Archive for July, 2010

“First you get the capital…..”

July 11, 2010 1 comment

I want to talk money… I want to talk capacity…I want to know your thoughts on the relationship of both these things—for I just don’t know anymore.

Working with Rent-to-Own is amazing. But, like any small business it gets confusing. It is an endless chicken and egg dilemma.  What comes first? Capital, or capacity? The business people we work with have the capacity but not the capital, and right now, from my perspective, Rent-to-Own has the access to capital but lacks the capacity.

Two weeks ago, while working from an agent level I couldn’t stop saying capacity, “first you get the capacity” at the time it was clear in my mind that we had to support our agents and that we should be investing the time into making our current team stronger. But this past week I have been working from a management level, and now I am leaning more toward the money. We need to have the capital to make the company work more efficiently, to build capacity we need capital.

But when we focus on capital we are not focusing on capacity. An endless circle of confusion!

Is this making any sense?

I know that the easy answer is a balance of both, but when there is a small team of people–all who are super busy, we have to prioritize. We have to figure out what the perfect balance is, what does it look like and how can we find it? We need to find this equilibrium. It is both, but how do you get it?

When do you stop investing your time in a person and move on to someone who is better suited for the job? When and how do you choose to grow?

Rent-to-Own can develop, it has to grow, the demand is there. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of each entrepreneur that I meet. I see Peter, who comes from his farm where he says, he works with a “group of young, strong men, we hand irrigate, with buckets from the river, everyday to make our vegetables grow larger and faster. If we can work together, bring our money together we can buy a treadle pump”  Peter knows his business, he was already talking about new markets where he can sell his product. We need capital to deal with Peter and his coworkers.  But we also need the agent in his area to be able to support and grow with Peter.

I see this demand, but I fear if we don’t have the network of agents supported we will not grow smoothly. Too many mistakes will be made, and trust is a hard thing to gain and such an easy thing to loose.

Business is tough, growth is hard and learning is important—it is the quest for the balance that eludes me, and is my greatest desire to discover.

“First you get the…uh what?”

Categories: Uncategorized

Have Sleeping Bag—will travel.

July 9, 2010 1 comment

Is it crazy that after 21 years of living the one thing that surprises me the most is simple human kindness? Is it strange that the kindness of strangers is what makes me smile harder then I have ever smiled before?

Two nights ago, I took a journey. From Solwezi to Kabompo, a seven hour trip. Most of it unpaved.

We left too late, the sun was sinking low into the sky—it sets quickly here.  We couldn’t leave earlier because the police were at a checkpoint, and we were carrying too many passengers on the back.

Don’t tell anyone, but I was one of those passengers.

The young woman with the baby took the place in the cab. Clearly.

I had my sleeping bag and every piece of clothing I was currently carrying on me. It is cold in Zambia. I am sitting beside an older man. He has nestled himself into a crevice in the back, we are sitting on his floor tiles. He has traveled this route before.

The journey is long, it is also a little scary. I understand now why Mark told me to think of my safety the last time I tried to get into the back of a canter. I understand perfectly.

But Mark, where is the adventure? I am smiling as I write this, because one day he will read this and shake his head.

I am on the edge, not so close that it is dangerous. There is Rowland, a co-worker on the right. He is suffering; it is cold at this time of night and the sleeping bag is only half covering him.

I try to play the glad game, “I am glad…it isn’t raining, I am glad…I have the sleeping bag, I am glad…I have a cozy bed to crawl into when I get back to “the ‘bomp”, I am glad…I can’t feel my toes, I am glad….to look at these stars” Rowland tires of my game pretty quickly, I don’t blame him.

I try to stay positive, I chat with the people beside me, but soon it is too cold to even interact. Everyone just wants to keep their hot air inside of them.

I am tired and frustrated, it is cold and I am wishing I wasn’t there. I am losing the happiness I try to constantly maintain.

Around hour five, into the wee hours of the morning. I wake up to find hands around my ankles and a firm grasp at my back. Everyone is lying down, in various stages of sleep. Everyone is uncomfortable, but everyone is watching out for me. Everyone is watching out for each other. We all get as close as possible to keep the heat around us. The man sitting beside me holds on to my sleeping bag tight for fear I will fall off the edge, (don’t worry mum, I was secure) If one person says “I need more room” everyone moves, every person shifts, all of those little movements make a big difference to that one person. We have become a team, a family. I can’t help but smile and think how incredibly beautiful life is. How humans care, and don’t even think twice about it.  Suddenly, I am filled with an overwhelming feeling of wonder and joy–my body feels a little warmer.

I have never experienced such camaraderie as I did in the back of that truck, when we finally arrive at 3 am, I say goodbye and promise to say hello next time I am in the market walking past my new friends at the tile flooring shop.

