100 things I will miss about Zambia

Excuse the indulgence folks (more a reminder to myself than anything else) but here are 100 of the things that I am going to miss most about Zambia

  1. Zambians – nobody could ask for a more welcoming, courteous, friendly and warm host nation.
  2. The fabulous staff at Alliance Zambia who have hosted me throughout my time – your commitment to the vital work you carry out is truly inspirational and the depth of the team spirit with which you face every challenge is something I will take with me forever
  3. Witnessing the triumph of human care and dedication over indescribable challenges when you meet with the volunteers and clients of community organisations such as N’gombe Home Based Care: Can’t help but put a smile on your face (and a tear in your eye)
  4. Angelo – my housemate and greatest friend throughout the year with whom I have learned so much and enjoyed so many fantastic adventures
  5. Suwilanji – my other great Zambian friend who taught me so much and with whom I shared so many special times
  6. Janno, Grainne, Tim, Karol, Melissa, Sarah, Kennji, Martje, Lara, Mutale, Nana and everybody else  who I had the pleasure of sharing D/8/488 Twin Palm Drive –  less a home, more a lifestyle – thank you all for making my year immeasurably richer
  7. Zambian pop music: Cheesy yes, overplayed definitely, yet infectiously catchy all the same
  8. Lessons in Zambian politeness part 1: Say “It’s a bit tricky” when what you really mean is “There is close to no chance that this thing can ever ever happen”
  9. Appletiser / Grapetiser / Peartiser – I am in some kind of sparkling fruit juice heaven
  10. The soulful sounds of Congolese Rhumba and the amazing dancing that goes with it late into the night at Chez Ntemba
  11. Hearing the words ‘Peter Crouch!’ follow me from footpaths, cars driving by, the windows of offices..
  12. Three stage handshakes – and a fourth shoulder to shoulder touch when you know that you are really close
  13. Kwaito – incredibly good South African house music – DJ Cleo, DJ Mbusa and the rest are going to remain firm favourites on my iPod for a long time to come
  14. Amazing trips to the wilderness (Mutinondo, Lower Zambezi, Blue Lagoon) just for the weekend
  15. A cold Mosi beer on a hot and dusty Lusaka day – a Proudly Zambian institution
  16. ZamBeef – without question the best steaks in the world
  17. Lessons in Zambian politeness 2: Say “I would like to believe that…” when what you really mean is “I am almost entirely certain that I don’t believe that… but let us both avoid an inconvenient truth”
  18. Sunshine (almost) every morning
  19. Chicken salads at KNP cafe, my staple diet for close to 12 months and just about worth the 25 minute wait from order to delivery
  20. Putting the world to rights over morning cups of freshly ground Zambian coffee with Grainne
  21. Learning to play squash with the Gilbert’s
  22. The smell of the first October rains on the hot red earth
  23. The hammock under the big tree at the back of our house: With a cool wind blowing on a sunny Saturday afternoon, no better place on the planet to write a journal or catch up on a bit of reading
  24. Sunday morning “church” with Mark, Kerry, François and the gang exploring the amazing mountain bike trails of Leopards Hill
  25. Sunday afternoons with Sue and family, my amateur efforts at a maths grinds with Muke amply rewarded by Sue’s amazing food
  26. Table tennis marathons: Janno many have come and gone but you remain the King of Ping Pong
  27. Enormous blue sky horizons on the Namibian desert plane
  28. Setting golden suns on dusty October evenings that would make the Japanese proud
  29. Angelo’s amazing cooking feasts – always worth the wait!
  30. The amazing bats of Kasanka
  31. The spinach and pepper-dew Deluca Pizza from Black Knight Pizza. Gone but never forgotten.
  32. Sunday evening braai’s at the house – hot steak over cold beer with good friends. Perfection.
  33. Massive full moons on a inky black expansive sky
  34. BareFeet theatre productions – simply superb!
  35. Night swimming – deserves a quiet night
  36. My weekly bout of Western escapism watching whatever Hollywood (or lately Bollywood) trash was on at the beautifully comfortable if slightly polar air conditions of Ster Kinekor cinema
  37. Salt and vinegar popcorn at above – what a taste revelation!
  38. Having a day, every now and then, when you feel like you might have contributed to something really important
  39. Completely failing to recognise your Zambian female friends when they radically change their hair length / style / colour once again
  40. Nina –  the only Lada 4×4 in Zambia, we saw some places, we had some tough times but we (almost) always managed to get home
  41. Abraham – Zambia’s answer to McGyver and the mechanic who single handedly managed to keep said Russian Range Rover on the road despite no spare parts this side of Johannesburg
  42. Sneaking in to play tennis on a lovely floodlit court – I think we owe one major hotel chain an apology and some court dues
  43. DVD boxsets – Every season of The Wire, The West Wing & Soprano’s watched…. I may have been living in Africa but my appreciation of Baltimore, Washington and New Jersey has never been greater
  44. Sleeping under a mosquito net, strangely cosy
  45. Watching Zambian women on the dancefloor and getting a lesson in just how sexy somebody can be with all their clothes on
  46. Lessons in Zambian politeness 3: Formal greetings for every single person you meet that require at an absolute minimum both a “hello” and a “how are you?”
  47. Lessons in Zambian politeness 4: Being told “Welcome home” by the Zambian officials at the border posts
  48. Live music, film and theatre at the Alliance Francaise – God bless the French Government’s cultural budget
  49. Christmas day on the sand dunes of Swakopmund, Namibia
  50. A national media that are blissfully uninterested in which X-Factor drop out is sleeping with which second rate footballer
  51. A political discourse that may be pathetically immature at times, but makes for some very funny headlines
  52. Avocados and mangoes fresh from the trees in your own back garden
  53. The BBC world service – easily the best radio station in the world and in FM in Lusaka!
  54. No street lights: Makes walking on the road at night a little hairy does allow for star gazing from the comfort of your own back garden
  55. Blog mis-directions 1: Finding that some poor frustrated Californian soul has clicked on my blog post regarding sex workers and HIV after Googling “where to find hookers in Berkeley”
  56. Blog mis-directions 2: Finding that some other equally frustrated Zambian soul has clicked on my blog post about loving Zambia after Googling “Zambian love positions”
