All Settled In. (Pretty much)

Hi guys! Welcome to a round-up of my thoughts and feelings at the end of my third (I think!) week in Zambia.

I am beginning to find that my confidence is growing with regards to using public transport. I find that rather than asking for a price (where you are guaranteed to pay highly), it can be beneficial to slip a smaller amount to the conductor and often nothing will be said. This works especially well when you are squeezed into the back seat of a packed rush-hour bus and can’t physically see the conductor. I’m also beginning to get my bearings much more around the city, whereas before I merely knew the route to travel to and from work. I am now much more confident to hop on a new bus to take me in a different direction to go and meet a friend. My Zambian house-mate Davison has had a big part to play in this, for which I am very grateful.

My current project at my workplace is to re-brand the company. From what I can work out (unaided by the rudeness of the business’ manager and sole employee) the company is split into two sections. One part of the business is the selling of rice on the local markets of Zambia, but not in shops as they cannot guarantee a high level of supply. The second part involves the distribution and sales of commodities on the international market. New branding and a marketing plan is required for both. A common theme for these two product groups is the fact that the produce is grown exclusively in Zambia. The Zambian government is focusing its efforts on agriculture and agribusiness as a method to haul the country out of its current financial state. Therefore, branding Glymo as an exclusively and proudly Zambian company should encourage locals to buy our product over foreign imports. A huge percentage of products on the shelves of Zambia’s supermarkets are made in South Africa.

Most Zambian locals who are pleasant enough to stop and chat to me in the street tend to open with the question “Which part of America are you from?”. I assume that this is because there is a fairly large American expat community, located mainly on the outskirts of town. We only tend to cross paths in bars and shopping centres and, to be fair, I’ve only ever overheard American accents. Obviously I tend to answer with the fact that I am from England (the mighty Yorkshire to be precise), but sometimes say I’m from Cleveland, Ohio just for fun. I’ve spent the past two long summers working there, so have covered my back story and mastered the accent.

This week I bought my host family’s 6-year-old a football from the huge supermarket near my workplace. As soon as he saw it he nearly bounced through the roof! Within 30 minutes we had covered basics on football, rugby, basketball and netball. We had great fun until the pesky Zambian downpours arrived out of the blue. At this point I had to explain that I’m a fair-weather sports player. Badminton is my game after all.

You may remember from my last blog post that I mentioned how the Lusaka family’s ancestors founded the city of Lusaka. After only the smallest pry I was given more information regarding my family’s history. Mr Lusaka’s great-grandfather was the chief of a small village when the railway line stretching from the Copperbelt in northern Zambia, right the way to South Africa’s sea ports was built passing through his village. Like any good entrepreneur, Chief Lusaka capitalised on this opportunity and used the railway as a method of trade, financing the village’s expansion. The city was founded in 1814 and has therefore recently celebrated its 200th birthday.

For the most part I am beginning to feel much more at home in Lusaka, whilst I am still faced with challenges and surprises every single day. The whole experience is made infinitely easier by the fact that I am taking on this challenge alongside 17 fantastic colleagues and friends, an equal mix of Zambians and Brits. The ability to meet up with any one of them, or as a group, after a particularly stressful day is priceless.

Cheers!

Rob Parsons

Team Zambia

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