April 30, 2009

I’m packing again – clothes, shoes, books, my chai tea, and souvenirs as gifts for family and friends. I found some beautiful pottery at a local market – espresso cups and tiny smaller than doll-sized tea sets. Two elderly men often came by our doors bringing wooden and silver jewelry. Guess what I’ll give for Christmas this year? And can I go by a shop displaying Congo cloth without at least stopping to look?

I'm wearing the Ku-omboka Chitenge Mr. Mate gave me as a farewell gift. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

I'm wearing the Ku-omboka Chitenge Mr. Mate gave me as a farewell gift. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

The chair of Bukuumo Cooperative, a Lozi, gave me a beautiful bright red chitenge cloth displaying ku-omboka symbols. The ku-omboka feast among the Lozi people is one of the most important traditional festivals in Zambia. I feel honoured. Most women wear this cloth wrapped around their hips like a wrap skirt, usually over another dress.

Bagenda came to visit this morning, bringing two hooked rugs she made. They are works of art with intricate designs. She also brought screen prints of paintings from Emmanuel Nsama, an accomplished local artist we came to know.

These gestures touch us. We pack items, but mostly we pack memories. I’ve often had to remind myself these past months that we come here because of people, not projects. Projects are only the means to an end.

As we prepare to leave, many tell us how grateful they are for what we gave them – sometimes a loan, a gift of money, knowledge or exposure. Mostly I think they appreciate that we gave of ourselves. We are touched by their kind words and gestures.

We’ve often been frustrated, and even yesterday had an incident that made us wonder why we come here. But as we leave, we remember the many little things that have encouraged us and the friendships we leave behind. We know that in some small corners of Zambia, we have touched lives and made a little difference. It is enough.

Everyone asks us when we are coming back. We don’t know. But there are projects we have started, things we want to see develop. Despite the setbacks, I think we will be back.

Saturday morning we fly to London, to a different world. We look forward to spending a few days there, getting out to the countryside and seeing what farmers do in England. It is new territory to us. We’ve never been past the airport in England. We’ll let you know what we find.

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