My Best Weeklong Vignette, aka: Zambia-late night recollections
I had an epiphany late one night this week [now a month ago or more], or was it early in the morning-it’s all the same really, right?
I realized how to talk about Zambia, the trip I never really documented.
And yet now, with a few days [months] passing I am worried I will never get it right, get it all, get it out.
I never wanted to be one of those bloggers who were so self-conscious about their own writing, but maybe I have passed onto that bridge. I would like to be a great non-fiction writer, writing my own stories-getting them out in that perfect way. But yet I rarely pick up the pen. I just get that flash – you know the one Emily of New Moon experiences, but hers leads to productivity, mine just leads to…blogging sporadically.
So Zambia. Imagine this…a candlelit dinner with a dear old friend, even though you’ve only known and been around them nine total non-consecutive days in the past three months since you met them. This friend is your mother’s age, maybe older and a mother in her own way to you. You’re sitting down to a savory dinner of fish and greens. You can use your fingers to pick through the bones, she doesn’t mind, in fact she doesn’t even notice. The entire meal was cooked by her maid and reheated in the microwave just in time before the power went out as it often does.
To make up for the loss of electricity and your friend’s favorite Filipino soap opera, showing yes, here in Zambia and to soak in the lovely pre-summer weather, you are holding that candlelit dinner outside.
Even though you’re afraid of the mosquitoes, due to a terrible beach trip long ago and far away, there don’t seem to be any. The only animal in sight is your friend’s old white pup – dear Roxie, a family friend in herself, she’s even allowed to sit in her own white plastic lawn chair and eat scraps from her master’s hand.
Of course there’s a swimming pool shared with another humanitarian aid worker neighbor. I know, you don’t always expect such luxury when you think of the “Dark Continent” but it’s not all poverty and famine and AIDS. There is as much loveliness as sorrow, more even. The Lord still reigns, evil hasn’t won.
So you have the image…four to five days of this interspersed with more power outages and a few soap operas. Then there was the work, wonderful work, that will help such a large number of people if all is approved in the end.
And then a weekend, how adorable, especially with choices. Victoria Falls or an old school friend. I chose the friend but it worked out nicely that Zambia forced me into a three year Visa so I’m sure I’ll get back to Vic Falls soon.
Now it was off to the bus for a six hour bus ride, the only white person on board. African sweat has never been an issue, there seems to be less acidity in the rank of it than other cultures. Funny I know, but these are the things you notice on after a six hour bus ride and five months on the continent.
The land is beautiful, not quite Kenya or South Africa, but in many ways it is the Africa you dream about and see in the films. The bus ride is fine and they are all kind. I borrow the cell phone of the woman next to me to tell my friend how soon I’ll arrive.
And then it turns into the market place I’ve been hoping for-basically nothing like an American farmer’s market or a South African tourists flea market. There are the dried caterpillars, the SKIRTS, sunglasses, underwear, oranges. There are the puddles that probably haven’t dried for three months, the icy Coca Cola bottles, the restrooms you pay to squat over as there is literally not one square centimeter clean. (Isn’t it funny how so many Americans refuse to use a toilet seat with a spot of liquid on it- urine or water and refuse to wipe it off.) Squatty Potty all the way.
It becomes a beautiful weekend. Sharing the conversations I have been craving my entire time in Africa. The American-in-Africa-who-is-trying-so-hard conversations. The American who loves Africa for all its puddles and caterpillars and squatty potties. The American who wants someone to just get the wide river you seem to constantly be balancing over/fording/drowning in.
There are puppies and ant hills and private beaches and retiring missionaries. There is home schooling and tortillas and my first truly used bed net. There is the art of learning how to take a bucket shower and how to spot an acacia tree and how to greet old men on bikes on the dirt roads we traverse.
And then another six hours home, another free phone call to another free ride. Another meeting, another night, another market-more modern, more touristy, more pricy-the first ones to refuse what I offer in kwasha. A last minute gathering of old friends across thousands of miles and omelettes. A hamburger, what was I thinking! and then a flight back to Joburg…almost as if it had never happened.
[photos and undoubtedly more recollections coming…as well as a very exciting update, especially when compared to the last post]