Surprising fact: Duct tape is an unknown concept in Zambia.

I’d have imagined that it’d be ubiquitous. It fits a classic Third World paradigm: many uses packed into one convenient package. What repair can’t be made with duct tape? (Other than, of course, a broken heart.)

Yet I spent an hour roaming Lusaka for duct tape and was left wanting. My lame “leather” duffle bag (purchased for $17 at a gas station in Natchitoches, Louisiana — so you expect quality) was falling apart. One handle had already been ripped off, and I needed to reattach it. Duct tape to the rescue, right?

I went to a convenience store — they directed me to the street one block behind Cairo Road where all of Lusaka’s hardware stores sit. It was Zambian Independence Day, so most stores were closed, but all the hardware stores were Indian-owned and open.

I went door-to-door, from shop to shop. In each one went a conversation like this:

Me: Do you have any duct tape?
Indian Hardware Store Owner: [Silence.]
Me: Duct tape? [pronounced more slowly this time, accompanied by a duct-tape hand gesture of my own invention]
INSO: What is this duck tape?
Me: It’s a kind of gray tape, about this wide, on a roll. It’s very strong, and is constructed with a fibrous structure that makes it very useful in common household repairs — even for sealing leaky pipes in the kitchen or bathroom!
INSO: That sounds like an excellent product.
Me: Indeed! Do you have any?
INSO: No.

Just to make sure, I asked several times to see the shop’s complete tape supply. No duct tape. In fact, I am here to report to you today that Zambia’s tape needs are woefully underserved. Most shops could offer only some weak freezer tape, with only an occasional electrical tape sighting. Perhaps this is the secret to Zambia’s economic difficulties! Duct tape for all! One Zambia, firmly fastened together!

One hesitates to think of the social revolution a little Super Glue could bring.

28 October 2003



Comments

30 October | 18:52  |  sly

It seems to me that your soul purpose of travelling to zambia was to dig out all the wrong things there!Trust me theres alot more to Zambia than ductape,HIV,newspaper vendors,joseph,telephones,or even court decisions!!!If you think zambia is so lousy why dont you just go back to wherever you came from.Its western journalists like you who tarnish africa's image by always reporting the negative.SO PLEASE,joshua,IF YOU HAVE NOTHING GOOD TO SAY ABOUT MY COUNTRY, SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!!

31 October | 10:54  |  josh

Hi Sly: So sorry you're not enjoying my site. Feel free to read something else more pleasing to you.

I don't think Zambia's lousy -- the people here are very friendly. But I admire your ability to spin if you think 85% of your countrymen living on less than US$1 a day, a 20% HIV infection rate, and your most recent president on trial for corruption are positive things. Best of luck with everything.

04 November | 20:26  |  King

Mr.Joshua,

You are no different from Chiluba.You come into our country and we welcome you,then you steal our trust and literally shit on our doors with all the negative garbage and patronism on our intelligence.Where did you say you come from again?was that Dallas Texas?No wonder you have such a damn ass President.

04 November | 21:10  |  Mwansa

Hey King,the asshole is staying at chachacha backpackers,why don't you show Nalumango the shit he has been writing and pick his ass up.I think he is supposed to live on the 8th of Nov.If you hurry you will find him.Throw his ass out.

05 November | 13:29  |  josh

Hey Mwansa and King,

Thanks -- I always respond well to threats of violence!

I'm awfully curious what it is about this site that hurts you so much. What, specifically, am I saying that's so off base? As I said before, I like Zambia. I just think it's got a heaping plateful of problems. I don't see myself "literally" shitting on your doors, but I'm curious why you think I am. I've probably interviewed 40-50 Zambians in the last few weeks, and I'm certainly not any more critical of the country than they are.

As always, all the best to you and yours. Feel free to email me at jbenton@toast.net if you have any additional concerns.

Josh



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    Remember Me?




Welcome to zambiastories.com, the online journal I kept during the six weeks I spent in Zambia in 2003 as part of a Pew Fellowship in International Journalism. The entries below are in reverse chronological order — most recent on top, oldest on bottom.

To learn more about my trip and this site, check the About page. If you have any comments or questions, email me.

Stories

11 Jul 2004: Where the only growth industry is death; AIDS destroys scarce resources as well as family members

12 Sep 2004: A lesson in dying; Once a refuge from AIDS, Zambia’s schools are now its latest victims

Photos

Links

About this site | Contact | Photos

Calendar

10 Oct 2003: Leave for London
11 Oct 2003: Leave for Zambia
12 Oct 2003: Arrive in Lusaka
22 Nov 2003: Leave for London
22 Nov 2003: Back to Washington

Disclaimer

Any opinions expressed here are solely mine, and not those of my employer.

 
© 2003 Joshua Benton