Tag Archives: Tonga

Musical interlude

Here are two of the songs we sang on the bus ride to the conference:

“Come and See What the Lord Has Done” (Second link)
(Leader in italics, followers plain, all in bold)
Come and see — oh
Come and see
Come and see — oh
Come and see

Come and see what the lord has done x2

Boola mubone
Boola mubone
Boola mubone
Boola mubone

Boola mubone Leza cita x2

(The actual Tonga may be closer to “Amuboola mubone Leza kacita,” but what I’ve written above are the parts that you can really hear when it’s being sung.)

I assume that most of you know “Siyahamba/We Are Marching” — I myself have known it since I was a small child, and we sing it a lot at my home church. What I had not before encountered was Tonga lyrics for it. (In fact, when I ran this past my students for a spell-check and translation of some of the words, Barbrah told me that even she only knew it in chimukuwa (white people language, aka English).)

Tulayenda munzila Leza x4
Tulayenda oo-ooh
Tulayenda munzila Leza
Tulayenda oo-ooh
Tulayenda munzila Leza

(We are walking in the way of God — and actually, the chimukuwa version we sang was, in fact, “We are walking.”)

Tulapona mungunzula Mwami x4
Tulapona oo-ooh
Tulapona mugunzula Mwami
Tulapona oo-ooh
Tulapona mugunzula Mwami

(We are living in the power of the Lord)

Tulakula mungunzula Leza x4
Tulakula oo-ooh
Tulakula mungunzula Leza
Tulakula oo-ooh
Tulakula mungunzula Leza

(We are growing in the power of God, and tulakula is pronounced “tu-la-gu-la”)

Tuyoosika mungunzula Leza x4
Tuyoosika oo-ooh
Tuyoosika mungunzula Leza
Tuyoosika oo-ooh
Tuyoosika mungunzula gwe

(We shall reach the power of God
. . .
We shall reach his power.
And tuyoosika is “tu-yo-si-ga,” with a long o in yo, held extra-long.)

If I understood the translation correctly, this one is pretty interchangable: if you’re having trouble making mungunzula fit the music, you should be able to replace it with munzila for any verse except possibly the last one. Leza and Mwami can be swapped at any time, and you can stick -gwe onto the end of any of the verses.

I have more chitonga lyrics in the works, but they still need spell-checking and translation.


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Things I am learning in Zambia

In no particular order:

Tonga, slowly. I expect that I would make better progress if I had more ability to faithfully study my flash cards, but I find it very difficult because no one is checking up on me regularly. I’ve discovered that there are Tonga classes at the MICS school, and hope to sit in on them when school starts again next year. Perhaps sitting with a bunch of (for the most part) native speakers learning grammar, or whatever they’re doing, is not the best plan, but what I’m doing right now isn’t working terribly well, and Craig Davis always says that “social adrenaline is the key to linguistic form,” (that is, people learn language to keep from looking stupid in front of other people), so perhaps the prospect of looking foolish in front of third graders will provide the goad that infrequent visits to Mboole do not.

I’m getting very good at greetings, though. And I can sometimes see other ways that I’m making progress, but it goes slowly.

Zambian English
When I first got here, I frequently had the experience I would be talking to someone, and both of us spoke English, but neither of us could understand the other. It happens much less frequently, and I’m aware that I’m acquiring a Zambian accent, at least while talking to Zambians. (Sometimes in mixed groups of Zambians and expats, the Dutch kids won’t understand something a Zambian says, I repeat it with slightly more explanation, but in my Zambian accent, so they still don’t get it until I say it again in an American accent.)
I don’t really know how much of it is British English and how much is particularly Zambian, although it is clearly a mixture. It’s not just the stuff I was warned about, like pants and napkins, or things that I knew if I thought about it, like zed instead of zee. It’s ‘grade three,’ ‘bath’ instead of ‘bathe,’ and ‘just a minute’ means ‘can you come here for a minute?’ and ‘feel free’ means ‘make yourself at home’ and ‘Sorry! Sorry!’ is not an apology but instead sympathy, a reaction as automatic as ‘bless you’ after a sneeze is at home. (I’ve learned to not say bless you — or gesundheit, which is worse — but I still feel like I ought to.) And even educated people will say he when they mean she, and the other way around. ‘Footing’ instead of ‘walking,’ ‘pick me’ or ‘drop me’ for ‘pick me up’ and ‘drop me off,’ and the answer to ‘How are you?’ is ‘I am fine.’ ‘She said no’ is more frequently ‘she is refusing me,’ although I think that applying this to inanimate objects, for example, ‘It is refusing me!’ when the remote is not working, is particular to Monica’s son Junior.

