"Sure Monde, of course I can dream!"
Yesterday the roosters woke me before my dreams had finished. I was in
I'm living in a mud and pole house belonging to the village ‘Induna’ (area chief) who lives in a temporary shelter in the forest from August to April looking after cattle and farming. I live in his permanent house with his son Monde, whose company I enjoy very much. Monde helps me by showing me the way of life in the village and I help him with a bit of English tutoring - he's mostly interested in slang. He’s 22 and will be finishing his grade 12 this December. He has worked hard farming and fishing so he can graduate high school making him one of the most educated people in the village.
The recent elections injected some extra excitement into Sunga with campaigning parties moving school to school (they are the community meeting points). They arrive like a circus; set up their tents, give speeches, play drums, sing songs and finally give away party memorabilia then move on to the next. But they are not the only new visitors; I too have been stirring things up in the area.
Since I am the first white person who wants to live in a village in the area, accommodation was rather difficult to arrange. People here believe that westerners need to live in mansions in big cities with many servants. The idea that I could live in a "normal village" and eat "normal food" was very difficult for people to grasp. But after 42 days I'm finally living in the village so let me tell you how it came to be.
I started by trying to explain my vision to a teacher. After four somewhat painful visits he was starting to understand that I really wanted to live in the village; that I was looking for a nice family with a small house to plunge me into Zambian culture. On the fifth meeting he explained that I would have to ask the Induna (the area chief) for permission. So I told him that I'd come the following day to arrange the necessary meeting.
I returned the following day to find that the teacher had fallen ill and was at the hospital for treatment. The only person available was his wife (who doesn’t speak English) and at the time my Lozi (language) was at the level of a two year old. I tried to communicate that I would be away for three days, but I'd be back Friday and would like to meet the Induna.
I then spent three gruelling days in the field, on my motorbike visiting distant villages meeting with farmer’s and women's groups. On Friday afternoon, I returned exhausted and nearly drove past the village, forgetting momentarily my meeting with the Induna.
“Ohh but wait a minute, it looks like the MMD Party is holding a campaign event in the village!” There must be 100 people gathered under the tree. Well this should be interesting - while I wait for my meeting I can see what exactly goes on at one of these campaigns.
As I drive closer, I can tell that every single eye is fixed on me. This is quite normal though, a white person on a motorcycle is not a common sighting. Anyway as I approach, I feel as though I'm getting more attention that usual.... hmm I wonder where the politicians are. Oh it looks like they haven’t arrived yet and that the people are waiting for them.
I park my bike and pull of my helmet as the teacher rushes forward. "Ah Chady, we have been waiting for you!" Waiting for me? WHAT???? Oh NO! I thought... Confusion! There is no campaign, these 100 people have gathered for me!
Then he says “we have been waiting for your address!” I'm dirty, tired and not prepared, but 100 waiting people will give you a jolt of inspiration! I get down on one knee and clap 10 times to show respect and greet the group as best as I know how. "Mutozi Kawfela" (good afternoon to you all) I say. I pull out all the Lozi I know and the meeting continues.
I say “I’d like to live in one of your villages.” I explain that I want to stay in a normal house in a normal village so I can learn to speak, cook, and live truly Zambian. They applaud this and offer me a large piece of land by a private lake where I can build my estate... hmmm they don’t quite get it! It takes me 30 minutes to explain and negotiate but finally they understand what I'm looking for. Three days later, I'm sharing a house with Monde, paying k50,000 ($15) per month as rent and enjoying life in Sunga village.
To give you a better sense of my personal life, I’ve put together a quick day-to-day play-by-play picture tour of my life in
6:00AM – Wake: Oh the roosters do a very fine job of waking me up on time. This is a picture of my roof as I see it each morning when I first wake. The grass is laid well and even the heaviest rains cannot enter!
6:15AM - Run: Time to run! I run to town and back each morning which takes about 20 minutes. My young friend Biemba often joins me and even though he doesn’t have shoes he keeps up without breaking a sweat!
6:50AM – Cook: I’m cooking on a small fire just in front of the house. You can find good firewood within a 15-30 minute walk. If I head out alone I usually end up with a pack of kids helping me. Breakfast is rice everyday with a bit of salt or sugar. Since this area is a floodplain the rice grows well. De-husking is no easy job though.
7:30AM – Walk: To get to work I have to walk for about 30 minutes and then cross the river into town. I cross either by a canoe (25 cents) or by foot (free) if the water level is low enough and if there are no crocodiles around.
8:00AM – Work: I arrive at our office! I spend four days in a week “in the field” and one day “in the office.” The field work is with cattle farmers and women’s groups (as seen in the picture) while the office work is meeting and planning with the PROFIT team. My next posting will talk about what exactly we’re trying to achieve.
6:00PM – Home: I race home to hopeful beat the sun which sets at 6:30PM. It’s a pain cooking in the dark, but I now have a small oil lamp which helps quite a bit.
7:00PM – Cook: Monde and I will cook dinner together on the fire. We usually have nshima and vegetables, and we will add meat (chicken or fish) once a week. The maize is now starting to grow so in a few months we will have fresh food right form our backyard!
8:00PM – Work Out: It’s time for a quick workout. I accidentally opened the first ever fitness facility in Sunga. To fight off ultimate skinniness, I learned some local building techniques, gather some logs, and built a small training apparatus that I use for chin-ups and dips. In the mid-day sun, it sits empty, but other than that, there is always somebody coming over for a quick session!
9:00PM – Study: last week I officially completed my grade 2 Lozi! Thank you, thank you! A favourite past time of oh... I’d say 15 people, is to gather around me while I’ll practice Lozi from my elementary school books. I’ll be starting grade three this week so wish me luck!
10:00PM – Read: Each day I try and get in a bit of reading, but I’m usually too tired from the day to read more than three pages. And Sleep……….
I’ve had a few people ask me “
Respect – Ultimately it comes down to respect. I respect the people whom I’m working for and their way of life. I am no better than any of them; my basic needs are identical and are being met in full. I want to learn Lozi language, be a part of Lozi culture, and understand Lozi jokes. The goal is not to live on 2 dollars a day; that is simply a means to a more important goal of increased learning and improved relationships.
Big Lessons – I’m here to help improve business/livelihood opportunities for rural people living in poverty. For me to design and implement a program that achieves this, I need a good understanding of what life here is all about. There are huge lessons that can only be learned in the village.
As an example, during my training with EWB, we discussed how in
Stereotypes – One other benefit is the chance it has given me to break down stereotypes of us westerners. From generally proving that a westerner can live in a village house and eat village nshima, to specifically helping Monde realize that I too can dream… he concluded our talk by saying "Ahhh, Chady then maybe it is true that we are just the same.”
One good thing about life in the village… It’s fun!
Before I left for
I hope you’re all happy and healthy and enjoying the coming of winter! I’ve heard rumours of snow! BRRRRRRRRRR! If any one wants to borrow my snowboard, please do, the farmer's almanac predicts 'no snow' this Christmas in Sunga village!
Thanks for reading and especially for leaving comments!
P.S. Next time I’m going to send out videos!
SEE THE PICTURES IN A SLIDESHOW HERE: