Warning! Long post ahead. Grab a cup of coffee and settle in. Amy's Adventures Continue!
When last we left our hapless heroine she had suffered anoverload of adrenaline and was now driving down to Lusaka after getting a good night’s sleep:
Getting those first two hours of driving, from Kazembe to Mansa, out of the way that terrible day last month was a good move. It meant that I was fresh for the boring stretch of driving. About an hour east of Mansa the road is straight, flat and fairly empty. Few other cars or trucks pass you, and the huts are scattered apart. This goes on for about 3-4 hours.
I kept myself alert by belting out the lyrics to Queen, or beating a rhythm on the steering wheel along with Muse, or crooning along with country legends. When we finally made it past the tough 4 hour stretch, Troy begged for a bit of quiet. You know, something’s wrong when your teenager complains that your music is too loud……
Pulling out my headphones I began playing my audio book, Jayber Crow. It doesn’t really have a plot so if I leave it for a week or two I can still pick up where I left off. One lesson I learned with this book: When listening to an audio book on your mp3 player, make sure the shuffle option is turned off. When I first started listening to Jayber Crow I couldn’t make heads or tails of what was going on. Since it didn’t have a plot, I didn’t notice at first that I was jumping from chapter one to chapter 14 to chapter six. I ended up having to start all over again.
Anyway, back to my journey.
I had planned to make a stop around the six hour mark for lunch and then the nine hour mark for coffee. People kept telling me that I absolutely had to have coffee at a place called the Fig Tree Café about an hour and a half north of Lusaka.
First though was lunch in Mkushi. The gas station there has a toilet (fee paying, of course) and a little restaurant and convenience store. We could fill up, stretch our legs, and get a bite to eat. My first clue that things weren’t going to go to plan was when we pulled up to the gas pumps and the attendant (all gas stations are full-service) couldn’t even be bothered to stand up and greet us or ask how much gas we wanted.
Next I went to the bathrooms and found that they were filthy. The whole point of paying to use the toilets is that presumably they use the money to keep them clean. Not so much. I fought the guy collecting the money, but realized it wasn’t really his responsibility—and he probably has some sort of quota to fulfill.
Then we went into the restaurant and found about five employees milling about, but no one made eye contact or offered to take our order. Eventually we got someone’s attention and ordered some food. I went next door to the convenience store for some snacks and found the radio playing so loudly the store could have been mistaken for a night club. The two cashiers there merrily gossiped away, completely ignoring me.
At this point I’d had enough. I tracked down the manager and lo and behold I found him sitting on a freezer, swinging his legs and wearing a sleeveless t-shirt (AKA a wife-beater) at work! He listened politely enough to my concerns and told me how sorry he was, but even though I left my number so his boss could follow up, I’ve never heard back. It’s so sad that business is treated in such a slip-shod way.
There was no way I could eat a leisurely lunch now. I was too angry. So, I told Troy to get back in the car. We could have a break when we got to the Fig Tree.
Two hours later we saw the sign for the Fig Tree Café. Boy, was I excited! I was ready for a break, and just knew the coffee was going to hit the spot perfectly.
When we pulled into the small parking lot, I was surprised to see no cars. Then I noticed the sign. Open daily from 6 AM to 6 PM, Monday through Saturday.
Guess what day it was?
I could have cried.
At this point I’d been driving since 6 AM and it was now around 3 PM. That’s 9 hours of nearly full on driving. I just wanted to get where we were going.
Finally at 4 PM we reached Lusaka. When I organized a place where Troy could stay while I took my week of classes I specified that he would have access to the two main shopping malls so he could hang out, watch movies, and use the internet cafes for social media and some school. The sweet family that offered to take him in said that was no problem.
What I didn’t realize was that they lived on the other side of town, but they worked near this mall. So while I thought my driving was nearly over, I had a good ways to go yet. Before we hit the road again, Troy and I had a coffee at one of the coffee shops. I was exhausted and hot, so when Troy ordered an ice coffee, I ordered one as well. This was my first mistake. There was probably half a cup of sugar in there. This decision would haunt me later.
Once we’d rested a bit, I got directions to our new missionary friends’ house—located in a section of Lusaka where I rarely ventured. I followed the directions carefully and found the missionaries’ house with no problems. They lived in a nice gated community (most houses here have large walls and gates for security) and I was sure Troy would be just fine.
I now had to get back on the road and head to the place where my classes would be held--on the complete opposite side of town again. And this is where I made my second mistake. My instincts told me I should back track through the directions I’d followed till I came to a familiar section and then head south. It was a bit more out of the way, but I knew I could do it.
However, Troy’s host suggested I take a different route. He was very sweet and drew me a map. I looked it over and thought I could do it. Life lesson: follow your instincts.
By now it was dark. I got out to the main road and followed the map until I came to a section of town called Woodlands. (There are no woods—not sure why the name…) Here was a roundabout. According to the map I needed to take the street to the left. Only trouble—there were actually two lefts. Instead of having four streets, this roundabout had five.
So, as you can probably guess, I ended up on the wrong street. And this is where I made yet another mistake. Once I realized I was on the wrong street, instead of turning around, I tried to cut across to the correct street. Huge mistake!
I ended up driving up and down dark, dirty, unmarked and unlit streets. I saw countless sketchy nightclubs and car washes. Why on earth were there so many car washes? And what were they doing open at night? They must be criminal enterprises. Even though they were well lit, there was no way I would stop there for directions!
While there were many people on the road, I was hesitant to stop lest I be robbed or worse, and also, I realized that most pedestrians would use public transport and not know how to give directions.
In desperation I called Tom in the States. I can count on maybe two hands the times I’ve been lost in my life. Tom on the other hand has learned the beauty of using a GPS. I called him now in tears, “how on earth do you handle this feeling??” He chuckled and said you get used to it. His helpful advice was just to keep driving. I glanced down at my gas tank and figured with a half tank I’d probably survive.
Finally I spotted a gas station and stopped. Not that I needed the gas necessarily, but it was a well-lit place where I could get directions. Naturally I desperately needed to use the facilities as well. Being so nervous wasn’t helping matters in that respect. Nor was the huge ice coffee I’d had earlier. Not to mention my blood sugar was in the basement as well. Note to self: Never, never, but never, drink sweetened ice coffee again!
After asking three different people for directions and getting the same answer (very important to do in cultures where they love to make you happy and will therefore say anything as long as you leave satisfied) I drove off down the road and after one or two more scary moments (I was nearly hit by a mini-bus & I had to drive through a dark and deserted part of town that is hardly recommended during the day, much less late at night) I finally got on track and back to a part of the city that I knew well.
I pulled into the property where I’d spend the next week, with my knees knocking and my stomach trembling, but I was safe. I’d been driving almost non-stop for 14 hours.
Spending the next five days in a classroom would be a breeze after all I’d been through, right?