How to pay your bill in a restaurant

Day 93, rest day, Zambezi Waterfront Lodge, Livingstone

While many people went off on excursions today, I stayed around the waterfront and caught up on emails and the blog. Livingstone is set up for western tourists. In addition to seeing the falls you can bungee jump, cross the gorge on a zip line or a swing chair; you can view the falls in from a helicopter or ultra-light plane; you can white water raft or ride through the bush on the back of an elephant. And you can pay for it – about $100 for a fifteen-minute, ultra-light flight. And so it goes. The fancy and expensive lodges with property on the river all seem to be in a price fixing scam with local providers. If you pick up a taxi in town and want to go to the falls it may cost you 10 kwacha. If you want to go from on of the lodges on the river, already half way there from town, the hotel will tell you it costs 30 kwacha. After 5pm, they make the taxi drivers wait outside the security gates. To go into town – the other half of the journey – the hotel will tell you it costs 40 kwacha. If you pick up a taxi in town and tell them you want to go to one of the river front lodges you get the same prices. It was about three kilometres from the Lodge where we stayed to town. The taxi ride took 5 minutes. This white face racism really pisses me off. I am happy to pay a fare price but I want to pay the same fare price as everyone else and not be seen as a walking ATM. Having said this, the Waterfront Lodge where we stayed was a very pleasant place.  But it was totally segregated. The blacks served. The whites consumed.

We stayed on the first floor of a chalet with a balcony overlooking a small man- made lagoon. They had dammed a small creek that ran into the Zambezi. I was sitting on the balcony just after breakfast reading a book when I heard some slapping and a splash. I jokingly said to Bob that a big crock had just come into the lagoon from the Zambezi. I hadn’t seen anything. I was reading my book. But Bob looked over the railing and said ‘oh ya. There it is.’  It was about 7 feet long and about 20 feet away and just below us. It swam around slowly for a while checking out the lagoon and then submerged with its snout out on the bank and snoozed.

Our fancy chalet suffered from the typical limitations of Africa. The door lock doesn’t quite work; the outside stairs leading up to the first floor are at odd angles and creak as if they are about to collapse. We had to ask for towels. The reading lamp didn’t work. And then of course the water went off. This is a fancy and somewhat pricey safari lodge for white men. So while I spent the day on my computer we had 3 or 4 guys in our bathroom and up on our roof all day trying to figgurte out what had gone wrong with the plumbing. It wasn’t a lack of water. We were on the Zambezi. There was lots of that. Just before dinner they told us they had found the problem and fixed it. So back in the chalet we tried to turn on the hot water. Nope. It seems that when they had fixed the plumbing they had knocked out the power. So back they came. At least they didn’t say ‘not my job call up the electrician’s union’. By the time we were ready to leave it was all fixed, I think.

For dinner we went into town to an Indian restaurant. The food was very good but the service slow and detailed. We were about eight people and asked at the very beginning for individual bills. Always a challenge. After dinner, when I had asked for the bill, our waiter came up to me and asked if I could list what each person had had so that he could give us separate bills. Hmmm. How was he able to deliver to each person what they ordered (and he had written down everything when we ordered) if he didn’t already have a pretty good handle on this? But we did it. And the accounting process began. He took his combined order form and carefully wrote out an individual order form in consultation with each of us.  He then went inside where all of this information was painstakingly re-written by hand (and a very nice hand it was) onto individual invoices by an accounts clerk. Only when each of us had a nicely written individual invoice in our hands did they begin the process of individually taking our credit card details. Dinner had taken a pleasant hour and a half. Getting the accounts settled took well over an hour. And then we had to start negotiating with another taxi driver. Oh well, we were promised that there would be water back at the chalet. And there was.

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