One of my favorite things in the world has convinced me to stay in Zambia.
I went home for the first 2 weeks of July. It was a great (and really fast) 2 weeks as I got to see a few friends and family I hadn’t seen in the year and five months that I had been gone. But as my holiday began to wind down, I started to have second thoughts about going back to Zam-land. I mean America is amazing. I forgot that the “real world” still existed out there. Hot water that comes out of a pipe and never runs out. Take out and delivery. Tivo. Coffee makers. Driving a car. Mexican food and margaritas. Washing machines and dish washers. An entire AISLE of cereal choices. (And skim milk to go with it!) No one harassing you while you walk down the street. I could go on for days but I think you get the point. It was going so well and I was enjoying it all so much that I didn’t want to go back. On the morning of my last full day in America-land, my Auntie Roxie called me. She asked if I was ready to go back, I’m sure assuming I would respond with a very enthusiastic “YES!” Instead she received this as an answer, “eeeggh, no.” “Well, you could just stay,” she replied. “Yeah but all my stuff is in Africa and I don’t wanna make anyone else pack it all up and send back to me,” which was the only thing making me think that I should entertain the idea of going back. Needless to say, the pros were really outweighing the cons and I didn’t want to go back.
Then fate stepped in.
I went to the hospital to say goodbye to my grandpa. I was wearing shorts, a tank top, and my traditional Tanzanian scarf that I got on my vacation to Zanzibar in February. (And who knew that after all these years of making and wearing scarves that it would suddenly become very fashionable!) I got on the elevator to go up to the oncology floor at the top of the hospital. The elevator stopped. Some boys got off and this tiny little African lady got on. Now, you are probably asking yourself, ‘Christa, how on earth did you know that she was African?’ Easy. 2 ways. One. The facial features. Not all Africans look alike. (Although I usually look the same as any other white person to them.) I can also guess a person’s tribe and tell time by the sun. (I’m accurate within a 10 minute window.) Two. She was dressed very conservatively. Long sleeve button up shirt and a neatly pressed long skirt. But the kicker was the head wrap she was wearing. She immediately looked at me and asked where I got my scarf. I told her and she started speaking Swahili to me! I apologized and explained that I don’t speak Swahili but I live in Zambia. Then she greeted me in Nyanja, one of the 7 major languages in Zambia. I couldn’t believe it! We then continued a brief conversation about why I lived there as she held the elevator since we had reached her floor. The elevator started to beep since apparently we were holding it past the designated limit. She wished me luck, the elevator doors closed and she was gone. I started laughing. (Don’t worry, I was the only one in the elevator at this point!) I couldn’t believe it. And just like that, I knew that I should go back to Zambia.
I got on the plane back to Africa. Even though I got my sign that I should go back, I was still a bit unsure. I mean it is America after all! I got on the plane in Sioux Falls at 10am Wednesday morning and walked into the Choma house in Zambia on Friday at 4pm. Yeah. It’s a helluva journey. But I was back.
I hid at the house in Choma for a week. I just wanted to pretend like I was still in America. Then I finally just forced myself to get on the truck and go back to the village. I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay in Zambia but I knew that I should go back to the village first before I made any decision.
I went back in time for the weekend so I just sat around my house and read. Then Monday rolled around and it was WAY too cold to go to school so I sat around my fire all day, drank coffee, and read some more. Tuesday was much better so I decided to head up to school and see what was going on. It was the same old, same old. But it was good to chat with everyone. I had lunch with BaEliza, a teacher at school and a good friend in the village. After that, I headed over to the clinic with Mrs. Banda, one of the nurses. I hung out there for the rest of the afternoon and helped enter patient information into the clinic register. It was the end of the day and I headed back home.
It is at this point in the story that I should stop and fill you in on a bit of information. My favorite thing about being here in Zambia is the kids. All1,100 kids at school know who I am. And it isn’t just because I’m the only white girl living in the village. I’m always greeting the kids no matter where I am or what I’m doing. And don’t even get me started on the kids in my family! They are the reason I’m never lonely or bored. They are all at my house the minute my front door opens (I’ve trained them not to wake me up!) until we go to dinner at night. I like the noise and chaos they bring. Plus they are the reason I know any Chitonga at all!
Back to the story. I was biking home from the clinic and as I came around the bend, there were 2 little girls on the path. I greeted them as I biked past and then I heard the pitter patter of their bare feet as they started running behind me. I slowed down and encouraged them to keep running. Then as we reached the next path, the oldest of the two yelled “Bye Mutinta!” and off they went on their path as I continued home.
I can’t even explain how much those 2 small words made my day, my week, and made up my mind. I knew right then that I couldn’t leave Zambia early. I want and need to spend as much time as I can with the kids at school and the kids in my family. I love them way too much to leave just because I want the convenience of life in America.
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