Life Thursday Doors Zambia

Thursday Doors Wedding Planning

Simple doors next to Mfuwe Mini-Mart, Mayana

Our plans for a joyous celebration of matrimony on the 6th June in the Victoria Gallery at Leicester’s New Walk Museum were flushed down the toilet of covid-19. All weddings were cancelled by the city, by government diktat, from 20th March 2020.

My fiancée and I had agreed that I could volunteer at Kakumbi Rural Health Centre from July to October on the understanding that this would include a honeymoon on safari. Well, the only way we could have a honeymoon would be to have a wedding first. So, we set about doing this in Zambia.

In my previous three spells as Valley Doctor, I have attended two glorious weddings – Ed and Kirstie (2014) and Ken and Lauren (2019). Both took place in wooded areas outside the national park: the Ebony Grove and the Marula Forest. We decided that a simpler approach would be better, especially as we would not be inviting lots of friends and relatives. The obvious choice was to be married in a registry office at Mambwe Civic Centre, otherwise known as the “Boma”. website explained what was required: affidavits, notice of marriage forms, certificates of no impediment. I drove to the local government office building which is next to the District Health Office in Mambwe. The guard on duty asked my business and smirked as he led me into a courtyard, surrounded by offices. At the first office, the clerk assumed that I would be throwing a huge party and directed me to the Environmental Health Inspector to get approval for the venue. I told him that we only wanted a simple ceremony. He said that this was not the traditional Zambian approach to a wedding. I had to remind him that large gatherings were prohibited under the Covid-19 regulations. He suddenly realised that I was wearing a mask, and he wasn’t. He scrabbled around in the top drawer of his desk, searching for his own mask, before leading me to the chief accountant’s office.

The accountant pulled out several large lever arch files and showed me what I had to do. I needed to provide proof of identity, copies of passports, birth certificates, and, in my case, proof that my first wife died in 2012. These should be stapled to an official request to be married. He gave me examples of previous letters so I knew how to word the request. I needed to bring all this to him at the end of the week. In the meantime, I should meet the Clerk of the Council who will be officiating at the ceremony. We moved to another office, but the clerk was in a meeting. “He won’t be long, he is just finishing,” said his glamorous secretary. “Take a seat.” I sat down in a huge Dralon armchair. The stuffing was absent from part of the cushion, so I was tilted off to one side.

“Are you getting married? How exciting! To a nice Zambian girl?” the secretary asked.

“No, my fiancée is English,” I said. “You’ve missed your chance.” She hooted with laughter, but this didn’t bring the clerk of his meeting.

“Let’s go and finish up some form filling,” said the accountant. It was getting perilously close to lunchtime.

I filled out four copies of “Notice of Marriage” forms, otherwise known as the banns. I had no problem writing my details, but wondered how my fiancée should be described. Single was too broad a term, so after a short discussion, we settled on spinster. The accountant had no idea of what a web manager was, but when I told him that my fiancée worked in local government, he smiled and said, “She is one of us!”

He stamped and signed these forms, and instructed me where to post them. I have seen similar notices stapled to trees, outside the local mini-market, the filling station and the airport. He then told me that once he had received the application with evidence, he would arrange for an affidavit.

A lady in the corner of the office asked me if I was going to give her some shampay. It took me a while to realise that she was expecting to attend a champagne reception. I had to disappoint her. She told me that I needed two witnesses, one from my side, the other from my fiancée’s side. I was hoping that the District Commissioner and the District Officer of Health could provide this service. She told me that I would have to pay another fee to get the Registrar’s Certificate of Marriage.

Getting amorous? Two elephants disregarding social distancing

I went back to the District Health Offices to pick up vaccines and supplies for the clinic before their lunchtime shut down. While loading the vehicle, I met Reverend Ed, the clinical officer in charge of St Luke’s Rural Health Centre. He had been on a training course I ran last month and we were “best mates”. He asked me for a lift to Mfuwe (on church, not medical business) and I could hardly refuse.

