Mzungu

412-mzunguThe word mzungu means a “wanderer” (i.e. “one who roams around”) in the Bantu language which is spoken in the region of the Great Lakes of Africa and it derives from zungu or zunguka in Kiswahili whose meaning is “to spin around at the same place”. That’s why the 18th century European explorers who travelled extensively all over the place in that period of time were called mzungu. Nowadays the term is simply used to refer to “white people”, “people with white skin” in African countries in the region of the Great Lakes, one of them being Zambia and the small town of Pemba, in particular.  

To be a mzungu there means to be worshipped all the time. Of course, you are considered rich and locals ask you “How are you?” and after that they ask you for money saying “Give me money”. But firstly, we should mention that these people a very good-hearted. They are born happy and without any hatred and envy in heart unlike many other nations. They have a little almost nothing but for sure, they know the true meaning of life.

They dance all the time. A dance is in their blood since their birth and it accompanies them in their life. Newly born babies are put in a chitenge or kitenge (for the time-being I would call it simply an African sarong and I will tell you briefly what it is a little bit later in the post) by their mothers who always find time to dance. Dances are always accompanied by tambura and drums. If people from such small towns like Pemba don’t have these musical instruments, they are too inventive and create them immediately. They turn down and put on the ground either some bucket or laver, or a basket brought on the head by local women, and they start playing music and dancing.

Children of Zambia are really very, very good-natured and entertaining. They would ask you for your telephone number despite their not knowing you at all. After that, all of sudden they will give you a sudden call just to wish you “Good night” or to say to you: “Hi, I am the girl who met you and who asked you for your phone number earlier today. How are you feeling? ….. I am happy you’re fine. Bye.” Or when you ride your bike somewhere there, a crowd of 50-60 sweet and very athletic kids will want to follow you running after you along the dusty black roads.

Unfortunately, kids there have the misfortune to start working at the age of 2-3 years. A little bit bigger children have to bring 20-litre buckets which are much bigger by them themselves and too heavy for them to fetch here and there. Education at school isn’t at a high level. Classrooms are almost empty without any decorations. There’s a lack of textbooks at school very often. But in spite of this fact, pupils are very curious to know more and more and they ask their mzungu so many (sometimes too incredible) questions. No matter what, Zambia’s children dance and they never forget to do it.

When women dance they always wrap a chitenge or kitenge around their chest or waist or over the head. This fabric is very colourful and with a great number of prints and designs. It’s typical for all women and they wear two chitenges, as a matter of fact. The upper one is taken off every time women sit down and actually, they sit on it while the inner one is much clearer. When it comes to the kitenge wrapped over the head and neck, it serves as a baby sling in which woman puts and carries her child … and dances this way.

As to women, there are lots of other cultural peculiarities about them. They are forced to work mainly. They bring their newly-born babies and other children to the fields while they work there all day long. Then they turn back home and do the housework. Of course, they cook dinner which is mainly Nshima. Nshima is staple food in Zambia which is actually, similar to mashed potatoes (the first variety of the dish prepared from local potatoes) or a maize/corn meal (the more popular type of Nshima). By the way, cooking in Pemba isn’t an easy task. There is electricity for half an hour or an hour twice a day. That’s why a certain type of appliance is used. Fresh water lacks and it’s fetched from a well and then it must be always boiled. Moreover, mice are very common and a cat can help a mzungu prevent from getting ill from malaria.

On the other hand, women are sold out and exchanged for goats and cows by their families. Moreover, they should always be ready for their husbands. If they refuse to sleep with them, men could return their wives to their families and even a divorce could follow.  And one more thing here. Very often women’s resistance is due to the fact that their husbands are not “fans” of using condoms. They are of the opinion that this stuff isn’t a gift from God and that’s why they rather often refuse to use preservatives. That’s the reason why a family has a lot of children and as we know, diseases are spread out.

As far as men are concerned, they don’t work so much. They prefer spending their time sitting and drinking, flirting with other women and demanding that their wives meet their needs in the evening. Speaking about flirting, a woman (especially, ladies belonging to other cultures and coming from other continents) should be very careful. Why? Because even if she wears a wedding ring on her finger which is a clear sign she’s married, she might fall down into a “flirting trap” with a local man. On the other hand, when two people look each other in the eyes, when they talk, it means they flirt.  It’s very common to see two men holding their hands while walking together. Some will immediately think they are a little peculiar. Nope. In fact, it means another thing in Zambia, i.e. these two men have a great respect for one another. And last thing on this topic. When you’re introduced to someone from Pemba, for instance, they will use the translation of their name in English although they have too many names which indicate all their ancestors through the generations.

When you’re in the country, most of the things you have in your homeland such as electricity, water, and internet and so on and so forth, might not be available. You might not have a car to move from Pemba to a nearby village or settlement.  You might be forced to move your furniture or cattle on your bike. (By the way, you’re not allowed to ride a bike when you are at the market but you should only push it because otherwise, it’s disrespectful). You may feel isolated from the modern world but for sure, you will want to get acquainted with the natural pearls of Zambia like …  “the Smoke that Thunders” or the Victoria Falls.

They are a gorgeous waterfall in southern Africa, located on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is situated on the mighty Zambezi River whose water falls down in a straight line vertically from over 108 metres. The mist generated by the falls could be seen and felt from several kilometers away and that’s why the waterfalls are also known as Mosi-oa-Tunya (or “the Smoke of  the Thunders”). If you plan a visit there, have in mind that the most suitable time is during the rainy period when you will enjoy the abundance of water in them.

Your journey there should start from Livingston where you should take a bus which is always overcrowded. Bus drivers are never in a hurry and the few kilometers could be covered and passed in several hours (let’s say that bus drivers oftent would want to smoke and make a break for a cigarette all of a sudden). Another interesting thing is that when a bus stops, women with baskets on their heads will surround it almost immediately and will start offering you various items and fruits in front of the bus windows.

Once you arrive at the Victoria Falls, you should be very well equipped and your camera should be water-resistant. Why? It rains a lot during the rainy period. Moreover, when visitors are at the falls themselves, the mighty water creates clouds of water which splashes all over and on everybody. But all this water is worthy because the view is simply spectacular and awesome.

 Being in Zambia, surely, you should spend some time in the mid of Savanna. The South Luangwa National Park became a national park in 1972. The Park lies in eastern Zambia. It is one of Africa’s best destinations for walking safaris. The reserve is a world-renowned wildlife haven hosting pods of hippos and crocodiles in the Luangwa River and its lagoons. There are also huge herds of buffalo, elephants, zebras and lots of lions and leopards.

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