Chapter 4 – A Very Old Friend

Serena Shirazi

We sat under the stars for a while, silent, reminiscing about all the days gone by. 8 years is a very long time, especially away from a person you adore so much. Of course I cannot pretend to know all the details about Chris’ life during those 8 years, just like he does not know mine. I remember when I told my ex-boyfriend about Chris (about him being my best friend) which prompted my ex to ask me a question. He told me: ‘you haven’t met Chris for so many years, how can you possibly be best friends?’ I don’t know why people think physical distance ruins affection. When your life revolves around constant moving, seeing new places, exploring new sights, distance is a mere state of mind. With all the shifting around, there is only one constant thing in your life; people. Most of the time, you leave these people behind physically, but they never really leave you emotionally. No one seems too far off to meet. No one seems too out of reach. Most importantly, distance does not kill your emotions. The fact that Chris and I had been in constant touch and had trusted each other enough to reveal important details of our lives, and the fact that we had planning to meet for years, and finally did, is an indication of the way we think of physical distance. It is emotional distance, not physical distance that ruins any friendship, or relationship for that matter.

As we lay there, I thought of all these things. I could not believe we were together after so long. Everything seemed perfect. Years of stress, years of thinking that I was lost in the wide world, were slowly starting to melt into a memory of the past. We talked about school again, and how carefree our days were. We remembered happy memories – stupid things we’d both done together. After a lot of laughter, we headed to the room. It had been a tiring day so before we knew it, we dozed off.

When I woke up (I think it was around 6.45), I saw Chris was still asleep. I made sure not to wake him up so that I could rush to the bathroom for a bath. I have to say I do not like being seen early morning after waking up, with my puffy eyes and sleep-loving face. It’s highly embarrassing and makes me self-conscious. I think I took more than half an hour enjoying a hot shower. When I came out, Chris was out of sight. Seriously, how can that boy disappear without brushing?

After getting ready, I saw Chris completing his short jog. I sat outside admiring the greenery around the farm while Chris had his bath. We ate breakfast outside, with his parents, talking about our plans for the day. It turned out that it was a Saturday and so today was the day of the Dutch market. When I was in school, I used to go to the Dutch market sometimes with my parents. I remember that they had lovely handmade items on sale. I was usually drawn to Zambian woodwork and to semi-precious stones like amethyst. When Chris reminded me of the market – I was over-excited to go there.

So we drove off to the market. We went around the stalls and I saw that nothing had really changed about it since I had last seen it. There were ostrich eggs, some plain, some painted, amethyst and malachite pieces on display, bags and jewellery made from beads, copper wall hangings, blocks of cheese (yeah that too!), woodworks – practically things that would make any person go crazy. I’m not a shopper but I had to get some stuff. After all I was in Zambia! I got some key rings made from beads, some small lions made out of malachite, a plain ostrich egg, and a small wooden elephant. Speaking of elephants, I remembered I had not yet given Chris the gift I had carried for him from the Mumbai airport!

After my little shopping spree, I thought we were heading back to the farm or something, but Chris had another surprise in store. He first picked up a bouquet of flowers at the florist’s shop and then drove us to Ms. Stocking’s house! Ms. Stocking was our English teacher in school and I had not seen her since my graduation day. Time does do things to people, and though her kindly eyes were still the same, she had grown older and the wrinkles and lines on her face were more visible now. It turned out that Chris had contacted Ms. Stocking before we flew down to Zambia, and she had called us for lunch at her place. Now this was all unknown to me, and the fact that Chris had planned such a big surprise was really starting to make me touched. He does know how to make me feel happy.

Ms. Stocking was ecstatic to see the two of us together. It’s interesting that while we were in school I never knew where she was from. I only guessed from her accent that she was British, but today I got to know she’s actually Canadian but had grown up in the UK! Funny how as students, you never ask your teachers such personal questions. All you ever worry about is how your teacher looks at you, and all the things you learn from her class. Ms. Stocking’s classes were some of my favourites. I told her that, and I got a compliment that I will never forget. She said I was one of her best students ever! She told Chris that she remembered how busy he was hitting on Carol during her classes. Now the hilarious part is there was nothing going on between Chris and Carol, but Chris did have the reputation of being quite a ladies’ man back in school. I wonder what would have happened at university!

We all had a good laugh about that. Over lunch, Ms. Stocking wanted to know about where our other classmates were. Unfortunately Chris and I were in touch with only a few people. Others had stopped writing back and telling us about what they were doing. Occasionally someone would wish us on our birthdays or things like that, but honestly, we really couldn’t keep track of most. It’s a sad realisation that some bonds do break. Some people change, other people just avoid contact altogether. Throughout lunch, we talked about school and how things had changed, and how the new administration was. Ms. Stocking of course was still in school, so she could tell us everything from her perspective. It was great to hear.

We spent about 6 hours with Ms. Stocking. I used to find it difficult to sit through 2 hours of her classes sometimes, but this time I really didn’t want to leave! So after exchanging emails and promising to add each other on facebook, we said a sweet goodbye to Ms. Stocking and headed back to the car.

It was almost evening then and Chris said that since we were going to be driving to South Luangwa tomorrow, we could end our day in Lusaka by checking out the nightlife. Now I’m not a party person at all. I cannot bear loud music, and even my alcohol intake is very little. So the plan did not really sound appealing to me – but of course I did not want to ruin Chris’ plan and so I agreed. We ended up at some place of which I have no memory, because I was shutting my ears the whole way through due to the noise. Chris tried to make me enjoy myself, by holding my hands and trying to make me dance. Unfortunately it didn’t go down too well, so poor Chris had to leave with his weird sound-sensitive friend, back to his farm. I did not want to ruin the night for him, but it turns out I did.

