Thursday, November 26, 2009

Rockin the Village Life

Life in Chandaweyaya continues much as it has for generations: People gather at the local watering holes to wash clothes and chit chat, the men head out into the fields to get their maize and groundnut crops planted before the drenching rains arrive, and everyone gathers in the nsaka in the evenings for dinner and merriment. Except lately there's been this funky white kid set up shop over that side, he dresses really oddly, makes lumpy nshima, looks like he's wearing a wig, and he's running around all over the place telling people they should start farming fish. Worst part is he says he isn't leaving for two years...

Grand Central Station - abandoned but surrounded by well-manicured flowering bushes

The funky white kid with a wig that hasn't been trimmed since late June

Just kidding - it isn't like that at all over here (though some people still do believe I'm wearing a wig)! I'm two months into my three-month community entry, and things are going extremely welll. My village is like a giant, 5000 person family - everyone knows everyone, everyone lives nearby each other, nobody has any qualms about walking through someone's yard or lending out their belongings. We are a very close-knit village, even by Zambian standards. When I go to the market and pass by 30 households along the way, I'm greeted by name by no less than 30 households' worth of people! And when they all pass by my house on their way to the fields (which they do en masse - I can meet most everyone in the village just sitting on my porch), we greet each other again just for kicks!

The view of Chandaweyaya from atop Keyaya Hill

I've also fit in some enlightening conversations about America and American cultural holidays with my neighbors. For example, my neighbors all know now that Obama does NOT rule over the entirety of North and South America, that not everyone is a farmer in the U.S., and that people still feel full even when they don't eat nshima for dinner. They can point out Michigan on the map, and some can even use their hand to point out Kalamazoo! They have a particular interest in holidays: I've told them how kids dress up, run around and collect sweeties for Halloween, and how Thanksgiving is our big harvest celebration (their eyes lit up when I described a turkey as being like a 7kg chicken, and they promptly inquired as to how they could obtain them here in Chandaweyaya).

My neighbors

My favorite place to chat, though, is the house of Ba Emmanuel and Ba Rosemary. They are two of the most accepting and witty people I've met in the village; instead of concentrating on all my stuff like most people, they are more interested in learning about our holidays and traditions, which is a welcome relief. To give you an idea of their fun-loving nature: when I first met them I accidentally called the wife "Ba Rosie" as I couldn't quite remember her name. She immediately burst out laughing, and ever since has been calling me "Ba Mikey". So of course Ba Emmanuel jumped into the action, and we are now "Ba Manny, Ba Rosie, and Ba Mikey!" And just to ice the cake, I show up one day in a nice fish-themed citenge shirt, only to find that Ba Rosie is wearing the exact same citenge wrapped around her head! Even in Africa people still have wardrobe coordination issues!

Ba Rosie and our matching outfits!! Though teaching kids to use a camera is really hard here.


  1. Happy Thanksgiving Mike! It's great to hear about your adventures on the other side of the world. :-P

    I'm very amused by the matching citenge.

  2. Sounds like you are doing GREAT. I loved the phrase "We are a very close-knit village". The use of "We" shows how integrated you've become and how this has become your home for the next two years. It's an important step.
    Take a picture of somebody in your village using the "Michigan Mitten" to point out Kalamazoo. That would really make me laugh!!! Classic. You are amazing!!!
    Best, Mark Loehrke

  3. Great pictures! I love the matching citenge outfits. And "Ba Mikey"-it's just like you are at "home away from home".

  4. So even if your nshima is lumpy and you wear a wig, it sounds like your 5000 close-knit villagers don't mind having you around. Ironic that they want "7 kg chickens" and we want ostriches.

  5. HI Mike -

    I was so glad you updated your blog. It makes you seem not so far away when I can read about what is going on in you life. I love the "BA MIKEY" makes me feel that they feel you are part of their village/family.

    Love, Grandma