Monday, March 5, 2007

I Have Arrived

There’s something pretty special about the first time you see Africa. For me it was just as the sun was rising over Kenya. We were approaching Nairobi, and could see Mount Kenya in the distance. I could only catch brief glimpses of the ground whenever the couple beside me would lean back. Yet I will remember that feeling forever. I have arrived in Africa.

This week we are in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. The area around the capital has gotten lots of rain this year so everything is very green. Flying into Lusaka I had a window seat and so was able to get a much better view of the country that I’ll be living in for the next year.

We are doing some final training as a group before we split up and head to our placements. The week has been full of learning experiences. Trips to the market to buy some essentials, riding on mini-buses, getting used to the various modes of transport around the city. We also spent two days doing motorcycle training. Many of us, myself included, will need to ride motorcycles in order to travel between the various communities in which we will be working. This is exciting to say the least!

As you can imagine, my first week here has been full of experiences that stay with me for years to come. From various interactions with local Zambians, learning some of the local language, and navigating the organised chaos that is the market, to more thought provoking sessions and conversations with the training group, capped off last night by each of us sharing our motivations for coming overseas. Such moments are inspirational and memorable.

Yet I’d like to share just one specific encounter that I’ve had here. On the first day Dave and Paul, the two EWB Southern Africa Directors split us into two groups and sent us on a bit of a scavenger hunt so that we could get used to the city and start meeting people. Armed with a list of questions to find answers to and items to buy or take pictures of, Ka-Hay and I were put on a minibus for Mtendere, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Lusaka.

On the way there I was sitting next to a man named Dominic. We started chatting and I found out that he is staying with his sister in Mtendere, and was just coming back from town. We told him a bit about ourselves and what we were doing and he was quite amused by it. He took our list of questions and started giving us a few answers. When we reached our stop, we started to say goodbye, expecting him to leave. He would have none of it though, and proceeded to show us around Mtendere for the next hour, walking through the small local markets, talking to people, introducing us to people he knew. We learned a lot about Dominic. He has traveled all over Zambia, and speaks all 7 of the major languages (there are a total of 73 languages in Zambia, but 7 major ones). He is currently working as a construction worker, but has had a number of various jobs around the country. Dominic seems very quiet, but super friendly. He was more than accommodating of our questions, and seemed amused that we wanted to know so much. He also got quite a kick out of us trying to speak the local language, but I think he appreciate our efforts.

It was getting late and we indicated that we needed to be heading back to town. Dominic said that he would walk us back to the bus stop and make sure we got on the right bus. On the way we stopped by his sister’s house, and he invited us in for some food and something to drink. It was the perfect way to spend my first day in Zambia. We sat in the tiny house drinking and eating while the little children peeked around the corner and giggled. I was amazed that a polite conversation on a bus with a few Muzungus (this is the word for foreigner or white person, it literally means “traveller”, I hear it everywhere I go) could turn into an evening strolling around a poor neighbourhood sharing some stories over food and drink.

As I write this I can see the rain clouds coming in the distance. It will not rain for some time yet, but later this evening I think it will. We are at the tail end of the rainy season. Here in the city the rain is mostly just that – rain. It makes things wet, it cleans things up a little, and it is refreshing. Yet life in the city is tied to the success of the rural areas. So many businesses here depend on good crops. I know that in the rural areas rain means life. A year of good rain means a good harvest. Too much or too little can have disastrous results. I am anxious to leave the city and start learning about life in the village. To learn what it means to watch the skies hoping for rain. To learn what it’s like to work in the fields all day long. I want to experience the feeling of community. I have heard about it from other volunteers, and I am anxious to experience it myself.

It looks as though I will have to wait a little while longer though. I am still waiting on the proper permits and visas so that I can start working. For now, I am in the city. Yet the city is still Zambia, and I am happy to be here.


Aunt Karen said...

I read with great interest your account of your 1st day. It all sounds amazing, and to actually share food with a local family, all from a bus conversation shows the friendliness of people...people from all walks of life, from any country in the world. We'll be following your experiences in Zambia, and of course, thinking of you. Take good care of yourself.

Katherine said...

I've been thinking of you all week so it's great to hear from you! Sounds like you're already falling in love with the Zambian people...that's awesome! I'll be praying your visa come through so you can get to the villages and start working!! Can't wait to read more updates! Love you and miss you!

C said...

The pictures look great. I can imagine that your first view of Africa would be a moving experience. Very cool! I am sure that your experiences to come will be just a interesting!

later brother!

Dayna said...

This whole thing sounds absolutely inspiring; I feel like I'm being vicariously inspired through you every time I read your posts! So awesome. God Bless.

Kath said...


Amazing! What a way to be introduced to Zambia. I can only imagine those cute little Zambian kids giggling at the red-headed muzungu in their house! :o) You've only just arrived, and already the country has touched your heart! Enjoy every moment! As K already said - love you and miss you! P.S. So motorcycle training must have rocked! You look like a natural! :o)

nickt said...


Sue Titcombe said...

I agree with Dayna. I also feel inspired and blessed through your posts and I feel like I'm going to be challenged a lot too. That's a good thing.

I remember the first view I had of Africa from the plane, as well as the first drive through the country. Absolutely awe-inspiring. And to get the experience the culture in that way is unbelievable!

Be safe, God bless you.

Curtis' and Mich's Dad said...

Hey Trev: What a way to start!! I can just picture the little children looking at this twosome

Soak it all in your words are as close as this old man is going to get to Africa

araeside said...

Great to see those gorgeous photos and more info on your scavenger hunt to complement the email!

Salani Bwino!

Justin said...


Thanks for the post. Missing your antics.


Anonymous said...

Hi Trevor:
What an experience already!!
I join others in saying your pictures and comments are awesome ..we have been praying for you individually and as a church on Sundays. Trusting the paperwork details will fall in place soon.
Take care and God bless.