4:47 - Cold. Shivers as skin crawls and hair stands on end. Awareness. Pale light is absent. Darkness dominates. Once the thick coverings have been displaced even a hooded sweater cannot keep warmth for long. Off from dreams and into the waking. Un-tuck the silver veil that hangs over head. The momentary struggle for the phone - a torch in these early hours. Work clothes are left folded on a nearby ledge. Slowly the sounds of the radio permeate the room. Who turned it on? It’s on now anyways. A sermon on Job. The words are lost; unseen in the darkness. Thoughts linger on four martyrs and three lambs.
5:09 - Sitting in a new room on chairs upholstered with faded green fabric - a host of stories represented by stains and tears can be found in the light of day, but not now - warmth at the brazier. The slight scent of charcoal wafting throughout the room accompanied by the sombre orange glow of half spent charcoal. Gentle glow of one half candle radiates, quivering in a breeze that is only felt by the meagre plume on the wick. Cracks in the wall, or windows open a crack? Glass of water - Do the well dwelling bacteria ask before infecting? Can they be felt? Rinse. Warmth on the face. Soap. Towel. Be clean? The only mirror is the distant moon and the sun is fixated on it. How would one know what cleanliness is? Foreign ideals in the dark.
5:34 - The moon bathes Twapya, the township of “we have suffered”, with vague light. Moon rains with the intensity to pierce the clouds that obscure its path. The odd passerby on a bicycle or two running feet briefly enters eye sight and then is consumed by the dark. Work. One of the minority for sure. Angry voices are muffled by distance and terra cotta walls; disembodied cries in the darkness. The sounds of violence; a tumble or crash of glass dinner ware. Shattering sounds shatter the silence. Metal cans fall too, rattling somewhere in the dark. Woman screams in pain. A man yells. The sound of hitting. Where? Why won’t it stop? Foreign world, familiar sounds - heard in Canada too. Who denies? Useless apologetics.
5:48 - The distinct glow of one headlight can be seen at the end of the clearing amongst the closed grocers, bars, and market stalls. A brilliant fire burns just off the road, two men mumble in Bemba at its feet. tick-ta-tick-ta-tick-ta... the orange hazard lights and the clicking of the cab. Flashes of amber. The minibus is empty except for a lone passenger sitting beside the vacant driver seat. The sky is slightly bluer. The sun, off in the west is traveling over the hills. The clouds become illuminated. Grey black blights on the sky slowly fade to white. Departure is a distant notion, only three out of sixteen inside. Need at least eighteen out of sixteen, usually.
6:04 - Honking. Honking. Honking. The bus driver reaches in the window of the driver side door and is pumping the horn. Breath visible in the cool morning cold. Slowly shadows down the road become the shapes of people amongst the solitary headlight and flashing ambers. Unique faces everyone of them - Joseph and Agnes and Gift and Georges... - faces that become defined as they file into the minibus, lured by the pied piper driver and his honky honk horn.
6:13- the groaning mechanical noises of the engine, the gyre of automotive motion, extend throughout the bus. Perhaps, usually the engine's whinging are all that is heard. No voices murmur within the bus, no calls or responses. Only the laboured dry cough of one woman or man and the sudden shock of being jerked forward by potholes along with their characteristic THUNK. THUNK. The finer details of the Ndola region countryside are slowly elucidated by the sun's continual advent. Remorse - cold windows fogged over obscure witnesses to the activity flashing by as the motor bus accelerates.
6:24 - Hurry, off the bus at Kitwe Kitwe. Run. Cross the street. Kansenji, Kasenji prison! Wait, we need to board. Three pin for two? Okay. Deal. Hop on. Yes all right we're here. My name is George. Good to meet you George. Muli Shani? Bweeno. Ah, the day has found you well? Yes. This ride is one five each? Okay here's three for two. Prisons please. Okay we'll stop there. Natotella.
