Thursday, June 28, 2012

His Excellency

Dr Kaunda with the girls.  Check out little Nellie.
There are any number of strange situations we have found ourselves in recently.  I mention this to people from time to time, reminding them that this blog really only tells half the story.   There are topics that are off limits (work and colleagues which naturally constitutes a large part of our life), pictures I don’t share, names or landmark events that pass un-blogged.  But yesterday, we had a great opportunity that stumbled our way that I’m happy to share.  We were all scrubbed and polished and dressed for court (can’t talk about that here) and a random but funny work meeting that the kids were going to tag along to (can’t talk about that either).  Court was adjourned for another 2 weeks and the meeting was postponed til Friday.  So when our friend/former neighbor/fellow parent called as asked if the kids could come by after school to meet someone I was happily able to say “Of course!”
10 minutes to get ready.
It wasn’t exactly clear what sort of meeting we were going to get ready for, but the kids and I dashed home from school, they got changed into “fancy dress” and their handsome shirts and we ran over to our friends’ house.  The few times we need the kids to dress up always reveals our wardrobe shortcomings. Particularly at this time of year when it’s cold enough to wear trousers and closed-toed shoes (and when we’re packing for our US holiday where we’ll be no doubt buying all new shoes, socks etc.).  When you pull these things out just 3 times a year it’s very likely that the boys will have outgrown EVERYTHING they try to put on.  O luckily just scored some hip black trousers, a crisp white Herve-esque* and nice dress shoes b/c he needed them for his school play.  He also has just grown into two suit jackets that we picked up from a friend last year.
(*Herve Renard is Zambia’s very French football coach and is famous for his ‘lucky shirt, his perfect hair and the fact that even at a nail-biter of a mid-day match in Equatorial Guinea’s summer tournament he never broke a sweat.)
We don’t have belts, ties or any accessories and the trousers....let’s just say they are better suited for much shorter children. The only jackets that fit Finn are a leather motorcycle jacket (don’t ask why just know it’s AWESOME) and a polyester tuxedo jacket from the dress up box.  no. no. no.  He has one nice clean pair of chuck taylors we only have ONE chuck taylor and last I checked the boy has TWO feet. So he wore the grungy sneakers.
Hanging out at KKs house 
BUT they both have million dollar smiles and promised to be on their best behavior. There is nothing like a cheerful face on well-mannered child to make you blind to to the high-waters, missing buttons and dirty laces.

Dr. Steven Moyo, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, and our awesome neighbor, Solomon Ossiya
How this meeting came to be.
Our friend had a mentor/benefactor growing up who happened to work as the private secretary to the first president of Zambia, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda.  Dr. Kaunda held office from the time of Zambian Independence in 1964 until 1993.  He is a champion of civil rights and after the death of one of his sons is an active campaigner in Zambian’s fight against HIV/AIDS.  He’s now 88 and remains an active figure in politics and advocacy and is of course a local and international celebrity.  Zambian’s affectionately refer to him as “KK” but we reminded the kids that in person, he is to be called “Your Excellency,”   (I must say that this term does not roll off the tongue of an American mom, nor does “Your Worship” which is what I’m supposed to call our magistrate -- but after 4 years, I feel more comfortable calling her Mum.)
Our friend has been in Zambia for these past years with his two girls while their mom stayed back in Uganda for her VIP (very important position). Mom is now moving to Ghana for a new job and now she wants the girls with her.  So the girls are packing up and leaving dear old dad.  But not before he gets them an audience with the legendary first president.  Along with some other friends from school, we joined in for this meeting and they all got to spend an hour with His Excellency, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda at his Lusaka residence.  What a treat.
The meeting.
The kids got to goof around in the board room, twirl in the big man’s chair and holler at eachother while they ‘played’ tough guy presidents. Little Nellie:  YOU!  (giggle giggle) Get me coffee! (big laugh) YOU!  Make my bed! (more giggles)  The antics did not stop for the appearance of the president but they all remained on their best behavior and chatted about favorite foods, favorite colours, what it was like to be president--the FIRST president of his country, what instruments he played.  If J’s brothers had been able to come we’re certain the conversation would have drifted towards robots, aliens and KK’s ‘position’ on cheese.  The kids sang the national anthem and then we dashed out side to take photos in the courtyard.  Dr. Kaunda danced and sang for the kids and left us all laughing as he ran (literally) off to tea.

And that was that. (oh, wait, not so fast:  Beth reminds me they also learned the secret handshake....)
The kids all wrote their names on a sheet of paper so that they could each get an autograph.  They all wrote their full names, not a small fete for these guys with names and nicknames and christian names and traditional/tribal names.  

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