Sunday, June 13, 2010


It was quite chilly when I got up this morning. The temperature must have been down below 10C (50F). I landed on the coldest month of Zambia which should be a good thing. The bus from Lusaka to Choma is about 4 hours. Choma is a township in southern province of Zambia on route to Macha. I was supposed to get there by noon to meet the driver from the institute to take me to Macha. The bus station is an open hectic place. When the taxi dropped me off, almost immediately a dozen men came up and shout different destinations “choma! livingstone! Blahblahblah…” I was told that the carrier called Mazandu family bus service is the most reliable one, and they can be distinguished by blue color. Not surprisingly, they also have very aggressive strategies to get customers by escorting you as soon as you get off the taxi all the way to their ticket booth. Eventually I hopped on their “blue bus”.

The bus ride to choma is quite interesting. Zambia vehicles have driver seats on the right side and people drive on the left side. The bus is a regular size like greyhound, but it has three seats on the left side and two seats on the right side, so it doesn’t leave much room in between. The bus was really crowded. Every woman on the bus invariantly carry a child on her back, some even has two. I was amazed by how many babies there were on the bus. They are all very cute of course.

When I arrived at Choma at the bus station, again there were more than a dozen people came up to offer you to go to all different destinations. Most of them are not with any taxi/cab companies but have their private cars. When I asked for directions to the place where I was supposed to meet the driver, a man insisted to walk me over there which was only about two minutes away. He was very friendly, but asked me tons of personal questions like “are you married?’ I found it slightly amusing and frustrating at the same time.

People here refer a certain time of the day as hours. So they would say 2:30pm as “fourteen thirty hours”. I was going to meet the driver Stem at 13 hours. Stem comes up to choma once a week to pick up mails and do all kinds of shopping for the institute. He drives a big truck with a mechanics and an accountant. They were nice enough to let me sit in the front of the truck, and the mechanics and other people who hitchhiked back to Macha with the truck had to sit in the open trunk.

The route from Choma to Macha was almost all on unpaved sand road. So whenever there is a car driving by, the sand would be blow all over and block the sight. What’s worse is that it really irritates the throat and the lungs. Luckily we were in the front and could close the window. I feel bad for people in the back of the truck breathing in the sand. The truck broke down in the middle and it took them a while to fix it.

Whenever we stopped at little village centers, we were surrounded people carrying goods to sell. There were woman carrying cabbages, tomatos, bananas, green pepers, all sorts of vegetables, and men tend to have stuff like sunglasses, shoes, or small groceries like mirrors and toothbrush. They were much more, and it was really amazing to see the scene.

Finally, regarding my stolen laptop and electronics below is the reply from a colleague:

“Oh too bad! I should have warned you! Joburg is very famous for these things happening. The best story I’ve heard was that a finnish guy had put new leather shoes to his suitcase, coming from helsinki-joburg-lusaka. When he opened the suitcase in lusaka, his shoes had been replaced by old, outworn smelly sneakers! With smelly socks in them! So its not just technical stuff that they steal, they can steal almost anything…”


  1. i really enjoyed reading these few blog entries! what exactly will you be doing in Zambia? btw, my grandparents are from Ningbo too :)

  2. I'm doing public-healthy research through a Yale lab, but also working in the hospital here.