(He is SO CUTE. The other night he’d gotten ahold of a pair of black rain boots/gum boots/gumbos that fit him like waders and was clomping around in them before supper, but had to take them off to get into the chair to eat with us. After supper,
“Don’t put the gumbos on.”
“They like me!” As he climbs back into them.
Luckily his parents think that he’s as hilarious as I do, so it’s acceptable to laugh out loud at his antics and I’m not in danger of keeling over from an excess of smothered laughter.
It’s also very nice that Monica is a nurse and has enough education that if I comment on the sort of thing that frazzles my nerves around young children (“Are you bouncing around like that with masuku in your mouth?”) she is on him like that. (“Junior, spit it out so you don’t choke!”))

Mind you, what was very peculiar was the Learn Maths At Home! tv show that I caught the tail end of the other day, where the (implied Zambian) sample student had an accent exactly like Hermione Granger’s in the Harry Potter movies. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that the posh accent here is British, but it was weird. Zambians don’t talk like that, at least not the ones I know. And it made it even more difficult for me to believe that she was honestly asking questions from her heart about regression analysis and lines of best fit.

Water Conservation
I don’t know that I’m learning water conservation from Zambians, who don’t practice it, at least not the way all(?) American children are taught when they are small. We don’t pay for the water coming out of our tap (when so many taps are outdoor communal, it would be nearly impossible to set up a system), and I would guess that most of my neighbors grew up with bore holes that needed to be pumped by hand, not taps that keep running until you turn them off, so DON’T LEAVE THE WATER RUNNING is not necessarily the same instinctive reaction that it is for me (especially not with a slow tap and a big bucket, where it can take a very long time to fill up and people may wander off. Usually there’s someone around to see if it’s overflowing), and Zambia is not one of those places you were told about as a child where they bathe in half a cup of water. At the same time, I have yet to meet a Zambian with a washing machine (Zambian women wash impressive amounts of clothing to impressive states of whiteness in incredibly dirty water), have not seen a dishwashing machine in the entire country, and bucket bathing does use less water than showering, pit latrines use less water than flush toilets, and flush toilets don’t use that much water if there’s no water to flush them with.

I guess you could say that it’s the environment that’s teaching me water conservation. The rains have not improved the water situation – there hasn’t been running water in the house in over a month, and for most of that time we haven’t had running water out back, either. Possibly we haven’t gotten enough rain. It only rained one day last week, and not that much, either. There were a few days when none of the taps had running water at all for a couple of hours. But it did rain last night, and this morning there was water at the tap next to Zambezi House, which there hasn’t been in a long time. And when all the water has to be hauled from some distance away, one is naturally more careful with it.

I’ve started measuring dishwashing water by the mug-full: my personal record is one (fairly dirty) plastic container, one (fairly dirty) pan, a plate, utensils, and a cup washed and rinsed in half a mug of water (of course, then I used the other half trying to rinse out the scrubbing pad), although two dirty pans, two plates, a cup and assorted utensils in two and a half mugs of water is also pretty good.

I’ve become an avid graywater collector, because no way am I going to use some of our limited supply of clean water, fetched from some distance away, to make the toilet flush, but it really does get gross. I collect rainwater and now see it as a free gift from the sky. I’ve learned to skim the dead bugs off the top of my bathwater and be glad that it fell off of the roof and I didn’t have to carry it, same for water for washing clothes. Yesterday I got soaked, walking home in the rain, so that I would get home before it stopped raining to collect water to bath with. I can wash hair and self in the small blue basin (six liters? eight liters? I don’t really know).

To Carry Water
The first time I tried to carry a basin of water on my head, it splashed all over my skirt and the ground, and I found it very difficult. I used a smaller basin to water my garden, which I could lift easily, but still sometimes spilled while lifting onto or off of my head. Since we haven’t had water, I’ve been using a 20-liter bucket (which I can’t fill too full or I can’t manage it, but luckily there’s usually someone around at the house to help the foolish muguwa who doesn’t know how much water she can lift get it back off her head again, but I estimate that I can manage 15 or 17 liters without too much trouble) at least twice a week, and I was very pleased to discover, while fetching water in the blue basin, that it was not only manageable, but easy. I could probably handle the red basin I had so much trouble with the first time, too, but I haven’t tried. (I should note that this is not hands-free water carrying; I don’t have a suitable piece of chitenge cloth to make the pad that helps to balance a bucket or basin, and I’m certainly not skilled enough to try even the blue basin without, but the balance and muscles are similar, so by the time I go home, I ought to be able to co-opt my mother’s parlor trick of balancing a cup of water on her head.)

