“You, WHAT?!” Imagine the stunned look on the face of my fellow missionary mom, as I replied,
“Yeah. I really love it here. I mean it. This is home.”
Long, incredulous pause……………………………………………………….
We went on to discuss things we missed like family, quality chocolate, Amazon.com, and Costco. But it was one of those defining moments for me. I realized that somewhere in the last few years I transitioned from thinking of Zambia as where I am “stationed for now” or “where I live” to truly feeling like it’s my home.
As I contemplated this unexpected development, I discovered three utterly insane reasons to love this wild, backwards continent.
1) It’s exotic. I mean, let’s face it, do YOU get to go see wild zebras, spy on rhinos, or walk rehab cheetahs on YOUR vacations?? Didn’t think so.
We are surrounded by different cultures. There are dozens of languages whirling around our lives daily. Some men working outside are speaking Bemba. A friend in the other room is on the phone speaking Nyanja. My kids are outside in the yard and their friends are screaming at them in Afrikaans. The English accent they are most acquainted with outside our house is, well… English. Like the original one from England. Exotic people from exotic places are part of our every day lives. I LOVE it. I never know who is coming to get-togethers or what interesting food they will bring. Amazing people from far-off places just drop in to have tea.
Of course… “exotic” has a dark side. We try all kinds of food that, frankly, we’d rather not (dried, fermented, fried fish, anyone?) The diseases here are also exotic. We just had a family encounter with Amoebic Dysentery. For Tim this was on the tail of a years-long round with Chronic Giardia. We sleep under nets faithfully to avoid mosquitoes and the malaria parasites they carry. Some kinds of exotic… I could live without.
2) It’s beautiful. I know, I know- Niagara Falls is beautiful too. So is the Grand Canyon, the Pacific Ocean, and the mountains behind my parents’ house. They are. I love visiting all of those places. But I find Africa absolutely captivating. Every evening God paints a stunning, unique watercolor sunset with colors you would never expect- bright purple, dusky pink, and green. They span over fields of maize, giant anthills, and tall, branching flamboyant trees.
The people here work hard to create beauty. When you can’t run into a store to buy wall art or rugs, even the simplest object can create beauty. Squatting inside a hut to avoid the rain, an old lady will peel carrots and glance at the one picture she has of her son, taken many years before when he finished school. It’s badly faded and the edges are worn from the many times she’s caressed it, but she would never consider taking it down. For one, it’s the only picture she has. More importantly, it’s a beautiful expression of what she cares about most- her now grown boy.
The beauty comes with savagery, poverty, filth, and a lot of hard work. But it’s there. And it’s incredible.
3) It’s a free country. No I haven’t gone crazy. Yeah, there are all kinds of weird rules here and permits or fines for a lot of things, but I have come to the realization that it is NOTHING compared to the Western World. I home school my kids. Nobody cares. I grow whatever trees I want in my yard. Nobody cares. I have 2 dogs, a cat, and I’m about to have chickens. Nobody cares. We built an addition to our house and Tim’s wiring it himself… yep. Nobody cares. Now, this is not limitless… there are LOTS of rules here. Just not as many as a lot of other places!!
I don’t think Africa is actually better than anywhere else. I’m a “have suitcase, will travel” kinda girl so I’d pick up and shift for an Australian experience or a sabbatical in South America. I’d love nothing more than a fieldtrip to Russia, roadtrip through Canada, or backpack through the Andes. But for now, this is my home. And I love it here.