Saturday, March 17, 2007

More About Sikalongo from September 2003

A couple of posts ago I wrote about travelling in Zambia. I was looking again at the digital pictures we brought back and wanted to add them to this blog, looking specifically at Sikalongo. We drove out from Choma to see my first home. Lois and I, Vaughn and Nevin piled into the Merc and headed off.

My memory says that we took the Great North Road (the main road to Lusaka) to the turn-off for Sinazongwe, a tarred road that runs down to Kariba Lake. This is not the route that my parents described to me from the days before I remember, but it was the way we were told to drive if we wanted to get to Sikalongo. The road passed through increasingly hilly country as we neared the edge of the escarpment. Sikalongo sits close to the edge of the great plateau running along the centre of the country: the highlands. Beautiful country.
This hut along the edge of the road was one of the more remarkable for its location; for its construction it was unremarkable, revealing the gap between wealthier folk in Zambia and ordinary villagers living in the rural areas. Zambia is 50 percent urbanized, so this scene is both ordinary and beyond the experience of many city folk.

Then we turned off the main road and headed across country, on a track that our sedan could only barely negotiate. A 4X4, all-wheel drive would have been most welcome!

When we say the anthill, which had been raided for brick-making, I knew we must be getting close to the mission school. Bricks mean buildings, and brick buildings often mean schools. The anthill of course also is a common feature of the Zambian countryside: huge hills built up by successive colonies of ants.

The sign signalled the presence of the primary school, but of course there is also a secondary school, a Bible school, and a clinic: in the middle of the bush one finds people living and working together and building a life for each other. They take real pride in what they have built, and look forward to what they might be able to become.

The school still bears marks of the mission that once was. The church, the schools, the clinic: all grows out of the work of many people in the past, including my parents, whose names are so well remembered there. The trees are typical. Wherever Europeans settled in the days when they settled Zambia and Zimbabwe, they planted trees: gum (eucalyptus) and jacaranda and others that I don't know. The trees remain.

The grave of Dorothy also remains. The cemetery is well cared for. I found myself really quite grateful for this courtesy. We live across the ocean, but we know that people who do not know us remember our name because a daughter and sister's remains lie in the earth nearby, where they can see the grave site.

Part of the story is that Zambians are generally more aware of death than North Americans. Death is a constant presence in their lives, and they know also that we are all bound together in death and in life. Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu.

But no grave can have the last word in anything (not even the empty tomb). The last word is beyond the skies, and the sun shining through the leaves and flowers of the trees catches something of the beyond.

We spent a few hours there on this trip. We need a week at least: to watch and hear people; to walk around and see the country (not just a few buildings and the space between them). I am surprised as I look at the pictures to feel a kind of homesickness for my first home, a place where I do not expect to ever live in again. At least the beauty there is part of the world God gives us, and points us to a recovery of beauty beyond.


KGMom said...

Most interesting to see the photos of Sikalongo. I remember that the mission was close to the edge of a plateau. I recall hiking one weekend down through the descending hills. Off in the distance we could hear baboons hooting and barking. It was really rather eerie.
I have many episodic memories of Sikalongo.

Tim Wingert said...

Just got back a week ago from Sikalongo & Choma; getting my parents Gene and Darlene comfortable with the country (they'll be at Sikalongo for another 5 weeks) and doing some sight-seeing.

Pictures of Vic Falls, Sikalongo, Nahumba, etc.

-Tim Wingert