To Eat Nshima
I’ll admit that I never found eating nshima to be particularly difficult. I don’t mind eating with my hands, and I’ve done enough work with clay that ‘roll it into a ball with one hand and then flatten it with a thumb-imprint’ is not a particularly difficult instruction to follow, and the flavor is somewhere between cornmeal mush and cream of wheat, which is to say, entirely unobjectionable. I had been puzzled as to how most Zambians seem to wind up with less nshima-residue on their hands at the end of a meal, but I’ve learned that the trick is to not dry your hands after washing them, and then it sticks much less. Still somewhat, but less, and while the feeling is somewhat unpleasant, it’s not that difficult to wash off.

When I’d been here for perhaps a month, N, who is perhaps four or five, showed up outside my room one day and announced, “White people don’t eat nshima.”
“I eat nshima,” I told her. “And I’m white.”
She was not convinced, and we had variations on this discussion several times in the weeks that followed. I came to the conclusion that the only solution would be to eat nshima in front of her, if that, and more or less gave up.
Last week I went to the Christmas pageant put on by the MICS school (where I guess she’s in daycare, or kindergarten, or something to that effect), and I passed N and some of her classmates in the yard. She pointed me out to her peers, and then to the teacher.
“Teacher, Teacher! You know this one? She eats nshima!

Cooking nshima
Eating nshima is easy (though I don’t eat it like a Zambian; I can only manage one or perhaps one and a half lumps, whereas a Zambian might eat between four and seven). Cooking nshima, though, that’s hard. By the time I leave, I hope to have attained sufficient skill that I do not inspire every woman in sight with a desire to grab the stick out of my hand and stir it properly. I console myself with the thought that none of them know how to stir batter.


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Songs, Some in Tonga

If you are interested in neither music not language, you might want to skip this post.

“Making Melodies in my Heart”

I learned this one from the kids at the innovative school here in Macha. It reminds me of Father Abraham, but a little less lively:

Making melodies in my heart (x3)
To the king of kings!

Thumbs up!
(repeat verse with your thumbs up)

Thumbs up! Elbows out!
. . .
Thumbs up! Elbows out! Feet apart! Knees bent! Tongue out! Head tilted! . . . Sit down!

(We sang this one in orientation, but I don’t think I posted it. It’s accompanied by a rhythm of double-thumps against the chest and a clap. I think it would make a really cool round.)

Listen to the heartbeat all around the world,
Pulsing, flowing,
One body, one spirit.

“Luyando Leza Ndupati Maninge”
(More-or-less to the tune of the first verse of “Rock-a My Soul In The Bosom of Abraham”)

Luyando Leza ndupati maninge (x3)
Luyando ndupati

Luyando Jesu ndupati maninge (x3)
Luyando ndupati

Kushoma muli Jesu chibotu maninge (x3)
Kushoma chibotu

(Ndupati is pronounced ‘dupati,’ and on the last line, you elongate the ‘lu’ of luyando, and ndupati is three notes that fall in the same part of the line as ‘soul’ does in English. Kushoma is pronounced closer to ‘goo-shoma,’ and while you can hear the ‘li’ of muli if you know it’s there, I didn’t hear it until Maureen looked over the lyrics I’d written down. Also, chibotu is said ‘jibotu,’ like the ‘gee’ of gee whiz.)

The love of God is very wonderful . . . wonderful love
The love of Jesus is very wonderful . . . wonderful love
To trust in Jesus is very good . . . good to trust

(That’s very rough; I think the ndu part is something like an accusative ‘me,’ which would make -pati some kind of verb, I think. Tonga grammar, so far as I can tell, is mostly very simple, but I don’t understand it. It doesn’t help that it includes parts of speech that English hasn’t really had distinctions for during the past several hundred years, and I’m pretty certain that Maureen can’t talk about, for example, object pronouns — though if I ask if the first person in the verb is who’s doing it, and the second person who it’s done to, she has enough comprehension of the way the language works to confirm that I’m right.)

“Leta Maila” (Inyiimbo Zyabakristo #133, BRINGING IN THE SHEAVES)
This is a song that we sing a lot at Macha BICC. I’ve been curious what the words mean, because the tune is really nice (and I like the way we sing it better than any of the stuff I’m finding on youtube, which tends to be either insipid or march-y, whereas ours is just — joyful). While we were at Mboole, I sat down with Maureen and we translated it (ironically, this is how I missed digging up cassava with the others).

Kosyanga cifumo mbuto yaluzyalo,
Syanga isikati akumasuba;
Lindila ciindi cakutebula loko,
Akusega, tuyooleta maila.

