Updated: Jul 9, 2020
| This is the 163rd story of Our Life Logs |
When my mother was pregnant with me, all the family had been expecting a baby girl. Though when the morning came, they were quite shocked. According to stories from my uncles and aunties, my mum was a bit disappointed upon my arrival, but my father was thrilled that his first child was a son. He clapped his hands and insisted that I be named after his hero, the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Congo, Patrice Lumumba. And so, I was born on December 5, 1960 in a small town in Northern Rhodesia, Africa—now Zambia.
I grew up all across the country, wherever my father’s job pulled him. For years, I admired his strong hands and sincere devotion to each new project he began, designing and building government garages. As the eldest child of eight, and first son, I was very close with my father, happily learning from him.
From all our moving, I learned 50 or more languages. Each province in Zambia has a different language or dialect, 78 in all. This helped me feel more comfortable in each new place we moved, but I still had a hard time making friends. My family were my closest friends, so when it came time for me to go to high school and live on campus, I was nervous. Would I be able to make it without my big family around me each day? They were always there through every move, but this time I was moving alone. Although it was scary, I knew I had to leave to start building a life. I wanted to make my father proud.
Being away from my family was hard at first, but it got easier over time and I still got to keep in contact with them while I was away. I thrived at school and found an interest in biology. Things seemed to be going well until one night when I was 15. I was watching a cowboy movie at one of the school’s movie nights when the headmaster called me into his office. I walked in and took a seat, surprised and confused why he would need to call me. I’d been a model student since I had arrived. The headmaster looked somber as he told me that my father had died of cerebral malaria earlier that evening. I didn’t want to believe him. I thought I was in a dream. How could he be gone? He was only 40 years old! There was so much more I wanted to learn from him.
I cried all night, exhausted, but unable to sleep. My father was gone, and I didn’t know how to continue on without him. I thought about dropping out of school so I could go home and take care of my family. I didn’t want to be away from them anymore. But then I thought back on my father and how he lived his life. He wouldn’t want his death to destroy me. He would have wanted me to continue my education and move forward. So, I stayed in school, more determined than ever to start a career he could be proud of.
While I tried to move forward, my mum was at home suffering. Not a day would go by that she wouldn’t mention his name. As I watched her grieve, I decided that I would pursue higher education so I could find a good job, provide for my family, and take on my father’s role.
While in high school, I worked in a Christian bookstore on holidays. The missionary that ran the bookstore liked me so much that they offered to pay my college tuition. I was so grateful to have found them in such a difficult time. Without them, college might not have been possible even with top-notch grades. I went to college, and studied Microbiology and through connections I had made at school, I found a job in a mission hospital after graduation. I was responsible for the daily running of the hospital laboratory and teaching others basic lab tests.
During my time working at the hospital, I became close with a coworker who was a registered nurse. After getting to know each other, we fell in love and got married in 1985. I felt so lucky to have found someone who worked in the same field as me. As I moved up in my career, I sent money to my mum while I began my own family. In 1991, we had our daughter, and I vowed to be as good of a parent as my father.
For the next few years life stayed blissful until another change came long and broke the peace. In 2000, my wife received a nursing job in England and took our daughter with her. At the same time, my mother fell ill, so I made the choice to stay behind. Unfortunately, my mother didn’t make it. I felt lost with the death of both my parents. My inspirations to succeed were gone. How was I supposed to go on?
I thought back on my childhood and how through each hardship, my parents always found a way. I knew I had to do the same. I realized that it was my responsibility to be that pillar of hope for my own child.
In 2001, I moved to England to be with my family, and life felt whole again—well, briefly. After only two years in England, my wife and I decided to get a divorce. I can’t say for sure why it didn’t work out—maybe we got married too young or maybe we just grew apart. In the end, it was best for us to go our separate ways.
I was sad our marriage ended, so I threw myself into work and study for the next eight years as I completed my Master’s degree. It was a lonely time. I still saw my daughter and spent time with friends, but they couldn’t fill the hole the end of my marriage left inside me.
But life always seems to find its way. In 2006, I took a trip to Venezuela to visit a friend, and during my time there, I was robbed despite having the slim pouch of my valuables under my shirt. My money, my passport, it was all gone! I was scheduled to return home the next day!
While I was waiting for replacement documents, my friend introduced me to a woman he knew from a local church. From the moment we met, she stole my heart. It was like a movie. I felt an instant connection to her—how lucky I was to have my passport stolen!
I eventually made my way back to England, but I left my heart behind in Venezuela. We chatted every day and were so happy to be part of each other’s world. When she wasn’t near me, I stayed with her in the memories of our visits, or in the dreams of our future. After five years, we finally got married. I decided to move to Venezuela. You would think that must be a hard decision, but it wasn’t. She was my home.
Venezuela was so different from anywhere I had ever lived. Their way of life and culture was so foreign to me. For example, timely engagements are more of a theory in Venezuela than an actuality. If a wedding is scheduled for 2:00, most people won’t arrive until about 5:00, and then the wedding will actually start. The discipline in the labs is also the laxest I have ever encountered in my entire career. At one point, I saw a tech examining a sample in a microscope while eating a mango. I was in shock for the first few weeks. Seeing these things were odd and hard for me to accept as the norm, but over time I’ve learned that their ways are not the issue. It is up to me, the foreigner in their land, to change my ways, not the other way around. I have even grown used to the food—okay, maybe not, but I’m getting better.
From Zambia, to England, and now to Venezuela, I’ve had difficult moments in my life, but I’ve realized that you have to embrace the way life goes. I look back on how I met my wife and marvel at the fact that we never would have met if I hadn’t been robbed. Sometimes you have to take life as it happens because it may lead to positive things. There will always be uncertainties in life, but that’s the beauty of it. As they say, “Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.”
This is the story of Patrick Munjunga
Patrick was born in Zambia and grew up traveling all over the country. He lost his father at an early age, but kept moving and became a medical professional, husband, and father. He moved to England shortly before his first marriage ended. He furthered his career through continuing his education during this lonely period until he met and married his current wife from Venezuela. Out of love, he moved there to be with her. He now happily lives with his wife and their three-year-old daughter in Venezuela. His eldest daughter is now a lawyer in England with family of her own. Patrick enjoys athletic pursuits including football (soccer), going to the gym, and swimming. He also likes going to the cinema and writing.
This story first touched our hearts on September 1, 2018.
| Writer: Adam Savage; Kristen Petronio | Editor: Colleen Walker |