There and Back Again
Sitting on the shores of the atlantic for the first time in over a year…the wonderful smell of seaweed and salt in the cool breeze…of warm sand beneath my feet…my entire family (flown in from around the country) hiding in the bath house, awaiting the arrival of the birthday girl. I’m home! She quickly spots me first...knowing her own child from behind - though bewildered at how I am sitting here and not an ocean away in the sub Saharan. Words escape her as all she can muster is a subdued sob as we embrace. Turning to find Dad she then sees the family, filling the deck, saying ‘surprise’ and taking pictures. She had no idea any of this was coming and will need a few hours or days to recover…to fully comprehend. The afternoon is filled with stories, delicious food, ample beverages, and much catching up. The only downfall is that it was too short…impossible to reconnect with the whole family in one afternoon.
The Road Home
The trip home was long and arduous…not something I would be able to do everyday. All would have been lovely if the bus I was scheduled to take didn’t break down. Well I guess the fact that it broke down wasn’t all that surprising (a common occurrence in vehicles here)…the only problem was that we were waiting for the alternate vehicle that was called in as a replacement - a vehicle that never showed (also not very surprising)…but at this point it was 10am the day before my 8am flight home…and every other bus to the capital, Lusaka, had already departed. Great…time to hitch then…which sometimes works out better than the bus - on those occasions when you get picked up by a bwana ride - an uncrowded SUV where you get your own seat - or even have air conditioning…unfortunately this was not one of those times…especially seeing as I did not have the time to be picky about my transport. At first I thought I was lucky…when only after 1 hour a truck stopped and told me they were a straight shot to Lusaka! One hour in I knew that ‘Luck’ was not the right word. I was in the cab of this tractor trailer with around 10 other people and two kids…sitting scrunched behind the drivers seat, beside a women who decided to travel with a bag of kapenta (small dried fish) - a delicious smell in a stuffy BO filled cab. I was picked around 11:30am and should have arrived around 9:30pm to Lusaka…in normal situations… though this driver decided to maintain speeds less than 45mph on empty straight roads (which I guess was better than the normal ‘thinking you were going to die’ type of transport)…but left us getting into the capital at 3:30 am (a 16 hour painful ride in which I had to hold back tears - the only thing keeping me inside was knowing I would be going home)… in which I stiffly got out of the truck and cabbed it to the airport…where I tried to take a short nap though was freezing my ass off (it is the cold season) and was unable to stop shivering until the security dude let me go into their office where there was a little space heater. I never knew how enjoyable long plane rides could be before my time in Zambia…I don’t think I will ever complain about being served airplane food (which is pretty good)…being able to watch movies…and sitting in economy class (it was so nice to have a seat of my own)…not to mention the free wine incorporated with international flights! It also helped that I then sat business class (a first for me) from London to Boston…which made up slightly for the 16 hours of hell the prior day.
Home Sweet Home
My time home was fabulous…though two weeks was too short…and I now feel like I need another vacation. I ate enough delicious food to keep me content for the following year. Hung out with all of you close enough to visit (and some of you not so close - thanks Julie, Doug, and Jaime for traveling!)…saw some live music (MOE, Keller, and Ratdog)…walked my little sister to her class at Harvard Med (yes I’m a bit jealous that she is at grad school already! Congrats R)…spent ample time at the beach…won and lost at hearts with the folks (of course we were just going easy on Mom right Dad!)..hugged the puppies…went on a couple boats …nalelanda cibemba panono na Ba Gregg… and got to celebrate Chrissey and Kurt’s up and coming wedding by attending her bachlorette party! The week was too full...and too fun…and made saying goodbye once again a bit difficult. One year left though…I’m sure it will fly!
And Back Again
The travel back was a bit more comfortable than the trip there…though longer - if you can imagine. My red eye flight to London was fine…though I was unable to sleep and arrived in Heathrow at a lovely 05am. I then decided to spend the 14hr layover in the city and took the underground downtown…ate some breakfast…walked around in a somewhat tired haze…spent a few hours at the wax museum (which was crazy and creepy…how do they get them to look so realistic?)…and then saw the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. Honestly it makes me feel a bit loopy to be home one day…at a palace in Europe the next…and in rural Africa the next…life is a bit crazy sometimes. My next flight was a bit longer…and again I had trouble sleeping…not sure why…though I was lucky to be sitting next to a Zambian woman who currently works in DC for Zambia Orphans of AIDS - an org. that helps to fund projects related to orphans…someone that I will be trying to stay in touch with. I then had to spend a day in Lusaka (the busses home only leave in the early morning…and my 06 arrival was too late to catch any of them. So I hung out at the office…tried to do some work…and organized what was left to get done on my project proposal for the student empowerment camps…and then hung out with some friends in town for training…only to get to the hostel at 11pm…sleep till3:30 am … catch a cab to the bus station…and arrive in Mansa by 2pm…needless to say I was dead to the world yesterday…and still feel like I am recovering today - again not a trip I would want to do frequently.
Work is already busy. I have a meeting with a sub chief and some local headmen/women on Saturday to go over the VCT program scheduled for Tuesday. I need to somehow organize an HIV sensitization lesson for the Kazembe police for Monday (or else I will have to teach it myself - which would be interesting). Tuesday we have the large VCT mobilization where leaders from our community will be publicly going for testing to try and end some of the stigma related to knowing your status. Unfortunately the Mwata (main chief) just backed down though supposedly his sub chiefs will all be attending…I’m not holding my breath for that to actually happen. Then I will be maybe coming back into Mansa for a day because Liz and I are trying to get the preparations for Girls Career Week rolling. Of course we had a planning meeting for this program a the end of June…and though 30 people were invited…and said they would come…only two showed up - it makes organizing a bit difficult…so unfortunately it looks as though we are going to have to do most of the work ourselves. Then the Mutomboko Ceremony is on the 28th and 29th. Leaving me two weeks before the Empowerment camps in which hopefully the teachers in my community are doing most of the preparations. Those will last for two weeks…and then there will be one week to finish preparations for the Girls Career Week…ahhh….how to do all this…I’m not stressing though….haha…what a joke…of course I am…but I do better with some stress in my life right!
Thanks again for everyone who came to visit me last week…it was fun…and made my trip home worth this additional craziness I will face the next two weeks as I try to make up the time! Happy early B-day again Mom…and thanks for your help as far as the Camps are concerned…the students and teachers will appreciate it. Talk to you all soon!
Smile…Stay Happy…No Worries