Friday, August 14, 2009

I love toast

i do.

I love toast and butter.

Sometimes though, my love for things doesn't quite equal my attention span for making it happen.

GET A TOASTER! I avoided buying a toaster for the longest time. Too luxurious I said. I don't need one.

And then we got one. and it broke within a few months. I think it was Chinese made. And it lived up to that reputation.

Toast and butter. It's all about the simple things in life.

Development measured by potholes?

"Curses!! "


I was struggling to walk in a straight line because my eyes were squinted shut, doing my best to keep all of the dust and sand from exfoliating my eye balls. This, I told myself, is why god did not make our eye lids out of sandpaper. What a smart guy.

What's happening you say? Well, they're paving the main road by our house.

We live in Kabwata Site and service, a nice middle class area. I love it. I love it because it is very, well, simple. And has a sense of community. We live about 500m from the Chilumbulu Road, a main thoroughfare. If you're coming from town, you get off at St. Patrick's corner. This corner is an epi-centre of business. You think Superstore has selection? You should check this place out. You can fruit there, you can get vegetables there, you can get your shoes repaired ( though, from experience, you may not get them back in the time they were promised). You can get your hair done after you picked up some rebar, before going on to buy wooden beds, wooden shoe racks, wooden coffee tables. Talk time, roasted maize and roasted cassava. You can get live chickens, you can get used shoes, you can get the latest shipment of the latest fruits fresh from the field out of the back of a pick up. You can catch a taxi there, you can get accosted by mini-bus conductors there and if the need arises, you can even visit Dr. Yi, at the aptly named Chinese run medical clinic. ( "Your friend…no?" ask the shoe repair guy. No, sir, no, not my friend. ).

Glorious fresh fruit sold by Sarah at the Supercorner

500 m down this unpaved road, is our house. This road, is notorious. Notoriously bad that is. It isn't paved, and by 'isn't paved', I mean it's like a mogul run. During rainy season, it was like mogul run meets rally car racing. Taxi drivers charge us more to go down it ( I don't blame them). "ah, you live where?, that will be 30 pin then. The extra 10 is for cleaning". It would be unwise to wear nice shoes if walking because they would go from nice shoes to mud clogs in about 10 steps. And it would be unwise to not concentrate on walking because you never know when a hole could jump up and grab your ankle, twisting it in ways it shouldn’t be twisted. Everyone would click their tongues as you bounced up and down the bumps, and cars would delicately and cautiously inch along, so not as to bottom out.

near our house

"They'll pave it. This Lubwinda's area" in reference to the senior MP in the opposition party and kabwata is an opposition stronghold. They told us this 10 months ago when we moved in. And because i've lived here for the last 2.5 years, I have learned to file expectations and anything that finished with a 'Now Now' under the ' do not disturb' folder.

And it was a-ok. I actually really liked it. the unpaved road was part of the reason why I loved the neighbourhood. Two weeks ago when I had just come back to Lusaka from being away for a month, I was walking back home, stubbed my toe on the rock that jutted out, and after the pain subsided, I realised how much more I preferred that to the sidewalks of Toronto. Something about it was more simple. I looked down the dusty road that continued over the railway tracks and wove down through unfinished houses and I realised what it was is that I really liked that raw feeling. Like things weren't perfectly put together, like there was movement, like things were in the process of building, of being created, it felt like it was alive. Less superficial. And that was something that I really enjoy.

the road right after they had graded it the first time. note that citizen action lead to a speedbump to slow down traffic

A few months ago, instead of paving it, they graded it - as in, they came by and tried to flatten everything out we thought that that was going to be the extent of it. Last Wednesday, Kumoyo, our taxi driver friend told me that they had come to measure the road. " Ya, they came that other day. they said that they were going to come to put down gravel tomorrow. That was yesterday, meaning today" ( don't ask me to clarify dates. I always get confused by how dates are referred to here. and I don't have the mental capacity to figure it out right now). "Ah, but they're probably already chewed the money". "It's true" I agreed, "they probably did".

But lo and behold, things do change. "Now now" might actually arrive one day and on Monday this week, the gravel trucks came! They really came! And within 5 days, they've laid down a nice solid layer of earth about 1 KM long ( I have no idea how 1km/5 days measures up in infrastructure but hey, it's fast to me.). Where mogul bumps were, there is now a fresh track of smooth, packed in, road. No tarmac yet, and not sure when that's going to come. 'now now' I'm sure. But it doesn't matter. The main thing is that the promise of the road actually is starting to come true!

And also, where there were cars, gingerly inching along, are young chaps CRUISING along. CRUISING! Honking, and cruising. Passing when they're not supposed to be passing and being one of THOSE drivers. And I'm starting to be one of THOSE citizens.

Which takes me to the beginning of this post.

I was walking along this morning to catch a mini bus near the Superstore corner. Just enjoying the fact that now the road was closed to being paved, I could daydream and walk without risking a sprained ankle. And I hear this rumble, this loud, rumble that was coming fast. And whoooooosh, this huge -- it must have been 100 tonne -- construction truck blew by, and made like it was the 401. dust flew everywhere, swirling up, down, in my ears, under my eyelids. It was like the skies had opened up and poured dust down. Everyone was shocked. Coughing. A number of"Hmmmmmmmmmm" squeals came out. I'm sure, if I listened hard enough, I could have heard a baby yelping even

And it kept happening. This evening, when I was heading out to buy candles as the power was out, whoooooosh, white car speeds by. Whoooooosh, whoooooosh. Someone's going to get hit no doubt. (Yes, KH, given my calamity factor, there is a high chance that that someone might be me).

And so I asked Noah, the guy who sells me the candles on the side of this road: hey, what do you think about them paving this road? 'well, it has its good parts and its bad parts". then I went thinking. Here was a road, something that was simple. It served its purpose. And now, we have to go and pave it. and what's going to happen is that cars are going to zoom in and out. someone's going to get hit. And if I think about the drainage problem that we're going to have ( and already have), we'll probably have increased rates of malaria in the area because we know that this area sure gets a lot of water, and it doesn't seem to have a lot of places to go. ( see photo, this is infront of our house. It hasn't rained for months and yet, we have a perfect festering pond for mozies.)

So, is this development? paved roads? Is this the trade off between mud clogs and well kept cars? Is this the meaning of progress?

Yes! Yes! more roads! some would say. This is exactly what development is! more infrastructure!

No! No! no more roads! this is the path that we went along and this is wrong! don't follow us!

Well, in all of this, I recognised 2 things: first of all, i might be resistant to change that Zambians might themselves enjoy. I like living on a dirt road, but maybe that's not what Zambians themselves want. which leads me to my second thought: hey, unless I'm going to be living here for the rest of my life and make Zambia my home peromanently, then the most important thing in all of this is that a leader listened to its people, found a vision, and has taken action on it. Maybe that is the measurement of progress.

(Don’t worry, I'm going to stop philosophical musings come November when the rains start to fall and my feet are nice and dry.)