Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Million Places: Farwell Zambia







A Million Places

One never really says goodbye to Africa; it simply lives on in your heart. Somehow it captures the very best and worst of the human condition; its immensity and complexity is enough to keep one fascinated for a lifetime. Flying home we passed over the great rivers of its central heart, the dense tropical forests, the geometrics of its sand dunes, the length of its coasts, and knew that there is no other place quite like it. It stretches the human imagination and then pulls at it again in the quiet moments of memory.

In September 2005 National Geographic did a special issue on Africa; it contained a section on Zambia and is a helpful resource for those interested (www.ngm.com). These quotes struck me:

“Africa isn’t really a place; it’s a million places. Its history is as deep as Precambrian bedrock, its landscapes more diverse than those of any other continent on the planet.”

“If you stand on an anthill almost anywhere in rural Zambia, it feels as if the trees and grass and land must go on forever, at least as far as it would be possible to walk in a day or two.”

“Given what’s at stake, African particulars deserve special attention from the rest of the world. Africa’s glories and successes deserve special attention too. Despite all travails, African peoples produce magnificent art, graceful cultures, terrific music, great works of the mind, and astonishing acts of political and moral courage.”

A Mighty Vision


Vision

It was vision that brought us to Zambia--not ours, but another’s. After hearing John Enright speak years ago we had determined that someday we would visit the work that he and his wife, Kendra, are doing in Africa. At the time we knew that we had met people of remarkable and sustaining vision. Articulate and extremely capable, their persons and work had a quality that intrigued us enough to bring us to Africa to learn more. And we have not been disappointed.

John and Kendra believe in a God that fully involves himself with the needs of human life—and here in Central Africa those needs are gargantuan. Although typical missionaries have often preached a message for the afterlife—going to heaven when one dies—it is not common to preach a gospel that provides real help for the current life. It has been a great disservice here in Africa and people have suffered for it.

The beauty of Kafakumba has been its weaving of the spiritual and the socially responsible. Here real effort has been made to stop the cycle of begging that has become Africa’s mantra. Firmly committed to their core values based on the teachings of Jesus (what they call the Kingdom Principles of community, servanthood, focusing on the least, love, trusteeship, nonviolence, and unity), John and Kendra believe that new models based on these principles are Zambia’s—and all of Africa’s--best hope.

I have written elsewhere about Kafakumba and its attendant ministries, including significant work in Christian education, training, church and ministerial development, as well as growing ministries for women and children, healthcare, and more. I have also written about the philosophy that partners economic development with this work. For Kafakumba it is simple: the vision is that the work will be sustained by money raised in Africa and dedicated to Africans. The dignity of such a plan is compelling.

Here is one example of the Enright’s remarkable vision. When a piece of land became available for purchase near the Training Center, they bought it so that they could expand their agricultural projects in fish, cattle, chickens and bananas (these projects provide ongoing funds to sustain ministries). However, as is common in Zambia, the land was inhabited by 125 families of squatters. Rather than chase them out, John and Kendra instead deeded over 4-5 acres to each family, reducing their total property by almost a third. This gift of land is unheard of generosity—yet perfectly in keeping with the principles of love and service to the very least. It is hoped that many of these families will become partners or employed in fishing, beekeeping or any of the other projects, as a way to make a living. This compassionate approach is just the sort of community development that Kafakumba strives for. Is it easy? No. This is very hard work and it has a magnificent messiness about it-- as does all real community work.

No, we have not been at all disappointed by our eight weeks in Zambia. Perhaps you could even say we have been more fully alive, more aware, and more inspired than we had thought possible. We leave grateful for so many things:

- The generosity of time given to us by John and Kendra Enright
- The friendship of so many people, especially recognizing that these include black and white and a multiplicity of nationalities
- The long stretches of time in which we could read, write, think and talk
- The opportunities to make small differences for others by the work of our hands and hearts
- The challenge to live our lives more authentically Christian
- The chance to see a beautiful country and participate in another culture

We also leave knowing that there is much unfinished business at Kafakumba. Indeed, one could say that the future is just now starting. It is a grand vision that drives this work in the heart of Africa; it is a vision of which the wise King Solomon spoke: “Without vision the people perish.” Long live Africa.

