Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ntumbachushi Falls and the Mutomboko Ceremony

I have very few good pics of the Mutomboko Ceremony to share. This pic was taken at sunset just after His Royal Highness Mwata Kazembe danced "The Victor's Jump" (the meaning of Mutomboko).

This dance is the culmination of a few days of celebration. Early in the day we went to the Luapula River to watch the royal family throw fresh game meat into the river to appease the spirits of Lunda warriors who died during the tribal wars a couple centuries ago. The event was dusty and beautiful and not without its own sadness. As we trudged home with crowds of locals we passed a trash pit where a boy was carefully sorting rotten sweet potatoes from less rotten sweet potatoes to take home for dinner.

The little girls in these pics were selling juice and scones before the event and provided lots of entertainment. I held their baby brother for the better part of an hour while drunken revelers stumbled in and out of local bars.

Lonely Planet and other guides, eat your hearts out! Or, at least, check this place out! The falls, the ancient rock paintings, the natural pools waiting for swimmers?!? GORGEOUS! And I have not seen them mentioned in any of the guidebooks. Shame. By the way, all of you marketers out there.... or IT savvy folk... I hate how tacky my pics are arranged on this blog. Lacking serious aesthetic attention, but if you only knew HOW LONG it takes me to upload these pics you would understand the lack of artistic merit. Sufficient explanation?!

Bana Mwana

That’s me. Bana Mwana, which means “mother of baby.” I fell in love with this little tike this week. He has the best mouth and smile and laugh. He has a lazy eye and has trouble focusing at times, which ate up my soul as I realized that if this boy lived in the U.S. or if he was born to a wealthy Zambian family, he would likely have access to all kinds of treatment that could help him to see clearly. He was fascinated by my white skin and earrings and was delightfully content to sit on my lap, watching the world go by.

While in Mumbwa (pic from local cave dwelling that dates back a couple hundred years) I was impressed by a wonderful group of people that have been building a new UCZ (United Church of Zambia) church building, brick by brick, for the last 7 years. For the most part, people here are poor farmers and their faithfulness is humbling.

The class we are teaching has 20 students in it and this morning I was greeted in 6 different languages: Ila, Nyanga, Bemba, Tonga, Lozi, and English. I’m pathetic. I’ve got English with a smattering of Spanish and Bemba whereas most people here can speak at least 3 or 4 languages fluently.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the homogenization of culture. I was at “Arcades” in Lusaka this week, which is a strip mall full of South African chain stores. It could easily be transported to Route 1 in Jersey. Rich folk (who think they have average wealth) flit from one store to the next with shopping bags slung over their shoulders, laughing and chattering with their friends as they make lunch plans via cell phone. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the familiarity of it all. At Arcades I eat familiar food, see familiar clothing and connect with friends and fam at a local internet cafe, but there is NOTHING Zambian about the place. Have you noticed that this is happening in the U.S. as well? Strip malls with the similar chain stores make a small community in rural Idaho look like Salt Lake City or Atlanta or Minneapolis. Nothing unique. With “development” seems to come the homogenization of culture. Is this what we are coming to? Automatons driving our gas-guzzling cars to and from work and chain stores to buy and eat and consume, consume, consume all the things the magazines tell us are “fashionable”? Bleh.

BTW, they are called “Awfuls” for a reason. SICK. I went to a butcher’s shop in Mumbwa (it also sold drinks and some friends and I were looking for cokes) and a man was stuffing entrails into a clear plastic sack. You know what are weird to look at? Stomachs. Cow stomachs are brown and sort of hairy. Yuck, yuck, yuck. People are brave to eat these things. The man buying the awfuls smirked at me and said, “What, you only eat steak?”


Basically these suckers are like small alligators. Their skin is leathery and snake-like. Some workers found this in a stream near my house and killed it this afternoon. My friend Muyunda is a Lozi and was eager to take this home and eat it as “relish.” This launched my coworkers and I into a hilarious conversation about what the various tribes are notorious for eating. The Bemba’s are teased for eating monkey and mfuko (mice). Muyanda sighed and said to me, “Aaaah Carmen, the foods we eat in Africa.”

Monday, July 21, 2008

Welcome Family!

What's up with Ex-Peace Corps Volunteers?!?! My cousins Joel and Katherine, along with their darling little 2 1/2 year old baby Versellies arrived with my father in Zambia last week. We have had a wonderful week together and it would not have been nearly as adventurous sans cousins. Joel was especially interested in Zambian fare, so one evening we brought home some caterpillars from the market and some beer made from ground maize (CHEAP, fermented home-brew) called Chibuku Shake Shake. What a great name!

No, we did not let Versellies drink the Shake Shake, but she was a great little eater and even enjoyed nshima (the porridge-like staple food generally eaten twice a day in Zambia). I love this pic of my dad and I after trying the earthy-tasting caterpillars. They really arent't all that bad, we are just whimps.

We visited Chimfunci, the chimpanzee orphanage, which was just as fantastic as the first visit. They really are incredible creatures with so much personality.

Katherine is a secondary school teacher and was curious about the local education system, so we visited my friend Hamweenzu at a local basic school (Zambian version of elementary). The students are starved for materials and there are entirely too many little one's squished at each desk, but the teachers do an admirable job despite the challenges. My father was a physical education teacher, so was rather depressed to see that Hamweenzu has only 3 balls (that is ALL the equipment to which he has access) to use for more than 2300 kids' physical education.

On Sunday I preached in the bush and the visitors were treated as guests of honor-- seated at the front of the church behind me, the preacher. The children of the church were sitting on a grass mat at the front of the church when we entered, but they were "chased" to the back during the service. Just before I began to teach Reverend Chimfwembe and I invited the little one's back to the front to get their own short lesson and story.

The church is in a rural area and the congregation is made up of about 50 people, all very poor farmers, that looked fatigued and hungry. It was rather humbling to then go to a congregants home where a large traditional meal was prepared for my family. The generosity of the people I encounter constantly overwhelms me. Zambia is a place of philial love.