November 9, 2007

Theft silences Community Voice

It's so easy forget how most people in Zambia live until you go to places like Soweto Market. Once there, you can't help but sense - see, hear, feel and definitely smell - the difference. Working and living in the suburbs, sometimes I go a whole month without venturing into the kaleidoscope of 'downtown'. Every time I go I can't decide if I wish I went there every day or never at all.

I hadn't been to Soweto since I first got here and, now that we're in the wet season in Lusaka, things appear even worse. The rain that I have been sheepishly enjoying - jogging every evening in the mist, drinking in the moist breezes, lulled to sleep with the tinkling of raindrops on my tin roof - is choking roads with filthy mud, pooling over monstrous potholes and will probably result in the standard annual cholera outbreak.

My biggest complaint is that the precipitation seems to have spawned a plague of airborne ants that seem to enjoy flying in my mouth when I'm running. Not exactly a pestilence of apocalyptic proportions.

That effervescent 'rain smell' that aerates the essence of the earth works the same way in the market, but since the ground is full of all manner of heinous substances, the result is sickeningly different. As we plod along towards the newspaper office, thunder claps and the skies unleash a fury foretold by their bearing - the storm clouds coming from the direction of Congo are always the worst, according to the locals and their innate ability to predict when, and for how long, it will rain.

Vendors scurry about to cover their wares - leather jackets and jeans in the part I was going through - with dirty, hole-ridden plastic sheets. With water obscuring the view from inside my dry, climate-controlled vehicle, the mind drifts back to trivial inconveniences.

Damn - it's laundry day, hopefully the maid got my stuff off the line in time. My clothes are probably getting soaked too.

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