One wonderful resource here for Americans is the commissary. They get four shipments a year of all of your favorite American foods/brands that you can’t get here.
In addition to great things like Uncle Bob’s Red Mill products and bags of black beans (I’m convinced there is not a single black bean in all of Zambia)…
…they have lots of fake foods that would horrify Jamie Oliver like Jello, Cheez Whiz, Velveeta cheese, etc.
They also carry non-food products like cleaners, diapers and toiletries.
It might seem like a small thing but it’s nice to have bounce sheets for your dryer!
Because it’s duty-free the commissary has a great selection of wines and liquors at very inexpensive prices. They even have Corona beer!
The only downer about the commissary is that being an American is not enough to gain you access. No, you need to be a card-carrying American School teacher (and a U.S. citizen) or a direct or indirect U.S. government employee. Usually I fall into the category of riff-raff who must be kept out but fortunately I married up and because Thom’s project is funded >51% by the U.S. government and we had duty-free import privileges, we get the card, the hidden location and the secret hand shake.
Just in case you’re wondering if you can be a member of the secret club, here are the requirements:
1. Employee of the U.S. Govt (but not a non-citizen local hire)
2. U.S. citizen staff of U.S. government implementing partners whose presence falls under the jurisdiction of the Chief of Mission (who I gather is the mission director at USAID?) (These would be people who are out here implementing programs like Thom’s Food Security Research Project.)
3. U.S. citizen American International School teacher (hired from outside post; not local hire)
4. Third Country National direct-hires or contractor personnel recruited from outside of Zambia and relocated to Zambia by the U.S. govt (and who meets the same requirements as under #2, i.e., funded >51% by U.S., etc.) (These people would be like our neighbors. The hire is a renowned Ph.D. in agricultural economics [could get a job at any beltway bandit group or U.S. university] who is Zimbabwean by nationality, but who lived and worked in the U.S. for ten years [both their kids are citizens] before being recruited to join Thom’s project.)
Getting to the commissary seems very cloak and dagger to me. It is on a normal suburban street…
…with a simple black gate that has the address painted on it like any other gate in Lusaka (I’ve blacked off address and street to protect my status as a card-carrying member)…
There are no identifying signs or marks that would indicate this residence is anything other than an ex-pat home.
The prices at the commissary are very reasonable and in a few cases items are cheaper than they would be at the local grocery stores. Of course, other things are more expensive but not outlandishly so.
It’s a wonderful resource and I am grateful for all of the work of the commissary staff!
p.s. There apparently is another branch of the commissary adjacent to the U.S. Embassy so all of this secret spy stuff is just my fantasy.
p.p.s. Thanks to Season 1 of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution series, I now cook almost all of our meals from scratch and do indeed find it just as easy as using processed foods. Even ex-pats can watch his television show free of charge here (and it even works as streaming video here in Zambia!).