Chaya Four One is an expression that evokes memories for anyone who worked in the underground mines of Zambia. It simply means, "Hit Four One" and comes from the bell codes used by the onsetters, the men that contolled where the mine hoist was directed to next. Four One was the code for the surface, so particularly on pay days and holidays, men from any particular level were anxious to get to the surface and by- pass all other stops. So the cry chaya four one, chaya four one was heard a lot
It is 1969 and James Martin, with a newly won degree in mining engineering, sets out to take up employment in Zambia, independent for just five years after British rule. He takes the boat from Southampton to Capetown then motors upcountry through South Africa and Rhodesia to Zambia. He befriends another engineer, Tom, who with his wife, Rita, is also traveling to the same mine.
Together James and Tom go through the training and early assignments given to new learner officials, as the junior bosses are so nicely labeled. James meets his future wife, Katrina, and through her is introduced into another part of the local society that is apart from the expatriate society he naturally is part of.
Throughout his first year on the mine, James learns that there is more to running an operation than his degree course ever taught him, particularly when it comes to people and their foibles, prejudices and outlook. He learns that much of what is held to be true about the different racial and ethnic groups he meets is untrue and that, in the final analysis, people are people - good and bad.
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