For those of you who have never moved... for those of you that have never had to start over.... for those of you who have had the same friends, the same shared history for the majority of your lives...for those of you who can actually identify where "home" is... This post is not meant for you.
It is meant for people like me: People who have spent their lives in transition, constantly starting over, making new friends, explaining their story, trying to communicate where they're "from"... and still never knowing what to call "home."
It may sound strange but for people like me, it is immensely significant to say:
"I grew up here"
Instead of "not here." (which is what I feel like I've been saying my entire life).
Coming back to Lusaka is, by definition, strictly business. I'm here on assignment - Gathering information regarding agricultural value chains which might prove useful in an upcoming bid for USAID (for those of who you may not be well acquainted with the development world, that's the international development arm of the American government). This bid, when it comes out, will be worth roughly $24 million...needless to say, the pressure is on.
But, despite the pressure, being here in Lusaka is more than just work. This is where I grew up. And, in a strange way, coming back felt a little like coming home. I say "strange" because its not as though my family is still here. When my plane landed at the airport, my dad wasn't standing on the welcome balcony and waving like he used to do when I was little. I also don't have many friends here any more. In fact, I only really know one person still in Zambia - one of my childhood friends who is now a law professor at the University. In fact, very little about Lusaka is how I remember it at all. There are far fewer potholes. There are malls. There are fast food restaurants and chain clothing stores and coffee shops selling chocolate cake and bagels! (My childhood self had to be indulged) So.... yeah... its a little "strange" to say that coming back to Zambia felt like coming home.
But it did.
And it felt good.
In fact, it smelled like "home" ... or at least, the smell I associate with feelings of home (In case you were wondering: scorched, burnt earth sunshine, and cooking fires ... which, I'm told, is also what Kenya smells like).
But Zambia isn't "home." At least not in the permanent sense. Zambia is one of the many "homes" I have been fortunate to have over the course of my life. And while it was nice ... great... wonderful, in fact, to finally say "I grew up here," going back to Zambia allowed me to see just how far I've come. To see just how much I've grown up.
Its good to look back - to go back - but life is about moving forward. And that's what I'm going to do now.
(written August 16th, 2011).