Donations to a Country Going to Mars


This blog entry about the events of Thursday, April 15, 2004 was originally posted on April 17, 2004.

DAY 180:  Being at the ZEHRP house was like entering a bubble back into the familiar life I had back in metro-New York City.  Other than watching The Simpsons with fellow fans like Jens the night before, that morning I had Golden Crisp cereal with Deann.  (Yes, Sugar Bear was alive and well in the heart of Zambia.)  Afterwards, we killed the morning in the little “computer lab” in the next door flat where there were some ZEHRP administrative offices.

Shelle came home from a half day at the clinic with her friend Mwelwa, who ran an organization that helped underprivileged teens.  He came over because Shelle mentioned to him that I had some old clothes I wanted to donate — and lighten the load of my big backpack weighed down with electronics.  Deann gave some unwanted clothes and shoes too, but worried that they weren’t in like-new condition.

“Really, don’t worry about it,” Shelle told her.  “You should see what these kids have.  It’s fine.”

It was great to see that despite the fact that a slice of American suburbia was surrounded by African poverty, at least there was a little giving back.  There was more giving back when we went out to lunch at a nearby restaurant and gave our unfinished food to local man hungover.

AFTER WAITING OUT A DOWNPOUR in the pool room of the nearby Masiye Lodge — a lodge known for meeting locals and prostitution hook-ups — we took a taxi across town to the National Museum.  The taxi ride was especially interesting because not only was it still raining but there was afternoon bumper-to-bumper rush hour.  It was made even more interesting when our taxi (which already had a big dent in the windshield) shut down as it was ascending the first half of an arched bridge.  Our crazy taxi driver put the blinkers on and started going in reverse towards incoming traffic, in attempts to pop the clutch.  The engine kicked and and we sped up passed the minivans that poked fun of our driver for driving a bunch of mzungus around.

THE NATIONAL MUSEUM IN LUSAKA WAS JUST AS LONELY PLANET DESCRIBED IT:  “perfect for a snapshot of past and present Zambia.”  The two-level building housed a gallery of contemporary paintings and sculpture (picture above) on one floor (complete with price tags in case anyone was interested in buying), and more informative exhibitions on Zambian history, culture and witchcraft on the mezzanine.

While Deann spent most of the time in the gift shop trying to buy some last-minute gifts, Shelle and I wandered the history exhibition, which was in dire need of some good graphic design; the entire historical timeline of history was a series of newspaper clippings arbitrarily taped to bulletin boards.  While most of the timeline traced the history of Zambia — from its pre-colonial tribal era, to its days as British colony Northern Rhodesia, to its independence under the name “Zambia” declared in October 1964 — only one particular story stuck out in my mind. 

From what I gathered, Edward Makuka Nkoloso was a candidate in the mayoral race of capital city Lusaka.  He wrote an editorial that was published in a newspaper which stated that if he had been elected mayor in the 1960s, he would have put into effect the space program that he had secretly been building seven miles out of Lusaka.  He was convinced that his scientific lab was far more advanced than the Americans or Russians and was all geared up to send a spacegirl, two specially-trained cats and a Christian missionary up to Mars, where they were certain primitive natives were living.  And I quote:

“...I have warned the missionary he must not force Christianity on the people in Mars if they do not want it.”

The article was so ridiculous it was hilarious — the whole thing can be read here — and it was definitely something the history section of my Lonely Planet book overlooked.

THE RAINS OVER LUSAKA HAD STOPPED, which meant the seamstress at the Northmead Craft Market would be around to fit Deann into her new clothes that she had ordered the day before.  A friendly (and far-less-crazy) taxi driver named Bruce took us there and waited while the three of us ventured into the alleys of aggressive crafts salesmen.  Most of them recognized Shelle from all of her visits there, but one in particular was looking for me:  the man I had told I’d be back to buy the nsolo African board game.  His face lit up when I returned to “honor my word,” and waited for me to walk over.

“Oh you have history here too, huh?” Shelle said to me.

I told the man that I had changed my mind and that I wasn’t interested, but he laid this whole guilt trip on me that I probably would have ignored if only I hadn’t told him the day before that I would buy it.  “Please don’t do that,” he said, calling out my bluff.  He led me to his stall but I was still iffy on the whole thing; even if I did buy the wooden board and all its amethyst game pieces, it’d be too heavy for me to lug around Africa.  Sure, I could have it shipped, but that would just add more to a cost that I really didn’t feel like paying. 

The man laid the guilt trip on me pretty thick, telling me how it had been raining all day so he couldn’t make a sale (which was probably true) and then he played The Children Card:  “My children have to go to school.”  Whether or not this was true I didn’t know, but I stood there in mid-thought for about ten minutes wondering what to do.  For some reason, I was less concerned about him ripping me off with guilt trip, and more concerned with my personal integrity; above all, I always try to be a man of my word, and I had told him yesterday that I’d be back the next day to buy it.  Although I was trying to avoid this confrontation by not coming back (out of my integrity’s jurisdiction), there I was again, in his stall, waiting for Deann to get fitted for her clothes.  The guy brought the price down to an even ZK150,000 (about $30 USD) and I stood there trying to argue the cost of shipping.  He tried to convince me that it wasn’t that expensive and even through in some extra amethyst crystal playing pieces.  In the end, I caved, justifying the purchase that I would send it to my little cousins in New Jersey for them to have and play together with — and besides, it’s not like I had been paying for lodging during my entire stay in Lusaka thus far.

