GOING HOME TO NDOLA ZAMBIA 2016
On the 1st of November 1990, in the small quiet little town of Luanshya, Zambia, yours truly came into existence no doubt kicking and screaming as is the case with humans world over. I wonder what I looked like as I seem to have no pictures of me as a baby whatsoever which is why when my dweeb of a brother teased me and said I was adopted and my real name was Kagucu I actually believed him! For the first four and a half years of my life I lived in Ndola with the family ,the few memories I have being pretty happy ones however when my father died in 1995,It was decided that we would be moving to Uganda permanently and I have been in the banana republic ever since.
It had been a lifelong dream to go back because much as I’m very much Ugandan in every sense of the word at this point and I do love my home, Zambia has always been of special significance not only for me but my siblings as well. With these intentions and also a desire to get my birth certificate, about four years ago, I met a girl, Lukundo Namulwanda on Facebook and we just hit it off, I talk to this girl way more often than I do some family members and for us it is a real friendship even if we'd never actually set eyes on each other physically! I also kept in touch with one of my brother's childhood friends Mowa Chitupila and with every passing day I resolved I was definitely going to make the trip. I finally decided on the 11th of July 2016.
The initial plan was for me to fly to Ndola, head to Kitwe and stay with Lulu for about a week then head to Lusaka which I’d never been to before but even the best laid plans change as Lulu moved to Lusaka for work. So in the end I decided to stay in Ndola, for the first half of my trip then saunter on down to Lusaka where I hoped to get in touch with Mateele Mataka,my sister's childhood best friend who upon hearing I was coming down was just about as excited as I was and offered to show me around and what not and had also very graciously offered to host me.
There are no words to describe the excitement and anxiety that I had the days leading up to my departure as my bucket list was definitely getting shorter.
5 AM Monday the11th. My butt was all packed and on its way to the airport, since it was good and early the journey took about 35 minutes, so I hang out in the parking lot for a bit before heading to the departure lounge. I’d chosen Kenya airways and at about 7;15am we began the whole boarding process.
Now I had always held Kenya airways in high esteem much as I hadn't used it since 1995 so words cannot begin to describe my complete and utter disappointment with the first impression my 45 minute connection to Nairobi left me with.
First off, the plane had absolutely no air conditioning or air the first atleast 15 minutesor so , the stench in there was like a concentration of morning breath and heat, it was so stuffy and uncomfortable, everyone around me was in silent uproar as no one wanted to open their mouths and take that in! Just before takeoff, the air got turned on and at that point I struck up a conversation with the nice man sitting next to me. He told me all about how Kenya airways had sunk really low over the years and his previous encounters with the airline, not god at all.
Having been up since about 4 am, i was ravenous! and couldn't wait for breakfast so when I heard that trolley come closer, my tray was down before anyone else’s, then I saw it, the breakfast, the tiniest can of yogurt this side of the equator and something that had ambitions of being a plain croissant but just didn't make it, I was so crestfallen so I asked my neighbor whether that was it!
He just burst out laughing and told me it only got worse from there. At some point during the conversation I asked about the alcohol situation and this man just destroyed my hopes and dreams with a stern, you won’t be getting any! He said he'd traveled to Zambia before and didn't remember being served any. Naturally at this point I shut down as I contemplated my entire existence. Yes, wine is that important to me!
We got to Nairobi and I used the hour long wait to go through the duty free shops I could see as I hadn't really been here before. Soon after,I was finally en route to Zambia.
The 2hr30 min flight to Ndola I must say was pretty pleasant. There were about 16 people on the plane so that meant plenty of space and room but clearly not everyone got the memo, this one Congolese man searched the plane I’m guessing looking for the ultimate spot and decided to sit in my vicinity. Honestly this man could have sat anywhere else but alas! It is a free world I guess and I’m acutely aware no one died and made president of seating arrangements. He would often chat me up asking me all sorts of questions about Uganda after I told him where I was from, he did eventually pass out so Thank God for small favors. I’m not anti social or anything, I just really needed some alone time and shut eye.
