That’s my job, the maid told me

On my last visit to my parents’ place, my mother and I took some time to prepare some veggies at the kitchen table while the maid (Sarah) was cooking.  As usual, we were chatting, laughing and having a good time.  At one point, the maid spilled some water on the kitchen floor.  I knew that she could not stop was she was doing and dry the floor, so I did the mopping.  As I finished, I noticed Sarah looking at me.  She then said:

“That’s my job, Auntie.”

“I know, Sarah, but I thought I should help since you are busy.”

“I do all the cleaning when you are not here, and I would have mopped the floor.”

“I am sorry, Sarah.  It’s just that I am used to doing all the housework in the States and so I did not think twice about mopping the floor.”

She did not respond but her expression said “Do you want me to lose my job?!” I understood where Sarah was coming from because this job is something that not helped her take care of her family, but was the only income her family had for several months when her husband was in between jobs.  I really felt bad, but I cannot help being used to doing chores back home even when there is a maid.

I hired Mary for a week a few years ago when I went home to hep with a big family gathering.  (This was long before Sarah was hired.)  At the end of her contract, Mary said she had been surprised that I was doing half the work.  She had experience as a maid, and said none of her former employers before had helped chores because she was there to do it.  She asked me why I was helping her.  Well, my answer was the same as the one I later gave Sarah.

Living in the west has changed me a lot.  I used to think that I am a very lazy pre-west living, but I continue proving myself wrong every time I go home. 🙂

I Don’t Agree With Day of Prayer

(I drafted this five years ago and my views have not changed)

Zambia has been a Christian since 1991 and this is even in the constitution.  Presidents have been announcing National Days of Repentance, Prayer and Fasting for many years.  This is with the hope and faith that God will intervene and bless us with economic, health and everything-in-between prosperity.

Zambia has had a lot of issues with corruption, both covert and some so overt that the public “expects” it.  For instance, if you see a roadblock, you expect the cop to ask for a bribe in order for him/her to let you through and usually this is done in the full view of whoever is around.  One time, a bus driver said he had no money to give the policeman and well, the latter just got fresh fish that the driver had and the issue was closed.  For me, there is no need to pray about this – the powers that be just have to clean up the system starting with the big players. The President/Zambian authorities already have solutions to many of the problems:  For example, corruption and misappropriation of funds by public servants which causes a drain on the economy can be easily solved by arresting the those involved, starting at the top.  This would serve as a deterrence to other would-be thieves.  Seriously, how do we expect God to respond to our prayers against corruption?  Come down and deal with the offenders Himself?  Of course, there are other reasons for our economy being in a bad shape, but for eradicating corruption dealing with the perpetrators is one of the lowest hanging fruits (or so I think) that can be resolved immediately if our leaders put their mind to it.

As for prayers about health – how do I expect God to listen to our prayers and prevent cholera when we Zambians dispose of trash carelessly?  He won’t, and Mother Nature will definitely take her course.

I believe in prayer, but many times we don’t even have to pray for a solution as the solution is already in our hands.  All this being said, I wish Zambians everywhere successful future Days of Prayer – which I still have no intention of attending.

 

Missing someone else’s target, but finding yours

Society, church and our families have certain expectations of us. Indeed, we also have certain expectations of ourselves.  A general expectation is that people should complete high school, have some kind of training and get a job.  However, what happens when someone does not hit the expected target ?  What do you do when you are surrounded by successful people whose achievements seem to magnify your failures?  Of course, you will look dull and maybe even seem lazy because people will assume that you are not studying or working enough.

