I mentioned in an earlier Zambia Blog that the weekends can be a big bore for International Development workers. Usually that is a function of a language barrier but that isn't the case in Zambia. Most folks speak English because Zambia is the former Northern Rhodesia, a British colony.
One Sunday afternoon I was in my room on the first floor. Beneath me was the garage for those with cars. I had a balcony that looked out on the hotel courtyard. I was sitting out there watching the hotel staff prepare the garden area for a party or luncheon. Hey, it beats counting the stitches in your shoes.
It wasn't long before a group of women showed up and started rearranging everything and putting flower out. When they were done it really looked pretty good. Then the invitees began arriving. They all milled about smartly sipping their ice tea. Eventually the group was called to order and the festivities began. They seemed to alternate between dancers, speeches and toasts. Then the meal was served followed by desert. Then more speeches. By this time I knew it was a fund raiser for the Zambian Girl Scouts.
Late in the afternoon the woman in charge announced the success of the fund raising. Zambia's currency is named Kwacha and she gave the reports in Kwacha. I quickly converted their success to US dollars and was surprised that after all the hoopla they hadn't raised even $1000 US.
As the attendees were leaving I saw the leadership gathering up the flowers and preparing to leave themselves. So I went down to the garden area and went up to the head lady and told her I wanted to make a contribution. I handed her a signed $100 American Express travelers check. She asked what it was. I explained. She asked, "who are you?" I said just an American who wants to support the Girl Scouts.
I returned to my balcony and watched them get ready to leave. I heard them loading their cars when all of a sudden I heard a women scream, "It's real!!"
I smiled as I realized she had asked a cashier in the hotel just what it was I had given her. Should be the end of story, but it wasn't.
The next day I went down to the restaurant for breakfast. All of a sudden I was Mr. Brockman. "More of this, more of that, Mr. Brockman? Is there anything you need, Mr. Brockman." I was becoming self-conscience. And this went on until I left the hotel a couple of weeks later. This should be the end of the story, but it isn't.
When I left the hotel I charged the last two weeks to my American Express and headed to the airport. Back in Panama I went about my normal life buying and selling baskets. All was well but once a month the American Express bill came and every month I could not find that roughly $1600 charge for the hotel. I recalled some of the staff telling me the hotel was owned by a foreigner that nobody liked.
I think that $100 donation was one of the best investments I ever made.