Rather than give you some killer insight (and who says mine are killer………..), or regale you with a story, I thought I would try and help you to understand what life is like here in Africa, through a number of story snapshots. When I am back in the UK, people struggle to sometimes know just what I am going on about because they have no context. So here are a number of very short excerpts which will hopefully help you to understand a little more of normal life here.
The Long Road
“Hit another pothole. Sounds like I really smacked the suspension that time. It seems like everyday I hit something. It can be on a dirt road where there are so many undulations and holes, it’s like finding your way through a maze, trying to keep your tyres on the good bits. Sometimes you can even be on a good road, cruising at 120km/h, then smack, a surprise hole gets you again. Thing is, the roads here are so long and so varied, that you are bound to smack something on every journey. They sometimes seem to go on for ever. I swear there are some places in Zambia where the roads go off into the horizon. When travelling you just dig in and keep going…..”
Gillian and The Body Parts
“Gillian it’s such a long way home going that way, why are you not taking the tractor home? “I don’t want to walk by the Celtel tower” But why not? It’ll take you ages that way. Tell you what I’ll drop you by Chengelo School. That way you haven’t got as far to go. “The I still have to go by the Celtel tower”. Oh! yes you do, why don’t you want to go that way anyway? “There are stories of men killing people and taking their body parts for witchcraft. I don’t want to be one of them.” Does that really happen up by the Celtel tower? “yes it does” Gillian said…….
This story seems unbelievable but it is a conversation I had with Gillian who works for Jude and I here in Zambia.
The Big Silence
“There is no moon tonight, so outside it is very dark. I literally can’t see anything. As I walk outside, the stars are resplendent. You can see every shooting star, every glimmer of every distant galaxy. The milky way looks so beautiful, spreading itself across the sky like a great work of art on canvas. I gaze up at this cosmic show, appreciating the stillness and the silence….. The silence is one thing I don’t experience in the UK, no cars, no chatter, no buses or neighbour’s TV’s. Just me and sometimes when it’s hot, the crickets, chirping away, the hotter it gets, the loud they chirp.
Tonight, it’s different, it is still, quiet. miles from anyone. If you are born in Africa, you are used to it, if you are a European like me, it can fill you with awe or make you feel very lonely. Occasionally the sound of the TAZARA train on it’s way out of Zambia to Dar – Es – Salaam interrupts the silence and shows me that I’m not that far away from the ‘normal’ world. There have been times when I’ve been out in the bush and wandered if I am the only living soul close, only for a whole village to emerge out of the long grass. The Silence is one of Africa’s best assets and one of the things I enjoy most about the continent. A good sunset, braai and being out in the open is probably the best way to experience it, and to to let it enrich your soul. For in the silence, I really do believe, God is found…”
That’s it for this week. Over the next couple of months I’ll write a few more of these excerpts and who knows, maybe you’ll learn a thing ot two about Africa…….