Also available in: Nederlands
Today a new amazing story from somebody who left The Netherlands to move abroad. This time it’s Marcel that traded in Holland and moved to Zambia. Enjoy reading his story.
Who are you and why did you move to Zambia?
My name is Marcel van Driel. I have lived in Zambia since early 2011. I moved to the capital Lusaka because an interesting job became available. Before that, I used to live in Lilongwe, Malawi.
What was it in Zambia that appealed to you?
At that time the job. It was an interesting job. And I was very happy to be able to continue working in the region. This is the part of Africa I already wanted to go to when I was a child. Wild animals, lots of space, warm weather and lots of sunshine.
What were the problems in the moving process?
The process of moving was not such a problem. I started working for the German development organization GIZ, for which I already worked in Malawi, so they arranged most paperwork. My household goods I had sold in Malawi. I drove twice up and down to take the remaining goods with me. New household goods I bought over here. The first time I moved to Africa was from the Netherlands to Mali. That was with my former wife and her children. That was much more stressful, as we had to handle much more. papers, vaccinations, put our household effects in storage, packing, and shipping stuff, write everything down in the Netherlands and deregister ourselves. Upon arriving in a new and strange country where I barely spoke the language a new life began. In comparison, the move to Zambia was a breeze: it is my third African country, and GIZ arranged many registration cases for me.
What kind of work did you do in the Netherlands and what are you doing now?
In the Netherlands, I worked as a project leader at the Dutch National Service, a service of the former Ministry of LNV. Now, after the job at GIZ, I’m a consultant at the consultancy company I’ve set up over here. I mainly train staff members of NGOs and local authorities in project management and planning.
What is the most beautiful thing you experienced?
This question is easy to answer: my marriage with my Zambian wife. It was not only an important moment in my life but also a very interesting event where two cultures came together. One of the steps in such a marriage is the Matebeto, where the women of the bride’s family make all possible meals that fit the culture and bring them in pots on their heads to the house of the groom to be.
This is accompanied by singing and drumming and is a fascinating event. I had my parents, brother, and sister-in-law over and friends from the Netherlands were there too. That was very special. Furthermore, the many trips I have made to National Parks (both in Zambia and abroad) are all special. It is quite easy to visit other countries from Zambia with your car. Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, South Africa, I’ve been there and have had wonderful vacations. In Zambia, I have seen the colony of flying foxes twice that descend every year from the Congo basin in Kasanka National Park. It’s the largest gathering of mammals in the world. Up to 10 million flying foxes are descending into a very small forest. But even more beautiful was the closeup photography of a puffadder in Matobo National Park in Zimbabwe.
Did you have any challenging experiences?
I had a lot of them. For example, it’s not easy to set up your own business. First of all, you are facing a lot of bureaucracy and corruption here. Secondly, it was difficult at first to establish a foothold as a consultant. And you regularly face other issues such as power failures and water shortages (Zambia does not produce enough power and water, especially in the last two years, there were regular interruptions of eight hours or more each day). It’s very unpleasant to live in a relatively luxurious house and have no power and no water for eight hours. Additionally, people here often die of mundane causes. I have experienced more funerals over the past six years than in the rest of my life. Also, I have had malaria often, especially in the early years. So far eleven times, only two times in the six years in Zambia. The remainder was in the four years I lived in Mali and Malawi. Maybe I’m immune now…
What do you miss from the Netherlands and what absolutely not?
I absolutely miss that life is more predictable and that things are well arranged. Businesses in the Netherlands are much faster, and people are more service oriented, especially within the government. What I absolutely do not miss is the fast pace and being sour about little things. To be honest, I am guilty of doing that over here too, but in the Netherlands, you are always confronted with it. Museums I also miss. I’m an art fan and in Zambia, the appreciation for good art is minimal. Also treacle waffles and good cheese. Those are two things that I really miss here. Besides that, all things are available here.
What is the biggest difference between the Dutch and the Zambians?
