Month: September 2015

Growing Up In The 90’s: Sights & Sounds

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I was only ten when the 90’s ended but there are certain sights and sounds from that era that are still alive, finely etched on my mind. If the 80’s was the decade that made us, then the 90’s was the last great decade. Here are the sights and sounds that I can clearly remember.

TELEVISION: The Cosby’s and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air were hit family shows I grew up watching. They were fan favourites coz they were fun, had a moral at the end and there was no use of profanities. Then there was MacGyver on Saturdays, every kid wanted to be him. But the real action heroes in my childhood were Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme, almost every action movie that time featured one these guys. Bruce Willis’ Die Hard franchise also catapulted him into tough guy status and don’t forget the toughest of them all, Chuck Norris. A good number of these shows and movies were from the 80’s but achieved cult status in the 90’s. Also we didn’t have access to the latest stuff so made the best of what we had. Another popular 90’s film star was Eddie Murphy, one movie I could never get tired of watching remember is Coming to America. The barbershop scene where he drops countless f-bombs is still memorable lol. The national broadcaster, ZNBC was in love Murphy coz every other holiday it would screen Another 48 Hours and the Beverly Hills Cop franchise. I also remember the Little Rascals, Home Alone and Mr. Bean. My most beloved kid’s shows were She-Ra which would be televised every Tuesday at about 17 hrs (I think). At the end of each She-Ra episode there was always an interesting moral to the story given by Loo-Kee but you’d first have to spot him behind the trees and bushes. Sport Billy always had an interesting item to pull from his bag. I can also remember Voltron, Thunderbirds and Transformers coz of all the cool robot auto tech and stuff. Roger Ramjet was from the ‘60’s but its opening theme had the same tune as the Yankee Doodle song I learnt in kindergarten. ZNBC wasn’t so bad if you consider the Littles, Ducktales and Fat Albert and his posse. Then there were two family oriented puppet shows: Sesame Street which was educative and The Muppet Show which was more of a comedy variety show. Till this day I watch Tom and Jerry but the most outstanding one of them all is the Lion King, part of it is coz it’s set in Africa. And the other part is coz it’s got all the ingredients to be a Shakespearean classic: love, betrayal and revenge. I remember watching it on VHS at a friend’s place for the first time, I can still hear Simba’s scream countered by ominous high pitched strings as Mufasa falls to his death. It’s no wonder its number two on my list of favourite movies of all time. In sport, I remember the sadness in the neighbourhood when Zambia lost to Nigeria in the 1994 final of Africa Cup of Nations. I remember crying when Brazil lost three nil to France in Football world Cup final of 1998, I hated Zidane back then hehe. WWF had us re-enacting the fights after hours of watching recorded matches. I loved the Undertaker, Sean Michaels and Stone Cold. From, current affairs I remember watching televised court proceeding from the O.J Simpsons murder trial though it would be years later before I understood it.

MUSIC:
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Back then it was just about the sound, the melody for me. I can remember hearing lots of rhumba from around. Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff and Lucky Dube jams would be blasting on stereos in the neighbourhood or on a friend’s dad’s record player. Then there was always some Lionel Richie playing somewhere, his Ballerina Girl video was a regular on ZNBC. Kenny G’s infections saxophone tunes were standard fillers before the start of transmission and we’d be staring at those multi coloured colour screen savers waiting for a news bulletin all while listening one of his tunes. We would also be treated to some Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton duets around Christmas time every year. I guess it worked coz I can still remember their Christmas To Remember video to this day. Other popular musical features in my childhood were Michael Jackson (and his thrilling music videos) and Celine Dion who was already musical royalty and her 1997 Titanic soundtrack, My Heart Will Go On only cemented her place in popular music history. CC’s Music Spotlight was a music video show that featured a lot of a lot of African videos and I can still remember Angelique Kidjo’s breakout hit Agolo, Youssou N’Dour and Neneh Cherry’s trilingual duet Seven Seconds and Boom Shaka’s first ever single It’s About Time. While on the local scene Kalindula legends P.K Chishala and Paul Ngozi were a mainstay. But Rap and RnB ruled the 90’s, R. Kelly was real good back then, Aaliyah could sing and dance. Un-break My Heart by Toni Braxton was real popular in those days, another fan favourite was Richard Marx’s 1989 global chart topper Right Here Waiting For You. I can remember two Boys to Men videos, On Bended Knee and End of the Road. Diana King’s Shy Guy from the Bad Boys soundtrack was arguably one of the biggest hits of ‘95, I remember it playing at a birthday party that year. Another popular mid 90’s track was Mark Morrison’s Return of the Mack. Then there was that Macarena song everyone danced to but had no idea what the words were. Missing You by Puff Daddy and Coolio’s See You When You Get There were nostalgic rap ballads you’d hear in homes, cars and public transport too. But it was Tupac voice seemed to blast out of every speaker. Of course I didn’t know what he was talking about but even at that age I could tell whatever it was he was compelling and of course he was infamous for freely cursing. It wasn’t until my teens that I fell in love with his music but three tracks I can remember from back then are Changes, California love and All Eyez On Me. I also remember seeing a couple of Snoop and Dre videos.

