Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Hard

My first post about Zambia was all about the beauty it has to offer. I wanted to lead with that because I don't want it to be lost among the pictures that will be seen in this one.  Zambia was beautiful in many ways. The colors, the landscape, the people.

But there are many difficult and hard things about Zambia, too.

I will not count myself as an expert (SO very far from that!) but I will do my best to present the facts as I had seen them and as they were told to me.

Zambia won it's independence from British rule in 1964. Since then they are struggled to get a government going that is sustainable and good for the people.

There is essentially no middle class in Zambia. There is the lower to poverty class and those that work for the government. It was interesting to see a culture that is mostly driven by a poverty mindset:
The poverty mindset keeps people in their own little circle or world.  It is all about them and what they can get for their family.  They look for ways to only increase or make a difference in their family or circle of influence.  The middle class mindset is more than just family and circle of friends but reaching into their community and beyond.  The wealthy mindset is reaching, networking and always looking for opportunities to grow on an individual basis and making a difference internationally. Source

The part of Zambia that Kitwe is in is full of copper. There are other countries coming in who want a share of that wealth. They offer to help build roads for the Zambians, employ the Zambians to build the roads, and in turn, they get full access to the Copper Mines.  Unfortunately, once the roads are built, there is no way to maintain them, so they fall in disrepair quickly.  There are only 2 main, fully paved roads in Zambia. One that runs north to south through the country, and one that runs east and west.  We witnessed the poor quality of these roads as we took our 15 hour bus ride. Some potholes were so big our 15 passenger bus could fit in one. Sometimes we just drove off the road to avoid them. You cannot get anywhere quickly, at least not without throwing your back out of joint or losing a vital piece of your vehicle.

In Garneton, where the Wiegands live, there is a community called the Compound. Here is a neighborhood, a town, where Zambians live in brick and mud huts. Most with roofs that are patched together with cardboard, tin, and rocks to keep it from blowing away. There were a few homes with nice, green tin roofs. These are thanks to the Wiegands and the fundraising they did about a year and half ago to get these roofs for their employees on the farm.

We walked through the compound one evening, visiting and saying hello to the families that work at Lifesong Farms and whose kids attend Lifesong School. 

 One of the women who works at Lifesong Farms has her own well. She is generous in allowing her neighbors to come and draw from it whenever they have need. Which is often since fresh well water is very scarce.

One of the green tin roofs

 And the neighbor whose roof is not.....

 Inside the compound are not only homes, but the market, and lots of lots of bars. 

 We had quite a crowd following us

 The compound is communal living and everywhere there were children running around. Often children taking care of children, often out of necessity

 It's not safe for the Mzungus (white people, literally "one who wanders") to be in the Compound after dark. So, as the sun set, we made our walk home, which is less than 10 minutes down the dusty road.

One day we needed to head into Kitwe, about a 10-15 minute bumpy ride from home, to locate machinery parts.  Sometimes you need to visit 4-5 places to try to find a certain item you are looking for. And sometimes not a single place will have it. You can spend an entire afternoon driving from place to place and still come up empty. This is not a place of convenience.

One small part of a market in Kitwe

We were in Zambia in the dry season, so the mosquito population was down. However, that doesn't mean that Malaria is not still a threat.  Mosquito nets are a necessity, though not all Zambians have access to them.  Malaria can be treated, and one can survive, but often people don't seek help, or don't have the means to pay for it. So, something that can be treated often kills many. 

A view of the capital, Lusaka, from the van window.

The borders were an interesting spot. There were semis lined up for over a mile. Each one was stuck at the border, sometimes for up to a month, waiting for approval to go across. Sometimes the only way to get across was to allow money to change hands...

These were "showers" that were set up close to the border. The truckers don't have much to do but mill around and wait for their approval.

In the 15 hour drive from Livingstone to Garneton there were miles of bush and dirt and then a smattering of huts and buildings lined up along the roadside and the then miles of bush and dirt again.  When there aren't many paved roads, anyone who wants to get anywhere far tends to set up life right beside the roadway.

One of the cites we drove through was Kabwe, where some other missionary friends of our live. A sad truth about Kabwe, it is considered the world's most toxic town, where even the dirt is laden with poisonous lead left over from closed mines.

This is the one picture that I captured while we walked through the market in downtown Kitwe.  The experience was a sensory overload. Drunk men shouting at us, the smell of raw sewage as it trickled down the center of the alleys we walked, bright chitenge sold beside knock-off shoes and sunglasses (I went with the chitenge), small children running up to us asking for money, and other children and gorwn men passed out on the sidewalk, either from alcohol or from huffing jet fuel (huffing jet fuel keeps the hunger pangs away). The passages between stalls were often just wide enough for us to walk single-file and the path so jutted with holes and sewage you had to carefully watch your step.

 Many people have asked us what the highlight of the trip was. While there were many fantastic things I could list, the number one best thing was just living life with our friends. We were able to see where they lived, what a typical day consisted of, and meet people they interact with every day. 
And one huge thing we walked away with (and knew this already, but had a more heavy perceptive feel of this fact) is that missionary life is very lonely.

Yes, there are other team members. Yes, there are all sorts of people you interact with on a daily basis. But there is no one else, besides your immediate family, that can completely understand you. No one else has come from the background you have. No one has your history.

I have heard it described this way by many missionary friends: When you move from your home to your mission home you are Blue. You are Blue moving into a Yellow world. You don't exactly fit. After awhile you learn more about the culture and the people and you take on a little Yellow. So, you become Green. You are now Green living in Yellow. But you will never become Yellow.  And then, when you do go back to your homeland, you are Green in a Blue world.

