Tuesday, July 29, 2008

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?”


Peg said...

Yep - strange foods all around. "Tripe" I believe - that is the nicer name for stomach? Or a part? I'll stick with the suggestion from the guy - steak! Here's the def. of tripe for your edification:

Beef tripe is usually made from only the first of three cow's stomachs, the rumen (blanket/flat/smooth tripe), the reticulum (honeycomb and pocket tripe), and the omasum (book/bible/leaf tripe). Abomasum (reed) tripe is seen much less frequently, owing to its glandular tissue content. Tripe is also produced from sheep, goats, and pigs. Unwashed (or "green") tripe includes some of the stomach's last content, smells very unappetizing and is unsuitable for human consumption, but is a favorite of many dogs and other carnivores and is often used in dog food. It is called green, although its colour is often brown or grey, because of its high chlorophyll content from undigested grass. For human consumption, tripe must be washed and meticulously cleaned.

Alissa Maxwell said...

Love your thoughts on consumption - so true. It's a vicious cycle we have gotten ourselves into to convince ourselves we "need" more, acquire it, adjust our lives to accommodate the "more", feel empty, convince ourselves we need more... Bleh is right. And I'm living in the midst of it with little thought on a daily basis.

Denise said...

Hi Carmen,

I just wanted to let you know that I started reading your blog a few months ago in preparation for coming to Zambia to complete a public health internship and it made me feel much less nervous and more excited. Thanks for all of your thoughtful and entertaining posts. I look forward to reading more and can appreciate everything you say even more now that I'm in Lusaka.