When I was first leaving Saskatoon, 4 months seemed like a long time. I thought I would have time to see and experience everything I wanted to but the days are slowly slipping by and as work is getting busier, I realize I won’t get to see everything. When you have unlimited time to do things it’s easy to push things off to another weekend. For example, there are plenty of things that I want to do before I leave Saskatoon but still haven’t done. Since I have limited time left in Zambia, I can’t afford to say NO to any opportunity.
Commercial Block Show
I was informed about a block show being held at the Golf and Country Club in the Mkushi farm block on July 3rd and 4th just as I was leaving Lusaka (and yes there is a Golf and Country Club in the farm block). I knew of a couple Peace Corp people and a friend of mine from Lusaka going but I had no transport and it’s about 30km from Mkushi to the Club.
Option 1. Stay at home. I really didn’t need to go because it was unrelated to my work and I could spend a day relaxing at home after coming back from Lusaka.
Option 2. Hitch a ride there. I could take my chances hitchhiking because there is bound to be someone driving into the farm block.
So I took option 2. I was a little nervous about getting half way into the farm block and then not having a ride but I was pretty sure that wasn’t going to happen. I also didn’t exactly know my way there but I was pretty sure… So the morning of the 4th I walked into town looking for transport. I found a minibus that would drive me to the edge of the farm block for 15pin (he was really ripping me off) but I took the ride. 15km later I was walking down the gravel road to the farm block. No turning back now. After 20min of walking someone was driving by. I stuck my arm out and flapped my hand (the hitchhiking symbol in Zambia) and the truck pulled over. It was a woman who owns a shop in town that I’m good friends with.
“Stephanie! Where are you going!”
“Uhh, to the Country Club.”
“And you’re walking?”
“Well I was hoping to catch a ride.”
“Alright get in the back with the kids.”
I then jumped in the box of her truck and we started off to the Club, where she was luckily going anyways. When we got there she told me that she’d give me a ride into town when she was going home if I wanted. Awesome I had secured a ride home and had a really great time at the show.
In the back of the truck on the way to the show.
The Central Province Agricultural Show was being held in Kabwe the 9th and 10th of July. One of my coworkers, Steve, was in Northern Province and the Regional Manager, Kalunga, was going to the show in Kabwe. He asked if I want to come and I said sure! I didn’t have much planned for the weekend anyways and I hadn’t spent much time in Kabwe. The show was going relatively well on Saturday when I met a law student who lived in Kabwe but was studying in Lusaka. She invited me for lunch at her house on Sunday.
Option 1. No thanks. I’ll stay at the show all day Sunday and observe the stands that I had already seen or,
Option 2. Alright I’ll see you tomorrow.
I chose option 2 and said she could find me at the show the next day. I felt a little bit bad because I was ditching Kalunga to go for lunch but he was running the stand with a local shop in town so he’d manage. I wasn’t much good at giving advice to farmers anyways. So on Sunday I went with this girl to her house that is on the other side of town. As her mom is driving, she tells me that she is a nurse in Kabwe and her husband is a school teacher. We had a lovely afternoon together and her family made an amazing lunch. Their house was also huge for Zambian standards. They even had a stove, flush toilet and shower. I got back to the show in the afternoon and find that I hadn’t missed much. Success.
The law student who invited me to her house for lunch.
The following weekend (July 16th and 17th) the Central Province staff had been instructed to go to the Provincial Show in Mansa, Luapula Province. The distance is about 500km but the drive takes about 8 hours accounting for bad roads and frequent stops for… Well I don’t always know what the stops are for but we take them. Kalunga asked me if I wanted to come.
Option 1. Take the weekend off. I hadn’t had a day off since I got to Mkushi after being in Lusaka and we’d be cramming three people in the cab of a small truck or,
Option 2. Go to Luapula. When would I ever get to go there again?
I chose to go to Luapula. As I was telling my coach Joanne about my weekend plans her first reaction was, “Are you driving through the Congo?” I had no idea. After confirming with my coworkers that we weren’t, we packed up and left. Something I didn’t know is that on the way to Mansa you cross the longest bridge in Africa. The truck told us that it’s about 2.6-2.7km long going over the Luapula River.
Crossing the Luapula River.
We arrived in Mansa on Friday, found ourselves a guest house, and had a good rest before the show in the morning. The show was quite small with a lot of cooperative stands, but not a lot of cooperative member. This seems to be a trend at agric shows and is frustrating for private companies that thrive on farmers. We weren’t very optimistic about the show in the morning but as people started to roll in we attracted a lot of attention. Farmers were curious about MRI Seed because it was new in Luapula province last year. Farmers were given MRI seed through FISP (Federal Input Support Program) but disregarded it because of its small grain size. Some farmers even traded MRI seed for a lower grade seed that they were more familiar with. When harvest time came, those who planted MRI seed were having much higher yields than those who traded. This created some interesting tensions with farmers.
During the day, I saw another white girl wandering around the stands. She didn’t look like a Peace Corp so I figured that I’d investigate. She was from Finland with a small Finnish NGO based only in Luapula Province. She had signed on a two year contract along with two Kenyan men. We talked for a while then she invited me to a dinner she was having at her place where they were roasting a goat. I got her phone number and told her I’d get back to her.
At the show, it was good day for MRI. They had good promotion, a busy stand and happy farmers. Later that day Kalunga had arranged for a training with all the DACOs (District Agricultural Coordinating Officers) and Stockists. Steve and I packed up a treadle pump to the FTC (Farmer Training Center) to meet the DACOs. The training was scheduled for 3:00 and I was anxious because it was 3:05 and we were just leaving the show grounds. We’re going to be late! Turns out government employees show up at least an hour late. Panic for nothing. This training was also very successful generating interest in MRI products.
Steve showing the DACOs how to assemble a treadle pump.
It was about dinner time when I decided to send a text to my Finnish friend. I didn’t hear anything back from her so I decided to go for dinner with MRI guys. As I was about to order food I get a call. Her friends are in town and she was wondering if I needed a ride.
Option 1: Just have dinner with my coworker then go to bed early or,
Option 2: Go eat some goat meat expertly cooked by Kenyans.
By this point I think you can figure what I did. So I waited around for the Hilux with Finnish NGOs name on the side to come pick me up. I was expecting more of a rustic party but it was more like a classy dinner party. She had a nice place with an outdoor fireplace to cook the goat on and comfortable couches. The entire place was lit with candles and we sipped on gin and coke (there was no tonic in all of Mansa). All the guests there were very well traveled between America, South Africa and Europe, although most of them were Zambian by birth. I also discovered that they guys from Kenya were having just as much trouble with Bemba as I was. We were all scolded by the women from Mansa who attempted to teach us Bemba with little success.
Overall it was a great evening with good company and amazing food. It was nice to have something that wasn’t cooked in oil (the Kenyans also noted that people in Zambia use too much oil).
So my theory continues to prove its self, good things happen when you take opportunities and say YES. (Unless that means driving through the Congo…)
Fresh fish from the Luapula River.