Zambia, Livingstone 28/01- 07/02
Where were we…
We had arrived here by pure chance, looking for just a place to sleep one night before crossing the Namibian border. Since entering Zambia we had also entered anonymity: nobody cared, nobody gave a second look, almost no hand raised for hello, almost no smile returned. But, unknowingly, we had arrived where we needed to be. We had found on the border of Nsogwe canyon and a dozen km outside Livingstone our own Dharma Initiative, another special encounter on this trip. 6 years ago a South African ex-consultant for Camel Trophy founded here Overland Missions (www.overlandmissions.com).
The Smoke That Thunders in Livingstone, visible on the way to the camp.
Vic Falls Panorama
Mostly American missionaries come here every dry season to learn about working in remote areas, where they will teach villagers how to care for themselves, how to farm the land in a sustainable manner, how to build wells for drinking water. The projects follow two objectives: SAM (organic agriculture + drinkable water wells) and LIFE (education, consoling, family planning). Overland Missions provides knowledge, loans the money needed, then retreats: the villagers are involved from the beginning in the projects, then are left to manage alone, with a minimum of guidance. Work is the payback, nothing comes for free. Ana was just reading a book (“Dead Aid”) written with the very same thesis by the Zambian Dambisa Moyo. The money carelessly pumped into Africa for decades is not helping. It hurts the Africans, killing creativity, making people and countries dependable on aid, unable to sustain a living economy. Aid feeds corruption and civil unrests.
The base is quite vast: tents for the trainees and staff, gingerbread-like homes built in Zambian style, a center with communal kitchen, living room, braai terrace, open classroom, an organic garden, garage, showers, laundry facility. Lovely vernacular structures with a minimalist twist, in one of the most stunning places we have ever been. It was rainy season, the regular trainees were not around, so we were alone, with the few staff actually living on the property. It made sense when the blue eyed man who received us said that his name was Jacob. If you have seen Lost, you get what we mean. Jacob is the leader of this community and has been living on the property from the beginning with his wife, Jessie, their kids and their black Labrador. They have a 2 year old daughter, Kya and they have adopted a Zambian girl who turned 6 the week we were at the base. The night of our arrival we had dinner together with them and their friend and colleague Laura. So instead of staying for one night, we lingered for one week, getting to know and care for these people who have chosen to leave the security and safety of the USA, to teach and help others. Their work also includes an orphanage, a pre-schooling project, and the list could go on. It comes to no surprise that they are beautiful, talented musicians and very very smart. In this little imperfect corner of perfection they are living with a purpose that gives them everyday strength and joy. We cooked together, enjoyed rooibos and cake at the wonderfully Victorian High Tea at the Royal Livingstone, we hiked into the gorge, shared two emotional Sunday mornings and had some of the most challenging and engaging conversations in years. Touched by the friendship these people offered, thankful for love they shared. There are many fantastic places around the world where heavens meets the earth, with only few accessible on foot. This is one of them. It gave us strength, it allowed us to meditate at our purpose in this quest that has been going for 8 months.
Hike into the canyon
Hippo paw. Bodies of drowned elephants and hippos are washed here, the meat taken by villagers, the bones left to dry out on the rocks.
Ana, Sunda, Jacob
Tea and cakes at the Royal Livingstone
View from the hotel terrace
Moon over the canyon, Nsogwe village, Livingstone
Sunda, Kya, Jessi, us, Laura
Then it was time to go. Difficult to leave, Livingstone and this place had become our home, these people had become our friends. Would we see them again? We could hear the calling of the savannah, of the copper Namibian dunes. And this time we knew: the answer to our questions was not here, was not there, it was inside.