Love Letter to Zambia
We have not spoken in a while. I miss your sunsets, the smell of charcoal burning on a cool night, and the smiles on the faces of your people. I also miss the way your time is kept. Always in an important way, but not with ultimate importance. I miss the hope, the joy, and the happiness that came with simple things.
It is true that I miss the me, that was me, when I was there. Remembering who I was, or what I think I was, when we were together, always makes me smile. Though I never vowed to return, my heart visits you quite often. In my mind I find myself at Victoria Falls or walking through some town as I escape the crowd of those I came to you with. I meet my heroes under your sun in my thoughts.
When we were together, I loved to drink coffee. I still do that every day. I remember Happy, the tall man that lived up to his name. Often times I remember the children, now certainly grown, that smiled as I spoke in the evening at a school where the power surged on and off as a generator struggled to keep the lights on. There were no words for me to say that all I met did not seem to know already.
Do you remember the time those monkeys stole the bread from the bakery above Lake Kariba? Do you still have to fight to breathe after the release of chemicals from a factory on a still Chingola night? Are there still “killer bee drills” for children playing outside of their schools? Do you remember me at all?
We were only together for a month or so. Our conversations lasted lived only in a small window of my life. Your words play over and over in my thoughts. The lessons I learned with you are carved deep into my heart and soul. Have things been good for you? Have you found peace in this troubled world?
So many things have happened with me here, in the country of my birth. So many experiences that you might not even recognize me now. Sometimes I do not recognize myself. I remember drawing pictures for you, collecting the smiles that you offered, and trying in my own way to make our time together good for us both. I hope you remember me. If you do not, there is a part of me that is lost, because I left that part with you.
I was never good at the teaching,the preaching, or the believing you needed anything I could offer. When we met, I suspected that you knew more of life than I could know at the time. You probably still do know more than I can offer in this time. But it is as it was. I offer only my heart.
When I was with you, it was never easy to hang out with the group that I came to you with. I found myself drawn to the people outside of the meetings, the basketball games, or the house in which I stayed. I do not regret those decisions. Those decisions are what have shaped me through the last thirty years of my life. Certainly some of those people have passed. No doubt some of those people are doing great things.
Secretly I have missed you and I have longed to see you again. I do not know your past and I do not keep up with your present. From time to time I hear your name and I wonder how you have been. I wonder what life would have brought had I stayed. I have found the love of my life in Michelle, and after seeing many loves pass through my heart, we speak only of you. My children know our stories.
I came to you knowing I would not change you. There was only me that needed to be changed. After all of this time, I just wanted you to know that you did change me. For the better.
I find myself in the same position now as I did when I was with you. Not able to offer more than myself, teach you a lesson, or give you anything you do not already possess. I can, however, give you my love and express my gratitude. And you have both.
If you see those that I met, please say hello. When you wake this morning, know that across the world, there is a man that was touched by your spirit. You have been through a lot. We have all been through a lot. There are, as we all know if we consider life, both good and bad to be found in all things. I encourage you to see the good more than the bad. This comes easy to me when I think of you.
I love so many things in and about life, but there will always be room in my heart for you, Zambia. There are so many things for which I am grateful and you live in the very breath I breathe as a grace that life offered. I was lucky to have spent some of my days with you. If you ever come to the States, please look me up. If you ever have a joy that needs to be heard, please share it here.
My thoughts are with you in my quiet times. The same sun that set over Lusaka three decades ago now sets where I live. The same blood that your heart pumps through your body also pumps through mine. If there ever was an age when we might be closer, it is surely now. If there ever was a time for me to offer my love again, it is now. Thank you for what you have meant to me over the last part of my life.
I once loved you. I love you still. Your beauty can be found in your cities and your parks, but your beauty shines most brightly on the faces of those that choose to smile. I remember those smiles as if I saw them yesterday. My hope is that you are well. I hope you still smile. I hope that life and love have been well received.
Peace to you.