From the unknown to normality

Hi guys, I’m back!

It’s crazy to think how long we’ve been here and what little time we have left.

This trip has cemented a newly found passion for travelling that I intend to pursue as much as possible, before resigning myself to that ‘career’ nonsense that I keep hearing about. Any form of travelling sounds great, but I love the idea of spending an extended period of time in one area. I feel that by doing this you get a much clearer understanding of culture, lifestyles and people’s mindsets whilst going about day-to-day life. It has been amazing to discover how these aspects of life differ to ours in the UK, and what can be learned from these experiences.

One aspect of Zambian life seems to differ to ours in the UK is the casual acceptance of strangers sharing almost every part of your daily experiences. Life in a city as densely populated as Lusaka means that there is almost nothing that can be done without another person walking or sitting almost on top of you. The beautiful thing about this is the way the locals seem to interact with each other as though they have known each other for years, without any sort of awkwardness. The same applies to myself as I struggle to walk 20 yards without hearing “Muzungu (white person), how are you?”. Hearing these words never fail to cheer me up as they are always delivered with a smile, and a response is always expected and gratefully received. Furthermore, a mother squeezing onto a densely packed bus will not think twice about dumping her 2 year old child onto your lap without any prior communication. It’s nice to know that I appear trustworthy.

Zambian work ethic seems to confuse me on a daily basis. I am always impressed by the attitude of the female members of my host family when it comes to cleaning our house. There seems to be a rotation of housekeeping jobs that ends in each task being completed three or four times throughout the day. Results are amazing, with a hard stone floor that transforms the ‘five second rule’ of dropped food into the ‘five minute rule’, provided the house cat doesn’t beat you to it! However, attitudes in the workplace seem to be at the opposite end of the spectrum. Severe lateness is to be expected and never challenged. Once a colleague or client finally does arrive it would be crazy to imagine getting straight down to business without firstly putting the world to rights over a few slices of buttered bread and sugary tea. This lackadaisical attitude is mirrored in the walking pace of locals. Where I firstly began my trip walking at the brisk pace I am used to at home, I would arrive at my destination in a puddle of sweat from the intense and unforgiving heat. I have now resorted to adopting the local walking pace, taking extra time to dodge in and out of the shade of trees. This often leaves me a few minutes late to a meeting but don’t worry, I’m never the last to arrive.

Despite a variety of problems within my business, myself and my colleague Catherine have managed to achieve an awful lot, which should leave a positive impact. The majority of work that we have focused on involves the marketing of the business’ existing product. As Glymo deals in commodities, which is a very saturated market, it is key for products to be marketed well to gain a competitive advantage. We have used a range of methods to do this, which should result in positive improvements. We have also recently taking on the additional role of contacting small businesses who may be interested in taking part in our program in the next rotation, due to begin in June. This role involves meeting with the business owners or managers and completing a ‘Business Diagnostics Form’, a key source of information for my colleagues in the future.

Outside of our tough Monday to Friday working week we have managed to make good use of our free time at the weekends by grasping opportunities to escape from the city and experience some of the rural parts of Zambia. Last weekend a group of us visited Chaminuka, a private game reserve on the outskirts of Lusaka. A real highlight of this trip was taking part in an open-top Jeep safari through the reserve’s 10,000 acres of land. We were fortunate to see Giraffes, an Elephant, Monkeys, Antelope and various other animals all living wild and free in as much space as they would ever require. A morning that I will never forget!

Nelly
Nelly
Poonam and Lydia
Poonam and Lydia

Now that we are closing in on the end of our time in Zambia we are starting to plan our end of session trip. This will be a great opportunity to spend some quality time with colleagues and friends with whom a close bond has been developed over the past few months, and really go out on a bang!

I struggle to believe that as of today we only have 19 days left in this beautiful country. There is still so much still to do!

Cheers!

Rob

Team Zambia

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