We came to Zambia with no furniture and so it was necessary to buy beds and bookshelves, tables and chairs. So your choices are – sit and sleep on the floor (which would be fine for a number of the younger, more Bohemian folks I know), buy INSANELY-priced, pre-made stuff imported from China and sold in the department stores, or hire yourself a good carpenter to build it for you. Now Mr. C's stuff is not quite IKEA quality, but it's solid and will last for our tenure here in Zambia. His story is pretty normal for many Zambians, born in the village and moved into Lusaka during the 80's. His first wife died 7 years ago (most likely from AIDS), he has a 8 year old son with HIV who need to live at an orphanage (House of Moses) for five years while Mr. C got back on his feet. He is remarried and lives in Kalingalinga, running a small carpentry shop behind the city council building.
While I'm under the impression that he might be over charging us, he delivers (by official taxis, unofficial taxis, and beat-up pickups driven by Rastafarians who need a push start after the furniture is unloaded)! This is important when you have no vehicle and your carpenter lives across town. And while he is often very late in delivering – stuff that will be “finished and delivered on Wednesday ” is delivered with wet paint on Sunday and is ready to be used by Tuesday, Mr. C is always willing to go the extra mile – Lucas' bed needed to be chopped down by a good 6” to get into his room. Our handy carpenter broke out his saw and went to work, reassembling the bed back together in about an hour (and since he shortened that bed, he had to shorten the trundle bed that goes beneath it). He did all this without complaining or fussing, even though our narrow doorways and hall was clearly not his fault. SO if you need a carpenter in Zambia – I know a good one – he might not be the best carpenter in town, but he's reasonable, personable, and he delivers.