Lunch came through and it was a nice pleasant hot meal of something I can’t quite remember honestly, what I do remember was the initial two bottles of wine that came with it. After all the doom and gloom what do you know, alcohol was in abundance, don’t believe in rumors people.Ha!
I got to see mountains Meru and Kilimanjaro in the distance and it was quite the sight to see. My newly acquired flight attendant Bff kept that wine flowing I tell you. I had quite a bit and even take away. Needless to say I dint sleep a wink, my playlist was on fire and I was having a grand old time. Its interesting how much fun you can have with yourself if you wanted to. When we finally got to Ndola I saw a big hand waving in my peripheral vision, my neighbor was informing me I’d arrived, motioning me to look out the window and check out the stadium in view.
From above I have to say, the landscape looked like some Kalahari, God’s must be crazy, bush burnt, scorched earth type of place, interesting on account of it being winter.
I had this overwhelming feeling of, I guess it was nostalgia (and the wine) which was making me pretty emotional; I was finally here after all these years. I almost teared up, Almost!
We landed and disembarked at Simon Mwasa Kapwepwe International airport and boy is it basic! The customs office was quite small, barely big enough for all of us in there and luggage was dispensed onto benches. Once I cleared customs having been given a one month’s visa, I was here!!!!!
Mowa was outside waiting to pick me up with a taxi, he seemed quite irritable which did dampen my excitement a little, turns out him and his friend had been stopped by the police for the most ridiculous reason and had to pay a fine, the friend Jo,stayed behind to sort it out while Mowa came to get me. don't know anyone that loves getting accosted by traffic cops. After a brief stop at the Forex bureau we headed to what was to be my abode for the next 3 days, Executive Lodge.
Ndola, is such an incredibly beautiful place, immaculate and clean. Even the air seemed extra fresh, it appears all the flowers and trees were in bloom which gave the whole place this lush feel to it. This resonated with me so much I couldn't shut up about it. Another thing, there are no motorcycles or Boda Bodas as we call them in sight,yes,there's traffic as to be expected but none of those death defying noisy as hell contraptions wheezing dangerously passed, Ndola felt like it was somewhat frozen in time as well, there wasn't that much development with the malls that I did go to eventually being relatively new. This right here is indeed my kind of place,
I dropped my things off and decided to go straight to Luanshya my birth place and see about getting my birth certificate,We took a cab, of which here, it’s a shared type thing where the driver picks up four customers and drops them wherever for about 20-40 kwacha, to the bus park where we waited for about an hour just catching up and talking as he was back to his perky chatty self, my leftover wine securely in his hand, the police encounter long forgotten.
Being in Luanshya was very humbling. This is where I came to be, I started out here,I had these overwhelming feelings of nostalgia and genuine happiness, I don't feel this way often so I really relished in it. We walked to Luanshya Hospital where I talked to the receptionist about my inquiry and she set me up with the records office, The Hospital was very clean and extremely quiet, almost dead actually, it was daunting going down the hallways. I imagined my family taking me home for the first time, My brother’s genuine disappointment he had a sister instead of a brother like he wanted and almost lost my way dwelling on la la land!.
The nice old lady at the office told me it would be difficult tracing my record much as I had my parents identification on account of there being two workers in the whole department and the records aren't digitized. She said she'd look into it and we left Mowa's contacts behind, Honestly I wasn't holding my breath, I expected it was a long shot but either way I think deep down I just wanted to come here, pure and simple.We went back to Ndola, stopped off at Hungry Lion restaurant for a bite where I told Mowa what I planned to get up to while I was there; see a museum, eat some Nshima (the national staple of maize flour similar to Uganda's Posho and Kenya's Ugali,but in my opinion superior in taste,) which I hadn't tasted for over 15 years. Hope I don't get denied entry home for that,i'm just being honest.
I also expressed a desire to meet people and stuff, get a feel of what Zambians are like, compare cultural similarities and differences,Mowa though didn't seem to keen on introducing me to his friends. At some point he flat out told me he had no intentions of doing so,dude,what ever happened to sharing is caring?
