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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Chronicles of Zambia #5 Breakdown Camp

Kasembe on Lake Mmeru: Breakdown Camp

Camping in someone's front yard for 6 days was NOT on the game plan, but "Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth" is as true in Zambia as anywhere else in the world. Maybe it's even more true. Is it possible for something to be more true then true? Anyway, it is extremely true in Zambia, that you don't know what is going to happen next.

One minute we were driving through grass taller then our heads, and the next we were stopped in the middle of the track, smelling funny. The fan belt had broken, and Koos quickly sized up the situation, "It'll take 3 or 4 days to get this sorted out."
Our hearts sank. We had just said good bye to the Pygmies not an hour before. We had been there 3 days and 4 nights, and were really ready to be heading south into more familiar territory, where maybe we wouldn't have quite so much staring at us.

Koos said good bye, and left 5 sad Youngs sitting in a wounded Land Rover in the middle of the track. We had packed early that morning, and hadn't had much of a Quiet Time with the Lord, so we put that as top priority. I felt better after that, and realized we might be there awhile, and this might be my golden opportunity to dry out all of our stuff that we had packed wet, so I went into actions. Towels, blankets, clothes and the tent itself were soon draped over the Land Rover and the bushes nearby. We all had to put on a layer of bug repellent as the flies made me think of the 10 plagues of Egypt. Timmy put my sun hat over his face to keep the flies out. Too bad we didn't catch a picture of that. He looked funny.

We sat there and worked there for about 3 hours, trying not to think about what we would do if Koos couldn't get back. We were elated when he did get back, and then had to hustle to get all my drying stuff packed back up again. Koos had to turn around in that tall grass and then hooked us up and towed us off.
We were towed down that trail back to a dirt road, and there in the fishing village of Kasembe on Lake Mweru we landed in the front yard of a brother in Christ who said he didn't mind. I wonder if he minded when we were still there, 5 days later. We never went into their house. I'm nosy, and wanted to see what it was like, but the glimpses I caught of the inside just looked dark and rough.
We did get to use their outhouse. Enough said about that. Though I could say a lot more.


Our Kasembe days were not bad. We were wakened every morning around 4:45 by the traffic picking up around us. Apparently it is crucial to have your yard swept before sunrise because lots of little ladies were out with their brooms first thing. Someone would sweep just outside our tent and I would hear the sprinkle of the sand on the material right near my head. Somehow it was just part of the adventure.

Paul didn't have so many Kasembe days as the rest of the family. Koos came back after 3 days, with the new fan belt, and on Saturday night he tried to install it. He got it in, started it up, and the fan itself fell right out of the vehicle. The bearings were shot. This was truly discouraging. After some debate, Koos decided to tow the Land Rover down to Mkushi, the nearest place with a service station that he trusted. Henry said he could not drive the Land Rover. Paul said he would drive it, in tow, and Timmy leaped at the chance to escape "Breakdown Camp". Doris needed to teach school, and wasn't feeling at all well, so she and Dessy also hitched a ride with them toward their home.

Paul had 2 grueling days and nights. They towed with a tow cable at first, but it broke several times. A policeman stopped them at one point and told them they had to have a proper tow bar, so that held them up for hours as they hunted it. One blessing was when Henry called his nephew Luka in Mansa. He went to helped them a lot. Koos was grateful to be able to put himself in trustworthy, capable hands.
But they drove the first night til around 1:30 AM, and just slept a few hours in the car before starting again. They drove all the next day except for stops to hunt for parts, until Paul fell asleep at the wheel around 12:30 the second night, and swerved way to one side. Koos decided they needed to stop. Finally on Tuesday they arrived in Mkushi. Paul went to someone's house and slept in a tent for part of that day and all the next night. From what I hear, Tim was happy with his school, books, and Kindle. Later they moved into Losa Guest House to wait for us, and to sleep some more, while poor Koos got back on the road to the North.
Doris had felt worse as they traveled, and they found that it was malaria, so I know she and Dessy will have been relieved to arrive at home.
The Bemba speaking people of Kasembe were fascinated with us. I don't know when the last time was that a white person had been there, but a whole slew of them like us, with kids! Wow! It was a rare opportunity to study the habits of the Musungu(white person) in his natural habitat. Only living in a tent is not my natural habitat.
It's a little rough being fascinating. About 300 children (literally) followed us when we slipped down to the lake for a swim. About 50 children stared at us as we cooked each meal outside, often with 5 or 6 mamas lined up behind them. The men were more discreet and only gawked as they passed or watched from across the street. The kids would get underfoot too, until we decided to hang a pink string around the camp as a sort of boundary to preserve a little of our sanity. Again, Paul, Timmy and Joshua improved relations by introducing Frisbee throwing.
One day I was flopped tiredly on a camp chair near the pink string, and a teenager walked briskly across the road and deposited a baby in my lap! She spun on her heel and was gone smilingly back across the road. Now what was this? Did we get to keep the cooing cutie?