Leta maila, leta maila,
Akuseka, tuyooleta maila;
Leta maila, leta maila,
Akuseka, tuyooleta maila.

Syanga musalala, syanga mumudima,
Utayoowi mayoba ma impeyo;
Twamana milimo, yoonse yamumuunda,
Akuseka, tuyooleta maila.

Mukulila ukamusyangile, Mwami,
Antela moyo ulakupengesya;
Twamana kulila uzootutambula,
Akuseka, tuyooleta maila.

Translation (literal, not poetic):
Plant, (in the) morning, seeds for mercy,
Plant (in the) afternoon, (in the) evening;
Wait (until) the time for havesting much,
With joy*, we shall bring in our maize**.

Bring the maize, bring the maize,
With joy, we shall bring in our maize.

Plant in the light, plant in the dark***,
You shall not fear clouds or cold;
We are finished work, our work for the fields,
With joy, we shall bring in our maize.

In crying, you plant for the Lord,
Though heart may be suffering;
(When) we are finished crying, you shall receive us,
With joy, we shall bring in our maize.

*or ‘smile,’ or ‘love’
**or ‘grain.’ Maureen says that maila is ‘big Tonga,’ that if I went to Mamba and asked for maila, I would be given cassava, that it’s a generic word for the staple grain. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a generic word for food, actually; if Zambians haven’t had nshima, they don’t feel like they’ve eaten.
***or ‘the good times, the bad times.’ As an interesting side note, mu-salala (‘in light’, I think) is very like the name of the Holy Spirit, ulya muuya usalala, (where I think u- is a third-person pronoun, although it might not be). You can also just say muuya.

And now for a familiar one (would you like phonetic spelling, too? I can write some up):
“Ndilakondwa” (Inyiimbo Zyabakristo #103, I AM SO GLAD)

Ndilakondwa nkaambo Leza wesu,
Waamba luyando lwakwe MwiBbuku;
Muzigambya zili mu-Malembe.
Cipata** ncakuti wandiyanda.

Ndakondwa kuti wandiyanda,
Wandiyanda, wandiyanda;
Ndakondwa kuti wandiyanda,
Wandiyanda, mebo.

Wandiyanda, ame ndamuyanda,
Nduyando lwakwamuleta kunsi;
Nduyando lwamucita amfwide,
Ndasinizya kuti wandiyanda.
(Bold for corrections to typos)

Ndabuzigwa inga ndilaambanzi?
Majwi ngenkonzya kuvuwa ngaaya;
Muuya wa-Leza ulaandyambila
Kuti Jesu lyoonse wandiyanda.

I am rejoicing* because of my God,
He talks (of) his love in the Book;
Surprise which is in the Scriptures.
That big thing** that he loves me.

I am rejoicing that he loves me,
I am rejoicing, I am rejoicing;
I am rejoicing that he loves me,
He love me, me.

He loves me, and I love him,
His love of me brought him down;
His love of me caused*** him to die,
I’m truly convinced that he loves me.

I am being asked, what shall I say?¥
Words that I am able to answer here;
Spirit of God, you continue to tell me¥¥
That Jesus always loves me.

*It’s possible that ‘glad’ is in fact a better translation, but I think this is an active verb.
**For those of you playing along at home, I’m pretty sure this word is related to ndupati in “Luyando Leza Ndupati Maninge.” Ci- is a noun declension/adjective agreement/thing relating to luyando, love.
***lit, ‘to do.’
¥We spent a lot of time on this line, and I STILL don’t have any idea what the heck inga means, if it means anything. But I can break down ndi-la-amba-nzi: I-(progressive/future tag)-say-what.
¥¥Similarly, u-la-(a)-nd(y)-ambi-(la), You-(progressive)-(?)-to me-say-(?).

And to save you a google, here are the English lyrics, courtesy of this site.
I am so glad that our Father in Heav’n
Tells of His love in the Book He has giv’n;
Wonderful things in the Bible I see,
This is the dearest, that Jesus loves me.

I am so glad that Jesus loves me,
Jesus loves me, Jesus loves me;
I am so glad that Jesus loves me,
Jesus loves even me.

Jesus loves me, and I know I love Him;
Love brought Him down my poor soul to redeem;
Yes, it was love made Him die on the tree;
Oh, I am certain that Jesus loves me!

If one should ask of me, how can I tell?
Glory to Jesus, I know very well!
God’s Holy Spirit with mine doth agree,
Constantly witnessing Jesus loves me.

