well, it's been quite a while since i have written anything, i've been at my site for an extended period of time so haven't been able to get to the internet. however, i'm hoping to write a bit in the next few days, so maybe that will make up for my delinquency.
my closest pcv friend in luapula province and closest neighbor's name is shawn, you may remember me mentioning him in connection with the pig slaughter during manfest. i may just start following him around every day as some how he gets himself into ridiculous situations on a semi-regular basis, most of which are extremely funny in the re-telling. his latest fiasco began when he got malaria for the second time. malaria hits pretty hard and fast so your decision-making can become rather fuzzy, which apparently was true in this case. shawn took some anti-malaria medication but misread the instructions and ended up swallowing twice the prescribed dosage. as one of his village friends said after shawn told him how much he'd taken, "that's not good." several hours later shawn had a high fever and his heart was racing so his friend, mulonga, decided to take him to the hospital which was about 10 kms away. however, it was 10 o'clock on a moonless night, and trying to navigate a wet bush path with someone on your bike rack in the dark is just about the least pleasant biking experience you can have. to complicate matters, shawn weighs more than mulonga so the front of the bike kept popping up into the air, leading to multiple crashes, some of which were in mud puddles. several hours later, covered in mud and thoroughly exhausted, mulonga pedalled into kawambwa with shawn clinging feebly to the bike rack. as it turns out there wasn't much that could be done other than to wait for the affects of the drug to wear off, so shawn spent the night in a mosquitoe net-less hospital room with an i.v. in his arm, watching the mosquitoes buzz over to bite him. he traveled to lusaka the next morning and was given a clean bill of health by the peace corps medical officer (although, as i pointed out to shawn later, they probably should have run some tests for pre-existing brain damage, considering that he hadn't been able to follow the simple instructions on the medication's box...he wasn't amused).
when shawn told me the story i really wasn't surprised by the lengths to which mulonga went to make sure that shawn would be okay. volunteers have a lot of stories about their villagers looking after them, sometimes even when they don't know the villager very well. i think there are a number of different reasons for it, one of which is that zambians have such a strong sense of hospitality and obligation towards their guests. we live in the villages and try to assimilate as much as possible but in certain respects we'll always be guests, which means that zambians, especially our friends, very much feel that they're responsible for our safety.
i was in kazembe about a month ago with my missionary friends, tom and amy, and we were sitting around in a van waiting for the butcher to show up with the beef that they'd ordered. the guy was already an hour and a half late, which means that he was only a little late by zambian standards. we were chatting away when i noticed a procession coming down the dusty main street of the town towards us. it was a group of six men carrying a bed on their shoulders in much the way you would carry a coffin; they were sweating heavily and some had their jaws clenched as they labored under the weight of the bed and the woman lying in it. one of the woman's hands hung limply over the side and her face was turned towards us, eyes shut, her countenance not so much pain-filled as resolute, as if she were trying to hang on. silence settled over the car as we watched them trudge on in the direction of the hospital, until amy quietly said "sometimes you just forget..."
she's right, sometimes i just forget about the depth of poverty many people are facing over here, and the situations in which it places them. there are a lot of reasons for my forgetfulness: one is that i have become familiar with it and it seems nearly normal, but a big one is self-preservation. however, there are moments like the one described above that serve to suddenly and painfully remind me about how difficult life can be. it was a sobering moment, made all the sadder because moments like that occur many times a day all over the world.
so, as i said, i hope to write a few more emails in the next several days. my friend joel is going to be visiting me soon for hopefully an extended stay, he was with the peace corps in guinea but has been evacuated as the country has become a mess over the last few months. we also have the annual luapula celebration that is known as moustache march, followed closely by mullet may coming soon...the events in question are probably going to be as gross as the names would suggest (when planning activities, we usually start with a basic query: how can we look the most physically repulsive? and go from there). hoping you are all well