The damn electricity keeps on shutting off in Lusaka. This country exports electricity to South Africa. But they can’t even keep their own grid up. And that is a problem for a charity who operates only on the Internet – we depend on electricity to keep us up and running.
I was in Lusaka to work with the charity OneWorld.net. OneWorld.net provides an internet platform to get the activist news out to the world. It has offices and feeds from around the globe. And their African office is in Lusaka, Zambia. And it is not always easy to stay up and running or get the stories out.
One of the more amazing partners is of a guy from the Democratic Republic of Congo who used to get out stories of what was happening while the civil war was going on. The government, or whoever controlled the area at the time, shut down all communications. But he knew it was important to get all the stories out to the world. Each night he would slip over the border and go to a neighbouring village to hook up and post the latest story. He took his life in his own hands as the border was a no-go area. They would kill him on the spot if they ever found him. But he managed to do it each and every day. Never got caught, but had a few close calls. And he never got paid a cent for doing any of it. He was just committed to justice and his people.
So we all got together in Lusaka to discuss and plan on how we get these stories out and support all the people in the field who post these stories. But it wasn’t easy. The electricity shut down at least 3-5 times a day. And the phones went down when the electricity went down. No connection to the outside world during those ‘dark’ times. And we had to post, post, post whenever we had the lucky break of having electricity.
I got a call from my wife at mid-afternoon. The line was bad. Mobile phones hardly worked and landlines were patchy. She said something about New York and an attack by terrorist. But the line was really bad and I couldn’t make out everything she was saying. I looked at the others and told them what she said. They just shrugged and carried on what they were doing. My wife sounded odd, but I took that as just her having an off day. I said goodbye and turned to the other asking what they thought of that. We all thought it must be some other attack on a building in NY and nothing much to do with us. Most likely a minor story of a radical right-wing American trying to blow up a government building again. And so we carried on doing what we were doing.
We stopped working early evening and planned to get together later for a few beers and something to eat – in that order. I went to the guesthouse I stayed to clean up. I got to my room and flicked on the TV without looking at it. It was news and nothing new ever happens in our little world today. Nothing that I had to worry about in any case. I got a cold beer and sat outside on the stoep (veranda) and had a few cigarettes while sipping away on my beer. Just sitting and enjoying the beauty of early evening. And amazing African sunset and people’s voices everywhere. The highlight of my day when I was at my happiest to be in Africa. You could feel the life and vibrancy of Africa at that time of the day. People coming from work and getting together for a few beers. Loud voices as they talk about soccer and all the good things in life. Coming back from their daily commutes and laughing about how good life can be. People didn’t watch much TV until much later – if at all.
I went back in to wash my face and hands to get ready for the night out. I walked back into the room and looked at the TV. It seemed as if it was another one of the imported American movies with things blowing up and destruction everywhere. I thought I had it on CNN…
So I switch the channel over to CNN. And it stayed on the channel it was on before. I stared at the TV trying to make sense of it. What was CNN showing? And slowly it started hitting home. The information was coming through slowly. Everything was happening in slow motion. Things were coming at me, but at a pace I still couldn’t handle. The pieces of information just hit me one after the other. Like a boxer being hit one shot after the other. I was punch drunk. It was information overload. Too much information. It couldn’t register to make sense. I shook my head to try and clear it up. Bu it still didn’t make any sense. I was lost in another world. This wasn’t my world. I closed my eyes and slowly opened it again. Hoping to wake up. But it wasn’t a dream. It was something else. It was as if my life was changing before my eyes. And I couldn’t control or even comprehend what it was. What is this? What is this? Then everything sped up and hit me like a ton of bricks. I sat down on the edge of the bed and just stared at the tv. And just kept on staring. And staring. What the fuck is going on in our world?