January 31, 2007
Coming to the country of my father’s resting place could never have prepared me for the apparent grasp-ability of a first visit to his grave.
Here I am, just over one week into my sojourn as a teacher, not connected in the slightest with my childhood roots, and yet I have happened upon quite a close connection.
Finding out my Zambia history, the owner here at the lodge said he thought one of the guides was from that area, and that it may not be very far from here. Sure enough, the next night this guide asked to see me.
His name is Meekson, and he is indeed from my home village. He also returns there every weekend during the dry season, when the trip takes only a day. This man was working for the school where my father taught, and he also went to the church to hear my father preach. The day my parents’ car accident was found, Meekson was involved in handling the crushed vehicle. He described the white car, gesturing to indicate the V-shape that I could picture perfectly from the pictures I saw. He was able to describe Daddy’s grave, and to reassure me of what I’ve always wondered: there is a woman there who has faithfully tended his grave for all these years.
Meekson had me write a letter to the one woman I remembered by name—the other widow of that accident’s fatalities. He knows her as a teacher there, and will see her this next weekend when he goes. She will certainly send a letter back this coming week, he assured me.
My own visit will likely have to wait several months yet, until the rains abate and the roads allow for a manageable length of a trip. But that is alright with me; the knowledge that it is feasible is enough for now.
January 29, 2007
January 28, 2007
This first full weekend has been spent surrendered to the skilled hands of women in the neighboring village. A new friend, named Blessed, has been hosting me in her hut while the women plait [braid] my hair. I have no idea what their plan is with my hair, but they clearly do; they are chattering contentedly and occasionally interjecting an English praise of how “Beautiful!” it will be. I have no doubt it will, judging from their own lovely plaits and striking beauty. I have been gazing at them in wonder, amazed by their multitasking hands and mesmerized by their stunning features.
What is also amazing to me is how quick they have all been to shower me with hospitality, freely sharing the precious little that they have. It is humbling to have only small trinkets to give them in return.
This weekend has included my first nshima meal for this time in Zambia; it brought back comforting memories of childhood meals, and tasted just as I remembered it. The experience held also an oddly spiritual dimension. Blessed’s instructions of “Wash,” “Take,” “Let us pray,” and “Let us eat” felt much like a communion supper. We ate quietly, taking bits of nshima from the shared bowl and eating each bite with a piece of chicken. It was good—very good.
And when we were “satisfied,” more women filtered back in to join in with the plaiting. In the process, babies were nursed, crying children tended to, and hungry toddlers fed bananas. “Muli basanji?” a passerby asks. “Tili bwino,” we reply. How are you? We are fine.
It is a sweet privilege to be welcomed into this community . . . fine. Yes, we are fine.
January 27, 2007
It is a frightening thing to be in charge of the mental formation of three young minds. It is a terrifying thing to be entrusted with their spiritual education!
How ever-so-humbling it was to sit by Eva, preoccupied by a simple social studies lesson, when this thoughtful nine-year-old suddenly thrust at me the most difficult of spiritual dilemmas: “But how can we know that Christianity is true? If there are so many religions, how do we know ours is right?”
As we were in the midst of a lesson on the main religions of Zambia, it was a logical line of reasoning in one sense. But I was nonetheless floored, having never before explained my coming-to-terms about this issue to such a young and impressionable mind. In that moment, watching this furrowed brow and intensely thoughtful young face, I was as certain as I could be that this was a moment of great significance, now and for eternity. I was awed by its realness and honored to be allowed to participate in it.
Somehow, in the midst of my own uncertainty, I was able to put words to an explanation that seemed to satisfy her reasonably well. Eva nodded and, with a thoughtful “Hmm . . . ok,” returned to her lesson. And I spent the rest of the day somewhat dumbstruck with reverent wonder.
May I live in such a way as to be open to moments such as these, and may I never lose the humility that allows me to see how unworthy I am to receive them!
January 23, 2007
I am watching the monkeys frolick outside my bedroom window as I ponder the first week of my time here in Zambia. It is a difficult thing to make any sort of coherence out of the scrambled flurry of thoughts, reactions, experiences, and wonderings that are jostling about in my head, but I shall make a valiant effort, I promise . . .
Perhaps it will help if I list [lists help me think :-)] some of the difficulties and some of the joys of my time thus far, beginning with difficulties, as that shall be a decidedly shorter shortlist, I suspect:
-It is difficult to be disconnected, in that the internet access I expected to have does not exist. This may or may not be fixed while I am here, but for an indefinite period of time at least, the wireless network does not, er, network ;-), and so I am limited to the [extremely limited] times when I can borrow the wired computer in the lodge’s main office.
-It is difficult, in a similar vein, to be dependent upon others for all that I am used to being decidedly independent about: housing, schedules, laundry, meals, coffee [I unfortunately made the error, upon first arriving, of hooking up my water heater, via the electric adaptor I had brought with me; shorting out the electricity led to the embarrassing realization that I could not use such energy-using appliances!].
-But it is good, also, to have said level of dependence, in all its difficulty. I needed to let go of some of my self-sufficiency, to break out of all my comfort zones.
-It is good—more than good—to spend my days with my students. To have a day fly by, morning to night, in a flurry of lessons learned, questions asked, questions answered [hopefully correctly!], tests given, warthogs chased out of the schoolroom, etc, etc. [yes, I’m afraid the warthogs have decided I am their new favorite person, and so they make all-too-frequent visits to whatever happens to be my current location]
By the way, now the bushbuck is the current animal outside my window—he is my favorite “friend” so far :-)
-It is good to chuckle at the “Where are you running to?” question that I have been getting as I jog past those walking along the local paths.
-It is good to see memory-jogging sights, such as women pounding cassava, heads laden with loads of firewood, babies papoosed onto working mamas’ backs, men rhythmically whacking the grass with their scythes, etc, etc.
-It is good to walk along the path surrounded by a crowd of little ones fighting for a turn at hand-holding and shouting over each other to ask me the one question they know in English: “How are you?”
-It is good to be getting to know the individual learning styles of my students. I see that Eva needs to be allowed to go off on learning tangents once she hits the point of no-return-fidgetiness with Science lessons. I see that Ellen has her most productive period in the late afternoon, once sisterly distractions are lessening; she even likes staying late, apparently enjoying her work more in the quiet of a classroom that is empty except for me and the occasional critter. I see that Lara often needs to just begin a new project in order to realize that she really does enjoy it after all . . .
It is good–it is so very good–to be here.
January 21, 2007
Just in case the post below is my only one for a while, I wanted to send a quick FYI that I am so far unable to use my Macbook here, and must rely on borrowing the lodge office computer when they are kind enough to allow me to. It seems my snazzy new computer is not being convinced by my efforts to coax it to recognize the satellite wireless hook-up here . . . such is life, I suppose . . . but my efforts will continue :-)
January 21, 2007
January 21, 2007
I, who happen to have a horrid fear of warthogs, had this decidedly unwelcome visitor upon my second day in the chalet. My attempts to coax, shoo, prod, er . . . holler to remove him proved futile. Finally, a passerby came to the doorway and kindly used his weedwacker to assist the extraction. Not before I had lost a few possessions to the beast’s un-discriminating appetite. I suspect, however, that he may be on the shorter end of the stick: among his courses I realize are three quarters of a bottle of shampoo and the blade from my shaving razor . . .