Charlie Trotman | 10/07/2015
A Zambian Adventure P1
Well I was 6 kg over in almonds, but we have arrived in Lusaka. We ran through Dubai airport on our own ‘race for life’ out into the blazing heat of the runway for the 7 hour journey to Lusaka. After a long check in, where the talkative visa lady signs my visa and declares me as “Charlie Trotman: The Big Man!”
Geophat, the rep with Discovery in Lusaka and Siavonga, then drove us through Lusaka to Kalulu Backpackers aided by his talkative son.
They represent everything that is good about the Zambian way of life. Relaxed, down to earth and always happy to help. Just driving through the surprising green scenery , catching glimpses of women cooking corn and street markets selling board games. Huge billboards advertising everything from construction to penis enlargement!
On the first night, we got through a hearty dish of the traditional Nishima, which is like the African equivalent of mashed potatoes, accompanied by fried fish, spinach, beans and rice, washed down with Mosi Beer at 1 kwacha per bottle. To put it in context 1 kwacha is like 1 pence. So we can’t get too carried away!
The next day, I awoke at 6:30 to a brilliant light to the sound of the confused cockerel of the Backpackers. Today we had to sort out supplies for our time in Siavonga, which was not as commercial an area as Lusaka. Just wandering through a supermarket in a different country can be an eye opening experience, for example; I’d never seen a BBQ on aisle 3 at Tesco…but that’s what greeted me in Lusaka!
In the afternoon, after a stop off at a Lebanese style restaurant for fresh carrot juice, we visited The University of Zambia, to meet with Business development and Biology students who wanted to learn more about our project.
Squeezing in so many students into one picture was no easy task, but I found a pen pal in Caroline Chimba, a passionate photographer of all things in her Zambian life. Along with this I met Bwalya Mulando, who took me around her student village and didn’t quite know how to explain that the queen doesn’t wave at you from Buckingham Palace and not every street in London is lined with soldiers!!!
Back at the backpackers bar, there was a pool competition going on at the bar with a grand prize of £100. We met up with Kevin, a local construction worker who explained the politics of Zambia, bought us a few beers and then passed out after his Jameson.
A power cut ensued and we all gathered around the fire for a few beers as the pool competition moved to a brighter club down the road. How on earth they lined up their balls to keep the game in sync is a mystery to me.
So now it’s 08:08 am on our third day and we are now ready for our 3 hour journey to Siavonga from Lusaka. On the way, we are going to feeding time at the Elephant orphanage and then onto a party with the Siavongan volunteers. I think we all officially feel that we have finally arrived in Zambia, but who knows what the weeks will bring, the only thing I do know is; I can’t direct you to where we’re going, but i know it won’t be boring!
So we have finally arrived in Siavonga in one piece, unlike our bus which due to a flat tyre led to us meeting villagers in a small town, miles from our destination. The locals there have never had the luxury of a mirror let alone a digital camera, many of them could point out their friends in pictures, but not necessarily recognise themselves.
Upon arrival at Siavonga, we were greeted by the Siavonga Nutrition Group volunteers for an abrupt celebration in which they welcomed us to the town and presented us individually with cards. To hear their stories has proved so far to be a rich and rewarding experience, Sylvester even invited me to join him for a bowl of Nshima at his house which was still decorated with Christmas decorations, partially influenced perhaps by Sylvester’s younger brother.
The market itself has many stalls run by the type of women that Siavonga Nutrition Group works with, already, I can feel that I can make images which show the lives of the people in Siavonga. I’ve already seen how locals earn their livelihoods through fishing for Sea-bream, the most readily available cuisine.
While tourists can go and get British staples at the lodges, these people are living in situations which are unimaginable to most westerners.
Visiting the Kariba Dam and learning of the colonial history of Zambia has made many of my images so far feel like they could have been taken during that time. I’ve met several people to which the phrase ‘a character’ could certainly apply, from gin addled expats, to prominent members of the local community, I’m experiencing something beyond just slightly flatter Fanta and cocktails on the beach (though I wouldn’t turn that down) .
Like the polaroids I’ve been giving away around the town, I feel the trip is starting to develop as time goes by. Seeing the women’s groups crushing stones just to get by puts it all into perspective, The next challenge we face is to deliver workshops in a school on Thursday that will provide long term benefit, beyond simply appealing to our need to do charity work. Not just to my portfolio, but to the lives of the Zambian people.
It’s been my first full week in Siavonga, I’ve now seen a side to life where the British equivalent of ‘potatoes every day’ has been replaced by Nshima. I’ve eaten in back street cafes with students of the Siavonga Nutrition Group.
I’ve visited night clubs where they stop the music for me to introduce myself and words failing me, meant I was blasted off the stage.
The key word to summarise life in Siavonga is singing, everywhere we have visited have given us a royal reception of song and www dance. We had women act out the hardships of crushing stones in comparison to the privileged lives we lead.
Going to church on Sunday’s after playing pool with salted fisherman the night before I’ve seen how you can become part of any community albeit treated as a strange curiosity- a stranger in a strange land.
This week, we are delivering workshops to children on sexual health before our trip to Livingstone on Thursday.
Currently, I’ve only seen its waterfalls on a bottle of Mosi beer. Along with an early morning Safari, ill hopefully get to see the same shaded tree that features in a David Attenborough documentary.
After experiencing the people of Siavonga, it’s time to see the wildlife beneath the surface of Zambia. If I will truly get there in all senses remains to be seen, in a similar respect to the crocodiles and lions I hope to encounter.
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