Tatu Muanda, hardworking, quiet, and congenial, works in our home 3 days a week. We hired him soon after we moved into our apartment last year, to help with cleaning, laundry, and some cooking. He tends to be so easy-going and reserved, that we did not find out for a few months that his wife was in the distant city of Luiza with some relatives. She had traveled to Luiza for the funeral of her mother, then lacked the means or motivation to return home to Kananga. So she stayed in Luiza with some of her grown children and relatives…for 2 years. “She will return.” he told us, “Maybe next month, when the kids are out of school.” One month stretched into several, and we asked Tatu Muanda repeatedly if he had heard anything and if there was anything we could do to help. “She will come,” he always said confidently, “we just wait.”
Just last week, we heard that his wife, Mamu Monique, had made the 200km (120 mi) trek with some of her children. Then this week she came to our house to visit. We rejoiced at the reunion of the family, and were relieved that Tatu Muanda is no longer alone. “A whole week on the road,” she recounted “walking and stopping to sleep, and walking again. Our whole bodies hurt so bad when we arrived!” She marveled that her blue flip-flops had survived the arduous journey “usually I don’t wear any shoes, but my daughter gave me these for the road.”
“In Kananga, we didn’t have any food to eat, we were dressed in rags. We were so ashamed!” She reflected, referring to life in Kananga before she had gone to Luiza 2 years ago. “So, when my mother died, I went to Luiza. At least there you can grow food because it is rural. In Kananga there is no way if you don’t have money! Tatu Muanda refused the long walk though, so he stayed here.” Now that Tatu Muanda is employed with us, they have some income to buy food and other necessities. While this does not make them rich, we were thrilled to see that at least it was enough motivation for Mamu Monique to return home. She returned with a few of her children and grandchildren. “Now we all want to live in Kananga!” she said.
Not only did she return by foot on the long, sandy, road, but she carried a large squash with her to give to us. “I heard that Tatu Muanda was working with you, and so I decided that I had to come see you. I had to see Muambi Disanka and Mamu Luse!” (our Tshiluba names), she exclaimed. We marveled at her strength and stamina to carry a 10+ lb squash on that multi-day walk. We asked her to show us how she carried it, and she demonstrated how she positioned it on her head with a cloth.
So, welcome home Mamu Monique! We are humbled by the labor of love of transporting this squash such a long distance. We enjoyed with much gratefulness some wonderful squash and peanut soup just before we left Kananga this week.