I know a young lady, Harriet, who was not doing well in college where she was taking a marketing course.  She failed all the subjects even after repeating.  Her younger sisters on the other hand, were doing very well and leaving her in the dust of their success.  I was chatting to her one day and asked how school was going since I had not been aware of her struggle.  She said she had stopped taking her marketing course.  In my surprise, I asked her why.  She said she did not want to continue wasting her brother’s money as she was failing all her classes.  She had now started taking design and tailoring lessons and she seemed quite embarrassed about it.  I said this made sense because she had always been very good with her hands and was business savvy. She seemed surprised at my response.  She had had many small business ventures from childhood and made profits, so why not pursue that which she was good at and was already successful in? Cut a long story short – Harriet has now had a booming tailoring business for many years, and may I add that her products do not come cheap because she is very good at what she does.  There is also a queue of people waiting for her services.

Harriet’s situation is a perfect example of one missing other people’s targets but finding one’s.  I am glad that Harriet went against society’s expectation of having an office job (which most people in Zambia view as something to aspire to) but instead did that which she is excellent in, even though it is a lowly career in our society’s eyes.  Harriet missed the mark society set for her but in the process found her own – one of achievement and fulfillment.

Have we let society tell us how to live our lives even if we know that something else is better for us?  How have we rectified our mistakes and gone on to do that which we are good at and then succeeded in it?

I am currently at a crossroads in my life.  I know what my heart has wanted to do for many years whose financial benefits may not come easy, if ever, but there is something else that I am expected to do and whose monetary benefits would be more immediate.  I guess it is time to follow my own blog post’s advice and do that which I really want to and I am sure will succeed in – after all I have done something similar and been more successful than I ever imagined.  There have been no monetary gains in the activity I succeeded in, but the impact on countless people has continued long after I moved on.  I can never compare the feeling I got (and still get through memories) with having more money.

Zambia – Malaria being eradicated

What a relief it was to learn that malaria has been eradicated in Lusaka and Southern provinces in Zambia!  Malaria was the most common disease that people in Zambia suffered from as I mentioned here.

My sister-in-law works at a local clinic in the Southern Province and corroborated reports about the eradication of malaria.  The disease is so rare that now only a couple of specialized clinics in her town have the capacity to treat and prevent malaria.  If my sister-in-law’s clinic receives a patient whose symptoms remotely sound like malaria, they immediately send her to the specialized clinics for treatment.  The malaria clinics get the history of the patient, visit the patient’s home to give prophylaxis to those in the house and also get in touch with a clinic in the town where the patient was recently.  The other clinic also does their own preventive care.  This has greatly reduced malaria cases in the country.

Another very important way is compulsory spraying of houses as reported in this article, especially in high density area.  My parents’ maid said her house was sprayed about a year ago and any insects, including mosquitoes that venture into her house still die from the effects of the spray.  She said the downside of the chemicals is that one’s skin itches if they wear clothes that were sprayed, but she says this is better than having malaria.  Inhabitants have to remove all clothes, beddings and food from the house before their houses are sprayed.  The sprays may be harsh but the alternative which is getting malaria, is not what we would want.

These positive stories show that there is hope that malaria can be eradicated in Zambia and any other countries that put their mind to it.  I know those who have worked hard on this won’t see my appreciation, but I am grateful to all.

Snake!!!

My family moved to a newly established poor neighborhood when I was 12 years old.  This was very different from what I had been used to in my then short life.  One thing  that seemed to be everywhere in the new neighborhood was the number of snakes  – outside homes, in the bush and many times in the houses (even in your bed if you were unfortunate enough).  The presence of snakes did not interfere with our lives and we were fortunate/blessed/lucky that there were no casualties except for Mike, a neighbor, who was spat at by a cobra in the middle of the night.  A nursing mother was awoken from her deep slumber and asked to squeeze some milk into Mike’s eyes, because apparently that worked wonders.  Thankfully, there was no damage to Mike’s eyes and he went on with his life.  I will not say we did not get startled or cautious when we saw snakes because that would have been folly and could have had fatal results for us.  We killed the snakes, ran away or left them alone depending on the situation.  After the situation was resolved, we went on with our lives as if nothing had happened.