This is a glimpse of the sacrifice that our friends have made in order to be obedient to the calling they have been given.

 These are pictures of their home. They used to just have a chainlink fence as a boundary, but there have been muggings and murder and other various crimes within blocks of their home, so a concrete wall was built. This does not help the isolating feeling. But it helps keep their children safe.

 View from their front yard. This is the site of the Vocation Program that is getting started up (stay tuned for the next blog post about that!)  The green tanks hold all of their clean water. They pump it up into the holding tanks from the well below.

 The view from just outside their wall, Kitwe in the distance.

It was kind of difficult to write this post. I don't like pointing out hard things, the first post was so much easier! But, I knew I needed to discuss the hard things, because that paves the way for the 3rd and final post.  You've seen some of the Beautiful and now some of the Hard. And despite that Hard, there is Hope...

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Beautiful

Five years ago my dear friend, Carrie, broke the news to me that she was moving across the ocean to Zambia. And ever since she spoke those words my heart has desired to go there as well.

I had voiced it out loud in one way or another, how it would be so great to actually see where our friends are living and serving in Zambia, but I never voiced out loud the dream that was really rolling around in my head.

Paul and I never go anywhere just the two of us. Well, not never, just hardly ever. We went on a 4 day honeymoon, and then 10 years later a cruise...and that has been it.

This year is Paul and I's 15th wedding anniversary. I have been dreaming for the last 5 years how grand it would be to actually fly to Zambia and make that our 'anniversary trip.'  I knew it would remain a dream, though, because tickets for the two of us to fly there are close to $4000. Yeah, that would have to remain a dream that I held in my heart.

But God knows what our hearts are crying, and He truly does desire to give us good things.

This past April, on my birthday of all days, a friend calls me out of the blue to tell me that she and her husband want to pay for our tickets to fly to Zambia and visit Erik and Carrie.

She did not know about my heart's dream.

But God did.

So, the summer of our 15th Anniversary, the dream in my heart became a reality.

There is so much to say about our trip, so much so I am having difficultly really explaining it to people, to actually put it into words.

So, I decided to split up my telling about the trip into 3 parts. This is Part 1: The Beautiful.  I will tell it mostly with pictures, with a bit of commentary thrown in.

 We landed in Lusaka Airport after nearly two days of flights and layovers.  Erik and Carrie picked us up there and we drove to the hotel where we met up with the rest of the family and their missionary team.  We stayed there for the night and then headed out before the sunrise on a 7 hour bus trip to Livingstone, Zambia. (Side note: we rode in a bus owned by Lifesong, the mission organization that the Wiegands serve with in Zambia. It made our many hours on the road more tolerable when we could all be together in one place, hanging out)

Once we made it to Livingstone, we headed to the main attraction: Victoria Falls.  Known as one of the 7 wonders of the Natural World, to say it was awesome is an understatement. The shear volume of water that comes over the falls is so heavy and fast that is causes mist to spray hundreds of feet into the air, falling back down like rain.  Being the dry season, there are no clouds and all sun, all day long.  Rain + sun = Rainbows.  Lots of them.  There were even times when there were rings of rainbows that we could walk through.


 At the base of the falls, looking up through some of the mist

 Standing on the bridge that spans between Zambia and Zimbabwe

 I may have taken way too many pictures of rainbows....but it was really hard to resist!

 They're a little small in the picture, but one of my favorite captures.

 The next morning we headed into Botswana to Chobe National Forest and an African Safari Jeep and Boat ride.  It started with coffee, tea, and muffins.

 We saw hippos, giraffes, impalas, countless types of birds, a lioness hunting a warthog (Pumba!!), crocodiles, several others that I'm forgetting at the moment, and of course....elephants. 

 The highlight of the elephants was the baby and mom who ran right alongside our jeep.

 This is how I felt pretty much our whole trip. I had to keep leaning over and whispering to Paul, "We are actually in AFRICA!!"  Even when there, it was hard for me to believe.

 I was a little late in catching the sunset, but I got the afterglow. The mist is from the falls in the distance.

 The next day after the safari we all piled back into the bus and made the 15 hour (yes, 15) trek to Garneton, Kitwe, Zambia.  This was the one shot of blue in the continuous band of red sand and brown dirt.

The remainder of our time was spent just 'being' with Erik, Carrie, and their kids.  We went on errand runs to find parts for their hammer-mill, grocery shopping, helping with a bit of "spring" cleaning, heart to heart talks, playing darts, sitting in the sun, and getting to understand their life in Zambia a bit more.

Walking the 1 mile path to Lifesong School from their home. 

 Something I found surprising, eating out is pretty inexpensive. So, we did quite a bit of it!  Erik is protesting his Fanta being borrowed for Jayde's bottle...
 One night we were able to go out, just the 4 of us (double date!). Being able to talk candidly, uninterrupted was quite nice.

 Of course hanging out with these 4 was a delight.  They are all growing up to be such sweet, mature Christ followers.  Ooo, I just wanted to keep squeezing them.

Shitenge shopping in the market. Just loved all the patterns.

We got to cheer on the red and yellow teams at their annual Sports Day. So much energy, sounds, and joy packed into the play yard. (More on the school in a later post!)

Babies and just passed around in this culture. Everyone just jumps in and helps take care of everyone else. I found myself the lucky recipient of this one for a bit...

I have over 600 pictures from the entire trip, so it was kind of tough to narrow it down to this lot. But this a glimpse of the beauty that can be found in Zambia. From the natural beauty of creation, to the patterns of the shitenge in the market, to the joyful sounds of children at play. Zambia has beauty, and I am humbled that we got a chance to see it for ourselves.