My buddy Alan just moved to New Zealand and is there on a year long adventure. We’re not sure what the adventure will be, but I’m sure it’ll be great. For now, I put him in touch with Brett (who’s now in Panama) and Brett put him in touch with his parents (who are still in NZ) and now Alan has a place to crash for a week. Yay travelers network!! Gotta love it! To read about his adventures, you can check out his brand spankin’ new blog: alaninnz.wordpress.com. Enjoy!
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I had dinner with David yesterday because he wanted to hear about Africa. Was great to have someone ask questions. I just talked about my experiences and answered his questions about recommendations for a three week trip. I think he’s now decided to go and I think the cliff diving in Nkata Bay sealed the deal. So great!
Speaking of Nkata Bay… Mike F said he decided to do Nkata Bay on our recommendation and ended up loving it/needing it just as much as we did. Crazy how the cliff diving, banana pancakes, morning/midnight swims, and boat rides keep making you want to stay “just one more day.” And speaking of Nkata Bay, I got this great email recently too:
Found your site via the web, great! Just came back from Africa – travelling there for 1 month…i recognize a lot of your stories. Maybe a strange question, but i saw a picture of Preacher or ‘Chicken pizza’ from Malawi on your site. Have talked to him a lot but lost his address…was wondering if you can give me some info (if you never try you’ll never know…) Anyhow, lots of luck and thanks for sharing your stories and pics!
Seems we weren’t the only ones who had a great time and bonded with all of the super nice locals. Sadly, Karin, I don’t have his contact info. But I’d recommend maybe emailing or sending mail to Mayoka or other of the other backpacker hostels there. The boys seem to hang around pretty regularly so I suspect something could be passed along to them. Good luck!
The good folks at One Laptop Per Child are ready to release the first of the low price laptops for children in developing countries! They’ll have no moving parts, be powered by crank or solar, have longer wifi accessibility, and a better screen for viewing in sunlight. They’re also rugged and waterproof. I think I might have to buy one for myself and give one to a child. Too bad we can’t designate which child! I’d love to have some sent to the St Julie Centre for the staff and families. It’d be soooo great!
‘$100 laptop’ to sell to public
By Jonathan Fildes
Science and technology reporter, BBC News
Computer enthusiasts in the developed world will soon be able to get their hands on the so-called “$100 laptop”. The organisation behind the project has launched the “give one, get one” scheme that will allow US residents to purchase two laptops for $399 (£198). One laptop will be sent to the buyer whilst a child in the developing world will receive the second machine.
The G1G1 scheme, as it is known, will offer the laptops for just two weeks, starting on the 12 November. The offer to the general public comes after the project’s founder admitted that concrete orders from the governments of developing nations had not always followed verbal agreements. Nicholas Negroponte told the New York Times: “I have to some degree underestimated the difference between shaking the hand of a head of state and having a cheque written. “And yes, it has been a disappointment.”
Walter Bender, head of software development at One Laptop per Child (OLPC), told the BBC News website: “From day one there’s been a lot of interest expressed in having some way of people in the developed world participate in the programme.”
The XO laptop has been developed to be used by children and is as low cost, durable and simple to use as possible. It packs several innovations including a sunlight readable display so that it can be used outside. It has no moving parts, can be powered by solar, foot-pump or pull-string powered chargers and is housed in a waterproof case.
The machine’s price has recently increased from $176 (£88) to $188 (£93) although the eventual aim is to sell the machines for $100 (£50). Governments can buy the green and white machines in lots of 250,000.
In July, hardware suppliers were given the green light to ramp-up production of all of the components needed to build the low-cost machines. The decision suggested that the organisation had met or surpassed the three million orders it need to make production viable. The names of the governments that have purchased the first lots of machines have not been released.
But, according to OLPC, there has also been huge interest in the XO laptop from individuals in the developed world. “I don’t know how many times people have added an entry in our wiki saying ‘how do I get one?’ or ‘I’d gladly pay one for a child if I could get one’,” said Mr Bender. The organisation has previously hinted that they were considering selling the laptop on a give one get one basis, but not this early.
In January this year, Michalis Bletsas, chief connectivity officer for the project, told the BBC news website that OLPC was hoping to sell the laptop to the public “next year”. Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of OLPC, has also previously said: “Many commercial schemes have been considered and proposed that may surface in 2008 or beyond, one of which is ‘buy 2 and get 1′.”
