Jacinda de Freitas

Road Block

February 1988. Separated from the oppressive Zambian heat by the dusty car window. We are foreigners to the country and the heat. Our old car is temperamental and my father is afraid to stop.

Ahead in the distance, three soldiers step into the road and hold up their hands. Brakes. Mumbles between my parents. Now what? We’ve been through the border. Windows roll down. The heat invades the car.  Red dust swirls   around and clings to the soldiers’ boots. The semi-automatic weapons motion for us to exit the old green car (a gift for the brave missionaries). “Passports.” Sneers. “Open the boot.” Three suitcases, three kit bags, one cooler box on the pot-holed road. “Open.” Obligingly, my father opens each bag. The weapons search and expose our neatly packed lives. My red, lock-up diary is ignored. We stand there, helpless in the merciless sun. Clothes lie carelessly on the tarmac and the soldiers walk around them disdainfully. When all our belongings have been offered for scrutiny, the soldiers and their semi-automatic weapons take refuge in a grass hut.

They watch as we quickly gather our lives and pack them back into the old car. We packed our entire lives so that they could be strewn unceremoniously on a national road for entertainment. Before we drive off my father smiles and says, “Thank you, have a nice day”. We get into the car and follow the black snaking road to a city we don’t know to spread a spark of Divine.

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