Making contact

On the journey home, I told him I was getting married and he offered to officiate at the Anglican Cathedral round the corner from his health centre. He could provide a marriage certificate for less than a pound, and thought that the local government charge of £50 was extortionate. “But they have to eat, I suppose,” he commented. And we need an official legal document which would be recognised in the UK. I was told that in some cases, the registrar had refused to conduct a marriage unless it had already been blessed in church. Well, thanks to Reverend Ed, we have a back up plan if that happens.

Holding trunks

I have also learned that registrars may offer unsolicited advice to newlyweds. One new wife was told that she must carry a mobile phone with her everywhere she went, “even to the market”, so her husband knew where she was and could contact her at any time. I wonder how much this represents the husband’s control over his wife and how much it relates to the importance of marital fidelity in a country which has been devastated by HIV/AIDS.

Life Medical Thursday Doors Zambia

Thursday Doors – visit to the Boma

This piece was written in mid July 2020 arrived in just after I arrived in Zambia. I am posting it now that I have returned to the UK.

Main entrance at the clinic. An Arsenal Football Club shirt is never fashionable.

I was expecting to have to quarantine for a while, but  Dr George, the District Health Officer (who is my supervisor), told me over the phone that I was free to start work whenever I wanted, because my Covid-19 test had been negative a few days before I left the UK. Of course, if it turns out that my test at the airport was positive or I have been sitting in front of someone on the plane who has tested positive, then I will be informed and have to self-isolate. “Come and see me for a briefing,” said the DHO.

It is less than an hour’s drive from my home to the district headquarters, the Boma. Dr George was waiting for me in his office. “The situation regarding medical supplies is worse than last year,” he said. I suppose this was to pre-empt any request I might have for extra drugs. “We are even running short of paracetamol.”

Reluctantly, I shelved my nascent plans for improving the management of chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and epilepsy.

I have plenty of experience of working in “low resource environments”. For example, 40 years ago, on the day I started work at a hospital in Southern Sudan, the hospital pharmacist was arrested for stealing the facility’s entire drug supply for the next six months. Allegedly.

Mambwe Civic Centre, know popularly as “The Boma”

 “And I hear that you are hoping to get married here?” said the DHO. “I think that nurse L might be available!” This was a cheeky reference to a former nurse in charge of the health centre who had a romantic liaison with a previous volunteer doctor.

I explained that I had planned to get married in June at the New Walk Museum Victorian Room in Leicester, but Covid-19 restrictions had put paid to that. We hoped that my fiancée could get a flight and a visa to Zambia during the next three months and we could have a civil marriage ceremony at the Boma. Dr George offered to be one of my witnesses.

We swiftly moved on to the Covid situation. There had been a three-month period of “phoney war” during which the country braced itself for the worst but there were less than a thousand cases and just a handful of deaths. Now the rate of infection was accelerating. Sick people were avoiding hospitals until they were moribund and “BID” – brought in dead, testing positive post mortem. The nidus of infection was the capital city, Lusaka, and the Copper Belt towns. Testing at the borders had picked up a handful of cases (truck drivers). Few of the tests carried out in Eastern Province were positive.

The population had been warned repeatedly, but the great plague had not arrived. Some people were saying it was a hoax, “fake news”, or more bizarrely, “it only infects white people”. Very few people were wearing masks at large gatherings (attendance at ceremonies was supposed to be limited to 60 but the previous week, an estimated thousand people attended the funeral for a “big man”).

“What do I do if I suspect someone is suffering from Covid?” I asked.

“Contact me and I will tell you what to do,” he replied.

“Does the local hospital have oxygen and a ventilator?”

“There are a few cylinders of oxygen, but no ventilator. The provincial hospital has a ventilator, but all suspected Covid patients will be managed in the new hospital at Petauke.”