In the evening as I started to crash from exhaustion, excitement and downright alcohol abuse on the plane the cold suddenly seeped in, Its cold out here! during the day the temperature averaged at about 20 degrees Celsius and at night dropped as low as 8 degrees. I’d packed appropriately so there was no chance of pneumonia or frosty toes. I’d endeavored to come during the winter season as it was a chance to experience something new.
My room at the Executive Lodge was humongous and very cozy, I felt like I was staying over at a friend's house. I was incredibly comfortable, had cable television a nice kettle for tea and life was good.
I woke up very happy and well rested having slept like a baby. I can’t remember the last time I’d slept that soundly. I went down for breakfast which was from 7-10 am, which was OK. Zambia being an hour behind made time management easy for me.
For breakfast you could either have the Continental Breakfast which was literally tea and bread or the full English that was 45 kwacha which I totally went for.While I waited, I took a look around the Lodge. This place is amazing, quite large as well, the pool was drained but then again who was swimming in these temperatures?! The combination of the morning sun and the cold breeze was just heavenly.
Mowa came through with his friend Jo, a very friendly guy, easy to talk to quite funny and sometimes loud, With a bottle of vodka purchased the previous day to keep warm, we spent the day going round Ndola so I could get familiar with this place I once called home.
First off, we went to my old house on Kalakaliki road. On our way we went by what at that time was pretty much the only shopping center. A massive pink building with shops and apartments where we got fresh bread and stopped off for ice cream every day after school. The ice cream parlor was run by a really thin Indian man whom I’m told is alive and kicking. Sadly the bakery, Delica and ice cream parlor were no more, having become a gym.
The pub Hunters, which is older than me in every sense of the world still operates today! There was this boy, I can’t remember his name, we used to pick him up at the mall to go to school with us, he was always smiling, he had some big front teeth that one. As we drove off I thought of him and wondered where he was.
To turn off to Kalakaliki, there’s a round about where years ago after my dad picked my sister up from school, got stung by a bee right on his nose. In Doreen's words, he transformed into a right beast with his nose swelling up like a bull frog! Upon reaching home, it got so bad he didn't even bother going back to work and mum, who was supposed to be administering TLC just stood there laughing her head off,
We drove down the road and while the place has changed quite a bit it's still as beautiful and quiet as I remember, We didn't stay long as I didn't want to have to explain myself had someone come out of the house.
Next we drove to Nsansa School where we'd all done a stint,we did the whole school run thing and it was pretty great remembering all the times I almost got run over as the concept of staying put just didn't register with me. I had asked Mowa about what local alcohol they had that compared to Uganda waragi,our national Gin. They don't have anything like that but they do have a local fermented maize drink called 'SHAKE SHAKE”. We picked some up as I was willing to try it, It didn't taste half bad, I got a couple of gulps in as I've had worse in my gullet. We then drove to Jacaranda mall for some ice cream going by Simba Secondary School where Doreen went.
Zambian malls are pretty impressive, massive horizontal structures housing everything from restaurants like Nandos and Debonairs that hadn’t thrived in Uganda sadly, to Forex and boutiques. At Gigibonta Gelatto,we sat down and the guys told me all about the upcoming elections scheduled for August, they were supporting the opposition as they demanded change from the load shedding of water and electricity and the poor economy that had plagued Zambia over the recent years.
We then went to the Copperbelt Museum.I make it a mission to go to whatever Museum is in the country I’m visiting, my favorite part of it was the witchcraft bit, we weren’t allowed to take pictures so I didn’t,For a late dinner I was treated to a Shawarma, something I hadn't eaten before so was very keen,The shawarma was hands down one of the worst things I have had the displeasure of eating, it was so soggy and oily, I don't know what possessed me to think eating it faster and in bigger bites would make it any better, I was nauseated the rest of the day! It was bad! , Jo wasn't happy with my critique but c'est la vie, it was disgusting case closed, I don't know if I’ll ever eat another shawarma again.
Before I got dropped off, we stopped by the liquor store from our early Shake run to pick up Mweshi, a nice tall guy who reminded me of 2Face Idibia the Nigerian musician.
We went to visit Grace, Jo’s friend, briefly where we decided we would go out the next day for a proper night out as it was my last night there,Jo had also promised to take me to Zulu, a place where I could experience a good Braai (BBQ)and interact with people and what not. I had some serious excitement going on!
