The Kinky Green

Scary Mezungu? Yep, that’s me

Posted in Uncategorized by Joy on April 3, 2013

This morning I decided to take a walk to the dam near my soon-to-be home. I wasn’t sure exactly where it was, but the day was gorgeous and I had several hours to kill. So I set out down the path in the general direction given by my host (over “The Hill”). I walked through the village, greeting some folks busy at work near their homes, wandered through some grassy meadows, and came to a field of maize where the path was less clear. A man was tending cattle nearby, so I asked the way to the dam, and he proudly showed me the “African bridge” composed of the roots of two live trees growing over a small body of water and pointed me on my way. (This may officially be my favorite bridge on the planet.)

I walked along a winding path through fields of maize, groundnuts (peanuts), & sunflowers, interspersed with beautiful wildflowers, aiming as best I could for “The Hill” to which I’d been directed. When I met a couple of women resting in the shade of a mango tree along the path, I introduced myself (in Nyanja) and asked (in English) if the dam was ahead. They nodded their agreement. (Zambians are very, very agreeable.) Several minutes later, I came upon a house. Realizing I had been walking for much longer than necessary and was no longer headed toward “The Hill,” I stopped and introduced myself and asked the direction of the dam again, only to be told I needed to backtrack and take a right at the cemetery.  

So I wandered back down the path, picking wildflowers as I went. I took the right and found myself smack dab in the middle of the eternal resting place of at least a few dozen Zambians. A few had headstones of cement, but most graves were marked by long sticks over the body and a tub of some sort as the makeshift headstone. Realizing the path didn’t continue beyond the cemetery (and, frankly, feeling a little creeped out and totally out of bounds), I beat it out of there with relative quickness. I met an elderly woman when I rejoined the main path and exchanged pleasantries before we parted ways. 

Then I began trekking up what must have been “The Hill”. The path wound to the west and forked many times, but I felt sure I could find my way back. Very soon, I became aware that someone nearby was cutting down trees and began to notice the increasing ratio of stumps to live trees. One of the potential projects in my area is working to reduce deforestation near the dam, so I was confident I was getting close. 

I rounded a corner and saw two women bent near the path gathering freshly cut wood, each with a baby strapped to her back. Just as I was about to call out a greeting, one of the women looked up, caught sight of me, threw her load of wood to the ground, and started out with a healthy sprint in the other direction. What a frightful sight I must’ve been, walking along in my chitenje (wraparound/skirt), carrying a large bunch of wildflowers. 

“Muli bwanji?!?” (“How are you?!?”), I shouted, suppressing my laughter. The woman who hadn’t run away returned my greeting and called to her friend, laughing at her clumsy getaway attempt. I introduced myself & told the ladies I’d be replacing the current volunteer as the runaway slunk back. Her friend and I had a good chuckle before I turned back to head home. 

Even though I didn’t make it to the dam, I felt like I’d accomplished enough for the day.  Zambians seem to find nothing more entertaining than whatever it is the nearest mezungu (foreigner) is doing. Basically, they’ve been laughing at us since the moment we arrived (and, undoubtedly, won’t stop as long as we’re here). Turning the tables was a fantastic change of pace and all the morning’s work I needed. The dam can wait for another day. 


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