The Thick of It

Another repost of something I wrote for the official team blog while in Zambia. The original can be found here.

The meeting probably wasn’t an important one anyway.

So when a clamour of shouts and car horns began to rattle the windows of our office, and everyone visible through the office door rushed to the street, it maybe didn’t matter that we all abandoned what we were doing to follow. Not that we could’ve talked to each other over the racket even if we’d wanted to.

Outside was a convoy of red and green painted pickup trucks blocking the road. The shouts were coming from the crowds of people flocking to see what was happening, just as we were, all competing for volume against a man standing atop one of the trucks yelling exhortations into a megaphone. The drivers of the trucks were leaning on their horns, adding random, offbeat blares to the cacophony.

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Fruits for our Labours

Fruits for our Labours

Another Zambia piece. I will eventually do other things.

I only managed to take a couple of pictures of food while I was in Zambia. One was of Christmas lunch at our host home, a spread of potatoes, pasta, chicken, salad, and cake. The other was… well, see for yourself.

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Killing a xenomorph isn’t nearly as hard as all those Alien films make it out to be[1]. Predators are just a bunch of posing hipsters, to be entirely honest. You don’t need head lasers or stealth fields or anything to hunt down one of the slimy buggers, and then, once you’ve tracked it to its lair and given a decent clonk on the head, the eggs make for pretty decent eating. Not a great omelette, but add an interesting tang to a carbonara.

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Der Traktor

Der Traktor

Another of my experiences/reflections on Zambia. Again, I can only write about what I see. Get angry about my accidental misrepresentations in the comments.

“What the hell is Zika?”

“Hmm… I dunno.”

We were sitting in the single internet café in Samfya, attempting to work on some official blogging business, with the previously unforeseen combination of both power and network access. One of us was fiddling on the computer, desperately trying to upload photos while we still had a connection. The other was sitting slack-jawed, transfixed by the silent TV hanging on a bracket above the doorway.

It was tuned to what looked like a German news service’s international, English language segment. Headlines flashed across the bottom of the screen, talking of things and places we hadn’t even imagined existed for the past three months, while burnished, plastic looking presenters mouthed shapes to a backdrop. They were mime artists, contorting their facial expressions to shock and anger and outrage at the state of the world, as if they were aware they were being watched in silence.

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Targeted Therapy

Targeted Therapy

This is the first of probably a few posts about some of my experiences in and reflections on Zambia and related topics. As a disclaimer, these are all my personal opinions and impressions and there’s no way I’m in possession of all the facts. That said, I can only say what I see.

Perhaps the first warning of how this would go down was when the doctor asked if I had a pen.

I leaned forward, trying to haul myself out of the capacious, collapsed armchair, reached into my bag and fished out a cheap piece of bright orange plastic. He accepted it wordlessly and began to jot notes into my medical record. Occasionally, he would glance up over the rims of his glasses and peer at my swollen, swelling, discolouring ankle before turning back to the school exercise book he was holding to scrawl something else.

Other patients were waiting along the row of low armchairs and sofas lining one wall of the lost property room, or storage cupboard, or filing cabinet, or bin, or whatever the room was supposed to be. Possibly an office was hidden there, underneath the stacks of paper, the discarded notes and scraps of pamphlets.

The doctor had the best seat in the room, an imitation leather desk chair that wobbled awkwardly on its stand whenever he shifted his weight. Posters were sprayed, scattershot, over the walls, haphazard and disordered, like the aftermath of some informational firefight. Ebola warnings, hygiene recommendations, flowcharts on sexual abuse and malaria, mingled with bible quotes, nonsensical slogans and ‘motivational’ quotes.

The quotes about the loving mercy of God were placed in prime position behind the desk, in the periphery of anyone talking to the doctor. The medical information posters, shouting slogans about family planning and mosquito nets, and emblazoned with organisational logos, UNFPA, WHO, the Zambian Ministry of Health, were off to the right.

HIV prevalence in Samfya district, the area of Zambia I was working in, stands at about 8%.

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On Zambian Time

This is a cross-post of something I wrote for the VSO ICS team blog. The original can be found here.

“Zambian Time” as a concept probably needs some explanation. Maybe the following scene’ll help:

Setting: The living room of a host home. Rain is hammering down outside in sheets, rattling off the iron roof like it’s trying to straighten out the corrugations. The host mother (HM) is sweeping.

ENTER UK VOLUNTEER (UKV)

HM: You’re going out?

UKV: Well, I’ve got to leave now if I’m going to get to work on time.

HM: But you’ll get soaked!

UKV: It’s not that bad. I’ve got a waterproof jacket, and I don’t want to be late for work.

HM: Hmm.

/long pause

HM: You know, if it’s raining they understand if I don’t turn up at work.

/UKV’s jaw drops faster than the rain

UKV: Uh, right. Well, ‘bye. Have a good day and I’ll see you tonight.

EXIT UKV, PURSUED BY A BEAR

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