A Day of Perspective and Cultural Exchange

This morning, I awoke to the same old amazingly beautiful sunrise and roosters. My immediate priorities were finding refrigeration for my pork and nature-proof storage for my 26 days of food. Charles found space in a refrigerator a kilometer away (I frankly don't know exactly where it is) and Wana walked with a friend to store my ribs and pork belly. Wana offered his grandmother's home to store my food. His grandmother is Mrs. Shamiyoyo, one of the heads of the community, and has been in the hospital for a month with kidney issues. We wish her the best and a speedy recovery. So the solution to the food storage problem was bittersweet, heavy on the bitter.

A pig farm cooperative meeting was convened for me to formally pay for the pig. After a few brief words from Fred, I handed $75 USD to Charles as the mostly female cooperative cheered wildly. Each of them shook my hand and thanked me. I was touched to hear their kind words. It was a celebratory atmosphere as the women raised their hands in victory and each took turns waving the dollars in the air. I apparently wasn't appropriately amped as they forced my hands into the air. Fred led a meeting afterward and knowing it would not be brief, I ducked out before it began. My mind was elsewhere - my belly.

I decided I would make a big batch of 'pork fried rice' for Enock, Wana, his friend Richard, a few neighbors, and me. I boiled the rice over the fire and threw in a few cans of mixed veggies. Then I salted and fried some pork leg, sauteed some garlic, and mixed everything together with the two tiny Chinese food restaurant packets of soy sauce I packed. Calling it pork fried rice is being more than generous. Not my best cooking but I did the best with what I had, and it was honestly the first time I've ever tried making it. Thankfully, everyone seemed to genuinely think it was tasty. This set the tone for the cultural exchange theme of the day.

After Fred and Enock headed back to Lusaka this afternoon, I set up my hammock around the mango trees next to my tent. Shamiyoyo has only seen one other hammock when the De's brought one years ago. Wana and Richard smiled ear to ear as they took turns swinging in it. Other kids around refused to try because they thought it might not hold their sub-100 lb weight even after my assurances. While lounging in the hammock, I checked my emails. Wana impressively noticed that my phone was different than the iPhone I had last year so I let him fiddle with my Google Pixel 3. I was hesitant to answer when he asked how much it cost. Over 8,000 kwacha made his jaw drop and he relayed the information to the other children to similar reactions. I felt a mix of emotions as I realized my phone cost more than double the average Zambian's annual salary, and these are underprivileged Zambians. Wana was awed by the 128 GB storage as he said the most he has seen on a Zambian's phone was 8 GB. Even more so, he found Google Assistant to be mesmerizing and even asked if the voice was a real person. We flipped through my photos together. I had to explain that when my dad and I flyfish, we never keep and eat the fish which was hard for Wana to understand. I had to explain that dogs in America are treated better than some children, are allowed inside and on beds, and sometimes wear clothes. I had to try to explain why in January 2017, there was a completely naked man protesting with a crowd in front of riot police outside my office building in DC. He noted that the brisket my brother and I smoked this summer was huge and looked delicious, and at that moment, I decided I was going to grill (or in local terms, braai) him some pork ribs tonight, 'American style.’

Wana found my music and was hopeful that I had Lil Nas X's Old Town Road. Unfortunately for Wana, there are no horses in the back and only room for one Nas on this phone. I gave him some headphones and told him to have at it. Like most of Shamiyoyo, he doesn't have access to any music aside from the blaring music from the bar a mile away every night. Of all the music he sampled, Billie Eilish was his favorite.

Later on, Charles gave me a tour of his garden. It's relatively large with a surprising variety - orange and banana trees, cabbage, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and corn. His garden is the site of the first Day by De project, a water tower, pump, and irrigation system for his crops. It was the first time I had seen it and it was interesting to see where it all began.

As dinner time approached, I found Wana and we got a fire going. With no grills in Shamiyoyo, I had to improvise. I remembered seeing some chain link fence wire in our fire pit the night before. Figuring it was at least disinfected, I pulled it out, straightened it, then bent it into a snaked shape to mimic grill grates. I spread them across the fire pit and rested the ends on bricks to elevate them above the coals. I stacked bricks on the ends to hold them in place and dropped a half brick on the wire to test its strength. The grill was a go.

The 'grill’

The 'grill’

We grabbed the ribs and noticed they had a few ants on them which might deter some, but not us. And don't forget: TIA. I cut off the skin and seasoned the meat generously with Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning I brought from home (I highly recommend it.). After maybe 10 minutes, the ribs were done. I handed the first one to Wana and I saw his eyes light up when he bit down. He said this was the first braai he has had in years because for whatever reason, Shamiyoyo doesn't grill meat; they boil and/or fry. His friend Richard stopped by and we gave him a rib. Richard was also a fan. I explained to them that in America, sometimes we plan an entire Saturday revolving around the act of grilling which they both found odd but interesting. Throwing the bare bones to a lucky dog nearby, we decided to try braai'ing the skin. Not my cup of tea, but they enjoyed it with nshima.


We rested after dinner around a fire and Richard took interest in my phone. I pulled up Google Maps and showed them a map of Zambia and the world, which they may have never seen before. Together, they zoomed in on Zambia and went back and forth showing me where they had moved within Zambia but neither has ever left the country. When it was my turn, they were shocked at how far I've moved from Daegu and Seoul to Chicago, Greensboro, Blacksburg, DC, and now Zambia via NYC and Dubai. Our conclusion was that the world is a huge place which makes it all the more amazing that we are here together.

#3wins: 1) It always feels good when others enjoy your cooking. Forgive me any Zambians reading this but nshima is relatively bland. I'm happy I got to shock some taste buds today, 2) I'm also happy my improvised grill worked. I really didn't have a backup plan, and 3) I love listening to music so sharing that passion with Wana and seeing him, eyes closed, enjoying the music would have been enough by itself to make my day.

Ben KirbyComment