6:43 - the songs of criminal choirs escalate. Songs of the condemned –simple choral anthems praising something unseen but felt? Early morning praise. Small fields with mixed crops, maybe onions or cabbages or tomatoes or rape. Rapists in a prison now growing rape? The tattered and oft faded uniforms of prisoners. Green. Drapes that allow even the most undiscerning eye to discern to whom they shouldn't speak lest they invoke the ire of the wardens. Wardens, wives of wardens and warden wives can be seen here and there. Just there. Children too - wardens maybe make good wages - wearing their blue school uniforms wait for minibuses to ferry them to learning. Stumble down the path which is not terracotta red soil but brown, oddity? Cross a bridge made of three and one half branches over a small 60cm deep trench. Exit prison. Exit music, sounds now distant - dilapidated by distance - and the words are lost. The off key harmonies are, however, still resonant in ears and mind.
6:47 - Office. Arrived. Moon is vanishing from the horizon. Winds blow slowly sending wave after wave of consistent cold air. Simple couch, leather upholstery? Fake. Feels like dead cow, but is anything but. Green as well. Laughter is shared as new security relieves nocturnal security. Happy faces as a shift begins and one ends. The perpetual cycle. Day and night. Work and rest. Love and pain. Brazier and lawn chairs congregate aside metal storage bins. Shipped from America. Arrived in Dar. Congregational partings, where once was three security now there is one.
7:04 – words on paper. Moleskin notebook. Black, bound. Elastic cloth band. Pocket in the back for memories and notes, tea pouches and business cards. Promises and fortune cookie fortunes saved for months. Commitments to those with no name. Pages – pages of words. Thoughts? Entrapped in a cage of paper. But even caged birds will dream of flight, across another time where sails were wings and seas were blue skies echoing the laughter of children in distant lands reflecting between clouds. Wind breeze ruffles pages, causes shivers. Feverish pencils shaking across paper; HB graphite propagating, shedding off into every imprinted crevice on the tainted yellow used-to-be white pages of a moleskin notebook. Febrile thoughts of a present or maybe of a yesterday or another future shoreline.
7:29 – the sound of metal pieces (cylinders and gears?) aligning resounds in a click. Click. Rusted hinges shrug as metal grates are tugged apart. Skeleton key causes the wooden door to yield, the office is open. Work begins. Daily programmes instigated by the simple opening. Life returns and tries to flourish in the office. Scent of dust thick in the air. Sound of sweeping. Voices arriving in the distance behind walls still outside. Phony green couch now has patrons. Worship? Songs in Bemba. Praise? A martyr’s absence. Buttons pressed, power chord plugged in. Laptop resurrected from its sleep.
7:59 – within office walls. hidden amongst shaded thought. waiting for the end.
8:19 - //a small tuck shop has been carved out of the wall of one of the kansenji mansions. It is dimly lit on the inside. The walls are a sort of pale grey color mixed with subtle yellows. The rusted bars on the carved out window are red originally making the rust deceptive. On the outside of the window hands clear plastic bags containing different snacks or “crisps” – different flavours; Mexican, ground beef, cheese . . . – also can be seen bags of jon cenas, dough nuts, and popcorn. On the counter are bottles of coke and fanta. Deep in the stall is an assortment of items: milk, biscuits, tofu in a bag hung in the back, and other nicknacks including soap (both laundry and personal), maize meal, and talktime. There is an older man, maybe 34 in the store.//
Patron: good morni... Mwashibukani!
Vendor: eye mukawai. And good morning to you.
Patron: Thankyou. This morning can I have a milk and Jon Cena...?
Vendor: Of course. Three three, okay?
*patron hands over 3300 kwacha*
*patron departs – exit stage right*
8: 48 – Meetings in progress. Printer is working overtime. Paper pressed with lines and dots forming words and tables. Communication? Communication to be communicated to others to receive communication and record communication. Survey questionnaires. Four pages to go, the printer continues to shuffle papers through as it leaves its mark – tables and questions – on the face of each virgin page. Proper combinations are gathered and bound with a click-chick-click. Metal suture through the faces of four pages. Piles formed.
