Sunday, March 30, 2008


There are big, white bats here. Okay, not white exactly. But a warm, tawny brown. Sort of like the Velveteen Rabbit, but much, much more vermin-like. I like Kabwe. It was recently ranked the 4th most polluted city in the world due to some mining disaster, but I like the cool, breezy evenings and the bustling downtown streets. Our NGO is hosting a workshop in association with the Tamar Campaign, a continent wide project that aims at educating churches about gender-based violence, its link to HIV/AIDS, and to empower leaders to engage Biblical texts contextually to address issues of social injustice. The 2 facilitators from South Africa are full of spitfire and energy: my favorite kind of women.

This national church gathering was by far more fun than any church function we North Americans or Europeans could come up with. We spent our final evening together dancing, singing, performing impromptu sketches, and sharing stories and proverbs from our villages. And what did I have to contribute? I danced my favorite dances with the ladies, but could not come up with any witty cultural riddles or songs to sing “from my village.” So you know what saved me? “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” Yes, this is all I could come up with. Embarrassing. That was my cultural contribution to the evening.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

This is another one of those strange American holidays that is impossible to explain to my Zambian friends. Corned beef and hash, little green leprechauns, and fun runs. We are weird.

Periodically I walk into the office and the Catholic radio station is blaring inspirational music (generally a collection of European-sounding choral arrangements), but the program ends with the same song every time: the theme to the Tom Cruise movie “Top Gun.” Freaking hilarious.

Went to Racecourse for a football tournament this weekend. 16 teams (8 under 12 and 8 under 14) battled it out sans footwear, but proudly sporting donated uniforms. These kids gathered from four shanty compounds in and around my area and are coached by a collection of fantastic volunteers. One volunteer coach, Hamweenzu, is a physical education and geography teacher and looks forward to meeting my dad when he comes out in July.

Monday, March 10, 2008

I love weekends!

Friday started with some serious self-indulgence. I went out to dinner with a bunch of mazungus to the fanciest restaurant in Kitwe. Nearly broke the bank, but do you know what was amazing?!?!!? Chicken Masala without the bone. A boneless chicken breast is SCARCE in Zambia, so I savored each little bite (sorry veggie friends). We were celebrating the two Norwegian girls, Kristen and Ida, who finished their final paper and will soon be returning to Norway to graduate from University. These girls are hilarious and think that I am especially weird (they’ve never met a young female minister that drinks an occasional gin and tonic and talks about men and literature and pop culture and all the other “normal topics”).

On Saturday I took them to their first kitchen party where my wonderful TEEZ coworkers donned bright chetenge and their typical glamorous smiles as we laughed and ate and sang and danced. My favorite dance comes from the Eastern Province and it begins with dancers on their knees, heads bowed. I paid the drummers (standard), wrapped a chetenge around my waist, got down on my knees (Edna from work has been teaching me), and began the dance. One woman was so excited to see me dancing she ran over and jumped up and down shouting, “A muzungu that was raised in Chipata!!” I am definitely learning, but these women make me laugh: they are far too complimentary. This white girl has got NOTHING. You would never believe what these women can do with their hips.

This is the bride pictured with her chimbusa (her teacher who has been preparing her for marriage over the last 6 months). Notice that her face is kind of “pale”? Women here are into this whitening paste they smear all over their beautiful brown skin. I hate it.

Brides keep their heads bowed through the whole kitchen party as a sign of respect. The bride enters the room on her hands and knees and is completely covered until her future in-laws remove her veil, confirming that this is the right woman (to avoid a Leah/Rachel situation). Christian kitchen parties usually begin with a lively message about submission, which generally makes me gag. This is the last subject that needs to be reiterated in this patriarchal culture! I always tell my co-workers, “Good thing they don’t ask ME to preach!” The Norwegian girls made the mistake of revealing the fact that they do not go to church and my co-workers hassled them, in outrage, for the rest of the afternoon.

Drama, drama, drama

A drama group in town found out that I have a theater background, so I was invited to teach a workshop Saturday morning. I was asked to focus on character development and introduce creative costume/prop use. About 25 young people between the ages of 15 and 20 showed up at this little nursery school where we had a fantastic 3 hours together. At the end I had them improvise some scenes and I loved the unique characters from “the village” that they created out of nowhere. I encouraged them to tell Zambian stories, the traditional stories that are a part of their lives that they often take for granted. This is such a culturally and artistically rich country. NO NEED TO MIMIC WESTERN ACTORS AND STORYTELLING! I hope to attend one of their performances in April.By the way, just went home to get a coke and a young man about age 15, baseball cap in hand, knocked on the door in search of work. This kills me. This sweet kid had the courage to knock on the door of a complete stranger in the hope he could do a little work for a meal. My Zambian friend Charity and I watched him walk away, disappointed, and together we lamented the sorry state of Zambia. I love this country, but the economy is a disaster. I recently heard that of the 7 million able-bodied adults, only 700,000 are employed. That means 90% of Zambia is unemployed. Granted, many of these people have small farms or businesses selling goods at market, but the earnings are meager. Aargh.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

B-Balling it with the boys

I had a GREAT weekend. Went with a group of boys to watch them play in a basketball tournament on Saturday. These guys love the game and it is such a good way for them to spend their time, rather than wandering the local compounds drinking Chibuku Shake Shake (beer made from maze-meal served in the equivalent of a carboard milk carton) and messing around with girls. They are excellent players and love “Coach” Scott.

Instead of oranges at half-time they shared maze in plastic bags and drank water from a busted pipe.

The Kaunda era (president at Independence) is referred to as “the good old days” when the government and private companies sponsored sports leagues of all kinds. Now it is rare to find courts and sturdy hoops (let alone basketballs) in the area. A bunch of men got together to create this basketball league and this weekend was their first tournament. The basketball court was located on an old concrete slab next to the Mopani Mine. There were about 50 of us, all coughing and spluttering as plumes of noxious gasses curled their way into our breathing space. I got to talk to a bunch of miners and security guards who were loitering outside the main gate. As we spoke we watched the slow dismantling of an "Acid Purifying Plant" as brown, decaying debris filled the air. What a strange world we live in. We ravage the earth with machines to extricate copper predominately used in the war effort. Peace would devastate the Copper industry. Strange, indeed.

I’m collecting material for a couple of different documentary ideas I have, so here I am with the cam. I’ll give you more details as they formulate. I already stand out like a sore thumb simply being white, so why not throw a camera into the mix?

My heroes!

See these little boys? These darling little boys? I went without water for 12 days--- LAME--- and just when I was feeling extra sorry for myself these three little guys stopped by to see if I needed them to go fetch water. I handed them each two big jugs and they trotted off like little terriers. I didn’t have to lift a finger and soon I was boiling water, washing dishes, and even had enough water to mop the floor. This was pure mercy little boys! I promised to make them cookies.

Frankie is getting fat. When she first arrived she was fairly traumatized—the stoning incident freaked her out—but now she is frisky and ravenous all the time. My neighbor Jenny said yesterday, “You’ve got to stop feeding her! You’re turning her into an American! And if you aren’t careful, she’s going to pop!” Ha Ha British Jenny. Yes, many Americans are fat. Thanks for that. Whenever I’m annoyed with my English friends I snidely refer to them as “the Colonizers.”

Had my mid-year evaluation today at work. How crazy is that? I’ve been here 6 months now! Time flies people.