Most field days, this geophysical gig feels like a theatrical rendition of Louis Sachar’s YA novel “Holes”. If you have not read it, “Holes” follows the epic wrongful punishment of Stanley Yelnats who is sent to a youth incarceration site in the Texas desert where all the teenage internees endlessly and pointlessly dig holes in the desert pavement. For us, most days involve painstakingly and often with great effort and sometimes disappointing results, pounding hundreds of sensors into the ground, and then taking them out. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
If the United Nations deems that access to “Clean Water and Sanitation” is a human right, who in Zimba is considered human enough to have that right? OK, I am paraphrasing the late and very great Dr. Paul Farmer speaking about access to medical care, but the notion is equally valid, if not more so regarding water. How can one see young children and young mothers with infants walking kilometers with filthy buckets to gather water from mud puddles, yet be so close to Lake Kariba, the world’s largest manmade reservoir?! How can one travel for so many days and not see a trace of electrification, yet be so close to the Kariba Dam, one of the largest hydroelectric dams in the world?! The World Bank, who financed the Kariba Dam, has the mandate of providing “long-term economic development and poverty reduction by providing… such as building schools, providing water and electricity…”.
It is 4 AM and the roosters are already rocking this hilltop. Given the depths of poverty in Zimba District, the quantity of livestock is remarkable. As it has been explained to me, livestock are only rarely to be eaten. They are four-legged bank accounts. Should the rains not come in November, livestock can be sold, and food purchased. Successive seasons of drought are then a calamity, of course
Without exception we have found the Tonga people to be gentle, generous, and grateful for our efforts. As greetings are an act carrying great import in any Tonga interaction, the four of us from BGC have all learned the basic greetings of mwabuka buti (good morning), mwayusa buti (good afternoon), kwasiya buti (good evening), twalumba (thank you), and a few others. Any greeting is usually accompanied by a right hand over the heart, and a gentle and silent clapping of cupped hands