I skipped breakfast with the anticipation of the Zulu experience. Me and the boys spent the day doing chores around the industrial area, when we felt hunger creeping in. We had big bananas, and whiskey for Jo. I'll admit I found Jo's drinking and driving very alarming but he handles his liquor very well and quite frankly I didn't have the balls to say anything, I just said a prayer or two and we kept it moving. Towards the evening we picked up Grace and went to the Zulu area. We were a bit early and went to a nearby liquor store for pre drinks, That Grace, she’s good fun I really enjoyed her company, she had stories for days, later we were joined by Jackie, Grace’s friend.
Finally it was time for Zulu!. Now I had visualized a massive space, lots of people, a communal type thing from the way Jo hyped the place. Zulu is actually a butchery where people buy the meat and sausages in question and give it to one of the three men doing the braaing. When its ready you stand there and eat, that is it. I guess I let my imagination run a little too much,It was very enjoyable standing round chatting and eating the braai, that was some great BBQ,
We then went to drop Jo's truck so he could drink in peace and we got a taxi to Curious, the club for the night. Even before getting there,Mweshi was pretty drunk but functional, which is why 30 minutes into Curious, when we looked round and noticed him missing in action, we realized he'd gone home, which was probably for the best.
The club's set up is nice with a main dance area, lounge and an upstairs section which we opted for, If there is one thing that stayed with me, its Zambia's legendary poor customer service, and it is everywhere, worse in Lusaka where the colonial mentality is still rock solid, but I’ll get to that later.
The waitresses were acting like they were doing us a favor serving us and at some point I thought some Shisha would be nice. The set up of the pots is different from Uganda's with two pipes instead of one. Grace and I were all up on it, to my horror, 3 puffs and it was finished and the rude waitress declared we'd destroyed the pot and marched off, At this point I lost the plot.
I'm a very patient individual but I had had enough of that nonsense. I told the group I either wanted a fresh pot or my money back otherwise I was going to make a scene, it wasn't even about the money, just the principle of the matter. In the end a fresh pot arrived with instructions on how to properly enjoy said pot. Also the damn woman didn't bother returning my change. I had no intentions of tipping but really. I let it go as I know which battles to fight.
Once that was settled and the boys decided to just get drinks from the bar rather than wait for queen waitress, we threw down! The Dj was great, we danced hard! When it came to the Dancing, Mowa you were the winner! I don't know how that hardwood floor didn't give way, I did apologize for getting angry as that's not what I’m about and they just kept telling me that's how things are in Zambia (like that makes it acceptable or something), and its good I stood up for myself, we stayed for a few hours before leaving for East point, the red light district of Ndola where prostitutes rule the world,
Jo just wanted me to see it, took me round and we left soon after as the alcohol was kicking in, a lot more for some!
I got up relatively Hangover free, thank God for that Hunters cider and water.I had breakfast in bed, and the staff were kind enough to let me stay in my room passed check out time. After packing up went and sat in the garden, enjoying a particularly beautiful day that was. Mowa came by and we waited for Jo and Mweshi to come take me to the airport.
I wish you could have seen Jo and Mweshi’s faces! They were so hangover and looked like legitimate warm death. After some good teasing, we went to grab some Pizza for lunch, Debonairs is wonderful!I got dropped off, said goodbye and in I went,
I was flying using Proflight as there was no way I was going to sit on a bus for up to 6 hours,Jo gave me a lot of grief about my travel plans, Wondering why I’d opt to fly to Lusaka instead of taking in all the sights by road, “think of all the drinks We could have instead!” He said, I just rolled my eyes and stood my ground.
There was so much eye candy in that airport! While I waited I talked to my siblings to let them know I still drew breath and Mateele who was picking me up in Lusaka.
The flight was brief, 45 minutes, and soon I was in Lusaka for the first time. It was wonderful seeing Mateele and after stopping off for some take away in one of the massive malls,Manda mall I believe, we went home where I met her lovely family,Sanga her husband,Sanga Jr,and Mutinta her daughter. Their apartment is really posh and comfortable and I felt very much at home there.