Marriage agency

The origin of HIV/AIDS and what led to its emergence remain largely without a clear answer although it believed to have originated in West-central Africa from where it spread to the rest of the continent following the various rivers that feed the Congo River that flows past Kinshasha in the now Democratic Republic of the Congo. From there the disease spread and, by the time we got to Zambia it was a fully blown pandemic made worse by the prevailing poor living conditions and precarious health care.

While we were in Kenya and Ethiopia, we had only heard of HIV/AIDS, mainly as a disease of West Africa. So, it was with some surprise that we learnt that the disease was very serious in Zambia, and we were warned about it by almost everyone we talked to. Our main concern at the time was the need of a blood transfusion that was believed to be extremely risky.

HIV/AIDS was already prevalent throughout the country and the situation in Lusaka was bad. It was enough to drive past the cemetery to see that it had expanded several-fold with mainly shallow graves. Sadly, many of the Zambians working for the Government with the project were among those that suffered the disease and died while we were there while others passed away after we left.

The epidemiology of the disease was not yet fully understood at the time, or at least I was not aware of some details. In particular, there was a debate about the possible role of biting insects in its transmission. For this reason, Bruno and I were quite concerned while counting ticks on cattle being bitten by flies that would move among the people working with us! Luckily, later it was confirmed that insects were not involved in its transmission.

Planning for the imminent arrival of our children and following the advice of our doctor, we started searching for a nanny. Understandably, the number one consideration at the time was that she was negative for HIV/AIDS. Luckily this happened with the first one we found and that was how Annie came to our lives.

Annie with Flori.

She lived outside our house for a while until we decided that it was safer for her to stay with us. The arrangement worked well for a few months, but, as anything you do, it can have unexpected and even surprising consequences.

One morning, we saw the wife of Emmanuel (our cook) to walk towards the gate loaded with bags and personal effects. Aware that this was not normal, we called Emmanuel to ask if there was anything wrong. At first, he evaded our questions but eventually he admitted that he was having an affair with Annie and that his wife learnt about it and decided to leave.

Emmanuel teaching our son Julio to “drive” the vacuum cleaner.

We were quite upset about the whole thing as our well-intentioned keeping of Annie had broken an on-going partnership. On the positive side, though, it was the absence of children. The situation was made more worrisome as Annie seemed to be very young although that did not seem to be a concern among Zambians at the time.

So, feeling like marriage agents we agreed to the situation to continue as we truly needed both! This was, as far as we know, a good move. They were still together when we got in touch with them several years back and Emmanuel was working as a photographer in Lusaka. They had married and had several children. The first born was a girl called Mabel and one of the boys was known as Julio. So, we are still remembered in Lusaka!

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