A few weeks ago we sang “There’s no one, no one like Jesus” at Macha BICC, and I resolved to track down the Tonga words. (Have I mentioned that WordPress gives me information on who searched what and found my blog, and because I like data, I look at it sometimes? My post with the words to this one in English and Ndebele has drawn six different people looking for the words to that song in other languages, which is pretty impressive considering that my next runners-up on google hits are people looking for this blog and people searching “Lusaka,” each of which has three hits. Probably the people looking for lyrics and the people looking for me are more satisfied than the Lusaka people, but one can’t please everyone.) We sang it again last week, and Beatrice, one of my coworkers, does music-stuff at church, so I asked her if she could write down the words for me, so here they are. She also told me that the first stanza is Bemba (one of the other main languages spoken in Zambia), and then the second and third stanzas are Tonga, and then you can sing English if you want to.

Takwaba uwabanga yeesu.
Takwaba uwabanga yee.
Takwaba uwabanga yeesu.
Takwaba uwabanga yee.

Ndayenda yenda koonse, koonse.
Ndalanga langa koonse, koonse.
Ndazinguluka koonse, koonse.
Takwaba uwabanga yee.

Kunyina uyelene a Jesu.
Kuyina uyelene a wee.
Kunyina uyelene a Jesu.
Kuyina uyelene a wee.

Translation is pretty much the same as the English.


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White Girl Speaking Tonga

(Musimbi mukuwa ulawamba ci Tonga.)

We’re told that we should expect to be laughed at when we try to speak in Tonga, and that this laughter isn’t laughter per se, but rather pleasure that we’re trying to speak the language.

This time, I’m not sure about.
On Thursday, our recent heat wave finally broke slightly, so I walked to the market to get milk and bananas. There were no bananas, but I was successful in the acquisition of milk, which is what I’d really wanted, so I was pleased as I walked slowly home through the bright sunlight. Because the innovative school sends children home for lunch later than my work does, I was in time to encounter children walking home for lunch as I returned.

A short distance from my house, there was a group of about ten or fifteen children horsing around. One boy stood apart from the rest, a sort of sentry, as it were, because as I came within earshot I heard the cry trailing along through the group: “Muguwa, muguwa!” (white person), although there was no obvious reaction to my approach beyond a gradual shift from playing to walking along the path towards me in a sort of drifted clump.

As is my custom, I greeted them in Tonga as as I passed:
Mwalibiyze.” (Afternoon, and pronounced ‘mwa-lee-bee-hey.’)
Ee, mwalibiyze.” (Yes, afternoon.)

Ee, mwalibiyze boti?” (Yes, how is your afternoon?)
Kabotu. Mwalibiyze boti?” (Good. . . .)

There was some laughter, and the next child along the road greeted me:
Komuli.” (You are there.)
Kotuli.” (We are here.)

I had a certain sense that I was being put through my paces, and it was only confirmed as the next child produced yet another greeting:
Muli bayumu?” (You are fine?) Although I didn’t recall the meaning at the time, I knew that the response was an emphatic:

There was only one child left in front of me, a small child trailing along behind the others, on a path at a different angle to mine. As he approached, he called out, “Kamwamba!” (Talk/tell how you are!)
Kabotu!” (Good!)

The laughter rang out behind me as I walked the last 1/5 k to my house, but that was all right; I knew that I had passed with flying colors.


Other noteworthy features of this walk included two new uses of a chitenge: #9, backpack; and #10, makeshift bicycle basket. (Use #8 is to screen one’s head and arms from the sun while walking home from church (because of course you wore a chitenge to church like a decent woman, only it was really hot over the other skirt, so next time you’ll probably be indecent and not wear another skirt under it, even if it means that you go without pockets), in the style that I think of as Madonna Iconography).

Use #9 of a Chitenge.  This is one of the President Rupiah Banda MMD chitenges, that they gave out free in the lead-up to the election.  Alison says that they were all burned in Lusaka and that even wearing an MMD shirt can get you beaten up in the wrong part of town, but I still see the chitenges around here.  You can just see part of MMD over her shoulder, and the only distinct word in the big circle is an inside-out 'PROMISE,' around a picture of RB.  The little circle on the bottom is clock with the words 'THE TIME HAS COME -- MMD' around the outside, not that you can see that.  Note the skirt: Use #1 of a chitenge.

Use #9 of a Chitenge. This is one of the President Rupiah Banda MMD chitenges, that they gave out free in the lead-up to the election. Alison says that they were all burned in Lusaka and that even wearing an MMD shirt can get you beaten up in the wrong part of town, but I still see the chitenges around here. You can just see part of MMD over her shoulder, and the only distinct word in the big circle is an inside-out 'PROMISE,' around a picture of RB. The little circle on the bottom is clock with the words 'THE TIME HAS COME -- MMD' around the outside, not that you can see that. Note the skirt: Use #1 of a chitenge.


