Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Memories of Zambia

October 2003 we made it into Zambia, for one short week. Far too brief a time, but it was good anyway. The country, or at least the geographical place where I was born. We entered at Victoria Falls and drove the few miles from the border to Livingstone, where I was born so long ago.

The car was packed, and Vaughn wasn't the only one scrunched up to fit. The driver (me) had the best deal: at least until we had fuel problems and I had to get out every ten minutes or so to clear the fuel line (unfasten fuel line, blow in, suck out, try not to get any fuel into your mouth, get back in car and drive for another ten minutes).

Soon enough we were rewarded with a chance to view the Falls -- the evening we arrived, from the Zimbabwean side; the next morning (while our car was worked on, but not entirely repaired) from the Zambian side. Here is a rare pose from in front of the Falls (Zambian side here) -- rare because he became our family photographer for the trip.

As we got further into Zambia, we saw the jacarandas. We had been too early for them in Bulawayo, but here they were in full bloom. We only had to stop twice over the 120 miles to Choma to clear the fuel line (the car's and mine). At one of those stops we took a picture of the jacarandas: introduced by White settlers, these trees are gorgeous, but also greedy. They drink up too much water in the semi-arid conditions of Zimbabwe. During good rainfall years in Zambia they are welcome.

In Choma we stayed at the missionary guest house (just as in Bulawayo, but more modest than the former children's hostel: space for six to ten guests instead of 20 to 30). Lois and the boys went into town and found (among other things) this tailor working on the side walk. They brought him some material, and he made shirts for the boys, which they have worn with delight many times since.

Nevin also searched in Choma for a good drum to take home. He had checked in Bulawayo for a good drum, and learned that the best drums came from the Tonga in Zambia. We found one near the end of our stay the a cultural centre in Choma. That drum had its own adventures later.

Then it was off to Sikalongo. The 20 miles I remembered were not accessible for a car, so we went around, about 30 miles instead. We had trouble finding the run-off from the tar road on the track that crossed the final six miles or so to get to the mission and school, my first home. So we stopped and I asked directions. My parents tell me that when I was three I had some Tonga, but I can tell you that at 53 my Tonga consisted of "Hello" and "Thank you". The people I talked to did not have much English either, but we managed, and we found the road to Sikalongo.

There of course lies a grave. Dorothy. My sister, who died before I was born, and has always been part of my consciousness.

I discovered a curious thing at Sikalongo. My parents, uncle and aunt, and grandparents have all lived in Zambia or Zimbabwe at different times. Our family is known well enough throughout the Brethren in Christ Church there. When I would say my name, I was always identified as part of my family: walking like my grandfather and father, and with the red hair of my uncle.

But at Sikalongo, when I met the headmaster of the secondary school and said my name, he said: "Oh yes. Your parents were David and Dorcas Climenhaga. Your sister is buried there." And he pointed across the schoolyard towards the cemetery. One of the teachers took us for tea (actually, Fanta orange and cake) in his house. He told us that his brother had lost a child the year before, and that they used the same verse at that funeral: Suffer the little children to come unto me.

Back in Choma, then, it was little surprise to meet a 10-year old boy named Climenhaga Hamaseele (son of the Overseer for the church in Choma). The effect of leaving one's own flesh and blood in the ground has a powerful impact, even after 55 years. There, in that place, I was with people who remember my mother and father, not just the rest of the family.

The week was over. We headed out of the country, but this time crossing the Zambezi at Kazangula instead of at the Falls (and so avoiding Zimbabwe on our way back to South Africa). There was no bridge into Botswana, so we crossed the river on a ferry. Our confidence was not increased by the news that a couple of weeks earlier the ferry had been overloaded with passengers, turned turtle in the water when a badly-loaded truck drove on to it, and drowned about 100 people. Of course I was the one to drive our car onto the ferry -- and me with me water phobias! The authorities carefully kept all passengers off (of which this time there were only about 20).

So we crossed the Zambezi, entered Botswana (drum and all), and left the land of my birth. So short a post omits watching Vaughn and Nevin play soccer with young children at the guest house, struggles with the car (to which I will return in the future), church in Choma, so many things from my home. I keep a flag of Zambia in my office, remembering the land where I began life on this earth.


KGMom said...

I might "borrow" the photo of the gravestone to add to my blog (hope you don't mind).
I love all the stories, intermingled sabbatical remembrances with remembrances of things past.
A tailor working right out in the street--amazing.
And the photo of the Falls--lovely.

Anonymous said...

Donna says: "A tailor working right out in the street--amazing." Not reslly. We saw it all the time. A time worn honorable employment! The picture brought tears to my eyes and a luimp to my throat. Love, Father "C"

Anonymous said...

I should have proof read what I said before I clicked. Two typos: "really" and "lump". I wish I could run spell check on these comments. Father "C"

Climenheise said...

I suppose you could type them up in Word, then cut and paste into "comments". I also wish the spellcheck worked on comments, but alas!

Denise said...

Wow - I can't wait to read all this. I've printed the "Memories" posts and plan to read them on the way to Florida. Will give me something to do since I am "not allowed" to help drive. (I drive too slowly - Hmmppffff) Thanks for letting me into your world! Love you - Denise