Here I am: Livingstone, Zambia. On the opposite side of the world and two hemispheres away from where I started. I arrived here on Monday, July 12, jetlagged and over-caffeinated, with a mere seven of the previous 42 hours spent in restless sleep at 30,000 feet. I spent the flight from Johannesburg to Livingstone in a window-seat surrounded on all sides by 23 women from Brooklyn, NY, traveling with African Kosher Safaris. They were an unintentionally entertaining group.
The flight took us straight over Mosi-Oa-Tunya, better known to the rest of the world as Victoria Falls. The Zambezi River here widens to 1,708m before falling 108 m into a gaping chasm cut across the landscape. The smoke from the cataracts rises up, a curtain of water visible from miles away shimmering a rainbow as we flew over.
The airport is an ostentatiously large structure, given its small capacity – clearly built to appeal to the tourist population. Panels are missing from the ceiling and wires dangle overhead. (I saw the original airport on the way out of the parking lot, an open-air cinderblock construction that felt much more appropriate to the amount of traffic.) Coming into the airport from the jetway, travelers are greeted by massive signage declaring, for the geographically challenged, that
Zambia does NOT have Ebola
To ensure that this remains true, all travelers must pass a health inspection: a short form asking if you’ve recently been sick and a quick peek with an octoscope into everyone’s ears. There was a hold-up at the visa desk – something about “running out of visas” and “the World Bank” – and the line stretched backward, mixing with the line for the clinical inspection desk. Eventually, though, we were freed, a 3-month signed visa in hand. (I later learned I had the wrong kind of visa, a single-entry instead of multiple entry, and would have to get a new one if I wanted to visit the neighboring countries.) Customs consisted of a single uniformed guard who smiled and waved as a walked by, barely even turning from his conversation with a security guard.
Lonnie and Fran Turner, hosts and much more in this country, met me in the atrium, the only part of the airport where construction looks to have been completed rather than stalled. We went for coffee at the Protea Hotel, a favorite haunt, before coming to the house Fran and Lonnie rent. I began to unpack, sat down to check some gear, and woke up hours later, having slept through dinner and much of the night.
* * * * *
That was two weeks ago. It has taken me that long to get a blog up and running. I will be in southern Africa for the next 3 months, exploring new cultures, trying to so some good (for what a naive white American’s attempts are worth in this part of the world), and maybe, just maybe, figuring out where I am going with my life. In the meantime, I’ve been writing a lot, and learning more, some of which I will try posting here. I have some hopes, although delusions may be a better word, that writing something for the public medium of the Internet will keep me committed to practicing my writing. We shall see.
In the meantime, I have a backlog of posts I’ve written in the last two weeks and will be trying to publish over the next several days, time allowing.