Posts by: Ulrike

Other about the Zambian experience

Dear all,

I admit, I am quite lousy at blogging and infosharing about my experience in Zambia. Lucky for me, there are others who are just as good as I am.

Ola’s blog is unfortunately in Swedish, but well written and a lot of fun. We have done most of the adventures jointly, so some of the things he describes include me.

Jussi’s blog share the view (in English) of a Finnish man in Africa for the first time.

Cheers,
Ulrike

Long time, no see.

Dear friends and family,

Well yes, long time no life sign from me. I have been very busy carrying out the assignment that was given to me by the Embassy. I have organised, planned and implemented the Swedish Week in Zambia. It was carried out with honour and success – but I will admit that it was somewhat painful in certain moments. I was fortunate enough to have great support in my colleagues and to have really good negotiation skills. I have managed to get discounts, better seats, expert speakers etc and the Swedish Week was really a success.

Just to mention a few things that happened during the Swedish Week, to give you an idea of what I managed:

  • Seminars and workshops on various topics about what Sweden does in Zambia = maternal health, agriculture and especially the toughest job in the world, energy and CSR
  • Swedish food served at a hotel in town = kroppkakor and stekt strömming (not eaten by me)
  • Swedish literature on sale = Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell (who is very popular since he has lived here)
  • Swedish film = Let the Right One in (Swedish romantic vampire movie) and Everlasting Moments (Sweden in the early 1900s and the story about a woman and her camera)
  • Traditional Lucia-celebration = even had a surprise visit by the president who told anecdotes about the time when he was studying at the University of Lund (1960-64)
  • And of course, I had made sure that the following was happening:

  • Swedish weather all week long = rainy and windy
  • It might sound dull but the guests and invitees actually had a lot of fun at all the various functions.

    The Swedish Week ended over a week ago and I am now wrapping everything up. Book keeping, distributing roll ups, thanking all partners and contributors and writing reports.

    Soon it will be Christmas, even though the snow chaos in Europe is far away from me, some christmasy feelings have reached all the way to Lusaka. The local shopping mall has even a big green plastic tree with lights.

    I hope that you all, wherever you currently are, will have a wonderful festive season. I promise to be back with more updates on my life soon, but until then I hope that you all are having some quiet time in midst all the shopping and snow.

    Cheers,
    Ulrike

    Enjoy our juice – no choking effect

    If I remember correct, the exact phrasing of the ad for a juice manufacturer in Zambia was: “Enjoy our juice and drinks – no after taste and no choking effect”. This was one of the bright moments I had on work this week – that particular task was flipping through magazine, trying to find suitable companies to invite to a seminar with Save the Children.

    With that introduction, let me explain what I do here at the Embassy. I am basically the project leader for an event called “Swedish Week”. Sweden and Zambia celebrate 45 years of diplomatic relations and development cooperation this year. The Embassy of Sweden in Lusaka will shed light on this by a variety of activities encompassing all aspects of Swedish-Zambian relations, such as trade and business ties, development cooperation, cultural exchange and more. (And yes, this text is copy paste from some of the various letter I have written in the past weeks. I promise, no more of that.)

    I am basically coordinating everything. Inviting people, setting the program, getting partner that contribute both financially and in kind, making sure nothing so forgotten, reminding people of this and that – that is only a small amount of all I do. On top of that I will hang up an exhibition, create posters on Swedish literature and film, translate a Swedish high class culinary menu and be sure that the movie sent for is really coming.

    Doing all this is a lot of fun. Organising, coordinating, talking on the phone – these are skills that I am already good at. Now I am fine tuning them, learning how to write perfect letters and be convincing yet not annoying to people. On top of this, all my work is very practical. I will see it bring fruit in December and I will be able to enjoy all the various events that I have helped organise.

    And on top of it, I can enjoy free evenings (although I do work a little late sometimes) and stress free weekends, involving a lot of swimming in pools, good food and nice company.

    Otherwise, not much has happened. The rainy season is just about to start and we have had some heavy but short rains in the night. Its still 32 degrees Celsius outside, so no greater change there, but it seems to cool off a bit a least. What is happening though, is that what we in the northern hemisphere call spring is arriving. The Flamboyant is really beautiful with its red blossoms and even the baobab here at the Embassy is getting green. The rainy season is in the tourist brochures called the emerald season and I do start to understand why.

    I am looking forward to experience a different Zambia, a bit greener and way muddier. Until then, I will keep my skills on top at the Embassy!

    Cheers,
    Ulrike

    Everyday life is kicking in

    Dear all!

