Today I’m in a bit of a hurry to get back to the village because my best friend Martyrs is harvesting his fish, a first for him. Lizzy and I are being battered by sand as we stand on the side of the great north road with our arms stretched out waiting for a ride. Our eyes are red, as we strain to keep them open against the bitterly cold wind from the south. For whatever reason, no one wants to stop to pick us up. I begin to wonder if I should have shaved this week, or put on a clean shirt to look more appealing to the drivers who zoom by and pretend to not make eye contact with me.
After about an hour, we finally flag down a semi-truck heading to Tanzania. I let Lizzy negotiate with the driver, because, quite honestly, she is extremely good at getting a free ride, unlike me, who is quick to open up my wallet. Sure enough, she has convinced the driver that we should go for free. We lumber up into the expansive cab, and take off our sandals (customary for these types of rides) so that we don’t dirty up the driver’s bedroom. Immediately after the door closes I am bombarded with the smells of all the passengers. A distinct smell of urine emanates from the little boy on his mom’s lap, who clearly hasn’t had his pants changed in weeks, the older gentleman radiates a pungent body odor, likely the culprit of a long showerless day, and the security guard in the passenger seat smells like a combination of roses and watermelon, probably due to his dousing on of female perfume. This should be an enjoyable one hour ride with my five fellow bedmates, security guard, and driver.
The Freightliner semi-truck we are riding in is like the Cadillac of the African trucking network. It has large windows, plenty of space to cram in passengers, and even a built in refrigerator. Looking out of these large windows I see the high transmission lines paralleling the road, a testament to the modernization that is taking place here. Under many of these high power lines I notice mudhuts with their grass thatch roofs with inhabitants who will likely never benefit from the power lines that run over them. Further along the journey, we have to stop in the middle of the highway as a herd of goats saunter along the asphalt. A herdsman comes running through the bush to shoo them off the road, and gives us a friendly smile and wave to make amends for the delay.
This is something that always amazes me on a ride in Zambia, the mix of the old world with the new. A country that has well paved roads that most people walk-on, and an electrical grid clearing that provides wood for villagers to cook with. Oddly though, progress seems to slowly be spreading here. I hope villagers like Dylan, because the times they are a-changin’.