Dark Realities


Dark Realities

I would not have believed it if I hadn’t seen it: the raised hands, that is. I was listening to John Enright speak to a group of Zambians and Canadians about sustainable missions. The group included three Zambians who run an orphan project, each of them leaders and graduates of esteemed mission schools, and three Canadians from the sponsoring Board of Trustees of the project. Each was listening and observing carefully as we walked through the story of Kafakumba amidst its fish ponds and chicken farm. Suddenly John turned to the group and said, “You think you know and understand each other, but you really don’t have any idea.” Puzzled looks asked for more, so he asked this question: “How many of you believe that witches cause lightning?” To my utter amazement, the three Zambians raised their hands; the Canadians and I declared our disbelief in the statement. Yes, we were assured by the lovely young Zambian woman in charge of the orphanage, that is what Africans believe causes lightning--and no amount of education or dissuasion can shake the belief.

There is a worldview in Zambia and greater Africa so totally foreign to Americans as to defy description. Just writing about it begs the accusation of sensationalism. However, it is part of my learning and experience there, verified by Zambian and Congolese natives, and part of the greater conversation about Africa. It helps me to understand how a continent so incredibly diverse and rich in natural and human resources, remains barely surviving at the edges of the global community.

The rational Western mind can barely comprehend the African fixation on the occult, witchcraft, sorcery, fetishes, and curses that form reality for its people. The Copperbelt Museum in Ndola includes a section on witchcraft that tempts a person to laugh at its absurdity, yet cry at the profound impact of such beliefs. The fetishes on display were believed to provide power to do all sorts of unbelievable feats, or to protect oneself from another’s perversions.

This worldview (at least what I have learned so far) includes the belief that life includes the physical world which we experience now and the spiritual world which is just as much a part of current existence as daily life. Birth and death are seen as simple transitions between these worlds and continue to cycle in an endless circle of incarnation/reincarnation. Natural occurrences are thus seen as both a current physical reality and a spiritual reality full of meaning and messages from that other world. In this worldview, then, people with the supernatural power to cross between these worlds (witches), can indeed strike lightning—and can be called upon to cause that lightning to strike a person or cause damage to someone who has been cursed.

This view also leaves people at the mercy of the curses of others and the continual search for fetishes to provide them with protection or supernatural power of their own. When bad things happen, the African mind does not dismiss them as a natural occurrences or the result of poor decisionmaking or actions; instead they are seen as punishments, curses that have been placed by enemies, or mysterious activities of the underworld. When illness and death is viewed this way, it becomes very difficult to treat the horrific illnesses of the continent with western medicine or prevention. (This is simply one complicating factor in the prevention and treatment of AIDS which is devastating sub-Saharan Africa.)

Fetishes and curses are simply reality for many in southern Africa. Does your boss take gross advantage of you or are you treated wrongly at work? Instead of seeking a consensual solution to worksite ills, you will instead seek out a sorcerer to place a curse on the offending person. One would never voice a negative thought about another for fear of their reprisal against you. The Zambian workplace, then, becomes a hotbed of hostile undercurrents that prevent success.

What about families? The child who resembles a dead relative becomes the reincarnation of that very person—back to wreak havoc on those who wronged them. Or returning to bear the curses of others in an almost caste-like system of retribution. It is not strangers that families fear. It is instead, their own friends and families who present the greatest threats. When a man dies, for example, his extended family descends on his home, stripping it of what is considered theirs—and leaving widows and orphans destitute. In the matriarchal culture of Zambia, children belong only to their mother and her brothers—the only family lineage provable (that is without DNA). This makes little sense to Americans, but it plunges many women and children into destitute poverty every day in Africa.

A pervasive jealousy colors life in Zambia. A worldview that is very fatalistic can hardly imagine a view that fosters imagination and optimism. The Zambian view that the world is finite—or that the pie is only so big—creates a twisted view of success. That means that the more pie my neighbor gets means that there is less for me; my neighbors success must be prevented or stopped by all means so that my own chances for success increase. We saw this demonstrated by the electrician who refused to train his workers, fearing that their success would limit his. Instead he gave them only enough information day by day for them to continually rely on him for their livelihood and for him to retain all the power of his knowledge. We saw it in the destruction of the homes and businesses of others, in the stealing of produce, in the continual sabotage of employers and families. The fear created by this jealousy is toxic in Zambian culture.

