With 100 channels on the satellite television, I can watch motorcycle racing, a 5-day cricket match, and even beach volleyball. But not the Stanley Cup finals.
Before arriving I was aware of the prevalence and importance of mobile phones in Africa. Without the infrastructure for landlines, mobiles bring communication to rural areas. They are especially important for farmers, to help them determine to which market they should bring their crop. But with all the differences between our cultures, one thing is unchanged: Ring tones.
I volunteered, despite her warnings of “hot in the day and freezing at night”, “bushwhacking through thick forest”, “swamps”, and “lots of mosquitoes”.
I remember the day I arrived; I almost burst out laughing when from down the hall I heard the same goofy ring-tone that Jordan had on his phone back in Canada.
The peanuts, known as groundnuts here, are a cheap snack available in the market. However, they are boiled rather than roasted. This means they are slightly mushy, an unfamiliar texture for a typically crunchy snack. It also means they don’t keep very long, which I learned the hard way today when I hungrily discovered my bag of moldy peanuts. Someone also offered me a slice of “African salami”, which I ate before thinking I probably shouldn’t eat meat from a random dude in a roadside shack in rural Africa. I later found out it doesn’t contain any meat (some might say the same of real salami); instead it’s some sort of groundnut compress. Stomach: saved.
I’ve now been away from Canada for the longest stretch in my life, topping my 31 days in South America last August. I’ve been away from ‘home’ many times in my life, and for far longer stretches. But being away from home and outside of Canada is another experience entirely. For starters, the exotic new foods cooked by somebody else eventually leave you longing for your own normal foods like pancakes, yoghurt, or oatmeal. The Zambian food we’re fed consists mainly of fat, then protein. The meat is usually stewed to hide how gristly and tough it is, and everything comes with a very rich sauce. Raw or crisp vegetables are scarce — they’re typically boiled in oily water or fried in butter. The “salad” available every single day consists of iceberg lettuce (no nutrients), raw onion (disgusting), and tomato (delicious and nutritious). I’ve been eating a lot of tomato salad. On the plus side, we’re usually given a variety of choices.
The isolation of where I’m located is settling in, as the initial ‘travel euphoria’ (as Maxine calls it) wears off. There are no cinemas, galleries, museums, clubs, culturally significant sites, or even musical shows here. A Google search for “Solwezi tourism” yields a page with two photographs, and another page with the headings “Dining, Nightlife, Lodging, Activities, Experiences, Things To Do”. Followed by “No Entries”. But I am still meeting new people every day, and discovering the cultural differences by conversation with coworkers and random employees hitchhiking into town or back to site.
For instance, I’ve met two Rastafarians so far. I guessed they were Rastas, and was right both times. This isn’t telepathy – you can spot them from a mile away. They’re literally the only men with hair longer than a few millimeters. They have radical names too – Gift, and Happyguy. No joke.
This morning a fellow employee in the office explained her intentions to have a survey completed for the boundary of some land recently gifted from the local chief to the CEO. The land contains a few abandoned villages, some beautiful rivers, and some thick forest. The CEO plans to develop a farm, a fishing village, or a game reserve on the land. I think I’ve been cooped up in this office long enough, so I volunteered, pending boss approval. Despite her warnings of “hot in the day and freezing at night”, “bushwhacking through thick forest”, “swamps”, and “lots of mosquitoes”, I’m somehow still looking forward to spending a week in the bush. Fighting off mosquitoes, snakes, lions, and a menagerie of animals I’ve never even heard of will give me a new appreciation for the dust-hole I currently call ‘home’.
As usual I’ve posted plenty of new photos! Have a peek by clicking the thumbnail above.