So I like to spend a lot of time on my blogs, and when I am unsatisfied with them, they never get published, which defeats the purpose of this whole endeavor. So from now on, I am going to post whatever drafts I have if I have not completed them after two weeks of starting. So here are three that I haven’t been able to commit to, flashes of what’s going on in my head.
Zambia Real Africa
Zambia has an informal slogan that is somewhat nonsensical. “Zambia Real Africa.” Everyone has a t-shirt that proclaims it. Over Easter weekend, Sherie and I went to Kafue National Park, about three hours east of Lusaka. We stayed at this great lodge called Mukambi, where Basel the Hippo walks up the verandah in the evenings and every evening meal is three courses. On a game drive we saw herds of zebra, four lions, several elephants, a spotted hyena eating a hippo carcass, and tons of impala and other deer like creatures. Afterward we took hot showers and roasted marshmallows to make smores. And for a few days, Zambia really did feel like the “Real Africa.” Gorgeous, serene, and teeming with life and promise.
The work we do is usually fraught with the opposite stereotypes about Africa—exploitation, hunger, unemployment, squalor, poverty, etc. Sometimes it is just nice to be on the other side again, although it’s also disorienting to experience abundance in such close proximity to scarcity. And it’s definitely hard not to feel guilty, knowing that in just a few short months my life will return to whatever I want it to be, but there will be thousands of refugees left in the dusty confines of their current lives for decades to come.
Maybe more than shoes, or French toast, all the women in my family have a proclivity for loving maps. The way they fold up (properly, do not bend against the crease), for one thing. Or show you vista points, or shortcuts. And make you feel so small and knowledgeable at the same time. But more than that, maps tell you where you are, where you’re going, and where you’ve been. The geography inextricable from the aspect of time associated with place- the very two components of life itself.
But maps are not static pieces of paper that are eternally reliable. Borders, especially in Africa, are porous and shifting. And where there might be a mass of grayish green color with no other demarcation on a two dimensional plane, on top of it in the real world there may in fact be a 500 square mile refugee camp, as forgotten as the cartographer who chose not to label the area.
Some quirky notes and anecdotes about the non-refugee people who surround us.
Father Kim/Father Young- Two youngish Korean missionaries and Catholic priests who live in Block B with awesome facilities (as in satellite television and a gas stove). They treat us to refrigerated cokes whenever we visit and I am always sure to use their toilet just for the sake being able to flush it. They also make weird funny jokes about eating dogs. They are also trying to learn English, so sometimes you catch them repeating words to their computer screen for their English lesson software. Last time was “Fornication.” “Fornication.” “Fornication.” I kept trying not to laugh…
The Italians- A beekeeping couple from north of Milan who lived in Zone G for almost four years (holy cow). They have a pizza oven in their beautiful kitchen that they built themselves. They are teaching the community how to make honey and sell it to generate income.
Peace Corps- One volunteer lives just outside of Meheba and comes to keep us company when we are overwhelmingly bored (usually once every week or two). He recently ate a whole frog, alive, on a dare. They do nice things for us, like let us stay at their communal house in Solwezi when our car breaks down, or invite us for Thanksgiving meals.
Pharmaking- Sam, Raj and Vinod are three Indian guys who started a pharmacy in Solwezi, and hook us up with whatever meds we want because they are awesome, in the past they donated medicines to our health service centers, allowing us to treat over 1000 patients.
The Royal- Anthony and Corne are two young South African guys who work at the Royal Solwezi Hotel and ceaselessly make fun of us for being “dirty tree huggers,” and people who just want to “save the whales.” Corne lives on a chicken farm called Flamingo Farm.