where the writers are
Life in the big city, and going on safari

Well, this is the third installment of my adventures in Africa over last summer. Hope you enjoy! And perhaps one of you might learn something new about the continent!

Entry 3:

Well, I'm gaining an accent.

I haven't noticed til now, but you can't live with two Irish people for very long before you unconsciously begin to mimic them. Just today I caught myself with an Irish inflection (you know, where you go up and down in a question instead of just up) and I'm also starting to say 'yah' in a way that it almost rhymes with 'jaw' and 'sankya please' like Mrs Young. My vocabulary is certainly improving, as my 'can I get that?' questions are turning into 'perchance may I fetch yonder pitcher for thee?' questions. Well, maybe not that drastically improving, but substantially. Mr Young finally recognized and diagnosed my 'ya know? ya know? ya know?' condition, and I'm showing signs of improvement.

We also watched Blindsided as a movie for the missionaries friday movie night, (They have movie/wii nights somewhat regularly, and I managed to pick it up on the way over as I had forgotten to bring some good ones from home - they'd have loved the movie The Ride, though) and for a movie I expected to be so very good, it was amazingly better than I imagined. Definite keeper. Though one of the missionaries commented on the profanity in it, (I think it has one A word and three B words), so I think it was a good choice to watch, as far as the options go. It's harder than I thought to find an fun modern movie to watch and enjoy with 7 missionaries, but it's definitely possible. 

After the movie night, we packed for the lusaka (the capital type city) trip that was to begin next sunday evening, and that morning, we went to church. I hadn't been before, because I had flown in to Lusaka late saturday and was exhausted. Not only did I sleep late, Mrs and Mr Young were gone to take the pilot back to the airfield, I didn't know where the church even was, and I hadn't met anyone else on the compound yet. So, I took on a normal "Oh no, I've been abandoned in an African Savannah" personality, and that worked for me. Sunday afternoon, they got back (I'd helped myself to some breakfast, courtesy of a note) and we had lunch and left. We (The Youngs, Ms White, Queen and her grandson -Zambian friends - and I) drove all day, stopping once for lunch, and got to a mission station to the west in the evening. This mission station consisted of three nurses, all around 70 years old, and a visiting 40 year old nurse (all ladies - of course the ages are conservative estimates). We had dinner, slept, and had breakfast, and were on our way. Our second full day of travel (Full day being about 8-10 hrs actual driving time) we dropped off queen and the charming five year old and ended at evening in a copper belt town. This mission station we stayed at (and bathed and ate and slept at), was my favorite yet, run by a scottish family with a German boy (from a seperate missionary family) boarding there for school. That made three kids in total (Dennis, my age, Daniel, 14, and Jenny, 13) with Dennis and Jenny having rather charmingly heavy scottish accents, while Daniel had an admirable German accent. Having learned multiple languages before traveling as missionaries, all of the kids easily picked up the new African Bantu languages (Of course, they'd lived here for about most of their lives, so that helps too). At the school they attended, they all spoke English though. 

The next morning, we learned that the day was a Zambian holiday, so the Youngs and Mrs White could not shop as intended. However, Dennis's birthday was then (Actually, the day later - on Andrew's birthday - but you know party planning) so I helped them set up and then hung out while the rest of the caravan got ready. The party people started to arrive, and I noticed one or two more missionary kids among the rest arriving (which was very interesting, showing that one can raise a family in the field, and some are). We took off shortly, and after a full day of travel, put in to lusaka at the flight house. That made a three day journey to the Lusaka from the mission.

On that last leg of the journey, we met up with two young ladies whose bikes had broken down. One was from New Hampshire, and the other was from southern California. We gave them a lift to the nearest town, and found out about them. Don't worry Mom, Dad, they weren't my type. Haha. 

But we did get to learn a lot about them, and they about us... They were working with the Peace Corps, and had been sent to live alone in villages for the most of two years, learning the languages and teaching the schools, etc. It sounded like fun, until Mr Young told me later how many young people (especially women like them) get taken advantage of in the villages in one form or another. I will pray for them, and others in that position.

