Thursday, September 30, 2010

You know you're in Zambia when . . .

You know you're really back in Zambia when . . .
1. The 4-inch wall spider greets you from the back wall of the closet.
2. You enjoy your bucket bath after heating the water for it on the stove.
3. You turn the fluorescent tube lights on at 2:00 in the afternoon so that hopefully by dark they'll finally come on.
4. When the lights don't come on, you find your way around with your trusty headlamp.
5. You feel the grit of sand in your sandals.
6. The singing in chapel sounds like heaven.
7. You find out the plans you made for Saturday won't happen on Saturday. Maybe not at all.
8. You slow down for chickens in the road.
9. The internet is SOOOOO slow
10. You can't wait to see what surprises tomorrow will bring.

Jason and George

I drove to the orphanage this morning, parked my borrowed Land Cruiser, and started walking to the house where I knew George and Jason were playing. Jason peeked over the veranda wall and saw me. His eyes grew wide as he threw his leg over the wall, jumped down, and ran straight into my arms. His head buried on my shoulder, I’m pretty sure he couldn’t see the tears I was fighting.

Next came George in a tumble of legs and arms attacking the other side of me. Two other toddlers grabbed my legs and hung on. I finally staggered to the steps and sat down. Jason fired off the questions: “Do you like my haircut?” (Yes, it’s very nice!) “Where is Ba David?” (Home in America) “Is he coming next week?” (No, he can’t come now) “Is that your new truck?” (No, I’m borrowing it) “Where is your truck?” (We sold it) And then George chimed in, “Can we go to your house?” (I don’t have a house here anymore) They both thought about that for a few seconds. “Oh.”

The questioning over, they were ready to play. So we joined a few other little friends on the swings and had a good time. Jason has grown taller and seems older than his five years. George is still tiny for his age, but both look happy and healthy. I stayed an hour or so and then had to leave. I gave them a hug and kiss goodbye. Jason waved and yelled, “Come back next week!”

I will, Jason. I will. Maybe even sooner.

Arriving - Wednesday, September 29

My first glimpse of Zambia is out the window of the plane as we land in Livingstone—the landscape is parched and brown. I have arrived in the dry season.

Robby Banda and Collins Bulonda pick me up at the airport. A joyful surprise is seeing Joan Mann at the airport as well! Joan was on her way out of Zambia after a brief visit. Ruhtt Mbumwae and Sue Calder were there to drop her off, so I have a short visit with the three of them.

On our way out of town we stop to see Richard Chanter, the owner of Chanter’s Lodge , our favorite getaway. Then it us on to Sinde Mission, one of Namwianga’s satellite schools. I interview some of their ninth grade students who may qualify for sponsorship at Namwianga next year. I interview nine students, and five of them are very impressive. Of those five, THREE are double orphans—no mother, no father. They live with grandparents or uncles and aunts. A sad reminder that I am back in Zambia.

We stop briefly in Kalomo so that I can greet Mrs. Nyee at the Mini-Mart. She is glad to see me and even gives me a free Coke Zero. I promise to come back later when I can visit longer.

I had forgotten that God punctuates the crackling brown of the dry season with the gorgeous splendor of the Jacaranda trees. I take a quick shot of El Pantano in Kalomo under the spread of the purple flowers.

On to Namwianga. We stop to pick up passengers at the junction, of course—two college girls who climb in the back with their packages. It seems so natural here, and unthinkable in the US.

At Namwianga there are warm greetings and introductions to the Harding students. After dinner I’m taken to my room. I’m staying in Meagan and Louisa’s house—sleeping in Meagan’s room. Her shadow is everywhere—the pictures left on the frig, the bright walls, the vibrant curtains. I’m reminded once again how much I miss her. (for new readers: Meagan was our co-worker from 2006 - 2010 and is now living in the US.)

I had forgotten the stars. When I first walk out into the inky blackness of the night and look up, I am overcome, and my eyes fill with tears. The sudden beauty of the diamond blanket—how could I have forgotten? God’s masterpiece on display every night.

I find Webster, our former security guard. He now works for the mission and is guarding the house where Harding students are staying. He tells me that our cat is still around, and that he feeds him whatever he can manage. We look for the cat, but can’t find him—he is out hunting I suppose.

I unpack and get ready for bed. At 10:00 there is a knock at the door. Webster has found the cat and brought him to see me. The cat rubs against me briefly—I think he remembers me—but the cat is aloof, as he always was, and will not condescend to make me think he has missed me.

I crawl into bed listening to the sounds of the night—the bats squeaking, the cicadas chirping. I remind myself that this is real. I am back in Zambia. The Africia-shaped hole in my heart is full again.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


The flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg, South Africa, was 15 hours long. As the plane flew closer and closer to the destination, my mood grew brighter and brighter. By the time I stepped into the Joburg airport—AFRICA—I was nearly giddy. Africa—my home—not even Zambia yet, but still feeling like home. The faces are familiar. The air is crisp. The billboards are in African colors and proclaim World Cup Soccer and African brands. It feels right.

I remember feeling like this another time. It was December, 2006, and we were returning to the US for our first furlough after 18 months in Zambia. Stepping into the Dallas airport produced that same excitement, that giddiness, that feeling of being home again. The Lone Star flags everywhere. The Texas accents. The friendly faces. It felt right.

So where is home? Is it Africa? Zambia? Texas? Mt. Vernon? Or am I just homeless? A woman without a country?

