People were surprised to hear I was going back. "Maybe it's best you remember it the way it was. It's been 30 years, you won't know anybody.
Besides, it mightn't be safe."
The drive from Ndola to Kitwe was so familiar and yet so different. Already it was apparent that this was not the bountiful, fertile country I had left.
The place names were the same…Luanshya, Kalulushi, Mufulira, Chingola, Chililabombwe, but the people seemed somehow altered.
Gone were the happy, confident faces of the newly emerged independent Zambian nation.
The trees, shrubs, and flowers have run wild at Kitwe, but they are still beautiful ... Bougainvillaea, Frangipani, and Jacaranda line the sidewalks.
The traffic lights are mainly broken. The ones that are working have no coloured globes. The roads are potholed.
The first place I visit is my former home. The journey just as I remembered it. Turn left onto Freedom Avenue, past Brady's house, continue on to
Parkland's shopping centre, shabby looking now; third exit off the roundabout to Kuomboka Drive, left to Congo Way and left again to Jambo Drive.
By now I was in the heart of what used to be a prosperous residential area. I was driving at about 5 miles per hour because the roads are pitted and scarred.
Then, there it was ... 54 Jambo Drive, my first home! Suddenly I could see Eileen aged 23 with her long golden hair and colourful mini dress,
laughing happily. Our Golden Labrador, Trudy, yapping excitedly, upon my arrival home. The garden just as I remembered it.
The same trees; lemon, lime, orange, jasmine, and hibiscus.
Memories rush back. Big Mike Farley "bombing" into the swimming pool like a kid. Sizzling steaks and corncobs on barbecues at sundown,
the laughter of young men and women, grateful that life could be so good. Dear friends who have left their imprint on my life, gone, scattered.
I longed for some tangible connection to the past that would bring those memories to life.
And so on to Nkana Golf Club, where I first learnt to play golf. There was only one car in the car park so I immediately caused some excitement amongst the caddies,
who were anticipating a rare job.
I made my way to the first tee. I was talking to the Caddy Master when suddenly, two of the caddies started walking towards me; and though they were speaking Bemba,
I knew exactly what they were saying… "No it's not, it couldn't be". "Sure it is ... it's him". One of them stepped forward and sent my mind searching for a name.
Before I could say anything, he speaks "Bwana, you've come back!" I recognise him instantly, "Joshua?" ... "Sure", he replies, "Joshua Banda, your old caddy, how are you Bwana?"
At last! This was my connection to the past. Joshua was a thirteen-year-old schoolboy when I left Zambia in 1974, he had caddied for me from age 10.
My first question was to ask after Philemon Muchenje, my old golfing partner. "That one died in 1981, that disease Bwana".
Later on that day as we strolled down the 18th fairway, I was thinking how perfect the day had been and how meeting Joshua had made my return to Zambia so worthwhile.
My thoughts were interrupted by Joshua ... "Give me something to remember my old Bwana by" he said. "Like what?" I asked. "Your shoes!" ...
"What size do you take?" "It doesn’t matter, please Bwana". I looked down at my old Reebok runners and realised that a poor Zambian caddie could never aspire to owning a pair of those.
When we got to the car park, I gave them to him. He thanked me, thanked me for coming back, asked if I would be back again,
and then ran off excitedly waving the runners at his envious fellow caddies.
Next day as the plane lifted off from Ndola International Airport, I gazed down on that spectacular landscape, part of the world's greatest plateau.
The flat bush and low forestland, with its distinctive red powdery soil. I thought back to September 1974 and how sad I felt then to be leaving this magical place.
And now, once again, the dreams of the young man, those half-forgotten feelings of excitement and adventure were being left behind.
I knew then why I had come back. It was not to see how Zambia had changed ... but to discover how I had changed.
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