‘Mary’ times

There’s a little girl now looking into a room where I slept for the past days. Her name is Jemimah, and her smile would brighten up anyone’s day. I’ve left her house this morning as I moved from my temporary Zambian home into the lodge where I will start my next training tomorrow. I was told by my friend Mary that Jemimah is looking for me and it gave me an incredible smile.


Being hosted by a friend in any country is a wonderful and interesting experience, but especially when you stay with someone that for some reason is so similar to you, and on the other hand has such a different background.


Mary and I met in Geneva. We were both attending a course on human rights. No one had informed me in advance that we would be sharing rooms, so when I walked into my room I was quite surprised to find an African lady sleeping in ‘my’ bed already. I went down to ask, but there was no mistake – we were sharing the room. Okay, that’s fine, but I realised there was only one pair of covers to sleep under and the two beds were also put together. I did not want to disturb the African lady as for all I knew she had just been on a tremendous trip to get there. The receptionist had to look in several rooms to find an extra pair of covers. I only pushed the beds slightly apart to limit the noise.


And here I was these past days in Lusaka, sharing not only a room, but also a bed (again) with Mary – to have ‘Mary’ times. Not only are we practically namesakes, it turns out we have both lived in Senegal for a while, are passionate about human rights and share(d :-)) the same frustrations, but most of all amazement about behaviour of the opposite sex. A bond was made. We’ve talked for many hours about everything and nothing, ending yesterday with the reflection that we are both quite happy with what we have achieved, but that there are many things we need to do (oh damned ambition!), before we die (among them finding Mary a hobby – most likely DJ-ing and me the opportunity for a photo exhibition).


Mary opened up her house and family to me. An extended family of seven people, her sister, the daughter of her sister (by the beautiful name of Precious), the daughter of her daughter’s sister (Jemimah), another cousin (which I can only remember the beautiful skirt of), a boy named Elvis and the son of her older brother (with a difficult name to remember). I’m just as lost as you are by now…There are many stories to share about this family, but they’re not mine to tell. It does however tell you something about Mary. She takes care of these seven people. Providing them a home, money for food and schooling and most of all a place to laugh, cry and watch Brazilian and Mexican soaps.


We are the same age, but here she is with responsibilities that go beyond my understanding. I was worrying about a house, a job and some other stuff. Mary thank you for showing me this, simply by inviting me. I hope the dreams that we talked about last night, will come true for you and many more.


Ps If you ever would like to meet Mary and her family, she is a host for couch surfing – who would have thought! Couch surfing in Zambia.

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