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Thursday, 2 June 2005

A Good Deed Done

I look like a Christmas tree. I look this way because today is a very important day. And the Chieftainess is coming. As are some government representatives.

I am wearing a bright red dress with toenails to match, and a green cardigan. My white flip-flops are the snow. The Chieftainess is also wearing red and green; we are Christmas trees together.

An awning has been erected to keep the heat of the sun off the 'dignitaries'. Sit there we do, and watch, and listen. My Matrix sunglasses look incongruous. There is drumming. There is dancing. There are speeches.

There is also a fight, hastily broken up by a couple of HRH's bodyguards. We are all here for the Deliverance. We have successfully fundraised for an ambulance for the local community, and by a stroke of luck sourced one locally, thus avoiding shipping delays from the UK. It is here.

The Husband is asked to drive it up to the waiting dignitaries and there is much whooping. He is mortified, but everyone else thinks it hilarious. The flashing red light causes much laughter. "I'm telling you it scares me!" There is an elaborate exchange of keys, from the UK staff to the Zambian staff to HRH to the Ministry of Health and finally to the staff of our clinic. There has been much whispered consultation about this chain before the keys are produced. The order is important.

The Ministry of Health announces that our clinic is next in line as a centre for ARV distribution. This is news to us, and we hope they follow through on their promise. The Chieftainness takes everyone to task over AIDS. She hauls her husband to his feet, waggles his hand in the air, and tells everyone they should stick to one partner as she does. Then there is lunch.

In Zambia, as in many African countries, food is eaten with the hands. Great bowls of nsima are produced. This is maize meal boiled with water until it reaches a rubbery consistency. It is served with 'relish', usually some green leaves and tomatoes, and today because it is important, with chicken. The chicken is literally chopped up and fried. There is much crunching on bone. A pretty nun says grace. She is the only other woman on this table of 'dignitaries'. The men tease her about her chances of becoming pope.

The Chieftainess and her husband are eating by themselves in a separate room, as is customary. Why? Are they messy eaters? Do they eat with their toes? I don't know, but no-one is allowed to see them eat. I want to run up and peek in the window but I don't. I fear the juju.

Anticipation
Anticipation


Drumming
Drumming

Curiosity
Curiosity

Celebration
Celebration