Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Road Marking #9: Lusaka

Yesterday afternoon, after a long flight from Bangkok, I had one of those incredible first taxi rides in a new country, when you can’t quite connect yourself to the experience, or relate it to anything you’ve done before. 

The airport road:

But I was lucky. I had a driver who drew me into the world. He talked me through our sights all the way into town -- pointed out the plane delivering ballot boxes and observers for the election on Tuesday, the University of Zambia, the road to the President's house. He said it wasn’t any fun to walk along the airport road, because it’s so straight. You feel like you’re never getting there. Plenty were walking along it, though.

'What if I was walking along it?' I asked.

'I would stop and tell you to get a cab,' he replied. He then instructed me on the coming election. 'You're not here to help us with it, are you?'

'No, no, I'm not here for the election.'

It was on everyone’s minds. His own concern was that the two main candidates were too old. He wanted a young man in charge, like Barack Obama. Here a very big version of one of the posters that are everywhere:

I saw this poster on Church Road, where my odd but charming hotel is also located. Everything seems to look okay if you don’t touch it, then it comes off the wall. Church Road brought me onto Cairo Road, the main street in Lusaka. My guidebook had made me a little spooked about this area, but in fact it was gorgeous, with end of day busyness mixing across small groups who were standing, talking, watching (rather intently) what seemed to be the only tourist walking among them that afternoon.

And the light, ashen gold I suppose you could call it, the dirty red of the footpaths and roads lifted into an urban sunset.

When I got back to the hotel, I adopted again what may end up being my default mode for between-walks, and as in Bangkok I made meaningful the otherwise unfulfilled life of a local by asking them to take my picture.