    Working at the Embassy of Sweden keeps you busy at all times. I have not yet been able to write any long letters to you – I am currently doing overtime every single day. Good thing than, that Fridays I only work half days. So once I actually do get off, I jump into the pool (necessary, we currently have 32 degrees Celsius) and than have some time for e-mailing.

    And since we have Friday today and I managed to get off early enough, here is a short update on my life in Zambia.

    I still like it here a lot. There are so many things to see and do and I enjoy every single day. I do get home very exhausted from work, but I also manage to work out (2-3 times per week, either pilates or zumba), eat good food (Ethiopian is waiting for tonight) and hang out with colleagues and the other trainees. Basically, I feel that I am living a “normal” adult life. Without getting paid though and with some restlessness from time to time that there is so much more I would like to do.

    Compared to my regular life back in Sweden I do not spend less time in meeting, just in different meetings. I am home by 7pm every day (except weekends maybe) and I get regularly and healthy food (healthy mainly comes from all the yummy, cheap fruits that are available). What I miss is of course all my voluntary engagement. There is not much of that happening here, except that I do try to change the world by working at an Embassy.

    As for the fun part, last week we went to the Kariba Dam, Siavonga, in southern Zambia. Right on the border to Zimbabwe. The dam itself, completed in 1960, was highly impressive. Lake Kariba however contained hippos, crocs and bilharzia and was a big no-no for all kinds of swimming. A sunset cruise was the perfect solution then. Otherwise, we hung out in the pool. You can probably not imagine that a pool can be of so much joy. I will probably have become a professional pool-tester by the time I will leave here, as everything evolves around pools (yes, it is very hot here).

    Leaving Lusaka, even though it was just for a night, was the perfect getaway. Travelling through the some mountains, seeing people along side the road, by cheap basketry and fruits – that is just what you need when all you do in the weekdays is to sit in an office, stare at your computer screen and inhale the dusty air (it is not less dusty elsewhere, but it still feels more fresh).

    Hm, I do feel that this letter is not as inspiring as it should have been. But be all assured that I am very good and that I really have a good time.

    Cheers,
    Ulrike

    Happy Reunification Day

    Dear all,

    As many of you know, Germany celebrated 20 years of reunification on Sunday, October 3. This step, when Germany once again was one country, means a lot to me. I was sad that I did not have the possibility to celebrate it – I was stuck at an Embassy brunch with waffles and a great pool. The day was great anyway, as you may understand. It also turned out that the family we where visiting actually had guinea fowl in their yard. I found that very impressive, coming from the countryside and being used to chicken.

    Back to the reunification – as chance wanted it to, the German Embassy here in Lusaka had a formal function. And I was invited along by a colleague. I was stunned. It is a bit overwhelmed to see all bright black, red and yellow flags everywhere and to hear German voices.

    After the obligatory speeches by the German Ambassador and the Minister of Tourism and Environment, the Zambian and German anthems where played and then the big mingling started. An Embassy function is not complicated – you just talk to anyone. I immediately went for the buffet, not because I was hungry but because it was actually German. The German restaurant here in Lusaka has catered for the Embassy.

    There was Schweinebraten, Geschnitzeltes, Leberkäse and Currywurst a long with Spätzle, Kartoffelsalat and blue cabbage (no clue if that is the most correct name for it in English, as I do think that is should be called red cabbage/Rotkohl/rödkål). Being a vegetarian, I only ate all the potato dishes and the cabbage. And went for the pastry buffet – Apfelstrudel, Schweineohren, Schokokuchen and so much more. Needless to say, I was filled with yummy food when I left.

    Also, I made some new contacts. At functions like this, people from all embassies gather and meet. But there are also business people present and, in this case, all people that have some German interests. All in all, it was a very successful reunification dinner. And having access to all this rare food in Zambian was even more successful.

    Cheers,
    Ulrike

    Laughing hippos in Zambia

    Dear friends!

    I am sorry for not writing to you earlier – but I have been working from minute 1 that I have been in Lusaka. I left Sweden on Sunday September 12, landed on Monday September 13 at 6am and went directly to work and started working at 8am. And that has been my schedule since. Work is really really busy. There is hardly one day that I am not working late – even though my working hours are clearly stipulated in my contract. But I am used to this back in Sweden and as long as work is fun, I do actually not mind.

