9pm Monday, October 12 – 6th day - Who Love You, Baby?
Today I walked to the school that Ubumi runs, about a mile down the road from the orphanage. I got to see their Hammer Mill, which empowers women by helping them grind their own grain instead of having to pay for it. And their chicken coop, where the women in the program can raise chickens and then sell them off for profit to buy more chickens and continue the process.
Ubumi is quite a fantastic organization, really. It’s much more than an orphanage, which is what I first thought. It is an orphanage of 13 kids, a school of 380 kids, a women’s nutrition program, a land development program, and smaller ways of developing independent income. It’s hard to grasp, and I feel incredibly small in my foolish thinking of it being a simple organization.
Ruth, the school manager and an Ubumi staff member, speaks a ton of languages. She told me she speaks most of the main tribal languages of Zambia (of which there are 7) as well as understanding bits of Malawi, tonga, and oh yeah, she told me all this in English, so… right.
I bought chlorine today to clean my own water so I didn’t have to keep buying bottled water (only because of the hassle, not the cost, which is around 50 cents a bottle). Except the chlorine has directions for 5 liters or 20 liters, not .5 liters. So I gather ten of these water bottles and fill them with water and then try to put drops of chlorine in them except I get worried about whether it will work so I call my dad to find out if it’s worse to add too much and die of bleach poisoning or add too little and get cholera. Inevitably I figure out I’m pretty safe but the water smells like pool water and isn’t that pleasant to drink, all in all. But that’s ok, because there’s only about 9 more bottles to go through and I can buy bottled water again. Oh well.
I met another Ubumi staff member today, Joel. Joel is a bright smile of a man, very kind. He spent 5 years in Rome in seminary and so speaks Italian, as well as French, English, Swahili, some Congo language, and a bit of Spanish. He likes to say “Mamma-mia” as an exclamation. In other words, he’s a pleasure to be around. He asks me how Obama is, and plenty of questions about American culture. It’s a difficult concept to express that American’s don’t have a staple food like they do here (Nshima), or a staple culture, really, since we’re an amalgamation of so many different places, that everyone in America (for the most part) came from somewhere else.
He takes me to the Central African Baptist College, because he knows there are Americans there. I’m not kidding! That’s how nice this guy is, that he does this for me right after I meet him. So I end up getting to see white people. And not just white people, but ones who are American, which is all I really care about, white, black, yellow, freaking green, I don’t care.
I meet Ben and Rachel, and Ben is from Cleveland, which we sort of bond over but not really, and it’s nice, just for a moment, to feel like I’m not so far away. And it’s also nice because Ben and Rachel and I don’t have some instant connection. Rachel’s already been here for over a year and will be for another one at least anyway, so she’s loving it here. But it’s nice because it reminds me that being white or being from the same country (heck, the same damn cities, really) doesn’t make a relationship. And the people who are excited for me to be here are the Zambians I know, not the Americans I don’t.
And isn’t it odd, how much I longed for Americans without knowing what that meant. And what I really long for is what I have: love. Because I was used to being loved by Americans, by my family and friends. And here I am realizing I’m loved by Zambians too, and that makes it ok, being here.
And now my greatest worry is if I’ll ever catch up to all the things I’m learning here, because sometimes it’s like a steam-shovel of knowledge is being poured into my teacup of a brain. But I am so grateful. I am so grateful for this.