I moved from home in my early twenties and had no encounters with snakes for many years.  However, I was out hiking with my walking club in Vienna, Austria on a beautiful day and enjoying the views from the mountain top when someone casually said “Look”.  I looked to where this person was pointing and there was a snake slithering across the road.  I screamed and ran behind one man and I was shaking life a leaf.  It took a while for me to start enjoying hiking again without thinking about a snake jumping out at me.  I could not believe how scared I was of that snake because snakes were practically my next door neighbors when I was growing up!

Unfortunately, I am still creeped out by even the very thought of snakes and have not gone back to my younger days when I would be in the forefront of snake killing.

 

Who beat you when I was away?

My sister (we called her Sisy, i.e. older sister, as a sign of respect), was tall for her age and quite strong, too, which was good because as the first born she was our guardian angel.  This was more so for my eldest brother, the second born. In my language, I call him Big Brother as a sign of respect, who for some reason (OK, he was too quiet) was a magnet for bullies.  My sister would go and fight whoever bullied my brother.  I was too young to remember but this story has been mentioned over and over in my family.

Sisy went to boarding school when she was in the seventh grade.  Whenever she came home on holiday, apparently the first thing she did was put her luggage down and ask ask Big Bro “Did anyone beat you when I was away?”  My brother would go ahead and tell her who had been mean to him.  One time Big Bro said Nelson had beaten him up for no reason.

Nelson was our opposite door neighbor and my sister marched right over.  She found Nelson’s mum outside, asked her where Nelson was and she said in the house.  Sisy went straight into the house and met Nelson who was on his way out.  He took one look at Sisy, knew that things were not well and ran straight into his parent’s bedroom.  My sister was close on his heels, jumped on Nelson on his parents’ bed and beat the daylight out of him.  His mother rescued him but he had received a few blows already.

Nelson’s mum screamed at Sisy who shouted back that she should not let her son beat defenseless younger children and then went home.  The issue died a natural death though Nelson’s mum tried to escalate it into a fight with my mother.  Mum was used to having other parents confront her on account of Sisy defending Big Bro, so she promptly ignored Nelson’s mum.  My mum’s stand was that children’s fights were children’s issues.  Adults had to discuss their children’s issues over as the adults they were and not start altercations.  Children always got over fights and became best friends shortly after.  Usually my brother did not tell mum about being bullied and waited for Sisy.  Would it be because he wanted revenge meted out the good old way using blows?  Maybe.

Do I agree with older siblings beating up their younger siblings’ bullies?  I certainly do if the younger sibling cannot resolve the issue on their own or there is the threat of real injury.  In a perfect world, the children should be taught how to talk issues out but we all know that bullies will always be around and I think they need to be taught a lesson.  I definitely do not condone parents joining in children’s fights and wanting to battle it out with fellow parents.  My sister passed fourteen years ago but she is still a hero in Big Bro’s eyes.

What do you think about older sibling beating up bullies?

Welcome to Zambia – Devil’s Pool

https://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/whats-hot/this-video-of-people-swimming-to-the-edge-of-a-338-foot-waterfall-in-zambia-is-going-viral/ar-BBEHaRg?li=BBmkt5R&ocid=spartanntp

This video has gone viral about my country.  No, I have never swam at the Devil’s Pool and no, I don’t intend to do now :).  I have seen daredevils enjoying themselves there, and most of them were westerners – Zambians are too courageous to do that.  Yeah, right!

I hope some of you will consider visiting and enjoy the unspoiled beauty of “Zambia, the Real Africa”.

 

 

Tooth Fairy – Memories

My little niece, NT, lived with me for several years when she was a child.   When children lose their milk teeth in Zambia, they stand facing away from their house, sing a special song and throw the tooth over their shoulder onto the roof.  The belief is that this ritual ensures that a new tooth grows.  Most houses are have one stories, so throwing a tooth (or anything else) over one’s shoulder is doable.  NT wanted to do that but I told her to keep the tooth and put it under her pillow and see what happened in the morning.  Of course, there was some money under her pillow in the morning.  I told her that the Tooth Fairy had visited.

