Laurel and Associates, Ltd. – Madison, WI



On September 2, 2013, Posted by , In Travelogue, By , , With Comments Off on Lusaka

Hello. John and Vivian were an hour late, but once they arrived we had a good chat. They’re very nice people. I did discover that they had been unable to purchase anything on my wish list- and had not told me- because, if they had, I would have brought the items with me.

My cultural assumptions were completely in error. In Jordan, they were able to provide index cards and Mr. Sketch fragrant flip chart markers without any difficulty. Not so and not available in Zambia. John asked me what M& M’s stood for. They have nothing like it there. They have McDonalds and Burger King and Subway, etc. But it looks like American candies have not entered their market.

This leaves it up to Vivian to find round or oblong candies to fill a glass jar for our class tomorrow. I’ll be breaking the group up into different types of management decision-making styles (expertise, authority, authority after a group discussion, majority, collaboration, etc.) and have them guess how many candies are in the jar. The incentive is that the group that guesses closest to the actual number will get the jar.

One glitch came, not because of them in any way. Abe at Banyan Global had sent me a pdf of a medix insurance card with the charge to print it and keep it with me at all times. Well, the business office here in the hotel was unable to do that. John had to take it home and use an older computer in order to print it out. So I have it now.

We went to the hotel, which had set up the room exactly as my layout design requested. That may be a first in my years of training! The challenge was needing an extension cord that was 10 or more feet long to reach my computer. We managed that the next day using three extension cords with plugins, so I had to avoid tripping over the cables and the plug in boxes!

The next morning, which was breezy and cool (!), John and Vivian picked me up at 7 to go to the hotel. We set up- and then I discovered to my chagrin that, although my two adapters look exactly alike, one allowed me to plug in my computer but the other had no place for me to plug in my ipod player. The hotel didn’t have one for us, but I recalled that I had another adapter that I got when I was in Jordan that could probably work. Unfortunately, we discovered the problem at 7:50, the other adapter was in my hotel room 15 minutes away, and the class was scheduled to start at 8.

Well, we might as well have gone to get it and then gone for a long walk, because we didn’t start the class (half full) until 9:45. I’ve had groups start a half hour late, but never an hour and a half late. Good grief!

Exactly when the training began, someone started with a whining saw outside, which went on the rest of the day. With that noise, plus the noise of the ventilator, plus the very very very soft spoken and deeply accented communication from the participants- I spent the day trying, through humor, to get them to PROJECT! It was really a losing battle. I learned to simply nod my head when someone spoke, because quite often I had no idea what was said.

The group of 15 was comprised of private medical training institution (PMTI) management and a few owners. We actually had 16 at the end of the day (1 person came in during the last hour…)

The training went very well. We began with a cautionary tale of a PMTI that was closed, due to actions and inactions of the owners. The group analyzed it very deeply, I was quite impressed. Then they identified their challenges and created an affinity chart. Their challenges are significant: lack of financing, students can’t afford to pay and the government doesn’t provide financial aid, high costs of associating with hospitals for clinical practice, overcrowding, inability to find permanent qualified staff (the government pays triple what the PMTIs are paying right now), lack of textbooks for students, etc., etc.

What occurred to me was that, if they organized, they could negotiate lower prices for the clinical placements, lobby the government to extend student aid to private school students, reach out to sister schools in the US for their discarded textbooks, and more. And apparently, that is exactly what they are doing.

The best comment on an evaluation was: “Today has been one of my best moments in running my school. The information learnt shall help me climb Mount Everest.”

Prior to class, I had a long conversation with Yusuf, who was fascinating. It is a fact that their doctors leave for greener pastures (better salaries, better equipped hospitals) in South Africa or Europe. He said that, rather considering this a brain drain, he looks at it more positively as Zambia exporting labor. The rub is that Zambia isn’t getting anything in return.

He wants to persuade the doctors to purchase a home in Zambia before they leave. At that time, they are thinking that they are only leaving to work for a number of years. So they would be very open to the idea.

But once they get to their new location, eventually they will want to purchase a house. And your home is where your house is. His thought is that, when they are ready to buy a house, they will remember that they already have one in Zambia and come back.

His other strategy (and he is working on both through different associations) is to create health care insurance at the private level- with the thought that, once it is piloted and successful, the government will nationalize it. This insurance would benefit the hospitals and doctors, because they would know they would be paid for their services. It would benefit the people, because they would go to the doctor when they first felt ill, soon enough to be treated for malaria, etc. The money could go into building the hospitals’ infrastructures and paying better salaries. That will entice doctors to stay in the country.

Yusef also told me something that John reiterated in a different conversation earlier. When I told him that the only other place in Africa that I’ve visited is Nigeria, he laughed and said I had gone from one extreme to the other. Zambians are very laid back, quiet, docile and follow the rules. Nigerians are very aggressive and live in disorganized chaos, because they don’t follow the rules. Hmm…

Yusuf’s wife works for the UN, so they are separated for long periods of time. He says they get together for what becomes a default vacation. Then he laughed, saying that he had never imagined vacationing in Liberia or in Fiji, or any of the other places his wife is stationed.

Tomorrow, the same people will be in attendance, with a few new folks. We’ll be focusing on strengthening their business management skills. This will include looking at different personality types, decision-making styles, and time management. It should be a fun day. It will also be one of the last sessions where I’ll actually know what I’m talking about. The classes on Wednesday and Thursday relate to budgeting and financial management!

On an entirely random note, the bottom of the tree trunks along the roads are painted white. The paint washes off with the rain, which will come in November. The reason for the paint? John thinks that it provides a road marker at night, since they don’t have street lights. It’s a very practical solution, don’t you think?

Well, that’s definitely enough for today.

More on my Zambian adventure tomorrow.



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