Woman Made me Love Zambia PART TWELVE

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Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D.

Professor of Sociology

The Last Mango

It was at the very tail end of the mango season sometime in January. I was 11 years old at Dzoole School in Chief Chanje’s area about 7 miles from Mgubudu stores on the Chipata-Lundazi Road in the Eastern province of Zambia.

The Mangoes were getting fewer and fewer. One sunny afternoon, I was hunting birds with a legina (sling shot), when I suddenly saw this bright red-yellow Mango right on top of a big tall Mango tree. I didn’t even think. I just raced to go and climb the tree because I had to have that last delicious Mango. I had not eaten one in more than a week.

As soon as I walked into the think underbrush, it was very dark as I crunched the dry brown mango leaves on the ground with my bare feet. As I

hastily climbed the tree, I kept my eyes up to where the mango fruit was with rays of bright lights breaking through the dark thick green leaves.  Half way up the dark tree, I heard the loud buzzing around my head. I knew right away what they were. Instead of climbing down, I just let go of the tree trunk and fell the rest of the way down breaking small branches; thud!! to the ground and got up and ran swatting and ducking away from the buzzing insects which were circling my head.

With  the large big black buzzing of all the ferocious mabvu, masanganavo or wasps, I was lucky because I was bitten only once right above my left eye brow. I thanked my quick reflexes and instincts.  Talking about mabvu, masanganavo or wasps, if you were a boy, being stung while hunting birds,  looking for wild fruits and wondering in the woods and bushes was a rite of passage.

But I had a huge problem. How was I going to hide this from my mother? My eye was already swelling and soon it would be swollen shut like a football. Some thoughts went through my mind. I could go home late after dark and then slip into bed without my mother seeing me.  I could run away from home for a few days. But where would a kid with a swollen eye go? I didn’t know anyone I could ran away from home to. I decided to go home but  I would try to hide this calamity from my mother. I must have walked home sheepishly because right away as soon as my mother saw me she asked:

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” I replied as I kept the left side of my head and body away from her.

The next thing I heard from her is:

“You have been stung by masanganavo (wasps)! What were you doing?”

“I was trying to get a mango,” I confessed since I figured she caught me. There was no use trying to lie.

“You act as though I don’t feed you,” my mother said sarcastically. “You just had a big lunch of delicious nshima. Why were you looking for a stupid mango for? How hungry can you be? You deserve to be stung. I wish the sting would have killed you. Then people would have been blaming me during your funeral that I don’t feed you. Now,  I hope you have learned your lesson.”

My younger sisters and brothers came and pitifully gawked at my left eye which was swollen shut by this time. My mother didn’t know I was so relieved it was over. I had expected worse. Fortunately my father was not even home yet since sometimes he went to a bar after work for a few bottles of Castle Beer  before coming home. The following day the swelling was almost gone and I was back in the bush again.

Childhood Adventure

I smiled about this memory as I slowly walked home to Northmead after work along the Great East Road after the railway crossing all the while narrating with a smile between my lips this ancient mango childhood poem:


Small mangoes, big mangoes

 Named Dudu

Short mango trees, tall mango trees

Wild mangoes with bland taste

Garden whole golden yellow

Ripe mangoes

With green and yellow patches

Mango fruits ripe everywhere

On the ground and dangling

Beckoning humans, insects, animals

Alike invitingly on tree limbs


No more empty bellies

For now during the harsh

Hunger season named  zinja

People, birds, insects, ants, flies

Of a thousand shapes, sizes, and colors


The sweet smell of the mango

It is in the air

In the house

And in dreams


The thought and dreams

Of a thousand sweet delicious

Different tastes of

The mango draws

Tears to the eye

Many fond memories

Taste buds titillated with

Unfulfilled fantasies

Of the sweet juicy mango

The bite squeezes

Yellow juices drip quickly

Down the arm soiling

Child’s only Sunday shirt

Mother chastises

Oh! what to do with stubborn

Yellow stains


The dull mango

The sweet mango

The juicy mango

The wild mango

The bitter mango

A thousand tastes, flavors

And colors in between

Oh! what a joy it is

To experience

The titillating taste of a

Million mangoes

Oh! What a joy it is

To be alive

To live another day

To savor another mango


My rural childhood had been of such adventure. I couldn’t help but contemplate the woman who was in so much of my thought. Did Linda Jitanda have the same adventurous rural village childhood since she grew up as a girl? I was sure she had stories to tell if I ever we met again. I contemplated that even though she was Kaonde from a totally opposite different part of Zambia in the Northewestern Province and I was Tumbuka from the opposite part of the country in the Eastern Province, our childhood experiences were so similar that may be that’s why we were attracted to each other the very first time we met. We did not even have to share the same language.

Like Ku Mayadi or Middle Class

As I walked passed Wamulwanda Road, I was convinced that boys and girls experienced very similar adventures whether they were from rural villages or high density shanty and other compounds in towns and cities such as Chipata, Kasama, Livingstone, Kabwe, Chingola, Mpika, and all over Zambia. These children just went everywhere alone. A few were injured in accidents and some died in tragic childhood mishaps. But what was life without these adventures and risks?

As I walked passed Makishi Road toward the final bush path home, it struck me that the middle class children who live Ku Mayadi are very deprived. Of course they have their own adventures. They live very comfortable lifestyles. But how can they have adventure when they are driven to school, they cannot leave the house without accounting for where they are? They never go hungry. The boys have never carried peanuts in their pockets as snacks. They have never walked bare feet in their life to experience hot burning sand on their feet or the pain of removing a thorn from their foot. That’s was the life of my Mayadi middle class life style of my nephew Tizaso 11 years old; my niece Misozi 8 years old.

As I turned into the bush path on the final leg home, I decided there and then that from now onwards, I would tell my niece and nephew as many stories about my life as a child growing up in rural Zambia. I wanted to tell them vilapi, visilili, fishimi, or folktales that I was told under the bright moonlight. I want to give them a taste of the exciting, risky, and adventurous life that they would never experience. That evening I would take some time to tell them some stories. I had so many exciting stories that made me smile and my heart beat faster just thinking about the stories.