I apologize for the time it has taken for me to post this second in a series of African experiences. Enjoy, this my second, shorter journal entry from overseas. There is much more to come!
For the first time in my Africa trip, I saw a kid smile.
Several children, in fact. Traveling through the villages always gives me a guilty feeling and makes me feel like a snob, bouncing past in a jeep when even young children walk miles to get anywhere and work alongside grown men and women in what passes for fields out here. Up till now, I haven't seen a single smile on the rows of faces of kids anywhere from 3 to 12, though the older staff members do often grin. I hope that the solemn faces are just blank empty stares of curiosity and not really symptomatic of harsh and difficult lives. I'm sure Zambian childhood is not as difficult as I imagine it to be, (definitely much more independent than our own) but it is hard not to feel ill at the luxurious showers and hot food that we get in our multi room houses at the top of the hill, which we ride up to in jeeps and quads, while the more priveleged bulk of the native Zambian population enjoys their small portions of manioc and cornmeal every day in their one room huts, and look forward to either working in the hot sun (if they are lucky) or sitting around with nothing to do, if there is no work to be found, and everyonce in a while when the smell of dirt on the children becomes unbearable, they bathe publicly in the parasite ridden waters of the Zambezi (I assume the adults bathe 'privately' in the village, or maybe in the huts.
But it was fun to see some smiling children, finally. In the jeep today I was able to wave at a few men and women and children, with the occasional Mwoyo wove or Unayoyo, and they sometimes smiled and waved back. We rode to Angola today, where Mr Young is helping Mr Musaha build a 100m bridge across a river for vehicles to ride to the border. They have already built a smaller bridge, but they have been held up by complications for two years on this larger building project. The loggers haven't been fully paid by the Angolan government, (as part of the bridge deal), so they stopped their 1000 log deal after 250 logs. The Angolan government blames the payment problems on the slow progress that the Youngs and the Musaha's have made so far on the bridge, but the progress is limited because the loggers have stopped, because the Angolan government stopped paying. From what I can tell, this impasse has hindered progress for the better part of the two years since the project has been undertaken.
At the Zambia/Angola border, I had to leave my passport behind (I only have a single entry visa), and after we crossed to the Angola side, customs suprised Mr Young and demanded that the jeep and trailer we pulled must be stripped of the supplies we'd loaded it with all last week and all of them searched and inventoried. Mr Young wasn't very happy, but we pulled everything out, brought it to the hut, and waited as they went through everything. The customs officer tried to get Mr Musaha to leave clothing and shoes at the border (it wasn't church or hospital or bridge supplies) and Mr Musaha tried to explain that they used clothing to pay for work on the bridge and as prizes and rewards for work in the church or in scripture. The customs officer insisted that Mr Musaha leave some things back at the border (for him, as it became increasingly evident) and Mr Musaha responded that if this was the case, he'd send the whole lot of stuff back with Mr Young. Better that supplies do good in Zambia, if customs wouldn't allow them to do good in Angola. After hours of searching and much banter, customs finally let us continue.
We got to the stop-off in Angola and unloaded, and I met some men (who of course didn't speak English, so it wasn't a very long introduction) and sat around and looked at everything while everybody talked. Angola wasn't much different than Zambia, at least, not where we visited. The roads are better, and sandy white, as opposed to the ruddy (and rutty) Zambian roads, and there are much more trees there than here. It's more of a tropical forest. Not so much a rainforest, just a warm tropical forest. The smell isn't much different though. The Zambian (and Angolan) smell isn't so much distinct as it is, well, undesirable. Of course, if I can handle living in my college dorm for a year, this is by comparison a pleasant vacation when it comes to fragrance, but it isn't what you might call comfortable! At the Youngs' house, at the mission, it's great though. They have a night blooming jasmine out front that just fills the air with fragrance at night. I wish they grew in the states! Maybe they do and I'm just ignorant. They really do smell good, even from a distance! But, though it is easy to smile and ignore the smell when meeting Zambians in the village, it is not easy to smile and try to learn some luvale without showing that inside you are recoiling at the state of disrepair that the huts are in, or the limps that indicate painful, serious injuries to the legs or back, and the children's distended bellies that are symptomatic of malnutrition and hunger. I do know that after three months here, even if I don't come back to serve full time, I will be visiting again in the future, and I will definitely be a long term supporter of the mission here. There is so much need.