Fetishes also fester another unspeakable activity: cannibalism. Because Ndola sits on the border with Congo, knowledge of this practice is not uncommon. Stories of the cannibalization of Pygmies in Congo is well-known; however, the cannibalization of people for the power they may provide is also known in the region. Does one covet youthful strength and courage? Eating a young person’s flesh may provide that power in a supernatural way. The continual war in Congo, the greatest human disaster since World War II with its loss of millions of lives, provides many examples of atrocities barely imaginable in the Western mind but part of the reality of central Africa.

We should not turn away from Africa because we don’t understand or don’t care. Indeed, it is as if life and death are exaggerated in this immense place. To talk about this destructive worldview is to understand it better; it is also a challenge of my own worldview and the dark corners of its reach. When I read about the growth of the church in Africa I wonder how that Christianity is similar and/or different from my own understanding of faith. Our experiences at Kafakumba inspire us to believe that true faith transforms the destructive power of worldviews and builds on their strengths. We are optimistic that radical transformation is possible and that there is hope for the children of Africa.
Photo above is of a Makishi costume which is worn at the time of a girl's initiation into adulthood; the night of the Makishi it is believed that the spirits of ancestors return to communicate with people of the village.

(In)Glorious Excess







(In)Glorious Excess

One word comes readily to mind when I remember our time in Zambia: excess. There is just so much of everything here it seems. The natural world is not unlike other parts of Africa where we have been; its dirt is filled with diamonds and other gems; here in the Copperbelt its copper and amathysts that lie right at hand. The array of plant life is stunning with its many exotic and flowering trees, shrubs, flowers, and tall thickened grasses. You can simply stick a stem into the dirt and soon a plant emerges. Snakes of all sorts live here, as do a dizzying array of flying, crawling, burrowing, slithering, and dancing life-forms. We have watched the geckos chase each other playfully across our walls, ignoring the humans in their habitat. We have seen the flying termites erupt from the ground on long, gossamer wings that look like flower petals—a fitting garment for their final hours. The space around us is filled with nature gone crazy in its exuberance for life.

But there is another excess here too. The pure pleasure of the surrounding beauty is matched only by the sharp pang of the pain and suffering also evident here. It is probably no accident that the termites are most beautiful just before their final acts of love and death. Or that every snake can be considered poisonous. Or that the same dirt that nurtures lovely flowers also harbors destructive weeds or harmful parasites. Or that the precious minerals that bring jobs also bring greed and violence. Or that the abundance of water breeds malaria-carrying mosquitoes. The beauty and abundance of nature is both wonderful and terrible.

It is also true of humanity. The beauty of the human spirit, its capacity for music, love, art, dance, joy are matched equally with its capacity for darkness. Zambian music is wonderful; Zambian witchcraft is terrible. Under the fa├žade of poverty is a very harmful world view that keeps its adherents enslaved to sorcery, occultism, and fear. The village of Baluba (of which I wrote earlier) lies in a beautiful valley with a river running through it. Its people enjoy sunny days, clean air and blue skies, space in which to grow a garden, and Kafakumba right next door. Many of its people huddle instead into tiny, airless, windowless houses, fearful of their very families and friends. In a world of incredible natural beauty, they experience instead the fear of witchcraft and its attendant terrors.

Yes, excess is a fitting word by which to remember our time in Zambia. So much beauty; so much pain. So much potential; so many problems. So much richness; so much poverty. Such fertility; such barrenness. Rainy season and dry season—the only two seasons that exist here. My prayer is that the exuberant excess of God’s love and mercy will simply fill this land.

The Smoke That Thunders







Victoria Falls

They are called “Mosi oa tunya” or “The Smoke That Thunders” by locals, “Victoria Falls” since explorer David Livingstone named them after his queen. Whatever you call them, they are magnificent! One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls is truly an astonishing place where the mighty Zambezi River plunges down 93 meters across a wide expanse of rock into a winding chasm. The spray that is thrown up towers above the falls like smoke from a huge fire; this year the spray towered up as a huge cloud. Near the Falls, the spray falls back to earth as a torrential rain, soaking people, ground, and plants and running off in continual smaller water falls. It takes three months for water from the head of the Zambezi to make its way to the Falls, so this year’s record-breaking rainfalls will continue to thunder until at least May.

