New church halls and camping 11b/52

Sunday, March 05, 2017
Chipata, Eastern Province, Zambia
On Wednesday morning, after one day of paying bills and doing laundry, we set off early to visit the Chapambas on our way to the Zambian border. On the way we were stopped at the typical police checkpoints; they would check our registration and insurance stickers and Lewis's driver's license and they would send us on our way.

However, at the intersection of the main road and the Chapamba's turnoff we were stopped once again . This time was different, this officer was looking for a reason to cite and fine us. He looked at Lewis's license and asked twice how long he'd been in the country (you're allowed to drive with a foreign license for 90 days and we've been advised (by the police) that the 90 days starts over when we leave the country [which we must do every 30-60 days anyway]). Finding nothing wrong with the registration, insurance or license he proceeded to inspect the entire outside of the Bongo. Finding nothing wrong there he demanded we open the doors so he could inspect the inside of the van; again, nothing he could cite us for. He walked back to the driver's side door and demanded to see our fire extinguisher; which we produced.

At this point he examines the extinguisher and informs us that it wasn't charged and it would be a 10,000mk fine. We asked where we would go to pay for it and he informed us that we would pay him. I immediately produced a news article stating that as of March 1, 2017 no fines were to be collected by police in the field and he should issue the citation and we'd pay it at the station. He tried to say that the article was wrong, that it was a bill, but it hadn't been approved by the government yet. He was lying of course.

I think he realized we were not going to give him any money, so he was going to "do us a favor" and not give us the fine.

We proceeded to the Chapamba's and they insisted they send their son, George, with us to purchase a new extinguisher so that the shopkeepers wouldn't overcharge us . We bought a new one, but after some research we discovered we aren't even required to have an extinguisher in the car since we're a private vehicle and not a taxi. Oh well.

We proceeded to the border. We were immediately swarmed on by money changers and insurance providers. We managed to get through the Malawi exit easily and without incident, unfortunately it was not quite as easy getting into Zambia. First, we went to get our entry visas. We tried to obtain these in advance as we could get a three year multi-entry visa for $80, rather than the $50 single entry. We made two trips to the Zambian consulate and were told that as Americans we had to apply online or get our visa at the border. When we tried to apply online there was no option for the multi entry visa, so we went back to the consulate to try again. We were again told to apply online or go to the border; so we decided to just get them at the border.

At the entry point we were informed that you have to get the multi entry visa at the consulate and whoever told us otherwise was incorrect . We had to buy the single entry.

Next we had to pay a carbon tax and municipality fees for driving the Bongo into Zambia. We were informed we had to pay with Zambian kwatcha and we also had to buy insurance first. We went to change money. I wanted to go to the bank, but Lewis thought the changers outside were offering the same rate and it would be faster and simpler to go though them.

First the guy said the exchange was 9zk to 1usd. We accepted, and he proceeded to give us 8zk to 1usd. I demanded he give us the rest or return our dollars; he relented and gave us the additional money (turns out he was still ripping us off; the exchange is actually 9.7zk to 1usd. Oh well). Then we were off to purchase insurance; we had asked immigration what the cost of insurance would be, so we had a ballpark figure. The insurance salesman trying to sell to us on the street was asking 15zk more than the highest range we were told, so we went to a building advertising insurance; they charged us 103zk, 65zk less than the street salesman . We were able to finally pay our fees and cross the border.

Lewis is, without a doubt, the most trusting and optimistic person I know. I love that about him; he's a good counterbalance to my natural skepticism. I hate when I see him disappointed by the crookedness of people, but I love that he never carries that disappointment into his interactions with anyone else; he still believes the best in people, every time. That being said, he doesn't get taken advantage of by the same person again; he is more wary of that person going forward.

After a short drive we arrived in Chipata and found our lodge; Dean's Hill View Lodge. The grounds are beautiful; the room rustically charming (we shared a dorm style room with the Hilgens). Initially I was disappointed with the room, but when we decided to look at it as though we were camping my attitude improved dramatically. The staff was great; the food in the restaurant was good; and though open to mosquitoes, the room was neat and clean .

Speaking of mosquitoes, waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of a mosquito buzzing near you is just the worst: they're tiny little tyrants forcing you to live in a net and listen to their drone of death. I really hate mosquitoes, and have developed a new appreciation for geckos, bats, bug spray, and mosquito nets.

Filius Jere is the deacon of United Church of God in Chipata. His profession was journalism and broadcasting. He has since taken his skills and put them to use in preaching the gospel. He presents a twice weekly Beyond Today radio show where he will present a biblical topic and then take questions from listeners. He also takes care of the congregation. He constantly shows a spirit of humility and service. I greatly respect him for all that he does.

Filius invited us to Zambia specifically for the opening of the church building the congregation just finished building . The Talamas, an elder and wife from Lusaka, also came for this event with a deacon from Mumbwa, Maxwell Kasakabantu and his wife, Joyce.

The congregation provided several beautiful pieces of special music; Brennan gave the sermonette and Lewis gave the sermon.

After services the congregation made two presentations, first was two chickens given to the landlord of the property in thanks for her generosity. Then the Hilgens and us were presented with two doves (maybe pigeons) as a thank you, and a symbol of God's Holy Spirit that unites us. It was really very touching. We'll see how the border crossing goes with the birds in tow.

After this there was a poetry reading, a dramatic performance showing the difficulties faced when trading Sunday worship to Sabbath, and a beautiful lunch prepared by the ladies in the congregation followed by a Q & A session.

Overall it was a wonderful day, and a wonderful visit with some incredibly faithful and kind people. We are, however, really looking forward to being back home in Lilongwe, we miss our apartment and our wonderful congregation.
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Jeanne Thorne

Parts of your blog are extremely scary sounding! You must be on your toes at all times and sound like you are! Wow still sounds nerve racking the pics SURE DO PROVE THIS IS A WELL WORTH TRIP!!!!!! Not sure how I would handle the bug situation