According to Mr Bender, OLPC see several advantages to offering laptops to the developed world. “There’s going to be a lot more people able to contribute content, software development and support,” said Mr Bender. But primarily, he said, it was a way of extending the laptop project to countries that cannot afford to participate. “We see it as a way of kick-starting the programme in the least developed countries.”
The first countries to receive the donated laptops will be Cambodia, Afghanistan, Rwanda and Haiti. Other least developed countries (LDC), as defined by the UN, will be able to bid to join the scheme.
The laptops will go on sale for two weeks through the xogiving.org website. They will only be available for two weeks to ensure OLPC can meet demand and so that machines are not diverted away from countries that have already placed orders. Although the exact number of laptops available through the G1G1 scheme has not been revealed, Mr Bender said that the “first 25,000″ people that purchase one should receive it before the end of the year. Others will receive their machines in the first quarter of 2008.
Mr Bender said that if it proves successful, the organisation would consider extending the scheme. “Our motivation is helping kids learn and giving them an opportunity to participate in the laptop programme so whatever will advance that cause we will do,” he said. “This is something we are going to try and if it looks like it is an effective tool we will do more of it.”
I think “Four Leaf Clover” will always remind me of my time in Kenya and of my adventures from the past two years. I’d heard Badly Drawn Boy on various soundtracks, but I have Samantha to thank for getting me this particular song. I kind of love the lyrics themselves and I kind of love the Charlie Brown piano solo towards the end of the song. Enjoy! LISTEN
Badly Drawn Boy, Four Leaf Clover lyrics
Go on, do what you’ve got to do.
You’ve got your dreams, I’ve got mine too.
Be strong. Get off at the next stop.
Don’t worry about a thing. Keep taking it easy.
This time it’s not personal
The universe will help you now
To find the place you can breathe,
and do what you’ve got to do.
Keep taking it easy.
Keep taking it easy.
Come on, I’ll let you borrow my four leaf clover.
Come on, take it with you, you can pass it on.
Come on, you know I’m not the kind to say that it’s over
There’ll be rubbing shoulders once again in the sun
Come on, take your dreams where nobody can find them
Come on, you know I won’t be happy till you’ve won
So Come on, come over, borrow my clover,
is there anything left that you haven’t done?
Go on, do what you’ve got to do.
You’ve got your dreams, I’ve got mine too.
Be strong. Get off at the next stop.
Don’t worry about a thing. Keep taking it easy.
[2 minute musical interlude with random yelps, clapping, and piano stylings curiously reminiscent of old Peanuts/Charlie Brown soundtracks]
I’m still trying to post long overdue photos that never went up from Kenya, so here’s another set. I spent the year in Kenya working at a Centre for Disabled Kids in the village and had some pretty fantastic coworkers. Here are some pictures from an outing we did in November 2006 at the Webuye waterfalls. Just drive past some houses, down a hill, past a water plant, and out to the falls. No park, no entrance, just walk right up and enjoy. I know these pics are old… I’m just trying to make up for lost time. Enjoy!
Wahoo! We love work!
We also love days away from work. Yay staff bonding!
Me and Angela (squinting into the sun). Angela’s just had her baby in the village… think warm thoughts and wish her the best! I totally wish I could’ve been there with her during the pregnancy and early months after the birth!
Me and Mama Grace
Me and a very dressed up and fabulous looking Nancy
Who knew Samuel the night watchman was such a talented frisbee player?!
I’d be hard pressed to say which African country is in the harest place, but Zimbabwe is definitely up there for most unstable economy and most tyrannical leader on the continent.
Mugabe’s hold on Africans
Despite an economy in turmoil, four-figure inflation and the exodus of millions to neighbouring countries, Zimbabwe’s president can rely on the support of his African peers. Peter Biles spoke to one of them in a bid to discover Robert Mugabe’s secret.
The photographers and cameramen had been waiting patiently outside the Mulungushi conference centre in Lusaka. Southern African leaders were arriving thick and fast but the man everyone was waiting to see was Mr Mugabe. He may be a pariah in the capital cities of the European Union but here in the heart of southern Africa he knows he can count on a fair degree of undying loyalty.
When the Mugabe motorcade eventually swept in there was a noticeable tightening of security. A small pick-up truck bore three heavily armed soldiers in the back, and bodyguards surrounded the black limousine as the 83-year-old president emerged. He smiled and stepped forward with his wife, Grace, to meet his Zambian hosts. There was certainly no hint that this was a head of state under intense domestic pressure.
