My obsession with all things ‘Harry Potter’ may make me unpopular at parties, but its an addiction I refuse to let go. When I discovered that I would be in Zambia when the final two movies were released I almost considered turning down my invitation to service. Almost. I thought to myself, “Don’t worry Val, you will be able to see it in January when it comes to Lusaka.” Little did I know that it would be coming to the one and only Zambian movie theater in early December. I am not allowed to leave my village until the end of the month, and considering the fact that there is only one theater, the odds of it playing for more than three weeks are very slim. So was it my undying love and dedication to a certain red-headed fictional character that subconsciously caused my body to succumb to a disgusting and vicious parasite? I will never know for sure… but as gross as my situation is right now, I am all smiles.
My body is currently host to something so disgusting that I don’t even want to discuss it. Feel free to draw your own conclusions. Go ahead, be creative! The important thing is not WHAT is in my body, but what those tiny little guys did to earn their keep. Zambia, as I’m sure you can imagine, does not have a CVS on every corner. When you are diagnosed with something that is not a common infection, you are ordered to go to Lusaka to get a prescription. After getting off the phone with our resident Doctor, I packed my bag, did my best to “rat-proof” my hut, and attempted to get a good night sleep, because travel here is not easy. The next morning I awoke before dawn, gave all my perishable food to my neighbors, strapped my backpack to my bike and rode the 2 hours to Katete. I have a friend there who owns a shop where he lets me park my bike so it doesn’t get stolen. I dropped off the bike, walked to the only ATM in the whole district and found it Out of Order. I only had K20,000 (which is about $4), and seeing as a bus ticket is K100,000, I was in a heap of trouble. I walked back to my friend’s shop and begged him to let me borrow enough money to get me to Lusaka. Maybe he has a thing for sweaty white girls with parasites, or maybe he just saw the desperation in my eyes. Either way, I was suddenly flush with cash (kwacha kwacha bills, y’all!) and on a bus headed to the big city.
Zambian public transportation can best be described as horrific. It truly gives me nightmares, and this particular bus was no exception. I was crammed in between 2 adults and a baby for 7.5 hours of bumpy road. As the driver swerved to avoid hitting goats, the baby crawled onto my lap, and the neighbor to my left fell asleep with his head on my shoulder. I would estimate the temperature inside the bus to be roughly 95 degrees, so by the time I arrived in Lusaka I was dehydrated, dirty, exhausted, and cranky. When the taxi driver who I found to take me to the medical office tried to (obviously) untruthfully complain that the last time I rode with him I paid more, I had to bite my tongue and try to remain calm. I arrived 20 minutes later on the heavily guarded front stoop of Peace Corps headquarters with, I’m sorry to say, a bad attitude. And then I realized that I was in Lusaka! A mere taxi ride away from the movie theater! And it was opening night! Oh, how I wanted to personally thank each and every one of those disgusting little creatures invading my body! Oh, how I wanted to jump for joy!
So this morning I made it my mission to see Harry Potter 7, and off I went. Not only did I get to feast my eyes on the glory that is Ron Weasley, but I saw my first ever African Santa, and walked to the newly renovated mall called ‘Manda Hill’. They had just finished installing an escalator, which is big news around here. Consider how amazed small children are when they step on their first moving staircase in America…now imagine a whole mall full of people who have never even SEEN an escalator, let alone had the chance to ride one. Up and down, up and down, went the Zambian Christmas shoppers. It was almost as entertaining as Ron’s much-improved physique and Hermione’s side-boob. My potentially infuriating situation turned into a Christmas miracle. Merry Christmas to me!