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Saturday, 23 April 2011

A Milestone of Sorts

“Be-beeep” goes roadrunner as he zooms away from Wile E. Coyote. This is the image I have in my head as today, Saturday the 23rd April arrived and I realised that today, I am in Zambia six full months! How did that happen?

The heat hit me as I stepped out of the plane and into the hot Zambian air at six in the morning. My Zambian adventure was about to begin and everything was up for grabs. The sun was already hot against my skin and the October air was pushing 23 degrees and the day hadn’t even started. I smiled as I saw my contact at the airport waiting for me on the tarmac. Hania wasn’t kidding about the red carpet being rolled out for me. He lead the way and I found myself in the Zambian nationals line at passport control. However when he disappeared I begin to sweat. I could see white faces watching me from the long queue of foreign visitors waiting to have their passports stamped. I got to the front and he still hasn’t returned. “Stay calm David, stay calm. I’m sure he’s just gone for coffee or something… yeah, that’s it.” I let people go past me and much to my relief he turned up with an “Oh, you’re already at the front. Good.” He shoveed me forward, greets the female official by first name and we’re through. I could get used to this!

I stand as high as I can. I am almost on tipi-toes atop of a 2 metre high tree trunk watching as the first dawn of a new year is born of the horizon. The sky floods with colour. Yellow merges to become orange; orange slides into salmon, salmon darkens to crimson and navy to show the last of the night sky. I can’t believe that I find myself here in Chikuni on this New Years morning. The seed of the thought of becoming a volunteer hadn’t even been planted in my brain this time last year. How twelve months can change everything. The sun appears as a sliver of burning yellow just peaking above the distant savannah. Trees disintegrate in the light and vanish temporarily. I wonder about what the next twelve months will bring me; a thirtieth birthday, an Easter away from my family, a year of African memories yet to be imprinted on my brain. I marvel at the fact that I’m stood here, in Africa!! A burning desire to see this sunrise has kept me awake all night and it has lived up to all my expectations. I am left speechless, allowing the thoughts and emotions to wash over me, the tiredness, just like the distant trees, has vanished temporarily.

We shelter from the shower in the porch of the church. The adults are doing adult business as thirty odd children and I decide what to do while staying dry. I sit with my back to the walk, snuggled in between a nine and eight year boy. We start with the staring and mimicking game, which I always enjoy. My little cherubsThey are all fascinated by my white skin and different facial structure but they are still shy. So the game is to catch them staring and make eye contact, at which point they hide their faces. Sometimes they look away, sometimes they hide their faces behind a neighbour, and sometimes they throw their entire bodies out of the spotlight of my playful gaze. The second part of the game is that I mimic one of them. Both pieces elicit much laughter, delight and fun. The next game is a game I learnt during orientation for coming here. You point to a part of your body, for example your ear and say the word in English “This is my ear”. They then repeat the phrase. Then you point to another part, for example your eyes, say it’s name (“These are my eyes”), let them repeat and then sing all the previous pieces “This is my ear, these are my eyes”, pointing or holding each piece as you go. And then add more and more pieces. Everyone laughed when I held my nose and in a silly, Daffy-Duck voice said “This is my nose!” Tongue was the other firm favourite as when you say tongue while holding your tongue, you sound very silly indeed. Eventually the adults finished their business, the rain stopped and I had to leave my troop of giggling cherubs. Little did they realise though that it was my birthday and they had given me a better present than I had ever expected for that day, the gift of laughter and friendship, no matter how short lived it might be!

So here we are; it’s been six months full of memories, events, discoveries, kindnesses and gibberish posted here. To all of you on the other side of the equator, I still miss you but I’ll be back, eventually, probably not married.

Take care
Your coyote in the middle of nowhere

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