    So, what am I then doing? I work as a trainee to the trade, promotion and information officer here at the Swedish Embassy in Lusaka, Zambia. My main aim is to promote Sweden and Swedish issues in Zambia. This includes, on a more hands-on basis, promotion of a Swedish Week in December, the logistics of a mining delegation and a promotion delegation as well as attending various meetings and lunches. I am basically always on the phone or writing mails – chasing the right people is one pf my main tasks. I will let you know more about my work when there is actually some progress to report (I do not think that any of you are interested in knowing how many phone calls I made in order to get hold of the centre management of a store – only to find out that the person I am looking for is on leave for a month, which leaves me with the only option to start over and chasing the deputy manager…).

    Otherwise, life in Zambia is good. No, actually, it is great. I found a place to stay for the next three month, I have made new friends at the Embassy, I always have an after work activity and I have already been on my first safari. This is how I want life to be – busy and fun. :)

    The people at work are great and we spend time together after work as well. May it be just walking home (takes 55 minutes), shopping groceries, going to the gym, going to a restaurant, going to see a movie or something else – I am never really alone but always in good company. There are two other trainees here, and we naturally spend almost all our free time together.

    And that was also how we ended up on the safari. Just a quick get away over the weekend – fabulous. We went close to the national park of Lower Zambezi. Both the sunset cruise and the walking safari gave us some stunning views. Lots of elephants crossing the Zambezi river (into Zimbabwe!), hippos laughing at us, monkeys in the trees, birds of all kind – it was worth every single second.

    So, to conclude my first letter from Zambia – it is great. I am sure that my letter will be more diversified later on, telling about some of the less great sides, but for now you can all be assured that I am fine and that I am having a great time.

    Cheers,
    Ulrike

    X-Files – yes, I do believe

    Yesterday, I finally managed to o something hat was planned for a long time: I saw the second X-Files movie. While the plan was to re-watch the entire series before seeing that movie, we decided not to. Reasons for that are:

  • We did not remember which episode that was the last one we saw.
  • It would actually take us 3,87 years to see all episodes, if we would watch one each week. With that speed, we would easily forget everything that happend during the first seasons.
  • We would loose interest in those seasons where first Mulder and then Scully only play minor characters.
  • So, with some ice cream in front of us, we were all set.

    And yes, we enjoyed the movie. Of course, the whole relationshipper-thing, which did surprise us a bit as we had not seen the entire series, could have been skipped. And the story could have been a bit better. But there was still some old X-Files feeling over it and I highly enjoyed both Duchovny and Anderson on the screen.

    In contrast to my brother’s opinion, I would actually see the film again – but I would be sure to be more prepared on the background this time.

    Zambia it is!

    Dear friends, family and well-wishers!

    Good news: my life has taken a great step forward. I have been offered an unpaid internship position at the Swedish Embassy in Zambia. This truly is an unique offer and I am happy that I will have the chance to experience not only the African continent again, but also learn more about the official governmental work in Zambia and build relations within the embassy.

    This all came very sudden. And today everything became official: As of September 13 I will be in Lusaka, Zambia.

    So, my life has now totally changed. I had to cancel all my plans for the fall (and you all know that I of course already was fully booked out) and quickly make new plans. I received the news while on vacation in Geneva – so there was some difficulty in reaching my superior. But now I am back in Sweden and making list after list of things to do, buy and fix before I leave. Like tickets to Zambia, for instance.

    Yes, so with this quick update I will leave you. With all the things I have to do, I better get started right away!

    Cheers,
    Ulrike

    Sun cannon in Åtvidaberg

    Some weeks ago, I was in Åtvidaberg. This is a small small place, which used to be of importance during their mining phases and while they had a huge industry making calculators. Now, however, their is not much left.

    But is it a real perfect place for a Sunday excursion. We took a small boat trip around the lake and ended up at the so called sun cannon. Such a remarkable thing – a cannon where the sun lights it. We were fortunate enough to have enough sunshine and witnessed this event.

    I can only recommend this for all travelers passing through Åtvidaberg. If it is close to 1pm go to the tower (can be reached on foot as well, not only by boat) and watch the sun light the sun cannon.

    Cheers,
    Ulrike

    The World Cup – a matter of nationalities?

    Even though we are not really into football, we are Germans and therefore always enjoying a good game. Watching the games with all the family present is special and we often discuss interesting subjects, which in a way are related to football.

    Such as the matter of nationalities. The entire team, 23 footballers, are of the same nationality. But the coach, however, does not have to have the same nationality. Is that not weird? Sure, Germany and other teams do have coaches with the same nationality, but the Ivory Coast and Nigeria both had Swedish coaches, for example. Switzerland and Greece had each a German.

    I am no expert on these rules, and all you input is welcome. Because if it is a a matter of nationalities, the coach should be included in these rules. Or?

    Schland, oh Schland! :)
    Ulrike