For the abysmal failure at a-post-a-day, I apologise. Partly finding Internet is not so easy (what was I thinking), but its also been perfectionism on my part at not being able to really tell the stories as what they mean, more than simple narrative. I realise now that the reflective stuff on what it all means is impossible to determine now. That will only come in hindsight. So, instead I present an extract from the large and growing moleskine journaliing of days’ events that I have been updating religiously. It’s the foundation story of the learning to come, but in its raw form (and it is a bit rough – big eyes), this is a partial account of arriving in Livingstone this morning.
My farewell to Zimbabwe is brief and unreciprocated. The crossing to Zambia from the Zimbabwean side is little more than a customs station and a table for searching bags. The immigration official looks at my passport, at me (big smile) and frowns, asking why I am not staying longer. “Because your counterpart at Beit Bridge thought I should leave in three days”, I reply – not in a mood for being sympathetic with bureaucrats. The man at the customs desk casually checks the bag with all my electronic toys, looking particularly enamored with my netbook – opening and closing it a number of times, like some expensive, black pacman. He asks me if I am transporting any drugs. I reply in the negative. He waves me on and I hike towards the Zambian border post on the other side of the metal bridge spanning the Zambezi, over a hundred meters below.
He asks me if I am transporting any drugs. I reply in the negative. He waves me on
Entering Zambia is a sea change. But for the two Americans I encountered on arriving in Bulawayo, I’d not actually seen another soul who looked like a foreigner/backpacker/adventurous spirit of some sort. By the time I was halfway across the bridge, watching the scream of a bungee jumper fall almost as fast as he off the platform, I had lost count of the number of foreigners I had passed. Zambian border check-in was uneventful excepting for some confusion over how to declare my camera and laptop (answer, on the white “Ad Hoc Customs Declaration Form” – subsequently stamped in bright red ink). Then a taxi on to Livingstone, where I silently thanked the driver for pressuring me into the ride, as I had grossly underestimated the distance – walking would have been quite impossible.
The taxi radio merged into some sort of gang-rap, but as the lyrics turned to fucking the <ethnic minority> (I wasn’t particularly paying attention, being prone to swear like a sailor occasionally on the best of days), the embarrassed driver switched like lightning to some generic afro-pop. Laughing, I was preoccupied with trying to photograph the Obama sticker on his windshield when a large sign proclaiming “Animals have right of way” spun past. I had just opened my mouth to ask, when a troop of baboons came sauntering across the road. The driver, refusing to slow, simply hooted and carried on. “We slow for the animals”, he explained grinning, “but not for these ones – they will take advantage”. Having heard stories of families in South Africa’s game parks robbed blind of sweeties by bands of marauding baboons I nod my hasty agreement with his assessment.
The backpackers, Jollyboys, was a Lonely Planet recommendation and this time they hit the sweet spot. Recessed pillow-porium (sort of a stepped hole in concrete, the size of a large ball pool and covered in pillows), bar, fast internet and walls festooned with things to do. As the lady in reception checks me in, an exiting backpacker donates her copy of Lonely Planet’s Africa guide, since she is heading home. The receptionist adds it to what I suddenly notice is a vast pile of discarded LP guides to Africa and Zambia. Zambia I can understand, but since when was Zambia the final destination in an Africa trip?
There is a museum down the road, but I spend the afternoon maximising use of the pillows and catching up on email, sending one to Matthew at the mission which will be my next stop, to ask if it’s ok for me to in fact arrive over a week early and stay the weekend.
Then, as the day fades, updating this journal over a cold Mosi beer (As mighty as the Mosi-oa-Tunya, the label cheers) and watching the other backpackers streaming in. Animated conversations and old, cheesy dance music from the bar fills the air, that particular, bohemian, invigorating mix of lives from the many edges of the world. For the first time since setting off, I feel like I am starting to change into on-the-road-me.