At home in Villa Elizabetha


LUSAKA, ZAMBIA — The photo above, of view from the front door of my apartment in the morning is not among those I sent to my mother.

She might not have found this level of security reassuring. I am not persuaded it is necessary, and as you can see the owner of the across the way apartment is not either.

The first night here I left it ajar (yes, I locked the door and all the windows), because it occurred to me that a moquito was likelier to come in and kill me as I stood there wrestling with the heavy padlock than a person if I didn’t. When I got up in the morning I saw one of the caretakers had pushed it shut, and took the hint that I should make use of it.

“No offense, but people say the Americans like those,” the real estate woman had told me, when she was showing me around a flat that had one of these jailhouse doors inside, between the bedroom and the rest of the spacious, well furnished rooms

I don’t. In fact that, with the fear that it inspired that someone could come along and cage me in the bedroom was one of the reasons I didn’t take that flat. The other was the long turning stretch of rocky dirt road that would have slapped my brains around the sides of my skull for about five minutes every time I came and went.

So I jumped on this one — more than that, I conducted a day long sit-in at the real estate office after the woman there told me someone else wanted it, until she gave me a lease to sign. Compared to my hotel room, this seemed like home.




All of which is to say if I had not been extremely eager to move, I might have done better.

The neighborhood to the north of the several residential streets blocks of Villa Eliabetha is light industrial — there is actually a sign up that says “Industrial area” — and to the south are the pedestrian and car-jammed, ugliest-part-of-the-Bronx-looking streets that make up this city’s downtown. The owner of my hotel had reservations about it. Other people have said it’s fine. There aren’t very many other Americans around here, although there are other foreigners.

“All of the Americans live in Kabulonga,” according to the girl who sold me my car, who, come to think of it, had a flair for shameless pronouncements.

Which made me not want to. I didn’t leave my home and my hammock, drag my main squeeze here and leave mother and cats behind to live among Americans. I can do that without going anywhere. Duh.

But then my new friend, a Zambian journalist, drove me through the streets of Kabulonga, an eastern suburb about 10 minutes away in good traffic, and I saw the point. Flourescent lights mounted on the walls that surround every home in every neighborhood here lit the roads there, and people promenaded the footpaths at night. It looked like the cohesive, social streets of small town America suburbia of an earlier time.

“The American Embassy won’t let its people live anywhere else,” another real estate woman told me. She was trying to sell me on a Kabulonga flat with a cloudy green swimming pool. It was being rented out by a whining English woman who wouldn’t make it available soon enough. It had more space than I needed and was a longer, more hair-raising ride to work and shopping. And I had this place on the line, which I already had decided was good enough for me.

And I was tired of moving my eight suitcases from one place to another.

So I am left not knowing if I would have been willing, with a little more temptation, to be one more American in Kabulonga. My father, whose influence set the direction that led me to this year in Africa, would have preferred this neighborhood. After he left our apartment on the upper East Side of Manhattan, he was very happy in a similar, bustling, multi-ethnic neighborhood in Jackson Heights, Queens.

Like there, I can walk out and be in the thick of things.


Then I can come back, lock myself in, and I am home, for now.




It even has a little guest room. It is small, so don’t all come at once.



4 Responses

  1. It looks very nice!! And clean. I think you made a good choice.

  2. It does look very nice. You’ll be happy.

  3. Sounds adventurous. I am happy that you are on the path to being settled. It seems that you have not missed much yet [excluding Ken, Nat and Blondine] and that is good. Plz do not let the mosquitos bite. John does not kill them, even when they bite him. I remember we were around the back working. We were facing each other and a fat big mosquito landed on his jaw. I saw the mosquito and was determined to get it. I held my breathe, reached back and whacked the mosquito. I pulled back my hand and saw the mosquito squashed and blood splattered between my fingers. Triumphant! Ha! I held up my head and saw a reddened, shocked, angry face staring back at me. O my God, I said, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I am so sorry. I really was. I had just physically abused the most important person in my life. Between you and I, the moment was very bitter, but sweet. Anyway I digressed.

    Plz be careful until you are more familiar with your surroundings. Adventure is good but I would like to have you back.

    Btw, the apt looks good. One other good thing…. you will miss the anxiety of hurricane season this year.


  4. hey stayed at the same place last year may to june 8th was great and will to stay there again this year very nice place and i had no problem at all

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