Someone lives in the middle of nowhere


By road from Mbeya, Tanzania, to Mbala, Zambia

Bags of charcoal as high as a 10-year old are stacked on the side of the road. Someone put them there.

A woman with a child strapped to her back, as is the fashion accessory for most women during their child rearing years, is walking over a barren ridge before stopping to wave.

A little boy sits on an empty feedbag pulled on the ground by an older boy. Dust plumes swirl in their wake.

Houses on the side of the road are made from locally-sourced mud and branch and grass. In Kenya, I met a man who lived in such a house. He called it a “temporary house.”  Temporary house, but he wanted the property to be his forever home. On a speeding bus the houses are nearly camouflaged.

A father waves for our mini-bus to stop. His children sit on the bags of grain he hopes to take to market. But who has room for 15 bags of grain?

A family flags us down. A young woman is wearing a prom dress with her left breast out and available for the baby boy she holds. They get on the bus. It feels like we have no more space, but somehow we always have room for one more. She covers her nose because the smell of the gas from the gas tanks inside our cab is so strong. After a few hours, I can’t smell them any longer.

A woman in a green shirt takes a nap in the sandy courtyard of her home.

A teenager addresses a circle of smaller kids.

Children and adults light a grass field on fire, the first step in preparing the land for crops.

I observed all of this while I was on a bus from Mbeya, Tanzania, to Mbala, Zambia, a trip of less than 200 miles that took 12 hours. The views were spacious. Vast. Dusty. Shrubbed. I wrote these terms in my notebook. I wanted to write another: “the middle of nowhere.” I fought the urge because there was the charcoal, the waving woman, the boys at play, the father with his grain, the nursing mother, the napper, the circle of kids.

Someone lives in the middle of nowhere. Someone loves in the middle of nowhere. To them it’s home. It’s important to me that I don’t forget this and that I don’t forget them.

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