I had passed this brand-spanking-new Chinese-built hospital on the drive from Lusaka. It looked forlorn and empty, with just one car in the car park. Before I had chance to ask, “How are we going to transport sick patients to this hospital, over four hours away by car? Who is going to look after the patients?” the DHO told me that arrangements would be made. Plans were afoot. In the meantime, at the clinic we were to encourage social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks.

“We Zambians are movious, we like moving about, we visit family, we like to travel, so it is only a matter of time before Covid spreads from the capital,” he said.

I thought of the Jonda bus, packed with passengers for 12 hours, ferrying people between Lusaka and Mfuwe. I asked about the availability of testing. “You cannot test at the moment,” he replied. “But managers of safari lodges in Mfuwe should verbally screen their employees every day, check their temperatures and send home those with symptoms to self-isolate.”

“If we discover any tourists whose tests at the airport turn out to be positive, they will have to remain in isolation at the lodges,” he said. “That could be an expensive undertaking,” I thought. “Will I be able to organise a medical evacuation by air? Would this be restricted to within Zambia?”

“I am sure we will cope,” he said. “I’m late for a meeting. Don’t hesitate to call me. Welcome back.”

Caroline, the District Commissioner (DC), was in her office was a hundred metres away, so I walked across to pay her a courtesy call. I entered the secretary’s office and could hear a heated discussion in the DC’s office next door. “Do you have an appointment with the DC?” the secretary asked me. “No, but I know her very well,” I replied. “How long have you known her?” “Since 2014,” I said. “Are you sure?” he asked me. “We are friends,” I said.

I sat quietly until the hubbub subsided and the secretary ushered me into the DC’s office.  The DC must have had a change of heart about an email message she had ordered to be sent. “Recall the message,” she told the secretary. “I don’t know how,” he replied. I said that I would try to help, and went out to wrestle with Gmail. Unfortunately, there is only a 30 second grace period during which messages could be recalled. “Why don’t we just delete it?” said the secretary. “That will delete it for you, but not for the recipient,” I said. I returned to the DC’s office and admitted defeat.

 Although the day was pleasantly warm, she was wearing a thick overcoat. “Dr Ian, welcome back,” she said. “Why did you neglect me? You said you would keep in touch when you left last year, and I didn’t hear a word.” I remember last year being in the airport departure lounge when I was paged over the Tannoy to return through security to say goodbye to her. As a result, I missed getting my boarding card, but they let me on the plane anyway.

With the District Commissioner at Mfuwe Airport in April 2019

“I thought you would be too busy to hear from me,” I replied.

“Busy?” she asked.

“Yes, I have heard about all the hard work you have been doing.”

“What work? Who has been talking about me?”

I was hoist by my own petard. “Ehrrr, your work preparing for the epidemic of coronavirus,” I said. “Everyone is saying you are doing a good job…”

She paused for five long seconds and looked me in the eye. I felt she could see right through my weak attempt at flattery. She told me how she had been touring the district, giving out masks and informing the people of the epidemic. “Are you protecting yourself, Dr Ian?” I told her I had a visor, masks, gloves and aprons. “What about hand sanitiser?” I didn’t have any so she clapped her hands and an aide entered and brought me a large dispenser of alcohol-based sanitiser.

The conversation moved on to other matters, her hardware business, transporting cement in the family truck from Lusaka to the district, her farmland (“the workers phoned me to say that there were lions in the field”) which she intended to develop after she had retired, and her plans to build a tourist lodge on the airport road. She had been very busy since I left in April 2019.

We talked about my cancelled wedding and I told her of my plans to marry at the district HQ if my fiancée could get a flight and a visa. I said that I hoped no one would object to the marriage. She laughed and promised she wouldn’t, as she, too, had plans to marry. I congratulated her, but it turned out that she was teasing me. She said that she had a soulmate, but no plans to marry. The temperature in the office had risen, so she called an aide to operate the air conditioner.

As we chatted, she fielded several phone calls. She told one caller not to be so disrespectful as to have a conversation with someone else while he was on the phone to her. After she put down the phone, he rang back and she told him to call her later in the morning.

