Sunday, October 25, 2009

Africa Hot - Africa Time

I am not sure which has been tougher to adjust to: Africa Hot or Africa time. Africa hot means unrelenting sun baking the earth’s reddish brown crust. It means temperatures right around 37 – 39 degrees Celsius (100 degrees F). It means drinking about 8 bottles of water a day but still not needing to answer nature’s call very often because you are sweating away most of that fluid along with vital chemicals and electrolytes. The body’s automatic cooling system is hardly able to keep up. Africa heat means competing for the few spots of shade that dot the landscape – an isolated Mango or banana tree; Africa hot means sore, dark red shoulders and necks even after swathing in sun block. The sun and the heat have been a difficult thing for most of us Northwesterners to adapt to. One redeeming grace in it all are the cold showers at our lodge at the end of each day’s work.

Africa hot means that an entire community comes out to watch as a borehole is drilled and water comes gurgling to the surface; a precious commodity in this arid climate. Even the members of our team felt the elation of water having been discovered on the site. Africa hot – what more can I say except one day soon, I am guessing, a video will be posted showing Jeff chanting a dirge about the heat while sitting on a pile of stones at the end of a long work day in the sun.

Africa time is no less difficult for a group of Americans used a much more pressured and time-bound culture to adapt to. I am writing this entry from a 26 passenger bus that is transporting us to Livingstone. I insisted the team be up. packed and on the driveway ready to go by 5:45 am. Our bus arrived at 7:15 – not an uncommon occurance in a world where one seldom sees a watch, let alone relies on scceduled arrivals or departures.

Africa time means a normal 15 minute drive to the store taking 30; it means sitting in a jumbled maze of busses, vans and taxis all merging in the same intersection with no space to navigate; Africa time means expecting a delivery of sand or rock at a certain time and waiting until the next day for it to arrive. Africa time means trying to remember that loved ones back home are just arising from a night’s sleep as your day ends; it means scratching your head in bewilderment as people talk about 1400 or 0630 and expecting that you know exactly what time that is. It all takes a little getting used to and just as we begin at acclimate, it is time to return to American time. I hope you will all be patient with us while we continue to move along slowly in Africa time.

Our last day in Kabanana was an exciting one. After a later than normal wake up call, some of the team went to the Arcades Mall while 5 of us Rotarians went to the Taj Pahmodzi Hotel where the Lusaka Central Rotary Club meets at 1230 hours every Thursday. Wsanting to be polite and on time, we arrived at 1220 and were served club sodas and cokes by uniformed waiters in crisp white smocks. No Rotarians were in sight however. We waited patiently having been assured that they would be arriving soon. At about 12:45 people began sauntering in one at a time and around 1300 every one was seated for a moment of fellowship. Then the president announced “Shall we please all be upstanding and offer a toast to the President of our beloved Zambia."

Then we were invited to partake of a sumptuous buffet that inclided lamb stew, rosemary chicken, parsely potatoes, fresh fruit and vegetables, and much more. I couldn’t help think to my self that the food in front of the 25 of us could have fed the children at Healing Place for a week.

I was asked to introduce Jeff, Myung, Jon and Lauren and exchange a banner from our club. Later in the program I was able to talk about our project and encourage their participation with us. At one point I overheard the president of the club speaking to the Projects Committee chair telling him that they needed to adopt a project in Kabanana. She has made a commitment to visit the site herself and meet both Winnie Takema at Healing Place and Rachel Kasanya at Balm of Gilead. It was a rewarding time that I think will bear ongoing fruit in establishing a partnership for the work we have been involved with.

After club, our friendly and ready to please driver George gathered the entire team for one last afternoon at the site. Just as we arrived the drilling company was bringing up the first muddy showers of water from the 90 meter bore hole. The lowered welded pipe sections to carry the water and then capped it until a hand pump can be purchased. To me, it was a more thrilling site than just about anything I have witnessed or experienced. That is until just an hour later when after distributing more supplies, giving gifts to the workers and exchanged goodbyes.

When I had awoken Thursday morning, I had a heavy impression on my heart that in addition to giving my boots, gloves, caps and t-shirts to the men who had volunteered and helped us prepare the foundation of the classroom, I needed to give my Bible to Pastor Jesse Mbanga. He is a faithful man who not only preaches to a congregation of 45, he is a spiritual shepherd to the community and lives with very little. He and his wife have 7 children of their own and have taken in 6 other orphaned children in their small two bedroom house. When I handed him my Bible, his look of shock and the tears in his eyes told me I had done the right thing. He told me he had wanted to ask me for a Bible the day before but didn’t know how to ask and so he prayed about it and left it in God’s hands. To him, that Bible was a precious possession. I have over 20 Bibles in my study not to mention the many commentaries, dictionaries, language helps, and unread books.

We sang a song by the side of the van called "tupende cine amopolo" – Bemba for count your blessings, then we began the difficult, long process of saying goodbye. These were highlight moments as we held hands and prayed in three languages, ngyenge, Bemba and English. Getting last hugs and high fives from the children was most difficult. To make it all bearable we knew we left having made a small difference in an impoverished, vulnerable area of the world and in the lives of real people whom we will never forget. Tearfully we left Kabanana for good (at least this time) and headed back to the lodge where we celebrated the night with Chimwemwe’s
26th Birthday party.

So, that brings you up to "speed." Speaking of speed we are finally moving at a pretty good clip of 90 kph.We should be arriving at a roadside coffee shop soon. Then on to Livingstone and Victoria Falls for a couple of days of real touristy things. We miss home, we miss our families. We miss all you who have supported this effort. We can’t wait to tell you about it and try to share not just details but the spirit of what we have been a part of. It has been remarkable. We are blessed. May you be also

UPDATE: We are sitting alongside a gravel road in the middle of the African Bush right now. It is our third “rest stop.” We will not make our 1600 (4:00) pick up time in Victoria Falls for an evening cruise on the Zambezi River. A six hour trip is “quickly” turning into a 7 or 8 hour trip (one that started 90 minutes late). Sigh, that’s Africa time

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