The trip to Kipiri Mposhi was delayed until Tuesday, which meant day 2 in MOH. I have taken up walking to work – although – not without problems, as I walked a good 15 minutes in the wrong direction before getting assistance. In asking for directions, I also gained an escort to the office…although a 30 min walk took 1.25 hours, so I think he took me on a tour. Either way, at some point the conversation turned from our appreciation of walking versus riding in the crammed mini-busses to our mutual running interests. Turns out he runs for 2.5 hours, several mornings a week! Imagine that – not only did I find someone to run with, but someone who likes to run for a long time. He is well over 6 feet and legs like a giraffe, so I am not so sure how this arrangement is going to work.
I will also have to turn on my filter for our long runs. At another point during our walk – remember 1.25 hours long – he began telling me about his family situation and how he is not married. I asked if he had a girlfriend – “you know, dating without the commitment of marriage”. “Oh – a girl who is my friend –yes”, he replies. “Well not really just friends – more than that, but you don’t have to marry her”, I try to explain. At this point he makes the noise that Tim Allen used to make on Home Improvement. At this point I nervously laugh, realizing I have overstepped in trying to understand the culture here – “Uh, it must just be something Americans do”.
Or maybe it is just what Zambian men do after they are married. As the next conversation of the day was with a MOH driver, who explained to me that he had a wife and a girlfriend, as do ALL the men, according to Peter. I will spare the details, but I am sure you can imagine where I took this conversation. Ever the feminist. Poor guy has to drive me three hours in to the bush tomorrow too. I have a feeling he is going to be one of my closest friends, though.
I attended a huge concert on Saturday – geared towards HIV awareness. Turns out a contact I made before leaving the US is the Chief Advisor to the National AIDS Council in Zambia, so I had VIP treatment all day long. Something I am still getting used to… I have been in more Land Rovers in the last four days than I care to count. I have thought about starting a picture blog in which I pose in front of Land Rovers, emblemized with UNFPA, UN, WHO, USAID and the list goes on. There is an incredible amount of foreign aid in this country – and yet huge health challenges persist. Hmm…..
And my self-appointed Zambian mother turned into the evil step-mother at some point between Friday and Saturday. (Her daily accommodation rates were also more than my rent in Berkeley!) I quickly moved over into a more reasonable accommodation—equipped with a pool and bar – and very friendly neighbors. All day long I am greeted with, “Kareeeeeeeeeeeen from Caliiiiiforniaaaaaaaaaaaa”.
With that so said, so long for now…….promise the next report will have more news from the field…
KarEn from californiA