I predict this baby will grow up to be a very gregarious person, because it didn't faze her at all to be left in the company of our scary selves. She liked our hair, both to eat and to pull. She liked our rusk, and she liked standing on my lap with some help. Funny little person! I thought she was a boy, until we found out her name is Josephine. I get the impression the girl who brought her was dared to do it, or something along those lines. We can't be sure, but Josephine's visit was a highlight of that day.

Another perk of Kasembe was the used clothing shops. I was broke, but we still enjoyed pawing through piles of clothes, treasure hunting, and Evangel borrowed 10,000 kwachas to buy 2 tops. Doesn't that sound like a fortune? but it was worth about 2 dollars or 14 rands. Missionary prices, if you ask me!


Nights on Lake Mweru intrigue me. Hundreds of boats with gas lanterns set out on their fishing. We thought at first it was a city with electricity on the far side of the lake, but it was just those gas lights blazing out from the wooden boats. We ate some of the fish too, and really enjoyed the ones that looked like cat fish.
There was no electricity in the district, but some people have solar panels to run a radio or a light at night. Still, the over all effect is a deep darkness each night. We started getting sleepy at sundown, and were usually asleep by 9 at the latest. One night we heard a mighty crash in the night. An outhouse caved in. Such things are not good for my nerves or my imagination. (you can sort of see the Kasembe collapse in the background of the first outhouse picture up a few paragraphs)(Outhouses seem to have a habit of collapsing in Zambia, cause the one at Puta had also caved in not so very long ago)




Another night we heard a very weird but beautiful chanting/singing. It was scary. I imagined it was a group putting a curse on us, and Jeni thought they were just coming straight to kill us. I cornered Henry (the self-proclaimed "Camp Master") the next morning to find out what it was. He thought it was a funeral. I wish I had a recording of it. It would give you the shivers! Though maybe not now that I've taken the mystery out of it, and you wouldn't be lying in a tent with only a thin piece of material between you and "them".
I had hoped to lose weight on this trip, but the food was actually a little too good. Jeni is a pro at this, and she packed lots of variety. We did have a crisis at Lake Mweru in that we ran out of peanut butter. Evangel proved herself a Proverbs 31 woman and made some! She bought g-nuts (ground nuts or peanuts, as we call them) and roasted them over the fire. She put oil in the first batch, and those wouldn't grind. The camp master only gave her a 50% on that batch. He supervised more closely on the next batch as she roasted, and then beat them out with a pounding stick in a hollow log. She had borrowed this stick and hollowed out log from our "landlady" whose yard we were camped in.

The Camp Master

Jeni also was inspired, and she made paw-paw tea out of papaya leaves. That tea is supposed to prevent Malaria so she dried a batch of leaves over the fire, crushed them up, and made tea. Jeni also got on a pumpkin cooking binge of making pumpkin fritters, pumpkin seeds, and pumpkin pancakes. She was showing the "landlady" how she made them. I think we had pretty good relations with the landlord's family, but they must have gotten a little tired of the mob of children and others who came to stare. I thought it was a good sign that they took pictures of us all that last day. They had actually hired someone with a camera. Jeni thought the guy was from the local paper, until our fearless leader, the Camp Master Henry, reminded her there was no local paper.


Evangel had brought some beads with her, and near the end she invited some of the girls in our constant audience to make bracelets.  We all enjoyed the little people better as a craft class then as an audience, and the girls were pleased.

Finally came the night when Koos' headlights lit up the top of our tent about 1:15 A.M. We were leaving!

1 comment:

  1. OK...I've used the word 'wow' way too much in these comments, so I'll write "sigh".
    Sigh. You left the front yard. Some of my earlier questions got answered. You made pumpkin and peanut butter and rusk.
    Mma. Ramotswe in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency loves pumpkin. :) And bush tea.
    I'm so glad your vehicle is ready to roll...and I'm off to the next adventure to see how far you get.

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