Wednesday, June 9, 2010
The flight from Johannesburg to Lusaka was a short one—1.5 hours later, I was in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia. The land was a mix of green and yellow, a typical scene of African. I picked-up my only check-in suitcase quickly, so I can meet with a colleague and hand her the laptop the lab asked me to bring it to her. I put the laptop in my check-in suitcase because I already had my own laptop in my backpack and couldn’t fit another one without abandon other necessities I need on the road. So I wrapped it in a blanket and locked my suitcase and never gave it a second thought. As soon as I got the suitcase though, it doesn’t feel right. The locks on my suitcase were broken, and all the items in the luggage were clearly shifted and all over the place. With a glimpse of hope, I searched the entire suitcase thoroughly, but could not find the laptop. Bewildered, I could not make sense of what happened. The colleague, however, was not surprised. She told me that the luggage was likely stolen at Johannesburg during transfer. “If they scan inside, then they could see the laptop pretty easily. You should never put electronics in check-in bags. This is Africa.” she said. I was shocked. I would never imagine that international airport could so easily do things like that. I went back in to file a missing item report, the people at the counter all concurred that this is most likely stolen in Johannesburg. “This is Africa!” a man waiting in line behind me said bluntly. He is filing for a missing box. Somewhat frustrated and amused by the notion, I proceeded to leave the luggage area. The person at the exit came up to verify my luggage ticket again, seeing I was the only person there, she murmured something like “drink money”. “Pardon me”? I said, wasn’t sure what she was talking about. “Money to buy drinks”, she said, one of her hands stretched out, and the other on my suitcase. Still confused, I asked if she wants tips. She was clearly irritated at that moment, and said “give me some money to buy drinks!” Still don't know what's going on, I gave her two dollars- I was afraid that she was going to hold my suitcase unless I give her the money! I guess it is somewhat understandable for people who earn a few dollars a day to ask for money like that, but I still couldn’t get over the fact that they stole my laptop with such ease. There is no way to locate where my laptop went; Zambian airport insisted that it could only happen in J-burg. Upon further examination of my suitcase later when I get to my destination Macha, I found out that I also lost my outlet adapter (It is European style outlet here) and the USB transfer cord for my camera. I can’t imagine not uploading any pictures in the next two months!!
Currency exchange is another deep learning curve I have to go through. With 1 USD to 5000 Zambian kwacha, I handled my very first million kwacha transaction today-all in cash! The hostel I stayed overnight in lusaka is called “chachacha backpackers” . The 6 bulk-bed lodge I stayed in looks exactly like Washington’s winter camp in Valley forge national park, except with mosquito nets. The temperature was at around 30C (85F) around noon, and dropped to what feels like 10 C (50F)at night. When I was using the sink, a giant yellow cat jumped on the counter quietly and creped me out. Some other friendly visitors include a lizard on the wall, numerous spider webs, and ant troops. However, none of the big 5 s, not yet.
The capital city Lusaka somehow reminds me of my hometown Ningbo in its early nineties. The poorly-paved road, the dust of yellow sands, the smell of the gasoline, the crowded open market, the aggressive taxi drivers calling out for business, are all somewhat reminiscence of my childhood in Ningbo.