Video Games:

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Before owning video game consoles, we’d go to play them in Kabwata market for a fee. That meant being gone for hours and getting in trouble with the parents. I guess they didn’t want us exposed to ‘violence’ coz the video game shops in the market almost always had fighting games on offer, the most popular being Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. To us it was all fun and games even if the rooms hosting the games were small, stuffy and without much furniture. Only people with controllers would be seated. And when you did not have money, you would sneak in there just to watch. But it was an amazing feeling sitting in that chair, controller in hand, controlling what was on screen. The height of this control came when we could do this from the comfort of home, jamming a friend’s Ending Man console. When playing any two player game, the winner would keep the controller (aka pad) and the loser would surrender it to the next ‘amateur’. I remember my excitement playing F1 Race on Sega Saturn clone for the first time. I constantly found myself moving with the pad to avoid crashing the car hehe. Skeet shooting and Duck Hunt, might have been very basic but were entertaining and quite popular too. Within days of my brother and I my having our own console, I remember the cursor buttons on the controller being faulty and loose after tapping them so much trying execute a move. Another popular game on those 8 bit machines was soccer. Though it was slow, hard to control and had pathetic sounds, it was super fun and I did not mind coz it was the best thing we back then. I remember the countless spent hours on TV at home or a friend’s tapping away, continuing even after the adapter was heating up, playing as many games as we could on those counterfeit 9999 in 1 cartridges. It was heartbreak every time the parents came in and told us to turn the console off cause it was time to ‘listen to the news’. My favourite game on these consoles was Super Mario, don’t know what it was about that Italian plumber but it was magnetic all the same. The only downside about it was that I was never good enough to rescue Princess Peach kikiki. Then there was Nintendo’s hand held Game Boy and the Brick Game. If you didn’t own one like me, you had to borrow from a friend for some hours at least. Tetris was the Brick Games default game, while Game Boy had fancy cartridges you would slip onto it and play what you wanted. I remember spending hours playing a space shooting game once.

Today everything has evolve, everything is finer, more compact and just a click away but I still take time to romanticize days gone by. And it’s these wistful thoughts that capture the sights and sounds of that era when I was a kid: the 90’s

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Something For You

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Pointing Finger

All I want to write is something beautiful
Something meaningful, something cool
A poem that’s simple yet deep
A lovely poem for your heart to keep
Something sad but truthful in every way
A poem for tomorrow and today
A piece so priceless that for a ton of gold
Or even for the world, would never be sold

This is a poem for the girl and the lad
And for the all the rough times they’ve ever had
For all those tough looking boys
That drown in the crowd coz they don’t have a voice
A poem that will bring to life the pearl
That lingers on the mind of the dreamy little girl
A poem for now and for all times
A pretty piece blessed with sweet, short rhymes

P.S. This one is for you, for taking time to read this right now and for all my buddies too 😉

How Chickens Saved My Life

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Aside from having really stinky poop and also serving as the world’s favourite go to fast food meal, there’s more to chickens than meets the eye, well at least for me. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time with chickens. Last year I’d spend my weekends selling chickens for my mom after acing tests during the week. Nowadays, whenever I can, I help her take the chickens out of the cage and back into the store after my classes. And since completing my internship a fortnight ago, I visit her stand for at least two to three hours each day. Not only to hang out and try to sell but mostly for the nostalgia, being there at the stand gets me thinking back and sinking in memories from nearly four years ago. To a time when, well how do I put it, chickens saved my life.
Back in 2011 when I was outta school and not so optimistic about my prospects on life I sold chickens with my mom for the first time, though I’d be there alone for extended periods. I’d just wasted an opportunity at university education and was self-absorbed with gloom, merely existing. Picture this, early twenties, frustrated, had never sold a thing in my life, now my life had relocated to the chicken stand at the market place. Well in hind sight that wasn’t such a bad hand I was dealt, in fact to some degree it turns out to be one of the best thing that’s ever happened to me. There’s some valuable lessons I learnt, interestingly, none of them were business related: life lessons.

