Just before Marianne, my Finnish friend, went back home, her backpack was stolen in Manda Hill, from Subway (out of all places), from under her seat as she was telling Sari and me about her plans for her last week.
A complicated, week-long pursuit commenced. She received a call from a man, who had, allegedly, found her belongings- nothing valuable (of course) such as her Mac laptop or brand new mobile, but small things such has her calendar, work permit and note book. After many trips to the police station, many meetings with the Manda Hill security company, and a trap was set- Marianne was to arrange a meeting with the mystery man outside one of the shopping mall's fast food outlets, and the plain-clothed security staff would be watching (It all came down to the private security company; the police's official statement was, How could you have been so stupid?). A man came, tall, thin and nervous, and he desperately wanted Marianne out of the public and into his car. The security guards jumped on him as he got hold of her, smacked him around in the full view of rich housewives doing their mid-morning shopping, and dragged him into the office where he was shoved around a little more, slapped and kicked, and then asked for his name and eventually questioned.
Marianne was obviously a bit shaken up by it all, and as Sari was due to leave for Chipata, I stayed with her a few nights, which I didn't mind, as they live in a nice area and have a hot shower. The family renting the place to her didn't seem too alarmed to find out the keys to the gate and house were missing, since they had, after all, performed voodoo on the premises to keep the thieves out, so they were pretty sorted.
When I got home to Chawama, and the drip-drip-drip of the tap, Purity told me her phone had been stolen from the kitchen counter where she'd left it lying for a moment. And that night, I couldn't find my favourite T-shirt, and after turning the whole place upside down, I noticed quite a few things missing- such as my credit card, an emergency $20 note (which had been stashed away in my spare bag while I was in Malawi), some more clothes and various other bits, such as my thermal socks (who takes socks? Old socks?) and a nearly-finished shower gel.
I mean, seriously.
I was incredibly pissed off, not so much for losing the stuff, but that someone had had the nerve to go through all my stuff, choosing what they might get away with, and seeing what they like, as if my backpack was a bloody Sainsbury's.
Sunday I walked through Chawama's main road, on the way to meet Beata. It had rained for days, and the path was completely flooded; a small passageway had been cleared next to a very loud pub, and it included stepping onto the terrace of the bar- a narrow way, barely wide enough for one person to cross at a time. As I passed, a tall man decided to start passing at the same time from the opposite direction. What an arse, I thought, he can see there's only enough room for one person. He squashed quite close to me, lost his balance, and fell knee deep into the puddle. I walked on as two young boys suddenly run up to me, shouting, madam, madam, your phone's gone. The tall man took it.
What, I said. I can be painfully slow in situations such as this. I felt for my pocket, and realised it was empty.
And then that horrible, empty feeling sinks straight down to your knees when something is so irretrievably gone. But really, I'd had enough- I'd spent enough time in police stations, feeling sorry for myself and my friends, and I ran back to the pub, asking everyone if they'd seen the face of the man who passed me on the path.
Sure, I saw him, said one of lads, a local drunk who spends his entire life on that terrace. He was, quite surprisingly, very upset on my behalf, and gathered a few guys around him, taking me from one pub to the next, looking for the thief. When we finally found him, he had the nerve to claim that he'd simply found my phone in a ditch, demanding for money as a "reward"- the outraged blokes with me were demanding my phone back, and when he looked away, I simply snatched it, before a huge fight broke out between Us and Them. I set off again, and after the first bend in the road, the thief ran up to me, grabbed my arm and started demanding 10,000 kwatcha from me again, and by that time, I'd had well and truly enough, and did something I didn't even think I was capable of- I turned, jumped, and in one sharp kick to his stomach (not unlike Karate Kid or similar) I knocked him on the ground. I'd had enough of being an ATM to every single Zambian who felt like they could just take whatever they liked. Sure, I was late and still fuming when I met Beata, but in an odd way, I felt better getting my phone back than losing the money and the clothes. After all, my phone is almost as important to me as my favourite T-shirt.