Zambian Hospitality and Character

One of the things that impresses me the most about Zambians that I noted last year and continues to amaze me is their generous hospitality and moral character, even in the face of extreme poverty. Maybe the best way to illustrate this is a series of examples.

  • As an experiment, I placed a 20 kwacha bill on a table in the middle of the village for an entire day. This is enough to buy food for a few days. It was left untouched from sunrise to sunset. This didn't surprise me a bit, but in America, it would have been stolen and a common reaction would be, ‘Hey, it's your fault for leaving money on the table.' Theft doesn't cross the minds of those in Shamiyoyo. While my possessions in the tent are certainly valued at more than the entire village's annual income, I leave for hours at a time and don't lock my tent, and villagers don't lock their doors even though most own locks.

  • As an interesting role reversal, no fewer than 7 people in Shamiyoyo have expressed concern that I am not eating enough, and they have offered me their food.

  • Upon arrival in Shamiyoyo, I was given an oxcart full of firewood which has just run out this morning. No joke, like clockwork, as I'm writing this, Chim and Mufulu approached with an oxcart full of firewood for me. Thankfully, they also warned me that while I was helping offload the wood, the ox was about to kick me.

Chim and Mufulu bringing me firewood

Chim and Mufulu bringing me firewood

  • Whenever I walk to a family's gathering around a fire, one or more stand up and hand me their seat.

  • When eating with Zambians, I am served first.

  • When driven to and from Lukena Palace, I was forced to sit in the front seat despite my objections because I have a small butt and I cannot lie and it was an inefficient use of space

  • Luchindo insisted on doing my laundry. I repaid her by buying her some tomatoes at the market though she initially objected to any payment.

  • Villagers offer to wash my dishes whenever I wash them but I decline.

  • When I mention I want to take a bath, before I can grab my toiletries, the bath is already cleaned and filled with water.

  • Charles has been concerned every single morning that I must be cold at night. Shoutout to Feathered Friends - great down sleeping quilts and jackets. I have yet to be cold.

  • Neighboring villagers sweep 'my yard' every morning even though I tell them the mango leaves don't bother me.

  • After buying goods from the market, Wana and Richard have insisted on carrying my bags.

  • Outside of their treatment towards me, many effectively adopt orphans and extended family when parents get sick or pass away.

And the list could go on ad infinitum. I am lucky to know generous, hospitable, and upstanding family and friends in the US, but Zambians have their number. I've stopped objecting and feeling a bit of guilt for the Zambians' treatment as their insistence trumps my stubbornness, and for those who know me, that's saying something. They make it easy to want to help them. These are genuinely good people and innocent in the best ways.

Ben Kirby2 Comments