Why You're Wrong About Africa. What I Love About Zambia

I grew up in a village about nine hours from Lusaka, which is our capital city in Zambia and about 3 million people. My schooling was British, but I speak Tonga or Nyanja at home with friends and family. I use the word 'rubbish' a lot, as we were taught British words at school instead of our home languages. I now live and work in Lusaka and take care of two sisters, a niece and a nephew who I help put through school. The reason I wanted to write this was to let people know we are a beautiful and proud people and culture, and we are taking our place on the world stage. We are not rubbish.

What do I love about Zambia? The food. We have really nice traditional cuisines to choose from like chikanda, we call it african polony. It is made out of pounded ground nuts and boiled root tubers of orchids, Simply said, it's kabotu here. Kabotu means 'good' in Tonga, my mother tongue. Also kabotu is nshima served with every meal, made from corn meal (mille meal) and water. It is eaten with relishes, made from boiled and lightly fried pumpkin leaves, sweet potato leaves or rape. And of course there is village chicken. Roosters and chickens are used to make village chicken and boiled a long time to make them tender. It is then steamed in sauce made out of fresh tomatoes, onions and garlic. It is very good but hard to find pre-made in the city so you have to make it yourself - this means killing your own at home which we do often. I prefer to have my sister do that side of meal preparation while I do the cooking!


Zambia is beautiful. We have hundreds of varieties of trees and shrubs and many people keep lemon, lime and mango trees. This season we see a lot of watermelons for sale. If you want to make your kwatcha (our local currency) go far, do not shop at Shop Right or the big mall supermarkets. Go to the neighbourhoods or find a place off the highway. You can find 10-12 fresh, ripe tomatoes for around 50 kwa, which is less than 3 dollars American. The people. They are always laughing and like to joke and have fun. In Zambia manners are important. We always ask how someone is doing, Muli bwanji (greeting in general) and it's considered rude not to greet and answer strangers you pass. Zambians consider swearing a great insult to them, which makes us much different than some of the Westerners I meet. It seems as swearing is considered normal in the West, but it is certainly not common here. Swearing in conversation and especially at someone will most likely end in a fight. It's very offensive and rude in Zambia. Daytime. There are great small markets, and large markets off of Cairo Road, where you can buy just about everything. They are crowded, noisy, and cars do not watch out for people walking, so you need to watch out for yourself. But you can find deals on fashion, foodstuffs and electronics. There are especially nice shops for women. Most places you can, and should, negotiate, unless it's a shop in a mall. Never take the first price.


Nightime. There are many nice places to go to spend your evening, like Chicago's in East Park, one of my favourites for music and dancing. There are nice places to sample cuisine from all over, including Ethiopian and Indian. Because it's warm here year round, many places are part open air and inside, which creates a nice setting. You can find all the drinks you could ever want, with our local beer, Mosi, going for 20 kwa. I believe a Heineken, if that's what you like, goes for 25 kwa. If you do not drink, go for the music. Zambians love to dance, especially after a few drinks, so you will see many people standing at tables dancing to the music. People watching is fun. Zambian women love to dress up to go out, the men not so much (my brothers you need to try harder! lol), but you will see many beautiful women outfitted to be seen. My advice? If you do not want to pay 550 kwa for breakfast after a night out do not eat at Mugg and Bean which is a South African chain! Transport home is easier and cheaper than ever since 2016 when our version of Uber was created, Ulendo (which means 'journey' in Nyanja). Cabs are more expensive because they do not use meters, and it is up to the driver to charge what he thinks is 'fair'. Look out for cab pricing. The cheapest way to go is a minubus. That will cost you 15 kwa one way. You will not sit comfortable in a minibus and they make frequent stops. If you want to experience a rough ride packed with Zambians loudly chatting, this might be the thing for you!

The music. We get the best music here. From South Africa, Nigeria, basically everywhere in Africa, though I am not a great, great fan of North African music which sounds more Middle Eastern to me. Our music cannot be beat. My favourite music comes from South Africa. It is very fresh and good. I have noticed that American stars like Beyonce and Azelia Banks have taken our rhythms and drum beats for their songs and people call it so original! These beats come from African musicians, not Americans. Somehow we find that annoying here. I've been hearing that music since I was a teenager, and it all comes from here. One of my favourite songs this last year was Blaq Diamond's Summer YoMuthi, which was a big hit here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AagjAUE8U8s. I am sure some American will steal this beat also and be called so original!


There is food, culture, and great sights to see here. There is music in the streets. (And lots of very annoying minibuses cutting you off.) Western ideas of Africa are rubbish if you think Africans are dirty, dumb, that we have no culture, or we are just poor, ugly and toothless (a white woman told me that once that Africans are toothless, yet I have never had a cavity in my whole life. and everyone I know has beautiful white teeth. I think the white lady wore veneers). Yes, we have a lot of poverty here. We also have a lot of ambition and pride and beauty. We are proud to be Zambian. We are making our own way and taking control of our country and history from colonists old and new. There is a new Zambia for Zambians rising up.


Come visit and see for yourself.


Dalumba nomwa bala!

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