  57. Going to sleep with the sounds of a mini-jungle of crickets and toads outside your window
  58. FaceBook and Skype chat – never have so many friends been kept from their work for so long just to keep me company
  59. Slow internet speeds – believe it or not, you appreciate that web page all the more when it takes 2 minutes to load
  60. Rural mango sellers singing outside my office window to pass the day
  61. Roadside selling (urban selection): Monopoly in Arabic, plastic aeroplanes, electric hair clippers and live puppies!!
  62. Roadside selling (rural selection): Mushrooms the size of your head, honey in gallon jugs, caged African grey parrots and for the truly hungry traveller massive sugar cane rat!!
  63. Zamglish: “Eesh, has that boy come this side yet to pick the what-what?” Me, I’m not sure I’ll ever speak straight again
  64. The monthly stroll through the arts and Afri-tat of the Dutch Reform market followed by some superb biryani and a refreshing cup of baobab juice
  65. Walking to work – the risks of dodging crazy drivers who seem physically incapable of seeing pedestrians notwithstanding
  66. Random bank holidays – God bless Farmers Day, Day of the African Child, Heroes Day and Africa Freedom Day to name just a few
  67. Chibwabwa – Best Zambian veg dish bar none! Strictly speaking pumpkin leaves and groundnuts but try mixing spinach and peanut butter for similar taste sensation
  68. Ice cold Coca Cola from a glass bottle – some times progress ain’t better than the original
  69. The sand dunes of Sousevlei, Namibia (not strictly Zambia I know, but honestly one of the most visually stunning places in the world)
  70. REAL weather – Claps of thunder that shake the office windows accompanied by huge forks of lightening, rains that make it seem like the world is going to end
  71. Lusaka in August: Every street ablaze with first purple and then red as the Jacaranda and then the Flamboyant burst into bloom
  72. Victoria falls – wet or dry, no matter the season always sensational
  73. Eet sum more – Southern Africa’s answer to shortbread and I did, repeatedly
  74. Mazoe or Thirsty – I’m still not sure which is the best orange cordial. Zambians take the topic very seriously (not surprising when they only dilute 50:50)
  75. Lions, leopards, elephant, giraffe, buffalo, hippo, croc and a thousand other smaller creatures – how could you ever be disappointed with a trip to some of the best game reserves in the world?
  76. Discovering birdwatching – forget about the mammals, the real skill is in spotting the brightly tailed something or other that just fluttered right out of your camera’s focus (again!)
  77. Watching the compound kids fashion kites and footballs from nothing more than discarded plastic shopping bags
  78. Matabeto’s at the office – everybody brings a dish and the sense of community fellowship grows along with our stomachs
  79. Random slogans worn unknowingly on second hand t-shirts – this one is a particular favourite
  80. Traditional Zambian dresses for women – not quite as flamboyant as west Africa but no less striking
  81. Becoming a minor celebrity on the streets around your house to be greeted as the crazy, sweating, always running muzungu
  82. Being mistaken for some other muzungu and realising that ‘they all look the same to me’ is not always a careless racist remark but often a truism of every race about another
  83. Learning to speak a whole new language: Who would have thought “Strengthening OVC  and PLHA support for CBO HBC partners as a sub-prime under a TASC3 RFTOP” would have meant anything to me a year ago?
  84. Learning. Every. Single. Day.
  85. The good natured bedlam that results from bringing a digital camera into a rural school-yard
  86. Lessons in Zambian politeness 5: Receiving what feels like 50 waves or shouts of greeting almost every single day
  87. Work emails asking whether or not I would like to buy 5kg of fish or a side of warthog!
  88. Talking about English Premier League games with colleagues who I swear follow every twist and turn of their clubs fortunes far more closely than any English colleague I have ever had
  89. Lessons in how the best laid aid plans get turned upside down 1: A sudden spike in demand for female condoms which on investigation turned out to be the result of a new fashion by local women to dye the rubber bands they contain and wear them as bangles
  90. Lessons in how the best laid aid plans get turned upside down 2: Visiting a house in a province that receives a lot of Swiss donations of food aid and finding the fridge filled with Swiss cheese – not at all popular with the locals and so traded for just about everything else with the local muzungu’s
  91. Roundabouts where the traffic on the roundabout has to stop and give way to the cars entering
  92. Traffic lights that are called robots
  93. The many Lusaka roads named after dead dictators – you can still drive on Tito Road but it no longer leads to Saddam Hussein Avenue (now bizarrely Los Angeles) – much to the relief, one supposes, of some of its inhabitants which include the Delegation of the European Commission and the official Residence of the Irish Ambassador
  94. Watching the immaculately clean and well pressed masses emerge from some of the dirtiest most under developed slums you could imagine to proudly making their way to Sunday church
  95. Sitting patiently as the city grinds to a halt as the Presidential motorcade (which contains more high powered German cars than the rest of the country combined) weaves its way to the airport for ‘yet another’ vital trip abroad
  96. Learning how to dry roast my own peanuts, and how nice they are simmered in brine too!
  97. Zambian driving directions: “Ahhhh (long contemplative pause) just turn left (pointing right), then go straight (now pointing left), then straight (hand makes a curved motion that manages to point both left and right) and then just before the big tree turn straight (pointing right again)…”
  98. Power cuts at night – strangely soothing
  99. Water cuts – far more inconvenient but sure do make you appreciate it when it’s back on
  100. Writing this blog: I am amazed that I have easily found inspiration for  52 topics to write about and yet more shocking (and humbling) to know that people took the time to read them over 6,500 times to date. A few people have asked me to keep writing, at least for the first few weeks of my integration back to Europe. I will try but I won’t be in the least bit surprised if I fail to find anything like the inspiration or interest.
6 Responses to “100 things I will miss about Zambia”
  1. Ceire says:

