I love to walk. I yearn to walk. I would like to walk to the store, to work, to the Post Office, and grocery store especially in the summer in North America. But I can’t because the places where I live and work here have been built for driving. I feel so frustrated. There are no sidewalks and no other people walking. During any time of day or night it’s so devoid of people outside, you would think no people lived in the neighborhood.
That’s why I was so excited when I went home to the Capital City of Lusaka in Zambia in Southern Africa this past summer. Besides doing other important things, I was going to walk; just to put one foot in front of the other not for two or three city blocks, but for miles. I had not done this in over two years since my last visit home. I couldn’t wait.
The opportunity came a day after I arrived in Zambia. I lived at my retired uncle’s farm thirty miles on the outskirts of the sprawling City of Lusaka. My nephew was driving as we returned to the farm from an errand. As we turned right at the huge water tank into the road that takes us to our farmhouse, I suddenly motioned to my nephew to stop the pick up truck so I could walk the rest of the way. My young nephew was so stunned he just about had a cardiac arrest.
“You mean you are going to walk from here?” my nephew asked in disbelief.
“Yes,” I replied as I slammed the car door shut.
“But this is a good nine to ten miles! America has made you nuts.” My nephew shook his head as he slowly drove away.
I took a big breath and felt the mild fresh breeze. It was a sunny afternoon with a clear blue sky. I immediately joined the throngs of hundreds of other people walking on the dirt footpaths about fifty yards away from the cars and trucks on the busy main Great East Road highway. All kinds of people were walking. Women with babies on their backs, school girls and boys carrying their school bags returning from school, a young seven year old girl carrying a packet of sugar in one hand and collard greens in another from the market, people talked and walked in pairs and in groups, people chewed sugar cane as they walked. On occasion, a lone dog trotted by.
The main Great East Road that leads into the city was being remodeled and repaved. At the huge traffic circle or round-about, many men workers were digging, and some were driving the Shimizu Corporation road construction equipment. I saw a Japanese man saying and gesturing something loudly to the group of about twenty Zambian men sitting in the back of a pick up truck. The men scrambled out of the truck and walked away in different directions. I slowed my walk. A Japanese woman wearing a business suit was saying something loudly to the Japanese man. Animated words were exchanged. Such are the things you see when you walk. I shrugged my shoulders and walked on as a panorama of pleasant thoughts and reflections slowly continued to percolate in my head.
It felt so good to see large swarms of birds noisily fly by. I hummed a boyhood song as I walked on the path with many other people free of worries about time, schedules, or watching out for or dodging cars.
After a while, I broke out into a mild pleasant sweat that signals that one is alive. On occasion, many of the walkers that were headed in the opposite direction would not just make eye contact but would say: “Zikomo” which is the Capital City Nyanja language lingua franca word for: “Hello”. As tourists, Western visitors, American Presidents and other groups of high ranking American official entourage tour African countries, I wonder if they will ever experience any walks like the one I was having. If they did they would probably like it so much they would never come back from Zambia or let alone Africa. That would be another of Africa’s great contributions to the modern Western world.
Walking is such a gratifying experience that I had to include it in my romance and adventure novel The Bridge that was published in 2005. Walking in a calm relaxed environment is probably one of the best and ultimate ways to experience the deeper magnificence of kufwasa.