This isn’t about Zambia, but I’m here and I made it and I’m very proud of it, so I’m going to show it off.

Laminaria shawl

Laminaria shawl

You can also see my new teeth. For the curious, here’s the damage when I broke them a month ago. (There is some blood and broken teeth. It’s not too bad, but if I look less than entirely happy, it’s because I’d just broken my teeth.) This is actually the first look I got, seeing the picture on Kathy’s camera, because if anyone had a mirror with them, they didn’t offer it to me.

(Update on the teeth situation: I ate banana bread with my teeth Thursday night. They were somewhat tender, and after a piece or two, I decided that it was easier to keep breaking the banana bread and putting small pieces into my mouth.)


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Mboole picture post

Jacaranda Tree.  This was actually in Choma, but I'm including it because they're purple and gorgeous and I've been trying to take pictures of them since I got here.

Jacaranda Tree. This was actually in Choma, but I'm including it because they're purple and gorgeous and I've been trying to take pictures of them since I got here.

There’s an allée of Jacaranda trees leading up to Choma hospital. The effect is not quite like a formal garden, since the road curves, as do the trunks of the trees, but I’m sure that it must be GORGEOUS at its peak. They’re a little bit past, now.

Mboole was certainly a Rural Experience. I’d never seen a borehole before, for one. I was very pleased to discover that a good pit latrine is actually nicer than a so-so toilet-with-no-seat (Perhaps it’s not fair to compare a latrine used by one family to the toilets at the bus stations, but I’m doing so anyway. Aside from the cleanliness aspect, as Alison and I discussed at length, it’s much easier to really squat than to do the chair-sit-without-a-wall move that’s required for toilets without seats. I shouldn’t complain, though. Alison shares her toilet with fifteen other people, several of them small children). Maureen’s kitchen has no water (running water. There is a big bucket by the door), no way to heat things up, and no way to keep things cold, which are three elements fairly integral to my concept of a kitchen. In hot season, she does most of her cooking outside. Considering how hot it gets here (I found a thermometer. We hit 40 yesterday), that makes a lot of sense. There is a little three-sides-and-a-roof shelter where you can cook out of the sun. We always cooked supper in the dark, too, or with a flashlight.

Chire chopping greens.

Chire chopping greens.

That’s the shelter, not that you can really see it in this picture. In other things you can’t really see in this picture, Chire is using the best knife, which is a rectangle of metal sharpened on one side. I’ve discovered that it’s much easier to slice greens thin if you roll them, but I still need a cutting board.

Saturday afternoon, after things cooled down a little bit, we looped through the neighborhood to practice our Tonga a bit.



The Mboole area is really gorgeous.

We visited a compound with a number of small houses and two big thatched huts in the middle. There were a number of women in the cooking hut, but we, as visitors, sat at the man-hut and chatted a bit. I felt distinctly awkward, visiting with just the husband while all the women worked. Maureen pointed out that we could tell this was a polygamous family because there was a house for each of the three wives. “Polygamy maninge,” (“A lot of polygamy,”) she commented as we left. I think I’m still wrapping my head around this. I knew before I came that there was polygamy here, but knowing and encountering in a daily context are two different things.

Tambagale!  Or something like that.

Tambagale! Or something like that.

(Just to clarify, this is a woman and her sister-in-law.) At the next place, Maureen and I and these two women played something with a name like Tambagale, which reminded me of Eeny Meeny Miney Moe with knee-tickling, only it wasn’t to chose a person to do something; the last person with a leg in was the winner, end of story.

A lot like Kansas

A lot like Kansas

It was somewhere right around here that we discussed the similarities of this landscape to Kansas (Alison is from Kansas).



The next place we visited, we were invited to visit the garden, which I found very interesting. This is maize towards the front, and in the back there’s tomatoes and sweet potatoes and I forget what else. I asked, and the man said that this garden would produce 11 or 12 90-kg sacks of maize.

We were also introduced to the toothbrush tree.

We were also introduced to the toothbrush tree.

Maureen demonstrating proper technique.

Maureen demonstrating proper technique.

I was somewhat disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to try it myself — until I realized that it involved front-tooth biting. I could probably have managed with my fingernails, but it would’ve required explanations.

After you peeled one end, you chewed on it for a while until it became frayed and brushy.

Alison really liked her toothbrush.

Alison really liked her toothbrush.

