If anyone out there doesn’t believe that truth is stranger than fiction – read on . . .
Safely arrived in Mpika, we had time, before darkness fell, to look around the town and our old ‘compound’, still known locally as the DDSP.
We quickly found ‘our’ old house, tucked away in the corner behind a tall fence. In our day, the compound was open plan, which gave it a friendly community feel. Perhaps slightly less friendly the day our neighbours found our 3 year old sitting happily in their Cape Gooseberry patch at 6:30 one morning and suddenly understood their disappointing harvest that year.
A young man let us look around ‘our’ old garden, but the residents were away and we didn’t feel we could ask for a peek inside the house. Still, he let slip a piece of information that turned out to be surprisingly handy the next day . . .
At 9:00am on Friday we were at the Mpika District Hospital to meet up with Dr Nachi Kaunda. She took time out of her rounds to set us up with a young assistant, Yombwe, to accompany us to a rural health centre at Mpepo, some 100km further north towards Kasama. But, before setting off, she said, the District Commissioner wants to meet you and hear about ColaLife.
We were delighted to meet the District Commissioner, Mr Malama Sokoni, who has been in post just a few months. ‘So,’ he began, ‘you used to live in Mpika? Where abouts exactly?’
‘In your house,’ we told an astonished Mr Sokoni, drawing on the useful snippet we’d picked up the day before.
What an ice breaker!
After a really useful trip out – see tomorrow’s exciting episode – we ended up having tea with Malama and Nachi in our old house that evening. It was a very enjoyable occasion – we exchanged views on aid, development, Chinese investment and Malama had some cracking jokes! He previously worked in the private sector, mainly in marketing and has worked with the Zambian Chamber of Commerce and a range of other business networks. So he was able to give us some invaluable insights for ColaLife. ‘Come to Mpika!’ was his parting shot. ‘We want to see ColaLife here.’