Tuesday, March 18, 2008

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).

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