The second week of our expedition took us out of the relative safety and tranquility of Golden Days Lodge, our training base, and out into the real Lusaka. A city with hustle and bustle like you would’t believe. Having travelled around a few cities in Europe and America, and read my fair share of travel blogs, I thought I may have been somewhat prepared for what I’d face on my first day travelling to work. Wrong. Nothing that I have ever experienced or read even come close to preparing me for what lay ahead.
The image you have in your head of a ‘bus’ isn’t even close to matching what we have here in Lusaka. Imagine a fairly small minibus crammed so full of seats that it can squeeze in the same amount of people you’d find on a normal rush-hour bus in the UK. They even have fold-down seats to utilize the walkway space. This is a great bit of initiative and engineering, but it means that when somebody at the back of the bus wants to get off, 15 people have to stand up to make way for them.
There is no bus schedule, timetable, or even set route, so finding the right bus involves listening to the drivers shouting their destinations, or asking a friendly local to point you in the right direction. Stressful when you’re in a hurry, yet oddly satisfying when you manage to hunt down the right bus. Furthermore, due to the lack of timetable, drivers are happy to sit an wait at any given location for however long they want in order to attract more customers, despite the fact 15 existing customers are having to sit and wait too.
Each bus has an operator/conductor who rides in the back with the rest of the passengers. There is no set price, so haggling is essential. I tend to pay a different price every day. Such is the determination for the driver to cram as many customers into the bus as possible, the conductor can often find himself stood on the bus step, clinging on for dear life.
My lovely host family includes Mr and Mrs Lusaka (apparently the great grandfather founded this city), 18yr old Nigel, 13yr old Natalie and 6yr old Emmanuel (or ‘Ema’). They live in a nice bungalow on the outskirts of Lusaka. The house features brand new sofas and a big tv with sky sports subscription, but no shower, hot water or washing facilities. Learning to take a ‘bucket shower’ and hand wash my clothes has been interesting to say the least. Fortunately I am close to transport links, offering me easy access to work and the ability to meet friends often.
I have been assigned to work alongside my Zambian counterpart Catherine at Glymo Enterprises, an agricultural commodities broker. We have been tasked with developing their brand, including designing a new logo, writing a marketing plan and eventually working on their business plan. The work is confusing as the business hasn’t been operational for two years, and we do not have access to reports or any detailed information. Furthermore, I happen to be working for the only unpleasant Zambian I have come across, which doesn’t help proceedings. Such is life. The boss left at the end of my first week to fly around Africa to work on her other business of agricultural consultations, so at least I get two weeks to work on my projects in peace.
My business is one of only two of our group to have wifi, so I am fortunate to be able to carry out research online in the comfort of our nice office.
I read in about one hundred different places online that English is the main language in Zambia. This hardly seems true at all. The majority of people in Lusaka either speak Nyanja or Mbemba as their first language, particularly those lesser educated. Fortunately most speak some English too, so I am able to get by.
Our Saturday mornings are set aside for team meetings about the past week’s progress. It was fascinating to here how well friends had got on in their business, and swap success/horror stories between each other. We also used this time to do a little more CMI training.
An intended trip visit the local Elephant sanctuary in Lusaka had to be put aside for another week once we realised they closed at lunchtime. Instead we took a ride out of the city as a group to visit a lovely country cafe/pub with lovely views to enjoy in the baking sun.
The overall experience of my first week of free-roaming the city on my own has been one of huge revelation. Things have been far different to what I ever expected or imagined. I am very happy in my host home and get to see friends often. Hopefully my circumstances at work will pick up soon.