Since entering the land of Zambia some three months ago, I’ve been rechristened ‘Jesus’ on the streets (see what I did there?). From Livingstone to Lake Kariba to Lusaka to Kasama and everywhere in between. I’d grin, respond with the occasional, “Yes, my son?” and play along with it.
I never thought it would get me walking with cheetahs, playing tennis, going on a game drive (all at Chaminuka Lodge, 40K’s outside of Lusaka), two weeks accommodation, food, partying, recording a track, voicing a radio advert and playing the man himself in a music video and an advert.
I had met John, owner of Mojo New Media, through his sister, Janet, who works in the sales department for Paratus whose manager, Marius (and one night at Jeremy’s), graciously hosted me for two weeks in exchange for assisting his installation team on installations (I know as much about installing IT services as I do about splitting an atom.
I cannot split an atom).
As soon as John met me at the Chit Chat bar (the night I helped our team win the trivia) he said, “I want to use your Jesus look. Let’s talk tomorrow.”
Initially, he had offered to pay for my talent.
“I don’t do money,” I said, giving him my philosophical spiel. “But if you provide me with food and bed I’ll do what you need.”
“How about also something off your list?” he added.
“Er,” I really needed a new guitar bag. I gave mine until the end of the month before completely falling apart (it’s not me, it’s weak material. I don’t wanna judge a certain country, China, but you could have put a little more effort in), “Would you happen to have an extra guitar bag lying around?” I pushed.
“We can manage something,” and then he offered me some gin.
A week in and I happened to offhandedly mention it to John that I’d completed a voice-over course and, “I can do some voices if you like.”
“Give me a cockney accent,” he requested.
I could only hope that my, “Oh-right ‘en guv’nah?”, would pass the impromptu audition.
“OK,” John grinned. “If you can produce it, as in, write it and get it recorded I’ll speak with Josh we can tick something else off your list”.
“A small backpack to replace my stolen one?” I put forward. “I’ll write it up tonight, get it done by the weekend. Monday the latest.”
“Done,” we shook on it.
I was housed with Stan (one of the photographers) who I shared his room with for the two weeks along with his two room-mates, Eddie and Evan. Eddie also works at Mojo and together with Evan is part of an a capella group called, 14.
Their neighbour, Daniel (whose welcoming me too the neighbourhood resulted in the consumption of four bottles of brandy and a blacked out memory) publishes Agriculture, a free magazine about – you guessed it – agriculture.
“I’m a writer if you need some articles or editing done,” I offered and then declined his offer to pay me. “I don’t do money. Happy for the exposure. Or a waterproof tent.”
“Lemme talk to my partner and I’ll let you know,” he said.
The next day we made borscht soup as both our mothers are from the Soviet persuasion (I’d never once thought that I’d end up make a traditional Russian soup in Africa). By mid-week Daniel returned with a better barter.
“My partner had an idea. We’ll provide you with a hat with our logo on it,” he said. “You take photos of it around the world and we’ll throw $200 your way.”
“Like I said,” I countered. “I don’t do money. But I would need a camera to take the photos with. My waterproof one just died and they go for about $200.”
“Lemme get back to you,” Daniel said.
The next day he came back to me with an incredible barter that I couldn’t say ‘no’ to.
“We’ll sponsor your visa fees for the African countries you’ll visit. In exchange, you do the photos with the hat and send us a story for each edition,” he stuck his hand out.
It would appear that my mojo was working over time.