I received a call about a patient and politely told the DC I would have to get back to the clinic. She told me that we must meet again soon and I left the office.

The nurse in charge of the health centre had been busy requisitioning supplies. We loaded my car with needles, syringes, intravenous fluids, precious little medication and a huge box of condoms. When I said that I didn’t think condoms were very popular in Mfuwe, I learned that this had changed since the Coronavirus lockdown. With less employment, it seemed that people were enjoying their extra leisure time responsibly.

Life Medical Thursday Doors Zambia

Thursday Doors – A Great Start to the Morning

I had an appointment to see a patient at 8am, so I arrived 10 minutes early to be properly prepared. The health centre was very quiet, with no out patients in the waiting area, and just a few mothers with their babies outside the Mother & Child Health Clinic (MCH). With the temperature at 15C, it was pleasantly cool for me, but for the Zambians it felt like winter. It is winter for them.

Gradually the health centre staff arrived, first the cleaners to sweep away the dust of the previous day and night. The nurse on night duty came to hand over to the day staff but there had been no events which needed following up.

Because of the nationwide shortage of BCG vaccine, we wait until there are at least 12 neonates present before opening the 20 dose ampoule. It is a tricky vaccine to give, just into the top layer of the skin, 0.05ml. Most of the women were waiting for this for their babes.

I saw a mother with her seven-day-old baby sitting outside the MCH clinic. The baby was wrapped up in a blanket, with just the face visible. Mother was obviously very proud of her baby and wanted to show it off to me. I asked if I could take her photo and she willingly agreed. (I offer to send photos which I have taken via WhatsApp to people who have smart phones, and she was delighted with the picture.)


I asked her for the name of her baby and she said what I thought was “Premi”. I immediately jumped to the conclusion that the baby had been born prematurely. I agreed it was a catchy name and asked her how early the baby had been born. She looked puzzled and said that the baby had been born on time. “So why did you call her Premi?” I asked. “It isn’t Premi doc, it’s Promise,” said one of our volunteer health workers.

We have two counselling students on placement at the centre. I teased this young man about his Adidas knees – perhaps he was speed praying.

In the meantime, the patient who was supposed to be at the health centre at 8am had turned up at 8:25am. After the consultation, I looked around for the rest of the team accompanying me to the community clinic at K.

We had a discussion about the lack of childhood vaccines. The District HQ allows us a limited number of vials of vaccine each month. This strict control avoids excess vaccine being left at the back of the refrigerator and going out of date. But this “just in time” supply system can cause problems if we mistakenly order less vaccine than we need. There is no back up.

“We will need more vaccine for Thursday,” said D. “Can you drive to HQ and pick it up for us?”

I said that this wasn’t allowed according to my terms of service. The health centre was supposed to be able to arrange monthly deliveries of supplies. There were vehicles coming to Kakumbi from HQ and these could replenish our stocks. Then D asked me if I could supply fuel for the health centre motorbike to make the trip. This was just $5 but I decided to wait and see if they came up with another solution before I dipped into my pocket.

“We didn’t get enough needles and syringes, either,” said R, the senior MCH nurse. Last week, we had been forced to use 5ml syringes and separate needles instead of the prepacked 2ml syringes with needles.

“And I found vials of vaccine which had been partly used, returned to stock. These should be used up within a few days. There should be a date on the bottle,” complained R. She made sure that these vials were the first to be used at the community clinic.

Last week, one of our volunteers in the furthest village we serve asked to consult me about a personal medical problem. I agreed to do so the following day, but ended up having to cancel at the last minute. I felt guilty about this, so I after I had dropped off D at the scheduled clinic with the vaccine and paperwork, I took R with me to interpret during the consultation with the volunteer.

