The "Bestest" Friend Reminiscence of retired Czech ambassador
The story came to me when a student of my private English lessons incorrectly said "Where is the most nearest hotel, please?" In Zimbabwe, my closest black friend was Mrs. Angeline Kamba, the wife of Prof. Walter Kamba, for ten years Vice-Chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe and later Dean of the newly established Law Faculty of the University of Namibia. I had not have much opportunity to cultivate relations with Walter as he was away most of the time. Instead, I held frequent discussions with Angeline in the couple´s suburban house, on gardening and international politics.
Walter and Angeline spent 13 years as exiles in Britain during the reign in Rhodesia of premier Ian Smith. He broke, in 1965, relations with London and introduced a strict racist regime. Black intelligentsia was oppressed. Walter is a lawyer by education and Angeline has been the second South Rhodesian woman who ever graduated from the University. When the Kambas returned home in 1980, the year of their country´s independence, Angeline became Director of the National Archives.
On New Year´s day, the family regularly held a lunch for ambassadors of the United States, Germany, Austria, Italy and high commissioners of Canada, India and Australia. On grounds which I can only guess, the invitation always reached me as well. The reason might be very personal: one of Kambas´ three sons had tragically died in his adolescence; I lost my daughter, too, in a traffic accident.
Once Angeline told me about her high respect towards a widow who was for long years looking after her disabled Irish husband bound to a wheelchair. After he passed away she, instead of succumbing to grief, as she loved him very much, found a suitable site at the river and washed gold to keep her thoughts occupied by something else.
"She is my best friend, Bohoush" said Angeline of this devoted lady. And when she saw an expression of disappointment on my face, she added, breaking all rules of English grammar: "And you are my bestest friend."
"The best friend" of Angeline, whose name I have already forgotten, frequently attended classic music concerts organized in Harare by the local Jewish community. As a rule, she was the only black person in the audience as Africans prefer a different kind of music. When we passed by during a recess, I bowed to her on every such occasion, and she returned my greeting, "Good evening Your, Excellency."
To tell the truth, I am not formal at all and don´t like ceremonious words. But, I don´t know why, under given circumstances my heart and soul were somewhat fragile. I felt it as a great honour to be called "Excellency" by such a person.(Another acquintance, whose ritual behavior I liked, in her case for fun, was Ms. Sabina Mugabe. She consinstently addressed me "H i s Excellency". She must have caught up the words from the headings on enveloppes on the desk of her brother, the President.)
Presently, I am only exchanging e-mails with my "bestest friend". Walter, as it appeared, neglected his diabetes and as a result lost at first one leg and then the other. He had his car adapted for being able to drive to the University where he still teaches some classes. Angeline patiently takes cares for him.
May I repeat, these African reminiscences occured to me when the student in my English courses, himself a teacher of geography who is to depart soon for New Zealand to be looking for traces of Czech settlements there used expression "the most nearest..." Bohuslav Hynek
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