We left Kafakaumba to spend a couple days unwinding at Livingstone before returning to the States. Our friends, Ken and Deb Vance, longtime missionaries in Congo and Zambia, came with us to enjoy their favorite spot and spend a little time together. They were expert guides in the Falls area and took care of so many details like getting our tents (yes, we tented there, but they were on permanent concrete platforms and had regular beds), arranging a sunset cruise on the Zambezi, making an early morning game drive in the Park, and driving the bone-jarring road to Livingstone. Their sharp eyes helped us see giraffes, zebras, wart-hogs, elands, gazelles, birds, baboons, and more on our game drive.

Here we were also able to do that important task for all grandparents: finding little gifts to bring home for the grandchildren. We spent part of a hot afternoon haggling with the many artisans of the ramshackle curio village near the Falls. I was managing to come off as a “local” and getting “local prices’ in my anonymity until shopkeepers began to address me by name, state of origin, and goal of buying gifts for grandchildren. Yes, my cover was blown by my chatty husband who had gone ahead of me and talked to everybody on his way to securing his own souvenir: a beautiful ebony walking stick.

Our couple days at Victoria Falls was a wonderful time to unwind and reflect a bit on our time in Zambia. We met people from around the world there, several young people out traveling for extended periods of months to a year. There is a fellowship among those filled with wanderlust and a realization that we share so much in common. It’s not that the world is so small, but that it is big enough for all of us and that this family we call human is really one after all.
Pictures above from top to bottom: At The Falls, zebra in the wild, the spray from Victoria Falls rises like smoke into the sky.

These People We Have Loved











These People We Have Loved

It will be hard to leave these people we have come to love. Alan has spent his days at the “chair factory” with a group of men who have affectionately called him “The Commander” since he came 8 weeks ago. His role there has been primarily advisory since he is a skilled woodworker, and leadership and workers are already in place there. However, his technical and people skills have come together here in a way that endeared him to the Zambian workers—and moved the chair factory to a whole new level of efficiency and productivity. His designs for new lines of custom furniture, prototypes for production, systems and procedural changes and friendship with the men will leave a long-term impact on this work. The little factory will soon spin off into an exporting custom furniture business using the exotic local woods—at the same time providing work for a group of men and profits to be shared with a local orphan feeding program. This is heart work at its best and Alan will genuinely miss these guys. (Incidentally, this same group always called me “The Queen,” endearing but totally absurd. It’s part of why we grew to love them.)

I, too, will leave a circle of friends that includes black and white Africans associated with Kafakumba. This is a broad range of people that first includes our Methodist family of John and Kendra Enright, Nathan and Brian, Ken and Debby Vance, Dru Smith, as well as Ian & Emily, JJ and Karin, Stefan and Caroline and all the children who called me “auntie Gina” in their charming British accents. It also includes Patricia (cares for facilities/cooking at Kafakumba), Mama Ilunga (directs women’s programming), the Kilembo family (Terese works with women and Robert with Kafakumba), Josephine (who kept us in fresh bread for the duration), and a host of black Zambians who called us “Mama Gina” and “Papa Alan” as is their custom for those of a certain age. I leave the wive’s clubs—both the expat wives and the worker’s wives--whose groups provided friendship and admiring audiences for my pictures of grandchildren. The women in the kitchen taught me how to prepare pumpkin leaves, the worker’s wives taught me Bemba even as we learned English, Dru showed me what loving the unlovely looks like, others taught, shared, demonstrated, and loved me as I dedicated myself to an eight-week exchange of ideas and culture.

Yes, we leave Zambia different from who we were when we arrived. We return to our home, family, and friends with cherished memories of another home and other family and friends. Already we are making plans for when we can return.
In the pictures above you see (top to bottom): Mama Ilunga (directs women's programming) and Mama Gina, Josephine (L) and Patricia (R) outside kitchen, the Lendrum family (Ian, Emily, Beatrice and Oliver), and "The Commander," Alan with workers. These are only some of the wonderful people at Kafakumba (check other posts for some of the others).

But You Don't Speak English


But you don’t speak English

I wrote earlier about visiting government schools in this region and seeing their total inadequacy in schooling local children. That teachers don’t turn up to teach and students don’t turn up to learn is a sobering reminder of why Africa remains left behind. One day my friend Emily and I took a tour of Zambian private schools, where anybody who has any money at all tries to place their children. Even then, the Zambian private schools were still quite inadequate—although much better than the public schools. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems a can of paint would go a long ways in brightening up these classrooms. The final school we visited was Simba, the International School in Ndola where ex-pats and white or Indian Zambians send their children. Here the walls were very colorful, the teachers well trained, and students focused on their British-based curriculum and bright futures.

