Saturday, December 19, 2009

Africa gets under your skin

Well considering that this time last year I was actually in Kalene and it's nearly a year since I returned you may wonder why I'm still writing! But I've just printed out my blog posts to incorporate into an old-fashioned photo album - you know, one that you actually pick up - and realised that I didn't ever write my last post. Now of course I've forgotten a good deal but a few things stand out.

*walking across the bridge into Zimbabwe to see the rest of the Falls. A guided tour was prohibitive so we bought temporary visas to get into Zim and managed to talk our way back into Zam a few hours later without having to pay again! Most of the Falls are on the Zim side and there used to be a thriving tourist industry there whilst Zam languished. Now of course the tables are reversed and whilst the Falls were as impressive as ever the enduring image I have of that day is the Zimbabwean who was stopped at the border and made to leave his bag of maize behind because he had already taken his quota of Zambian subsidised maize through that month. Although how the border guard could tell from the scruffy piece of paper that was his passport/visa was beyond me. So he returned to his family with nothing and these people live near the border so at least have the chance to find cheaper food from time to time - those in the cities and interior are not so "lucky". It was sobering in the extreme.

*at the other end of the scale and yes I appreciate my good fortune...having fun getting round Lusaka by myself for a day once Fiona had gone back to Kalene. I had 2 or 3 places I wanted to find including a material shop and a silversmith. I taxied to a shopping centre I'd been to before first to go to the bank etc then set out to walk into the city centre. It really wasn't that far and I'd been driven in a couple of times so had a good idea where i was going but the heat won and a somewhat concerned man directed me to the local "bus" stop. This was one of those situations where you're sure you've got the last seat in the minivan but no they squeeze in at least 6 more people!! Being unable to see out meant that after a while I completely lost my sense of direction (no smart comments please!)and when we reached the terminal, after detouring to a petrol station where for some bizarre reason we transferred to another van rather than just fill up, I had no idea where I was at all. I couldn't see one familiar landmark and moreover not one other white face!! However, you only have to ask and I was soon on my way again, passing the most wonderful street markets full of delicious fresh food that I wanted to take back to the guest house....Anyway the material shop was amazing - I managed to restrict myself to a few pieces and when the charming assistant heard how I managed to find the place and that I intended taxi-ing to the silversmith, insisted on ordering me one because, he said "If you do, you'll be ripped off!" He had quite an animated conversation with the driver when it arrived and I have no doubt that it would have cost me a great deal more without his intervention.

However between us there was something definitely lost in translation because i was taken to a brake and clutch specialist that one out!! When we did eventually arrive at the silversmith (a friend of the Poidevins) I had great pleasure in choosing for myself a pair of earrings of Zambian silver that I wear often.

*They say Africa gets under your skin and it certainly did me - I hope to return someday and even if I don't my trip will remain one of the highlights of my life. I could, however have done without the piece of Africa that did, literally, get under my skin - a dreaded chigger flea came home with me - well at least its offspring did and caused great excitement down at the surgery (it had been a quiet day...)A few shots and much curettage later and it was just me - returned from Africa, older, happier and much wiser about many things - including the need to wear covered shoes!!

Over and out :-)