Lusaka Living

The first couple of weeks in Zambia were spent trying to get our bearings and explore the city alongside cracking on with the work side of things. We made a few small trips around town to familiarise ourselves with our new surroundings and learn more about Zambia – its wildlife and history – as well as find the city’s best hangouts for what I like to do most: eat and swim.

Munda Wanga Environmental Park is a wildlife sanctuary with an environmental education centre and some lovely botanical gardens. “Munda wanga” means “my garden” in Nyanja and it’s located about 16km south of the city centre in Chilanga.

Source: thebestofzambia.com

The sanctuary is essentially a rehabilitation zoo with over 45 wildlife species, mostly endemic to Zambia. They have animals that have been rescued from pet owners or poachers, as well as animals that wouldn’t survive in the wild, such as lions with hormone imbalances. Interestingly, they host pangolins and owls that have been saved from traditional ‘black magic’ uses. They do feeding tours at 2pm every weekend.

A lioness jumps up to her lunch.

Some of the animals seem to be there only for “educational purposes”, which might be more okay if the zoo didn’t seem so shabby and removed from nature. I do think it’s an important centre for learning for Zambians in Lusaka who may not have a chance to experience wildlife in other parts of the country, but with a bit of additional funding the facilities could be made more comfortable for its inhabitants.

The Education Centre at Munda Wanga (source: thebestofzambia.com)

We went on a Sunday when flocks of schoolchildren were excitedly running to and fro. Sometimes I felt like wewere on display, the amount of times they were fascinated by seeing and pointing at us mzungus. The highlight of the Education Centre might have been seeing a stuffed elephant foot. They also had a jar of lion fetuses (?), neither of which I snapped photos of.

Steph admires the plant life.

The decidedly best part of the park is the botanical gardens, started by a Brit in 1950, with endemic and exotic species of flora. They have a petrified tree, ornamental ponds, some indigenous but mainly exotic shrubs, and it’s one of the few places you can go in Lusaka to have a picnic. Definitely worth a visit on a Sunday afternoon.

Will and Euan admire some yellow bamboo.

The Lusaka National Museum is conveniently located in the heart of town, where Independence Avenue begins. Housed in a Soviet-style building, it is informative, but almost a shell of a museum.

Julia, Flo and Jo at the museum.

The exhibits are small and humorous at times, but the ancient history section, about the first traces of human life and evolution in Southern Africa, puts into perspective just how long people have been living in this part of the world. The “Rhodesian man”, a homo rhodesiensis skull about 150 000- 300 000 years old, was found in Kabwe in Zambia. The display includes (what we think are) replica skulls from different periods.

Colonisation and independence history feature heavily in the Lusaka National Museum.

Another section showed a lot of promise, going into great detail about the independence movement and government administrations, until it abruptly stopped and blank, unfinished boards provided no continuation. Oh well, we thought, a lot of Zambia seems to be a work in progress.

Julia and I gave the museum a slow wander.

They have a strange exhibit of “traditional Zambian life” which is a replica village with creepy clay people and mud huts. It seems unnecessary when you could venture 10 minutes and view the same scene in real life, but it might be for children or to highlight different tribal traditions. We gave the exhibits the benefit of the doubt.

One of my favourite parts was the emphasis on Zambia’s diversity and the many tribes and languages here. In Lusaka, people speak English, Nyanja and Bemba, but there are 7 main language strains and up to 73 (!) local languages and dialects spoken around the country.

What I like to learn.

And that concludes our visit to the museum, ladies and gentlemen. For 30 kwacha (£3) entrance you do have the opportunity to learn about Zambian history and culture, but if you can find yourself a guided tour, that might be for the best.

The Intercontinental pool

Another great activity in Lusaka is swimming. Which means you have to find a pool. Hotel pools in Lusaka are top notch and give you a break from the hustle and bustle of the busy city centre. My favourite contenders are the ones at the Radisson Blu and Intercontinental, where they have the comfiest sun loungers and great wifi access. Intercont tries to charge 100 kwacha (£10) per person for a day of swimming. We think that’s extortionate and have developed crafty ways of avoiding this fee (ie. somewhat ignoring it).

Jo, Flo, Undani and I had a similar “Dip ‘n’ Dash” at the Radisson where we avoided swimming costs with clever chats and strategic drink purchases.

The Radisson pool

On the restaurant side, the Deli is a favourite expat hangout in Lusaka. Life in Lusaka seems to be a constant hunt for good wifi and this place may be the jackpot. The combination of an amazing variety of salads and paninis, freshly blended juices and ice coffees and a relaxed outdoor atmosphere, means I would happily just live at the Deli.

Euan and Jo work in the great outdoors.

Another great restaurant is Taco Hut, Mexican oasis of calm in Kabulonga. My Zambian friend Undani and I had our reunion here – we know each other from Nairobi school days.

Old friends!

It had been about 7 years since we last saw each other over in Eastern Africa so we had a year-by-year catch up and I had maybe the best fish tacos ever.

We’ve also visited the main shopping centres, Manda Hill, Arcades and Levy Junction, parts of which are brand new and really give you an indication of how fast this city is developing.

Over in Woodlands, where most of the volunteers live, there are smaller shopping areas. We browsed a few Zambian tourist items ahead of the 50th Independence celebrations (more to come on that subject).

Will and Steph sauntering over to the crafts

Jo, Chigz, Annie and I have moved into a small two-story house extension in Woodlands. We buy biscuits from a local shop called “No Jesus No Life” and have housekeeper who spends about 4 hours preparing one lunch.

Next post: going to work!

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