How to find out what’s going on

There’s a great little magazine targeted toward ex-pats and long-term visitors called The Lowdown.  (Here’s their website, though it’s hopelessly out of date and hasn’t been updated in years.)  You can get it at any bookstore in town for less than $2 (7000 kwatcha).

In the “Wot’s Happening” section, it offers a listing of what kind of cultural, sports and other activities are going on that month.  There are lots of advertisements of goods and services specific to Westerners’ wants and desires.  This month’s Lowdown has articles on the new import regulations starting May 1, a native bird called the Slaty Egret, a couple of non-fiction features about life in Zambia (a rural roadtrip, shipping nightmares), a book review on “African Friends and Money Matters” (explaining African attitudes towards money as compared to Western attitudes), a restaurant review and more.

With a constant influx of ingoing and outgoing ex-pats you’d think there’d be some sort of Craigslist for selling and buying furniture, vehicles, appliances, etc.  There’s not.  A couple of us have written Craigslist and asked them to open a Lusaka chapter but they have completely ignored us (and we are bitter about that).  Only these African countries have Craigslist: Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia.

For Americans, there seem to be two key ways people sell/buy things.  First, you can tack a notice up on one of the grocery store bulletin boards.  That’s how we found our Boerboel puppy.  Second, you can get a hold of the American International School’s newsletter, called The Leopard’s Tale.  (If you don’t have kids going there yourself you’re bound to run into someone who does.)

The Leopard’s Tale offers the best source, in my opinion, of quality items for sale (from ex-pats leaving the country).  Also, if you need a gardener or guard, there are often listings in there for those who come with references.

Of course, the best way to find things is word-of-mouth.  We found our home because the wife of someone at my husband’s office said her next-door neighbor had a fabulous house that they’d like to rent out.  It was fabulous and much better and more inexpensive than nearly all of the places I looked at in town.  Also, having a local friend is invaluable — I want to get our water tested and had no idea where to start so I asked Yvonne, our landlady’s mother who lives next door.  She not only found out where we should go, she’s personally taking me there on Wednesday.  (Since she uses the same water supply, she wants to find out if it’s safe too!)

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About Kimm X Jayne

Gravatar Photograph from the exceptionally talented Ben Heine. http://www.flickr.com/photos/benheine/3794765860/
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4 Responses to How to find out what’s going on

  1. Lisa Murray-Johnson says:

    Okay these gems are just too cool! Love how you’ve found to a way to navigate the ins and outs of informal communication channels. These are great tips for anyone who might be traveling–you’d never think to look at a school’s newspaper but there it is, another gem! You’re right, Zambia (or as Jeff says–Zanamibia–accidently on purpose) should have a Craigslist! I love that site. Tell me more about that Slaty egret!

  2. Maureen J. Witte says:

    Today I got a note from your mom on one of her beautiful new notecards! It’s so good to hear from her. She sent me her email address, so I immediately dashed off an email to her. But it was returned to me, so I’m doing something wrong. Could you let me know what email address you have for her??

  3. gary says:

    Are the rentals in Lusaka still so CRAZY??? When I lived in Zambia the rentals were 5 times what I would have paid in South Africa (where I now live). To make matters worse the landlords wanted 6 months to a year upfront -which was fine if your company was paying, but impossible if they weren’t.

  4. Kimm X Jayne says:

    Maureen — sent you an email! Lisa — I’ll save the magazine for your visit.

    Gary — YES, the rental market is obscenely overpriced. Our landlord wanted three months up front which still creates a cash-flow issue even if your landlord pays for it (because it is reimbursed after we pay, not paid directly, so there is a time lag). I think it’s because there are relatively few rentals “suitable” for Westerners (actually, better word is “comparable” to what they’re used to). The in-town prices were $200-1500 more for what we got out here and even then, I came to find out about two weeks ago that after our landlord had rented to us someone offered him a $1000 more a month for this place. We were really grateful that he stuck with us and he didn’t even tell us about it; a friend did. (She said they thought they’d stick with someone who they knew would really take care of the property and we have! It looks better than ever.) Anyways, some have said it’s because Lusaka’s becoming the next regional Eastern/Southern Africa hub because Nairobi’s gotten so dangerous to live in. I’m not sure what the reasons for the outrageous prices are — supply/demand?

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