Immediately after crossing border and making a first step on the Zambian soil I feel a full-scale relief affecting all my senses. I feel the hundreds of liters of sweat flowing down my body after some strenuous weeks spent in the Congo. Finally I am able to easily communicate with mutual understanding. Sitting at the bar I smell grilled meat. We grab a few beef ribs at the butcher’s for dinner. Elegantly dressed Zambian girls stroll around the marketplace in Chiliabombwe sipping a small bottle of Mosi beer. I wonder why the Zambian beer is so expensive? Actually I do not need the unnecessary answer. In the former British colony you simply have to switch to fairly cheap whiskey.
A paved road with a wide shoulder lead southwards. Pedaling on a bicycle I see massive plateaus. One looks like an interesting rock formation. I already make plans from which side to get there, when coming up closer it appears to be a huge pile of ground, a strip mine byproduct.
I ask a policeman at the security checkpoint how it is to Chingola, he responds raptly “you are already here”. “Okey”, I thought “here, meaning just behind this huge pile of coal“. Chingola is, unfortunately, a heavily industrialized city.
Passing the suburbs we meet dozens of laborers returning from work with picks and heavy bags loaded with loose rocks. Everyone here is looking for his fortune, often self-employed illegally. The deposits of precious metals here are so abundant that it is surely enough to go round. I even heard the opinion that there is not enough business and money to invest to fill in the demand for digging and mining of already known deposits of natural resources.
We find the Don Bosco school, where we also get to know Kuba Wczelik, a Polish volunteer staying here for several months already. We enjoy the evening sipping the whiskey bottle.
For the next several days we take a part in the everyday life of this establishment. It is a well-organized and properly maintained technical college.
Last ordeal weeks I spent being covered with dust, sweat, freezing at night, with no toilet, nor electricity and running water. Now I am easily switched to the higher standard of Zambia.
It might sound awkward but I feel here like a full-blooded colonialist. All seems to be so easily obtained: a morning coffee at a round ebony table, rich breakfast, lawn trimmed, car repaired, whiskey with an ice cube for now and a beer in the fridge for the evening. During the day all you have to do is drive somewhere, get sawdust from a sawmill, chat with some friends in a shop and fix a to-do list with a gardener. The standard of life here is by far not worse than in Europe and having taken away all the unnecessary stress and haste, its quality ranks superior.
The tomato marketplace
We visit the marketplace in Kitwe. An extensive section with tomatoes covers almost 1/3 of its floor space. Rice, potatoes, flour and bananas are available in somewhat smaller, yet still in bulk quantities. The seasonality of the tropical zone has made the produce selection fairly limited.
I talk with a girl who sold me a small bucket of rice. It turns out short-lived tomatoes are nearly the only local product, with rice and flour being shipped from Tanzania. Cheaper labor force over there offset higher carry costs across the Lake Tanganyika.
For the evening we prepare grilled potatoes, breaded fried bananas and croissants with jam.
After the dinner we start a loose debate on the Zambian phenomena sipping whiskey on the patio. Once again, I feel like a pure-blooded colonialist. Evening definitely goes on late into the night, thus we have only two hours left before waking up in the morning.
A road to Lusaka
Jacek Rakowski with his two pupils
We set out with Polish missionary Jacek Rakowski to Lusaka. On the way stop at the meeting place of street children in Kitwe. I notice a few twelve, maybe fourteen year old boys with a bottle of solvent in their hands. Jacek deals with this type of youth. He helps them to overcome the problems they have by taking care of them until they are eventually able to return to their families – if they have one. Especially he makes sure there are no newcomers on the street. He knows all of them, so those new kids he recognizes easily. It’s an incredibly big piece of a good job a white man with a long beard can give Africa.
The next stop is in Ndola. A well-kept house here is a shelter for a handful of kids. Their father is an irresponsible man, but the kids found his true home with their grandparents. It is a example that there are also good things going on in Africa.
St. Lawrence Home of Hope
Suburbs of Lusaka. We pass through Misisi, the slums being home to about 60 to 80 thousand people. Ubiquitous rubbish are put together on many layers. Digged by water rocky holes are flooded in the rainy season, so the shape of terrain disappears and every single year many people drown here, especially children. Wafting stench is not a good representative of the Zambian capital.
We stop in the district of South Kumuala in center for street children in St. Lawrence Home of Hope. Fast we make friends with all the establishment’s pupils. Kids show us all the rooms, bedrooms, kitchen and other facilities. It is nice to see that kids are largely self-sufficient and very resourceful.
The boys in St. Lawrence Home of Hope
We are invited to have a diner with by a massive furnance glowing with red coal. The main course is nshima, the Zambia’s counterpart of the Congolese bukari or simply the dish made of corn flour or crushed cassava. In addition our plates are filled with cassava leaves, beans in tomato sauce and small fried fish kapenta..With a last bit of food also my hunger is satisfied for hours.
The pupils are very curious. Our presence in the Home of Hope sparkles up conversations on all topics. In the end we are even labeled with new Zambian names. Joanna becomes Pili, ie. “a high mountain”, Światek becomes Mulenga, meaning “a strong man”, and myself, for no reason Banda, meaning “the devil”.
Today Jacek has his vows renewal at a local church. The mass takes forever and it is the longest in my life – two and a half hours. There would have be nothing unusual in that has not it been for a young Zambian woman having an epilepsy attack. Together with Światek I carried her outside to get some fresh air. Shortly after she began to breathe steadily. I wonders me that with our instinctive reaction to help, all of the people in the church remained passive to the fainted women. Maybe this is so-called “not a big deal” situation?
Reflecting what I have seen over the recent days I realize that all this wonderful initiative of St. Lawrence Home of Hope is a great success thanks to the commitment and the underlying work. Keep your head up, Africa also gets back on its feet!