We met the volunteer at the roadside and she got into the vehicle to direct me to her house in the village. I parked in the shade of a tree and we went inside her small mud-brick home. It was very simple and plain, with a table, three chairs and some bedrooms leading off the main room. There were drapes over the doorways, but no doors. The corrugated iron roof was gaping at the apex, allowing a ray of bright sunshine to penetrate the dim interior.

I took her history and examined her. I thought her symptoms could be caused by muscle spasm in her shoulders and upper back, so I palpated this area and felt knots of muscle. When I massaged the tender parts of her trapezius muscle, she became uneasy. I asked if I was hurting her, but she said no. I wondered if it was because doctors and nurses do not often touch their patients when examining them. I moved on to take her vital signs and used an ophthalmoscope to look into her eyes. I could not find anything seriously wrong, so I asked her if there was anything troubling her, and stress or worries.

Immediately she began talking about a family dispute which had upset her greatly. I said that sometimes when doctors cannot account for a physical pain, it might be caused by mental upset and distress. As R explained this to her, I saw her head nodding. She seemed happy to wait and see if her symptoms got better.

As we got into the car, R told me I had made a social faux pas. “Doc, she was uncomfortable when you were examining her shoulder muscles. This is what men do when they want to get their wives ready for sexual relations,” she said.

We drove back to the community clinic. It was busy with mothers and children, with part of the location having been commandeered by brick makers. Two men were digging clay in a deep pit, filling a wooden mould and turning out blocks. There must have been a kiln in operation as some of these bricks had been fired. I took some photographs, joking with the workmen that they must be building a swimming pool. They didn’t understand this, so I changed the joke from a swimming pool to a fish pond.

This clinic is the busiest in the region. Last month, we reviewed 198 children, checking their weight, monitoring them if they had been exposed to HIV prior to delivery and with breast feeding. We monitor the children’s weight and development, primarily to detect those who are sick or malnourished. In fact, more children are overweight than underweight. About 10-20% of the children are due for immunisations.

Many of the mothers use the occasion to show off their clothes and their children’s fashionable outfits. There is competition between the mums as to whose baby has put on the most weight. I can’t speak Kunda, apart from a few words for diseases and parts of the body, but I could overhear enough English words in their conversation to understand what they were chatting about as they compared their children’s growth charts. “My baby has gained more weight than yours!”

194 children later, just after midday, we finished. One mother brought her baby right at the end. I didn’t like the tone of the voices admonishing her for coming so late, so I went over to her and found out that it was her first baby, born less than a month ago. Her baby would have to wait for BCG until next month, when she could also get the first vaccines. She didn’t have an under 5s card, but had brought a school exercise book, so I entered her child’s demographics and weight and the vaccine schedule on the first page. “So the father is Rabson Zulu, and the baby is also called Rabson Zulu?” I asked. The volunteers behind me shouted out, “Call him Junior!” OK, Rabson Zulu jnr it is.

D is posing with our trusty village volunteers who help to run the clinic.

Life Medical Zambia

Malaria Eradication Campaign

In May 2016, Kakumbi Rural Health Centre recorded 1,385 cases of confirmed malaria. This year, the figure for May was less than 800. What had made the difference? 2020 was a much wetter year, with more standing water enabling mosquitoes to breed for longer, so it is unlikely that the reduction in cases was caused by different climatic conditions. But what we did have in 2020 was a cadre of volunteers in the outlying villages who were trained to test and treat anyone with symptoms of malaria. Not only that, but the volunteers tested people who lived close by the “index cases” of malaria, even if they had no symptoms.

Training as part of the malaria eradication campaign

The Malaria Eradication Campaign is generously sponsored by USAID. It aims to end the scourge of malaria in Zambia using a multifaceted approach. For heavily affected areas, the emphasis is on vector control and spraying insecticide onto surfaces inside huts. (“Emphasize that this is not gassing!”)

For areas such as Kakumbi, with less than 150 cases per thousand population, the approach is more subtle, relying on testing asymptomatic contacts of proven cases of malaria (index cases) to snuff out transmission. The next stage would be mass anti-malaria treatment throughout the district over a three day period.

