Last week, as a final AMT expedition, we traveled into an area of the Masokatwane Sector called Masiye. It was a 9 hour ride by truck deep into the bush. Any guesses on how far it actually was from the tar road? Less than 100 km! A trip that could be made in an hour at home took us 9 hours of dodging tree branches and navigating through riverbeds! Sunda did great in the truck and even slept for almost 3 hours of the ride (just like her Momma…why be awake in the car when you can sleep?)
We arrived at our campsite (just a cleared out area of bush that the previous Overland group had set up) at about 6pm. Under my husband’s expert guidance, the camp was unpacked, tents set up, the fire blazing, and chickens boiling by 7:30. Ahhh, I remember the days of camping at Atwood Park with my dad and brother. The stereo blaring country music from the power hook-up, washing dishes from the tap right next to the tent, taking hot showers in the community bathroom. Oh wait, that sounds like my life NOW. When we’re bush camping? No water. No toilet. Tiny tent. A toddler. What an adventure.
Our water source for this adventure came from a hole dug in a dry river bed. Sand actually acts as a wonderful filter for dirty water, and so water can usually be trusted when it is dug out of the bottom of a riverbed. When we gathered water, it was a kilometer hike down into the riverbed, where we scooped water out of the hole with bowls and carefully poured them into our gerry cans. 15 people use a lot of water! This had to be done at least once every day.
Our bathroom? Do you even have to ask? Actually we made quite a cool invention from a stool with the bottom cut out. Get it? Grab your shovel and make the walk of shame as far away from camp as you need to!
The boys don’t like to bathe in the bush, but I still consider it quite important. Not that it isn’t a mission to get clean. It definitely is. Jamie and I heated water in a kettle over the fire and poured it into a big basin before traipsing off far into the bush with our Dove Shampoo (a girl’s gotta hang on to something!) The only problem is, by the time it’s dark it’s also COLD. No fun getting a splash bath in the open bush when it’s 55 degrees. But I still can’t stand to go to bed dirty. Sunda has it a little easier. We bathe her in her own bucket while it’s still light and she stays close to the fire. She loves these community bath sessions where she can show off in front of everyone AND splash water everywhere. What an exhibitionist.
We usually eat pretty well on these bush missions. Grilled chicken and mashed potatoes, beef stroganoff, spaghetti, things like that. However, we ran out of sugar on this trip. Ugh. Try choking down plain nshima porridge in the morning. Not so great.
Speaking of a lack of supplies, it was amazing to be so far in the bush that people literally live without sugar. Without tea. Without cooking oil. Sometimes, without salt. It’s easy for us to imagine people having no food. But it’s so hard for me to imagine living for a year with no sugar or oil (especially after trying it for a few days.) These people are so far from town, and the road is so hard, that they literally live on exactly what they grow. This is usually limited to nshima and vegetables that they gather in the bush or grow in their gardens.
Every morning, when we set out for a day of ministry, we walked over an hour in groups of 2 or 3 with a Zambian translator. Sunda’s definitely getting heavier, especially carrying her for 4 or 5 miles one way! We passed her around on the shoulders of the group until she finally fell asleep on my back. Whew! That’s a long walk with a sleeping child in a chitenge.
We walked so far because there are so many people whose homes are on tiny bush paths. They never get visited, or encouraged, or prayed for. We talked to people who had never seen a white person outside of their yearly trips to town. It was an amazing trip.
We had a big fellowship one evening and ate all together. Nshima and cabbage. I helped the ladies cook nshima on the big pots and the guys taught others how to dance the Macarena. I can’t tell you what a blessing these times are. All the days of taking care of finances, or having meetings, or dealing with people in town just float away as I am reminded of why I came to Zambia in the first place…the people.
The ride back from Masiye was a little more uncomfortable than the way there. Sunda was worn out and whiny. So were her parents. It’s always such a good reminder of how blessed I am to live in a tent with a toilet just a few yards away and a generator at night. Everything comes into perspective when I hang out with smiling, talkative, accepting people who haven’t tasted sugar in over a year.