Humility – at the stand, I learnt the basics, smiling at the customer, listening to what they had to say, responding pleasantly even when I disagreed with what they had to say and a thank you at the end whether they bought a chicken or not. I learnt that life wasn’t all about me that there were bigger things in life. I must point out that I was not most rude person out there but I did have traces of arrogance and know it all syndrome. With the chickens looking on, I discovered the world did not revolve around me. I learnt to get over myself and part of something good – a real life, hands on learning experience.
Responsibility – every morning when getting the chickens out of the store and into the cage, I had to count them, same thing in the evening. I had to make sure the chickens had enough water especially during hot days. Had to leave enough feed for them peck at through the night, even more during the days as I sold them off. And when it rained, it would sometimes pour hard and quick and I’d scramble to cover the chickens and ensure they were not soggy merchandise, all the while getting soaked myself. With time, I began to do these things without mom requesting, I started caring for the chickens and even enjoyed being at the stand. This was especially true when she sprained her ankle and I gladly tended the chickens by myself for a whole month.
Serendipity – by May of 2012, I had become so absorbed by selling as many chickens as I could that I did not notice the wonderful things unfolding around me. Well I’ve always been close with my mom but those days we spent in the scorching sun selling the birds and laughing at everything and nothing brought us closer to each other than ever before. And some days were quiet with the only entertainment being my phone and Facebook was the usual suspect. At that wobbly time in my life when I wasn’t ‘looking’, I made a friend (from outside town) online, weeks later she was my girl even after I told her I smelt of chicken poop (true story) , three years and two months later we still love each other to death. Beautiful unplanned things do happen.
Knowledge of self – at the market I found out more about myself than at any other time in my life. One Saturday afternoon, a friend had come to see me and as we spoke, a woman who had stopped to buy chickens at the next stand, got out of her car and interrupted the conversation. She asked if the chickens was selling were mine and when I nodded she further asked how a person using words like ridiculous in a casual conversation was selling chickens. Well after I gave a lengthy response she decided she would buy from my stand and she became a regular customer. Here’s the point, one word triggered the conversation with the woman. It reminded me of the immensity and power of words, and helped me rediscover my love for words. Some of the best poetry I’ve ever written came during those seven months I spent at the market. The encounter also helped me realise that when you shed off the snappy clothes and fanciness, personality is what makes a person. That’s a part of you that will always remain no matter the environment. Invest in it and value it.
Gratitude – down on my luck and out of school, during the first month I thought I had it bad but as is the case with most things in life, there was someone else with more problems than me. The guy who sold chickens at the next stand Dalitso, one day told me of how he, his mother, brother and sister spent over a year and a half in jail after the woman his father had fallen for falsely accused them of killing him. That’s over 18 months for something he had not done, this made my problems feel microscopic and childish and I learnt to be grateful for every little thing I had coz not everyone out there enjoyed the same graces.
And that’s how the chickens saved my life, the end hehe
P.S. You don’t need to stare and get into a trance next time you’re having hot chicken wings for lunch but you can sure appreciate and take something from an ordinary everyday situation, maybe not now but in due time.

Peoplenomics; Lessons From the Plunging Kwacha

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• 1 British Pound Sterling = K14
• A loaf of bread = K 6.5
• basic bus fare for any route in Lusaka = K5

Anyone out there who thinks things are not bad, newsflash: IT’S BAD!!! Let’s not kid ourselves, you’ve known that for some time now. You hear it every time someone is ordering a car online in recent years, “the escalating exchange rate”. And it’s no secret, our copper hasn’t been fetching that much on the London Metal Exchange (LME). Then there’s the imminent fear of skyrocketing petroleum prices as it has been steadily creeping in recent months. Let’s not even mention the outrageous power outages that are somehow supposed to be more palatable when it’s called load shedding.

But what’s different about our ailing economy this time? The blunt response is that we’ve never been this far into chaos before. In our fifty odd years of independence, our currency has never been this weak. Well, this is as far as my economics goes, we’ll leave ‘economic fundamentals’ to the economists. Well, maybe not coz too often they give us the numbers and assumptions but do not break these down to how a depreciating kwacha affects the layman from day to day. Not to take anything away from the professionals but it’s hard to demonstrate the immensity of the downward spiralling economy based on averages and generalisations.

My interest in this is to learn the effect of the current economic downturn on individuals’ lives, to put a face to the figures in order to understand how people are dealing with these day to day difficulties. To do this I decided not to interview but instead have conversations with a number of traders from Kabwata market (including my barber) in order to share in their experiences and listen to their thoughts; Peoplenomics.

Three things emerged clear from these conversations:

• people’s lives have been affected from the simple depreciating of the currency
• Indifference and passiveness by the citizens does nothing to help the situation
• part of the problem is our leaders (both opposition and ruling parties) politicking about the matter but offering no real solutions

But it’s not all doom and gloom. From my primary school social studies I learnt that the eagle on our flag represents our indomitable human spirit, our ability to always rise above the different problems we are faced with as a nation. We have shown this spirit plenty times in our history. During the independence struggle, our fore fathers rose above the colonialists to gain political independence. Our fathers rose above the problem of the one party state and returned to multi-party politics without bloodshed in 1990. Three years ago, we rose above the horror of the 1993 national soccer team Gabon Air Disaster by winning the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.

