Monday, July 22, 2013

More Winter in Zambia

As in Narnia under the reign of the White Witch, winter in Zambia refuses to recede.  Winter in central Africa—even at high altitudes—is admittedly a rather poor imitation of the real thing.  Nonetheless, the cold that sets in as the sun drops with precipitate haste behind the high walls and gentle boughs that define Lusaka’s peaceful suburbs is sharp enough.  The early morning dash outside to the shower blocks (where the water is blissfully hot if you’re early enough) is mercifully brief, but it takes the first cup of tea to begin to dispel the shivers.

Conventional wisdom amongst Zambians is that July is warmer than June, but that the warmer temperatures are offset by the sometimes-fierce winds that whip across the dusty city.  The wind carries debris from flopping tree branches and rubbish-strewn roadsides, and seems possessed of a desire to deposit as much of this flotsam as possible in my eyes.  Occasionally it will stir up a mini-dust devil that will whirl along a dusty stretch of “sidewalk” and on more than one occasion such a storm has spun me around and sent me momentarily stumbling homewards towards the comfort and warmth of bed before I managed to fortify myself and tramp on to the archives, where the wind howls madly through the building.

The labours there are as pleasurable as ever (in fact more so now that the ceiling lights have been replaced!), and I’ve transferred my attentions from Secretariat files to those at the Ministry of Land, via a detour to some Provincial records.  It’s exciting stuff, although yesterday a moment of keen anticipation over the contents of a file marked “Memoranda from His Excellency the President” gave way to momentary disappointment when it turned out to be some distinctly low-level correspondence about the Lusaka golf course. 

Last Saturday, a fair-sized crowd gathered at the Lusaka Backpackers to cheer on the Zambian national team, universally known as Chipolopolo, as they squared up to the Zimbabwean team in the championship match of the COSAFA Cup, a regional soccer tournament.  Backed by a voluble crowd at the stadium in Ndola, as well as an enthusiastic crowd in Lusaka, Chipolopolo won the match 2-0.  How could they not, with fans like the cab driver who was dressed in Zambian colours literally from head to toe and who bedecked his dashboard with Chipolopolo gear? 

The match was followed by a trip to a Thai restaurant in a massive van, newly-acquired by some Canadian friends.  The food was excellent, and on the return journey we managed to avoid the pedestrian massacre that seemed momentarily imminent.

After a long morning of writing, four Backpacker regulars joined a London-based vet student on a trip to the Munda Wanga Trust, a zoo at Chilanga on the outskirts of Lusaka.  She was inspecting the condition of the animals there, and the rest of us followed her around the facility, which had clearly seen better days (although I understand that it has improved in recent years), nodding sagely and promising to help remember various deficiencies in health and facilities.  Zoos are a little depressing at the best of times, and this one was no exception.  There were several antelope species, pigs, camels, baboons, some birds, zebra, painted dogs, and some spectacularly chunky lions which, though they barely looked capable of movement, were nonetheless sufficiently intimidating that the youngest member of a Zambian family doing the rounds refused to go anywhere near their enclosure. 

There was also an educational centre, with murals aimed at educating visitors about the value of recycling, good tree management, climate change, and the value of nature and natural resources.

On Monday, after a day spent shivering in the archives, I joined the Canadians and a political scientist from 
Stanford on a quest for Ethiopian food.  We were duly rewarded, and were also privy to news updates courtesy of Muvi-TV, whereby we learned that the Royal Baby—and presumably a whole lot of other less celebrated children, sans silver spoons—had been born whilst we vacuumed up our supper using massive helpings of injera.  Hysteria undoubtedly ensured in Britain, but happily in Zambia the channel got switched to the Concacaf match between the U.S. and El Salvador. 

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