A dear co-worker once said, “Africa ruins your life. Once you’ve lived in Africa, you’ll never be at home in America. And yet you know you can never be truly African either.”

I live in the pull of two worlds. When I’m in Africa, I miss America. When I’m in America, I miss Africa. I love them both.

Maybe it’s like having your second child. You can’t imagine that you could love another child as much as you love your first. And then that second baby is placed in your arms and your heart expands a thousand times. Suddenly you know that your heart is plenty big enough for this new baby.

I think my heart is big enough for two homelands. Africa will hold me in its grip for the next three weeks. And then I’ll head for home again.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Update-September 23, 2010

Last weekend David and I attended the Zambia Mission Board meeting in Searcy. We were delighted to see many friends and co-workers--some of whom we had never seen on American soil. The board meeting was encouraging as we heard reports of the summer medical mission and made plans for the future.

This week I am frantically getting ready for my trip to Zambia. I leave next Monday, September 27, and will be gone for three weeks. I have several areas I hope to work on during my stay at Namwianga:

  • I will be going out with Rodgers Namuswa to train Sunday School teachers. We will return to do a refresher course at some of the places we first visited in 2006.
  • I will be visiting the Mission schools to interview students for sponsorship for next year. I also hope to do some teacher training in the schools.
  • I’ll be working with Rajiv, the assistant sponsorship coordinator, and others on the sponsorship committee to do some planning for 2011.
  • I am going with the Harding in Zambia group on their trip to Mumena. David and I led that trip last year, and I’m thrilled that I get to be a part of it again this year.
  • And then of course I’ll get to spend some time with Jason and George, the students at GBCC, and other friends and co-workers.

I would appreciate your prayers for safe travel and wisdom. I’ll try to post several times during my stay if the internet cooperates.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tango on the Square

Okay. I'll be honest. I expected small town life to be . . . well, a little boring. My African bush experiences included a cobra in the kitchen, regular dramas in the chicken coop, gigantic potholes on the road, interesting guests from America, and a constant stream of people at my door with stories to tell and problems to solve. I couldn't imagine that there would be many surprising adventures in a small Ozark town.

I was wrong. Saturday was full of surprises and anything but boring!

Mt. Vernon hosted the Not So Square Arts Festival downtown on the courthouse square.

I attended a writer's workshop taught by three local women who just published a vampire book--standing room only in the meeting room, and an excellent presentation.

Then David and I perused the booths and displays by local artists that featured paintings, photography, weaving, pottery, and jewelry. One man takes coins from around the world and uses a jewelry saw to cut out intricate designs to create earrings and pendants. Another guy makes huge mushroom stools from wooden trunks. The high school art class had a working kiln going and featured raiku pottery.

A Native American flute player was one of several entertainers to perform. Others included a comedy Shakespeare troupe, the local high school choir, classical guitarists, and country western singers.

And there was Vincent Van Goat--the papier mache sculpture designed to get kids interested in art. Kids could climb up and sit on Vincent's back to view a computer screen and listen to a presentation about art and artists. (I am not making this up!)

But the biggest surprise was TANGO DANCING! Mt. Vernon hosted the Meet in the Middle INTERNATIONAL Tango Festival right on the courthouse square. There were tango dancers all the way from Buenos Aires and New York City as well as several other states. So on the dance floor set up on the street in front of the courthouse, we got to watch some incredible tango dancing.

A tango couple from New York showed some fancy steps. The courthouse is in the background.

Tango shoes like these can be purchased at Mt. Vernon's corner stained glass/tango dancing studio. Who knew?

Boring small town life? I think not! This town is full of surprises.

The Stotts City Tractor Pull is coming up soon!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Update - September 9, 2010

I just checked the blog and saw that I haven't posted for two weeks now. Sorry faithful readers! We had a round of goodbyes in Austin before packing up a week ago. We arrived in Missouri on the 3rd and moved into our house on the 4th. We've been in a state of chaos ever since as we've worked to paint most of the rooms before we unpack. Today we finally finished all the painting we are going to do, and we now have the kitchen and living room set up.

We have had a warm welcome from new friends and old friends at Mt. Vernon. This is my first experience of living in a small town in America (I'm not counting growing up on a farm, Searcy, or Namwianga!). Here are a couple of the more interesting things that have happened. On Tuesday an Amish horse and buggy clip-clopped down the street in front of our house. That same day we discovered that the high school football team practices in a vacant lot next to our house--we're talking less than 20 yards from our living room. That means our afternoons are punctuated with shrill whistles and coaching calls. And we hear that on Friday nights they'll be playing their games in the stadium across the street from our house.

Today we picked up a local magazine that describes events in the area. We are looking forward to the tractor pull at Stotts City, the Not So Square Arts Festival and Apple Butter Makin' Days in Mt. Vernon, and many more festivals, barbecues, and gatherings.

We scoped out the two local grocery stores today, and I am relieved to find that I can survive quite nicely without a local Walmart.

Africa news: I am going back to Namwianga for a visit. I will leave on September 27 and be at Namwianga until around the 19th of October. I plan to do some teacher training, do some interviews and other work for sponsorship, and go with the Harding In Zambia group on their trip to Mumena.

Next week we are going to the Zambia Mission Board Meeting in Searcy to do a final report of our time at Namwianga.

I'm still considering the future of the blog, but for now I plan to post once a week until my trip. I'll post as much as I can during my trip and then see what happens.