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On Leaving Zambia - March 2013

I'm in that space between leaving home and getting home again. I left Zambia yesterday in the early afternoon and spent the evening hours in Johannesburg airport in South Africa. Throughout the afternoon, I was in wonder that I was just a two hour flight from the northern copper belt of Zambia.  Ndola airport is a far cry from O. R. Tambo Airport. Ndola is filled with boozy miners and large handed men that operate heavy machinery. It's really a quonset with a small shed attached.  In the shed, there operates a bar that liberally distributes Mosi and Castle beers and even the occasional Fanta in a glass bottle. Sitting in the waiting area, it has the feeling of a boozy reception at a mining convention. Around me the accents of Afrikaans and Chinese, Zambian and South African, blend into a hypnotic white noise. I sit myself by the open window, looking over the pitted tarmac and watch the men pull the carts of luggage, by hand, out to the waiting plane.  Our plane sits just a few hundred metres out on the tarmac yet they send a bus to pick us up - much in the same fashion as larger more international airports. I wait at the bottom of the steps as the Zambian sky opens up once more, and soak up the rain and gulp deep breaths, my last of Zambia for a while. 

Leaving Zambia feels a lot like leaving home. At the farm, I leave a family - like Liz and Weston, Adam, Lynn, Levy and Alicia, Tawonga, Prag, Norris and girls. I say goodbye with the feeling on both sides that it's not forever. Sukai and James are to meet me at the airport and drop off cards that Sukai wants me to deliver for her.
I jump out of Rahni's van, say goodbyes to her and Joshua, and head to the departures building. I wait outside and debate the merits of buying a souvenir at the small craft stand. A hippo beckons me and I go back and forth on the K70,00 ($14) price tag and figure if all else, it's worth it for the insurance against regret. I've eyed these hand carved hippos since my first trip but never wanted to carry it through transit. Now, with said hippo safely tucked in my bag, Sukai arrives and brings me the "mail". Whenever someone from Canada travels to Zambia, we come bearing letters and cards from our Hands at Work family here for our Hands at Work family there. It's the same on the way back. Small slips of paper, envelopes and cards, pictures drawn and photos taken weave their way over the ocean back and forth in the backpacks, carry ons and pockets of those in transit. It's time to go, so Sukai and I say our goodbyes. It's never easy but we are getting better, less tears, more laughter, knowing our friendship withstands time and distance. We always fall back into our friendship right where we left it and we both value our time together, both of us wishing it was longer. 
I head through the security booth, without a hitch, even with a litre of water in my bag. On the other side, I stand in line and wait to check in at a counter that is not identified with my airline, but another. Despite the confusion, it proves to be the right line and I stand and wait. I see James has arrived and then in a moment of conflict, whether to go back out or stand in place, he waves me off with his huge smile and thumbs up…and he and Sukai are off.  I could easily dissolve but I focus on smiling and just internally voicing thanks for their  beautiful lives, their amazing examples of selflessness and servanthood and our friendship. 
Somewhere over the Atlantic, I wake in a darkened plane, lift the window shade just a little and see that outside it's daylight, and it will be for the next eight hours or so until I reach Saskatoon. It's there, somewhere in the middle, that I find myself balanced between home and home. 

Dean with Joyce, the youngest daughter of Reuben, one of the amazing volunteer care workers in Mulenga

Dean with Joyce, the youngest daughter of Reuben, one of the amazing volunteer care workers in Mulenga

Weston and Liz and Dean at dinner...eating nshima was a new experience for Dean....one of many.   

Weston and Liz and Dean at dinner...eating nshima was a new experience for Dean....one of many.

 

Three siblings and their care worker, Dorothea, who ensures that they are safe when alone, fed while their mother is away looking for work, and receive medical attention when they are sick. They look to her for help and she is their supporter and advocate. 

Three siblings and their care worker, Dorothea, who ensures that they are safe when alone, fed while their mother is away looking for work, and receive medical attention when they are sick. They look to her for help and she is their supporter and advocate. 

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Notes from Under the Mosquito Net - February 2013

 

It's Sunday today, our first whole day in Zambia, our 4th full day in the clothes we dressed in on Thursday to leave Canada. We made it to Ndola without a hitch, our bags only made it to Johannesburg. Welcome to international travel. 

This morning, we woke from a full night's sleep and started our week here by attending church in Luyansha with our friends, Levy and Prag. It was a lively church with microphones  and keyboard cranking out the music.  The church was comprised of many men and women, families and single people. It was a lovely opportunity to experience a different culture and their particular style of worship.

After church, we headed back to the farm where we're staying. The Zambian landscape is more lush and overgrown than I've ever experienced. It is warm and humid and a great relief from February in Saskatoon.  As we drive out the farm road to the main paved road, the grass nearly forms a tunnel above the bakkie (pick up) and the greenery reaches out and drags its fingers along the truck as we pass. 

We get back to the farm and prepare lunch when news arrives that our bags are in Ndola. We are told to pick them up before 3 pm, at which time the office closes. Weston and Liz, our hosts, drive us to Ndola. Liz and I sit in the back of the bakkie and just enjoy the fresh rains that have opened up. Water seeps in down our backs and it is cool and refreshing. We arrive at the airport, set off the metal detector and look for someone to find us our luggage. We are told that the person we need to speak to has left early and we will need to return the next day. We try speaking with the airport authority but to no avail, our bags are locked in customs and they too, have knocked off early and we can't access the room where our bags are stowed. Sensing the futility of being assertive in our requests, we cut our losses and take Weston and Liz out for coffee in Ndola. It ends up being a great time to just sit with them and hear their stories of how they have come to work with Hands. After coffee, I run into the Pick and Pay and grab some necessities, soap and shampoo, etc. to keep us going until our bags are back in our possession. Dean is taking it all in stride and just rolling with it so really, all in all, it's not so inconvenient when you're travelling with someone who is pretty relaxed about the details.

Last night when we arrived, we found we were the only ones staying in the farmhouse with Liz and Weston. After dinner, we sat and talked through the world map on the wall and I could see that Dean was really taking in the distance he had travelled to come to be where we are. We talked through some of the hopes we have for the trip, and how to communicate what we see and experience here best, to allow those back home to connect to the work that is happening here and the life changes it is bringing to those here on the ground.

These hours have been a great transition to prepare us for what's ahead this week. I know that when I first came to Zambia,  I was so focused on "helping" that I missed the first few days of building into the relationships that now, six years later, have become so integral to my own life and faith. Dean is far more relational than I and I could see that he was already valuing the things he was hearing and learning about those we would be working alongside for the week. It was a great start to what would be a really awakening week in the life of both Dean and I, as we look to what God has in store for Connect and indeed, for each of us.

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