Babies and Cars
Imagine being 21 years old, married, and going off to work and live in Africa for two years. For us it was an adventure. For our families, it must have seemed like madness. We could not phone home, or communicate in any way except by what is now known as snail mail. Any news we wanted to send home would take ten days to two weeks to reach them.
In early December, 1966, I found out that I was pregnant. Our families were thrilled with the news. First grandchild for both sets of parents. And the baby would have 20 aunts and uncles.
Remember, I was still doing the laundry, kneeling on the floor beside the bathtub, and walking to school in the African heat. I became quite sick so we decided to try to find a car to buy. My salary as a teacher (John’s salary was the same) was $2,400 per year. Zambian volunteers were the highest paid in the world. The volunteers in India got only $500 per year.
Through a friend of a friend, we found a car that we could afford. It was a 1954 Peugeot, and cost us $240. But here’s the thing. The entire roof of the car was rusted from being in the African sun for over ten years. The doors opened backwards, and the driver was on the right! It served us well, and took us on many trips around Zambia as well as to Malawi, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and Botswana.
Because Rhodesia and Zambia were opposite politically (Rhodesia was an apartheid state), Zambia declared a policy of no-trade with Rhodesia, which meant that all goods had to come from somewhere else. Gas had to be trucked in to the country from Tanzania. The roads were appalling and there were many serious accidents. Gas rationing was the solution.
We had little coupons which we had to take with us to buy gas. Most months we were limited to 10 gallons. One month we had 12 gallons, and one month, only 4. Gallons. For the whole month.
People helped each other out and if you had a spare coupon you gave it to a friend who was planning a trip. If you knew a doctor, it was a bonus, because they had unlimited coupons.
In March we set out for the beautiful Victoria Falls, in Southern Zambia. They were wild and natural, and uncommercialized. We walked along a dirt path and came upon the Falls. In the African language of that area, they were known as mosi-oa-tunya, which translates to the smoke that thunders. It describes the Falls perfectly.
John and I sat on a rock at the very edge of the falls and had our photo taken. It is one of my favourites and whenever life has had its difficult situations, we look at that photo and tell ourselves that we are the kind of people who sit by Victoria Falls and can face anything.
The slides we took in Africa are being digitally translated, and I will add photos when they become available. Until then you will have to use your imaginations.
Thank you for reading. Have a wonderful day. – Maureen