One incident stands out in our visit of the Zambian private schools. I stepped into a courtyard to speak with students of mid to upper elementary age students. They were a bright and cheerful bunch in their snappy green uniforms and were eager to talk to a visitor. After talking for a little while I asked the group if they could guess where I was from. The UK was first on the list followed by South Africa, Australia, and Zimbabwe—followed by a repeat of the list a couple more times. I asked them to think of another large English speaking country, but the group remained completely stumped. Not one student guessed the United States or, even, America. We are simply not on their radar screen….humbling. I told them to ask their teacher to look up the United States on a map…later to learn there wasn’t one map in the entire school.

Later I shared this story and my dismay that not one student thought of the United States as an English speaking country. My South African friend laughed… “but you don’t speak English,” she said. Hmmmm.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Heart For Learning


A Heart for Learning

I have so enjoyed my afternoons with the women’s group here at Kafakumba. We are a new, small group of five or six who meet three afternoons a week under the leadership of Terese Kilembo. Three of the women are young—the oldest being 29—one in her thirties, and two of us in our fifties. A nice range of ages. An amiable group. The three young women carry babies on their backs to each session: Elizabeth has Rose, Precious has Maxwell, and Pricilla has Grace. Each of the babies seems to be about 3-4 months old, still constantly carried or nursed as is the custom here.

One afternoon is dedicated to learning English, or reviewing it since English is taught in schools but not its proficiency. The women share a lesson, then carefully write down the sentences and instructions in their worn little notebooks for study at home. They also have taught me many Bemba words, laughed at my pronunciation, and appreciated my attempt at learning a song in their language. They are much better at the language lessons than me.

Other days are dedicated to learning handcrafts. First there was sewing, beginning with making a handkerchief to practice basting and hemming stitches. Quickly they moved on to sewing fabric dolls and dresses. Their backstitches were so even and small one could almost imagine they were machine sewn. Now the lessons center on crocheting and they are quickly mastering the slip, chain, and triple stitches of what we used to call “granny squares.” Each will make a multi-colored baby blanket for their little one, sharing the quiet afternoons in the company of women and the common concerns for family.
I am simply amazed at the dexterity of these women’s hands and the quickness of their minds. They do really good work. One instructor made this comment: “They have a heart for learning.” Indeed. Their creativity, simple humanity, and friendship will remain my treasured memories.

Urban churches




Urban churches

I have written about visiting the little rural church of Fisenge. About its village setting, the sound of worship under rain pelting a tin roof, the appeal of native worship in Bemba music, the illumined life of Bible stories understood in a rural setting.

We have also visited urban churches. In fact, John and Kendra Enright started several churches in the urban sprawl of Ndola, a city of over a million people. Five of those thirteen churches meet in former bars, curious places indeed for worship, especially in Zambia where tradition places all churches on the same street. But it remains a really good picture, don’t you think, of the transformed life?

The largest of the churches in size is called the City Center Church. It has a large gathering room with a foyer on the side—with “the bar” still in it. A perfect place to practice hospitality it seems. Another large room remains in much disrepair, but carries the vision of a place where young people can gather off the streets. An attractive location right on the main highway, with a store attached to help support its ministries, committed leadership and a city in need—all are pieces of what can be exciting ministry in Ndola.

We also visited two other churches that were former bars. Both (as is true of most of the Methodist churches here) serve the really desperate people living in sprawling townships (in the city) or compounds (outside the city). These are truly marginalized people, often migrating toward the city in the hope of jobs, but ending up instead in the crowded squalor of township life. These are the falvellas of Brazil, the slums of India, the townships of Africa; they are the picture of life at the surviving edge of the Majority World (or, as we like to call it, the Developing World). Here in the very center of this dangerous pulse are churches occupying the former center of town life, the tavern. It is poetic justice.

Pmodzi Church is one such place. Its potential is yet being realized, but the large mural of the “Tree of Life” gracing its walls is a hopeful symbol of the life it brings. Unfortunately, the pastor seems beaten down right now—and who can blame him? He is almost as hungry and desperate as his neighbors, his congregation without funds to support him and jobs illusive at best in the township.

