Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Just outside of Lusaka (past the LaFarge cement factory) is Chilanga the Munda Wanga Wildlife Park and Conservation Trust. We go from time to time to visit with Zag, their cheetah, and to get attacked by ants - safari ants, sugar ants, fire ants...bring them on. Today we learned that Zig (Zag's companion) was killed by a snake bite. Munda Wanga has many other animals besides cheetahs. They come as gifts from international heads of state (camels from Saudi Arabia!), re-hab and rescue animals, unwanted pets (monkeys, anyone?!), unwanted passengers (Baboons that came in march with a wheat shipment!) and many more including permanent residents including ostrich, porcupines, warthogs, bush pigs, baboons, jackel, serval, zebra and more. They have a beautiful botanical garden and demonstration food garden...also a swimming pool and water slides. We never make it much past the cheetah. And the ants. Did I mention the ants? More than once? hmmm.
Rockin' out with Elvis Christmas, this has been played daily in our house since August; today it was finally appropriate, finally felt right.
The boys, playing "Safari Hunt" (see detail below), the game that O spent a month designing and getting ready for TJ. Todd is sporting his new Zambia jersey. He actually took off his Arsenal kit for the day and Owen took off his Manchester kit in favor of the new Seattle Sounders. Finny took off his shirt, too and got distracted before he got around to putting on his new Sounders jersey, bringing the world one step closer to world peace.
Christmas Eve Fete, everyone rapt at the reading of Clement Moore's "Night Before Christmas"
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
In the words of Pee Wee Herman, “Everyone has a big but....”
Every once and a while we have these moments where things are so frustrating you want to scream. The horrible thing is that there is no point in screaming, no point in pulling your hair, no point getting all stroppy -- unless it keeps you from doing worse, of course. The complete irony is that you just look like a crazy mzungu when you start expecting people to behave rationally, all compounded by the problem that you can’t go home and eat an entire box of cookies -- because you didn’t buy any cookies!! Thankfully you noticed that not only are all the boxes of cookies (imported from brasil) $12 apiece, they are ALL SMASHED to bits, so you came home from the supermarket with an empty wallet, milk, and eggs -- the bread was all burned and it was from yesterday anyway....I digress.
Today it was an issue with the printer for a design that we are trying to crank out to send a good-will gift along with a government official who is traveling to South America tomorrow - am I being vague enough?
The example I will give is something else altogether but it goes to the core of the issue, which honestly, even as I write, I am still trying to reconcile. The problem as I interpret it is that I am operating on the assumption that ‘the customer is always right.’ Some have said that ‘customer service does not exist in zambia’ but I think that is not quite it.... there IS customer service, BUT - and it is a big but - it is that people and businesses operate on the assumption that the customer is NOT always right.
In fact, the customer could even be WRONG. Most importantly, the customer is VERY FREQUENTLY wrong. As a result, part of providing customer service is taking the instructions that the customer gave you (in this case DETAILED written and verbal instructions) and deliberately NOT following those instructions.
what I wanted
This example concerns a set of stools I had made by a very able and talented carpenter, Crispin, who works with the local hardwood, mukwa. I took Crispin a photograph of design I wanted him to copy, a 3-D sketch (to scale, on graph paper) with the exact measurements (in cm and in inches). I explained the design, the finish, etc. and we settled on a fair price. When I went to pick up the stools and the kitchen island (I’ve shown this off before, it’s really nice), it was as if he was working from someone else’s drawings. He made some modifications at the workshop "....because surely, Madame, you did not mean for it to be like THAT." Oh, Really? Silly me. I took my island and stools home, but the modifications were not working, the kids were frightened of sitting on the stools and what I really wanted....well, was what I had originally wanted!
Try #2 with the same sketches, the same measurements, the same conversation about the fact that what was in the photo, what was on the paper REALLY WAS HOW I WANTED IT. EXACTLY how I wanted it. Stool set #2 came....with modifications. Several of our friends had eyed my design and wanted them also. Stool set #3 came....with modifications. and set #4, set #5. All from the same measurements and all from the same drawing, all from the same, all from the same carpentry studio. All different from eachother and NONE executed as instructed.
what I got .... attempt #1 and 2.....SO close!
This happens with everything from getting business cards printed to getting your car repaired, from ordering a birthday cake to having a dress made. It is now more surprising when something comes out as you intended than disappointing when it does not. To add insult to injury these orders are expensive and usually you pay twice or three times to get it done right. If you are lucky, you just live with these 'modifications' if you are unlucky (as is a friend whose car is in the shop AGAIN) you pay over and over for the thing you asked for in the first place to just be done correctly.
OK I'm done.