This is a quote from "Hillel the Elder" from the first century. (I thought I was so original!)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Dubai and HOME!

We flew for eight hours to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.  As you can see there is a lot of sand.

The suburbs are typical desert architecture but the city architecture is spectacular.

The airport was impressive, big, efficient and I got to use a drinking fountain, my first in two years! 

I was so excited to see freeways and signs for directions.

This building is what I was interested in seeing.  It is called Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building.

With dust in the air it is still impressive.

It is 2717 feet tall with 163 stories.  It was completed in 2010.  Of the 100 tallest buildings in the world, Dubai has 21 of them.  

We took a tour of the city.  It seemed like a spread out and bigger Las Vegas.  The malls and shops were amazing.  You can ice skate, snowboard, and view a huge aquarium while shopping for the riches of the world.

The beach on this side of the Arabian Gulf is beautiful.  (Iran is across the water and they call it the Persian Gulf). 

The water was crystal clear and cool compared to the 100 degree temperature outside.
If I was to go there again I would head straight to the beach with a lot of sun screen and forget the shopping.

U.A.E. has two exports, dates from date palms and oil.  Everything else is imported.

The next morning we headed out with the other 510 passengers on an Airbus 380.
There are cameras on the nose, the tail and looking down if you are interested.  There were also 500 movies to choose from, plus TV, games and communication options.

We headed straight north from Dubai (heading 360), crossed the North Pole and continued straight south to San Francisco (heading 180).  It was pretty impressive to an old navigator who had to learn to fly an artificial grid system before satellites and GPS.

HAPPY DAY!  After 24 hours in the air for two flights we were met by our daughter Rebecca and family.  Tyler had arrived home from his two year mission in Brazil and was there to meet us too.

Ah -- San Francisco and California.  Everything looks so neat and clean.

We headed over the new Bay Bridge we hadn't seen before.

Mt. Diablo means home to me.  I took this photo just before we got off the freeway in Walnut Creek where I grew up.  I hiked that mountain many times as a scout and teenager.
Tucked off to the left side and another eight miles is Clayton where we have had a home for 35 years.

When we arrived there were more signs and balloons and it was a little embarrassing.
But the best part besides being with Rebecca and Brent and family was a surprise of ten people waiting for us in the back yard.  Many of our friends took the time to wait at our home to greet us back in Clayton.

I didn't get any photos of them but the house and yard were in great shape thanks to my sister-in-law, Marjolyn and her husband Leon, who had stayed in our home while we were gone.

The cat, Abby, even remembered us.

Josh and Sam and their families will arrive for the weekend and then Ben and his family will come from Texas in July and then Rachel and her family from Texas will follow.

I am surprised how quickly it feels like I have never been gone, and wonder if all the wonderful people we left behind were just some sort of dream.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Zambia - You Could Be GREAT!

After living in Lusaka, Zambia for almost two years I have been pondering about some of the frustrations and how things should be better than they currently are.

I am talking mostly about the economy in Zambia.

Zambians need jobs and an income so they can care for their families.

I know I will simplify things, but I see many Zambians getting an education but not getting jobs.
I see many Zambians working hard and hustling to make ends meet by "trading" on the streets.
I see many Zambians working for non-native Zambians.  These employers expect very long hours (10 -12 hour days, six days a week) and pay very low wages when they do pay, and often delay paying their employees.  The employees are at their mercy, as any job is hard to get and there is hope that the pay will come.

There are successful Zambians.  Their success seems to come from very large farming operations, or expanding rental units for cash flow.  But the number one way to succeed in Zambia is to work for the Zambian government.  Those jobs are clearly available to family of those in power and as a political favour.

That is difficult for others to watch but that is the reality of government jobs in Zambia.  You might study and qualify at the top of a group but the job will go to an insider.  I understand all of that.  When you are not in the "in" crowd, you just try harder or try to find a way to be an insider.

Now here is my biggest gripe.
Those in government are not governing responsibly to help ALL of Zambia grow their economy.

Zambia government does not generate enough cash through taxes.  Not enough exports, not enough personal income to tax, not enough tourism.  How can the government improve the lives of all its citizens and not just government workers?

1.  Zambia's government employees must quit taking such a big percentage of the money passing through their hands for themselves.