Do we experience such kindness in Canada? I know that we do, I know that I have. Where you can be in the worst of situations but all of a sudden you are reminded of the complete and utter amazingness that is human nature.

What if everyone could just shift a little closer, all of those tiny little movements making a big difference in the comfort of others?

Yikes, humans are amazing.  I hope that wherever you are reading this you think back to a time when there was so much joy radiating through your body that you could hardly stand it!

Signing off,

The luckiest girl in the world

Categories: Uncategorized

today I ranted

July 2, 2010 14 comments

Today I ranted. A big rant. A rant that went in whatever direction it could. The kind where you wish it had been recorded, because you are pretty sure, between the chaos, it was pure genius. Passion does that to a gal.

I have lived in countries where the divide between men and women is huge. In Bulgaria, in Guatemala, in Mexico, in Canada.

But today, in Zambia, I just didn’t want to hear it.

Everywhere I look, I see women, women working–children on their backs, maize on their heads, jugs of water in their hands, all of this simultaneously.

I see women husking maize, I see women cooking, and cleaning, I see them farming. I see them working at the hospitals and in the shops. I see them at the market. I see them walking to school. They are in the backs of trucks covered in dirt. I see them climbing, running, walking.

So when a man asks me “as a woman, you think you can do that?”

I tell him to look around. Look at his world. Open his eyes and see. “Look around” I say. As a woman, I see woman doing it all. I see a young mother with her baby on her back climbing into the back of a big truck. I see her throwing her leg over the side, and hoisting herself up, muscles strong and confident. I see the men sitting in cab, waiting.

The women I see, are doing, they are doing it all. They are the ones that make this country move. They are the backbone, the muscle, the skin, the nerves and the brain of this operation.

Women are the ones who actually talk to me, they are the ones who smile at me in the market. The women remember my name and say hello. It is the Zambia women who have opened their arms to me.

I live with Sister Jean and her niece Eliza. At nights when the dishes are washed and put away, our conversation often turns to many things, but the other night is was women. Sister Jean is the breadwinner in her family. And her family is big. She argues with men. She is feisty. We are both brought to tears when we speak of HIV/AIDS in this country and the women who have very little control over their own bodies.

I see her as a leader in her community. And as a woman she can do anything. Because she will never let a man tell her she cannot.

That was my rant, let me know your thoughts!

Categories: Uncategorized

Truck Driver Wisdom

July 2, 2010 1 comment

The sun is starting to set, I am in a town that is unknown to me. I know the next mini-bus is at least an hour away. I take my chances on a transport truck. I flag him down, typical Zambian style. My arm out, trying to look desperate. The transport slows, and I walk up to the door. I ask if they are going to Kabompo and might have room for one more. I get the knod from the driver and I am in. He asks how much I have, and I reply “not much”, with a smile. 10 pin,  which is the same as the mini bus. I agree, he agrees. We are off.

Beside me is a woman and her young child, asleep. There is also a man, he is chatty, asking me where I come from and what I am doing and of course if I am learning either Lavale or Lunda. I give him the run down of my language ability. He is mildly impressed as we laugh.

He has a plastic bag with him, I see he has his toothbrush and an old tin cup. The necessities’ of life he tells me, when he catches my eyes looking.

The road is a dangerous mixture of sand and gravel. Bumpy from overuse and big trucks– like this one. The driver is good, I feel safe.

It is always something to be so close to people, physically close. Our legs touching, her baby’s head grazing my shoulder.

I learn that the woman is 21, her birthday is September 5th, she has two children. The eldest is 5.

The sun dips lower in the sky, I am tired, and I just want to get home. The driver turns to me, he says “you must be very brave”. I laugh, “I am not sure I understand” I say.

He tells me that I am in a place I have never been before, in a country where people don’t speak like me, act like me, or even look like me. He says he would never go to Canada. He would never be brave enough; he has too much fear of unknown things and places.

I say “people are kind and this is the adventure.” It isn’t bravery. I tell him he is braver then me, he is brave because he also visits places unknown, he drives across the country. Into strange lands where he knows no one. He does it because he has to, because it is his adventure. It is his bravery that brings him to places to Kabompo. His adventure has a family counting on it, his adventure will always be bigger then mine.  His bravery will always mean more.

I say these words, and he smiles, he knows this true. Our adventures do not compare, and most importantly our bravery is not even measured in the same units.

We continue to talk about adventures–bumpy roads present in each. We speak of the people we have met and the breakdowns we have had.  It is a wonderfully long way back to Kabompo.

I ask to be dropped at the market, he tells me tomorrow he is driving to Chingola. Bad roads most of the way, weighed down with a load of maize.

As I hop down from the cab, the driver smiles and me he tells me to enjoy my adventure my reply to him is to do the same.

Categories: Uncategorized