How would you like to have your breakfast, vegetarian or non-vegetarian? I know I eat meat, I know I am not vegetarian but here the question is thrown at me threw me off-balance. I take long to think “what am I vegetarian or non-vegetarian?” and ask the lady to repeat what was on offer… I say vegetarian, I think the stewardess could hear my thoughts and gave me that “are you sure” look and I give her “yes I am” to confirm. Wandia hands me the warm plastic bearing vegetarian food, I open it to find potatoes, peas and some fried sweet potatoes! “Who eats this for breakfast? This is not what I wanted!” is what I am thinking, the guy behind asks for non-vegetarian and once he opens his food can I am assaulted by the smell of sausages and bacon, those warus and gwacis did have a hard time going down my throat, I try to imagine they are something else to make them more palatable… I make a strong mental note “Mackel, you are non-vegetarian, get that in your thick skull, NON-VEGETARIAN!” Boiled potatoes and peas is not how you kick-start your morning, unless you are diabetic (no hard feelings if you are diabetic, I now empathize with what you go through), the fried sweet potatoes were tasty though.
Two hours later we touch down at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka. I find the client’s driver waiting, apparently my second name means something else in Nyanja, one of the 72 Zambian local languages they mispronounce it and they give me a name which they think I should be called, their local version of my name. From now I think my first name will do. The first striking thing about Zambia for a first time visitor is the space, there is so much space, no storey buildings crowded, there are standalone bungalows, I came to learn they have a population of about 14 million! I get to the guesthouse I will be staying and as the housekeeper is going to get some groceries I accompany her to the mall so I can change some Shillings to Kwacha. Shock on me, since Kenya does not engage in reasonable trade with Zambia, they do not change Kenyan Shilling, this is where your visa card saves the day. The local tv station ZNBC (Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation) has programs in the local languages i.e. Bemba, Nyanja, Tonga… Imagine KTN broadcasting in Meru, Luo or Borana!
Zambia is very large and sparsely populated and to visitors from more crowded lands the sense of space and stillness leaves vivid memories – Zambian Guide book
Zambia has beautiful women.
Most are apple bodied no pears, if you love cute faces and nice boobs I just gave you a hint where to look.
Zambians are friendly, way friendlier than Nairobians. You will notice the ladies curtsying when greeting you, some even kneel. Same happens when you are buying stuff, you get the feeling like your money is gold-plated, I think instead of having too many workshops on customer service companies need to take their staff to Zambia they learn first-hand how to crown their customers and make them feel valued.
Zambia is in a rapid development state at the moment. If you are a company looking for the next frontier in business, Zambia should make your “to prospect list” and more so if you are in manufacturing, power systems and construction industries, but carry your own SWOT and PESTEL beforehand this is not to be taken as professional advice. Interesting to note was that Zambian do paint their trees, they paint them white to enhance their beauty! Crown paints should pay me for that heads up to an awesome opportunity, Peter Marangi would have quite the experience painting trees!
So should you find yourself in Zambia here are some things to note;
Zambia does not require business/tourist visas from citizens of Comesa and SADC. You should however confirm with their consulate before travel in case of changes. I found visahq.com very handy too.
The Zambian Currency is called kwacha. They had it revalued last year where 1,000 kwacha became 1 kwacha and 1,000,000 became 1,000 kwacha, I was teasing my hosts how they came from millionaires to thousands haha I am sure they were not too pleased but we laughed through it anyway. One kwacha is about 14 kenyan shillings. If you want to carry cash, ensure it is in dollars or pounds otherwise you will have tough time trying to change the other currencies, otherwise carry your VISA or MasterCard.
Zambian’s as I had mentioned are a friendly lot, you will receive Mulibwanji? (How are you?) which you respond with bwino bwanji? (I’m fine and yourself?)
I was surprised how freely I could walk in and out of the malls. In Kenya you have to pass through at least one security check before getting in any building. I would love it if Kenya would get to this level of safety and become a place you can walk without looking over your shoulder every so often.
Lusaka is one hour behind of Nairobi. So remember to readjust your watch.
For the first time I saw the usefulness of Airtel’s expansive network, they have a roaming service called one network, you do not need to activate it before leaving Kenya it picks the local Airtel carrier automatically. My Safaricom line refused to register to the MTN network. So remember to divert your calls too before leaving so you do not miss out on important events. Do load sufficient airtime, my three-minute call to my mom when I got there was charged at KES 255 (KES87.70 per min) it is cheaper if the other international party (see what I did there? :-D) calls you when roaming. You will receive 100 free minutes on all calls received after which you will be charged 45.73 per min. Data is charged at KES 45 per mb. So your KES 1,000 airtime won’t cut it if you have people to meet and deals to seal.
Remember to say thank you when you get good service. I learned to say this in three major languages depending on the region you are;
Twatotela sana – Bemba
Zikomo Kwimbire – Nyanja
Twalubanga bati – Tonga