Monday, March 8, 2010

Livingstoned- UPDATED

(Mango Drift on Likoma Island, Malawi)

I am now in Livingstone, Zambia, on the border with Zimbabwe. Livingstone is a very cool city; mellow, clean, with a lot of food and things to do. It's roughly the size of Mbale, which makes it very comfortable for me. It was the nation's capitol pre-independence, so it has a lot of nice older buildings and a good layout. It would be a nice place to spend a few days even if it had no tourist attractions at all. But Livingstone does, have a little toursit attraction of its own to offer. In the local language it's called "the smoke that thunders," and though I haven't been to see it yet I have seen the mist hovering about 10 kilometers outside of town. It is also often refered to as The 7th Wonder of the World, Victoria Falls. I don't really know the specifics, and I know there's a lot of wiggleroom about "biggest" when you talk about lakes and waterfalls. Whatever the case, I think they say this is the biggest waterfall in the world.

I have been marooned here for a few days now, waiting for the rains to slow down and give me a good sunny day to see the falls. It's been nice and chill, but more or less boring and uneventful. The backpackers spot I'm staying at is full of other people who are also here for extended stays- maybe 20 of us, so there's a nice sense of community. Some, like me, are waiting out the weather, a few are waiting for Botswana visas, and then there is a good handful that are doing community development projects and staying here for weeks. The last few days it's been raining so hard and so unceasingly that there’s really been nothing to do but hang out and hit the sauce. In an effort to save some money, and to show some of these soft travelers a taste of real life, I together with a Brit named Tommy have been hitting sachets and Shake-shake .

(Mayoka Village in Nkhata Bay, Malawi)

I imagine I've mentioned the magic of sachets before, but they are essentially ketchup packets of liquor. 10 cents for a shot of 100 proof fire. They taste somewhere between gasoline and nail polish remover, and have amusing names like Double Punch, Tyson, Knockout (sense a pattern?) and Superman. Continuing the trend of inventing amusing new drink recipes, we now have the Matooke Sunrise- waragi and Fanta passion- and Septic Nightmare- cane spirit and some strange Schweppes green apple soda with a sour gummy worm lurking near the bottom like in tequila.

Chibuku Shake-shake is a new arrival to my life, something I never saw in East Africa. For starters, it comes in a litre carton and is incredibly cheap. It is like the local millet brew in Uganda, except commercially produced. That is to say it tastes sour/ vaguely rotten, is opaque, and chunky. It's called shake-shake because you shake it before you drink it because it separates when it sits. It is, in a word, horrendous. It smells like death and tastes like vom, so needless to say I psu hit on every new arrival to Africa that I meet. There are few better ways to finish a night out than to pass around the ol' shake-shake carton, grimacing and choking down the awful witches brew and pretending to enjoy it while laughing at people who gag (which happens disturbingly often). Bright, a PeaceCorps volunteer in Malawi told me she likes to mix it with milk and pina colada juice. She swears by it and says it tastes kind of like a rotten alcoholic milkshake. Delicious.


I've just been hanging around in this waiting purgatory, I am like 10 km from one of the most amazing sights in the world but haven't yet made it there to catch a glimpse because of the park entrance fee. I'm currently reading The Grapes of Wrath, which Africa has given me a totally different perspective on. In a lot of ways, Africa outside the big cities is just like America 75 years ago. I've met a lot of interesting people from all over Europe. The backpacker places are certainly not the best way to meet Africans, but you do meet a lot of cool White people. I spent my first week in Malawi with Brigid and Brady, a couple from New Zealand who taught me all about their fascinating island nation. For example, did you know that the flip-flop was invented in New Zealand. Since then I have been moving with Dave from England and Marid from Holland for several weeks now, both very cool people. I've met countless other Brits, quite a few South Africans and oddly enough, tons of Norwegians. Not a lot of Americans, and the ones I have met, I'm sorry to report, have kind of been obnoxious tools. Americans, to generalize, seem to think they are the coolest thing since eggs on toast, and are not hesitant to sing their own praises- repeatedly and at top volume. "Didn't you hear me?! I said I'm an IT specialist! I work on computers so I can do it from anywhere! Isn't that cool!?"

Things are good if a little mundane. Matooke Weatherman says tomorrow is supposed to be sunny, so hopefully it's for real. I'll think I'll check out the falls tomorrow one way or the other as long as it isn't a monsoon, because this is getting ridiculous. After this I go to Zimbabwe to see the falls from the other side (below rather than above) then go see what kind of trouble I can find over the next week or so in Zimbabwe.

P.S. My new phone number for the next bit while I'm in Zambia is +260 96 951 8289. I would like to assume it will work in Zimbabwe too, but we'll see. I think this is the easiest way to get my number to the few random people who may want it. If anyone else has a few spare pennies bouncing around and wants to hear interesting tales of lion wrestling that are too PG-13 for this blog, send me a text or give me a call or something. I really like hearing from people from home (or getting replies when I send them texts, you know who you are), and the 30 cents or whatever that it costs to send a text is very worth it to me.

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