On the road…again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
The Serendipity Of Katherine’s Statue
Serendipity has always been one of his favorite words. The dictionary definition of serendipity has a few variations; but in general, it means a pleasant, fortunate and unexpected discovery. Finding the wooden sculpture of Katherine Kabete in an open-air market in the streets of Lilongwe, Malawi was a serendipity that the Footloose Forester did not know would, almost a year later, turn into meeting the real person that is shown in the sculpture below.
Of course, the photo of the sculpture might be dismissed as just an example of typical African art; but that is where the serendipity factor comes in. If the Footloose Forester were asked to describe the woman named Katherine Kabete, the beloved housekeeper that Thu hired in Kenya, he would hand over the acacia-wood sculpture—in lieu of a photograph or a pencil sketch done by a sketch artist. Why? Because the sculpture shows Katherine in three dimensions, including the kind of earrings she wore and the head covering she displayed during working hours.
As was so typical of Thu, she treated Katherine and her husband Joseph with dignity and respect. On one occasion when we visited their farm during the Christmas holidays, we brought along a few sprouted coconut trees that we nurtured as gifts to be transplanted on their farm. They didn’t have any coconut trees, and we had more than enough. Although transplanting was part of the exercise, the trees did not survive beyond a single year. Not to be deterred, Thu had other ideas for making their lives better.
Thu sent Katherine home with two chickens, for her children. The object was to encourage them to raise the chickens in a friendly competition to see who could record the greatest number of eggs. Thu was more than a bit serious in having them keep count, thus developing good husbandry habits. It did not surprise the Footloose Forester that she also personally put money into their hands—money for school. She pledged to Katherine that she would pay for their school tuition. And she did.
On another occasion, Thu bought a puppy and told Katherine to take him back to the farm to protect against neighbors stealing the chickens' eggs. Katherine reported that the puppy grew into a good watchdog, one as clever and as smart as Thu.