We leave Mongu the day after tomorrow and this fact causes my heart to ache. A friend of ours here, George, was talking with Heather the other day about people coming to Mongu to work for a period of time and then leaving. He said people are often sad when they leave and he asked, “Why do you cry when you leave? You're just leaving.”
This is true. I'm just leaving. I'm still okay (everything is intact, as far as I know), it's an expected departure, and it doesn't signal catastrophe or disaster. So what is it about Zambia, Mongu in particular, that has burrowed into my heart and holds me here? To help explain this, I want to share with you some of the people I've met here in Zambia.
The nurses, who get up each morning to work at the hospital, facing overwhelming needs and limited resources. Women, who sew beautiful handbags and sell them for about $4 Canadian, providing an income for their families. The Harbour Master here in Mongu, who is going to school to get his Masters in Transportation and Urban Planning to improve trade and living conditions on the land bordering the floodplains. Women in Kalabo (a town near Mongu), who commit to running a feeding program in their town on a volunteer basis, walking over two hours to visit one malnourished child in their home twice a month. A pharmacist, who despite his 5-year degree in pharmacology, works without pay at an HIV clinic in the mornings because the clinic serves approximately 30, 000 people. In the afternoon, he works at a different clinic for a salary. George, who visits schoolchildren and their families throughout the week, building relationships and support – so much so that more than 50 children will show up to play a soccer game that he organizes every Saturday. Their laughter and ease around him demonstrates how his thoughtfulness is empowering them, as they know they are believed in by a role model.
To me, it's easy to see why meeting these people has affected me. What's not easy to understand is why I can leave them at the end of this trip and go back to my “real life” and why they can't. This is the feeling of guilt that accompanies my heartache.
In many ways, I feel as though I've accomplished so little over the past 5 weeks. I haven't been able to “fix” or “solve” many difficult situations at all. Maybe part of the sadness is feeling that much is still unresolved.
But, regardless, we leave on Friday. I'm not sure if I will cry or not, but I am sure my heart will ache. Sorry, George, I am not sure if I can fully explain why.