But we do not simply rise coz we wish to, we cannot be indifferent and hope that someone will rise up and speak for us. The one thing that is worse than this plunging economy, is our passiveness as citizens. The rising of the eagle has to start with us the layman, the common people, the citizens. Seek answers, take an interest, read, and engage in progressive conversation online, on the buses, in our homes, workplaces and schools. It’s from this public opinion, a singular voice of reason that our leaders will be compelled act. The day we achieve such levels activism in this nation, a proactive approach that seeks the common good of all Zambians regardless of tribe or political affiliation, that will be the day we ourselves will determine our fate.

Reader(s) I implore you to share your thoughts, comments and feelings below and also share this post.Thanks for reading.
Proudly Zambia

Seven Thingies from my PR Internship

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Tomorrow marks the end of my six week public relations (PR) internship at the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) under the Corporate Affairs Unit (CAU) and here are a few things I noted. And don’t expect any bomb shells coz I took an oath 

1. There are jobs in PR

So many times I’ve listened to stories of how hard and almost impossible it is to land yourself a public relations job as a journalism student. And most of this gloom is usually fuelled by current and former communication students themselves. Well, with my internship the case was different. Four of the six members of the corporate affairs unit are former Mass Communication Students at UNZA, vibrant and young professionals. Plenty times we traded stories about the Mass Comm department now and then. Of course these guys did not start out at the ACC but they’ve made it there still early on in their careers. That’s one myth already dispelled-a win for me. Wouldn’t mind being back here after graduating

2. Speak your mind
Whether you’re giving the CAU’s position on a matter or sharing your thoughts on a given topic, it’s important you to have an opinion. Not only because it’s good PR but because it helps build your self-image. Half the time, I found myself speaking quite expressively even in informal conversations, I guess that’s PR on a personal level. The idea is that how you project yourself to people will dictate how they perceive you. As my PR lecturer said it over and over: PR is all about image. And besides, if you run outta mints, sparking up a spontaneous conversation in the office is a cool way of ensuring you don’t start harbouring bad breath- just watch the distance lol

3. 9 to 5 in the office is hard work
Okay, so maybe it was 9 to 4.30 and Friday was always half day but still keeping my concentration levels at a 100 percent the whole day was very difficult. An exhibition, a workshop or any other event was very much welcome as it helped with fast forwarding time and rebooting the concentration levels but they didn’t happen to often so I had to learn navigate my way through the day by doing my work, listening to music, sparking up impromptu convos ,making a few calls and constantly reminding myself that I was there for work. I know, not the best way to deal with ADHD but it worked.

4. Having a wingman doesn’t hurt
During my basic reporting internship last year I found out that it was important to have a close buddy or someone you know quite well when you’re an intern at an organisation . Not coz it’s them against you but because you might need someone to cover for you when you’re absent or someone to have a light moment with when you’re bored or exhausted and you’re out of data bundles hehe. I had my wingman Kanekwa beside me the entire time (surprised we didn’t fight) and the experience worked out pretty fine coz us being friends from class helped bring that relaxed classroom environment to the office.

5. The unbeaten path

Before my internship, ACC had always been a mystery to me and I had to feed my curiousity. Once work started, I was delighted to know that Kanekwa and I were the first interns ever (or in over a decade) at the ACC. When being oriented, everyone let us know how lucky we were as the Commission didn’t take interns because of the sensitivity of the job. And so we were pioneers heading into unchartered waters, I would think to myself. That gave me something to brag about every time I remembered that I would not be getting paid kikiki. I must also mention that I found myself at the ACC coz Kanekwa included my name in the application letter she wrote. Quite obvious, I know 

6. Lunch
Lunch was always a cherished event, a whole hour to break away from the never ending stare down competition with my PC. The interesting thing about lunch was that you wouldn’t know what you would be eating that day till after walking out of the office-talk about budget constraints. But we’re pioneers and always found a way around that. The lunch hour became even more special two weeks ago when my girlfriend (Queen fusa) was visting town for the week. When we realised that lunch was the only time we had to be together besides the weekend, we always made sure we had fun lunches and smiley tummies.

7. Fusas are everywhere
I have a theory and it goes like this: at the core of every human being, there lies a fusa. Every person has a good, goofy nature and when we appeal to that nature, people will display it, quite freely. This theory was proved right during my internship. Behind all the suits, serious faces and what not the ACC people were super friendly, fun and warm. There were so many times I’d be wiping tears off my face coz of laughing so hard. And this did not take weeks to be apparent, it was no holds barred humour right from orientation to the last media monitoring meeting. It was the same with my encounters with colleagues from other departments and I can gladly say there are plenty colourful personalities at the ACC. Had loads of fun and will miss them all