Tuesday, May 15, 2012
May 05 Entry - Finding Our Way
We’ve been in Zambia for just about two weeks now and I’m just now getting to the place where I feel like I recognize the country again. Driving up to Luyansha from the Zimbabwe border, Zambia presented a new and different face to me. I’d never been along the southern border so the roads and villages were unfamiliar to me. As we got closer to Lusaka, the landscape began to take on familiar form although arriving in Lusaka, I felt like we had arrived in South Africa. There was a new strip of development in Lusaka that took me completely by surprise. A new mall, lit up billboards, casinos and hotels line the road along the approach to the airport. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Brand new trucks driven by a variety of ethnicities also made me wonder if we’d taken a wrong turn at the border. When I was last in Lusaka, in 2010, there was no evidence that this type of growth or investment was on the horizon. Now, Zambia seems poised to be the next developing country in Africa, with investments from the Chinese and South African governments beginning to stimulate the economy again. While these are good signs of growth, I know that it will take a long time for the benefits of this input to trickle down to communities like Mulenga, Zimba and Amulo that are still at trying to reach the place where they can begin to see the changes in their own lives. Even so, it’s encouraging but strange to be in Kitwe and seeing white person after white person make their way through the gas station where we are stocking up on supplies for the evening. I wonder what impact they are having on the economy in their brand new trucks and real estate investments here in the city. I try not to feel resentful of the white people who come and profit off of Zambia instead of pouring into the lives of those who need so much more than a stable economy. It’s an uninformed reaction, I have no idea why these families are here or what they are doing. I try not to project my own disillusionment onto others but I have to admit, it’s difficult at times. Much of it stems from my own inability to provide relief and restoration to so many that I meet. I lump everyone else in with me when I think of the collective “we” that have not risen to the challenges that Africa holds in front of us. How do we sleep at night? Shamefully well, I’m afraid. Even here, it’s hard to keep focused on the challenges. We need to rest our minds and hearts from the things we hear and encounter – it’s then I feel the weakest. I know that gogos have been going for years on so little, caring for so many with such limited resources and without rest. I’m beginning to understand that my life in Canada is different and in many ways, cannot compare with the lives we encounter here. I have been trying to reconcile the disparity since my first visit to Zambia. While here, though, it’s difficult to come home to a room with a bed and a lock and a toilet that I don’t have to go to out in the darkness. We’re paying $12 a night for the four of us to stay and it is basic and sufficient and yet it feels so much more than what we’re seeing in our daily visits and walking through communities. I know at the end of the day, hot and tired and thirsty, that there is a little money in my pocket for food, a safe place to sleep and clean water to drink. It’s enough to make me feel like we are living well above everyone else – and that’s enough to bring tears of gratitude and guilt, every night as my head hits the pillow.