Jun 7

A Hitchhiking Adventure Continued

by Nikki

We got Lucky just in the nic of time. Literally.  An 18-wheeler stopped ahead of us and put its blinkers on. We ran towards it with out hesitation. Am I really about to do this? What the hell is wrong with me?  Out of breath and looking extra homely Nia works her charm “Hey Boss,” common slang in the area.  “We need to get to Choma, can you take us there? We are volunteers in the village and we have no money. Can you please help us Boss? We’ve been walking for hours.” The first guy laughs a little bit…probably wondering, “how the hell are two foreigners doing trying to hitch, and with no money on top of it!” Eventually, he tell us to get in. 18-Wheelers are so high up! It felt like I was rock climbing trying to get into that thing. We got comfy in a padded area above and directly behind the driver and passenger seats. We all exchanged greetings and names.

Lucky and Innocent; a couple of social butterflies from Botswana; making their way south from the Congolese border with sugar cane and molasses. As always, I watched Nia keep up the conversation, familiar with their route as she’s gotten rides from other drivers on the same path. She talked about “our” volunteer work and other local news until Lucky moved the conversation to me” Nicole, which one are you: tired, hungry, or angry? Because you are very quite.” I chuckled, surprised at his inquiry, and embarrassed because I didn’t mean to be rude. “Oh, I’m just hungry and tired.” Lucky smiled and came back, “I’m sorry I don’t have any food to offer you.” What a sweetheart. After that, I pitched in a little more. I was shy at first because I didn’t know what to talk to them about. I wasn’t really a volunteer like Nia, so I couldn’t speak on that,  and I didn’t want to reveal that I had only been in the country for a day. With some coaxing from Lucky I got over it and went back to being a social butterfly myself. An hour into our ride we got stopped at a security check point along the way. Nia feared that the checkpoint would mean we’d have to look for a new ride. But Lucky and Innocent had all of their papers in order and we were back on the road in no time. They dropped us off safe and sound in Choma, grateful for the company.

Hitch hiking in Africa, or in life for that matter never crossed my mind until Nia mentioned it when we first met. It seemed like an interesting way to get around, but an extreme safety risk as a female traveler with a baby face. Nia blew that assumption out of the water, showing me that, though hitching is no doubt risky, if you conduct yourself the right way and understand the area you are visiting, it can be a great way to get around, and meet some interesting people in Zambia. The fact that there’s really only one main highway in Zambia makes it easier too. She doesn’t hitch electively, but because its her cheapest and surprisingly most reliable option, living ten miles from the nearest town with a grocery store and bus station…there’s no riding a bike there and back just for milk. Out of necessity, she’s become even more independent, well rounded, and culturally informed.

Meeting Nia at the one year mark in her service term, I witnessed a woman only half way through a life changing experience.  Its magnificent you know, watching a butterfly in the middle of its pupal stage of growth. Thats exactly what it was, meeting an exterior, and finding out that theres a morphosis going on inside because she’s also become a pupil of the global village. After only a day in this woman’s shoes, I know I want to join the peace corps at some point in life and if I don’t get that opportunity, my children most certainly will.

Once we got to the provincial house we luxuriated in amenities like the internet, running water, a hot shower, beer, and a fully stocked kitchen. Blown away by the days experience, I decided I couldn’t just end there. Instead, I’ll head to Livingston and see Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world, only two hours south of Choma. But will I hitch by myself to get there?

And so the trilogy continues….

 

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