Vima Lupwa Home From my place of honor [sharing a bed with Violet, while poor Mr. Mwala is “shipped out” to sleep in the boys room] I liste n to the sounds of the rain crashing down onto the tin roof, drowning out all sounds except the roaring thunder and cracking lightning. It is rain y season – the time of free showers as the only part of the body an umbrella keeps dry is the top of the head. The rains fall down so heavily that i t rains upward - drops hitting with such force on the ground that water sp lashes back up to our knees. Soon the storm passes and the droplets hit smoother and softer lulling us all into a deep sleep in this dark night , which arrives with such speed it seems someone has turned off the light swi tch.
Middle of the night I feel the urge to relieve myse lf, but OH MY.... Where’s my tiny flashlight? My saving light to avoid stepping on those crunchy little critters called cockroaches!!! Trying not to awaken others from their deep sleep, I crawl off my little perch and step ever so carefully one tiny step at a time lit by the tiny r ay of light, grabbing my flip flops on the way, since they serve as my toilet seat for the lieu that has never been covered by one.
Morning arrives in the darkness as the chirping birds begin their quest of finding worms, bugs and morsels of seeds that the night’s rains left for th em to feast on. Little Luthie [Bemba has no “r” sound] whimpers a couple of times as her mother Muchemwa takes her to the toilet – yes, she’s “potty trained”, or rather “mommy trained”... their bed is always dry. She cries as she’s carried back to bed and re-enters her sleepy morning slumber. I li e listening to the continued sounds outside through the window, even though Violet has t old me again and again to lock it shut at night. But from my vantage point next to t he window, I crack it open at night in order to get some fresh air.
The chirping outside increases with the oncoming da ylight and little by little the Vima Lupwa children begin to awaken – from whispers to l aughter, the home sounds like an awakening bee hive . I lie there smiling as I listen to the wonderful family that has been create d all the while watching a small lizard make its wa y across the wall at the foot of the bed. There are no screams, no cries, no fights , no arguments – only simple chatter and movement f rom morning till night. Each child has his/her own chores and does them mostly w ithout reminders – all of us take turns at the bicy cle pump to bring up the water; and there’s plenty of it! Water runs from the taps outside - buckets and containers are filled for inside use. Thus far, although cold water plumbing is ready inside the house, there is not enough pressure to bring water inside because the tank is never filled to capacity –having spent a lifetime of fetching water by buckets on an as-needed basis, this old habit will take time to die out. In the meantime, buckets still serve to fill the basins for washing dishes, bathing and flushing toilets - as time goes on we hope the fam ily will work the pump sufficiently to provide the blessings of water from taps inside the house.
This is summer vacation for the children. Still each and every day their eagerness to learn new things brings out the teacher in me ☺ . I teach, they teach [Bemba to me], we sing, we dance, we write, we read – we laugh and have fun. Little Alick is constantly kneading the skin on my arms [if he rubs hard enough, will I be black underneath?]; with Ruthie on my back, Mwape on my lap, Shadreck and Alick play with my hair. These are the four little ones whose tactile needs are great and for whom I have plenty to give.The older children eagerly show their dancing and s inging talents and love to read their new words to me – though they best lo ok out, lest Shadreck surpasses them soon! He is like a sponge learning English reading, writing and speaking! The girls have made a makeshift catwalk from which they don their clothes to have me photograph, Malerie ha s taught Joseph to make beautiful and DELICIOUS oatmeal-peanut butter cookies, which we eat while singing pinash pinash butte’ to the tune of the “peanut butter song”On the 23 rd of December, the entire household was on “special mode”. Mal and I had said we had a “surprise for the next day” and everyone started cleaning, washing, and preparing for the surprise. After dinner Violet sat on the floor and waxed/polished the shoes everyone bro ught to her. On the bed clothes were brought for ironing, which I did a nd redid, as girls being girls changed their minds on what they wanted to we ar the next day. By 2 AM Violet and I fell exhausted, but ready, into bed. Next morning we boarded the bus... to KITWE!!! What a lovely surpris e for the kids! This was the day we took them to a full day of shopping, eat ing out and spending the Christmas Eve day away from the daily routine. On the ride to Kitwe, Malerie and I handed each child their allotment of 50,000 KW [the remaining 100,000 to be given as they depleted thei r allotments]. None of these children had ever held so much money in their own pockets or purses.
