Up and at it by 6AM. Following a hectic morning of reading, getting ready, breakfast and packing the coolers with ice, we get into the Land Cruiser and head out by 8AM. After some pretty rough roads filled with pot holes and corrugations that seem to go on forever – robbing the cruiser of yet another years life in just 30 kilometers - we arrive at the police check point just before entering town where we must come to a complete stop with the flashers blinking. The nice “Policeman” waves a lazy hand - authorizing us to proceed. A few minutes later we are in the center of town.
The first stop is at a small “mom & pop” store that has about everything from rugs to plastic pots/pans to large area rugs. We look around admiring all the nifty gadgets and fabrics only to find that in spite of having “everything we want” they have absolutely nothing that WE need.
Restarting the cruiser, we ease backwards into the flow of un-yielding traffic and pedestrians who just walk right into your path – daring you to run over them. While you are watching them, the little blue taxies dart to and fro – daring you to hit them. Looking in 4 different directions at one time, you pull out and head on to the next stop down a very busy road filled with people, taxis, pull carts and little old ladies camping along the side of the roadway with their vegetables and fruits spread out onto dusty cloths at the very edge of the pavement – daring you to run over them. Everywhere you go, there is something or someone new that you can run over.
“Let’s see, Rhoda needs air time and Patricia needs some thread”. Down this road along the sidewalk, there is a tiny door leading to a clerk selling “air time” to those who have cell phones or are reselling air time to others. The purchase begins by choosing the proper air time – then, discussing the transaction. This takes place rather quickly – it’s the writing of the receipt that takes forever. Every blank space on the receipt form is filled out…by hand…in triplicate…for every single-ingle transaction! Someone has done a tremendous job convincing the Zambians to cherish the art of writing receipts.
As I leave the air time shop, I am approached by Jack who insists that I have him collect vegetables from various friends and old ladies selling them on the side of the road – he appoints himself as my shopping agent while he also tries to get me to buy some painting he has in a sack over his shoulder. I finally “blow him off” and get back in the cruiser and continue.
The next stop is the Coke man. We have a case of empty beverage bottles (Sprite, Coke, Coke Lite & Fanta) to be exchanged for a replacement case filled with new Cokes, etc. Today, they have what we need. On any given day, they can run out of product early in the morning, so be sure to get there before that happens – “like I can tell you when THAT is??”
The new Shoprite has most things we think we need, but the Stop Shop usually has better frozen meat and they will hold it for you while you do your other shopping - so when you are ready to go back home, you can stop back by and collect it. So, it is Shoprite first, then, Stop Shop – unless, you need some special cream or spices, then you will have to go back into the center of town to the Mini Mart. You will have to do a few U-turns and, once again, pass through the crowded street with the vegetable ladies lining the curb – still daring to be run over.
By now it is lunch time, so we stop in at Zig-Zag for a bite. As is the case for ALL meals ordered in any restaurant in town, the law demands that it take at least 30 minutes to prepare the meal. This is one law that is followed - to the letter. So following a Coke with 1 cube of ice over a lime slice, we spend a bit of time on the computer catching up on e-mails and Facebook. Then, after the mandatory 30 minutes cooking time has passed, our meal arrives. It tastes great and we leave with a full tummy.
At each stop there is always someone who is either begging for money or trying to sell copper bracelets, paintings, cell phones, DVD’s, trousers, etc…You name it, they will sell it – or die trying to find it for you. There is always one or two who are really desperate – perhaps they only have one arm or are in a wheel chair with no legs – I always give those guys a bit of cash – not much, but enough to get a scrap of food. Who knows, they probably have a pocket full of money, but still, they are very handicapped – and this white American doesn’t have the heart not to try to help.
So, next, we go to the big new Shoprite. We get almost everything we need but they are out of Lays Lightly Salted chips. We have to have them – or at least we want them - and we think there may be some at Spar, so we go back to the south end of town and try Spar – only to find that they too are out of Lays chips. It has been over 2 weeks since we saw them in any store – I guess we will have to wait until a shipment reaches here with the chips. “Could we do without them? I guess we will have too!”
We think we are ready now so we head back to Stop Shop to pick up our frozen meat. After that, we have to do the U-turn thing again and try to find a parking spot in front of Wonder Bake where we want to purchase the best bread in town – the only bread that is soft enough to eat. But, all the parking spaces are filled with taxis, so, once again we do the U-turn and try again. This time, we find a spot and pull in. Then, Jimmy walks up to the door and tries to sell us some paintings. And, once again, we convince him that we are not buying and after a few minutes, he is gone. Then, we go in to order our bread – they are out at the moment and ask that we come back in an hour. We have no bread, so we have to wait the hour.
Ok, now we think we have it all. So, we start back home. After the police check point, we begin the 45 minute drive along smooth pavement intermittent with sections with serious pot holes and others with significant corrugations – causing the cruiser to loose another year of life in just 30 kilometers.
At 5:30 PM, we return and unload the groceries. I used to hear the old folks talk about being “rode hard and put up wet”…a perfect description of how I feel right now - after getting groceries in Zambia!
I woke up one day and discovered God wanted me to quit what I was doing for me...and start doing something for Him.