Tuesday, July 29, 2008

life in zambia

So i have crossed over to a different world...In certain parts of South Africa, you feel like you are in Europe. There are swank coffee shops and jazz music pours through the windows of open patio restaurants in cities like Cape Town. The restaurant about 10 kms up the road from where i lived these past few weeks serves sushi!

mmmmm pap...or nshima...this is the staple food that i ate a LOT of...and yes, folks, those are chicken feet. chicken heads and feet are considered a delicacy, and they call them "walkie talkies" pretty clever, eh?

Zambia is real Africa. I landed in Ndola International Airport with about 40 men on a small plane. The airport looks more like a machine shed from my family farm in South Dakota, and you get off the airplane with a slightly rusted green ladder. All of these men were European or South African businessmen, here to be a part of the copper mining industry which is located in this region..this is called the copperbelt of Zambia.

I live in the skeletons of a booming copper mine. In its prime, this region was where Zambia’s middle class was born.(this next bit is pieced together from talking to staff members and community members and background reading i have done). Copper companies built housing compounds, and families travelled from all over the country to settle down to a good life. People weren’t hungry, wages were fair, the work was safe. The house i am living in is a 3 bedroom flat with a kitchen and a living room. In the late 80’s, the International Monetary Fund came up with this idea called Structural Adjustment. It was a bad idea (please remember this is my perspective). All of the companies which were previously managed by national governments and national taxation policies were privatised (meaning external groups were able to regulate the industries), and regions like this became economic ghost towns over night. Wages were driven down, standards of living plummeted, and workers lost their jobs so quickly they were not even able to save up enough to travel home to their native villages. People still living here are a hodge podge of different tribes and people groups from all over Zambia.

This is where i am working...

Unemployment rates in my ‘hood are around 80%. How crazy is that? The houses are dilapidated beyond recognition – i can see the sunshine through the roof of my room. My shower is a sawed off rusted pipe that sends and electrical shock through my body every time that i try to turn on the tap....i have learned to master the art of the African bucket shower...

my shower that shocks me:

My days are pretty simple. We only have power 3 or 4 days a week, so i wake up wondering if it’s hot coffee or cold coffee each day. I have learned that coffee powder will, in fact, dissolve in cold water. I’m living across from the director’s home, and about a 10 minute walk from the office. I walk down a shaded dirt path, past dozens of half-dressed black Zambian babies who chant “azungu” (white person) over and over again, and greeting me with a broken “How are you?” (emphasis on the YOU. Just imagine having that yelled at you 29 times a day!!!). if anyone’s ever been to Africa, you know what i’m talking about.....When i get to the office, we either turn on the computers or head to the community for interviews with the young mums. I am also giving typing lessons to the staff members here, because right now they are all pecking away at around 3 words per minute. When i was working in south Africa, i played a terrible prank. I switched around 4 of the vowel keys so they were spelling everything wrong. They didn’t really like my joke, and made me retype their reports.

the first day of typing lessons with paul, the finance officer. he was cheating and peaking at the keyboard, so i covered his eyes.

this is the view as i walk to work

My mom always asks me what i eat here – have you guys r had cream of wheat? The staple food is called Nshima (people will eat it for 3 meals a day if they can, they love it!!), which is like super-thick cream of wheat. You have it with baby fish called kapentas, or goat or whatever meat may be available and a little bit of greens....that’s dinner. Then lunch is usually deep fried sweet potatoes. And breakfast is an egg. Every day. Same thing. Mmmmm....african food. That’s where the African booty comes from!!!

Alright, my candle light is fading and the battery is slowly slip sliding away. Much love from me, under the beautiful black and blue African skies.


Blogger Aiban said...

Another lovely insight into your African experience again... The shower that shocks... hehe... I can almost imagine... opps I shouldn't have said that. Anyway, I must thank you for these tales from the African soil. They are a good learning as well. More power to you Maeg.

3:27 PM  
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