On my second day in Zambia I went apeshit. "Are the taps and baths and sinks just for show then?" I asked the landlord as she explained that there was not enough water pressure in the area to have running water in the house. I stormed back through our gate, past the drunk guard, over a cockroach, into the bedroom. I can still hear my fingernails scraping the wall behind me, feel the hot rage coming up and out of my throat and see Maurice duck as my flip flops flew off my feet across the room. I was so tired, I was so lost, I felt that I had no control of my life and I definitely did not want to be in Zambia.
|Our first night in Lusaka, September 2008|
I had been born twenty-six years earlier in my parents' bed in neighbouring Malawi. They had had a good life in Donegal in the seventies. Lovely house, good jobs, happy children. So why, I asked my father, did they move to Africa? He told me that he was driving out to work one day in his yellow VW Beetle and he just thought, I'm going to live the same day over and over again for the rest of my life. He suggested to my mother that he might apply for a job he had seen in The Economist with The World Bank in Ndola, Zambia. She told him to piss off. It would just be two years and then they would come back and my father would start his own accountancy firm in Ballyshannon.
There was a moment of terror, he says, when they drove out of the gate with their three small children in the back seat when he thought, "Are we doing the right thing?" They came back thirty-three years and six countries later, just in time for us to announce on return from our honeymoon that we were moving to Zambia. I thought it would be easy for me. Africa? Sure, I was born there. Moving? Sure, I've been doing it all my life. No bother to me.
I have wasted a shameful amount of time wishing I was somewhere else. At first, anywhere else but more recently, perhaps since having children, in Ireland. "I'm so tired of wanting to be in Ireland. I can't even remember any more why I'm so obsessed with it," I gulped to my friend Isabelle on our Sunday walk. She told me not to let go of the idea, that is was healthy, normal, important.
I don't enjoy the transient feeling of being here. I almost crave the scripted life that caused restlessness in my father forty years ago. It is the concepts of 'home' and 'belonging' that have held me back. The idea, wrong as it may be, that if we were in Ireland things would be just that little bit better.
But we're going not going to Ireland. We're going to Tanzania, and I can't spend the next two or three or five years wishing I was somewhere else. Zambia, Tanzania, Ireland - you are not my home. Maurice, you are my home. Juno, you are my home. Milo, you are my home. As long as we are together, we are where we belong.
|Our last week in Lusaka, August 2013|