I still have good days and bad days. Sometimes I can go a whole day without even paying a thought to it. Other days I can’t get my mind off of it. I try so hard not to imagine the beautiful, tan plains, the singing, the bumpy (and oftentimes nonexistent) roads we traveled, Mutinta, and even the unique colors of the sunsets which strike a chord in my heart so hard that I fear it may break. Every inch of my body yearns to go back to Africa.
My team went with an organization called World Hope International. We spent the two weeks that we were there visiting tiny villages, helping prepare meals, plant gardens, and simply giving the poverty-stricken towns hope. My team of 13 had to share everything. Bedrooms, one bathroom, a crowded bus, a translator. We loved every minute of it, though. We were a family. One crazy, dysfunctional, hilarious family.
It was really the night after I got home that I first started missing Zambia. In Africa, I was the person I wanted to be. I started the conversations with the shy women who looked at me with approval and love. I was proud of my religion, my hair color, and the fact that I got my skirt at Amvets with money I made babysitting. In Africa, I didn’t care what people thought of me because I knew that this was my one chance. I embraced the Zambian life where there is no schedule, everybody helps cook, and fetch the water miles away. In Zambia I was truly myself. I missed the odor radiating off of the unwashed people that I grew to love immediately, and who somehow loved me too. I missed the songs sung in Tonga, I missed even the revolting drink jublontu (also known as “the drink you can chew”). I missed the hospitality, the love, and the humor of the Zambians. They welcomed me into their shacks, gave me what little they had, and we gave them what we went to give- hope. We gave them hope for their futures by planting gardens so that they would know that with a little work, they will be able to feed their families soon. We gave them hope for their self-worth by paying thousands and traveling days just to see them. They were beautiful, not because of their appearance, but because of their vivid spirits. I still remember the children, singing and dancing through the shacks of the village. They would say “take me back with you!” and it would break my heart. I knew that even the trashiest of houses in my suburban town would seem like a lavish mansion to them. I knew that some of them would have to go without food tomorrow, because they chose to eat with us today. I knew that many of them would die from AIDS within a couple years. I knew I would never forget them. They had so little, but in spirit, they had so much. The Zambians are the most gracious, joyful, and loving people I have ever met.
I love and miss everything about Zambia. If you have the chance to go there, take it; and please tell Chimuka I say hello.
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