Originally, I had intended to take the 1.5 hour Mashandu charter bus from Lusaka to Mazabuka filled with spacious seats but somehow ended up in a squished minivan filled with 20 other people. I had taken the advice of my contact in Mazabuka and opted for the cheaper minivan ($6) vs. a charter bus ($10) and had the ride of my life through the African highway. Stares I did get. Who is this foreigner taking the local mini-bus? Why did I choose to pack myself in a sardine can riding 3 hours down unfamiliar territory? I guess I wanted a local experience, and this would be the start of something very local.
I arrived in the heart of town. Untouched but tired as hell. My neck was aching from ducking underneath the roof of the van for 3 hours, and my joints breathed a sigh of relief as I exited the van to more stares on the road. By this time, I got the message – I was different.
I had come to town to volunteer for a school for the blind and disabled, and DJ Cosmo (husband of the founder) picked me up in his urban 4-wheeler. If T-Paine and Lil Jon had a son together, it would be DJ Cosmo. He’s a well-known rapper in Zambia and sings about girls and butts. And yes he has dreadlocks.
We drove and listened to his latest single about butts and soon realized that school was nowhere near town. I had thought Mazabuka was as local as you can get with downtown only a few blocks long…but we were about to venture 18 miles deep into the villages.
If I thought the roads in Zimbabwe were bad, getting into Malaikha school could possibly be the most challenging road I’ve ever seen. The road is just dirt, mud, and rocks with natural potholes planted every step of the way. When it rains, it’s nearly impossible to use the road by car.
But we continued venturing far away from urban society and deeper into primitive society. I got more stares now but this time, these stares were stares of surprise – like they’ve never seen a light-colored person before. The sun pounded down hard through the crevices of the car windows as I thought to myself, “Damn I knew I should’ve bought a hat.”
The car came to a slower halt from a speed of 10 mph to 5 mph – we were close. And eventually we pulled into Malaikha School, greeted by free-roaming chickens and two school donkeys. I spotted a kid playfully running a beat-up tire up and down the stove-top dirt road in his bare feet. Then I heard snorts…multiple non-human snorts…which could only mean one thing – pigs. I was quickly escorted to my hut suite, arms packed with mosquito net and all. I had a bed with several roommates – two lizards and a multitude of insects. Home sweet home…