Sunday, 26 May 2013

Farewell, Zambia!

8 months into our journey in Africa (that’s 2/3 of a year!), we are back where it all began. After spending the past 6 months in Zambia, we were summoned back to the main hub in South Africa (the “Hub”). It was a bittersweet departure, to say the least. On the one hand, we were super excited to be back at the Hub with all of the other international volunteers. Having been quite isolated in Kitwe, we were looking forward to connecting with all the people that we had built great relationships with during our orientation. We were also very interested to see what our new roles would be at the Hub. As much as we loved our time in Zambia, we always knew our roles there were temporary. Being back at the Hub gives us some insight as to what life will be like should we choose to extend our commitment with Hands at Work past this year (and no, that decision still hasn’t been made!). Should be interesting times!

The downside is that we will miss our team in Kitwe A LOT. Spending the past 6 months with them, day in and day out, really made them like family to us. We experienced a lot together and blessed each other’s lives in countless ways. Through it all, we really had a sense that God had His fingerprints all over it. Relationships are the most important part of the work we do and undoubtedly take priority numero uno in African culture. We were extremely blessed to have been a part of it all. The tough thing for us now is in learning to let go. There’s a tendency to look at something – the relationships you’ve built, the time and effort you’ve put in, the role you’ve carved out for yourself, etc. – and want to hold on to it. When I think of the progress we made in Kitwe but, concurrently, how much there was left to be done, it was difficult to embrace leaving. No one else will do the job better than us. No one else will connect with our team as well as we did. We’re entering such a crucial time … they need us! Selfishly, and in the dark corners of our heart, these were some of the thoughts that played through our minds as we wrestled with leaving Zambia. Ultimately, however, we knew that this was yet another thing we needed to release to God. Long-term volunteers are not meant to be placed in Service Centres long term. That’s what local community ownership is all about – local Africans doing the work and taking ownership of their children and their communities. As international volunteers, we’re meant to be the scaffolding – the temporary support structure that builds the locals up and leaves them stronger. I hope that during our time in Kitwe, we were able to do just that. And we trust that whoever God places in Kitwe after us will continue where we left off and excel even further than we did.

Our last day with our Kitwe family. Check out the matching African digs they gifted us!
Our New Roles

As for our new roles at the Hub, Diane will essentially be doing the same thing she’s been doing since the second half of our stint in Zambia – a role in project support, specifically with respect to finances and administration (helping to manage the finances, the financial workbooks and the ins and outs of getting funds to our communities and projects in Zambia).

As for me, I will be taking on a mixed bag of responsibilities. For one, I will build off the momentum we generated with our Kitwe team and continue to support them, at least to the extent that I can from South Africa. I will also continue to be the de facto “legal advisor” for Hands, assisting with legal registration and compliance issues. (I put the terms “legal advisor” in quotations to emphasize the fact that I still don’t feel it does the legal profession any justice to call myself a lawyer … but perhaps that’s how everybody feels. The secret to being a lawyer is to get good at faking like you know what you’re doing. I’m still perfecting that art.)

One of my new roles, and one which I think will take up the majority of my time, will be to support the Clau Clau Service Centre, one of our two Service Centres in South Africa. While this role will look somewhat similar to what I was doing with the Kitwe Service Centre, I will not be as heavily involved as I was with Kitwe. I will, however, focus on supporting the staff there and assisting them in a project support capacity. The thing I’m excited most about this role is that it will allow me more of an opportunity to be out in the communities than most other roles would. I really, really valued my time in the Kitwe communities – being on the ground and understanding the needs of the community, building relationships with care workers and the children, doing home visits, etc. – and I was worried about having to give that up entirely (as many volunteers based at the Hub do). Luckily, I won’t have to! The final component of my role involves assisting our Operations Director, Lynn, with a lot of his duties. He has already started pulling me into some meetings and, although I don’t really know what’s going on a lot of the time, it’s provided me with some invaluable insight and exposure to the bigger picture of Hands.

The Road Trip Back

Just enough room to pack up our lives and drive back to SA!
The Zambia-Botswana ferry. Sketchy times!
With so many of the international volunteers in Zambia for the Celebrations Conference at the end of April (more on that in a future blog post), we were able to make the long road trip back to South Africa together with some of our friends who were driving back in early May. It turned out to be a pretty sweet crew. Similar to the road trip we took from South Africa to Zambia back in October, we spread the trip out over 4 days, with one of those days spent in Livingstone, Zambia to see the world-famous Victoria Falls! If you’ve been following along, we posted some pictures from our visit to the Falls in October. Man, what a difference! In October, when it was dry season, the Falls were merely a stream, almost as if someone was peeing off the ledge. This time around, with it recently having been rainy season, the Falls were out in full force! We were drenched from all the mist (literally soaked from head to toe) as soon as we got close to the Falls. It was incredible to see. Unfortunately, it prevented us from taking many good photos but check out the difference between our two trips!
The Falls back in October 2012
The Falls in May 2013
The crew
Mist as we approached the Falls
The b-roads (Diane, Ashley, Alisha, Cat and Mel)
The gents (Leyton, Clinton, me and Daytona)
Two of my favorite things - going jerseys off and striking that pose
The obligatory couple shot!
While we didn’t get to witness baboons making the sweet love this time around, the trip was not short of highlights. Most notably, I am now a fugitive on the run. I evaded the police and I wouldn’t doubt it if I have a warrant issued for my arrest. Well, it may not actually be that dramatic but it’s partly true … When you first enter Botswana from Zambia, there are long, straight stretches of highway that seemingly go on forever. The speed limit is 120 km/hr but it’s almost impossible not to go faster, For reasons beyond me, the speed limit reduces to 80 km/hr and then to 60 km/hr on certain parts of the highway. Having slowed down for a few of these at first, I realized there was really no point in reducing our speed. All it was doing was delaying our arrival time. So I decided to continue my 140 km/hr pace in spite of the arbitrary (at least, in my opinion) speed limits. At one point, through an 80 km/hr zone, I saw a police car parked in the distance, underneath a tree, but quite far off the side of the road, with a police officer crouching down beside the car pointing his radar gun. Busted! As I approached, he ran towards the highway, frantically waving his arms and radar gun in the air in an attempt to grab my attention. Instinctively, I slowed down and veered to the shoulder. However, as I passed the police officer, I realized that even if I slammed on the brakes hard, I would be pulling over far, far ahead of where the police officer was parked. I also couldn’t help but notice that there was no one in his vehicle and that he was alone. You can guess what happened next …

Police chase! Actually, no that didn’t happen. But I did decide to keep going (and even speed up), acting like I didn’t see the officer frantically trying to wave me down. It was a bit of a rush, I have to admit. Diane, sitting in the passenger seat, was freaking out. You see, I was told that, in Zambia, the police are not allowed to engage someone in a car chase because it is too dangerous and causes too many accidents. I had witnessed cars drive through police checkstops and the police do nothing about it aside from denting the vehicle’s body with a swift kick. For the longest time, I’ve always wanted to try speeding away from the cops but I never had the guts … until now! I don’t care if it happened in Africa and if the police in Africa are generally incompetent and corrupt. It still counts! Check one off the bucket list!

Anyways, the point of this blog post is that we’re now back in South Africa and will be for the foreseeable future. When we had the conversation with Lynn about what our future looks like, he did mention that we shouldn’t be surprised if we get sent back to Zambia for a period of time before our year is up. We hope we do, if for no other reason than to be able to see our team, the communities we worked in, and the care workers and children we got to know, one last time. Until then, South Africa is home for us. Farewell, Zambia! And (hopefully) see you soon!

- Byron

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