9:07 – farmers work effortlessly to improve their tomorrows. Dedication marries dirt. Fields may be ploughed carefully, the strongest fertilizers selected (or not), and the soil may be sewed with the right seeds (maize..? Sorghum?) yet there is no guarantee of growth. Environment is not under control of the farmer and may smite his feeble attempts at growing something for tomorrow. Months later will it have grown? Desolate wastelands abundant in silence. Effort wasted on unfertile fields? Fertile fields ravaged vehemently by careless crows and craven pests? Is there an absolute in either regard? A heterogeneous mixture of failed farming practices and environmental disasters? Cowardly crows cackle carefree.
9:24 – Training teams have departed. Anxiousness – a wish for wisdom maybe. Ineptitude at the most fundamental of tasks leads to the creation of other plans, other avenues, for progress? Vacant offices lead to sanctuary, but what of vested work, what will it turn to? The sun’s ascent is tracked by the height of the roof’s shadow on the cargo container parallel the office window. Green leaves and yellow leaves- the living and the dying – rest on branches which in turn rest on the container. Soaking in the sun, exhaling cleanliness.
9:45 – eyes fixed on laptop. Read pdfs on project related information. Transfer key ideas to moleskin #2. Share ideas later? How to share. Collective learning. Team advancement. Self perpetuation. Participatory squared.
10:29 – anguish on colleague's face. Anguish breads sorrow. Morose tendencies arisen once more? Reporting, reporting, mind off of matters, maybe. Principles trampled with a smirk. Anguish on anyone’s face. Reporting is made for facts, not frustrations. Wood splinters in changed environments, does the human soul? The filthy walls don’t change, pale green draped on messy white with the grey dust prints in the shapes of thumb whorls and finger prints. The black dye of chairs and plastic scraping – unintentional graffiti. The laptop still glows, the coworkers fixated on theirs. Bemba, bemba, bemba.
11:11 – To the tuckshop. Milk for heart burn. Fixes physical problem, what of others? Overcharged. Is that a problem? No. Should they correct the change? We all need to ride the mini bus. It’s only a small mistake. Walk away instead. We all need to ride the mini bus. Okay. Toiling on the trip back. A two minute walk becomes fifteen. Thoughts drift to change. What is it? Is it driven by one, can it be driven? No mirror – but noses must be red. It’s cold outside. The scent of dirt raised from the ground and all kinds of other scents – human sweat included – linger. Is this the scent of a mausoleum? Circles are easier to walk than straight lines. Aggravated circles. Leading nowhere further away from where it started. Faraway there’s snow on mountaintops and nearby, not thirty minutes from where thoughts stand, a family struggles to prepare their home for the rainy season, so many months away, but stumbles. No funds, no opportunity. Their wish? Half finished homes become full finished so they do not become no finish when the clouds gather and cry terror over the townships. Distant snowy mountains, unfulfilled wishes. No more can one fulfill this family’s dreams than can one move mountains in distant horizons and places- yet what do they think can be done? What drives change?
12:00 – not lunch. One cycle remains. Still many programmes to consider. To execute on. Reporting. Interim? Okay, back to work. Who monitors the monitoring? Write the report. But plan ahead, but write the report. To write the report would be right. What can we do about the one who monitors? Not now, back to work. Martyrs may return, can words be shared with the one? Would that be a scandal, perhaps. Would that matter? No. Personally. But to the others? Perhaps. If prison choirs of the condemned can sing songs of praises, while awaiting their freedom, can the oppressed too be uplifted similarly? Cuts are bearable. Sprain ankles are too. Principle injuries punish more severely. Daily the thought of such things is cutting. Anxiety, what can be done?
13:04 – a break from the day’s “WORK” – outside under the sunshine which drifts in and out of clouds. “Every cloud has a silver lining, what does it mean?” is murmured by another. Even common clouds have silver lining? Don’t trust superficialities? Maybe storm clouds have a glimmer of light? “the cloud is blanketed” utters another. True, the clouds blanket the sun. Warmth becomes vacant intermittently as the clouds overtake the sun.
