First Impressions

Seven of our nine person party has been in Zambia about a day, and the activity has been non-stop. Some of us have visited Zambia many times before, and for others it’s our first visit. Everybody agrees the Zambian people couldn’t be more welcoming. The highlight so far has been a barbecue at Nate’s house in Kafue. On our ride over, we picked up two favorites of the African Education program – Agnes, the director of the Amos Youth Centre, and Mama Kerry, the director of the boarding house. Everybody exchanged hugs and greetings, and warm introductions were made to all the first time travelers. News of what’s happening at the Amos Youth Centre was dispersed. “You’re trouble, both of you,” Sofia said with a laugh.

Julie-Anne, Kathy, Sofia, Julien and Ira flew into Lusaka about 10 p.m. Saturday night. While the 9-hour flight from Amsterdam to Lusaka was tiring, it was more than bearable for Julien. Rosemary, whom he bonded with most of the way, certainly left an impression as well as two different ways to contact her. Let’s just say, she might be waiting for a long time.

The line at immigration was long and interesting. It was most eventful for Kathy, who bonded with Sarah Palin’s best friend of all people. Kathy’s new BFF even gave her a pin from Alaska. Palin’s friends were in Africa for a hunting expedition. Later, Kathy managed to maneuver her way into the country without a yellow fever certificate. Ironically, Julie-Anne, Julien and Ira were never even asked for their certificates. Clifford and James greeted us at the airport and drove us safely through Lusaka to the lodge. En route, we passed the University of Zambia.

Eight Reedbok, the lodge we stayed at the first night, was beautiful and even luxurious. After a good night’s sleep we had a big breakfast. Some minor confusion ensued with our pickup from the lodge, but Kelly found us and we made the return trip to the airport to pick up Mario and Karen. Julie-Anne caught up with Kelly about the birth of his baby boy. During the ride, the first time visitors saw a glimpse of the harsh poverty that exists in parts of Zambia. Beaten, hand-painted signs marked various businesses, some of which appeared to be small buildings on the edge of dusty roads. Just about everybody in the street seemed calm and polite.

Julie-Anne, Kathy, Sofia, Julien, and Ira greeted Mario and Karen at the airport. We had a pleasant lunch at a nice and more upscale shopping district, Arcades, and did a major grocery shopping trip. Fred, the program manager at the center, joined us for part of lunch and helped us out in a few different ways. The supermarket wasn’t much different than what we would see in the U.S. Many of the brands were the same. They even have Extreme Pringles in Zambia.

The shopping complete, we headed back to the lodge to pick up our luggage. Then it was off to Kafue, where Mario had set up accommodations at a brand new lodge, Emmans. We were told Emmans might not compare to Eight Reedbock, but everybody agreed it was beautiful and we’re looking forward to our stay there. Karen handed out Guardian Angel coins to everybody in the group as we settled into our rooms.

During the ride to Kafue, Clifford shared his story with Mario and Ira. It was inspirational to hear how well he is doing and the academic success of his daughter. After leaving Lusaka, we saw the stark contrast between the lodges we’re staying the extreme poverty in Zambia. Mud huts were easily viewed from the road. Within the Lusaka city limits, several street kids approached our car for a possible handout.

So it’s been an emotional first day. We’ve made new friends, and also realized how different life is for the various social classes in Zambia. Tomorrow, we welcome Susan and Carly and spend our first day at Amos Youth Centre.