2.  Education is not really free in Zambia.  Yes, free if you are in a government school of classes of 100 students and the teaching is geared to the highest level the teacher achieved, and geared to the ability of the slowest student.  All others must pay for better teachers, better facilities, and a better facility with smaller classroom size.

3.  Money must be spent to improve the infrastructure.

4.  Clean water must be available to all people at all times.

5.  Electricity must be available to all people at all times.

6.  Addresses must be assigned to every business and residence.

7.  The post office must be made efficient.  Mail is tracked to Zambia quickly but then it takes months for it to be delivered.  Businesses and especially small businesses cannot run without mail delivery.

8.  Internet must be counted on to always be available for a small business to compete.

9.  Road work must be prioritised outward from the city centre and not be the result of a member of parliament living on a certain street.  Lusaka must have at least two graders constantly working to make streets drivable until costly paving reaches those areas.

10. Tourism must be ramped up.  Zambia has beautiful natural resources.  There is much more to see in Zambia than just Victoria Falls.  It is spread out and difficult to get to, but there are people in this world who want to experience the beauty, the exotic, and the wild.  Zambia is such a secure and peaceful place for tourism and the world doesn't know this.  Zambia can emphasize its remoteness and uniqueness.  It will never compete with the same ease of a visit to Kruger Park in South Africa ,but Zambia will have its champions and tourism can contribute more to the economy.

One emphasis is that Zambia has hundreds and hundreds of birds.  Tell the birders of the world and make it easy for them to spend their money to see birds along with the developing national parks.  Fix up the access to the many bird refuges.  Continue to restock the many wonderful parks in Zambia.

So that is what needs to happen and I am certain many others can see it also.

Zambia is short on exploitable natural resources.  Copper is essential but much of the benefits to Zambia don't stay here.  That will not change much.

The bottom line is the Zambia government needs more money.
Zambia gets money from copper - that will not increase.
Zambia gets money from taxes - that will only grow as the economy grows.
Zambia gets money from tourism - that can grow but it will be slow without effort.
Zambia gets money from donations - that is a problem.  Yes, Zambia needs the gifts to improve water delivery and roads and fight HIV and dams for electricity.  However, once a gift is given there isn't much left for maintenance of those secured prizes.

The government leaders of Zambia must find the leaks of cash, the skimming of contracts, and investigate the new prosperity of new Zambian government workers.  I believe there is more money currently available for all Zambians but it is NOT reaching the areas of greatest need to the majority of Zambians.

It will not be easy, but once they understand the concept of "public servant" and not, "now I can get mine", there can be more cash to change the direction toward a joint prosperity.

It will take true leadership and love for all the Zambian people.
It will take sacrifice by its leaders to slowly turn the direction of the economy towards more prosperity.

Zambia, do not look for handouts, quick fixes, large donations that can provide some benefit to you personally.  Take the higher road and cut as many strings as you can and move this great county to a thriving economy that benefits every Zambian.  When that happens you will have matured from that child nation that still needs nurturing, to the adolescent that you now seem to be (wanting and taking whatever the world will give you),  to adulthood that supports itself and cares about the quality of life of all her citizens.  An adult nation determines its own course.  It is self sufficient.  It is respected by other nations that also are adults and also those who seriously want to shed their adolescent, greedy behaviour.

Zambia, I have grown to love you.  I love your beauty and wildness and people.  I love you with all your flaws but mostly because of your sweet spirit of peace and beauty, and your great reverence for the Creator of us all.

Change has to start at the top in government.
Whoever holds that position must truly lead, and that will require personal sacrifice by true leaders..

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Leaving Zambia - Heading to California

 Slowly we cannibalised our flat.  We gave away most of our "stuff", the mission took back what belongs to it and the landlady bought what the mission didn't want.
It sounds simple but it was a lot of work.

It just doesn't feel much like home anymore.

I won't be taking goats but the paperwork is ready.  The goats passed and now Pres. Erickson needs to find someone willing to drive 14 goats to Malawi in our "goat mobile".

Sunday at church was tough.  It was difficult saying goodbye to so many friends.
This is Ben Chikopa, his mother Catherine and his sister Celine.

This is Bishop Chikumbe Banda.  Remember we thought he looked like Johnny Mathis when we arrived two years ago?

