I apologize in advance if this post is a bit incoherent and rambling. It isn’t well polished, but rather just a dump of my thoughts that I haven’t taken time to articulate well. I’m also rushing to get it posted before the “big event” happens tomorrow morning! (“Big Event” = arrival of my parents to Zambia)
At the beginning of this year I wrote a similarly titled post regarding my brief visit back home to Canada, and the difficulty I had reconciling that reality with the one I’ve come to know and love here in Zambia. As I sit in the hot, stuffy room in the EWB house in Lusaka, listening to the rain beat down on the roof, I can’t help but think I’ll need to go through the same process again in just a few short weeks. Except this time it won’t be a brief visit home, it will be a transition back into Canadian life. Yet even before that happens, another collision of realities will happen, one which I will both be a part of, and an observer. As I type this my parents, Gerry and Deb, are somewhere over the Atlantic, on their way to London, then down to Lusaka, to visit me here in Zambia. It seems almost surreal that their arrival is only a day away. We first started discussing this trip last year when I was home at Christmas. Over the next few months plans were made, accommodations arranged, (including three nights at the luxurious Chez Freeman … which is my tiny house in Mansa!), and flights were booked. Now here we are, mere hours away from the first (that I’m aware of) Freeman reunion on African soil. To say I’m excited would be a grave understatement. I think I can say the same of my parents.
Yet excitement does not rule out nervousness. In the last few months I’ve often sensed a bit of trepidation from my parents (especially my mother) as they prepare for this trip. This, as I’m sure you’ll agree, is quite understandable. I too was nervous (at times bordering on terrified) in the weeks and days leading up to my departure from Canada two years ago. It is mainly a fear of the unknown (and possibly a bit of fear of the known … things like malaria are very real here, and not extremely fun…trust me!!), but no amount of reassuring from me can assuage that fear. It will take seeing things with their own eyes, experiencing things for themselves, to understand and accept (and grow to love?) the things which they now might fear.
It isn’t just my parents who are nervous however. I am too. After all, this is the first time my world from Canada is coming into contact with my world here. It will be a test of my communication skills over the last two years. How accurately have I portrayed things here, the work I’ve been doing, the people I love? Have I glossed over the not so pleasant details, left things out in my blog posts and emails home? This will also be a check on my own personal experiences, a chance to see my world through others’ eyes. Am I naïve in the things I love here, the things that bother me? Do I actually understand my reality, or are the biases I carry with me too overpowering? What will my parents think of my friends, my family, my house, how I live, the things I like to do, the “risks” I take (I do realize that the definition of that word “risk” may differ between my view and my parents view, hence the quotation marks).
All of these issues aside however, I am extremely excited for my parents visit, and proud of them for pushing themselves to take this trip. I can’t wait for them to meet the Lwandos, to see the beauty of Luapula province, to experience the chaos of the Lusaka markets, to smell Zambian air. I have no doubt that it will all be overwhelming for them, an assault on the senses, but a wonderful one which will leave them (I hope!) and me with cherished memories for years to come.
This trip will not only impact my parents and me. The Lwandos (my Zambian family) have been waiting for this moment for a long time as well. Since the first time I told them a few months ago that my parents were coming to visit, hardly a week goes by without them double checking the date with me, asking about what my parents will want to eat, double checking that the trip is still on. I actually just got off the phone with Ba Na Lwando (“Ba Na” is the Bemba equivalent of “Mrs.”, and basically means “Mother of”, though that isn’t a literal translation), wanting to know if they have arrived yet. I had to tell her “Not yet, one more day, I’ll call you when they land!”). They too are excited to finally bring my Canadian and Zambian families together. It will indeed be a special moment.
So I wait, counting down the hours until their plane lands. My list of task to accomplish today, which once seemed extremely important, now just seems like time filler, things to do to make the day go by. I liken it to the day before a big trip, or your birthday, or Christmas. Part of me feels like I’m missing some important step in preparing for tomorrow morning, but logically I know that there is nothing left to do. Well…maybe I’ll go buy a few bottles of water for my parents for after they get off the plane. I’ll wait a day or two before trying to get them to drink the tap water here… ;)