The flight house was amazing (and of course, I assumed free). It ended up costing 30 dollars a night and 10 dollars a meal, but it was worth it. It was pretty much the only western quality establishment I've seen yet in Zambia, with high fences, hot running water, a perfect lawn, and room service! They even had good internet! But I still couldn't, despite my best efforts, post pictures or movies to my blog - there was just not enough bandwith (my apologies!). The major side effect was discovered that night, when I tossed and turned for hours trying to continue my International record of a week and a half in zambia without being bitten by a mosquito. Evidently, they are much more common in Lusaka than in Chavuma (The distant small village mission). I did eventually fall asleep, but the next night they were back with a passion. I told the truth, that morning, when asked how I slept - Months of college sleep habits had allowed me a sunny disposition running on minutes of sleep, but I didn't go to sleep quickly, because of the mosquitos in my room. Mr young inspected my window (It was netted well) and said we should just spray it well with poison and crack the window slightly and close the door. I found three mosquitos on the ground that night, but as I went to bed, I heard the buzzing again! I finally gave up, and fell asleep with the light on, to keep the mosquitos at bay (A luxury I could not afford with the limited power of the mission station, but at the flight house, I'd paid for it. It seemed to work too... My body bite number stayed relatively constant at around 32 bites (Strangely, my left limbs were bitten almost three times as often as the right ones) and if I've contracted Malaria, I've got about ten days before I feel it. But not to worry, Mother, I'm taking my prophylaxis regularly - haven't forgotten a day yet, I don't think...

The tours in Lusaka were, well, something else. I admired their service in changing my 'business' visa to a 'visitors' visa (I got referred to Zambia's Chief Immigration Officer, who approved my request! (Good thing too - he could have denied me because of the Washington Embassy's typo and required me to pay the 2 million Kwacha (400 dollars) for a temporary permit. But that all got figured out, and I got treated to some nice tourist shops, bookshops, and restaurants, while the missionaries stocked up on supplies. The streets were packed, almost everywhere, with walking street vendors between lanes and at windows in the heavier traffic, waving their products and calling out their prices. I quickly learned to say no - though with my easily swayed disposition, and my desire to support them and their families, it was hard at first. Very hard! But when the missionaries told me that most of their profits are spent on alchohol and drugs or ciggarettes, and most of their products were stolen, and also that buying anything off the city streets is illegal, (as is giving to beggars), that helped solidify my willpower to an extent. 

But if in my previous post, a kid's smile was the happiest thing I've seen yet, in Lusaka I saw the saddest thing I've seen yet, and I sincerely doubt (and earnestly hope) that there is nothing, short of severe injury or death itself, sadder to see in all of zambia. There were some hungry children, from as young as 7 to as old as 12, in the streets, begging along with the street vendors. Some had bared ribs from hunger, and others had distended bellies from malnutrition. Most of their eyes were tired and blodshot for such young ages, and they had the most detestable and heartwrenching of blank stares in their faces. I've most often detested the familiar line, "There are starving children in Africa who would love to have (insert unpopular food item) for dinner..." but though actually seeing this evil circumstance brought the phrase to mind, it seemed like a terribly cheap mockery of the actual reality. I mean no offense to any who use the phrase in innocence - and I know that the side effect of the use of that phrase is raised awareness - but if we actually cared about the 'starving children in Africa' as christians are called to, wouldn't we do more than just exploit their plight to get our children to eat their vegetables? Would Jesus be content with that? How can we live with our selves as such fakes, as such frauds, as such hypocrites? How can we sleep at night? And we like Pharisees, feed that pang of guilt with the expected tithe to missionaries, then forget. How incredibly lukewarm of us!

This in and of itself was a terrible sight, but I had yet to see the worst of it. A boy two cars ahead asked for something, anything, at the window, and was given a bill for 5000 Kwacha (one dollar), after which the boy hung around till the car left, and then promptly walked to the buildings on the side of the street. I watched to see what he would buy, and he walked up to an older teen, held out the money, and the older boy snatched the bill, grabbed him by the shirt, and shoved him back into the street. That was almost more than I could handle. I couldn't look at another child beggar without picturing my own younger friends from the states in their place. It was too much.

