Monday May 25: In Lusaka!!

Breakfast at the restaurant downstairs and we were off in the shuttle bus to the airport. Couple of people on the bus who talked to our group about Zambia! Security was fine and we reached our gate, which was at a corner of the airport and all my excitement at getting the free 60 minutes of wifi at the airport and posting photos was dashed, as there was no connectivity at our gate :(. I did get some a little away near the restroom and was able to send a couple of texts and look at some e-mails including comments from 2 parents of students before losing connectivity again! This sure was an unexpected problem – not having good wifi in Dubai!? On a previous flight through this airport where I waited a few hours I remember having no problem!

Waiting at a far corner of Dubai airport where the wifi was not on!

Waiting at a far corner of Dubai airport where the wifi was not on!

We took a bus to the airplane because it was “parked” at a distance and climbed up some steep stairs to board – a new experience for many of the students, but typical in Lusaka (and other places). We were seated in three rows again as on the previous flight – next stop – LUSAKA!

We landed in Lusaka on a beautiful sunny afternoon – just a typical winter day in Zambia J. This is the first time we have arrived during the day because all previous trips have arrived late at night. A new procedure at the airport: our temperature was taken using a device just held near the cheek – presumably to check for anyone coming in with a fever. Seems like Zambia had done a good job of taking care that people who may be ill are checked as soon as they enter the country!

Arrival at Lusaka airport - getting to our bus

Arrival at Lusaka airport – getting to our bus

We got our visas and our baggage and stepped out into a crowd of people to find our driver holding up a sign saying “Purdue University”, and right behind me was Abel Mbewe who I have now known for three years. They loaded our bags and we drove to the familiar Zebra Guest House. A quick stop so everyone got their rooms and then we were off to Arcaded mall. First stop there: we went to the money exchange bureau and got kwacha: the exchange rate has improved for us1

First team photo at Zebra Guest House

First team photo at Zebra Guest House

Today being Africa Freedom Day, the mall was busy and loud and unexpectedly the usual “Sunday market” vendors were there with their wares for sale. So, while we got our local phones and bought groceries the students had an opportunity to barter with the vendors and buy some souvenirs.

Back to the guesthouse for our welcome dinner prepared by Damiano and his team and we had a great Zambian meal with nshima, rice, rape (greens), potatoes, vegetables, chicken and beef.

Welcome dinner at Zebra Guest House!

Welcome dinner at Zebra Guest House!

Then off for our first pow-wow in Room 16 (the first of many more as we will meet and de-brief each day). We discussed the day’s activities and feelings and also discussed what we will be doing tomorrow. Here are some student insights from their first day in Zambia:

  • Lots of comments about the market:
    • The market was eye-opening; they were swarmed by the vendors
    • The vendors were very enthusiastic and up-front
    • The vendors all seemed to know each other and were very friendly
    • The vendors were aggressive like pushy salespeople in the US
    • Some vendors had stories about their circumstances to make them buy their wares, which made students feel bad, but also feel skeptical (and feel bad that they were skeptical)
    • Overall some students felt uncomfortable and overwhelmed by the vendors

But some positive comments about the vendors also emerged such as

  • “it was good we got a taste of it right away”
  • “I tried to be polite and listen to the vendors, but need to learn to say no and walk away”
  • “I felt more at home here than in Dubai”
  • “The people are very friendly – many of them came up and talked”
  • “I was trying to keep an open mind and not keep my shield up; I tried to be talkative and let them talk and joke with me a bit”
  • “I enjoyed it, it was really cool”
  • “It was an adrenaline rush”

Other student comments today included that the people were very friendly and genuine, that they were surprised at how developed it is, with paved roads and malls, but also at how the strip mall looked familiar – not that different from one in the USA.

A couple of students summed up saying “it feels surreal and has not sunk in yet that we are 7000 miles away; it feels like a vacation” and “I think Dubai did that to us”… and with that we packed our lunches for tomorrow…

Packing lunches1

Packing lunches1

All in all a very busy two days of travel and settling in today, but tomorrow we begin our work at Cheshire Homes…..

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