Zambia is a place that all the southern African leaders know pretty well. On this occasion, they had come for a routine summit but, for some, Lusaka is like a home from home. President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa lived here for years when he was an exiled member of the ANC.
Zambia has always offered a hand of friendship to refugees, especially during the days of the liberation struggle in South Africa and what was Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe spent his time in Mozambique during the bush war but a warm welcome is still assured when he meets his fellow leaders. He is the longest-serving head of state in the region – bar one – and he clearly relishes his position as one of the elder statesmen.
You have to appreciate the bonds of loyalty that defined the struggle for independence in post-colonial Africa to understand why it is that Robert Mugabe is still treated with so much respect, even when his country is collapsing around him and he is largely to blame.
African tradition dictates that he should not be criticised in public whatever private thoughts his peers might harbour. In Lusaka, I ran across Kenneth Kaunda – independent Zambia’s first president. We first met 20 years ago when he occupied State House. Having been the nation’s founding father, he had led the country since 1964.
Not unlike Zimbabwe, Zambia’s post-colonial era was characterised by optimism to begin with, but then came economic mismanagement, social unrest, and the emergence of political opposition.
But Kenneth Kaunda did something unusual. He fought an election in 1991, lost and stepped aside gracefully after 27 years in power. That is exactly how long Robert Mugabe has been around.
Mr Kaunda was never the greatest leader but he was – and still is – a well-meaning man with real charisma. As we sat talking the other afternoon, there seemed to be no better person to shed light on Robert Mugabe. Kenneth Kaunda is near enough the same age, just two months younger. They were both born in 1924.
These days, KK – as he has always been known – enjoys his retirement with dignity and seems to command genuine respect. As we chatted a stream of passers-by – most of them young enough to be his grandchildren – lined up to greet him and shake his hand.
I tried to picture Robert Mugabe in a similar situation but, to my mind, he and Kenneth Kaunda were poles apart – the despot clinging to power and the happily retired politician, once renowned for his national ideology of humanism.
So I asked Dr Kaunda if he could help explain Robert Mugabe’s popularity in the region. “I’m glad you noticed it,” he replied. He was referring to the huge round of applause for President Mugabe during the opening session of the leaders’ summit.
“People see him as a hero,” he said. “Not just in Zimbabwe or here in Zambia but across the whole of southern Africa.”
And Kenneth Kaunda speaks for many in the region in blaming not Mugabe for Zimbabwe’s troubles but successive British governments. “It’s no good demonising Robert Mugabe,” he says. “We should all put our heads together, talk to him, and work with him on a solution.”
But that is not to say that even those closest to the Zimbabwean president want him to seek another term in office in his 84th year. Because by all accounts they do not.
My last glimpse of President Mugabe during his brief visit to Lusaka was on a wind-swept parade ground at the city’s military airport. He and the other southern African leaders had come to inaugurate a regional brigade – a key component in a new African standby peacekeeping force. As the presidents stood shoulder to shoulder they released a bunch of green, blue, and white balloons.
It was a symbol of what this region aspires to – an improved spirit of togetherness and closer integration designed to stimulate economic growth and development. But because of Zimbabwe, southern Africa is facing its most serious crisis in years. And love him or loath him, it is Robert Mugabe who holds centre stage.
Story published on 2007/08/25 from BBC NEWS:
The powerful movie Hotel Rwanda was, for many of us, our intro into the tribal struggles within Rwanda. Seems the struggle isn’t over and that it’s now spilling into the ever un-stable DR Congo.
Fears as DR Congo fighting flares
The UN’s emergency relief chief says he fears many more people could be displaced by fighting in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Speaking in the town of Bukavu on a four-day tour of the region, John Holmes described the humanitarian situation as deplorable.
Extra troops are being sent to the region to help the army fight rebels led by a renegade general. More than 200,000 people have fled their homes this year, the UN says.
Mr Holmes said fighting was confined to parts of the single province of North Kivu, but warned the crisis might worsen in a large country like DR Congo – the size of western Europe. “If the fighting gets worse, what we really fear is another big wave of displacement and possibly the kind of atrocities that have gone with that in the past,” Mr Holmes added.
Some four million people are believed to have died during DR Congo’s five-year conflict, which officially ended in 2002.
The BBC’s Arnaud Zajtman in North Kivu says that fierce fighting is continuing in at least two parts of the province. Government troops are surrounded in Katale, where the latest fighting began last week, our correspondent says. The army is using an attack helicopter against the rebels – the first time the government has used these in DR Congo, he says.
