Lusaka 1996, What arrival: not knowing which direction I will take after dropping from the bus, even if I had an idea of where I was heading to in which language I could have expressed myself if this was not enough I had no single coin in my pocket. That is how the noisy bus became quite as we were approaching Lusaka after a 3 days media tour of the Zambia Northern province courtesy of a certain parastatal entity. All eyes were rather on me and it spared our chauffeur who was almost torn by my colleagues since everybody was asking to be dropped first. The late Kanyanja (may his soul rest in peace) jumped out his somnolence and gave me a look which made me melting and to tell me: “Rubbish, we do always struggle finding uncommon and untold stories and you are here sitting on them”. I had to apologise did I have another choice?
That midday of a Sunday, with a shyly sunny sky of that raining season of Zambia. One could predict a soon rain downpour whereas on the side it could be taken as at last there is some sun to enjoy in the aftermath of heavy downpours. Approaching Lusaka using the Great north road, the town was looking marvellous any white paint was coming out if the town was hosting a white wedding. The iron sheets were scintillating so the town appeared to be swimming in a silver sea.
The conductor whom I befriend from the border, came to my seat and in a broken Swahili he whispered to me: “Mjini wa Lusaka” to mean the town of Lusaka. I did not know if I have to smile since we were about to arrive safely after more than 30 hours in an extra packed bus when deep my heart I was struggling to contain myself in order not to shed tears if not loudly crying that when I have to remember that I am in a foreign land surrounded by strange people even if I dared to cry, could anyone had dared to come and console me? At times, there was no difference between a boiler and my brain. The bus which I thought was moving on a snail pace started moving if it is likely to beat the Concorde Plane by breaking the sound barrier speed. Why did I have to undertake this journey? Did I have means to do so? What next since now I have “arrived”? Do I have anyone to welcome me? Where am I going to spend a night? This is when some noise in my stomach awake me up since my last meal was last night courtesy of the driving crew since I had helped them to offload some luggage of passengers who dropped to a town along the road to Lusaka the previous night.
Any move by the bus, Lusaka which was being seen as a small dot was growing faster than expected and we were about to pass a triumph arch wishing us a “Welcome to Lusaka. After negotiating a right angle with traffic lights, I saw a building with mention “post” announcing that we are in the heart of town and few minutes later the bus stopped and I saw everybody standing and pulling his hand luggage in readiness of moving out. I knew that we have arrived safely to the last bus stop hence our destination; I tried to browse the faces of my fellow travellers and they were happy to have arrived and were in hurry to continue reaching their homes, what about me?
I folded my jean jacket as it was my travel bag and I moved out the bus. I am in Lusaka.
I recalled Lusaka being mentioned in one of catholic biweekly newspaper when it hosted by then Rhodesia freedom fighters meeting with Ian Smith another name which was mentioned was Abel Mudzorewa. Later on, I had to sneak out of my home and walked more than 20kms to see the departure of a celebrated man with a white handkerchief as he was visiting our country I wanted to add him on my list since I had seen: Siad Barre, Moukhatar Oul Dada, Mobuto Se Sekou, Idi Amin Dada, Commandant Jalloud, Belgian princess Marie Astrida, Michel Micombero and so on; this would come some other rich knowledge like a new flag what about the admiration of DC10 on our tiny airport if not being part of the crowd which was chanting responding to the very famous man when he started his celebrate slogan of “One Zambia, One national” and being spiced by adding: “One Africa, One revolution”. This was the story to narrate when, the following Monday, the two weeks East break will be over and resume our classes by starting the last term on our academic year. I watched on international TV channels, Lusaka plunged into a national mourning in the aftermath of the tragic death of its national team players. That was the only data I had over Lusaka and Zambia.
I have made it to be not only to be in Zambia but I was in the capital city. I recalled, back home, people leaving town since the authorities have chased people who have “nothing to do” in Kigali capital city; was I about to face the similar fate? I had managed to pass without any challenge the immigration formalities since the time I decided to turn my back to the once my home country I learned to befriend whoever will draw near me that is how this lady, Mufulira born, who was heading to her home from Burundi taught me some Bemba basics. For sure it worked in my favour, when I greeted the immigration officer by: “Bali shani mukwai? Shinga ubwali visa? “He laughed and stamped my “paper” and I was allowed to Zambian soil. I almost hugged him but I had to remember that “aluta continua”.
I scratched my brain if I could be inspired by any tricks out of several stripe comic cartoon books of the likes of Tintin, Spirou, Lieutenant Blueberry, Buck Danny, Michel Vaillant and so on but in vain. What I could recall was my target of reaching the “Cape of Hope” like Christopher Colombo. Mom and Dad used to tease me that I do carry myself like I am targeting to reach out the moon like Americans each time I was sharing with them whatever I came across in our home small library which I was the only interested in digging into it.
I am down from the bus and the place is called Intercity. I started to get familiarised with the surroundings and I saw a tall building never seen before in my life and the stomach started itching: hunger.
“We do learn as long as we live”, the only English quote which I had memorised since I used to write it on my first pages of my note books came to my mind meaning a new learning process has started but in which circumstances: no single coin in my pocket, no single vocabulary which can even allow me to ask for a glass of water, only new faces surrounding me several miles away from home and no idea for looking back.
I am in Lusaka…
To be continued …………….
AS I CELEBRATE 23 YEARS IN ZAMBIA