Eventually we progressed to visiting the house.

We were introduced to samp, boiled maize. I rather liked it; it was a bit like chewy popcorn.

Toddlers and cell phones apparently have universal appeal.

Toddlers and cell phones apparently have universal appeal.

I’m not sure that these houses are even accessible by car. Mind you, I wouldn’t have said that Maureen’s house is accessible by car if I hadn’t arrived in one, so what do I know?

I do have a rather marvelous one of Alison making a face at me as she shows the picture she just took to the family, but I figure she deserves at least one normal-looking picture.  Maureen, Chris, Alison.

I do have a rather marvelous one of Alison making a face at me as she shows the picture she just took to the family, but I figure she deserves at least one normal-looking picture. Maureen, Chris, Alison.

Have I mentioned that Mboole is really a gorgeous place?

Have I mentioned that Mboole is really a gorgeous place?

Well, it is.

Well, it is.

I've been trying to capture the color of Zambian sunsets since I got here.

I've been trying to capture the color of Zambian sunsets since I got here.

And I think, with these two pictures, that I've finally managed it.

And I think, with these two pictures, that I've finally managed it.

In the evening, as we were cooking supergate (‘soup-a-get-i,’ a traditional American dish introduced to Maureen’s family by the fellow they hosted last year) by the back steps over charcoal braziers, I happened to glance up at the sky, which was lit with an eerie orange glow.
“Oh my goodness,” I said. “What is that?” (Or maybe Chris said that; I don’t remember. We were both staring at it.)
“I think it’s a fire.”
Bush fires are pretty common here, especially this time of year, because burning the old growth encourages new greenery, which the cows like, and it fattens them up just in time for plowing, which will happen in the next month or so, just as the rains start. (Burning is a very controversial practice. Some of my books said that it was terrible and unsustainable, and some said that it’s a good traditional method, and perfectly feasible as long as the land is managed properly. I’m inclined to think that it’s less practical as the population becomes more sedentary, unless there’s a lot more effort put into soil renewal.)
“Shall we go look?”
The water wasn’t boiling yet, so we grabbed flashlights and trooped off in the direction of the Basic School (elementary), bare feet and all.

It was indeed a fire, flames clear against the darkness, and trees black silhouettes in the foreground.  Luckily I had my camera in my pocket, and there was a convenient wall to lean against while I took long-exposure pictures.

It was indeed a fire, flames clear against the darkness, and trees black silouettes in the foreground. Luckily I had my camera in my pocket, and there was a convenient wall to lean against while I took long-exposure pictures.

After watching for a while, we made our way gingerly back to the house, where we successfully cooked our two kgs of supergate.

The next morning I was lying awake in the room that I shared with Alison when I noticed a striking red light against one wall, almost a reverse-shadow. I puzzled over it for a moment before realizing that it was sunlight. I scrambled out of bed to look out the window, where the sun was a huge orange globe just above the horizon. Alison’s eyes were shut, but she’d been moving around a few moments before, so I said softly (because any noise we made could be heard clearly in the two rooms next to us, and slightly-less-clearly in the living room on the other side of the door, which was full of sleeping children (though I think those kids could sleep through anything. They would fall asleep on the couch with lights or candles on, while everyone was still talking)), “If you’re awake enough to get up to see the sun rise, you might want to.”
She scrambled up and peered out the window. (She hadn’t seen sunsets before this trip, either; there are too many buildings in the way, and she’s almost always inside by dark.) “Wow. Do you want to go outside to look at it?”
If anything, the sunrise was even more glorious than it had been on Friday. I really need to get up to see more of them. (And now we’re starting to have clouds sometimes, which makes them even more spectacular.) After watching the sunrise for a while, we walked over to see if there was still any fire where the bushfire had been the night before (there wasn’t any that I could see, just blackened stubble).

When we came back, I got to watch Chire light a fire of corncobs to heat the bathwater (Zambians bath every day, I think, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to stand too close to them. I do have to say that bucket-bathing is a lot easier when you’re not trying to keep the water confined to the bucket (But not necessarily enough easier that I’m going to start taking my bucket-baths in the dark, mosquito-infested shower room rather than my room. A shower is worth it, if there’s water pressure and it’s late enough in the day that the water isn’t frigid, but there are definite conveniences to bucket-baths in my room)), and then we helped Maureen bake a cake. She doesn’t use a recipe, just tosses stuff in until it looks right. The sieve is a square of wood with mesh on it (imagine those frames used for papermaking), which you hold on opposite corners and bounce back and forth between your hands (and believe me, it’s hard, even if Maureen makes it look easy. That was our pasta strainer, too). She does have an ‘oven,’ that consists of a metal box on sticks that you can put charcoal on top and underneath of, but we didn’t use it: she just piled charcoal on top of her pan and put it on the brazier.

