Sunday, December 14, 2008

You Need Water for Falls

My week in Zambia went quite smoothly. I arrived in Lusaka on Sunday and was met at the airport by a PSI employee. As always, it was nice to be greeting in a new place by a friendly face. Although Lusaka is Zambia’s capital, the airport was quite small - something on the scale of what Providence’s TF Green was like 20 years ago. Fortunately, this was made up for the by my hotel. I was staying at the Intercontinental for the week; a modern, sleek business hotel.

On Monday, I was taken to the office where I deposited in an office whose occupant was on vacation. I think the intent by my hosts of giving me an office in which to work was quite kind, but it was also very isolating. I spent a great deal of my time during the day trying to find the people with whom I was supposed to be working. Between the office complex consisting of a rabbit warren of small buildings, closed office doors and the staff’s uncanny ability to never be where they were said to be, I found myself working on my own quite a bit. Ultimately, I was able to accomplish most of the things I set out to do, but it could have been done in half the time had the staff just sat down with me and done it, rather than spending lots of time talking about what needed to be done or disappearing altogether. I’ve found the work ethic, the ability to prioritize and a sense of urgency very different here, and often lacking.

Overall, the week went fairly well, and culminated in a field trip one morning to take photographs of “outlets” to be used in our survey. These are places where one can buy or be given antimalarials such as hospitals, pharmacies and in the case of Zambia, containers. Containers are former steel shipping containers that have had the narrow end cut off and are now used as a store. They sell everything from groceries, vegetables, clothing, medicines - pretty much anything that can be sold. It was fun to get out and see a little bit of the city, including a visit to one of Lusaka’s slums.



On Thursday night, I flew to Livingstone to see Victoria Falls. Again, I was picked up at the airport (again, tiny) by a staff member from the local PSI office. It was completely out of his way and not in his job description, but a welcome gesture especially since the power went out immediately after I met him and we were plunged into darkness for a few minutes. I was a bit concerned about the quality of my hotel in Livingstone as I had booked it through Travelocity and it was significantly less expensive that the hotels that had been recommended to me by friends in Nairobi. Although those hotels sounded lovely, they were completely booked (and $400/night!) As it turned out, the hotel was extremely nice and the staff exceptionally helpful. I think in part that was due to the fact that I was one of only two non-conventioneers who were at the hotel at the time. Little did I know, the hotel was hosting all the African Ministers of Defense and their entourages. I was either in the safest location on the continent or the biggest target.

During the week, I was unexpectedly informed by the Zambian airline that my flight from Livingstone back to Lusaka had changed. Not by just a few minutes, but from a late afternoon flight to an early morning flight. Although that meant I would be able to get home a day earlier than planned, it also meant that I would not get a second day in Livingstone so I had to make the most of my time there. I decided to arrange for a guided tour of the Falls and a sunset cruise. Patrick, my tour guide, was friendly and knowledgeable, and we spent a nice morning walking around the park. Unfortunately, as I had been warned, this time of year the Falls are not full, so they aren’t as magnificent as though would be at their peak in April. In an effort to encourage tourists to visit year ‘round, the tourism board promotes the Falls during the off-season as an opportunity to see the rock face. Frankly, I would have preferred to see water. When the Falls are full, none of the cliffs can be seen and the mist is so heavy that tourists get drenched even standing on the opposite. The only moisture I felt was the sweat from an 85 degree day and dipping my toes in the Zambezi River.

video
I was looking forward to the boat ride, but unfortunately, about 1 pm the clouds started rolling in and then it started to pour. It cleared up a bit late in the afternoon, but once on the boat, it quickly turned dark again and enormous raindrops pelted the boat. We had already left the dock when the sky was lit up by lightning bolts on all sides. I was sitting next to a Canadian woman and her husband and we all thought the boat should turn back, however the caption had no intention of doing so. He intrepidly proceeded, although we couldn’t see a thing through the curtain of rain and felt we were courting danger. Eventually, the storm lessened and we just had a soggy, grey ride up and down the river.

So that was my Zambian adventure. I left early the next morning, had uneventful return flights and was welcomed by smog, dust and heat at the Nairobi airport. Although it was nice to be back, I already missed the clean, clear air of Zambia.

3 comments:

Julie Rackliffe Lucey said...

marge!

I need an address to send your christmas card!

Julie (in the time of too many exclamation points, and heading the house of exclamation points this sunday! in CT! with 4.5 baths!)

Michael said...

Marge, I enjoy your postings so much. Love the titles! Does it seem like the time is flying by to you?

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