Volunteer training at Kakumbi, attempting social distancing.

The volunteers had some basic training in how to test and treat for malaria. Some volunteers have been very successful, with 70% of people whom they tested with symptoms having a positive test. Others have not yet had a positive test, leading us to believe that they weren’t doing the test properly. They will come to the health centre for further training.

Morris might by past retirement age, but he is one of our most diligent, effective volunteers. I am not sure I will be going to his optician, however.

Another aspect which needs further training is how they record testing for malaria, how many tests were positive, how many drugs and tests were left at the end of the month, etc. The figures are not yet reliable – garbage in, garbage out – but USAID demands hard evidence, so we will just have to improve. To make things more complicated, the scheme demands that volunteers report their data weekly to their nearest health centre and use a mobile phone app to do so. This is ambitious, to say the least.

Mikey is always smiling. He is one of our HIV support workers as well as a malaria volunteer. I like his funky, asymmetrical mask style chic.

Along with testing kits and antimalarial drugs, the volunteers were expecting to get supplies, such as gloves, a bicycle, a rucksack, torch, gloves, soap/hand sanitiser, raincoat, galoshes, etc. Most have not yet received these items. I was intrigued by one necessary item spelled as “Ambullela”. Saying it out loud, the meaning is clear – umbrella. We have been giving out chunks of soap and a handful of gloves to our volunteers who attended the training. The cheap blue chunks of soap are incredibly caustic.

Then there is mission creep, the temptation to expand (and dilute) the aims of the programme. For example,  “If we have a cadre of volunteers in villages expert in testing for and treating malaria, why can’t they treat malnutrition and diarrhoea in children with oral rehydration solution, or pneumonia and diarrhoea with antibiotics? This is called integrated community case management, for the management of childhood illnesses. It would reduce the numbers of patients attending health centres, so theoretically, there would be more time for government health workers to care for the sickest patients.”

There are problems with this approach. Firstly, health centres don’t have enough medication to treat the patients they are seeing with pneumonia and diarrhoea. Volunteers may be keen, but they are not as well trained as nurses and clinical officers. No one in the health centre has been identified to train and supervise the volunteers, they are left to fend for themselves. There are concerns over antibiotic stewardship, increasing bacterial resistance and overtreatment.

How did the personal trainer get in on the act?

During the height of the malaria season in May, health centres actually asked volunteers to bring in their stocks of tests and drugs because of shortages.

I have worked with many of these volunteers in community child health clinics over the past six years. Some of them are excellent. Others cannot manage to plot a child’s weight on a growth chart properly. I have doubts about their basic numeracy. They are not being paid a penny and their communities do not always recognise their efforts. Perhaps they want to get an umbrella, a bicycle and a rucksack from the project, or even see this work as the first step to getting a government job. I don’t know how long their enthusiasm will last, especially among the younger volunteers who need to earn money to support their families.

Since the end of World War Two, there have been attempts to eradicate malaria, some successful and others ending in failure. In Sri Lanka, the milder form of malaria, Plasmodium Vivax was replaced by the more dangerous form, Plasmodium Falciparum, following an antimalarial campaign which very nearly succeeded.

But I am more concerned that the programme will be very successful, malaria will be almost completely eradicated for several years. Indigenous people will lose their immunity to malaria which is not longer being “topped up” by mild infections. And when malaria returns, which it almost certainly will, it will be even more deadly than before, to adults as well as children.

Birds and Animals Zambia


Lions are lazy. They spend much of their time during the day sprawled out like shaggy rugs, only moving to keep in the shade. Dusk to dawn is their most active time, when they hunt.

They get tormented by flies, especially when their muzzles are stained with blood from a recent kill. When the lion can’t stand it any longer, it will raise its head and snap its jaws together in an attempt to trap the fly.

