Thursday, May 8, 2008

Chipata, Chipata, Chipata

A sea of yellow daisies float on the golden grass of Zambia’s savannah this time of year. Talk stalks of brown maze whisper and crackle in the breeze. The rainy season is now over and as the bus zigs and zags along the ribbon of tarmac from Lusaka to Kitwe I admire the thatched roofs and mudbrick homes of villages dotting the countryside where women pound maze in mortars, or “Ibende,” and cook nshima over charcoal fires. I prefer the simplicity of rural village life where subsistence farming generally ensures daily food for every person in the community, but I live in the urban Copper Belt where mines provide the money for daily milimeal, consistent electricity, and contribute the constant plume of sulphor dioxide that crowns our heads in town.

The young woman sitting next to me on the bus sang Christian praise songs throughout our journey and occasionally opened her cell phone to check for text messages. “Jesus Saves” was printed in Bemba across the screen and once again I was reminded that Zambia proudly touts itself as a Christian nation. Perhaps, “touts itself” is not fair. A more apt observation: most everyone I talk to here claims to be a Christian. As a Christian from a religiously pluralistic nation I found my mind wandering to the humble mosque in Kitwe that calls its Muslim followers to prayer five times a day. I wonder what they think of being Muslim in a place where Christian pop artists croon love songs to Jesus on the grocery store sound systems and evangelists passionately preach to passengers before every bus departs the Lusaka station? Strange.

I have a million things to do today and I have run out of time, so please forgive this lame synopsis of the last 2 weeks: went to Chipata to teach for a few days before meeting up with a delightful group from Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church who were meeting with leaders from the Presbyterian church in Harare about a potential partnership and took some time to spend in Eastern Zambia as well. I found myself awkwardly trying to remember exactly how to greet mazungus from home (we shake hands and hug differently in Zambia), so I felt like a big dope as I fumbled with my words and my arms. It was fun to see Zambia through the eyes of new visitors and as I wrote them in a recent email, I am so glad that I get to live here for another 4 months!

P.S. How WASTED do we look here?! The road was bad people. Very bad.


marie-laure said...

Dear Carmen,

You have never heard of me. My name is Marie-Laure. I am a French citizen living in Paris. Last year I met JC Austin and his lovely wife Tammy in Paris. I think that I can recognize JC in one of the pictures posted on your blog. If you happen to get in touch with JC, please, could you give him my best regards. Also, I want to tell you how much I enjoy reading your amazing stories. Thanks to you, I learn a lot about Zambia, its people and customs and the many issues the country is facing. Thank you for taking time to share your wonderful experience of living in Africa.
God bless you,

Hillary Anne said...

Ah, Carmen! You are simply Wonderful! Just so you know, i read each of your new posts and i love them all, it is great to hear of what you are doing and of Zambia. Very inspiring and eye-opening. Love you lots! Praying for you always.
God Bless
Hillary Anne Wildhaber