Zambia has certainly been an eye opening experience so far.
The place we are based at in Lusaka is certainly more developed than I was expecting- there is a grocery store, many restaurants- including Subway, and a movie theatre (where I saw Twilight)! There are a lot of business people there, and definitely a lot more white people than I was expecting- you can't even play spot the peace corps people there.
So far the hotels can be described at about a 5. They aren't the worst I have stayed in (Lunuhuana I think takes that one), but they are not really what you would expect for paying this kind of money in Africa. $60 will get you a cold shower that doesn't drain properly, toilets that flush most of the time, and an occasional mosquito (which could be contradicted if I learned how to use a Mosquito Net), but on the positive they have clean sheets and running water.
Driving is also a new experience here whether it is Zoe (the program manager I am working with) honking for 10 seconds at a time or telling the salesman in the road after the light changes green to "Move or next time she will hit him" or the Zambian driving 40kph in a 70kph zone or me driving with a left side steering wheel on the left side of the road playing anti-pacman all over the road trying to avoid the potholes, people or bikes.
Places like "Eat Some More Restaurant," "This and That Store," and "It's a New Day Investments" and menu items like "Money in the Bag" and "Tasty Beef" pretty much sum up the naming conventions here in Zambia. They are almost humorous, and the quality is usually inversely proportional to how humorous their name gets. Then you have the people's names from the Council Chairman Mr. Lungu to the Minister of Parliament Honorable Fashion Peri and place names like Petauke, Kamunjoma, Gwembe Valley, and Chongwe. There are so many vowels in these names that I really have a hard time remembering any name or place.
The villages that we drove by to get to the bridge site were certainly how I pictured Africa before I got here. They are small communities of adobe huts with thatch roofs and the occasional fire pit or latrine. There are kids running around everywhere- especially when they see a car with 2 white girls pull up. They all have huge smiles on their faces and will yell and wave like you are a movie star (my dreams are coming true). There are very few pairs of shoes around, but there are soccer goals every few villages.
The World Cup Finale was a sad night for me in the small town of Petauke. Not only did I watch 116 minutes of goalless soccer, but then my new favorite team- the Oranje- were beat by Spain. And to top it off I learned the next morning that the mosquito in my room also won as I had 10 mosquito bites on my face! I hope my malaria medicine works.
So far I have learned a lot from Zoe. She has been building these bridges in developing countries for more than 6 years already, and she definitely knows how to get what she needs to get. We have been out to the site in the Eastern Province and met all of the leadership and the workers in the village and laid out the materials needed by the next time we go back. There is definitely a different pace around here- a Zambian 20-30 minutes is usually over an hour. So many of these bridges that were supposed to start a month ago will just be getting off the ground soon. The picture below shows the meeting with the community at the bridge site.