This is Brian and his namesake Brian Jr.

This is Eve-lyn Mainza, our librarian.

This is Bernard.

This is Sister Catherine Malumbe.

This is Mary Banda, the Stake Young Women president and Gertrude.

Bro. Imangu will be on a mission soon to Accra, Ghana.

This is Linda Sikana.  She has reminded me of our daughter Rachel since I arrived here and we have become good friends.

This is Mary who recently moved into our Ward.

Aggie and Sianga Chizoka, both returned missionaries.  We were privileged to attend their wedding back in October of 2013.

This is Charles Chikopa who is waiting for his Brazil visa to go to the MTC there.  He has been called to serve in Mozambique.

Anthony Mulenga looks pretty cocky here.

Elders Walusimbi and Ketchum.  I didn't get a photo of Elders Mabe and Knobloch who serve in our Woodlands Ward.  Elder Knobloch made a wrist band for me as a parting gift.

This is brother Malao Sipalo, my home teaching companion.

At times it seemed like a funeral since the ward members were so kind with their comments.
I was pulled into the last part of Relief Society and the sisters sang to Kristi and I and gave us some gifts.

These are the young women.

This is Robert Zyambo.

Anthony Mulenga with us as we were leaving.

I was able to only catch a few and get their photos.  I wish I had a photo of everyone in the Ward.

Shuko Chizoka is the Young Men president.

Michelo Banda is the pianist.

This couple with us became good friends.  They are Orie and Ruth Orien.  They served in the Copperbelt but stayed with us whenever they came to Lusaka.  We hosted them again as they headed home to Alaska, just two days before we left.

I got to photo-bomb the Shamanga family.  That is Golden, who will get a mission call this week.  His aunt, then Mildred with her niece Emily, Bwalya, Beauty, and Emily's mom Claire Chishala, sister Shamanga's daughter.  I missed Beauty, Kelvin (in Livingstone) and Oliver who is in the Copperbelt serving a mission.  Also Claire's husband Elastus, the 1st Counsellor in the bishopric.

This is Hilda and Elastus Chishala Senior.

Noel became my friend and has difficulty getting around as he is blind.  He will tell you 
"he is the most handsome dude south of the equator."

This is a photo Ruth Orien took of us.

We ate dinner with the Bodilys since our house was torn up.  Chris Chansa found us and came by to say "goodbye".   I really have enjoyed talking with Chris over the past two years.  He has great insight into church culture and the missionaries who pass through Zambia.  He is now a counsellor in the new Lusaka stake presidency.  I will miss him.

I stopped by the Emirates airline office and found out that we will have to spend one day in Dubai unexpectedly.  It seems Emirates doesn't want to fly over Yemen anymore so it takes a little longer to get to Dubai and we will miss our connection.  That will sort of mess up Rebecca's plans to meet us at the airport and for Marjolyn and Leon staying at our house an extra day.

They had a model of the 380 Airbus we will be flying in.  It is a two decker.  We will be below in economy.  :^)

Elders Barton, Chiliza, Payne and Nakale helped move some of the bigger furniture out of our flat.
The office Elders will finish up after we leave.

This was the final panic packing.

We are actually taking one less suitcase home than what we came with, but we have sent a box or two ahead full of little chunks of Zambia. 

The mission president and his wife are in Cape Town, South Africa this week.  As we leave there is only one other couple left in Zambia, and they are responsible for Humanitarian work.  This mission could use more couples willing to serve here.  The Bodilys will graciously take us to the airport for our 21:30 flight.  

There is a real need for more couples here and I can guarantee you it would be hard.  It is hard to arrange leaving house, ageing parents, pets and with finances to consider.  

However, I can also guarantee you will be busy, that time passes quickly, you will make MANY new friends, you will grow closer to your spouse, you will grow closer to our Heavenly Father.  You will be able to be of service in innumerable ways.  You will love the members and love and worry about every young missionary you come in contact with.  You will leave a part of yourself wherever you serve but your children and grandchildren will love you even more than you thought possible because of your example to them which they will long remember.  You will feel younger and your mind will be quicker than when you started.

Oh, it is not all easy but it is so worth it!

I know I will leave a part of my heart in Zambia.