And like that, my time in Zambia is through.
Its been a whirlwind 3 weeks, as evidenced by the nearly complete lack of blogging. Let's see if I can catch up a little.
I spent the first week bouncing between low-cost lodges trying to save on project budget, but they weren't nice, security was iffy, and I didn't have regular power or any internet access. And my camera got lifted, AGAIN. Apparently God doesn't want me taking pictures of Africa. At least I still have the video camera. Also that week was all of the creations of the approach and deliverables I'd be working to craft out for my validation (survey, interview guides, intro materials, final reports, etc.). That first weekend was a party that Anthony took me to with a few of the expats around, and then on Sunday I hit up Pastor Kabifya's church and was the only white guy there. I think I might have blogged about this already. Anyway, Kabifya's turned into quite a good friend of mine and a sort of trusted individual in my life. He's about my age but his life has taken a completely different path and he has a lot of good input for me on things. That's all.
Week 2 I started all the interviews, sending out the surveys, etc.. I also moved to the new, nicer, safer, usually powered and interneted lodge which has been much more comfortable. I spent most of the 2nd weekend hanging around here. The 4th was a Friday and not a holiday here, so I was working, but headed to the embassy to see where the party was that night. It was at the colonel's house so Diana dropped me there and I had a few gratis drinks and caught the last of the back-yard fireworks. Some gal from the Irish embassy invited me over to another expat party following, so that was nice too. Sunday I went to George's church with him and his daughter and Christy, who are all staying at his house (across the street from the lodge I'm at) right now. We hit up the grocery store and the street fair market thing they have Sunday afternoons to sell trinkets to the tourists. And we played soccer with security guard and maid that George has on staff, and the maid's 2 kids, which was fun. And I had more of George's excellent cooking. And watched an episode of house. Then I finally went back to my lodge to sleep because...
Week 3 started with a 2-day holiday here in Zambia. I worked from the lodge mostly. Wednesday morning Anthony and I were due to leave for Nakande, which is in the far western province of Zambia, about 70kms from the border with Angola. It meant a 6.5 hour drive (2 of them through the 3rd biggest national park in Africa), to a 2.5 hour speed-boat ride up the Zambezi and its requisite tributaries. Then another 2 hour truck ride to the actual field sites, which involved a very sketchy river crossing that we almost didn't make (the truck was taking on water, and I caught the whole thing on video).
This was in an area so incredibly remote that I was the first white person quite a few of the children had ever seen. Instead of shouting "Mzungu" they were mainly just screaming and pointing, and following me around at a safe distance whence I alighted from the truck. Suffice to say there's not a lot of NGO's operating this far afield.
We spent that night in Nakande, Anthony and I drinking Castles in front of his room and talking about life and such, and then Friday was all the traveling back to Lusaka. Yesterday and today have been mostly work (although I didt take a break to go work out at one of the nicer hotels here in town, with Tina, another expat stuck here at the lodge like me). I've been cramming the final presentation to the senior management team together, which I present tomorrow to them before flying back to Joburg. And then to Nairobi, and then to Accra.
Today Tina and I walked to the further away shopping center (Manda Hill, about 2kms, Arcades is the closer one at 1km) to have lunch at the Irish pub - Hagan's. Food's actually really good and we had a couple Mosi's and bitched with each other about the general challenges of development in Africa and the resistance to change and the temptation to succumb to the general "TIA" attitude that convinces you that's just the way things work here.
Tina went back to the gym and as I walked home, I thought back to what I have written about before - that part in Lord of the Rings where it talks about how Aragorn took Frodo's hand to lead him away from the fields of Pelennor, and "never walked there again as a living man." Except this time, I was feeling it for Zambia.
I've been here 4 times now, and have made good friends and grown quite accustomed to the society. I will miss it, and I hope to return. But I don't know if or when I will.
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