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10 Reasons why I absolutely love taking public transportation in Zambia

Note: By “public transportation”, I mean the bus (see below).

Public Bus at a Bus Stop

Public Transportation

10. Who wouldn’t want to be wedged between two people of significantly larger masses who then use my waist and belly for armrests. Now I am acutely aware of my love-handles and who doesn’t love that?

9. I truly love it when Mr. “I haven’t taken a bath in 3 weeks because I love the smell of my funk” Stink, sits next to me because then I can’t breathe and boy, does that give me a rush.

8. Sometimes especially when I’m in a hurry and need to get someplace, my bus conductor is absolutely horrid at filling the bus with patrons and so we stand at a bus stop for 15 minutes (sometimes more), the length of time it would have taken me to arrive at my destination by broomstick (haha)… jk… by other buses with other conductors.

7. Mini bus drivers are a law unto themselves. Case in point, when rush hour grid lock traffic means every other other car is not moving, they convert the sidewalk into another lane, one that conveniently is without heavy traffic.

Off-Road Bussing

Off-Road Bussing

Bus on "sidewalk"

Bus on "sidewalk"

6. Each bus has it’s own unique quirk, some have doors that open from the wrong end, others have seat that look convincingly like 2 by 4 planks. All are prime for transporting livestock.

5. Talking about livestock, when I’m on my way to important meeting where I’d like to make a good impression, the best finishing touch is your chicken’s crap all over my new pumps. Love it!

4. After I ride the bus, I love the massive headache that I get from the smoke coming out from the bus and the wonderful that nothing I can do and no medication (sorry Excedrin, not even you) can take that pain away.

3. When I don’t have exact change, that automatically means that I want you, Mr. Conductor totake my money and charge me a “fee” for paying my way and not tell me about it, but let me find out while I’m counting my change and you’ve roared off into the sun.

2. The l0ngest distances are easiest to get to, and may only need a bus or two. The shortests distances of course require 2 and more buses and take even longer than the long distance. Fun! Fun!

1. It’s an opportunity to feel super-skinny. How else do you fit 5-6 people in a space meant for 3-4.

Bus Bus

Bus Bus

Disclaimer: Riding the bus wasn’t always as dreadful as I make it out to be. I appreciated the opportunity to observe people and their humanity as I have come to refer to it,  from such close proximity. I did find out that the bigger buses were more comfortable as I had been told but the little ones were zippier and there were many more of them around.

And yes, I will ride the bus again if the opportunity presented itself, love-handles and all.

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to a square and wholly unattractive house

Today I returned to the house that I used to live in. The place that I had called home for many years, several years ago. It all seems familiar and yet quite foreign. My dogs are gone, dead I hear, replaced by new dogs that don’t know me but are friendly nonetheless. Now their primary occupation is to be guard dogs, so they really shouldn’t be friendly, but I am not complaining.

As I look around, there are remnants of my past life littered about. Some dusty and forgotten. Others used, abused and now discarded and still others, tenets of the lives that now claim this building as theirs. This square wholly unattractive establishment, that for a time was home to me.

It is hard to process and enunciate my feelings concerning the changes. It is as though life has carried on in my absence and my eight years here has made no mark. It’s left no lasting impression, no artifact from the hive of activity that surrounded this house. No memories of my coming of age in this square box, that looked like it was dropped from the sky.

For a while there, when my mother had returned to Nigeria and it was my father and I here at home, I was the woman of the house. I was the manager and I was the keeper. But that time is up, and this boxed house needs me no more. I loved, in truth still love this house, ugliness and all. It was here that I embraced myself. Here that I became me. Here that knows me no more.

It is hard to be a forgotten; a tough pill to swallow that you are no longer remembered and you no longer matter. Perhaps this but a reflection of life itself. Through life’s seasons, places come and go, people come and go, and we can only hope that in the brief window of opportunity that we have to share together, you can make me better and honor of all honors, I can make you better. This I hope for.

Accepting now that my season with this house is over, I know that it has made me better and I hope that despite the lack of evidence, I have in some small way made it better. Though I may never know. After all can a house, a building change? Nonetheless, I am grateful for the opportunity to come back, to pay my respects, homage to this square, ugly building that helped make me the person that I am proud to be today. Thank you.

 

 Zmb2009lot3 021

Still square and wholly unattractive, once my home.

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brownies in a foreign land

Okay, so Zambia is not quite foreign but anyway, we made brownies tonight. They were pretty good but not as good as Amy’s (without nuts!!!).

All of this while the US football team schooled Spain in the semifinals of the confederation cup in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Oh, and we played scrabble while watching football and baking brownies and I won. Yay me!

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a familiar bullet-ridden gate

For several years, my sister, Tyna (pronounced Tina), Gwendy, and I were inseparable. We would even let our younger siblings join in the fun. Tyna and her sisters lived up the street from us and we spent many afternoons together. We did so many things together: swam together, watched tv together, hung around town together, we even went to church camp together once.

Tyna’s dad owned a bar that was next door to the Lusaka Community Playhouse and it was in this theatre that I first saw the musical Grease. Because Tyna’s dad owned the bar, the director of the play allowed us to come in and watch the dress rehearsal. The play was on late at night and there is no way that our parents would have approved of us being out so late. I remember feeling quite chuffed and privileged that I got to see the play before everybody else and it was absolutely awesome. I loved going to the bar. First of all, it had the best snacks and we were allowed to drink as much pop as we wanted. Plus, Tyna’s dad often took us to lunch at the Spur restaurant that was across the street at the Holiday Inn.