Once we were back to his farm, he got me some lemonade (that was really cute). I felt much better. We spent the rest of the night packing for our trip and discussing what we could do on our journey. I love making travel plans! I was getting all giddy with excitement. Before long, we decided we should stop talking and get some rest before we hit the road tomorrow. Watch out South Luangwa, here we come!

—————————————————————————–

Chris Blok

Dear Diary

So Friday night got a little late for me.  When I woke up Serena was already in the shower getting ready for the day.  I know she likes to have her space to wake up and all so I just slipped on by and left for my morning jog.  It’s not that hot in the morning so it’s a great time to jog and relax.  Besides, I had quite a bit of wine last night so it’s good that I’m jogging it all off.

When I got back Serena was already in the garden soaking up the sunlight.  I just went inside for a quick shower and to put on some fresh clothes.  For once mum and dad were both home for breakfast and so we decided to sit outside and have our English breakfast in the garden.  Gosh I’ve missed these kinds of meals.  I wish I could have a service like this back home in the Netherlands.  Or is it perhaps time to come on home?  I know my parents would love to have a son closer to home.

I told Serena that the plan was to go to the Saturday Market by the Dutch Reformed Church.  As a youngster I used to be a member of the Rotary Club and the Saturday Market was a venue where we used to man the parking lot to ask for a payment.  The proceeds went to the various street kid projects that the club supported.  I remember once when I was manning the door and this street kid came up to me asking for money.  I said he was ungrateful because he knew that I was standing there for him and then he asks me a question like that.  In fact I told him that if anything he should give me something.  He felt bad, so he went and got me this local drink called wisege (made of a local root).  When he offered it to me I felt a little bit ashamed about my outburst… Anyway, off to the Dutch Reformed Market we went.

Serena had such a good time though little has changed.  Ha if that street kid was still there, I did not recognise him.  I did see a few familiar faces though, so I was walking around greeting some acquaintances whilst Serena was walking around buying some souvenirs.  Speaking of which, I still hadn’t given Serena the chocolates I bought for her.  Haha, I better give her those sometime soon.  Maybe I should give them when she is feeling low on energy on our trip.  At the Dutch Reformed Church I ate a delicious T-bone and some boerewors that I bought from one of the Afrikaners who had a stand.  I also made a secret phone call to make sure we could go to our next destination for the day.

When Serena was ready, we drove to pick up some flowers.  From there we drove to place I had called to earlier to make sure we could go there.  A visibly older yet very cheerful Ms. Stocking stood by the gate to her house awaiting us.  She’s always been this classy lady wearing a lovely dress with matching purse and today she looks idem ditto.  I said she is visibly older but she has aged elegantly.  Yes she still is the lady I remember.

As ladies do, that know me well and they know it, the two ganged up on me and teased me about how I got along with old classmates and of course the main focus was on Carol.  Poor Carol because our relationship was purely platonic.  She and I enjoyed discussing the characters from the plays we would read in class.  My favourite play was by far An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde.  Ms. Stocking also reminded me of how I would always prepare my view of what the meaning is of a poem in class instead of as homework.  She said: you always had brilliant insights; my only quarrel with you was that you would prepare them in class.  Had you done them at home you would have been more prepared!  And then she of course had to say how brilliant Serena was as a student.  Haha, I just rolled my eyes at Serena.

After six hours of pleasant talk it was time to go.  Luckily I was still stuffed from the braai so we didn’t have to go home and I decided to take Serena to enjoy some Lusaka nightlife.  I know that it is not her favourite thing to do but she hasn’t been home in ages and it’s good to pull someone out of their comfort zone sometimes.  I took her to Portico’s which is a restaurant at show grounds.  Actually, it’s quite near our old school since the grounds are right opposite.  The ambiance was ok, but after a certain time the concept switches from restaurant to club/lounge-like and the music got way too loud.  That and the fact that there were quite a few prostitutes walking around spoiled my evening.  I hope Serena didn’t realise that there were prostitutes running around because I’m sure that would’ve made her more uncomfortable than the loud music.  Anyway, the fact that she wanted to leave quickly made it an easy decision to go home.

Back at the farm we had to hoot for quite a while for the watchman to come to us to open the gate from his security rounds (yeah right he was fast asleep by the fire he lit).  I made some lemon juice for Serena as a kind of apology for the evening and then we quickly got businesslike and started planning our trip.  I packed some tents and some pots and pans just to be sure.  I also got some ropes, some blankets and other things I deemed necessary when inside the bush.  Serena was a good help but she let me choose what to pack.  I did tell her that we would be sleeping in chalets and not inside the tents I packed.  The days of me sleeping in tents are over.  My back just doesn’t agree with such things anymore!

After writing a shopping list of things we still needed and a final check through what we already packed, it was time to go to bed to get ready for the long drive to South Luangwa.  It was going to be a new experience for me because I had never driven down all the way by myself before.  This is something I didn’t tell Serena.  Haha, I will tell her tomorrow when we arrive at the campsite.  Ok, it’s time to go to bed now; we need to wake up early so that we can be there on time.  I hope Serena loved the fact that we went to see Ms. Stocking.  Ok diary, good night!

Move to Chapter 5

Move to Chapter 3

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