Sunday, February 17, 2008

Perceptions and Assumptions

I have decided to move, I had moved in with Mary on the understanding that I would only be there for 3 months. 5 months later I finally tore myself away. I think we are both sad to be apart but for many reasons it made sense; for me was the struggle of commuting daily and for her it was getting a separate room for her son Chisanga.

But now I live in a much fancier part of town called Kanini. Again I am with a Zambian family, but instead of 3 bedrooms there are 5 and what is called a servants quarters in the back yard. I don’t think these two families differ all that much, their day-to-day lives are very much the same and their opportunities are similar. But there is a perception of us and them. The one example is that recently Zambia (and a lot of the region) have been experiencing black outs. They call it load shedding which essentially means the power company shuts off the power during peak times because it can’t meet the demand or needs to conserve power. Different parts of the city are without power at different times. It must be human nature to assume that others are always better off than you, folks in Kanini assume that they are without power when folks in Mushili (Mary’s neighbourhood) have it and vice versa. The reality is that both neighbourhoods are without power at different times, but as far as I can tell to the same degree.

Another funny assumption was made by the family I stayed with last weekend; they are sorghum farmers in a rural community outside of Ndola. I wanted to spend some time with them to understand more about their lives and in turn they learnt a bit about me. Many folks I’ve met want to know what I eat and even after 6 months of living here, people are shocked to find out that I eat the local nshima (ground maize) The assumption is that a mzungu can’t eat Zambian food – I managed to convince the family I was staying with that I could eat anything they were going to eat (There is a bit of double standard though – I really can’t drink the water they drink without some uncomfortable consequences). But apparently I wasn’t quite convincing enough. I couldn’t figure out why there was a separate pot of nshima for me. It turns out the nshima the family normally eats is what is called roller meal – the corn kernels are ground into flour and then cooked – they figured my tummy couldn’t handle it and were preparing me mealie meal that has been dehulled before being milled into flour! I think in reality my stomach prefers the roller meal – it has a bit more nutritional value than the dual processed mealie meal!

I guess what I am trying to say, is that it is very easy to assume things about others, but reality is often quite different than what we expect.

Me, Mrs Chitundo and her grandson Malama (love the t-shirt!).

Sorry for the lack of updates recently. I've been busy running around looking at sorghum - but I did manage to post a bunch of photos from Scott's Xmas visit to my web album.

Hope you are well,