To all Zambian blog followers, today was our first full day of activity! In the morning, we experienced our first Zambian market. This was a market where Zambian traders came together to sell their wares. Goods ranged from furniture and large scultpures and artwork to small hand-carved animals and jewelry. There was food from different cultures (hot dogs, burritos, Asian noodles) and even fresh produce and spices. Bartering for the goods is an art and some of us (Noni, Liz, KP) were better at it than others. In the end, we all got at least something (some of us got much more than that) that we wanted. Maybe if you are one who picks us up at the airport you will be the recipient of some fine Zambian artistry.
After the market we came home and had about an hour to grab lunch (some of us ate at the market) before we went to Africa Directions in Mtendere compound (neighborhood) of Lusaka. This group, led by its dreadlocked and charasmatic leader, Mark Chilumba, was located deep in a very poor part of the city. When we arrived to the building, though, we were warmly welcomed by many smiling faces. Everyone smiled.
After introductions, Mark gave us a thorough history of his powerful organization. Africa Directions is, in effect, the first neighborhood youth center in Zambia…but it is so much more. There are so many activities that Africa Directions uses to influence young people to make positive decisions. There is a pool room (no more than 10 can gather to play before a leader swoops in and engages them in a dialogue about peer pressure or HIV or domestic violence). There is a media room where leaders and young people watch videos and discuss the content, the images, and the meaning. There is a library (in fact the only library in the entire neighborhood of over 100,000!). There is a drama group that uses drums and dance to perform skits for the neighborhood about positive behaviors (over 500 people attend each of these performances). And of course they use sport: soccer, boxing, and basketball are the favorites.
Next, Mark gave us a tour of the facilities. Don’t, however, get the impression that, because they have so many great things going on that the facilities are swanky. They are not. The library, for instance, consists of about 5 bookshelves and maybe 500 books. The drama space is just an empty, open room. The soccer ball the kids were using was small and totally worn. As you can see, they are doing amazing things with very little.
After the tour, we participated in some games and performed a role playing skit about stereotypes that Zambian teenagers have about the US (violent, vulgar, racist) and stereotypes US teens have about Zambians (dancing, hungry, poor). We used these skits to discuss how, despite it all, there are many of the same pressures on Zambian teens as there are on teens in the US. We travelled all this way to find out how similar we were!
After we came home and ate (thanks for the pasta and green beans, Jememy!), we hung out with Philip and Gaspard Kalumba. Philip is a graduate of the David Kaunda school that we will be visiting tomorrow. Philip treated us to some guitar numbers before we said our goodbyes and started our own reflection for the day.
Got to get to bed so we can start it all over again tomorrow.
(posted by Topher Kandik)