[Note: 150,000 KW is equal to about $30] For lunc h we went to a “nice” restaurant where we all ate ½ chicken, “chips” [as fries are called], a large salad and a pop. Looking at my pl ate, I thought we’d be taking half this food home. NOT A CHANCE!!! Everyone finished every bit of food on their plates, includi ng Malerie’s and my leftovers, which we simply coul dn’t get down!!! After lunch it began to pour down torrentially. Wa lking through the market became almost impossible a s we tried to avoid the puddles which became deeper and wider by the minute . So we headed home. Next morning we handed the children the remainder o f their money. It was a sunny day, one of the only ones all Decemb er! Violet washed the girls’ hair and they headed to the beauty shop. Malerie and I anticipated they’d be returning with lovely plaits [or braids] in the typical African mode. What a surprise to us when t hey returned instead with curled hairdos ala James Brown! They wanted their hair to look like ours! [We tried hard to control our l aughter] The boys went to the barber to get their heads shaved. Not being shoppers like girls, they instead went out numerous times over th e course of the next days to buy fruits, bread, gum and food items: each time bringing the same items for Malerie and me.... could we be more touched by this sense of sharing? Christmas afternoon all the girls, with their hair newly coiffed and their best attire, left for Kalal a Market to return only 5 hours later with their purchases! What fun as they showed off, tried on and told us about the wonderful bargains they had obtained! During their absence, the rest of us prepared the Christma s Party for the night. Joseph made more Peanut But ter Cookies, Shadreck and Alick helped me prepare Lasagne in the kitchen, Mwa pe stirred the Béchamel sauce and Malerie stuffed t he stockings with gifts we’d brought from the US. Our Christmas party was a bla st! We sang, danced, ate, played games, told stori es and handed out the stockings which included the typical British popper s containing little surprises. The “stockings” wer e actually toed socks, which I had purchased in Bend, and oh what fun they had putting them on and over each individual toe. They laughe d and laughed at having socks that “act like gloves”. Mr. Mwala is the calm and collected dad whom they a ll call Badaddy . It is he who plays soccer with the boys, calms a nd soothes Ruthie when the others are too busy, gently talks t o the children and tries to reassure them with hugs and kind words. If given the chance, he loves to discuss politics and talk Germa n, which unless Angela or I are there, he has no ch ance to do. Bamammy as the children call Violet, is the matron of the h ouse. What she says is law and there is no room fo r arguments. She cares for all these children in the typical African way teaching manners, culture, customs and the res ponsibility of being part of a family as a whole. Thanks to both of them.... ... ...... ...THIS IS TRULY A THIS IS TRULY A THIS IS TRULY A THIS IS TRULY A LUPWA LUPWA LUPWA LUPWA – –– – WHERE WHERE WHERE WHERE THE CHILDREN ARE S THE CHILDREN ARE S THE CHILDREN ARE S THE CHILDREN ARE SAFE, AFE, AFE, AFE, TAKEN TAKEN TAKEN TAKEN CARE OF AND CARING CARE OF AND CARING CARE OF AND CARING CARE OF AND CARING FOR ONE FOR ONE FOR ONE FOR ONE ANOTHER. ANOTHER. ANOTHER. ANOTHER. May we cherish one another, what we have and not tak e anything for granted. Presently Zambians face an uph ill battle complicated by high unemployment, a broken infrastructure and corruption at all levels [privat e and public]. Its future depends on its children, assu ming they can be educated and break out of the cycle of povert y and corruption. One child at a time, we are working to meet that goal with the children of Vima Lupwa Home. HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM ALL THE LUPWANIANS. HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM ALL THE LUPWANIANS. HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM ALL THE LUPWANIANS. HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM ALL THE LUPWANIANS. Lovingly submitted by Marlena Bellavia – January 2009