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...But a Black January

In January, everything is quite bleak. It is, by far, the most boring month; people return to their offices, bleary and depressed, to find that the tinsel that circles their desk and which looked so festive last month simply seems tacky and cheap now. Christmas is over; no more early finishes and bottles of wine being passed around the office- New Year has started, and despite all the resolutions, it looks scarily just like the one before. The credit card bill has arrived, prompting even more empty promises. In London, people who have partied through December, turn sombre, opt to have quiet evenings at home, saving money, saving their livers, making promises to finally change their lifestyle, only to forget it all by February. They are suddenly "serious" about their careers (note: not jobs, careers) and the sales of veggies and organic yogurt explode. The gyms are bursting at the seams but no one wants to go out anymore. London hibernates.

Coming from Finland, where January is the coldest, darkest month, it's no surprise I've always hated it. I used to plan trips to somewhere, anywhere, just to keep me from that terrible, never-ending January. In Zambia, it's not so different. I came back from Malawi a bit late, to find an unusual buzz of activity. And I realised. People were actually working. I could almost hear the non-existent phones ringing, and the faxes we've never had humming. It seems that after a lazy November and December, everyone had copious amounts of work to be done. Even the budget that has lain on the desk for months, half-done, is finalised. Everyone is busy; agendas are being drawn, meetings scheduled. On the first day back, I received more payments than I had done in the whole of November (I tend to double up as a sort of an accountant sometimes as well as a teacher- both being jobs which I know nothing about, nor particularly enjoy), and people had to queue to get to mine and Oscar's tiny office. I wish they could keep this up the whole year. It'd definitely be the first step towards self-sufficiency; seeing people work hard and take responsibility.

But even though the sun shines unseasonably hot in Lusaka, January stretches on indefinitely. I remember looking at my journal back home and knowing January would be the toughest month- my last full month in Zambia, and there is already an air of finality about. Everyone seems to be moving, all the volunteers, all the foreign students, even the people I met in Malawi who work in Zambia and were just there to spend Christmas like me. They all seem to be back in Zambia only to pack up their stuff and catch a flight home. Everyone is restless; this is the New Year and it's time to move on. Focus is no longer in work, but in the next venture- backpacker's hostels around Southern Africa are filling up again, and I hear more phrases like, "Have you been to Livingstone yet? You should really go to South Africa!", and things are positively stirring. Most of my friends have left, Hanna to the Malawian bush, Marianne almost home now, Sari to Chipata and even Beata is whizzing about the neighbouring countries. I'm alone but it's ok; I'm planning my next move to Namibia, and also gradually, though very gradually, I'm starting to think (or fear) finding a flat in London. I think about my favourite coffee from my favourite over-priced coffee shop, and how great it's going to taste, I think about the temp agencies I'll approach. I think about the pub along the Thames which I really like, where you can sit with a book and a glass of wine forever and no one will hassle you. I miss the London men never approaching me; I can't believe I used to moan about it. It's going to be great.

But first, the important part: travel. Namibia, Tanzania, Kenya, and who knows what else I'll come up with. I'm really not in a much of a hurry to get home, but just to be moving again.


Few photos from Kanyama, then the catering students doing their computer lessons, and the front gate of our school.

Posted by Ofelia 02:11 Archived in Zambia Tagged volunteer

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