Nelson Mandela Displays Unique Toy

January 26th, 2007

My friend Greg Moran aka Gregson Gregs founded the African Toyshop some years back. A long time dream that only could be realised due to Gregson’s extensive travels in the region as a consultant. His regional network would suddenly proof to be the perfect logistical structure to gather unique handmade toys from the whole region. He is selling the toys in 2 shops in Joburg and over the internet. The vision is the get the toys sold worldwide – if any of you have ideas or want to start a shop somewhere you should drop him an email.

Check out the website here

Mandela cabinet

Toy makers in Mozambique are renowned for making scenarios depicting everyday life or special events. Greg got them to make a scenario of the first South African cabinet meeting after Apartheid. He found a way to get the scenario to Nelson Mandela himself. Not only did he receive it, it is now on display in his lounge – WELL DONE.


January 17th, 2007

No excuse this time; can’t believe it has half a year since my last post! Maybe, my posts were beginning to repeat themselves – a bit like life here that seems be somewhat circular with the same activities and events. Be here long enough and the only thing that are certain to change is the people around me. Don’t get me wrong, I still very much enjoy life here, trips to the lake, mega prawns, dinner and cocktail parties (Dakselakse’s being the prime event), travelling the region, and so on, but my blog seemed to be exhausted with these events.

My work has been very interesting and contrary to life here in general, work is evolving and developing on a weekly basis. I have been meaning to write more about the exchange. Wanted to begin with the great news of ACE being funded!! However, this is dragging out and today we are still waiting for one of the donors to commit. The Gates Foundation came close, but we did not get it… I am confident that something will present itself soon – 7,9,13!      

We have secured funding and support to travel the region and promote the Exchange. This is very exciting and I truly enjoy exploring the often very subtle differences between these countries. It is incredible to see how only recent history has impacted on these countries contemporary role in the region and level of development in general. Surely there are many unfortunate aspects to focus on, the biggest being the devastating poverty, HIV and famine that haunt most of the region. On the other hand we have come across a lot of optimism, political support and well administered initiatives for economical and social development. It is my strong view that real sustainable development and progress most come from the private sector. The private sector is heavily dependent on the governments creating enabling environment for their operations. Here lies one of Africa’s biggest problems. Corruption and self-interest of people in power leads to very restricted and regulated environments that suffocates the private sector and hinders development.       

The scenario is different in all the countries and with the exception of Zimbabwe I believe there is a general tendency in the region to relax controls. The Exchange which basically is a product of liberalised markets has only met real political support throughout the region. It has been fantastic to see the Exchange develop from concept to an operational entity. To this date we have members in 4 countries (the 5. country application is pending) and facilitated trade worth about USD 3 million. It is not a lot in commodity trading context, but without doubt a very promising beginning.

It looks like I will be ‘stuck’ a couple more years here – so start planning those visits… I will come to Denmark for a couple of weeks from 6th September – hope to catch the last beams of summer.     

Bye Girls

December 12th, 2006

Yet another night all about goodbyes – this time to Amalie, Anja, Anne Katrine and my darling housemate Louise. Goodbye Girls and thanks for a lovely party.

Darko and Niels

I will fly out of Malawi tomorrow – will spend 3 days in Holland with the Dutch Buggers and 3 days with Paulo Pax in Geneva before I touch down in Copenhagen the 20th. Senorita Thirsty will also arrive in Copenhagen that day to visit Louise and me – looking forward to this little reunion on cold Danish Soil. 

Hope to see many of you before leave. I am contemplating a detour to Oslo the 9th to spend the last 2 days with the lovely Norwegian fjeldaber – the joy of discount airlines is making that detour practical free.

By the way – ACE is operating now. It’s a slow start, but we are generating an increasing interest throughout the region. I am confident that the exchange will be utilised when the next crop season takes of. Have a look the website – let me know if anyone wants to buy a load of maize… or try to export some potatoes!

We submitted a Concept Note to Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They received 1325 Notes, but we were fortunate enough to be among the 47 who have to submit a full proposal for funding… Come on Gates – you want to put your money here!!

Merry Christmas everyone - especially to the Gates…


Danish Christmas Lunch

December 5th, 2006

I am, in all modesty, extremely impressed with what Louise, Paul, Mercan, Tina and myself managed to cook in a short space of time with the ingredients available here. Many thanks to Jes for transporting the Danish delights that can’t be made - hope you get the herring smell out of your cloths and suitcase… egh!