I'd heard of gangs that use and abuse street kids for their looks and the compassionate donations that they gain, but to see it first hand was an experience I could've done without. It was then that I realized, with all the gains and advantages the Zambian's have in the cities, it's in some ways a much better environment in the bush. In the bush, though there is little supplies and medical care, there's a very small steal-to-sell market, and any orphans and hard pressed families that have nowhere to go find aid among relatives and neighbors. Among the large cities, the middle class IS the steal-to-sell market, and poorer families and orphans are forgotten in the streets. In case you wonder why I make such a case about orphans, here AIDS claims the lives of untold numbers of parents, and when there is no place for the orphans to go, well, there is no place for the orphans to go. The orphans and poorer children that have no place to call their own become pawns in their cruel game of life. Of course, pawns are usually the players that work the hardest, are sacrificed or abandoned without a thought, and are never recognized or remembered. How a human can do such a thing to another human, even a younger weaker human is something I honestly cannot fathom, and a part of me never wants to understand.

Even worse, however, is that the children are sucked into it and are bound to tightly to the system. The missionaries said that there are orphanages and missions for the chilren to live if they manage to escape, but many of them are mentally conditioned to stay the way they are. Then again, the orphanages and missions don't provide many visible benefits to the children, who of course care not for medicine or hygeine or better nutrition or better lifestyle, but simply veiw them as limiting of the childrens independence. What a terrible thing abandonment is!

But the pure and undefiled religion before God and the father is this, to look after widows and orphans in their distress, and to keep oneself undefiled by the world. (loosely remembered - end of James 1 - I don't have a bible handy at this moment)

Then he said to his disciples, the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Pray then that the Lord will send workers to his harvest. (loosely remembered - end of Matthew 9)

On the way back to the Chavuma mission, we took a short cut through a national park. This would save us time, though there was nowhere to stop on the way, so instead of three 8 hour trips with stops in between, we'd have to conitune straight ahead for 18 hours. It was by far the longest trip I've taken by car. But going through the African preserve, I did see a great many animals and plants and took pictures (Though you won't see them for a while, I'm sorry to say). WWe also crossed a huge river in our jeep! We traveled across on a small barge/ferry contraption that I was sure was gonna sink! But we made it across all right. After all the animals I'd seen on the preserve, I also saw a momba for the first time (me and Mrs Young) but I'm not absolutely sure. It had the silver scales with the black underbelly, but the description also fits a certain cobra, according to Mrs Young. So I don't know for sure. We also stopped for drinks at a resort (which was amazing, with beach front lounges and a dock for water rides and Chalets for the guests and a swimming pool... for 500,000 kwacha a person, a night (about a hundred dollars). I thought it was pretty posh. 

By the way, I found out where 'posh' came from! In the old cruises (1600 -1800's) the British colonists traveled back and forth from europe to india, and it's an acronym of p(ort) o(out), s(tarboard) h(ome), with ref. to the ideal accomodations on the passage to India by way of the Suez Canal, a packet service provided by the Peninsula and Eastern steamship line. The acronym is said to explain the right placement of one's stateroom for being on the shady or the lee side of the ship. Posh, then, is basically first class for cruises! At least, in this case!

I also bought a bow and an arrow yesterday for 10,000 Kwacha (2 dollars), handiwork of a man in one of the larger villages we stopped in for gas. I figured it'd be fun to play with, and I was relieved that I could finally (legally) support an entrepreneur who had clearly crafted the barely adequate bow himself. I think I will not save it (the cord is made wound leather and is poorly made, and the bow creaks pretty loud when I bend it), but it will entertain me in my less useful hours. Perchance I will save the arrow as a souvenir. 

Today I also turn 19, for anyone keeping count... and so far today is making a wonderful birthday. The sun is bright, the skies are clear, the flora is bright and the fauna is cheerful. Goodbye dear friends from home, and see you another day!