Livingstone, Zambia sees a lot of international tourists – it is located just down the road from the famous Victoria Falls – one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. The town of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe had previously dominated the tourist market for waterfall visitors but their current political and economical turmoil has been so upside down that people have started coming in greater numbers to the Zambian side instead.
Unlike many of the cities and towns we have visited throughout our travels, Livingstone does not shout tourist town. There aren’t loads of restaurants and shops aimed at visitors, there aren’t obvious attractions within the town itself, and there aren’t very many tourists walking around. In fact, when Ted and I went out our first day in Zambia to have a look, we only saw two other white people (most of the international tourists to Vic Falls are in the Africa Tourist Bubble, a concept we’ll elaborate on in an upcoming post). Though it seems totally ridiculous to even write this – there aren’t a whole helluva lot of white folks in Africa (save parts of South Africa). Though Ann Arbor, Michigan (where we grew up) is quite diverse for a town its size, we’ve spent the last few years in diversity-deprived Boulder, Colorado and we can both say in truth that we’ve never felt so aware of our skin color as we did that first day. We’ve talked about it and we can’t quite articulate what it is but it feels incredibly different to be among the minority in Africa – much more so than when we were among the minority in South America or on Ted’s previous travels to SE Asia.
So though we were hard to miss, it made for some great opportunities to meet people – especially because everyone speaks English. Amazingly. There are so many different local languages throughout each town, city, region, country that everyone has learned English to communicate with one another (certainly makes it easier for us). Though Zambia felt extremely foreign to us after 4 months in South America, it was quite gratifying for me to finally be able to have a proper conversation with a local.
When we visited the ‘Trading Post’ to check out the crafts and artwork, we could talk with the guys at the shop and ask them who made the sculpture and what it was made out of and if they were from the area and if they had children, etc. We met some hilarious characters, some pushy salesmen and some phenomenal artists.
One of the fun things about the ‘Trading Post’ (as opposed to a regular market) is that you could trade something of yours for something of theirs instead of exchanging money. One guy wanted my hair rubberband for his girlfriend so I gave him it (plus a little money) for a cool bracelet. However, this international exchange can have its disadvantages too. Just a few booths down from where I got my bracelet we were disheartened to see one of the stall owners rocking an Ohio State T-shirt. Obviously a Buckeye had been here before us. On a positive note, that is one less OSU shirt that we have to look at back home!
By the way, there are no pictures to show of our time wandering in Livingstone because, at the time, we were too nervous to take photos of African street scenes (and really even wander around town with the camera). Eventually we chilled out, but unfortunately, nothing to share here. Sorry