Do's and Don'ts for Future Shamiyoyo Visits

I really have enjoyed my time in Shamiyoyo. Each day was different and exciting. I learned new things and languages, met new people, tasted new flavors, and saw new sights. I helped identify problems and solve as many as I could. I felt like I was mentally and physically prepared. Still, improvements could be made for my next trip or someone else's to Shamiyoyo.


  • Don't orient your tent north-south as I've done. Instead, orient your tent east-west. The winds blow mostly from the east and it would minimize sand blowing into your tent to orient east-west with the opening to the west.

  • If possible, don't visit between August-May. I would visit in the June-July period. There is a 0% chance of rain and you only have to deal with cold nights and mornings - you can always add layers. The lack of rain and cold temperatures result in basically no mosquitos. Once the weather shifts in August, you have to deal with hot weather - you can only remove so many layers. The August season change also brings mosquitos (increased chance of malaria) and increases venomous snake movement and activity. The rainy season begins in late October and lasts through May.

  • Don't handle mango leaves too much until you know how your skin will react. These leaves are everywhere here.

  • Don't take photos of Makishi unless you have some coins or small kwacha bills. They'll hassle you until you give them money. If you don't take photos, just ignore their aggressive demands for money. They aren't dangerous; they just want money. Same goes for the honey beer makers unless you buy their beer.

  • Don't set a bad example for the children. They're always watching and mimic everything you say and do.

  • Don't be offended by everyone staring at you all the time. They do and they will. Get used to it. They don't see many Americans (they actually get more Chinese visitors here) and are just interested and curious.

  • Don't be offended if you're a non-Chinese Asian American and everyone assumes you're Chinese. Again, they see more Chinese than any other international visitor. The Chinese come here often to buy raw materials, mainly lumber.

  • Don't do anything that could get you accused of being a witch or a wizard. Witchcraft is taken seriously here and those accused are not treated well, to say the least.


  • Try to visit for the Chief's anniversary party ~July 20.

  • Learn as much Nkoya as fast as you can. A little Lozi and Nyanja wouldn't hurt. Like all places, the local population hugely appreciates an attempt to learn their language.

  • Do research into venomous snakes and spiders. Be able to identify them and know where they are most likely to reside. Black mambas, which are actually gray, tend to hide in ant hills, burrows, and holes. Puff adders tend to hide in small brush. Vine or twig snakes hide in trees, though I haven't seen any here. Spiders are mostly inside people's houses and keep to themselves.

  • It's never too early to start working on your patience. You'll need it in spades here.

  • Bring a quality solar charger. It's the only way to recharge your electronics. Consider leaving it here for the village. Life-changing might be slightly hyperbolic, but not by much. The solar chargers available here are either cheap and poorly built or prohibitively expensive. Also consider bringing a portable power bank to give away. They are valuable especially in the rainy season when solar chargers may not work for days at a time due to clouds.

  • Bring kwacha with some to spare. There are no ATMs, US dollars don't work here, and forget about credit cards. Helping a villager buy food and supplies only costs around a dollar (5-20 kwacha) per day and makes their day.

  • If you get sunburnt easily, bring or buy enough sunscreen to wear every day.

  • Be prepared for chilly nights and mornings - it can dip into the 30’s at night. Down jackets and sleeping bags are perfect as there is no chance of rain in June and July.

  • If you're a light sleeper, bring ear plugs or headphones. There are tons of sounds through all hours of the night including music from the market bars, cheering and drums from neighboring villages, roosters, pigs, bats, and occasionally car horns.

  • Bring as many sauces, condiments, and spices as you can. They are limited here to mostly just salt and sugar. I recommend stocking up at your local fast food joint and bringing chicken bouillon cubes.

  • Note that at the market, you can typically find the following: eggs, peanuts, peanut butter, pasta, rice, bread rolls, salt, sugar, tomatoes, onions, rape, sodas, bottled water, beer, whiskey, vodka, tea bags, toilet paper, vegetable oil, soap, potato chips, cookies, candies, sardines, dried fish, matches, notebooks, pots and pans, and clothes including sandals and beanies. You cannot find: aluminum foil, paper towels, napkins, cereal, coffee, butter, milk, wine, ketchup, mustard, mayo, sunscreen, or knives.

  • Within the village, you can find oranges, lemons, and cabbage (at a minimum in July and August), mangoes and caterpillars (rainy season), and when in season, papaya, bananas, guava, and other local fruits.

  • If you're a germophobe, bring Wet Ones or your own soap. You won't find antibacterial soap here.

  • If you're staying for an extended period of time, be able to treat the bore hole water for drinking to be safe. I've used a Platypus GravityWorks filter and had no problems.

  • Carry toilet paper at all times. Most latrines don't have toilet paper and you may need to go while in the bush.

  • Look up at night.

  • Be open and understanding to their culture and perspective. Many have grown up without ever leaving the village. This means they don't have access to television, the internet, newspapers, radio, or most books. For examples, they still strongly believe in witchcraft and many don't know humans landed on the moon.

  • Leave your American views of how to treat dogs at home. Dogs here are routinely slapped, kicked, and the targets of thrown stones. If you were struggling to feed your family, you wouldn't take it well if a dog tried to steal food off your family's plates.

  • Wear closed-toe shoes. If you wear sandals, your feet will instantly get dirty, you'll get stones under your feet, and there are shards of glass, thorns, rusty metal, discarded razors, and animal manure littering the ground everywhere.

Ben Kirby1 Comment