Published: June 17th 2012June 17th 2012
This blog entry is actually coming to you from St. Bonaventure College in Lusaka - the place we started when we first arrived. But we have just landed here after a 5 hour drive from Kitwe. We left the celebration of the Feast of the Sacred Heart at Sacred Heart Parish in Kitwe early so we could arrive here at a reasonable hour. So, let's start with in the celebration and work backwards.
Mass started this morning at 8 am, sort of. Like so many things in Zambia, time is not the most important consideration and it is certainly not the obsession it is in the US. We arrived at the parish from our lodging place at about 5 til 8 only to learn that mass was not at the parish, but at another location and we needed to drive there. When we arrived at the correct location we could see a huge field had been set up with two enormous tents and several smaller tents for the big parish feast day. The mass started at about 8:30 and was over around noon. Then, all of the parish small group communities gathered in places around the grounds and began setting
out their meal. Music was playing, people were eating and some contests (Mr & Mrs Sacred Heart for example) and some dance performances were just beginning as we left for Lusaka. The Celebration was to go until dark - an all day celebration of the feast day of the parish. We couldn't help but wonder what the reaction would be to a proposal like that in our parish.
We were introduced at the end of Mass. Fr. Patrick, the Franciscan Provincial for Zambia and Malawe celebrated the mass and introduced us. He spoke of the connection to OLP and of the work we were doing in Zambia and held up the example of all of the work the young people had done to get there. But he focused mostly on the relationships we were building and mentioned that the best part for us was spending time with people and getting to know them. So, he invited the whole parish to find us and talk with us during their celebration. Many did, and many wanted their pictures taken with us and wanted to exchange contact information so they could contact us in the states, especially if they ever came there.
But this was really just a continuation of the fundraising dinner we attended the night before. This feast day celebration actually lasts all weekend and Saturday night was the annual dinner/fundraiser. People were dressed to the 9's and we came in in our travel-weary cargo pants and some of the shirts that had been given to us at other stops on our trip. Our hosts brought us some fancier clothes to try on since they heard us worrying about our attire. It was a truly thoughtful gesture, but we were beyond rescue. Happily no group photos of this moment exist. However, not a single person there made us feel underdressed or out of place. In fact, they asked us to spread out and sit at different tables so we could get to know them and they us.
Our group is more introverts than extraverts, so we paired up and off we went. As the group has done before, they rose to the challenge. They got to know the people at their tables, got up and danced and by the end of the evening we were evening throwing in a few US dollars on the bidding for items they
Paul, his wife, Tale and Kaunda see us of to Lusaka
were auctioning. (It really threw off the auctioneer - he was having trouble doing the conversion in his head.) To top it off Andy and Evan did their break dance routine again and it was big hit, but the crowd wanted more. The picture is from the De Gama School a couple of days ago, but you get the idea.
We had a great surprise on Saturday night. The Fundraising Dinner was held at a hotel in downtown Kitwe, literally one block from Sacred Heart Parish. Our hosts put us up at the hotel. It was truly a surprise and a luxury compared to some of the places we had been staying. The generosity we have experienced and the lengths people will go to make us feel welcome and special is humbling to experience.
Continuing backward into Saturday, we visited St. Joseph's mission. The primary purpose was to meet and interact with the postulants (those brothers just beginning their journey toward ordination as a Francisan) and the school for the deaf that is on the property. The postulants were terrific and we formed a quick rapport. Peter, Canaan, Gabriel and William were our tour guides and we met
all of the postulants later in the day. Those who went on this trip 3 years ago remember St. Joe's because if the mad bull, but the whole operation is very self-sufficient making most of the food they eat and selling the excess.
The school for the deaf was very interesting as well. We had been shown a few simple phrases in sign language: How are you? I am fine. Thank You. But we were quickly out of our depth. We needed the help of those who truly know sign to help us communicate with the students who were thrilled we were there and genuinely interested in talking with us and finding out about us and why we had come.
There are a couple of quick notes on Friday afternoon. We took it easy at the Franciscan Center on Friday afternoon and everyone needed it. Though we have had fascinating experiences and feel warmly embraced everywhere we go, our emotions are being challenged. A little rest was in order. But two things happened. One is that futbol again transcended language and cultural differences. Ian and Andy just brought a soccer ball out onto the pitch and before long
kids started showing up and games ensued. The first game was with younger kids from the neighborhood. The second game got serious because the high school next door got out and the boys started pouring in. So the picture is of Andy getting schooled by one of the younger kids and you can ask Ian if betting on games increases the intensity.
The second thing is that we had some gifts for a friend of Sandy's, Sampa. she is a young woman with two children who has recently married and lives close to the Franciscan Center. Four of the kids volunteered to walk home with her and deliver the gifts, Allison, Caitie, Evan and JP. She lives in a one room home with her husband and two kids, which she and her husband were proud to show off. She showed them around the neighborhood, where everyone knew her, and in short, gave our kids a first-hand experience of life in Zambia. This was an unplanned and informal occurrence, yet JP admitted that it was the highlight of his trip so far.
We are off to Livingstone tomorrow. We will stop on the way at the Charles Lawanga School
so Denis can visit some Regis connections there. We should be able to shift into a less serious mode and go see the wildlife Africa is famous for and Victoria Falls that the Zambians are all so proud of. Hopefully there wil be Internet in Livingstone.
The OLP Zambia 2012 Group
There are more photos below