Western marriage proposals

There is one thing I don’t understand (I guess because of my culture) – the fuss about marriage proposals in the west.  I always wonder why it has to be a big spectacle.  Why don’t people just involve their loved ones if they want to, instead of doing it during half time at football matches, and other such places, with huge rings?  I am not bashing this culture, but I would just like to understand why the pomp around engagements.

In today’s Zambia, an engagement generally goes like this:

  • A couple date
  • The guy pops the question
  • The woman agrees
  • The guy’s family visits the woman’s family to ask for her hand from her family
  • The family agrees
  • The guy gives a small token, usually a bit of money, as a sign of commitment.  I guess this may be equated to an engagement ring (?).

Only at this stage is the couple considered engaged.  However, nowadays the guy may pop the question after this to the woman and give her a ring.  I know one guy who asked for the second time at an upscale restaurant and the people around cheered.  This is just to be romantic as they are already engaged.


African colleagues, tell us your views

Many times some Africans (myself included many years ago) complain that westerners are domineering and arrogant.  One of my former employers worked a lot with westerners and this was a big issue for us ‘locals’ because we felt that our western counterparts pushed their ideas on us and expected us to do their bidding.  Interestingly,  our western colleagues felt that the locals did not give their viewpoints in a non too clear way, otherwise they did not say anything a all.  This became such a contentious issue that our overall boss called for an urgent cultural retreat and everyone had to attend.  This is one of the best and useful retreats I have ever attended.

Westerners said they felt that Zambians and other Africans that they worked with did not open up or contradict them when they had different views.  The westerners said they got to know our true feelings through our actions.  Basically, if Africans carried out some tasks/actions discussed in a meeting with westerners, then it meant that we were for the agreed action.  Otherwise,  we the Africans would not carry out an ‘agreed upon’ task if we did not agree with it, even though we had not opposed it during a meeting.  I was personally surprised to hear this, because I thought westerners would know from my silence or body language that I did not agree with them.

Westerners on the other hand, were shocked that Africans thought they were arrogant.  They just thought they were letting people know their views!

The dynamics in the team changed immediately after this retreat.  Both sides were more sensitive to how they communicated with the other and relations warmed.  We were in a meeting one day and Zambian colleague gave input that was 50% words and 50% non-verbal.  Zambians got the message, but the westerners did not.  One of them brought up the issue immediately and asked for the Zambian to use verbal communication, at which every one understood.  It was a very good lesson to not only the Zambians present, but westerners as well.

Personally, I noticed changes in myself not only at work but in my personal life as well.  I opened up more and was open to others’ frankness without taking offence.  This has served me well through the years.

Zambians just love color!

I was shocked several years ago when I read a blog by a tourist from the UK who had visited Zambia and he said Zambians love wearing “garish” (it’s the word he used) colors.  What?!!  I didn’t see anything strange or loud about the colors we wore, until many years after I moved away from Zambia.  I remember visiting home one year, and my eyes were assaulted by the extremely bright colors that people wore, especially women, not in a bad way though.

I visited home this year again and the fact that Zambians love color was brought home in this photo I took by mistake:


That’s my mum in black and me in blue.  You should see the full attires – they are loud and garish! 🙂  The colors of one attire would have sufficed for seven people.  Would I change the colorful way I dress, especially in summer?  No way.  Color is in my genes and DNA.  🙂

Have a colorful end of week, all.


Lost my voice – interesting responses

I have been losing my voice quite regularly for some reason.  My allergist has referred me to another specialist who I will be seeing next week.  Life is great, apart from this little hiccup.

I normally preface by informing people – either by whispering (if my voice can come out), ‘sign language’ or in writing that I have lost my voice.  Ninety percent of the time they respond in one of the following interesting ways:

  1. They whisper back to me – no matter how long our conversation is.  It is interesting how we unconsciously mirror people we interact with.  (I think I will start  whispering with loud people so that I have a quieter life.)
  2. They write a note to me.  Don’t people realize that speaking is a faster and easier way to communicate?  Also, I am not deaf.
  3. They use ‘sign language’.  This is really interesting as both the other person and I don’t know sign language beyond logical signs and so sometimes the messages get lost.
  4. They shout their responses to me.  I SAID I LOST MY VOICE, NOT MY HEARING FACULTY!!!!!   AND, HERE HAVE TWO EXTRA!!
  5. They shout and use ‘sign language’ at the same time. Usually this does not help as the sign language just distracts me since it is usually exaggerated and obviously not ‘saying’ what the words mean.

I used to tell people that I could hear at first, but people continued doing whatever they thought was the best way of communication with me so I just stopped.  We will see what tomorrow holds in my Communications Department :).

Have a great weekend, all, and talk on my behalf

Allergies galore!

I was Zambia for three beautiful weeks and came back a couple of weeks ago.  Life had been beautiful and smooth in Zambia and I had not had to take an any allergy meds after the first week.  My mother even commented that I had stopped rubbing my nose.

Well, fast forward to landing in DC – life has not been as smooth.  I came down with severe allergies, was coughing, wheezing and voiceless for the past two weeks.  I have spent half the time off-sick.  My handbag has been a pharmacy on its own.

It’s been bad, but at least I am much better today.  Allergies are the one downside of my life in DC.  To make matters worse, I am allergic to grass so it is not a seasonal issue.

The bright side of allergies is that my times outside DC/the US are more enjoyable as I don’t suffer.  OK, not sure if there is a bright side to allergies…..

Pure Music

I just found this music and just fell in love with it.  Its simplicity and purity makes it have your attention and your spirit be moved.  This family is truly gifted.  I normally prefer upbeat music, but this band certainly has what it takes to get my attention.  Even the ‘simple’ presentation is uplifting.





Horrible 2015, but thank God for family and friends

Misery loves company, they say.  I had two devastating losses in 2015 one after another (as if one was not bad enough) and thought I would die just from the pain.

My brother sent an elderly relative to come and be with me in Austria.  The circumstances were so bad that I wanted to resign and return home to be with those who loved me.  My older relative who had come and a close friend in Zambia urged me not to resign when I told them of my decision to do so.  I told them that I was OK financially even if I did not find a job for a couple of years, but they stressed that money was not the issue.  They said the problem was that I would have too much time on my hands and keep on crying when everyone started carrying on with their lives.  My relative said she was going to stay with me until I felt strong enough to be on my own.  I listened to their advice, though with quite a bit of grumbling.  I am glad I listed because I was overwhelmed and could/did not reason.

Other family members and friends back home sent messages of support the whole time and even after.  Friends from DC and other places also reached out to me.  The Zambian community in Vienna rallied around me and my relative was comforted because she knew that I had a ‘family’ that cared about me in a strange land.  In fact some of the Zambian men rebuked me for ‘acting alone’ and said I could call upon them any time.  I really felt loved. I had not been an active member of the community before, but became quite active after my losses as I started seeing them as a family.

When I looked back a couple of years later when my emotions had quietened down, I realized how nasty (for lack of a better word) I was during that period.  It was not because I just wanted to be that way, but because I would get overwhelmed with even the smallest of tasks and had no control over my responses. I am grateful that people were understanding and did not retaliate.

I am grateful for my family and friends.  They supported me, put their lives on hold while they comforted and availed themselves to me.  I never knew the importance of loved ones until I needed them at my low point.

Thank God for family and friends.

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: