Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Few Observations from Our Home Stay and Beyond



Pictured: Chris and Martha Kangwa with their kids, Tapalewa and Chengelo

Here's a few observations in no particular order or importance:

The days' meals follow a schedule with an addition to our usual schedule. Breakfast in the morning, lunch in the early afternoon, “16-hours” which is a sort of like a second small lunch (at 4pm), and supper at night much later than we are used to.

It seems common for people to bathe in the morning and then also before suppertime.

Meals are typically nshima, sometimes rice, sauteed greens, beans or meat with “soup” or gravy. If you ask kids what their favorite foods are they will say nshima, beans, or maybe kapenta (little dried fish).

Maids, nannies, gardeners may or may not speak any English or very little.

Greeting people in a respectful way is important. For instance one of the house-workers at our home-stay will get down on his knees to speak with us. It is common for people to approach someone that way and children especially will approach you this way to show respect.

Upper-class neighborhoods do not have paved roads necessarily and will still experience the same power failures that other areas do. These neighborhoods were paved when the houses were first built (maybe 20-30 years ago) but are now completely lacking pavement.

This lack of pavement accompanied by blowing wind means that dust and dirt are everywhere. Lusaka is the type of town where you can wear shoes all day and when you take your shoes off, your socks are dirty. Or, when you pull clean plates and cups out of the kitchen cabinets, you're likely to find them dirty already.

Our hosts recommended that we use cab drivers they would recommend and not just hail a cab. Folks have recommended that we not use the mini-buses with Lucas because they are notorious for accidents.

There are not emergency medical services here so if there is a bad car accident citizens stop and will take a person to the hospital but that can be risky. It can be especially risky if you are responsible for an accident where there are injuries. We were advised never to stop at the scene of a car accident whatever the case but to proceed directly to the closest police station.

The church we attended with our hosts, Lusaka Baptist Church, was much like a church at home in the States in many respects. Folks sat in rows of chairs, sang hymns, had announcements. There was a room in the back for parents with their kids so that you could still hear the sermon. There were Sunday school classes for adults and children. The preaching was solid Biblical preaching. It was very Western feeling and not what I had pictured after seeing footage from small churches in the compounds. We felt very welcome and encouraged.

People will often say “Yes I understand” even if they don't really understand what you are saying. I found myself saying I understood someone and then finding out I really didn't.

Many Zambians are very funny – they laugh and smile easily, crack jokes, high-five and gently make fun of each other – especially friends from differing tribes. When Zambians get up to speak at a gathering they do so with humor.


When shaking hands (the three-part shake is a standard greeting) Zambians may not let go! They might continue to hold your hand after the shaking part is over for another minute or two. It's not uncommon to see two men holding hands as they wait to cross the street or when talking to each other.

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