A brief glimpse into my daily life when in Mongu
In this blog, I write regularly about my work and how I think about it. That is intentional: I would rather get people talking about those things. But just for once, today, I would like to share some things about the place where I lived and the people with whom I shared it.
When still in Toronto, I was put in touch with Joanne Hutchinson, founder of Socio-Economic And Environmental Development Solutions (SEEDS). Sharing an affinity for Bulozi, Joanne and I hit things off quickly and easily. She suggested that I stay at the SEEDS base and house of the Project Manager, Fredrick Mulopo.
Besides being Bo Mulopo’s home, this plot of land hosts the SEEDS gardens and a small apartment block housing a family. Since Joanne is an active blogger, and the four children next door are adorable and hilarious, you can see much more about them through SEEDS’s blog.
In the house, we were usually three men, but sometimes more when one of Fredrick’s 20-something sons comes to stay with us. Besides Fredrick and me, the other guy that lived with us is named Cahill. Since we did not really write things down in the house, I was unsure of Cahill’s name for about a month. Depending upon who was speaking, the name came out “Ka-HEEL,” “Ka-HEEL-ou,” or even “Ga-YOU.” It was only when I specifically asked for the spelling that I definitively knew the name of the person in the bedroom next to me.
To be honest, I do not know Cahill’s life narrative. I do know that he is a young man who cooks and cleans really well and gets along smashingly with the children next door. I know that he is the only person with whom I regularly interacted exclusively in Lozi: even now, he probably speaks English better than I do Lozi, but I insisted on using Lozi as our mode of communication and he obliged.
I also know that Cahill is a good runner. Maybe about my third week staying with Bo Mulopo, he caught up to me about 1 km into my run and stayed with me for the remaining 5 km or so. Two days later we left together and I let him set the pace; I was nearly sick. After that time, I set the pace, but he usually stayed out a bit longer after I finished. All this would be of minor interest except for one fact: while I wear a new pair of $200 runners with custom-made orthotic inserts, Cahill runs in flip-flops. Or at least he did until they were no longer structurally intact. For a few days he ran in rubber boots before switching to strap-up sandals.
Fredrick watched the antics of us younger blokes with some amusement. He too enjoys the company of the neighbouring children but has less patience for their tendency to wander into the house and ask to play (it was a common experience for me to have younger boy stand next to me and “pet” my arm hair as I typed on the computer). As a father of nine children who have grown up and scattered, I suspect that Fredrick enjoyed having us all around as sorts of substitutes for his own children. Despite this, he has plenty to keep him busy. The SEEDS gardens require plenty of work and the buildings are constantly in phases of expansion and renovation. It was not until Fredrick described our house in detail that I realized it was built in at least three phases.
Our little island of eclectic activity is based on the far outskirts of Mongu; an arrangement that makes great sense for gardening, but could be a bit of a pain for my daily activities in “Town.” Every morning I hit the road on foot, unsure of how far I would go before finding a shared taxi to carry me onward. Despite that minor inconvenience, I quite enjoyed it there. I felt much more immersed in Bulozi life. My pioneer shaving station might have contributed to this feeling. Or maybe the steady trail of ants climbing the wall in my room; they carted off the squished mosquito carcasses that I presented for them without me needing to open the window. Things felt genuine, integrated, rustic. Sometimes even symbiotic. And I was very grateful for that.