day 20

Every morning for the last few days we find dozens of little insect wings in front of our door. I think they are from male termites who loose the wings and then crawl around sometimes into the building where they die.

I had the unique opportunity to get an introduction into Zambian culture by a local pastor and his wife. he had three students for this lecture: Isabel, a German missionary in training, Ruth, a Canadian volunteer, and me.  Here are a few things i’ve learned: This information is from my personal notes, so there might be some mistakes. It is also very rough and incomplete.

Zambia has about 13.4 million people at last count who speak 7 major languages and about 70 dialects/minor tribal languages.

The Zambian people value family relations very highly. Being dressed properly and greeting older people correctly is important. Family matters are more important than work or material goods. If a family member comes to visit then people go out of their way to be hospitable. Being married and having children are very important for the social status of a man or a woman, especially in the rural areas. The community and family is very tightly knit and all behaviour within the community is closely observed. If you dance out of line and don’t respect the tradition then family members or even strangers may come to tell you or your superiors about your misbehaviour.

Example 1: Many Zambians would not go to work if a member of their family came for an unannounced visit in the morning, which is very much possible to happen.

Example 2: A teenage girl in a supermarket bows down to take something from a shelf near the floor and bares part of her back. An elderly woman passing by pulls down her t-shirt and tells her off. Zambian women always try to cover themselves well between waist and knees and wear skirts most of the time.

Most Zambians firmly believe in the Spirit World. Good and bad ancestral spirits are actively involved in their everyday lives. The evil spirits are greatly feared and are the cause of much pain and suffering. Accidents and illnesses are readily explained with spirit influence. So  the people need to protect themselves. For this purpose they observe various rituals, wear talismans and have tribal medicine tattoos.

Traditional beliefs also speak of a supreme creator who is removed and hidden from the world of us humans. In the absence of this God the people turn to the ancestral spirits who are near to them.