Ndeke Church (ndeke means bird; this church is near the airport) is a lively congregation in the very center of the noise, dirt, and crush of humanity of Ndeke’s market. It is literally surrounded by market stalls (some even attached to the church) and noisy bars. Its young pastor, John Pintu, and his wife, Rhoidah, live in three small rooms in the building along with their toddler son, Gift, and new baby. I was truly moved in this place—with tears of admiration for the courage and love of this pastor and tears of pity for the plight of his poverty. He shared his story of the call that caused him to leave a job in Congo and journey to Zambia for school and a pastorate. That inner call obviously sustains him in the difficult work of urban ministry and the oversight of his congregation of over 200 bursting out at the seams of their little building. I think John Pintu’s ministry here will fly, much like the “ndeke” for which the community is named.

These and hundreds of other churches in simple settings are also the story of Kafakumba. It is important to know that its reach is beyond the walls of the Training Center, Pastor’s School, its varied businesses that support ministry, its United Methodist connection, or the many people involved in the work here. Its reach is into the very heart of African communities with what looks like, sounds like, feels like, tastes like--Good News.

Monday, March 3, 2008

It Was Jesus

It Was Jesus

I was spending a few days with my new friend, Dru Smith, in the Copperbelt city of Kitwe. As was her custom, we would greet the children walking to school in the morning with a cheery hello, a hug, and a procession like a Pied Piper to class. Starved for affection, the children clamored to hold our hands or arms or clothing as we walked up the street. I couldn’t understand why some children simply pushed their little bodies wordlessly against me. “They don’t know how to hug yet,” Dru smiled. I knew it wouldn’t be too long until they could respond to a loving human touch, but it broke my heart anyway.

One day at school a tattered little boy cut some fingers badly and needed to be bandaged. Dru brought him to her house and set about bandaging him with bandaids and extra pieces of tape. He loved the attention so much he continued to find old healed cuts on arms and feet for her to bandage or to simply cover with tape. He was a typical student in this school for vulnerable or orphaned children—tattered, dirty, smelly, and starving for love and attention. At one point Dru left the room and the little boy sat down on the sofa next to me. All of a sudden he lunged his head--hard--into my chest, wanting to be held. I recoiled back. Even now the moment haunts me: Was it the little boy with ringworm and a bad smell I shrank from ? No, it was Jesus. I could have held Christ himself at that moment if I had reached out for one of the “least of these.”

P.S. The next day Dru went to check on this little boy’s cuts. His tape and bandaids were nowhere to be seen. They were, instead, all over his classmates! She rebandaged his finger. I wonder: did he give them all away again for the simple smiles they brought to others?

Remarkable Dru




Remarkable Dru

She doesn’t look like Mother Teresa at all. She’s taller; graying reddish hair tops a middle-aged face with eyes that light up with her smile. Her mid-west twang betrays her Peoria roots. I had to ask: “What’s a white woman doing alone in Africa, living in a simple house in a dangerous city, and working with street children?”

Dru Smith is a formidable woman behind her loving and gentle demeanor. I am told she could walk in the dangerous Kitwe streets in the dark of night and no one would dare touch her. The street boys she cared for in years past are now mostly grown, many remaining homeless young men, but fiercely loyal to the woman who cared for them in earlier years. Eight very special street boys continue in school and have homes because of her continued care. The programs she started have expanded and continue under the able hands of others as Dru has turned her attention to other areas of need.

It was my privilege to spend three days with Dru. During that time I glimpsed perhaps the most genuinely loving spirit I’ve ever known. I watched her hug the unhuggable, hold the unholdable, and love a group of outcast children into humanity. One day at the school where she works we saw a little girl squatting in the long grass outside a building. The little girl was retching up an empty stomach, fevered by malaria, smelly and tattered and wary about the eyes. Dru simply gathered her up and placed her in her car for the trip to her home in Zambia Compound, a wretched slum if there ever was one. Our car crept along the rutted dirt road, people pressing against it and a drunk banging on it much of the way. Dru was unfazed and got us in and out of the dangerous compound—just another part of the job for her.

Dru’s are no “random acts of kindness” such as we pride ourselves in doing. Hers is a purposeful life of continued love and generosity over a long period of time. I cannot leave Zambia without paying tribute to her. Now that I think about it, if it weren’t for the height and lack of wrinkles, she does look like Mother Teresa.
P.S. In photos above you see Dru with a former street boy, albino Dowdi (Arabic for David), who now lives and thrives at a School for the Blind sponsored by the Lions Club. His red tie indicates that he is the "head student" or an equivelent of school/class president. Children greet Dru each morning like the Pied Piper as they walk the lane to school.