As a foursome, we got in trouble together and we had a lot of fun together. In fact, Tyna’s mom once got us to star in a commercial spot for a new Lodge that had opened in town (to this day, I am not completely sure that my mom knew or even knows about this). Funny side story about this ad, just after it aired some random joe that apparently somehow knew me, ran into one of my mates from high school who was wearing a school shirt and walked up to him asking him if he knew me, to which my mate said yes. RJ (random joe) then proceeded to tell my mate that he was my boyfriend. I DID NOT have a boyfriend at this time and granted while my parents wouldn’t have approved, it was mainly because all the boys I had soft spots for just couldn’t be bothered.

Anyway returning to the foursome, I remember we got in trouble at church camp, and yes it was because of boys. I remember the story quite well, it is quite lengthy and so I shan’t tell it here. However things erupted into this big fight, girls versus boys. The girls won, because Tyna cursed the pants off of the boys, which landed her, well no, all of us in trouble. I think I talked us out of it.

Today, I walked up the road to their house to see if they still lived there. At first I wasn’t sure, things seemed different. However, once I got in front of the gate and saw that the bullet holes were still there, I knew that at least their family still lived there. I’m not so sure about the story behind the bullet holes, I believe it had to do with an attempted robbery, a gun and Tyna’s dad.

That bullet ridden gate is a testament to a chapter of my life long gone but not forgotten. The girls don’t live there anymore. Tyna’s in England, married with 2 kids. Gwendy is here. Shasha in Engies. Chi and Nkem in L-town and Okem in Zaria. We all have separate lives.

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I’d like to order a large pizza to go.

Last weekend, in anticipation of a power outtage -I’d say everyday with the power cut off is clue enough- I went out with my hosts to buy dinner because they have an electric stove that is completely useless when the power’s gone and so to date, there had been some evenings without power and thus without supper.

I got to pick what we had for supper and feeling a tad nostalgic, I went for pizza. We get into Debonairs, the pizza place, and I order 2 large pizzas for a group of 4 people. I wasn’t sure it’d be enough as back in L-town, my sister and I typically ordered 2 large pizzas for ourselves for supper. Now we didn’t normally eat it all, but we always came close.

So back to Debonairs, we wait for about 15 mins and then go up to pick up our pizza’s and the attendant hands me these two smallish, maybe almost medium size boxes. I was certain that he had mixed up my order.

My friend quickly came to my rescue before I made a fool of myself and let me know that here in Zambia, that was a large. Now remember, that these 2 pizzas would be shared by 4 people. I rushed quickly to the deli at the gorcery store, Spar and bought other fringe items for our meal because the pizzas would not be enough. I also made sure that I downed a glass or two of coke before I began eating, that way my body would belive it had eaten a lot.

It is interesting to me that even in such small things, it would all be so very different.

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A letter to Mary

Dearest Mary,

It is my hope that this letter finds you in good health. Things have been going rather well for me out here. In our earlier correspondence, you had asked if perhaps in this trip I would find clarity on my identity and just who exactly I am. To tell you the truth, that seemed such a lofty goal, that I often nodded and grunted at, though secretly (and with some trepidation) I  longed for it.

Though I’ve been here but a few weeks, the battle for identity has been ever present. In the midst of westerners, I am transformed to a western-esque individual, the person with whom you are probably most familiar. To accommodate Zambians, put them at ease and best relate with them, I am someone completely different. Still yet, a new person emerges when I interact with certain mates from high school.

This phenomena is not new, I have admitted to being this way for a number of years. However, these separate worlds rarely collided. It has not been so easy here, as these different spectrums of myself are constantly in battle. I would use a softer word but it would not fully reflect the confusion in my head and perhaps my heart. Just today, in a cab ride home, I found the western me interacting with the cab driver at first, asserting some distance between us, until we found common ground (my need for transportation and his for additional business) and immediately the more zambian persona came forward, demanding that if in future I were to use his services, he would have to give me a good price and not a muzungu price:-).

 Assimilating to many cultures but belonging to none is a gift, though not always.

In the midst of this, I am forced to ask myself, who really are you and who do you want to be? I find that my definition of me is not constrained by the accent that comes out of my mouth or the mannerisms that I adopt in different circumstances. In spite of the geographic displacement, I believe that I am finding me and perhaps finding is not the appropriate term for it is not discovery by any means but instead an acceptance and an acknowledgement that I am best me, assimilated and “fitting” to many cultures but belonging to none. I think it best that I no longer seek to belong but instead continue to make the best. This is a lot to handle, I know. I am also certain that I do not understand the full weight of this decision, but in time I hope that this is best. I started upon this road a while ago and thus far it has proved to be the right road for me.

Before I go, I must address the other matter. I note that you were quite concerned about a certain issue, and that things may not proceed according to plan. I am sure that you’d be glad to know that it has all worked out and with far greater ease than either of us anticipated or prayed for. I shall acquire the permitting documents tomorrow evening.

As always, it is a pleasure exchanging letters with you. Do send my regards to all. I anticipate your next correspondence.

Affectionately,

me

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tea, glorious tea

I have found a mango flavoured black tea that smells like a ripe mango freshly plucked from a tree laden with fruit.

It tastes like the first cut into the very same mango, juicy, sweet and succulent as I sink my teeth into it. This isn’t even a herbal tea, it is actually a black tea. But it is oh, so good!

I am now a solid fan of Dilmah Mango Tea.

I plan on carting back a few boxes with me at the end of the summer

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