Saturday, July 18, 2009

Just Trying to Get a Coke!

One of the lesser known facts and definite benefits of living in Zambia is definitely the Coke. Zambian Cokes are made with real cane sugar instead of corn syrup, and they come in glass bottles instead of out of a can, bottle, or fountain. People who don’t even drink Coke drink Coke in Zambia. It’s just better here.

The problem is that sometimes it’s hard to find Cokes in town. There have even been months during our stay here that we have experienced a major Coke shortage. (Gasp! Boo! Hiss!) Those times have been dark and discouraging, but we’ve pulled out okay. Just making sacrifices for the Kingdom ;)

The way you get hold of the Cokes is to buy a crate with 24 glass bottles inside. You pay for the crate and the soft drinks that are inside, and then you take all of it home. When you’ve finished the drinks and replaced the glass bottles, you take the crate back to town and exchange it for a filled one from one of several vendors in Livingstone. The crates themselves cost about $10, but the refill on an exchanged crate is only K40,000, or about 40 cents a Coke. You can get other Coke products if the vendor offers them, the most common being Sprite or Fanta.

Now, you would be showing your lack of experience in any third world country if you thought that you could just go to the same place that you buy your bread and milk to stock up on Cokes. No ma’am. We in Zambia have separate buildings where we sell Cokes. Separate Coke warehouses, if you will. These warehouses are usually delicately placed in a dark, narrow alley where the flatbed Coke truck piled precariously high with clanging and swishing bottles is parked. Or, even better, they are placed right smack dab in the middle of a busy street where nobody with any sense would park if they valued their paint job (And we definitely don’t take the paint jobs too seriously, so this is not too big of a problem.)

Today (Friday), I had the pleasure of refilling 3 cases of Coke for a function that we are having here at the base this weekend. The Livingstone Coke shortage is looking to be in action this month, and all of the vendors are quickly running out of stock. In desperation, I went to the place with the longest queue (line): Standard Sales.

Once inside Standard Sales, I had to quickly evaluate something: Is this worth my time? Normally, the answer to that question would be: Absolutely not. The answer would especially be no if I had reminded myself that I am actually not really drinking Cokes at the moment due to the whole “I’m-pregnant-and-trying-not-to-drink-caffeine” thing. (I really am trying, people…) However, I knew that the benefactors of these Cokes were to be our Zambian staff. We’re holding a staff picnic and Appreciation Day on Sunday and there will be Cokes all ‘round. So, I felt pretty selfish walking out just because of a long line. So the saga continued… (Are you tired of it yet? I am.)

I waited in a pile of people and pushed toward the counter to gain the attention of a man who was appropriately titled, “The Man in Charge.” He was begging for people to be patient with him, they were ignoring his pleas, and he was obviously becoming very overwhelmed with the thought of continuing to be the Man in Charge. I waited and pushed, pushed and waited, for about 20 minutes before getting to place my order: “TWO COKES AND ONE SPRITE!” I yelled over the din. He wrote it down, slowly. “What’s the name? “ He asks. Oh geez. Here we go. “JESSI.” I yell. “Justine?” He asks. “YES!” I immediately affirmed. Whatever. I’ll be whoever you want me to be. Just get me some Cokes already.

I pushed my way back out of the pile of people and into another line. Oh, you thought that was it, didn’t you? No ways you get Cokes that easily, my friend. I waited in the payment line for a few minutes, receipt and money in hand. I paid the lady behind the glassed in counter (we’re not jokin’ around with the security at the Coke warehouse.) She leisurely wrote down my receipt number and my payment and stamped the receipt, directing me to a third line. I waited in the third line, was recorded and stamped by the man behind the desk, and seriously considered pulling out my hair. I then waited for the Man in Charge to recognize that I had a receipt in my hand. When he did notice me, my receipt was stacked with the rest of the orders being filled. I waited for a few more minutes as cases of Coke, Sprite, and beer flew past my feet on the way to their owners. (Don’t be confused about the beers. Even though Cokes are delicious and popular in Zambia, a place with this much of a crowd is a full-on drinks distributor.) Finally, the Man in Charge yelled out, “JUSTINE!” That’s me! I rushed to get my order. I quickly realized that I couldn’t carry 3 full cases. I called for my 2 friends. We then rushed out of that place as fast as possible. End of story.

I don’t know how long the whole thing took, but I do know that my friends that were with me actually had license plates made for their vehicle in the time that I was in the Standard Sales. Oh my.

Get this. I’m not even drinking an icy cold Sprite right now because all of the cases got unloaded at the main center and I chose to write this post instead of dragging myself back to the main center to get one. This has been therapeutic though. Maybe I can pretend like it was worth it, just for the story.


Happy Saturday! We’ve got a birthday party today and a cookout afterwards. We’re headed out into Nyawa for a Women’s Conference on Monday and will stay through Wednesday. After that we’ll greet a team who will be here for the next month doing a building project. And when they go home…so do we! We’ll see you so soon it’s like we’re just here on vacation! HA!


Nene and Pappy Norm said...

OH JUSTINE!!!! You are KILLING us with these blogs!!! All I could think the whole time reading it was "how is she going to carry 3 cases of Coke in her "condition"? (Just the mother in me...obviously I was relieved to know you did not have to do that by yourself!)
You guys definitly need to publish your blogs one day! You have such a gift for writing!
We love you--
Nene and Pappy Norm (Hi Sundie Bell)

sophanne said...

The DMV is faster than Coke lines? That's saying something right there.

S said...

Jessi! Is there any way you can save some Coke for us!? I can't hardly imagine being in Livingstone soon without Coke. We had to endure a shortage once, and it was nuts!
See you soon!

Beth said...

I loved reading this. Jessi, you have always been a great storyteller!

I promise not to take Kroger for granted ever again. (I wish I could keep that promise. But seriously... wow.)

Andrea said...

You're right Jessi- those cokes are amazing!!! I don't even like coke, but the soda in zambia was so different! Enjoy every moment- even these ones that are frustrating- I'd trade you places in a heart beat if it meant I was back among those amazing people!!!

PS congratulations on the baby!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jacob & Jessi. I saw your mom in the neighborhood today Jacob. Congratulations!! I hear you guys are expecting. That is wonderful news. Tell Sundie congratulations on her 200 babies too. :) She sounds adorable. Jessi, I have to tell you, though I enjoy reading posts by both of you, you are quite a story teller. I look forward to your posts. Take care and keep up the good work.
Jackie Meade