When I was 25 I did what I had said for about ten years that I would do, answered the call that I believed had been put on my life, followed in my grandparents' footsteps (although in the wrong direction, south not east), and went to teach as a short termer in Zambia, at Mukinge Girls Secondary School.
I went for two years, feeling that anything shorter than that would be not giving enough, and would go in a flash. And I went thinking that it was a taste as well, to see if I should spend more of my life in Africa.
I was with Africa Evangelical Fellowship, a wonderfully traditional, Bible-believing, old-fashioned mission, that made you feel safe as houses. (AEF has since merged with SIM.) Mukinge was a mission school, a boarding school for about 500 girls who were aged from 11 to 23 and who came from all over Zambia. The headmaster was Zambian - Mr Ntaimo (=Mr Time)- as was my head of department (RE), Boston Mwandobo, and most of the teachers apart from a couple of other short termers like me, and Doris an American maths teacher, whose house I shared. There was Felix Ngoma (= Mr Drum,) Grace Nosiku (= Mrs Night), Aaron Mbuuzi (Mr Goat), Nelson Chikafu who spoke perfect English, Mr Lungu, an incredibly short man called Goliath, Bridget Mutwale who was a lovely friend, and many more ... They were a fun, dynamic and ambitious group of teachers - lots of them went abroad for further education. I learned a lot from them, about the local culture, teaching, and theology.
I loved Zambia so much, loved living in rural Africa (we were about three hours drive from the nearest town with shops that sold anything imported or refridgerated, and ten hours drive from a supermarket), I loved my Zambians colleagues and students, and as short termers we had so much fun - the whole two years were, almost completely, happy and wonderful.
We didn't really have telephones (a couple, but the lines were broken down or stolen for the copper most of the time), no TVs (tho I bought one half way through my time), no laptops or email (it was 1992). Our evening entertainment consisted of potlucks, often themed, eg dressing up as our housemates, playing wild cheaty games of Uno, Murder Uno, Hearts, and Rook, or sitting around swapping tales of our lives, things like our favourite chocolate bars and crisps. We made up bizarre recipes with the limited selection of local food that was available to us: red bean crumble is the one I remember best, and avocado ice cream (actually a real recipe but, very strange.) We made our own bread but then a man started to come round selling loaves of bread on the front of his bike - he told us he made it in an ant hill by making a fire inside - so after that we ate "anthill bread".
I walked an hour to church, through mud hut villages with scruffy thatch hanging down, the name of the headman scratched into thin pieces of wood nailed to the tree at the entrance, past tall anthills that towered up like Dr Seuss chimneys, through maize plantations, over a rickety wooden bridge that tilted to one side, under wooden beehives stuck into the branches of trees. It was real rural Africa, dusty, snakey, impoverished, and with little crowds of children who yelled as you went by and then followed you for a way giggling.
I taught RE and English in the school, had my own class I took devotions with every morning, led an English Bible study at my church, became the school nurse (crazy!), learned to cook mealie meal (nshima), to eat it with my hands and most amazingly to like it.
It was an unforgettable two years and I loved every minute.
Here are a few pictures I scanned in to make a power point recently: