IMG_5375“I’m heading to Lusaka on Tuesday,” Dian (pronounced, Dee-ann) said as we passed the evening at the bar of the Kariba Bush Club.

It was Sunday night and I had one other option of riding with Jordan, director of the Zongwe Crocodile Farm, on Monday but Jordan couldn’t guarantee that he’ll be leaving on Monday.

“Might be Tuesday,” he said on Saturday night. “Who knows.”

With Dian it was a sure shot which left me Monday to volunteer with the Canadian and American doctors, dentist, nurse and pharmacist who were volunteering themselves through MMI (Medical Ministry International). In exchange for a dental and medical check-up, I’d help out with crowd control at the local village clinic.

Folks walked from as far as over a hundred K’s away when these guys show up once a year for two weeks.

After attending to 133 patients from 07:00 that morning until just after 18:00, we packed up the clinic and headed back the hour’s drive to the Bush Club.

Tuesday morning I said my ‘goodbyes’ thanking Chenney and Marina for having me, proud of my sanding of the restaurant’s deck and hit the road with Dian.

“I just need to collect some samples for the client,” he said, referring to his geology job.

He drove over the flattened sand dune disguised as a road, took a left towards Maambo and guided the bukky off-road to a small river where I helped him collect three bags of rock samples to take back to Lusaka. Back on the tar road, we zigged and zagged around the potholes, handing out packets of biscuits to the police at the road blocks and check points. One of them looked at me.

“You look like the guys from the Bee Gees,” he said, grinning.

“I’m just tryin’ to stay alive,” I responded, cracking him up as he waved us on.

The road to Lusaka on the T1 and T2 highway is heavy with trucks, construction work and potholes. Only few sections are brand new and pothole-free. The single-lane highway had a spew of broken down trucks on non-existent shoulder lanes. The bushland area was drier than dried fruit which had me wondering what might it all look like once the rains hit (usually November but in the past few years they’ve only arrived in January).

Lusaka is home to about 4.5 million people and serves as the capital of Zambia, based in the south close to the border with Zimbabwe. Unlike most capital cities I’ve been to or seen in magazine or movies, Lusaka offers absolutely nothing for the foreigner. The streets are dirty and dusty, the buildings are drab and grey and just appear sad. Wealth appears to be measured on how green your grass is and traffic is a free-for-all. There are street peddlers peddling everything from sim cards and airtime (phone credit) to poster maps and blow-up toys (not those ones. For the bath). There are few mosques hinting to a strong Muslim community among the ever-believing Christians.

But the people are nice and friendly and are everywhere on the street.

Dian pulled into the Protea Hotel adjacent to the Arcade mall. He invited me for lunch and at about 17:00 my couch surfing host, Jonathan (who has hosted more than 500 couch surfers and within 20 years I predict him to be the President), picked me up and took me to one of his Techzone (mobile phones) shops.

Seven years ago he started a business travel magazine called, Partner’s Guide Zambia Business Travel Magazine after studying business in Dublin. He has direct lines to MPs, ministers and even the President of Zambia who, on October 24, will lead the nation in celebrations of 50 years of independence from the British.
“I studied editing if you need a hand with some articles,” I offered, hoping to make it worth his while for hosting me.
He went to church with his wife for a couple of hours so I was left with a worker who suggested we go to the bar down the road.
A cold beer on a hot night? Who am I to deprive my body of such a luxury?
“The bitches come after nine,” says Belinda, the waitress, answering my question as to,
“When does it get busy?”
Almost spitting my beer mid-sip, I said, “I’m sorry, what?”
“The bitches come after nine,” she repeats.
“What do you mean bitches?” I ask innocently.
“Girls who sell themselves,” she says.
“Ah,” the coin dropping. “Prostitutes.”
“Yes,” says she. “They line the street here,” she indicates towards the road.
Zambia. Never a dull moment.
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