FROG HOSPITAL -- August 7, 2020
Waiting for the Bus
By Fred Owens
I have these moments when everything is just right and this was one of them. We were sitting by the side of the road waiting for the bus. It feels calm, I mean who knows if the bus will ever come or if it ever has come, that's not our problem. It's for us to wait. And she was being kind to me, as you can see in the photo. She gave me the shade, me being fair-haired from northern climates and not used to the hot African sun, while she was at home in it. So she gave me the shade.
Waiting for the Bus is what people do in Africa. You can buzz right through it as a tourist, or sign up for an NGO and do some decent development project like teaching children to read, or helping to re-build the well in the village that goes dry half the year. But you don't become Africa, you don't be Africa unless you're waiting for the bus. That's hope and no hope. I got to be Africa, waiting for the bus after many false starts. They could tell I was trying to get somewhere, until I finally realized I was already there. That's Africa, when you be Africa. But by then my time was up. That's what I said at the beginning of this story. It doesn't matter if you love or hate Africa, or if you want to stay forever or leave tomorrow. You are given so much time and given by whom I cannot say but you are given so much time, and when that time is up, you better heed the signal because it's time for you to leave, and you should be mighty grateful that you got to stay here at all. I got to stay for a year and sometimes she gave me the shade.
We got back from Malawi in early November.........Mr. Mataka and his two daughters, Marji and Winnie, stayed behind to share secrets with Amina, to tell old stories around her small cooking fire, and she laughing the whole time. But Precious and I headed back to Blantyre, the big city in Malawi and there I almost got killed by an angry mob. This man accosted us. He seemed to know Precious very well. He began to shout that I had stolen his wife and I must give her back. Quickly a crowd formed and the language became more heated. I was frightened. But Precious rose to the occasion and confronted this pig. She said to the pig, You do not own me. I am not your slave to order around, I go with this man now and we are married. You were a pig to me, but he is kind. So shut the fuck up and go back to your lemonade stand. You are bothering me. I will call the police and you will go to jail........ so she said to this man speaking in Chewa, which is the language of Malawi. She was very calm. The bystanders drifted away. Some old boyfriend I guess.
This reminded me of how little I knew about her. She had two passports. One from Malawi said her name was Precious Mataka and that she was 25 years old. The other passport was from Zimbabwe and said her name was Precious Sibanda and that she was 32 years old. I did not believe either one. I figured I would never get to the bottom of the common African practice of multiple identities. She was who she said she was when she said it.
Well, I said, I guess you are.
The photo was taken right near Victoria Falls and we had come out to this road to view the world's largest baobab tree, called the Livingstone Tree, named after Scottish explorer David Livingstone. They never tore down his statue when they kicked out the colonial govt. in Zimbabwe. They tore out all the other statues of European heroes, but they left Livingstone standing because he did no harm. He just wanted to find his way.
Who took the photo? It must have been my daughter Eva who came to see us that summer of 1997 in the few weeks before we got married. Eva stayed with us before starting college in September. She took the photo. Then she got on the bus and saw her own adventures in the cold mountains of Chimanimani, which lie near the border with Mozambique. The guerilla partisans used to pass through there into Zimbabwe from their training camps in Mozambique but that war ended in 1980. Still it was wild, rugged country and I can't believe I let Eva go there all by herself having just turned 18.
How the Pandemic Defeated America Defeated, yes, but it's not over. This matter of fact story in the Atlantic does not hide the truth but just lays it all out. I accept this judgment and say we can fix this if we first make a ruthless explanation of how it happened. Trump and the attitude that elected him is the biggest problem. But the whole notion of private health care and insurance by means of employment needs to be challenged. The last paragraph reads, "The pandemic has been both tragedy and teacher. Its very etymology offers a clue about what is at stake in the greatest challenges of the future, and what is needed to address them. Pandemic. Pan and demos. All people."
If You're Not Happy Today, That's Totally Normal. Barton Goldsmith explains this in Psychology Today. More than a thousand Americans are dying every day, plus many more thousands are dying around the globe. The human family is under great duress. So, to put it bluntly, these are not happy days. He writes, "Right now, I don’t think there’s any way to manufacture happiness when there is so much going wrong in our world..... your job is to survive—having a good time and feeling happy again will come later if you just do that."
Africa Knows How to Survive. Africa has survived every disaster since the beginning of the human race. Africa can say, better than anybody, that we're still here, we've always been here, and we always will be here. Africa is the place where herd immunity was invented. Individuals may die but the tribe lives on. This is something I neglected to mention in my quest to visit Chembe village and meet with Amina, the wise sister of Mataka, because this is where the human race originated. Somewhere around here, many thousands of years ago, a young creature stood up on her hind legs, looked around and realized that she was different from all the other creatures. She realized that she was a human being. And she began the process, taking many thousands of years, of finding out what it means to be human, a process that began somewhere near Chembe Village and continues to this day, to this pandemic. So tap into that life force and survive. And when it's time to be happy crack open some cold beers and smile, because that's what they do in Africa.
In the Next Issue, Precious and Frederick Begin Their Migration to America. Leaving Africa, Coming to America. They got married September 1, 1997, the day after Princess Diana died. They made a honeymoon homecoming journey to Chembe, Precious's ancestral village. They came back to Bulawayo and began the visa process. Precious is about to take her first flight in an airplane.
See you next week,