Duty called me all the way to Lusaka to perform a field visit for one of the projects I am working on. As a traffic engineer, experiencing the traffic and driving behaviors in real life is key to being able to analyse it accurately.
Embarrassingly enough, this is my first time visiting another African country and I desperately would have liked to see more, do more and of course, make my way to the Victoria Falls, but unfortunately, it will have to wait. Duty at home called me back, I still have to analyse my findings, and so there was no room to turn it into a holiday.
We arrived at Lusaka airport and upon exiting the plane, walked to the airport. It’s not at all a big deal, but we found it funny, because usually, a bus would take you from the plane to the airport. Nope. Not here. Just walk.
I didn’t pay too much attention to the airport for two reasons, the first being that all I wanted was to get to the hotel and unwind after about 7 or 8 hours of travelling. I was tired, tense and nauseas (possibly due to the anti-malarial medication, possibly due to the shaky flight). The second reason being that there were soldiers scattered all around the airport carrying the largest guns I have ever seen, proper assault rifles, which I don’t think I have ever seen before.
Lusaka is chaotic and so is the traffic, what is an indicator? Never mind! The buildings are dilapidated and the town is stacked with pedestrians and hustlers, but that being said, it was clean and I have never felt any safer. The people welcomed me, chatted to me and smiled at me. Everyone was working, washing cars, especially, earning a wage. I saw about two beggars, which if you are from SA, you know this is not much.
In between site visits, we googled “places to see in Lusaka” and ended up at the Munda Wanga Environmental Park. The park was beautiful, green and luscious, no signs of the drought I am used to. I ran up to the trees, wanting to take a stereotypical touristy photo and a group of children approached me and asked if they could be in the photo, I agreed and they all came running. It was absolutely heart-warming. We walked about ten steps before another group of kids did the same thing.
We rushed off to Jaame Mosque, hoping to make it there for Jumuah, since Google said it would only take 20 minutes to get there… here’s the thing… Google doesn’t have accurate traffic information for Zambia and therefore, we were stuck in traffic for a long time and once it cleared up, we sped up a bit, and then as Murphy would have it, we got pulled off. Since we were in an obvious confused rush, the police officer took 100 kwacha and told us to go, we went. In hindsight, it was definitely sketchy.
We had breakfast and supper at our hotel, The Protea Hotel on Cairo Road, close enough to my site for easy access and the most wonderful hotel staff.
And then it was over before we could understand it had even happened. We sat at the tiny airport, trying to figure out why every single store we entered had a framed photo of their president and confused about how there wasn’t a restaurant after check-in. There were about five stores, one of them sold Pringles… for R84 and so I bought it and ate every single crumb.
We watched as the three flights for the day took off and bid farewell to Zambia. Once we arrived in Johannesburg, I felt a sense of familiarity, the airport was huge, with multiple restaurants and hundreds of stores… we happily greeted the officers and received side-eye and a grunt in return.
“Yep, that’s about right, that’s how we know we are not in Zambia anymore”
Upon our arrival, a woman working at Vodafone said, “Zambia is a country of peace” and I believe her.