    Eh, I think you forgot something there mon frere! BATA BATA BATA BATA BATA BATA BATA BATA BATA BATA BATA BATA BATA BATA!!!

  2. Andrew Butler says:

    Howaya BV

    I’ve been a (secret) avid fan of your blog. It truly is inspirational. Have a safe trip back and we’ll catch up over a few pints of porter and i’ll gladly listen to the rest of your stories that didn’t make the blog……

    Take care Big Man


  3. Petter says:

    Me, I really like your list. And reading it from South Africa makes it feel a lot closer than it would have been in the arctic hell of Stockholm, to which I unfortunately will return in a few days.

  4. Nana says:

    Hi Berkeley,

    could you possibly transform all of this list into some physical form and bring it with you (particularly Angelo, the night swims and the singing mango sellers)? Would be highly appreciated here in your new hometown where all of the above (perhaps actually apart from the Lada Nivas) are sadly missing…. , )


  5. Mutale says:

    Dude this is amazing, I can’t believe that time has flown passed our eyes so fast. I remember when I picked you up from the Airport – its like yesterday, and now you have to leave. How I wish I could turn back the hands of time and we could have spent more times together, anyway, the more important thing is we mate and lets continue taking this forward.

    I will always be ready to *grab that drink from your hands man, and at some level ready to hand it back. . . . *

    Take care and forget us not


  6. janno says:

    sitting here in my appartment in Amsterdam on my saturday afternoon having your blog for breakfast, your posts always trigger a smile and make my thought wander, reminding me of all the things I miss and inspiring people met. God bless Zambia and its people…

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