I have to start this trip blog with a confession: I forgot.
I forgot just how special this place is. I forgot the smell when you walk off the plane in Lilongwe, Malawi and onto the tarmac. The deep inhale of fresh, Africa air after hours and hours (46 hours, to be exact) of flights, layovers, security checks, car rides, customs and border crossings. At times during our globe-crossing trek, I think I may have even forgot we had a destination, petered out by yet another three hour chunk to kill at an airport (“didn’t we already kill 4 hours here?”).
I forgot how dark it is on the roads outside of Chipata, Zambia, as we zipped away from the airport around 7pm on Sunday night – where there are no streetlights, just sporadic forks of lightening tonight in the distance, lighting up the horizon for a split second at a time. I forgot how the vast and expansive blanket of stars covers the skies here every night, making you wonder if the sky is simply bigger on this side of the world.
I forgot the endless foot and bike traffic on the sides of the road. Kids walking home together, men and women pushing bikes that carry overloaded bags of crops, hitchhiker thumbs extended on every side – hoping for a flash of brake lights to help quicken their evening commute.
I forgot about the miles and miles of faded pavement we drove on, where rules of the road are more like suggestions as you weave, dodge, brake and accelerate at your own risk. I forgot these roads are filled with stray dogs, bare feet, rogue motorcycles and the words ‘navigate’ and ‘hope for the best’ at times seemed interchangeable. I forgot they drive on the left side of the road here. And I was glad to have a friend take the wheel tonight instead of Mark or myself.
And that friend, I didn’t forget him. Moses Masala. Our fearless leader. The captain of our expedition. Our faithful Zambian Project Manager for Dwankhozi Hope, who does so much more than a title could ever convey. Who picked us up from Lilongwe, ushered us through border crossings and will be with us all week. Never mind that he is a husband and a father and a full-time engineer and came to travel with us. He is one of the most gracious and giving individuals I’ve met – with his time, his energy and his spirit.
But I admit I may have forgotten the full richness of his laugh. Or how willingly he shares it with others. Or his never-ceasing sense of humor. Or how he manages to keep such a pulse of what is going on in the communities that surround him.
And I think I forgot the depth of his connection and commitment to his home, the Dwankhozi community. As our car conversation covered topics from families to politics to the week’s agenda, he mentioned that many individuals in Zambia can have alternative motives when they decide to pour back into their community. Often that giving back is tied to a public image or it is setting them up for a run at a government position or office. And Moses has been asked if he would ever consider such a choice. My personal opinion is that Moses is about as qualified as they come and is the exact person you would like steering the direction of your city, region or country. Some may have even speculated that his immense involvement in Dwankhozi Hope is tied to such a possibility. But with a shake of his head in the car tonight, Moses did away with any such talk. The change he has seen in Dwankhozi, he said, over the last ten years. That is enough. That is what he’s after. Playing a part in transforming the rural community that raised him. It’s a place he cares deeply for and chooses to invest in. It is out of love, not politics. It is out of hope, not personal gain. And my admiration only grows deeper.
So to sum up: we made it. Bags in hand, health intact. And tomorrow we visit Dwankhozi. Pictures are in the forecast for tomorrow’s blog. Stay tuned. Goodnight, from Zambia.