Monday, January 05, 2009

The Week of Firsts

- Taxi cab from the airport to town: Once I was in the taxi with Allen, during chatting I took in some scenery. I observed a number of women carrying mounds of bags on their heads and the men, on their bicycles mostly carrying charcoal.

- African meal: a piece of chicken with nsima (maize ground into a firm porridge that you ball a piece in one hand, and use it soak it up with tomato sauce) and a local variation of broccoli rabe. No utensils and napkins! During an IM chat with Nicar, I proudly told him I ate using my hands. The chicken was tough, had to pull it apart with my hands in order to eat some hard to reach meat.

- Deaf interaction: at the Zambian National Association of the Deaf, then at the marketplace. A deaf tailor working on a linen shirt commissioned by Allen, and two deaf shoppers dropping in – a priest and a teacher of the deaf. The next day, Allen chatted with a group of deaf men from Zimbabwe who were looking for work, saying things are very bad at home.

- Township and marketplace visit: Many, many people walk everywhere especially on the highway alongside speeding automobiles, buses, and trucks. Riding a taxi in Lusaka, the driver will basically drive through people, and occasionally bumping arms with the sideview mirror. After visiting the ZNAD, Allen wanted to show me what it’s like walking through a busy marketplace. It’s sort of like Chinatown in New York City where you’re shoulder to shoulder walking among people trying to avoid stepping on wares or being brushed by a car or minibus. Many women sat or squatted on muddy ground selling and bartering their wares such as oranges, mangoes, onions, clothes, rubber boots, crafts, kitchen appliances, machine parts, and everything you can possibly imagine. What impressed me most, their babies or small children tied onto their mother’s back or side in a wrap, mostly quiet, asleep or watching. I’m accustomed to seeing restless children back in the States. Inside the legit marketplace supported by roof and walls – I say legit because those who sold their wares can afford the booth fees – sold similar wares as these outside, but better or diverse quality. There were also tailors, hat and dressmakers. Allen met a friend of his, a deaf Zambian tailor who’s been working for 18 years and he has regular customers. Two deaf shoppers stopped by to chat – a priest and a school teacher.

-Bus trip: a 10 hour trip to Lilongwe from Lusaka, via eastern Zambia, and the border crossing into Malawi. Eastern Zambia comprised of valleys, bunched up together, or at distances looking like pointy mounds separated by miles, and eventual grasslands dotted by trees, large and small fields of crops. There are deforested spots here and there, and you often see tree stumps in gardens and fields. Many villages of huts dotted along the road, children looking at our bus as we passed by. The deeper in the rural country, the more huts we saw in grouping of huts, some walled with thin stapling trees, and those without, serving as meeting centers. The women wore traditional chitengas (something like sarongs) in various prints and colors in more frequency and a different wrap style than the city women. The bus drove so fast that the villages and scenery blurred by. Allen, sitting on the aisle seat with a better view of the driver, saw the bus nearly hit the people riding bikes on several occasions. He once observed that cars or all forms of transport comes first, those on bikes come in second for their right of the way, and various other transports until the pedestrians come last.

-squatting on my haunches over a rectangular hole to relieve myself. Enough said. Let’s say I was successful and didn’t wet myself in the process. The latrines were inside a small concrete structure with two holes separated by a wall. This happened at a rest stop along the bus route, deep in the country. Public bathrooms cost a fee and evidently, this is a good business for locals to maintain. A bonus: a large bottle with stopper handy to wash your hands. Cholera is rampant in Zimbabwe and it’s spread into north of South Africa (last I heard). Evidently Zambia and Malawi aren’t in any serious danger from the epidemic from Zimbabwe. I’ve seen many billboards sponsored by the Ministry of Health in Lusaka reminding all to wash hands and retrieve water from safe wells.

-Washing clothes by hand. I decided to wash some shirts, underwear, and pants and found it to be rather tedious work. A bottle of beer helped keep me company. The shirts and underwear were the easy part until I did the pants. The pant, especially the seat where the fabric is heaviest, my arms shuddered from the effort to lift the soaked pants out of the soapy water and under the tap. With the humidity it took a day to dry. The morning after the thunderstorm, in direct sunlight – I hung the clothes in better proximity (from the inside of the washroom). It dried in several hours and I was able to get them inside before more rain arrived.

- African rain: though it rained hard in Lusaka but it was late at night or early in the morning so I only saw the results. My second night at the hostel camp in Lilongwe, a thunderhead appeared and some time after dinner a deluge of rain poured down. Worse than cats and dogs. Allen said this is African rain since this is a rainy season beginning in November until April or May. September and October in Zambia was very dry, the land and gardens were very brown and desolate. The previous dry and hot winter (our summer up in northern hemisphere!), there were very random light rains. Allen marveled two or three times a day how green it is and how fast everything grew from the ground. Back to the thunderstorm – it was very close to the camp and loud. I was reading “The Poisonwood Bible” (thanks, Pat!) which really gave me insight on the weather and people – African and mazungu(white)’s mentalities or state of being. Allen says mazungu so much that it’s caught on me. It’s sort of being in reverse where the majority here is black Africans and I’m the mazungu deaf woman. Off the point again. The thunder boom was so loud and hard that I could feel the hostel shudder under my bed. Looking outside, the lightning lit up the ground like a camera flash. The power went off briefly – perhaps for half an hour. Some of my clothes I’d washed that morning became increasingly damp. With the rains, I began to see the wisdom in concrete floors and mini irrigation canals not only on the campsite, but in town as well. The bathroom and shower area, being on the ground flooded (I found out the hard way by stepping my bare foot down needing to go to the bathroom). When I set my foot down, I think it went past my ankle before I quickly yanked my foot out of the floodwater. After the thunderstorm stopped for good, I saw some workers mopping up and disinfecting the bathroom and showers. As the Borg would say, efficient.

Fast Food – I met with one of my supervisors, Charles at the Hungry Lion, a chicken and hamburger fast food place, and it is Halaal approved (so says the sign behind the cashier). It was very greasy but decent – two pieces of chicken; wing and a breast I think with chips (I offered them to Charles) and a slender glass bottle of Coke.

Tuesday, I depart for Blantyre – some more of the country to see.


Blogger MCC Brazil! said...

Beautiful observations! If feel as if I'm traveling with you. Thank you for the descriptions. I hope you are able to take some covert photos as you travel. Also, get some photos of you, too, please.
Keep washing your hands! :) Did you get a tetanus shot before you left? If not, get one soon. Don't know what is floating around in that rain water. Cover open sores, Kate, and wash them often.

Travel well!

1/06/2009 8:29 AM  
Blogger Kate O. Breen said...

hey - yep got a tetanus and diphtheria shot courtesy of Gallaudet SHS ;)

1/08/2009 3:25 AM  

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