Sunday, 15 July 2012


In Zambia people say the time in the 24 hour clock.

So when I arrived and someone told me they would meet me at 20, it was one of those really confusing conversations when you have to keep asking 'pardon' all the time because you don't get it.

I was saying, '20 what?'
He was saying 'yeah, 20'.
I was saying, 'what's the road name?'
He was saying, 'what road name?'
Me: '20 what?'
Him: 'No, no, just 20'

And so it goes on.

If that was at home I would be embarrassed for hours about that silly conversation, but I don't feel heavy with embarrassment here. I laughed at myself. He laughed at me. Then it was fine.

Something else funny happened today, which again was fine. If it was home it would have been so ridiculous and possibly rude if it would ever happen at all. But here - totally fine. Even with me - stress head, 'what will the neighbours say', me - fine.

So, after I arrived at my lodge and my manager left me I wanted to buy some bottled water, but they had run out in my lodge. So I thought, I'll walk around the town until I find somewhere, but everywhere looked quite shut. It's a Sunday and pretty much everyone is worshipping or already drinking, so I was a bit stuck as to where to get some water. I noticed this woman walking behind me and I turned to her and said, 'Excuse me, I wa...' She cut me off sharp with a massive gutterall sound of welcome and a sort of a screamy laugh thing and a huge slappy shake of the hand. 'Welcome, welcome!' She said. I asked her where was open now so I could buy some water and she said, 'Come with me, I will take you'. I did tell her that it was ok and she could just direct me, but she insisted she would walk with me.

I actually really appreciated it because I had no idea where I was, really. She took me to one shop and they had also run out. We had chatted along the way and by this time I knew she lived quite far away and that we were walking in the opposite direction. I told her that I was grateful, but she could leave and I would find some water myself. 'No, no!' She said. 'We will find you some water!'

So we went to the next shop. Nothing. She was determined to help me and wouldn't stop until I was ok. Finally after a few twists and turns we found a shop selling bottled water. I was so grateful to her because I would never have found it otherwise and I really did want some. At the shop I asked her if she wanted anything, it was the least I could do because she had walked me all the way there. I saw they sold 7up, Fanta, Coke, etc and I asked her to choose something she wanted. She looked really shocked and grateful that I had offered and she said 'really? I can have something? Anything I want?' I said that it was ok, of course, she had done me a great favour so she could choose whatever she wanted, bless her.

She said, 'in that case I'll have chicken and chips, a cocktail and some top up air time for my phone from the bar opposite'.




So I bought her dinner at this place and we sat and listened to the live band playing the lambada in African style and talked about kids and the Tonga language and people. We talked a bit of music, a bit of men and a bit of politics.

People here, in fact I have found in lots of African countries, know about their politics. Me, I couldn't really tell you who anyone is in our government apart from the obvious Cameron and Clegg, but here they can tell you about the political history of their towns, provinces, countries and the whole region in quite some detail.

I have enjoyed several conversations about colonialism already. People mention it here a lot more than they do in other countries I have been to. It's definitely brought out the guilt complex in me and I have found myself becoming angry at the shameful actions of historic Britain. I feel embarrassed that the West still has some superiority complex and a sense of entitlement to resources and land that isn't really theirs.

But a friend who I met on my first night here, in response to my rant about it all, simply patted me on the shoulder and said 'Lucy, let bygones be bygones...' Wow. That's amazing. These guys are still struggling with internal conflicts, the seeds of which were sown by the British, they've had their natural resources pillaged by foreign interested parties since Livingstone and even now they have to accept low paying jobs working for European or Chinese rich people, and their attitude is one of forgiveness and patience.

This is the biggest lesson I have learnt so far. Anger doesn't really get you anywhere.

There was another thing that made me lament Western culture, but the thought has its roots in tragedy.

In my lodge in Lusaka there was a swimming pool, and while I was at work on Friday a boy drowned in it. He and some school friends were messing about and the boy jumped in, I think showing off, but none of them could swim. This is terrible. It is sad and it is terrible, terrible for the parents, for the friends and for the community. But the parents accepted that he couldn't swim and he shouldn't have jumped in the pool.

The next day as I was sitting waiting for my lunch there was a large group of people being baptised in the same pool.

If that was in Britain, someone, somewhere would sue something. The whole area would be cordoned off for an investigation that would produce evidence so that someone could use it to press charges and sue the lodge. Then there would more than likely be a campaign to change health and safety regulations around pools and children. A bit like how they've banned sand pits in some counties because they pose a health and safety risk. A bit like in some parks (in the North of England, I think), they have banned playing ball games because of health and safety. And you can't take photos in some public places because you're probably a paedophile taking pictures of young kids. You can't change the clothes of a kid if they've wet themselves at nursery without phoning their parents for permission first because you might be a child molester.

It isn't like that here. People are strong, strong enough to live without a blame culture, strong enough to say what they want, especially if they want chicken and chips and a cocktail. Strong enough to forgive, strong enough to ask questions, strong enough to live their lives honestly and accept tragedy and blessings for what they are.

It makes me really happy to be here, and really happy to be learning these lessons.



  1. You are amazing. I'm so proud of you and I love you very much. Goo xxxxx

  2. lucy you are so amazing and your mummy loves you so much just dont go wandering on your own again

  3. "I can have anything I want?! Gimme a house and the ability to fly...without having to use my arms."

    "Errr, hang on luv. That 7up looks nice, don't it?"

    Great thoughts,


  4. Brilliant writing Luce, very vivid, I felt like I was there, getting thirstier the more closed shops you came across hehehe.
    I love it! A saying I too always live by 'if you don't ask you don't get' . Sounds like a mini adventure already. Good work Lucy x

  5. what a wonderfully interesting read that was! Miss u already! lots of love christie and myke xxxx

  6. So proud of you, keep doing what you do best :)
    lots of hugs!!
    Chanty warrior x

  7. Met your sis yesterday - thought it was you and was very confused as you should be in Zambia!
    Loving the blog - can't wait for the next entry. And don't forget I'm here to help if you need anything.


  8. You guys are rocking my world with your feedback and your comments! Thanks, peeps! x