Jan 22, 2012

Livingstone recap

As first time visitors to Livingstone, my siblings and I had a number of ideas of what activities we wanted to indulge in and my mum, who grew up in the area, just had to indulge us. She made all the arrangements with our aunt who lives in the area, so we just had to show up!

Here’s a summary, and I hope it helps anyone else planning a trip:

We opted not to drive but to instead take the bus from Lusaka. We used the Mazhandu Family Bus Company which has timed buses – they leave promptly at the hours posted, and don’t stop along the way picking up and dropping customers. These are luxury coaches, the ride was very comfortable and the driver conscientious; there was no excessive speeding or reckless driving tactics. Remember to pre-book your tickets to determine your departure date and time and seat numbers; in Lusaka you can do so at InterCity Bus Terminus. Highly recommended. Visit their website for bookings and other information.

Our first night was spent at Cross Roads Lodge on Mosi-o-Tunya Avenue. The lodge had very impressive amenities – air conditioned rooms, comfortable beds, and a gorgeous pool. The service staff were polite and very willing to please. However, the food service was severely lacking. The dining room wasn’t clean and as a result attracted flies. Now we all know about flies and food borne illnesses. After two meals, lunch and breakfast, we knew this was not the place we were going to stay long term. The gorgeous setting did not adequately compensate for the undercooked chicken dishes and dirty dining room. It just broke my heart to see my little brother leaving his meal half eaten and still being hungry. So we left.

We booked into Chanters Lodge, and immediately the mood was lifted. I have been following Richard Chanter, the owner/manager, on Twitter and his blog, and knew we were in for a treat. We got the large family room, and after getting acquainted with the lodge got ready for our excursion to Mosi-o-Tunya Falls. Chanters has beautiful gardens, lovely pool and amazing staff! Bar none...

Our taxi driver had a car with third row seating which made for a comfortable day’s travel for all five of us. So, we saw the Falls, hiked down to Boiling Point, crossed the border into Zimbabwe and Zip-lined across the Zambezi. Fantastic times.

Back at the Lodge, Richard ribbed me for not Bungee Jumping but I won some points for zip-lining and challenged him to a tandem jump on my next visit, to which he agreed. J We cooled off in the pool, ate some delicious mangoes before being treated to a fantastic dinner!

The room, and food prices were very fair. No complaints whatsoever! Visit the Chanters Lodge website for room pricing, bookings and more.  

The following day included trips to Chief Mukuni Village, Mukuni Big 5 Safari Camp and Livingstone Museum. 

Mukuni Village – we had a guided tour during which we learned about the history of the Toka-Leya people, their interactions with David Livingstone and other explorers, their way of life, etc. The most fascinating thing I learned during this tour was the fact that when a new chief is ascends the throne he must swallow a stone called a “Living Stone” and when he dies the “Living Stone is shattered” and must be expelled from his body to pass on to the next chief. The name parallels with the Scottish missionary whose name was given to the town of Livingstone cannot be ignored. 

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the structure of the village, how they decorate their huts, and interact with one another. Though I must admit spending time with the wood carvers was my favourite part of the whole tour. They are so knowledgeable about the different woods they use, the trees in the area – what a valuable resource! These are skills that continue to be passed down from fathers to their sons. 

The tour ended with a visit to the curio market where I promptly blew the remainder of my shopping budget. It was so worth it; knowing the items I was buying would directly benefit the artisan and his family. I had to brush up on my meagre Tonga language skills but thankfully there were some Nyanja speakers around. And of course my Monze educated siblings shined! 

Mukuni Big 5 Safari – it was my hope to get an elephant ride but unfortunately they were fully booked for the day but there were still other activities for us. We did a walking tour and got to see the lions, cheetahs, and caracals.  Our guide, Aaron, was very knowledgeable and engaging – definitely a young man who’s living his passion! 

Visit their website for more details.

Livingstone Museum was a real treat. I was thrust back to junior secondary school getting reacquainted with early Zambian history – the stone age, bush men, the discovery of Broken Hill Man, major chiefs and kingdoms. I loved it! Sadly, photography is not allowed so I had to bank all the images in my head. It’s well worth the visit!

Overall, this was a great trip. I learned so much, and fell deeper in love with my country. The beautiful countryside was a sight to behold. Definitely will be going back soon; Livingstone, you stole my heart. 

Jan 13, 2012

What is fair?

There’s a not-so silent minority of Zambians baying for the blood of former ruling party members. I typically wouldn’t pay much attention to this but when I see young people caught up in it, I get a weird sensation at the back of my neck and start to squirm. This worries me for a variety of reasons not the least of which is that I do not advocate the use of political power to annihilate and silence political opponents.

Yes, the former MMD government has a lot to answer for with regard to the economic plunder perpetrated by its operatives but this is has to be done using the rule of law. We cannot continue to have people picked up and thrown into jail without charge on the word of one or two people. The police need to investigate, gather evidence, forward it to the prosecutor’s office and the matters should play out in court.

It scares me to see people cheering detentions when no formal charges have been made. If we continue down this path, what’s to stop the same police officers following orders to detain other citizens who may be vocal in the oppositions of today’s rulers and their policies? Really, it doesn’t take much to take that next step.

As much as some would like to portray our former president Kenneth Kaunda as an aging lion who did nothing but good things for Zambians, let’s not forget how his operatives acted on the stroke of his pen and the utterances of his mouth to detain those who chafed against his autocratic one-party state and the failed socialist experiment. The same also happened in the regime of the late Frederick Chiluba – first it was political opponents, then journalists and others. Is that the Zambia we want 50 years after independence? No, thanks!

Let us not get sucked into this backwards mentality that every time we have new rulers, we need to purge the old by manipulating the system. We need to strengthen our institutions to reduce and eliminate the shenanigans that continue to hold us back. If we indeed have no faith in our judicial system, the answer isn’t to bypass it altogether but to give it back the authority and legitimacy it needs to operate independently of the executive and legislative branches.

We need a Zambia that offers everyone a day in court for whatever charges he or she may be facing. This starts from the person accused of stealing a pair shoes to the person accused of stealing ZMK 2.1 billion. 

Jan 12, 2012

It's already January 12!

My holiday is over and I’m slowly getting back into the groove of things. Going to bed early, waking up early, working for 8 hours…repeat.

For those who follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I was in Zambia for 3 weeks. And what a wonderful time it was indeed. Check out my #ZedLyfe hashtag, if you'd like to catch up on my adventures. It was a great trip for various reasons:

  • Quality time with my family
  • Mini-reunions with former classmates from primary and secondary school
  • Mini-holiday in Livingstone. I stood in awe of the mighty Mosi-o-Tunya Falls and zip-lined across the Zambezi river with my sisters and brother
  • Meetings (formal and informal) with many great minds I have become friends with through this blog and others, and of course Twitter
  • The opportunity to see the beauty of my country and people again.
One of things that struck me during my time in Lusaka and Livingstone, and in talking with people is the renewed sense of optimism especially among people my age. We’re not waiting idly for others (read: government) to lead the way. I was expecting there to be talk about the expectations of the new government, but there was little of that. People have seemingly moved on, and are going about their business.

The first 90 days of the PF government elapsed during my time at home, and a number of my friends and I jokingly talked about heading to state house for “more money in our pockets.” Ugh…enough politics, I’ll delve into more of this in another post.

It’s very encouraging to the see the spirit of entrepreneurism budding in people, especially in new areas such as mobile technology, journalism, construction, to mention but a few. These are the people who are leading the change we often talk about.

More to follow…