I should say something about Chipata, my home base for the next year. I should also let you all know, who are interested in knowing how long my placement is for, that I will be here for at least one year.
Chipata township is located in the eastern province of Zambia, about 20 kilometers from the Malawi border. Every now and then, I will see a representative from Malawi selling Malawi kwacha. They might be scalpers selling counterfeit, I don't know, but the money is really pretty.
I would have to say that one of the best things about this town, aside from the friendly people, is the mountain air. It rains intermittently and on some days like clock work around 14:00 or 15:00 hours in the early afternoon and continues for about 30 minutes to sometimes an hour, stopping briefly before resuming.
The hill on which the center of the city sits is encased by mountains. So, regardless of which direction you go from the center of town, you see mountains around you. The pace and congestion of the center is about the same as that of Amherst, Massachusetts.
Chipata is the fastest growing town and recently received approval from the federal government to achieve city status. The high density of large and small businesses and federal agencies has contributed to its growth. These institutions are also inviting many people from around the country to apply for jobs up here. The banking industry is one of the larger sectors, with the big ones like Barcalys, Stanbic, and ZANACO banks, represented here.
City growth, however, has also resulted in a need to upgrade the land use guide to reflect the anticipated growth of Chipata town and tailoring the guide to the context of Chipata township. The upgrading of the land use guide and the creation of a guide specifically for the town still needs to be approved by the Council. The high density of large and small businesses and federal agencies has contributed to its growing congestion.
Bicycles are the dominant mode of transportation here, that and cars. The public transportation system leaves much to be desired. For now, extending and increasing the number of city bus services is not something the Council can afford. So, many people either drive or hire a bike cabbie. Taxis, in addition, are commonly used for transportation around the city and the surrounding areas.
Chipata, surprisingly, attracts a lot of businesses and industries. One of its main attractions, I think, is that its fairly livable and is located in the mountains. The climate is not so hot, unlike other parts of Zambia, like the copperbelt, the southern province, and Lusaka. Lusaka has some dry heat. Thus, many people come here to establish businesses. Bicycle cabbies constitute one of the cottage industries in the town. Others are small-scale produce sellers, who sit on the side of Umodzi Highway. SPAR, which I think is a South African supermarket, just opened its doors. The owner of the store put up a small cafe in the supermarket, an added, pleasant touch for me, the quintessential cafe rat.
The Council is abuzz today with people around town waiting in line for interviews to be approved for their lands. I overheard a few people complaining about how long they have waited, telling me Zambians are not so different from Americans when it comes to expecting efficiency and expediency from their local government.
Unfortunately, no photos as of yet. I am looking for a really cheap digital camera.