I arrive home from the field and Wanyinwa with one remaining week to enjoy my time in Zambia. I get together with some of my friends and decide that it might be a good idea to go explore the markets in downtown Lusaka. We love the markets because they are an opportunity to immerse yourself in the Zambia
culture and madness, all while rummaging through heaps of clothing and other donated goods that are merely sitting on the side of the road. So we go downtown and spend 4 hours wandering the streets and markets. We move with the crowds for hours as we try to find little ‘gems’ in the madness, but after a while we tire of the pushing, shoving and looping Zambian music. As we make our way back to the car with our ‘new’ used tshirts, hats, and shoes, I find myself in the middle of a busy intersection. As this is not the first time I have found myself between a bus and a crowd of people, I think nothing of it. At that point however, I begin to feel some frisky hands all over my body and I can’t figure out why I feel like I am on some darkened dancefloor. In the next 3 or 4 moments, my mood changes from curiosity, to surprise, to anger as I realize that of the 8 people crowding me, 4 are trying to rob me. My friend said that she could visibly see my moods changing in those few moments – I had a look in my eyes that was unstable. I immediately thrash my arms outwards as I look at one guy in the eyes. He has his hands around my sunglasses and is trying to pull them off of the string keeping them around my neck. I am glad to be a bit bigger in stature than most Zambians because I ‘create space’ around me and then bolt through the intersection with my friend in tow. Once we make it safely to the other side, I check my pockets to find that nothing has been taken, thank goodness, and my friend begins to shake. “Holy sh*t Jack, I just watched you get robbed” she says. Yea, it was time for an ice cream.
Over the next few days I go to work and enjoy the company of my coworkers and
wrap up the finishing touches on my project. I also get one final lesson in Zambian beaucracy, but that is another matter completely. I have some final meals of nshima and liver, ones that I am sure I won’t be having for quite some time, and do my best to absorb as much Zambian culture as possible.
My friends throw me a going away party of sorts, where we have a self directed trivia night that is absolutely hilarious. Each team does a great job a sabotaging the others and the scoring is dismal all the way around. My market friend and I are teamed up and we decide to make an interactive round for our trivia questions. We end up going
to the store and getting cans of food, taking the labels off of them, and have our friends try to figure out what is inside by any means possible. To watch everyone shake the cans, roll them on the ground and even attempt to smell them was just spectacular. The other rounds included a blind hot sauce tasting, African music lessons, and obscure African geography questions. By the end we were almost in tears with laughter – it was a perfect way to say goodbye.
The next morning, after watching one of my friends place 3rdin the Lusaka Marathon, I went to church for my final practice with the choir at St. Mary Magdalene’s. Although I haven’t been writing about the choir a whole lot, I have been with them the entire time. The choir numbers have been reduced from 15 to 4, but they still have the smiling faces and the welcoming nature that I always loved. On the final weekend I asked them to make sure we sing traditional Zambian songs. So on the next day when I
go to the service, I am smiling ear-to-ear when we break into Natulea Kamusumba and other Tonga, Bemba, and Nyanja songs. Luckily one of my friends here in Lusaka is a documentary film maker and volunteered to come and record one of our performances, which can be found here on youtube.com.
As I drive to the airport on my way out of Lusaka, I can’t help but wonder if I will be coming back to Zambia any time soon. I know that I made a lot of promises to my Zambian friends last time that I was here, but this time I don’t know if I can do the same. I want to come back, but as I am driving down the highway at 5am watching the sun rise over the grassy fields and solem trees that are sprinkled throughout the Zambian countryside, I just don’t know when I’ll be back…
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Now that I have been home for a few weeks, I have had some time to reflect on my time in Zambia and the other places that Ryan and I visited. I have changed a bit. I can feel myself reacting differently to problems and I often think “what would they do about this in _____?” I haven’t been as quick to judge, I suddenly hate petty gossip, and I find uniformity absolutely suffocating. It is almost as if I have started to look at the world through a lense of organized chaos – I want to feel the diversity and madness of cultures interacting with each other.
Did we find what we were looking for? I believe so, yes. I know that I can speak for Ryan when I say that we both were looking to have our minds blown and to experience how others lived their lives. We wanted to ‘get lost,’ see what was deep inside ourselves, and find what was meaningful. We wanted to find the connections that crossed cultures and understand the meaningful differences. We wanted to feel uncomfortable and work our way through it. We wanted to live. Mission accomplished.
Still living out of a suitcase [now with my road bike and golf clubs in tow], I feel as if I am just on another step of this adventure. After a few life events in the past 2 years, I can say that I don’t have a bed of my own and I really don’t have a home-base, which I am pretty cool with. I am working hard to figure out what lies ahead, but I am keen on looking back and understanding what I have done and why I did it. Through this, it has become clear to me that I am a man of passion. I get extremely passionate about something and work tirelessly to make sure that it happens. Thinking about this, I am so proud of Ryan and myself and our ability to ‘stick to our guns’ and make the dream of the Grand Adventure, a reality. Although we always had our staunch supporters, many people told us that it wouldn’t be a good idea and that we would be worse off. They asked us about losing out on valuable job experience. They told us that we would be broke. They said that it couldn’t be done.
It can be done. All that is needed is a bit of faith, a solid pair of shoes, and an open mind – everything else will fall into place if you can just go with the flow. The world isn’t that big when you think about it. We might be from different cultures and backgrounds, but we are all humans at the end of the day and regardless if you practice Islam in Jordan, herd sheep in New Zealand, or climb mountains in Nepal, you are still going to laugh at bad jokes, think outsiders are a bit weird, and vow that your mother is the best cook in the world.
Thanks for reading.
Current Location: Detroit, Michigan