Zambians, although in many cases their lives are tougher, they are seemingly happier, less worrisome. They deal with life in a more relaxed manner. During my last visit to the Netherlands, in December, I noticed that everyone is in a rush, does not greet one another and even avoids contact. The funny thing is that I caught myself talking with many people like cashiers at the supermarket. I am used to doing that in Zambia. The response is that they are always surprised but in a good way. The Dutch are more reliable in the sense that they arrive on time, and usually, keep their agreements. That is a rarity in Zambia.
In what city do you live and what makes this place special? What are the things to see?
I live in Lusaka the capital of Zambia, like all African capitals I have visited, there is not much that makes this city special. African cities don’t have beautiful old buildings. The cities here are functional, relatively new and poorly maintained. I must say however that there is no shortish of shops, more and more malls pop up and plenty of grocery stores to find around town. We also have three great cinemas. But like I said before the city is not beautiful, no highlights like the ocean or table mountain in Cape Town. Except perhaps the many lanes of flame trees and Jacaranda’s, which turn a whole street red or purple-blue with their beautiful flowers. The biggest charm of Lusaka is ultimately its population: people greet you in the streets. For dinner, you can visit a growing group of excellent restaurants. Also, there is the new Lusaka National Park and a reptile park.
What places should you have visited when in Zambia?
Absolute must-sees are the Victoria Falls in Livingstone and the South Luangwa National Park. Unfortunately, both of them are about 1000 km apart (distances are much longer here). But they are definitely worth a day’s drive. Livingstone is the touristic capital of Zambia (but never as terrible as other tourist places). There are many things to do. Driving around in Mosi Oa Tunya National Park, rafting, you can even make the world’s second highest bungee jump. You can also make helicopter or hang glider flights over the falls. Or visit several souvenir markets and a traditional village. South Luangwa is one of the best and most beautiful parks in Africa and the chance to see a leopard is almost 100%. It is advisable to combine a trip to South Luangwa with a visit to Malawi. The lake there is ideal for swimming and snorkeling. It takes a couple of hours to drive there from South Luangwa. In addition, there is the Lower Zambezi where you can do boat safaris to see wildlife and in particular a lot of fantastic birds. It is also a favorite fishing spot for sports fishers from the Southern African region. And then there is the Kafue National Park, one of the largest in Africa.
What advice can you give people traveling to Zambia?
Buy a good travel book; preferably the Bradt and follow the instructions and advice. Seek out contact with people living in Zambia for tips and tricks. Zambia is not the cheapest country in the region, but it offers something special every period of the year. The people here are, as in many African countries, extremely friendly. The roads are good and safe, so it’s a perfect country to travel around yourself.
What is your favorite Zambian dish, do you have a recipe you want to share?
Honestly, I’m very disappointed in the typical Zambian dishes. It consists mainly of Nzima, a blob of overcooked Cornflower without flavor, served with vegetables and/or meat. The tastemakers are tomato, onion, salt and sometimes Maggi for extra flavor. But for adventures eaters, it is nice to visit one of the many local restaurants and eat there. And then, of course, you have to try Vinkubala, the dried caterpillars that look a bit strange but taste just fine.
Is there anything else you would like to tell?
Life in Zambia is definitely more unpredictable and sometimes harsher. On the other hand, I live in a house with a beautiful garden and pay much less than I would pay in the Netherlands. I used to live for $1000 in a house with a huge patch of land around it in the middle of town. That would cost you a small fortune in let’s say, Amsterdam. That’s something that keeps me in Zambia. And of course nature. Here, the towns and villages are situated in between vast areas of nature. There are now about 14 million people in Zambia a country that is one and a half times the size of France. In the Netherlands, there are snippets of created nature between cities and villages. For a nature lover like myself, living in Zambia is really better.
Thank you, Marcel, for your amazing photos and the peek into your life in Zambia. I will take a look at how difficult it is to make treacle waffles myself. If I succeed, I will, of course, let you know. Maybe you can make them yourself then?
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