No food and drinks was spared – everything was gone! Either a sign of too little available or people staying too long… – judge for yourself!!

The Santaslaves
Brian (left in the picture above) is doing an interesting fundraising to build a dental clinic in Niger. Please have a look at his website (in Dutch), read his sponsorship letter (in English) or his biking for funds adventure (in French).

Sam Harris - The View from the End of the World

November 28th, 2006

Sam Harris was invited to speak end of last year by the Long Now Foundation. The subject evolves around the notion of religious moderation and the dangers and fallbacks that come with that. I know that Sam Harris’s message will offend some of you, but please view it as an encouragement for dialogue; one that is much needed.

- 22% of all American think with certainty that Jesus will come down through the skies within the next 50 years
- Another 22% think that it is likely he will come

- 80 percent of all Swedish people are atheist while 84% of all Americans think that Jesus rose from the dead.

Take an hour (last half hour is questions) and listen to what he has to say

Just Testing Video Posting

November 27th, 2006

This clip is faaaaaaaantastic… Its was the last time this guy ever hosted on Dutch television - he is now a radio host. 


And here is a taste of Underbyen for those of you who didnt take the time to visit their website

“Af samme stof som stof” from the album with the same name.

It wasn’t me

November 25th, 2006

Please check the previous post “underbyen” for new pictures!

The sun was just setting casting shades of red over Lilongwe – the roads oozed of people trying to make it home before darkness to avoid the dangers that follows. The manager in charge of collecting money from a few rural bakeries was setting in his office with a thoughtful look in his eyes. He was tired after a long day, but a hidden anxiety had taken control. He slowly rose from his chair, walked to the door – overcame a final hesitation before opening and running out, shouting “Bwana Bwana” (Boss Boss). The owner responded prompt to the sudden outburst and the manager continued “Something terrible has happen; I was counting the money, but suddenly it all turned into paper and the money was just gone”. The surprised owner said “ehh, come on Bambo (Mr) that cannot be true” “It is Bwana, it was magic”

I have for long time just been laughing of this story, but recently I realized what the mechanisms behind are. Every culture has some idiosyncrasies – in Denmark the law of Jante has for a long time been the biggest designer of glass ceilings. In Asia, I guess you can say the notion of loyalty has sourced an enormous power to the companies, who in some cases literally are working their employees to death. In Malawi its: “Its never my fault” This conception is so strong with some people; the manager actually believed he could convince the owner that magic was the cause and he was not to blame at all.

As I wrote in an earlier post “the Mua Mission” people from outside or strangers cannot possible know what’s best for you, the village, the community or even the Country. I am just wondering: Can this be rooted in “It’s never my fault”? A stranger can’t know a better way to grow maize, because that would mean that I have been doing it wrong all my life. If my harvest fails it’s because of the rains, not because I don’t use that thing called fertilizer.

It’s also the reason why magic and witchdoctors still play a very essential role in all levels of modern Malawi – The witchdoctor has always been able to give reasons and thereby remove any blame from you. The obvious reason is that someone has cast a spell on you – you follow the instruction of the witchdoctor and you can start again on a clean sheet, full of faith that next years harvest will be much better… no evil spell and no fertilizers!

A Danish Girl here had to fire a Gardner because he practically never came to work. He kept asking why he was being fired and didn’t want to acknowledge it was because he failed to show for work. “It’s the others isn’t it – they are talking bad about me and now you are firing me” He kept on and on. A few weeks later he tried kill the other staff by putting rat poison in the ufa (Maize Flour).   

I have 2 night guards and I have agreed that it’s ok if one of them sleeps, just as long as the other one is awake and alert. Mr. Moyo – self announced guardian angel, has worked at the house for many years (also guarded Poul when he stayed here) likes to sleep when his on duty. What happened two days ago sparked the inspiration for this post. I woke up around midnight by a loud knocking on the gate; quickly realizing it was the security company on their nightly inspection. The knocking continued and I knew that Mr. Moyo was gone! It took 5 min before he managed to get to the gate and register.

The next day the other guard told me he had encountered 3 men jumping the fence around 3 am when he was on duty. He had managed to scare them off with help from the neighboring guard. It’s quite obvious what happened: One of the guys from the inspection team must have marked the house as an easy target due to sleeping guards. It’s fairly well-known that many guards are crooks, which is why I accept having a sleepy trustworthy guard.

