Suffering Soul: Adult Friendship

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Mwizenge s. Tembo, Ph. D.

Professor of Sociology


Perhaps one of the most enduring experiences and memories we all have are those of friendships we create when we are young adults. Those are some of the friendships that last into later years as adults. A friend is someone you talk to, play, laugh, and do so many things with. Friends make our lives bright and exciting virtually every day as often we can’t wait to wake up to see, talk or be with them. But there is always that one closest friend.

The closest friend tends be our neighbor, teammate in sports, family member, roommate, class mate, play mate and most fundamental of all we deeply share common interests with the closest friend. There is also the suffering soul of deep friendship. I will share one case of deep friendship I have been blessed and fortunate enough to have in my life.

Deep friendship: Maxon Chansa

On a Sunday blue sky afternoon in May 1972, I finally stood on the balcony of the fourth floor of Africa Hall 5 Room 26 as a freshman at the University of Zambia appreciating and surveying the beautiful scenery around and below. The lawn was green with gorgeous flowers and short bushes. Different types of music were booming from record players from many students’ rooms. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and excitement about the better times to come of gaining a University education which my family and I had not even ever dreamed of even just months before in January 1972 when I got an acceptance letter from the University of Zambia with room, board, and tuition of K400.00 per year fully paid by the Zambian government bursary of scholarship.

Africa Hall of Resident at the University of Zambia.
Africa Hall of Resident at the University of Zambia.

University of Zambia

Learning Psychology and Sociology was as challenging and exciting as I had imagined. I was meeting new people in and outside my classes. My grades were not great but I told myself I was at least hanging in there. Toward the end of the academic year, there was a live band and dance at the University Graduation Forum. The drinks were flowing and students were dancing with some of the few girls who were there. Maxon Chansa was a familiar classmate from the whole academic year. We talked intermittently and gravitated toward each other as students mingled. Towards the end of the evening, we were chatting and laughing loudly.

The following week we walked to the campus dining hall and ate breakfast together. Since we had exactly the same double major of Psychology and Sociology we had exactly the same classes. My dormitory room in Africa Hall was just next to Maxon Chansa’s dormitory room in Kwacha Hall. He was Bemba from the Northern Province and I was Tumbuka from the Eastern Province. We could not communicate with each other in our mother tongues. So we always talked to each other in Zambianized English. We saw and were practically with each other every day.

We laughed a lot when we were together because we saw the same humor in everything. We created a monotonous unique language between us that always made us laugh even in the tensest situations. We used such words as “bogus” to describe situations and people. “advance” is when you try to chat with a “momma” with intentions of getting a date. “Bounce” is when the momma repels your advances. “Mwana” is term of endearment which means “buddy” or close friend.

The deepest friendship has unique moments that make you laugh until tears flow from your eyes, you hyperventilate with intense laughter until your ribs hurt even 43 years later when you reminisce sometimes on the phone across oceans. We had so many of the happy and sometimes intriguing moments. One of the numerous memorable incidents that make Maxon Chansa and I laugh even up to this day happened during our freshman year.

Girls or “mommas”.

Adventures about girls or mommas are a huge part of deep friendship for young men. This was near the final exams. The Campus library closes at 10:00 pm. The dorm rooms are too loud because some students had a tendency to play music even late in the evening. My friend and I walked over to our usual small quite class room at the Psychology lab to study. When we walked into the classroom, there was something very usual; there were two gorgeous girls; in the University of Zambia campus lingo; there were two mommas. They were not our freshmen psychology major classmates that we knew. They greeted my friend and I. We tried to be very cool with the mommas. They told us they were from the other side of campus in the Natural Sciences. The short one said she was a junior or third year biology major and the tall one said she was a third year or junior chemistry major. They were studying for their finals too and found the psychology classroom quiet and convenient.

My friend and I were somewhat nervous. These were gorgeous mommas. Should we “advance” on them which was our lingo for making a move toward the idea of getting a date? The two mommas may have read our minds.

“Hey boys,” the taller one said to us. “Do you wanna do something with us?”

“Ahhh!! Y-es” we both stammered trying to sound confident.

“We could use the good experiment laboratory rooms because they are so quite”, the shorter one added smiling. “That way no one will hear us.”

“But before we start anything, “ the taller one said. “Could you go and get ready and be back here in half an hour.”

My friend and I quickly hustled out of the classroom towards Africa and Kwacha Hall. My friend said he would take the taller one since he is tall and since I was short I would take the shorter one. We were so excited. We excitedly rubbed our hands and  began to talk about what we would do with the mommas. We went to our rooms and quickly took showers. We even shared some cologne. We could not believe our luck as we raced back to the Psychology classroom. The classroom was empty. We checked the experiment rooms they were already there just waiting for us; the mommas were not there. My friend and I immediately looked at each other and broke into loud laughter. We had been had. How could we be so fooled? We were sure that embarrassing story would appear in the campus paper that week. The big headline would be: “Third Year Mommas Fool Freshmen Mojos”. The following day in the campus dining room, when the 2 mommas saw us they laughed so loud as they walked away toward October Hall.

Maxon Chansa and I share such a deep friendship going back to those formative years at the University that I even featured him in my romance and adventure novel “The Bridge” as the empathetic character James Lutuli. In 1989 I was to publish “Titbits for Curious” which was an anthology of short pieces which included a humorous commentary on my life in Lusaka while at University of Zambia including our social exploits at great parties in Lusaka.

The suffering soul of deep friendship is often the inevitable parting and separation as both of  you graduate from school, grow, enter different life phases, and change. Both of you get married, create families, get jobs in different cities and even continents. In spite all the tragedies small and big tragedies you might face, changes, and the long time that might pass being apart sometimes for many years, the best part about the soul of deep friendship is that when you meet or talk on the phone, it is as if you never were apart. You laugh and joke and reminisce with such sweet nostalgia. It happens with Maxon Chansa and I all the time.