Going to the Market




Going to the market

Going to the market is a regular occurrence here. Without refrigeration, people buy their vegetables often and so there are many places one can shop along the way. Busy highways always have markets. They consist of a row of women sitting on the ground alongside the road with their wares on a cloth in front of them. It looks like terribly boring work, just sitting there; maybe that is why they all rush up to the car windows when we pull up. I don’t quite know who I’m actually buying from. I’ll say something like “one kg tomatoes” and hand some kwatcha out the window. Somehow it gets into somebody’s hands who then fetch some tomatoes and, finally, my change. There is a gift to sitting alongside a road day after day, month after month, hoping someone will choose your tomatoes over your neighbors’.

Another type of market crowds into rickety wooden stalls, generally under some type of cover. These kinds of markets sell all sorts of things…much more than vegetables even. Alan has gone hunting hardware sorts of things in this jumble. I went to one that sold curios/souvenirs, but it was a hot day under the black tarps and I just wasn’t up to the extended bargaining and close quarters that the situation called for. I did, however, enjoy the indoor vegetable market with my friend, Emily. The produce looked fresh and fine. We went to the fish section where she likes to buy kapente—a tiny dried fish—for her domestic help. The kapente are about two inches long and the size of your little finger. They are soaked and rehydrated before being cooked. There were many selections of dried fish, a good idea when one doesn’t have refrigeration. The moapani worms were looking quite fine that day too; I am told that they also have to be rehydrated and then cooked. I tried to eat some once but just couldn’t put them in my mouth. Alan says they’re chewy like octopus; I’m happy to let him have the privilege of having eaten them.

Finally, there are these tiny little kiosks along the road at odd places. One I saw had the sign “Cheap Shopping Stand.” It’s not a creative name, but all the words were spelled right and it was pretty clear what it meant. None of these stands carry much, perhaps a few single-serving bags of maize, or perhaps a bit of oil. Mostly it looks like people just like to hang out and visit. Sometimes I think that’s why people go shopping back in the States too—just to hang out and visit while they’re thumping the watermelon or perusing the Mall.

Language Lessons


Language Lessons

Most places I go I try to learn a Bemba word or two in relation to what is happening. The people we meet are patient teachers; they take some gleeful pleasure, however, in our mangling of the sounds and struggle with the words. The men don’t let on so, but the women downright giggle. They have sounds that we never say—and I have yet to get the very soft “b” that is barely there. One makes the sound by barely closing one’s lips and blowing air through them. My pronunciation of a hard b will send grown women into paroxysm of laughter; I really try on this one.

The first words I learned came from the kitchen, since that is where I was spending a bit of time each morning. I learned to strip the strings off of pumpkin stalks and leaves (somewhat like the strings of a celery stalk) while learning to say “chibwabwa.” It almost sounds like the name of a miniature dog, except it has that tricky, windy “b” in it. Another hard sound to get is an “n” before another letter, especially a consonant. The staple of the Zambian diet is a stiff corn porridge called “nsheema;” one has to listen very hard to hear that n in front of sheema, but it is definitely there. It’s also there in front of nkonde—banana. However, I really like the sound of strong words like nkoko (chicken) or katapa (cassava leaves). Avocados are called kotapela, which sounds remarkably like “caterpillar,” another gastronomic delicacy here.

There are some very good nouns here. I am told that our last name, Riendeau, sounds just like the Bemba word for love—luyando (love that sound). I am a grandmother—mbuya—and Alan a grandfather—shikulu. We have grandchildren—abeshikulus. Our house is called an Ng’anda (pronounced inganda) and we live in the icitente (community) of Logansport. We serve Lesa (God) who is Bayawe (Lord) of our lives.

Perhaps more helpful, we can at least greet people with the typical greeting of ‘Mulishani?”--How are you? The response is always “Bwino,” which means fine and is used just like we use it—whether we are fine or not. Bwino sounds like bweeno with that breathy b again. However, you can tell someone you’re sick by saying “ndelwala.” Thank you is “natotela” to which you will reply Eya mukwayi.

Okay, enough is enough. I have two last favorites that I may take back to the States with me. One is to call out “Odi” instead of knocking on someone’s door (either the door will already be open or there won’t be a door, which makes a greeting much more effective). The other is Uli kapuba—“you’re silly.” I’m sure there will be lots of times to use that.