Lions are social creatures, living together in a pride – a dominant male (or more, if they are brothers) with a harem of females and their offspring. As soon as young males become mature, they leave the pride and look for another to challenge the dominant male. Once defeated, the old male will be driven off to lead a solitary existence, eventually dying of starvation as his hunting skills diminish.

Lions are apex predators. Their favourite food is buffalo and an adult is big enough to provide a good meal for the entire pride. Most of the hunting is done by the females acting together to ambush an animal, bring it down by leaping onto its back, then grabbing it around the neck to suffocate it.

They will eat carrion. When hippos were dying from anthrax 14 years ago in the Park, lions would take over a corpse and eat their fill.

Safari guides give names to the prides in South Luangwa National Park – the Mfuwe Pride, the Chipembele Pride, the Hollywood Pride (whose lions seem to know that they look photogenic, and pose like film stars for the cameras).

On Sunday, we saw a pride of seven lions with a buffalo kill at the Luangwa Wafwa – an oxbow lake still containing water five months after the last rains.

When I came to South Luangwa this year in July, there was talk of a man-eating lion in the Nsefu sector of the Park. The wildlife authorities asked an ex-big game hunter if he could find and kill the lion. Once lions discover they can kill people, they may realise how easy it is to grab a child as quick meal. The hunter managed to shoot the man-eater with his camera but couldn’t get a clear shot with his rifle. No further deaths have occurred.

Life Thursday Doors Zambia

Thursday Doors Shops on Airport Road, Mfuwe

Religion plays a big part in the lives of Zambians. After all, David Livingstone brought Christianity to the area (even if he didn’t convert more than a handful of locals). So it is not surprising to have shops with names referring to the Almighty.

At first, I thought it said, “God is cable phone accessories”. Eli D has some neat artwork advertising what he is selling, but perhaps the kerning could have been better.

There are other Biblical references, such as this Hair Salon (often spelt “Saloon”). I think the three Hebrews refers to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who were cast into the fiery furnace – a bit like sitting under the hair dryer as shown in the illustration on the wall.

And God First Shopping Centre provides worldly goods

I initially thought this was God’s Favourite Shop, complete with handwashing station and a red chhatri, a booth selling Airtel airtime.

But this is my favourite. The Mountain of Salvation Food Cafe.

Aunty Shane is keen on bright colours. She sells anything from television screens to plastic kitchen storage baskets. Ride on by.
Was this something to do with the Three Musketeers, All for One and One for All? Or does it mean they sell everything to everyone?
Soft loans, hard core seems to be issuing from the front door. GRZ=Government of the Republic of Zambia, of course.
Birds and Animals Zambia


There is nowhere better to see leopards in the wild than South Luangwa National Park. Although normally nocturnal, in the Park they are often active in the early morning or late afternoon. And these are the times I photograph them.

Leopards are usually solitary and hunt alone. Females will kill for their offspring and teach their cubs how to hunt. Males and females get together for mating, but otherwise remain separate.

This leopard has a wound on its head.

Each leopard has a territory, about 5 square miles for females, more than double that for males. The territories for males and females can overlap. During the heat of the day, they will hide under bushes or sleep in a tree, draped across a thick branch. They may have already made a kill and dragged it up into the tree to eat at leisure (without having to worry about a hyena or a pride of lions from stealing it). I am amazed at how strong leopards are, pulling a dead antelope which weighs more than they do, 5 metres vertically up a tree.

He doesn’t look that comfortable, does he?

Leopards hunt by stealth. Their favourite technique is to use a gully to creep up on their prey. Once within five metres, it will pounce on the unsuspecting victim. Small animals can be killed by a bite to the back of the neck, but larger antelopes need to be suffocated by the leopard clamping its jaws around the windpipe.

A leopard in a gully or “drift” waiting to start hunting

Leopards can run fast, upto 50kph for short distances but they are not built for prolonged bursts of speed. They choose their prey carefully, to avoid being injured. They are wary of taking adult warthogs whose sharp tusks can inflict serious wounds, for example. If they do get hurt, no one is going to hunt for them while they recover. They prefer to take antelope, such as impala and puku.