NT was both shocked and excited at her luck and exclaimed: “I should have pulled out the other loose tooth and made a lot more money!”  I could not help laughing at the business angle my baby looked at losing her teeth.

Nothing special about the story, just good memories.

Pumpkins in my parents’ field

Growing pumpkins is a big part of Zambian farmers in Zambia, not just for the pumpkins themselves but for the delicious leaves.  My parents mix the pumpkin and maize seeds when planting.  I really enjoyed the tender leaves when I visited home.  (By the way, my mother has to collect the leaves for me as  I tell that that I am allergic to entering the field.  I am glad that she humors me and does the collecting for me 🙂

  1. Pumpkin type 1

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2. Pumpkin type 2

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3. Pumpkin type 3

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My parents usually have a bumper harvest of pumpkins and they give various relatives.  Personally, I don’t bother about the pumpkins but just eat the leaves whether fresh or dry. Pumpkin leaves are definitely my favorite rain season produce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zambian witchcraft/casting of spells?

Many Zambians believe in witchcraft and casting of spells, no matter what their education and religious backgrounds are.  I personally don’t think that these things work but know that they are practiced because I have seen some people do it.  For example, in college some girls would smoke some herbs while mentioning the name of a man they are attracted to.  They believed that the man would start thinking of and be attracted to them as well.  I never found out whether this worked.

Witchdoctors (not herbalists) prey on people’s beliefs and advertise their services as shown below with many make a good living out of their businesses.  How do you bring back a ‘lost’ lover – by casting a spell on him/her, that’s how.

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People are also afraid of being bewitched and will try everything in their power to ‘evade’ supposed witches’ evil actions towards them.  Years ago, I came to DC for a seven month assignment before going back home.  When I got back I visited my parents and had interesting conversations with several of my parent’s neighbors which went:

Neighbor 1:  Hi Zambian Lady.  It’s been a long time since I last saw you, so how was Livingstone (a city in Zambia)?

Me:  Livingstone?  I was not in Livingstone.

Neighbor 1:  Yes, you were.  Your mother told me that you were working in Livingstone for some time.

Me:  Oh yes, I was in Livingstone and came back a week ago.  It was fine.

I met another neighbor a short while later who said:

Neighbor 2:  Hello, ZL.  Your mum told me that you were in Zimbabwe.  How was your stay there?

Me:  Zimbabwe was good.  All went well.

Other neighbors asked me about various other places that my mother had told them about.  By now I knew what was going on though I did not understand it.  I later had a conversation with my mother.

Me:  I met some neighbors who asked me about various places I had allegedly been to.  Why did you give them wrong locations?

Mum:  You expected me to tell them you were in DC?!!  I gave them wrong information so that they would target wrong places and their juju would not find you.  Not everyone has the best interests at heart for you, my daughter.

I then understood what was going on.  Do I believe that witchcraft or casting spells work?  No, but I know that people practice them.  It is so sad to see how much people are impeded from enjoying their life to the fullest.  I look at the west and see people (the majority of them, anyway) living freely with no fear of a witch attacking them or being under spells.

Another advert in the local papers about services offered by a witchdoctor.  Part of the advert is just about ‘innocent’ herbs another is all about casting spells but the third one is something else – women wanting bigger bottoms and men wanting bigger ‘you know what’?  What do you make of these adverts?

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I don’t think that the fear of witchcraft and casting of spells will ever go away because it is embedded in the culture.  Many who do not believe in them are careful not to say so publicly just in case…..  Isn’t that interesting?  They don’t want to tempt fate.  An interesting thing is that some people have agreed that they bewitched someone (let’s say A) and A falls sick.  However, upon exams at a hospital A is found to have cancer, so you wonder how sorcery = cancer.  I would say it just a coincidence but I know many people would beg to differ.

What do you think of witchcraft and casting of spells?

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