Tonight is my last night in Lusaka. Tomorrow, I start three weeks of travel through southern Africa starting with a visit to Victoria Falls, followed by time in northern Botswana and then two weeks traveling with my friend Anne in Namibia, ending at a house owned by Anne’s in-laws on Zinkwazi Beach on KwaZulu-Natal coast north of Durban, S. Africa. I’m excited!
Yesterday was my last day with the negotiations coaches.
I was taken aback when I showed up for our final day of training together to find a large number of them practically unrecognizable due to hair changes on Wednesday, a holiday. I learned that it’s all about hair extensions, some from real hair but most synthetic. For a mzungu (white person), it can be tricky to focus on the face instead of the hair in order not to be thrown off course. I guess if I were here a bit longer, I’d get the hang of it. One of the coaches even offered to work on my hair next time I’m in Lusaka, though no hair extensions for me!
Lusaka has turned out to be quite the culture and food find. In the past week, I have gone out to see some form of entertainment or out to dinner all but two evenings.
I have seen a performance art piece called Tujuka Must Die produced by The Barefeet Theater, a creative arts movement that works with former and current street children.
It started with the audience being led in the dark through a field in order to get to the performance space. We had to sing a song in order to be admitted to the site. It was fantastic and reminded me of something I could imagine at Burning Man, even though I’ve never been. In fact, the purple tree you can see in the photo at left went up in flames at the end of the show.
The next night, I went to the Lusaka Playhouse and saw a play called “Not Even the Bible” by a group from the Copperbelt. It made fun of a pastor who said he was trying to help a couple having financial and marital difficulties but his form of help was to have an affair with the wife, all the while saying “All sins will be forgiven.”
The fascinating part about the play was the audience participation throughout – like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The night after that, I attended an event put on by InterNation, an Expat/Zambian networking group, with drinks, food, and dancing. I met people from nine difference countries including, in addition to lots of Zambians, China (Tibet), Germany, England, Nigeria, and Canada. I was the only American.
On Tuesday, I went to Fantasia, an acrobatic and musical event put on outdoors and well attended by Zambia’s white and Indian population but not so many black Africans. In fact, looking around, I wouldn’t have known I was in Africa based on the audience.
As my friends in the Bay Area know, eating out is one of my favorite activities and I like knowing about new restaurants and where to go for what. So, I figured I’d better check out a few of the Lusaka options. Night before last, I had a delicious pepper steak at Marlin, and last night enjoyed tender slow cooked lamb Kleftiko at Eviva. I’ve been to Smuggler’s Inn more than once and had tasty rib-eye and creme brulee courtesy of talented chef Jamie. I’ve also been out for Chinese hot pot and had a delicious brunch so I’m back in my stride and ready to get back into the Berkeley, Oakland, SF food scene in a few weeks.
I also took a fun trip on Sunday to The Elephant Orphanage Project about 20 minutes south of the city in Lilayi. This is only the second orphanage for elephants in all of Africa, the first being one in Kenya that has been operating for 30 years. The one here is only a few years old but, like its Kenyan cousin, its goal is to reintroduce the elephants into the wild once they are old enough (10 years). These babies are generally orphaned because their mothers have been killed by poachers.
As it’s been going only 6 years, its oldest elephant is 8 so there has not yet been a re-introduction. The teenage elephants, age 3 to 10, move to another site in South Kafue National Park. There are 5 baby elephants between the ages of 0 and 3 currently at the orphanage. They drink their bottles of formula in under 10 seconds so I had to be fast with the camera.
It’s a world of difference between Lusaka and Morogoro on the culture and food front. In fact, Zambia, or at least Lusaka, is experiencing an economic revival that folks tell me is fairly recent. New malls, new restaurants, lots of action. Some credit goes to changes at the government level, including tax policy, that is helping small businesses and creating an entrepreneurial spirit.
Many young Zambians who went to the US or other Western countries for university have decided to return in the last few years because they want to get in on the ground floor of this economic revival. It’s an exciting place to be right now.