Posts tagged Lusaka

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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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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The power was out AGAIN today. From just before noon till 7.30 pm.  What on earth????

I wish I was making this stuff up. Honestly, I do. The good thing however, is that I was out for most of the afternoon. The bad thing, we’ve only just started to prepare dinner and I am hungry!

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pains that never heal

Yesterday, I went to visit an orphange that I had volunteered at exactly 7 years ago. This orphanage, the House of Moses, caters to young children aged 0-1yr who have no one, no where, no thing.

It had changed since I had last been there. Now it homed 32 babies, 10 more than before. The offices had been moved out to create space for the growing demand. In spite of this, many more babies, many more children in Zambia were not as privileged or as lucky as these few, these 32.

Walking into the first nursery was an immediate assault on my hearing. Several babies screaming at unimaginably high decibels, all wanting nothing more than a confirmation of life, an intentional touch that conveyed care, love and acknowledged that they existed. But there was nothing that the caregivers could do. They each carried a child in a chitenge (a length of cloth) on their back and attended to the needs of another child.

I did the best I could. I held one child against my shoulder, another I laid along my legs and gently rocked, another I held up with my other hand while making faces at a fourth so as to keep him from crying. In spite of this, the heartbreaking sounds of many children crying continued to peal across the room. I held them, I rocked them, I touched them and I sang to them but I wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough.

I did have one particularly profound experience at the House of Moses though. Three kids playing together, two girls and a boy. One of the girls was crying and so the other two took turns putting a toy in her mouth, simulating the action of feeding her. She wasn’t hungry though. I had just seen her being feed by a caregiver a short while earlier. It seemed instead that what she needed was the interaction, the human touch. It was moving to see three young nubile infants, espousing care, compassion and consideration for each other. It gave me hope.

While visiting, I wondered how much it would cost to buy 32 new pacifiers, so that each child could have something that belonged to them.  I know that pacifiers aren’t much but it’s a start.

I also wondered if we could find hands, seeking nothing for themselves, instead giving from the heart, giving of everything. Hands  touching, holding, and loving these children, showing them that they belong and there is a place in this world for them. Hands that gave them someone, and gave them a place. Hands that would give them everything.

It is hard to put to words my experience in that house. Hard to convey the churning in my heart, my feelings and emotions.

I know this though, I hope never to become insensitive to this. I hope it always breaks my heart and the pain never heals….

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ahhh! yes, familiar african experiences

I just got done with the first team yesterday which meant that my uber-comfortable stay at the hotel was up….at least for the next 4 weeks or so. I am staying at a friend’s house right now. And as it to be expected, drama ensues.

I get to my friend’s place and she’s looking after 4 kids of another friend who had lost a family member and was gone for the funeral. 4 boisterous and opinionated children, the last of which, the 2.5-year old was headstrong and stubborn. I decided that a good movie might help facilitate a calmer evening. We all then  trucked to the mall to Blockbusters to get a movie. It took us probably an hour to select movies and get all the paperwork sorted. But we did it. We got back in the car and headed home, satisfied with our selections. All of us that is except the 2.5yr old, who I think was just pissed all night.

Anyway, once we get home, we realize that make that I, must have lost one of the 2 yr old’s shoes as I hauled her back to the car- she was fussy and I wasn’t having it. At home, I figured, pop the dvd in and all will be well. As we try to pick out the one that we’d watch, the lights went out. No power for the rest of the night and we couldn’t watch the dvd on my laptop because we had drained the battery while the power was on. I know, smart. We decided to do the next best thing, and all went to bed.

I woke up this morning and bathed out of  a bucket. My shortest bathing experience this year to date. I then used the water left-over from my bath (clean un-used water) to flush the toilet by bucket. Apparently, I still have the touch, 7 years in the US, did nothing to hurt my flushing arm.

NOTE: The flushing arm perfected in Nigeria at the age of 5. When I lived in Zambia, at school and with my parents, we always had plumbing.

I am regaining respect for the conveniences of my life that I had grown accustomed to.

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unpredictable randomness

This evening, I decided to go to a restaurant just outside my hotel that has a lounge area to do some reading and grab a coffee (capuccino). I walked up to the maitre’d, who had just vacated her post. Some girl walks up behind me talking on the phone and before I know it, she has her hand on my back. I decided to make nothing of it, I figured she was probably distracted and wasn’t aware of what she was doing. She gets off the phone and then hugs and kisses me on the cheeks, asking me if it was fine for her to take outside liquor into the restaurant. I mentioned that I wasn’t an employee of the establishment and she apologized and then she asked me how I was and what I was up to. At which point I asked, do you know me? She said yes, and I said “how? I haven’t been around for 7 years.” To which she replies, “yes, I had thought it was about 6.” I was confused. I did not seem to recall this almost belligerent female.

Through the course of the evening, she came to sit next to me and then asked to borrow my mp3 player, which I lent her and then got back. Later her sister joined her and then proceeded to share her entire life story with me, including the fact that she had just gotten out of an abusive relationship.

I am still not quite sure how to respond to tonight. I’ll say this though, there is no shortage of drame and excitement.

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