The rebels are reported to be near Sake, the last town before the North Kivu capital, Goma. In Sake, some people have attacked vehicles belonging to UN peacekeepers, accusing them of siding with the rebels. The UN has some 17,000 troops in DR Congo – the largest such force in the world.
But in other areas, men loyal to dissident General Laurent Nkunda have pulled out of villages near the Rwandan border, to be replaced by ethnic Hutu Rwandan rebels. Ethnic tension following the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda lies at the heart of the fighting. Gen Nkunda says he is protecting Congolese Tutsis from the forces who carried out the genocide and then crossed the border.
Rwanda has twice invaded DR Congo, saying it wants to stop attacks by Hutu rebels and our correspondent says the news that these militias have moved into villages on its border could antagonise Rwanda.
In the Rwandan capital, Kigali, Foreign Minister Charles Murigande said his government was ready to mediate between the two forces but also issued a warning. “Rwanda will be extremely concerned if the genocidal militants of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) profit from this unrest to use their military force against our government,” he said, according to the AFP news agency. “We will take whatever measures are necessary to dissuade whoever threatens the integrity of Rwanda.”
Elections last year, won by President Joseph Kabila, were supposed to draw a line under years of conflict in DR Congo.
Story from BBC NEWS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/africa/6980903.stm
This kind of lynch mob mentality is still incredibly common in Kenya, perhaps even the norm in many communities. People still have tribal beliefs in addition to their largely Christian and Muslim populations, and people still often take “justice” into their own hands.
SA pupils burn ‘witches’ to death
Two South African women have been burned to death after a group of students accused them of bewitching their high school with evil spirits. Msaba Zungu and Thabitha Thusi, both 60, were seized from their homes near Manguzi in KwaZulu-Natal province.
Students and adults dragged them to a sports field where they were doused with petrol and set alight on Sunday. Manhlenga High School pupils accused the women of being witches after they began to suffer strange crying fits.
Investigators said Ms Zungu died at the scene and Ms Thusi succumbed to her burns injuries on Monday. Police captain Jabulani Mdletshe told the BBC News website: “On 17 August, the students at the mixed high school began to cry randomly and they did not know why.
“The students held a couple of meetings and allegedly decided the problem was these two women were witches who had cast a bad muthi (spell) on the school. “At 8pm on Sunday, some students and community members allegedly took the women from their homes to a football field and set them on fire.”
No arrests have been made but police are following a positive line of inquiry, said Capt Mdletshe.
Story from BBC NEWS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/africa/6980439.stm
Soweto is the black township often credited for riots that sparked activism that lead to the end of apartheid. It’s still a neighborhood of 3+ million people, some still without basics even in the middle of such a developed, first world country right in the middle of Johannesburg. For an Academy Award winning foreign film about Soweto, check out Tsotsi. To read more, more on from the BBC…
Violent protests over SA housing
Police in South Africa have used rubber bullets to disperse crowds of angry township-dwellers outside Soweto.
The protesters have been demonstrating over what they see as the government’s failure to improve living conditions.
One community leader told the BBC residents still have no water, no electricity and no sewage provision.
The BBC’s Peter Greste in South Africa says these are the latest in a series of increasingly violent clashes over a lack of housing and other services.
In Protea South, a sprawling shanty town of tin shacks and lean-tos outside Johannesburg, scores of angry protesters have been confronting police.
They complained that after years of promises from politicians and local councillors nothing has changed.
The demonstrators said they gathered after local government officials refused to meet them to discuss their complaints.
Police confronted the crowd and after a stand-off that lasted several hours councillors came for talks.
But as the discussion grew heated, protesters threw rocks at the armoured vehicle they were talking from.
Police opened fire with rubber bullets, shooting low and flat as the crowd scattered into the township.
At least 11 people have been arrested and several people were injured.
Our correspondent says the protest is the latest in a long series of angry demonstrations at the ANC government’s failure to deal with the demands of the vast, black underclass that supported them through the years of apartheid.
Analysts warned that unless significant improvements are made to the impoverished townships soon, these protests will only become more angry and more frequent.
South Africa has built at least 1.6m new houses and 9m people have gained access to water since the end of apartheid in 1994, but shortages remain severe.
Our correspondent says it is not a political crisis yet but it is heading that way.
Story from BBC NEWS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/africa/6976310.stm