The incident made a talk with Mr. Moyo necessary. He needed to know what would happen if those 3 guys had found him sleeping – there would be a good chance that he wouldn’t have lived to tell about it. After a long serious speech he said out of the blue “eeh, Bwana I was not sleeping”. I was gobsmacked – never anticipated him to contest the obvious: “But but, Mr Moyo it took you 5 min to get to the gate” “eeh, it’s a long way to the gate…” he replied nervously after a while. At that time I was overwhelmed by a sneaking suspicion that I was in over my head. “It normally only takes you 15 seconds to get to the gate – what happened”. An awkward silence surrounded us for seconds: “I was not sleeping”. “That’s fine Mr. Moyo, but what happen – did you not hear them”. Again silent for a long time and he finally just said: “I cannot answer that, but I will work hard”…

I realized I just had to accept that answer – I did sense that he understood the seriousness of the situation that night… I hope!

(Any spelling mistakes are caused by the computer, word or wordpress…not me!)


Under Byen

November 24th, 2006

Just read a review of the Danish band “Underbyen” and again the praise don’t seem to have an end. They sing in Danish, but the international audience is bigger than the Danish – go to their site (in English) and find out why. Do yourself a favor, download some tunes and let them guide you beyond reality and musical boundaries. (Mr Bosselman, you will like it - also before Trentemoller gets his hand on it!!)    

Uploaded a few pictures from Sofies last night here

The Housemates

And of the WFP’s

The WFPs

Flipside of the Coin

November 10th, 2006

Most people here are on contract of varying length, but common for (nearly) all are that they will leave Malawi at one point. They are not only leaving the country, also the friends that stay behind. This form of work means letting a lot of people in and out of your life and it can at times be really tiresome and sad. I have always known it would be like that, but you can’t really do anything but accept it. I am now in the middle of such a transition period; sad goodbyes to very good friends lately and more to follow the next month.

A fantastic period is over, the Buggers are now spread across the globe and it’s unlikely that we will ever be in the same room again, but we will always have Lilongwe…

I have uploaded pictures from the Parker Cottage which no longer is the Parker Cottage…

Elena and Brian

Another flipside is the duel life; the extreme contrasts you live in and the cynicism you are bound to develop to justify eating that big fat steak in a country plagued with famine. I think the following poem has deep roots in that cynicism.

The Development Set
by Ross Coggins (1976)
Excuse me, friends, I must catch my jet
I’m off to join the Development Set;
My bags are packed, and I’ve had all my shots
I have traveller’s checks and pills for the trots!
The Development Set is bright and noble
Our thoughts are deep and our vision global;
Although we move with the better classes
Our thoughts are always with the masses.
In Sheraton Hotels in scattered nations
We damn multi-national corporations;
injustice seems easy to protest
In such seething hotbeds of social rest.
We discuss malnutrition over steaks
And plan hunger talks during coffee breaks.
Whether Asian floods or African drought,
We face each issue with open mouth.
We bring in consultants whose circumlocution
Raises difficulties for every solution –
Thus guaranteeing continued good eating
By showing the need for another meeting.
The language of the Development Set
Stretches the English alphabet;
We use swell words like “epigenetic”
“Micro”, “macro”, and “logarithmetic”
It pleasures us to be esoteric –
It’s so intellectually atmospheric!
And although establishments may be unmoved,
Our vocabularies are much improved.
When the talk gets deep and you’re feeling numb,
You can keep your shame to a minimum:
To show that you, too, are intelligent
Smugly ask, “Is it really development?”
Or say, “That’s fine in practice, but don’t you see:
It doesn’t work out in theory!”
A few may find this incomprehensible,
But most will admire you as deep and sensible.
Development set homes are extremely chic,
Full of carvings, curios, and draped with batik.
Eye-level photographs subtly assure
That your host is at home with the great and the poor.
Enough of these verses - on with the mission!
Our task is as broad as the human condition!
Just pray god the biblical promise is true:
The poor ye shall always have with you.


A little dent again…

November 8th, 2006

Most Malawians drive about 30 km pr hour, but of course I had to have an encounter with the odd one out returning form the lake last Sunday. We just got back to Lilongwe heading for the Teachers College Apartments in area 25 to drop off Ben. I was breaking and indicating to do a right turn (remember we drive on the left side), a minibus behind me stopped accordingly, but this odd crazy maniac behind the minibus had to much speed to stop and decided, failing to see me in front,  to overtake the minibus and smack, crash, bang and flying glass…

Banged up car

Amazingly nobody was hurt – but my car is not doing to well. The first mechanics said it will be too expensive to fix, so I might have to claim full value from the insurance and say bye to my baby Cynos.