Saturday, February 24, 2024

Father and Son Love Part One


By Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D. Emeritus Professor of Sociology

Since humans began migrating the earth fifty thousand years ago from Africa, we have been separated from loved ones by small and large distances. When I first went to graduate school from Zambia in Southern Africa to Michigan State University in Michigan in 1977, it was with tremendous excitement. It never occurred to me 46 years ago that continents and 8,000 miles or over twelve thousand kms would separate me from my parents in the small village.

On January 1st 2018, my mother took a bath, got dressed, and sat in the warm bright morning sun with her legs comfortably stretched out. She had been sick for months. My relatives and I had sought some treatment. She was an estimated 88 years old. Her real age could not be determined since she was born in the early 1930s when written records were unknown in the traditional African society. I held her frail hands as I bid her farewell on my long journey back to the United States.

“I will see you in June,” were my parting words to her.

“Muzamkutisanga para chiwuta wapenja (You will find me God willing)” she said.

I walked away through the village bush path feeling good and optimistic while relatives carried my bags.

On January 14th 2018 I got a phone call from my brother that my mother had passed away. I could not even attend her funeral. So, it was with great trepidation when I bid farewell to my 96-year-old father in my village in February 2021. It was a painful farewell two years ago for me as I was wondering if I would ever see my father again. But a rare opportunity came up recently for me to go and visit him. I flew a grueling 18 hours from Washington D. C. to the Capital City of Lusaka.

When expeditions climb Mount Everest or venture to the South Pole, they have to live at a base for a while so their bodies could acclimatize. I needed a week in the Capital City to acclimatize and gather intelligence about the travel conditions 747.00 kms or 466 miles into the remote Lundazi district of Eastern Zambia. This was not an idle exercise. When I lived at the model village in rural Chongwe from January to July 2021, I contracted Covid and came down with malaria. I was admitted in the hospital in Lusaka for 2 days. I no longer have a robust body of a twenty-one or even forty-year-old.

I had three options for traveling to my village. Each option had its own risks. I could hire a private taxi. I could drive a rental car. I could travel by bus. I had used a rental car in 2012 and the paved road between Chipata and Lundazi was terrible then but was apparently worse now. Huge pot holes were in the road in the middle of a torrential rain season with cyclones that have hit Mozambique, Malawi and parts of Zambia.

My journey had to be a blitzkrieg. I did not inform my father and any relatives in the village that I was coming. Any extra night or time lingering somewhere could be a risk for my now fragile health and life. I travelled by bus. The second leg of my bus trip from the Luangwa Bridge to Chipata was 211 miles or 340kms paved-road perfect. The third leg of my trip from Chipata to Lundazi was paved-road potholes of hell 114 miles or 185kms. The normally one and half bus journey took 3 to four hours of slow pot-hole dodging.

When we finally arrived in Lundazi, I headed straight for the Lundazi Castle Hotel. This is an actual majestic castle built during British colonialism in Zambia in the 1950s. I grab every opportunity to spend nights at the Castle Hotel. It is quaint. My room had a mosquito net. I crashed.

In the morning, I ate nshima for breakfast at 8am and went to the bus station to look for a taxi to take me 21 miles or 33kms to my remote village in the middle of the muddy rainy season. There were already dark rain clouds gathering in the North-West Mchereka direction where I was heading.

There were no taxis at the bus station on a Sunday morning. There were two dozen young men with motorcycles. One aggressive young man said he could take me to the village safely. It would be K300.00 ($15.00) but I could be looking to pay from K600 to K800 ($30 to $40) if I used a taxi. We haggled for fifteen minutes. I don’t have an umbrella or rain coat. He assured me it was not going to rain.

We strapped my small bag on the motorcycle and he strapped my back -pack on the front of his chest. We embarked on our 42 mile or 66 kms of our perilous journey-expedition to see my 98-year-old father


  1. Very interesting, Lundazi Castle hotel has never changed quite iconic – cute colonial reminder – look after it well.

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