Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A Spectacle Comes to Mfuwe

The plane from Lusaka was an hour late, and if they hadn't waited for the handful of people that arrived late from Livingstone, we would have been the only passengers.

Raytheon Beech 1900D / Zambian Airways / Lusaka, Zambia to Mfuwe, Zambia

It was a twin prop plane for the short hop, and even Mary Ann's camera case had to be stowed in the hold. It was tight quarters. But as the flight approached our destination, I realized I wasn't seeing any buildings. Then I realized that thing I thought was a tent was actually a thatched roof. When we walked off our plane, Robert from the lodge was waiting. We climbed the ladder up onto the seats in the safari-converted Landrover and began the drive through Mfuwe (mmm-fooey) to the national park.

Right off the bat, people were waving and calling. Mary Ann tried to keep up with waving back, especially at the children. I began noticing something different. Children twelve and under were shocked and amazed to see me. Boys would stop in their tracks, jaws hanging open. One teenage girl was startled as if she'd seen a monster. One boy's gestured clued me in. It was the beard.

These people do grow beards, but thin ones. They'd never seen anything like me, in full santa mode. Twice we stopped in town while Robert tried to find a phone to make contact with the base to see if he should take me to the camp or try to connect us with James, who was already taking people out on a night drive. As the people clustered around us, watching the spectacle, I smiled back. I began wondering whether I had mistaken how I should look in this part of Africa. But I'm not likely to cut it short now.

I'll just smile and wave.

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