I’ve finally arrived in Zambia’s capital of Lusaka. After an uneventful British Airways flight in which the only memorable thing was sitting next to an adorable 9-month old baby who was polite enough to not only not cry during the flight, but actually smiled and laughed throughout the duration of the flight, I had made it to Africa!
Full album of photos from today: Click Here.
Lusaka’s airport is tiny and was striking to see how a city with more than 1.5 million residents could have such an underdeveloped airport. For comparison, the terminal in Moncton, New Brunswick was bigger that the one in Lusaka. I quickly passed through customs after paying a $50 USD visa fee, and picked up my luggage. In the arrivals area, I was thankful to be greeted by Douglas, one of the organizers of the program, who drove me to the Commonwealth Youth Program Headquarters.
The program lodge is located on the University of Zambia campus and features 20 guest rooms, several common rooms, a dining hall, a bar, and other places for young people to gather. During breakfast, I met a family from New Zealand that was in Zambia for three weeks for research that the father was doing as part of his Geography teaching at a university in New Zealand. I settled down for a quick nap in my room, and in the afternoon, the wifi in the lobby was working again, so I made contact with a number of people back at home.
After lunch, the New Zealand family invited me for a drive around Lusaka, to which I willingly obliged. The drive was particularly interesting by the amount of diversity that we saw during the 90 minutes that we drove around. We started off by going to a shopping mall that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Vancouver. Imagine a big parking lot, movie theatres, specialty shops, and a supermarket with just about every good imaginable. The shopping complex was frequented by a large number of ex-pats along with some very wealthy Zambians. I picked up some local currency and a case of bottled water and we were off.
The next part of the drive led us to some of the slums of Lusaka. Within five minutes of seeing a wealthy shopping area, the only thing around us was shack houses and roadside makeshift retail outlets. There were no ex-pats or fancy cars here, just a lot of poorer locals, and beat-up old cars. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take many photos of this area during the drive. One point of interest was that regardless of where we went, the Zambians seemed to be extremely well dressed. Even in the poorest areas, most people were wearing high-quality jeans, beautiful dresses, fancy shoes, and I didn’t notice anyone who was wearing old or raggedy clothes.
Just a few kilometers away from these areas, we drove past large neighborhoods that were hidden behind protective walls. These were mostly houses, and some organizations that were protected by an unscalable wall that was either electrified or had barbed wire and glass shards on the top of it. It’s hard to imagining having to live daily with that kind of security.
Next, we drove to the colonial part of the city that was developed in the 1930s by the British. Here, we began to see several larger buildings, including the edge of the Presidential Palace and the Supreme Court. This was also the neighborhood for the offices of each state Ministry.
Following that, we went to the businesses centre of Lusaka. Of note, only the 1980s, all business was state-run, so the privatization of industry was still a relatively new thing. The three or four larger buildings in the business district were completely uninhabited as they were condemned for being structurally unsafe.
After the ride was over, we went back to the University Campus and to the CYP headquarters. That night, there was a large wedding happening on the lawns of the lodge, with several hundred people gathered. After dinner and a few more emails, I retired early for the night and slept for the very first time in a bed surrounded by a mosquito net. Tomorrow, the rest of the workshop participants arrive and we will be traveling to the eastern part of Zambia for our place of residence for the rest of the week.
Some other interesting notes from my first day in Lusaka:
-Zambia is absolutely beautiful. The rainy session has just come to an end, and as a result, there is a tremendous amount of vegetation all around us. Everywhere I look, I am surrounded by a beautiful and lush green colour of plants, trees, and grass.
-The weather is somewhat humid, with the afternoon temperatures reaching about 28 degrees and dropping sharply during the night.
-The people of Zambia are incredibly friendly and polite. Everyone that I have met so far has been quiet, reserved, and extremely hospitable. They almost remind me of Canadians. Every person that I pass smiles at me and says hello. Everyone here also speaks perfect English, which definitely makes my life a lot easier!
-Zambia is home to some of the worst potholes that I have ever seen in my life. The main roads are okay, but as soon as you head off to a smaller road, the potholes there will destroy your car’s suspension in no time.
-Lusaka was originally designed as a colonial city that would be large, expansive, and filled with prominent boulevards that dignitaries could drive along. The ironic thing is that although the boulevards are still there, most of the locals don’t have access to a car, so they are left walking large distances to get from place to place.
-Outside of the presidential palace and courts, the biggest buildings that I saw were churches. During our drive, we saw three or four places of worships that were at least four stories high.
My apologies for the awful quality of most of the pictures as they were taken from a backseat of a moving car! Full album of photos from today: Click Here.