A couple days ago I stood in front of a mirror in Lubumbashi, DRC staring at the person I’d dissolved to. The stresses of Kinshasa, the wear of a recent fight with malaria, and the fact that I had simply not been eating properly had all lead to the demise of my physical health. I reached my right arm and all my ribs were clearly shown. I was concerned.
Today, I’m standing in the candy section of The Food Lover’s Market in Lusaka staring at a shelf of chocolates, mints, and jelly belly jelly beans in sheer elation.
I leave the store with a bag full of candy and make my way up the beautifully modern Levy Mall’s escalator and into a court of fast food and pure joy. KFC, Steers Burgers, Debonair’s Pizza, Portuguese, Chinese, and Indian restaurants twist my desires as I can hardly stand the fact that I’ll have to choose just one. For the past year, I’ve been relegated to plates of traditional Africa dishes or expensive expat meals. The local grub is delicious, don’t get me wrong, but the same old thing over and over gets old. I’ve missed variety.
After downing a burger complete with proper bacon and good cheese, I wander over to the movie theater. I haven’t heard of any of the movies that are playing, but they’re all apparently the latest out of Hollywood. I purchase a ticket to The Croods in 3d and find myself in a near empty theater watching a movie for the first time in months. It doesn’t even bother me that The Croods is pretty terrible, just having the opportunity to sit in a theater chewing on jelly bellies and drinking over-sized soda makes me smile.
When the movie ends I decide to grab some groceries before making my way home to Lusaka Backpackers. Unlike the groceries stores in the rest of Central and West Africa, there are proper groceries here. Prior grocery stores were filled with old stocks of European foods priced 10 times their actual value. Here at the Pick and Pay there are fresh vegetables, bacon, chocolate milk, and pretty much anything else you could ever need. Though I hardly fill my basket, I bounce down the aisles examining all the products, the prices, and curiously explore items I’ve never seen before. I am a traveller in a candy store. I’m a deprived man appreciating what was once a normal part of my life.
After a couple days’ worth of bacon cheeseburgers, pizza, and dairy milk chocolate bars I stand in front of the mirror at Lusaka Backpackers and lift my right arm. My ribs are again mostly hidden, though a little belly is starting to force its way out. I smile, pull my shirt over my head and wander to the hostel bar packed with backpackers.
A year through the trenches of North, West and Central Africa wasn’t easy. But in the end, it has made this modern Zambian world that I’ve stumbled into taste, smell, and feel so much better. I’ve arrived in the lap of simple luxury, and appreciate every inch of it.