Ashamed that I had caved on a purchase I really didn’t want, I felt a little better when Shelle caved in on a couple of impulse buys she couldn’t say “no” to on the way out. 

“You buying that makes me feel a lot better,” I told her.

“Hey, I haven’t even spent a fifth of what you just spent,” she joked.

In the end, everything just seemed to work out in the end; Deann offered to ship the nsolo game with her for free on her flight back to The States and would mail it to New Jersey for me as long as I sent her a postcard from Cairo.

BACK IN THE LITTLE AMERICAN SUBURBAN SUB-CULTURE scattered throughout Lusaka, I went out to dinner with ZEHRP and company, of which we took photos by group:  dating couple Shelle and George, married couple Cristina and Jens, visiting travelers Deann and me, friends from the States Deann and Shelle, and the Filipino Connection, Cristina and me.  We went out to the Cattleman’s Grill, a outdoor patio steakhouse with decent steaks where one of Shelle’s favorite local bands was rumored to be playing in.  That group wasn’t there and was substituted by another which played R&B tunes.  The lead singer looked like he was lip-syncing the whole time until we got on the dance floor for a closer look.  Upon careful scrutinization, one thing was for sure:  the drummer and bass player were totally stoned.

After watching more episodes of The Simpsons season three on DVD with Jens, I just went to bed, happy and content with the day, even with that unintentional craft market purchase I had made.  I figured it was just another donation into the poor economy surrounding the American suburbian bubble.  For a country that may or may not go to Mars with a spacegirl, two cats and a missionary, they’ll need all the help they can get.

Next entry: Last Day With ZEHRP

Previous entry: Giving Good Price

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Comments for “Donations to a Country Going to Mars”

  • I’m back on top Baby!!

    I weathered a Hella Rainstorm this morning too! Maybe it came from Africa!

    Sometimes you just can’t help but cave into street vendors. The used car industry should recruit some of these people!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/17  at  10:23 PM

  • Im back. Finally gonna hit 80’s in Jersey Shitty tomorrow. Looks like we skipped spring yet again over here in the Northeast USA! Enjoyed a stress free weekend for the first time in I-don’t-remember-how-long. You give us all hope erik!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/17  at  10:59 PM

  • Back in da saddle again! Beena way for a bit, but the tour biz here in New Yawk is jumpin!

    Glad you’re enjoying Zambia! I too am sometimes amazed how much of the known world gets by on so little. I know some American peeps out there if you are going to be staying there any longer. I can refer them to you if you want!

    Keep on keepin’ on…

    Word Life. Moman!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/17  at  11:55 PM

  • Just be aware the only reason you had Golden Crisp was because I brought it with me.  Along with all those other goodies you enjoyed. smile
    I made it home OK, however my suitcase has not.  It decided to hang out a little longer in Atlanta.  The luggage people called and said they found it and would be bringing it by this evening.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that all my loot is still intact, as well as, yours and Shelle’s things.  I feel like a Santa who has had his bag of toys blown over the side of the sled.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/18  at  12:12 AM

  • DEANN:  I read your comment, just as I was eating one of your Oreos.  Thanks!

    Too bad about your luggage, but I’m sure everything will just work out in the end.

    I’m still here at the ZEHRP house (Monday morning)... I couldn’t get an early bus to Chipata until Tuesday, so Shelle and the gang will be in the Blog one more day!

    Keep in touch!  Badda Bing!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/18  at  07:13 AM

  • OOGY:  There you are!  Great to hear from you!  You still tinkering with the idea of meeting me at Kili?  I should be doing the climb in three weeks…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/18  at  07:14 AM

  • MOMAN:  Did you meet up with J.Lo’s sister after all?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/18  at  07:17 AM

  • Mild dent in the windshield? Looks kinda like a gunshot hole. smile That game thing you bought, while unwanted, sounds cool.  Hey, why don’t you sell it on e-Bay? LOL

    Posted by Liz  on  04/18  at  07:47 AM

  • ok i’ll be waiting for the nsolo to give to the kids…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/18  at  10:00 PM

  • ERIK: wo, wo, wo. Cairo? Can you put me down for a postcard from there too? I did contribute to the post-mugging cause after all. Some day I hope to take a slow boat up the nile and see all the ancient wonders. When you get there I’ll be so jealous.

    And what’s that comment about climbing Kilomangaro (sp?)?!? Are you nuts?! Oh wait, I briefly forgot that you are in fact crazy. But in an eccentric-crazy, jumping off tall mts., swimming with sharks, playing with TNT sort of way, not a straight-jacket locked-up in an asylum way.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/22  at  08:49 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
Last Day With ZEHRP

Previous entry:
Giving Good Price


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