It’s a farm. I mean, there’s a lot of other things, but ultimately, it’s a farm. This is a rural area. And no, there are no elephants or giraffe or hippos or lions. It’s a farm.
And there are plenty of paths to walk about, listening to the birds (I saw a Yellow-Mantled Whydah), and buzzing insects and people working in the fields and on the buildings.
There are a lot of buildings: 10 Village buildings house the children & teens, and there are buildings where some of the workers live, and there is Elizabeth House (for young women in crisis), and of course the school (both lower & upper schools), and of course, the library. But there are more buildings in construction as well.
None of these buildings existed 10 years ago. That’s just one of the amazing things. But now, not only are there lots of buildings, but there are eleven deep water wells, electricity for every building, and at least at the Schwartz home, Internet access. Unbelievable really.
Next week, the school will open and now begins the planning for receiving over 700 children (including the 84 from the Village). Lots of trips to Lusaka for school supplies and food for lunches. They feed every child and teacher lunch every day.
It’s a simple life, but for the kids, it’s a good life. They have plenty of food to eat, a roof over their heads, adults who care about them, and most of all, love.
For Westerners, who don’t know better, it may look like nothing, but for many of the 130 employees it’s a livelihood and for the kids, a true hope for the future.
In some ways, they are like teenagers everywhere.
Intellectually, I knew they would be older. After all, it’s been at least 8 years since I was last here. For me, that didn’t seem like such a long time, but for a teen, it could be as much as half a life. So many are all grown up and yet not grown up at all. Something like 54 teens out of 84 children are being raised in the Village of Hope.
Of course, that means hormones are raging and curiosity of “other” is overwhelming. It means pushing at the envelope of authority. It means making lousy choices without thinking through the consequences.
But here’s where they may deviate from their western cousins. They are not married to “screens” and still know how to enjoy conversation and good-hearted game play. Most are devoted to God and understand the miracle of being in a “family” where love rules the day and compassion is a given.
And they lead in the church, from musicians (self-taught keyboard players and drums) to worship team and service host. They lead in prayers.
It’s about an hour and a half to the Village of Hope from Lusaka on the Great North Road. There’s a lot of construction as they are making it a 4-lane road, so far, barely beyond the city, but the plans are in place for 4 lanes all the way to Kabwe. It’s a huge project.
I still can’t get used to the cars on the left side of the road and often think they’re coming straight for us. We did a lot of shopping and errands in the city before heading to the Village. Every trip to Lusaka which can cost $150 in gas alone, needs to be multi-purpose.
I can’t get over all the green. The last time I was here, it was towards the end of the dry season and land was aching for water. This time, the fields are lush with green grass and trees.
As we drive up the road, at first I am struck by the flimsy buildings that line the road, peppered with fruit stands of mangoes and various bags of who knows. But then, I get it. This is entrepreneurship at its most basic. Whether it’s items they have made or gathered, it’s a living. And although it may feel like a kind of blight along the road, is our Route 40 with its brick and mortar and brute signs any better? These things evolve and when we see them every day, we lose perspective. It’s the sudden drop into a culture that catches us by surprise.
There are many communities along the way of the road, but they are unseen, either behind a privacy wall or along a perpendicular road that cuts back into the bush. There are very few paved roads, just dirt roads that wave with ruts. It’s supposed to be the rainy season now but the rain has held off (for Lusaka, a blessing, for the rains would exasperate the cholera bacteria). But I can imagine how these roads must look as mud. Well, no, actually I can’t. But soon enough.
It’s a hotel. My window is open and it’s January. Yep, honey, this ain’t Maryland.
This is my first trip post retirement and it’s lovely. Granted, my brand new Christmas gift suitcase got destroyed on the way and the Johannesburg airport carousel was littered with my underwear, but it all worked out. It’s a story now.
I am here because my host, Benedict, who picked me up along with Muzo (rhymes with Ouzo), had some errands to run in Lusaka before heading back to the Village of Hope. They also have to make another human pick up (Gipepe, that spelling can’t be right), who is the Village doctor, an amazing woman I met once before in Maryland when they were visiting stateside. There’s a cholera outbreak here and it makes everyone nervous, but it’s mostly in the poorer areas. Nonetheless, bottled water is everywhere, and still I almost brushed my teeth with sink water. Habits die hard.
But that is the point. I am here to serve and work at the Village, true. I am also here to break down the every day habits, to discover the me I’ve lost in the busyness of my life that has been on automatic pilot for too long. I want to be more conscious. And integrated.
And it’s time to write again. Here yes. Also on my Meditations blog, as God leads. And maybe, just maybe, another story may be birthed as well. Slow down. Listen.
Watch the trees bend to the wind and leaves flutter outside my window.
That’s how long it seems to take for the repercussions. . . . or results.
I know that sounds strange but I began to notice this trend during the last couple of months I’ve been doing Weight Watchers. I’d come into the meeting expecting a big gain only to have a loss but then, after being very “good” (e.g. keeping to the point regiment), I’d have a gain. Then I saw it: I was on a two week delay. Those three glasses of wine show up on my body later. That crabcake reappears later.
And then, I started wondering about other body phenomenon like cold viruses and the like. Sure enough, if I would just tough it out for two weeks, the worst would be over.
Where was I two weeks ago anyway. Let me think. That would have been June still. I have to turn back a calendar page even. I was traveling to Chicago that day for the library conference. It was my brother’s birthday; my son’s birthday. I had lunch with an old friend of 50 plus years. I took pictures all afternoon. And then I slept. Hard. Was a seed planted that day that I missed?
This is just one of the reasons why I need to pull out my journal again and capture the moment, the spark, the muse’s child breathing and tickling my neck. And then feed it with images and dreams and sound.
Two weeks later, I’m here and writing again.