy in 2009, he left after a few months for further studies abroad, then in mid 2010, we received three new members (one guy and our first married to each other couple). It has been great to have a male perspective in many of our discussions.

Most of the members are Zambian, but we have a considerable number of expatriates too. This has been great learning and exposure, especially as the books we read are set in many different countries and cultures and written by men and women of differing ages and backgrounds in widely different generations or centuries.

Over the years, the best discussions have been on the following books:

  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Fiela's Child by Dalene Mathee
  • The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

It is not surprising that most of these are books by African authors set in Africa. One is by an Indian author set in India; another by an Australian author (of German/Austrian descent) set in Nazi Germany; while the last book is a classic of 19th century English literature.

We have 12 titles chosen for 2011. On account of alphabetical order, my choice will be the last title we read in 2011. It is a book entitled, We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. I chose it because I think it will be a great discussion and the subject matter is possibly every woman's nightmare. We Need to Talk About Kevin is about a fictional school massacre and is written from the perspective of the killer's mother, Eva Khatchadourian, and documents her attempt to come to terms with her son Kevin and the murders he committed.

You can join the Lusaka Book Club group on Facebook.

Membership is open to anyone who loves to read great books. The Lusaka Book Club only reads literary fiction. This means we do not read books by authors such as Dan Brown, John Grisham, Jackie Collins, Robert Ludlum, Sydney Sheldon, Danielle Steele, Nora Roberts etc. This also means that we do not read motivational or business books, neither do we read poetry, plays or biographies, unless by consensus of members. For more information, check the group's Facebook page or email: lusakabookclub[at]gmail[dot]com.

The books and authors that we read in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 are as follows:

In 2009 we read:
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga 
Children of the Revolution by Dinaw Mengestu 
The Book Thief by Markus Zukas 
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe 
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 
Body Surfing by Anita Shreve
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

In 2010 we read:
The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
The Bone People by Keri Hulme
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon 
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Fiela's Child by Dalene Matthee

In 2011 we read:
The Concubine by Elechi Amadi
Crossing by Andrew Xia Fukuda
The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
Mine Boy by Peter Abrahams
The River Between by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul
The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Spud by John van de Ruit
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

In 2012 we read:
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
Mornings In Jenin by Susan Abulhawa
Patchwork by Ellen Banda-Aaku
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen
Wild Meat And The Bully Burgers by Lois Ann Yamanaka
Bombay's Republic by Rotimi Babatunde (a short story)

In 2013 we read:
Cry The Beloved Country by Alan Paton
A Heart So White by Javier Marias
In Lucia’s Eyes by Arthur Japin
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
The Glass Palace by Amitav Gosh
The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Scent of Rain and Lightening by Nancy Pickard
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin
Blindness by Jose Saramago

In 2014 we read:
Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
Aesop’s Fables translated by George Fyler Townsend
Gem Squash Tokoloshe by Rachel Zadok
The Last Resort by Douglas Rogers
Bring Up the Bodies by Hillary Mantel
Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera
Yellow Birds by Kevin Power

The Books selected for 2015 are:
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
The Devil That Danced on the Water: A daughter’s quest by Aminatta Forna
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin D. Yalom
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller 
Get a Life by Nadine Gordimer
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs
The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee
Wonder by RJ Palacio


Development Discussion Group

For several years now, I have been coordinating a book club that is focused on literary fiction (more details on the book club are discussed in another post). In 2009, Dambisa Moyo's book, Dead Aid was all the rage and being discussed everywhere -- be it on CNN, BBC, in universities, offices and street corners. The blogosphere was not spared either. A number of my friends and some book club members approached me about discussing her book. A special meeting was scheduled to do just that. What ensued was a lively and stimulating discussion.

I don't want to spend too long on that meeting, but generally we agreed that the aid dependency needs to end. It's true that African governments are not accountable to citizens but to donors. We need to do something. Almost everyone disagreed that China is our friend. The benevolent dictator that she puts forward is an interesting and tempting concept. The question is, how do you know when to stop? we have many examples of leaders who started off well but have ended up as dictators who are reluctant to let go of the sweetness of power. Yoweri Museveni anyone? Is not Paul Kagame dangerously close to leaning toward this path also?

After such a great debate, we asked ourselves what next? There were so many development issues we wanted to discuss and yet we did not have a forum. This is how the Development Discussion Group was born. Our ethos is as follows:

The group is open to anyone who is interested in the development of Zambia, of Africa and of the individual people who make up this nation and continent.
The group aims to discuss individual, social and economic development to foster growth, learning, inspiration and change. Firstly, at an individual level and secondly in our various spheres of influence, be it work, home or play.

The group is an informal gathering of people who care about the direction our people and our nation is going in and who want to do something  about it. We aim to go beyond ranting, raving and complaining to instead put forward solutions to our problems, share opportunities to make a difference and turn up the volume on our successes as individuals and as a nation.
The group follows the book club model, where there is a predetermined topic that people must read-up on or research before the meeting. This is intended to promote informed discussion and avoid emotional outbursts, 
people coming to give their opinion, pontificate or argue with others.  

You can sign up to the yahoo group by emailing  You can also join the group on Facebook using this link 

A New Year, A New Start

I'm back!

It feels like ages, and in fact, it has been. So much time has passed and so many great issues I have been wanting to write about have also been overtaken by time and events. Some of the blog entries have been in draft for months now. I am still sorting through them and hope to get some of them finished and others will just die a natural death.

Nevertheless, my aim is to be much more consistent with writing this year. I will try to put aside perfection and just do it.

Happy New Year