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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Desert of Silence

A well dressed young man waiting with me in Kitwe for the busSitting in the (uncomfortable) front seat of the bus, I am suddenly very glad that I have just spent eight days working on my relationship with Jesus. I watch with a mixture of comedy and anxiety as the guy who passes for the bus conductor starts to winch the front door of the bus shut using a once tan coloured strap and an also broken winch. The sadomasochist in me (the guy who thought it was a spectacularly good idea to jump off a platform 130m above the Zambezi) smiles with glee at the prospect of an ‘exciting’ journey from the capital, Lusaka, back home to Chikuni; the diminutive, sensible part of me starts berating me for not getting the decent bus. Silently I start to pray to just about everyone I can think of who relates to my current situation, St. Christopher (patron of travellers), St. Patrick (patron of the Irish), Jesus, Mary and my ever present and perilously overworked guardian angel.

I found myself in the capital because I was returning from Kitwe, a town in the Copperbelt which is in the north of Zambia. Kitwe is about 30 kilometres away from the Congolese border (in the East) and is right in the middle of all the mining action in Zambia. I was there because I’ve just completed a spiritual retreat in silence. Who knew that eight days of silence would involve so much (damn) silence? Not me anyway! I’ll keep personal insights for when I see people, especially given the propensity of my friends/readers towards atheism or agnosticism but it was an interesting experience and something worthwhile from far more than a spiritual aspect.

A little piece of my home for the week in KitweKitwe is a very interesting town. The whole region has seen much more investment over the decades because of the mines, much more than lots of other parts of Zambia. There’s a fair amount of wealth and while not huge, it’s obviously sizeable compared to my dinky Chikuni. I really liked seeing the smelted copper being hauled away for transport from South Africa (I guess) and there was a huge black heap of apparently still-rich copper slag. There are electricity pylons everywhere to service the two/three mines dotted around the town. And while I was waiting for the bus to bring me back to Lusaka (for an unenviable two and a half hours) I discovered that Pemba women are hot! See, every cloud has a silver lining…

I returned to Chikuni (eventually) and now have but a short week left before all hell breaks lose and London Town welcomes me back with icy-cold, unsmiling and mango-free arms. Can you tell that I’m not ready to leave yet?

Your reporter in the middle of nowhere

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