The past two weeks have been quite different from the rest of the Grand Adventure and I can finally start to feel my traveling time coming to an end. The first noticable difference is that I am actually living in Lusaka, not merely traveling through. Previous to arriving here, the longest I went without having to pack/re-pack my bag was probably 8 days. Its been about 15 days and my clothes haven’t seen the inside of my backpack, which is pretty darn nice.
The second noticable difference is that because I am actually living here, I can make friends here, build relationships, and live in the city, rather than hit the main
sights for a few days. It leaves me time to find my favorite restaurants [The Deli], pick a favorite local beer [Mosi], and find the right bar for evening drinks [Gerritz Deutsche Biergarten]. I get to join my friends on weekend adventures to go on a quadbiking safari through the savannah at sunset, help sell the ‘Mushemi Fire’ hot sauces at the Saturday Market or watch the Zambian national soccer team – the Chipolopolo boys – defend their recent African Cup title and make a run at the World Cup. I can feel pride for living here – pride for Zambia.
The third wonderful difference about living here in Lusaka is the fact that I can now do what I came here to do – sing and volunteer. For those of you who might have followed my previous time in Zambia, you know that I joined a local Zambian choir on a whim. Well, you’ll be happy to know that although the choir has changed a bit, they were just as welcoming in my return as they were the first time around. I now have the pleasure of reuniting with ‘my Zambian family’ and singing every weekend. With practice on Saturday mornings and service on Sunday mornings, the choir at St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church provides me
with the wondeful opportunity to experience the local culture. I get to learn and sing in local languages – Nyanja, Bemba, Tonga, etc. – as well educate a bit about singing techniques. Having sung for the larger portion of 15 years, I like to think that I can hold a tune, but I have to say, some of the singers here absolutely blow me away. They fire up and let these songs fly, while I am standing there with my jaw on the floor. Add that to the fact that everything is memorized, because there is no sheet music or lyrics, and my respect for their passion and ability is substantial.
The volunteering aspect of my time here is also ramping up. Following my trip to the Northwestern Province and meeting the people of Musele, I was motivated to find a way to help their community. I started thinking about the fact that everyone was very concentrated on all of the terrible things that are going to happen to the community and I couldn’t help but feeling that there must be an ‘up-side’ to the mining activites. There must be an opportunity for success within all of the change and chaos. So I started looking into the programs that World Vision offered here in Zambia and found that economic strengthening might be
something that I could be interested in. I started thinking about the fact that there is going to be a township built for over 60,000 people and how all of those people are going to need services, everything from barbershops to guards to gardeners. Could the people of Musele provide those services? Are there entrepreneurs waiting to be found? How could I empower those people and give them an opportunity to capitalize on the changes?
These questions motivated me to dive into my business school classes and develop a ‘Build a Business’ workshop for the Musele people. It meant taking my business plan tutorials from school and bending them to fit the rural Zambian mode. I had to figure out how to adapt a complicated income statement to a cash only, unregistered, small business. I had to find ways to communicate the important steps in the process of taking the vague idea of starting a food stand into a reality. I had to work with government officials to figure out the requirments for registering your business as well as finding investing networks for small and micro businesses. Most importantly, I had to bridge my mind from western business tactics to rural Zambian culture.
For the workshop, I’ll be living in the village for about 2 weeks: eating, sleeping, and living the rural Zambian way of life. I’ll be learning just as much as the workshop participants about culture, business, and life. I’m going to push my comfort zone and see what happens when these two worlds collide. I don’t know if it will be a success and if the entrepreneurs of Musele will be better off, but I do know that it is better than sitting here on my hands in Lusaka and way better than sitting in a cubicle working on excel all day.
Current City: Lusaka, Zambia