Leaving the most modern buildings of Cairo Road behind, we get into town to get to what looks like a pretty little white house with some colorful tiles on its facade. Near the door, our friend Sekwila smiles at us raising her hand. The house is actually a restaurant called Twapandula, a name that we like for its musicality but that we probably could not remember after a couple of hours. Sekwila Mumba is itself, despite its jeans and simple t-shirt, a beautiful representation of the colorful and lively Zambia, the relaxed vibe of the interior of Africa. And so she proved when, in 2009, she became Miss Zambia, also participating in the Miss Universe contest representing the country. This type of events have disappeared from our European lives since decades ago, but here, it still has an enormous social importance, becoming the chosen Miss, a sort of ambassador of the country in the world, someone who for a year has in her hands the power to help her humble countrymen.
Although for many travelers Lusaka is rather a platform-city, the starting point to get to other attractions in the country, Sekwila lists its essential points: the Anglican Cathedral with its beautiful stained glass windows, the markets, walks in the modern areas of tall buildings, the National Museum or parks located just outside the city, as Chaminuka Game Reserve, Lower Zambezi National Park, Kalimba Reptile Park with thousands of crocodiles and the famous Munda Wanga Environmental Park, a hybrid between Botanic Gardens and National Park.
However, it is another place which comes out from the fleshy lips Sekwila to our imagination; a place that evokes legends itself. The Victoria Falls are drawn in the smile of our friend and to our mind comes the spectacular image of the languages of water dropping into the void but furthermore the proper name of the exploration of Africa, a traveler idol, an icon: Livingstone.
Our conversation continues following the course of explorers and this time is Sekwila who gives another name: Stanley. Livingstone and Stanley are probably the most iconic "mzungus" or white men for the people of this part of Africa. On one of his visits to the UK, the Royal Geographical Society commissioned to Livingstone the task of finding the sources of the legendary River Nile. While we now know that the river begins at Lake Victoria in Uganda, at the time the ignorance of the place of born of the Nile caused many international disputes. During that search, England lost track of Livingstone for years; nobody knew where he was. How did he survive? Probably because by then, the English doctor was already a celebrity among African tribes, in part because of his fight against slavery. However, a moment of decline in which he found himself on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, in Tanzania, occured in paralel with the decision of the New York Herald to send the journalist Henry Stanley in search of explorer Livingstone. Maybe at any other time, Livingstone had fled to the possibility of knowing himself discovered by another Western in his beloved land; this time, however, his was very weak and saw the arrival of Stanley as a kind of salvation. When the reporter found him at last, it came a historical moment in which, probably trying to be at the same level of the great explorer, Stanley uttered the phrase: "Doctor Livingstone, I presume". At Ujiji, the Tanzanian village on the banks of Lake Tanganyika where this encounter took place, they still remember with a small museum the meeting of these two great men who finished exploring this lake and becoming great friends. When Stanley went back to become a renowned journalist and a writer of international fame thanks to his meeting with Livingstone, the English doctor continued his search for the sources of the Nile, which took him to Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia. Unfortunately, Livingstone lost his way from his boat on Lake Bangweulu and fell ill, suffering from malaria and internal bleeding. He was taken to the town of Chitambo, about four hours from Lusaka, but nothing could be done to save his life. On May 1, 1873, Livingstone died in Zambia leaving orphaned generations of Africans who followed and admired him. His body was taken to England and buried with honors in London's Westminster Abbey. His heart, however, was buried in Chitambo because, as his african followers said, his heart belonged to the continent.
The street smells like some strong spices and flowering trees. When we cross it, a shadow takes our path. It looks like an old man with a white beard wearing a dark green suit; the same Livingstone walking through his beloved Africa. Heat may have played a trick on us. Or maybe not. In Africa, almost anything is possible.