Part of our year journey was to learn how others in the world live. Our experience in Zambia included seeing the amazing sights but we also chose to see some not so glamorous sights as well.
Steve’s short addition – Zambia is one of the poorest countries in the world. They have an election coming up next month. They have 17 political parties to choose from with a handful being the strongest. It is well known that this is a very corrupt political and economic environment. The minimum wage has gone down, it was 180,000 kwacha and it’s now 130,000 kwacha per month (currently $1 US = $4700 kwacha, so that’s an income of about $27.66 per month or $331.92 per year).
We spent a few days visiting an orphanage called Lubasi Children’s home. There are about 40-50 children there right now. They can house up to 65, they don’t have more right now because they can’t feed them. We asked the Director what we could do while we were there but even though there was a lot that could be improved/built they had no money for supplies (they are even having a hard time paying employees). The Director told us the best thing we could do was spend time with the children and let them know how important education is to the success of their future. They already have things stacked so high against them but an education will at least give them a chance. AIDS and HIV is the main reason for the orphanages. The children typically go to the school in town but they are on break until September 5th. We spent time playing soccer, and games with the kids. It breaks your heart to see the blatant desire for love and touch. By the end of our visit kids would be leaning and touching of every part of us. They loved to stare at and touch my skin and look at the freckles, I told them I was like a Cheetah. They laughed – you don’t look like a Cheetah!! Keegan had a blast getting schooled by the kids in soccer – ages 10-17 years old all play together. It’s amazing to watch them – they are so incredibly fast and strong and LOVED having a new player to mess around with. We brought a travel-sized game of Trouble (thank’s Kim and Caroline!) and Kendal spent 2 ½ hours playing Trouble with various kids. They were in heaven (we left the game for them).
One of the girls Kendal and I played with a lot was Memory she is 11 years old. When we talked to her about getting good grades so she could go to a boarding school she said she did get good marks but was worried that she might have to go to boarding school and she would have to leave her younger sister at the orphanage (they’ve been at this orphanage for 5 years). Her younger sister, Blessing, is 9 years old and sick (even though you wouldn’t know it by playing with her). Memory told us how that the same morning she woke up and her sister, Blessing, was not in bed. Memory said she was so very scared because she though her sister had died and her sister is everything to her. Blessing was rushed to a hospital at 5am and according to Memory she was given a lot of medicine. We don’t know exactly what’s wrong with Blessing but to hear Memory tell the story is simply heart wrenching.
We were not allowed to take any pictures. One day we were there during lunch – a common meal in Zambia is nshima it’s similar to a very thick porridge – that is served with cooked greens and a sauce. Everyone eats with their hands. I hated taking their food (we shared 2 plates between the four of us) but we didn’t want to be rude either. Our next visits came after meal times. As I mentioned the orphanage emphasizes education. They all know Nelson Mandela well because he has such a strong influence – his quote “education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world” is taught everywhere. The camp we stay at has a saying; if your backpack is getting too heavy leave your stuff for the orphanage. We all are leaving with a lighter bag and a lot heavier heart.
We took a day trip to a local village – Simonga. It was an incredible experience in taking what you are given and making the most of it. We were given a tour by a grandson of the Head Woman. The Head Woman controls basically everything that happens in the village from village disputes, who marries who and even outside village business and non-business relations. This village is a part of a tribe run by a Chief that has about 250 villages. This village is the only one with a woman head and is the largest, about 3000 people. The people were very happy. A huge asset to this village is a well-pump that the Zambian government (in coordination with a Japan manufacturing company) put in so they don’t have to take the long dangerous walk to the river for water. Every so many days they get diesel to help automate the water and for other things but if they are out of fuel they need to hand pump. The village is self-sufficient. They make their own huts and grow their own food. Elephants used to be the largest thieves they dealt with in regards to stealing what they had grown in their gardens. They used to keep elephants out by burning chili powder around the perimeter because elephants hate chili powder. But the smoke was also burning the eyes of the villagers so then they realized that even if you just rub chili powder on cloth and hang it on the perimeter the elephants stay out. Interestingly the girls are still married-off for a dowry (5 cows, 2 chickens). The progressive Head Woman however doesn’t allow the girls to marry until they have finished high school. The education they provide at this very humble school has become a highly important part of their village – in fact they have their first college graduate. This incredible person is currently enrolled in medical school in New York to be a neurosurgeon. Wow! The kids made friends quickly in the village; it’s so refreshing to know their hearts are so kind and innocent. They are very curious to look at us as we learn about them.