Ok… I know I said my first post would be the longest but be patient with me. I’m new to this writing thing and I’m just trying to figure out how to write less with the same amount of information. 😊
Today we went on a tour that showed us a more personal look at how Lusaka people live including their culture, education and living conditions. Felix, from the Lusaka Experience (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g293843-d2525765-Reviews-Lusaka_Experience-Lusaka_Lusaka_Province.html), was our tour guide for what was supposed to be a 2 to 3 hour trip. He is Zambian who started out showing missionaries, volunteers, and other visitors to Lusaka about Zambian culture and lifestyle. Felix is also very involved in youth development including helping a performance drama group that does local plays throughout the year. He’s a hands-on man who takes pride in his culture and his people and strives to help improve everybody’s living conditions. The tour that he provided focused on the area of Lusaka called Garden compound.
Andrew, the driver, and Felix picked us up from the house and began telling us what we were going to see and do. As we drove, he gave us history of the area, tried to teach us a little bit of local language, and what to expect when we got to the first stop. It was arranged that Andrew would drop us off at the first stop and then find us at the end of the tour to take us back to the house.
As we get closer to Garden compound, the change in living conditions was very noticeable. We started out by going to Ngwelele Basic School which was a government school for first to ninth grades. Felix gave a brief description of the school and its history. We were not expecting to see much at the school at it was closed for the national holiday, International Women’s Day. Luckily, as we walked through the gates, there were many children there who had come to study even though the school was closed. As we walked around the school looking into the classrooms seeing their computers (both of them), we bump into a few children that Felix knew. They told us their choir was practicing in back for a national event. We talked to the choir director and he had the group sing a few songs for us. WOW! How awesome was that, not only were they excellent singers but it was my first exposure to local music. Truly amazing experience. There was another group of school children in one of the pavilions. They were making a movie for the drama club. We walked over and started talking to the children.
Note, I am bigger than 90% of the African men that I have seen so far not to mention I am pasty white.
First, to see the children’s faces look with their wide open eyes of amazement towards the big white man walking on the school grounds and then to see them running up to say hi, shake my hand, and just talk was absolutely amazing. They like the opportunity to practice their English language whenever they get the chance. The children were amazing and wanted to hold my hand and ask about my tattoos. They also showed us a few games that they played. These were simple games like shooting a rock into a circle or using an old inner tube that has been cut up and tied together to make a big rubber band so they can jump back-and-forth over it as a group to a very catchy song. They were having the time of their lives playing simple games and loved sharing with us how they entertained themselves. When we were saying good bye, everyone made sure to shake our hands. In Zambia, they have a unique handshake so I decided to show them the “fist pump with the blow up”. They loved it and even sang us a thank you song. How sweet. It was a song just to thank us for taking our time to come and visit them. They were so excited to see us. Truly heart touching.
So we were off to our next stop into the Garden compound. It is an area where roughly 18 to 20,000 people live. These people live with no running water, only communal toilets and very few had power. Their houses, which none of us would consider a house, were cinder block walls with few or no windows and a sheet hanging over the one opening that was door. Many of the streets were all dirt/black mud (its rainy season) because of the amount of coal that they burn for warmth and cooking. But yet, as dirty as it looked on the outside, it was still oddly clean and livable. If you can think of the worst living conditions you have seen in the US, it’s a five-star resort compared to what how these people are living. Every person we talked with was so excited to see us. Never once was I nervous or felt in danger and all the people were so friendly. Within minutes of walking into the compound, little children are coming out of every nook and cranny to see the Mzungu (slang for ‘white person’). At first, the children were scared of me because of my size but as soon as I started saying hello and putting my hand out to shake, they started coming around. Before long, I was walking hand-in-hand with three children touring through some of the poorest areas in Lusaka. The children, and their parents who make so little money on a daily basis, seemed so open, friendly, and happy. Such an experience really puts things into perspective.
Next, we stopped at a couple local community-based projects to talk with the people who were helping the community—most targeted providing activities to youth to keep them motivated in learning and engaged in new opportunities (chess, computers, singing competitions). We also stopped at a woman’s small tailoring shop where she made cloth bags for sale. Felix next took us to a local place to have lunch. Now this place, much like the Garden compound in general, was a place I would have never gone to without a Zambian to show me the way. Just like any other community there can be a few bad apples and things can go bad quickly even though I have yet to see that here in Lusaka.
At the restaurant, Felix asked what type of meat I wanted to eat (chicken, fish, or beef) and I chose chicken. Felix ordered the rest which was all local foods that are eaten widely throughout the country. Nshima was the main part of the meal. It is basically cornmeal cooked in oil and water with a bit of salt. It comes in a large stiff ball. I was taught to take a same bit from the larger ball, roll it in my hand to create a small ball about half the size of a ping pong and then use it as a scoop to eat the other foods (eggplant, spinach, baked beans, and a dish that they couldn’t translate into English). When eating nshima, you eat with your fingers. It was surprisingly delicious although it took a while for me to learn how to roll the nshima in my hand but as soon as I did, the feast began. It was an excellent meal and I cannot wait to have it again.
This concluded our tour and headed back to our house. The 2 to 3 hour trip had now turned into a five hour trip. The time flew by and was worth every second.
Note about the pictures: I got them from an internet search for Garden compound. I didn’t feel taking pictures was appropriate so my camera stayed in my pocket during the tour until it came time to eat. I still wanted to share with you what I saw so I found some comparable pictures from the internet.