13:55 – pack the chairs up. Time to return to work, inside of the office. In front of laptops and discussions. Later the field? Not today, resources have not aligned. Maybe next time. Computer screens and note books. PDFs on various development buzz word topics sputtered off and off ad nauseum.
14:33 – interim report. Evaluating progress. But who will read it?
16:02 – nothing new? No. Session. Workshop, share what I know. Try to learn. NO IT ISN’T PERFECT. Say why it is broken. Flawless things are nonexistent. There must therefore be flaws. QED. Anxiety lingers down the hall waiting to pounce. Gawking. Flip chart paper purposefully lays on the table top. Words are scrawled onto its face in red and black felt pent ink. Discussions share ideas. It’s not flawless. Three of five share, four of six learn together. Progress, finally. At the end it is still perceived flawless. Don’t thank, we worked together.
17:07 –Zambian English (work is done) = knocking off. A phrase of unknown origin. Is it a borrowed Bemba phrase? Work ends, regardless of how the Zambians express it. Feet stumble out into the dusk. The sun is already hiding behind the hills and clouds. A brilliant sunset, guilty of making the sky bleed crimson. Perhaps that’s why the sun is off to the other side of the world. Fear of sky’s blood. radiant beauty in the distance heralds the moon’s return. Feet stumble through the prison – no songs echo. Wardens lead those draped in green to their fenced areas. A sign on the prison exterior denotes there is a clinic nearby. The scents of chickens and old produce linger by the place of waiting for the mini bus. It’ll return soon. Off to kitwe kitwe stop. Then Twapya. Old Twapya station.
17:30 – Second minibus at kitwe kitwe to Twapya. It’s getting darker. The sun redder, breathing its last breath. The road is always traveled during the transition hours – day to night, night to morning . . . The minibus at night bears conversations. Sounds of vocalizations all around. All around.
17:49 – Twapya. The mini bus turns off the main road to stop in New Twapya first. Lets people off. Picks new ones up once it returns to the main road. Arrival at Twapya as the sky continues to transition. Walk back home. Will sounds of the morning’s violence still echo in the side streets? Broken glass, has it been swept up? Beckoned further into Twapya, short cuts to take, further home. Where warm water to wash lies waiting in metal pots. Where the brazier will restore warmth sapped by the biting wind and cooling now night time air. Like the cold, the smells of different meals being prepared outdoors permeate the air. Some non charcoal cooking fires that use wood – the scent of burning timber and the thick smoke that accompanies it.
18:46 – washed. Cleaner than before. Gather by the brazier inside the sitting room. No new stories etched into the green fabric since this morning. Non visible anyways. Two candles glow on the table beside the chair. The sounds of Nshima preparation – stirring, pouring, and changing pots can be heard in the “kitchen”. Delicious scents sparking appetite which usually lays fallow. Conversation about mausoleums and martyrs as dinner is prepared. The two candles and charcoal add illumination to the world, the conversation similarly illuminates the mind. It’s very dark. Shapes and shadows are seen along with the odd face as it enters the candle’s radius. But it’s dark.
19:29 – Nshima. Tastes delicious with rape and ground nuts. Break some off and roll it in your hand. Scoop some rape. Enjoy. Eat. There is plenty. Plenty of Nshima. Plenty of rape. Never ending supplies of Nshima and rape. Always the case? Or is it the case of a guest that provides such a feast?
20:34 – Exhaustion. All the world is black. Not a single light in the room. Even the silver veil, a net to stop vampiric insects, is invisible. Conversations in Bemba in the room beside? Paranoia – what do they say. Alienation. The hole in the wall, half filled with rolled cloth half open, carries in the sounds of humanity in “we have suffered” – singing, laughing, yelling, crying. They all, every voice in the distance, weave some part of what it means to live in the township of “we have suffered”. Voices cluttered together into the stream of consciousness of “we have suffered”; wishes to learn and understand, not to eavesdrop. Then flurried dreams return.
Back in Canada - Hey everyone! I've been back in Canada for a while now and have had time to reflect on my experience in Ghana. Overall, my time in Ghana was great. Period....
7 years ago