June 12, 2012 § 12 Comments
This white girl can’t dance.
And I had a paparazzi of Zambians with their cameras and smartphones trying to document the mzungu making a spectacle of herself.
My Zambian neighbors invited to me to join them for a kitchen party for one of their relatives. Usually, a kitchen party is given in honor of a bride to prepare her for married life. Gifts are given for her household and especially the kitchen (think pots and pans, casserole dishes, utensils, dishes, etc.). Dancing is done as a way to show the bride how to behave in the bedroom to please her husband.
To plan the party, a committee of close friends and relatives is started months ahead of time and is usually quite formal (I’m currently the secretary of another kitchen party planning committee. I take official minutes and read them back at meetings. Not. even. joking.). The committee forms a “mother’s parcel” gift that usually includes the larger items that are needed for a household such as refrigerator, stove, etc.
At the party itself, it is often a large joyous event held for all the women in the bride’s community. The food will include Zambian cuisine such as chicken, rice, tomato and onion sauce, beans, and of course nshima.
Once all of the guests have arrived (a few hours after the starting time in concordance with Zambian time), the Matron will begin the introduction to the guests about the kitchen party. Historically, the matron was often an older relative or auntie of the bride. In modern times, this is often a woman hired for the position.
Finally, the bride emerges and the dancing begins, in order to entertain, honor, and teach her. All of the gifts are placed in the center and the matron calls on each gift giver to come and present their present to the bride. This is done with a big ceremony of laying down both ways on your side and doing a clapping motion to show respect. A dance is then performed. Of course, you have to have a chitenge (piece of African fabric) wrapped around you when dancing. Duh. When you have concluded, you then explain to the bride how to use the gift you have given to her.
After all of the gifts have been given, the groom is brought and the wife honors the husband by laying down in front of him in the same way. They then dance together. A chitenge may be tied around them to show how their lives are being tied together forever.
January 26, 2012 § 1 Comment
Us ourselves, we are discovering that Zambians are less direct than Americans. Allow me to explain.
In America, we don’t like to “beat around the bush”. If we have a problem with someone, the most respected way to deal with that problem is to confront the person face to face and share what the challenge is. Of course we don’t always do that in America – thus the occasional gossip (but never by me of course). However, directness is something we generally strive for.
In Zambia, we have discovered that people are often much less direct. That is because in Zambia, saving face is very important. In social interactions, it is important to make every effort to preserve each party’s dignity. Thus, even if the other party has somehow wronged you, calling them out on it is discouraged and may not elicit the desired result.
This “saving face” also affects how business is done by World Vision Zambia. During the first two weeks of January, I had the privilege of visiting several of our programs in the Southern Region of Zambia. As part of my visit, another colleague and I had the assignment of confronting an issue that has presented a difficulty to many World Vision Zambia staff. While at each program, meetings were called and all staff members were assembled. Pretty soon, I was sitting at a table with 30 or so wonderful Zambian co-workers and after some pleasantries and introductions, I shared about the difficulty faced by many of them and asked if they can explain why the difficulty exists. Predictably, complete silence.
Taking my growing knowledge of Zambian culture, I tried another tactic: “Well, perhaps you aren’t faced by this challenge. But perhaps it is something that your neighbor is struggling with. Can you please share what your neighbor’s challenge is?” The room erupted in laughter. And pretty soon, for the next ten minutes, I finally start getting answers to the question as Zambian after Zambian answered: “Me myself, I am not having a problem. But my neighbor’s challenge is…” Every time a person would share in this manner, we all would laugh, because we all realized it was a cover for sharing one’s own challenge. But we did learn a lot, and the dignity of each person was preserved.
April 22, 2011 § Leave a comment
“Education has been given us from above for the purpose of bringing to the benighted the knowledge of the Saviour. If you knew the satisfaction of performing a duty, as well as the gratitude to God which the missionary must always feel in being chosen for so noble and sacred a calling, you would feel no hesitation in embracing it. For my own part I have never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office. People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of a great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay?”
– David Livingstone
*After this post, now everyone understands why most of my Quotables lately have been about missionary life and Africa…it’s been on my mind! :)*
April 15, 2011 § Leave a comment
By Bill McChesney
I want my breakfast served at eight
With ham and eggs upon the plate.
A well-broiled steak I’ll eat at one
And dine again when day is done.
I want an ultramodern home
And in each room a telephone;
Soft carpets, too, upon the floors
And pretty drapes to grace the doors.
A cozy place of lovely things,
Like easy chairs with inner springs,
And then, I’ll get a nice T.V.
– Of course, I’m careful what I see.
I want my wardrobe, too, to be
Of neatest, finest quality,
With latest style in suit and vest
Why should not Christians have the best?
But then the Master I can hear
In no uncertain voice, so clear:
“I bid you come and follow Me,
The lowly Man of Galilee.”
“Birds of the air have made their nest
And foxes in their holes find rest,
But I can offer you no bed;
No place have I to lay my head.”
In shame I hung my head and cried,
How could I spurn the Crucified?
Could I forget the way He went,
The sleepless nights in prayer He spent?
For forty days without a bite,
Alone He fasted day and night;
Despised, rejected – on He went,
and did not stop till veil He rent!
A man of sorrows and of grief
No earthly friend to bring relief;
“Smitten of God,” the prophet said
Mocked, beaten, bruised, His blood ran red.
If He be God, and died for me,
No sacrifice too great can be
For me; a mortal man, to make;
I’ll do it all for Jesus’ sake.
Yes, I will tread the path He trod,
No other way will please my God,
So, henceforth, this my choice shall be,
My choice for all eternity.
April 15, 2011 § Leave a comment
“I hope you will be a missionary wherever your lot is cast … it makes but little difference after all where we spend these few fleeting years, if they are only spent for the glory of God. Be assured there is nothing else worth living for.”
– Elizabeth Freeman
April 8, 2011 § Leave a comment