Leopards have long bodies and short legs. When stalking, their shoulders rise above their bodies as they creep along, belly close to the ground.

This leopard has poked his head above the gully to see if there are any animals unaware of his presence.

A colleague witnessed two female leopards, each with two kits, sharing a kill. This is unusual – perhaps the leopards were sisters and recognised each other.

This photograph was taken before 7am. The leopard has been resting in the undergrowth and the morning sun has issued a wake up call.

Because they are territorial, safari guides get to know individual leopards as they drive around their patch. One female leopard, known as “Marmalade”, was so habituated to game drive vehicles that she would use them as cover, sometimes crawling underneath to get closer to her prey.

I met one of Marmalade’s offspring, “Alice”, in 2014 as I had to drive through her territory when going from my quarters to the health centre each day. I have photographs of Alice from that time, but she has probably died. All these pictures are of leopards seen during the past three months.

In mid September, I followed an experienced guide off the main track to see leopards mating. They do this more discretely than lions, who are quite blatant about it. Unfortunately, they were deep within a thicket and all I could hear were coital growls and snarls.

An impressive set of canine teeth, but this leopard needs to floss more between the upper incisors

My house is in the territory of a female leopard. When she prowls around at night, the baboons in the tree over my roof, go berserk, screeching out alarm calls. A colleague found a trail in the dust which had been created by the leopard dragging a dead bushbuck over a kilometre to a thorn bush, which concealed a young cub. There was a central drag mark, with paw prints on either side.

Leopards can retract their claws. Their pawprints are distinctive.

As you may have guessed, leopards are my favourite predator in the Park. I get withdrawal symptoms if a week goes by and I haven’t seen one. Sometimes I see them unexpectedly, walking nonchalantly across the track in front of me. If I am lucky, I spot a carcass hanging below a tree, but the leopard may have just parked the dead animal in a safe place to eat later.

Leopards like tripe – intestines are good protein. Leopards get enough fluid from the animals they kill, so they don’t have to drink water daily.
Life Thursday Doors Zambia

Thursday Doors @ the shops

More commercial doors in the village where I am living and working in Zambia. Sadly, my favourite shop has ceased trading. It was a bar called “Two Beers” which was the phonetic spelling of the owner’s name, Tobias. Say it out loud in a Zambian accent.

“God gives in different ways”, well when I last bought some fried potato chips here, I was given a nasty dose of food poisoning.
Naturally we should all follow Aunt Bwalya’s advice.
A pleasant greeting, but even though my hair is thinning on top, I am not in the market for a wig just yet. Nor cosmetics. It looks like a bus shelter more than a shop.
The B&B looks snazzy with the zebra skin motif inside the shop. Look how the illustrations have been painted on the inside of the doors, so they show what’s on offer when they are fixed wide open.
Jussie Dreadlocks Salon has security bar doors which allow free air circulation.
People could have a wide variety of choice of hardware on the left, but I like the subtitle of Tiza’s – pa-pa-pa-pa passelo. Very onomatopoeic.
Bit by bit? Surely, bite by bite would be more appropriate. Sausage is so good, they advertised it twice. Interesting that the illustration shows they keep the neck on the chicken when cooking it.
Bars have just been allowed to reopen on relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions. DXT – deep Xray therapy? The Raster Leggie bar is legendary.
Chichetekelo hardware has more variety than People’s Choice.
Rock City looks like a bar, but sells pink ice cream (allegedly)
K & Pear? CNK sounds like “Sink” Phones, not sure it is a winning name.
Let Love lead us where?
Uncle Petty has moved from the shop with a leaky roof across the road. Sadly, the black and white cat on the counter has died since I was last here in 2019.

Another food shop has ceased trading. It was called “God Gives” and attached to the side was their fast food outlet, “God Takeaways”.