A high-school student who is doing a report on Zambia and missionaries (and our family in particular) recently wrote to me with some questions. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and make my answers into a post as well. Enjoy!
And, remember you can send me questions in email or leave them in comments and they'll be used in a future post.
I was wondering what you could tell me about it (such as customs and culture).
Zambia is a developing nation—actually it is one of the fastest growing (if not THE fastest growing) economies in the world. But, even though people in the larger cities may have traditional jobs or careers, the majority of people around the country are still living in very rural communities.
What sorts of jobs are prevalent with the men in your community? The men in our community are mainly peasant farmers and fishermen. What it means by peasant is that they are mainly able to just grow or catch enough for their families and perhaps a bit to sell. They are not commercial farmers and fishermen. Some of them will also learn a skill like brick making or carpentry to supplement their family’s income.
And the women, what do they do? The women have to work very hard. They take care of the children, care for the home—which means a lot more manual labor than it does here—and they look after the family’s maize (corn) field once it’s been planted.
Do the children go to school, or do they stay home and help and play? All children are expected to go to school but they do have to work hard to help their families. They keep the fields clear of mice and weeds, they draw water from the well, river or community hand pump, they help look after the younger children. This means that often their schooling is pushed to a back burner. Education is done in English but for many of the children they have never spoken English before and are not able to practice it at home so the school books don’t make a whole lot of sense. School is also only half day with half the students (or grade levels) attending in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. This means there are usually children roaming the streets at all time.
Is it modern, compared to the U.S., such as cellphones, TV, wifi, and the sort?
It is an interesting mix of modern and old fashioned. For the most part the homes in our village do not have electricity so they don’t have lights, much less TV and computers. However, most families do have cell phones. To charge them they go to a house that does have electricity and they pay to charge their phone for a few hours.
A few people in the village have electricity so sometimes someone will show DVDs on their TV and sell 10 cent tickets.
At the orphanage we do have wi-fi and television and video games. It’s a very different world, but it is good for the kids to learn how to handle technology.
Also, I was wondering how you take part in the community. Do you have lots of friends, and do you participate in their customs and how they do things?
Because the of the socio-economic differences between us and the vast majority of people in the village, we haven’t been able to really develop friendships as such. We are of course friendly with everyone around us, but that genuine 'meeting of the minds' just doesn’t happen.
We have attended funerals, weddings and community events, but we have to be careful that our presence doesn’t distract too much. It would kinda be like having Brad Pitt attend your church. He would be welcome, but people might not listen to the sermon as well. :)
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