Preparing the cake.  The picture is a bit dark, but she's spooning coals from the brazier (bottom left) to the pan lid (not-quite-so-bottom-left).

Preparing the cake. The picture is a bit dark, but she's spooning coals from the brazier (bottom left) to the pan lid (not-quite-so-bottom-left).

Have I mentioned that she doesn’t use hotpads, either? She just picks lids up off of heated pans by their metal handles. She does make a concession to the heat for the brazier with the shorter handle, which she picks up with a stick, and when she checked the cake, she picked the lid covered in hot coals up with the blade of a knife.

It was a gorgeous cake. Not at all burnt, came right out of the pan, tasted excellent . . . I have had many cakes made in ovens that were not nearly so nice.

Matt and Alison left before church, Alison because she wanted to get back to Lusaka before dark, and Matt because he’d agreed to help kill and prep 200 chickens for the biology exam the next day (I’ll see him tomorrow. I should ask how that went). Maureen’s husband drove them to the station (that is, where the dust road meets the paved road, and they could catch transport to Batoka), and Maureen, Chris, and I walked to church.

I think the service would have been entirely in Tonga had we not been there. As it was, they translated the sermon, and read the bible passage in both Tonga and English, which was nice, but left us fumbling a bit for the rest of the service. (Was ‘visitors’ banzu or banzi? And inyiimbo is song . . . oh, they want us to sing!)
We stood up and introduced ourselves in Tonga:
“Ndamwaniya muzina lya Jesu Christo. Mebo ndime Miriam. Ndi kala ku Maja. Ndibeleka ama computer.”
(“Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ. Me, I am called Miriam. I stay at Macha. I work with computers.”)
We were not laughed at, which we had been warned would happen (everyone stresses that we should try to learn Tonga, and that when people laugh as us, it’s not making-fun-of laughter, they’re just surprised and pleased that we’re speaking Tonga at all), and I got an “Amen” for the “Greetings” sentence, and Maureen told us later that everyone was commenting on how we’d been here such a short time and were already speaking such good Tonga (Yeah, I can manage the sentences whose form I have memorized (I don’t actually have the sentences memorized, but I know what words need to be in them, and I know the words. It’s a bit weird), but applying them in conversation is much harder. It usually takes me a good three seconds to parse a question someone asks me, even if I’ve learned it, and unless the person is specifically trying to help me learn Tonga, they’ve probably repeated it in English by that point), so I think they liked it. And then we stood up front and sang (with Maureen and her husband): “Father, I Adore You” and “Luyendo Leza Dupati Maninge” (God’s love is very wonderful), which they’d taught us the day before. (I have another songs post coming on one of these days, and I’ll give you the words and music then.) The sermon was preached by a woman, which I haven’t seen here before.

The other thing that struck me about that church is how young the congregation was. While there wasn’t a total dearth of old people, as I’m told happens some places, half of the church was filled with school-aged children (and many of the highschoolers are elsewhere at boarding schools). And I’m not counting the babies on laps.

After church we did the handshake line, which I’m coming to think of as typical in Zambian churches (though we don’t do it at Macha BICC; there are just too many people), and stood around awkwardly for a bit. Maureen showed us the new church they’re building (Have I mentioned how small the church was? You could probably fit the whole building three times over into the Germantown Mennonite sanctuary, and still have plenty of room left to walk around.) and described the difficulties they’re having paying for cement. (They make the bricks themselves, but cement costs 50,000 Kw a bag, and they have to buy it.) Then we hung around a bit more and admired the guinea fowl (We had guinea fowl eggs in the cake, and have I mentioned that I had quail eggs at Kathy and Eric’s?), and eventually it transpired that there would be no ibwatu (a cornmeal-based drink. If it’s sweetened, it’s not bad, but the texture is a bit disconcerting) forthcoming, for which the pastor apologized profusely, and we promised to come back later and be fed ibwatu.

We spent the afternoon hanging out, and then Chris and the kids dug cassava and we cooked it (cassava is pretty good. Taste similar to potato, but a bit more interesting, and more textured. We ate it plain and I didn’t find it boring), and Chris biked home before it got dark, because he needed to teach in the morning. (This was actually really cute, because the youngest boy didn’t want him to leave, and kept insisting that he shouldn’t go back to Sikalongo, he should stay with them.) After he left, it occurred to me that I was almost certainly the only white person within a radius of seven kilometers, which I don’t think is something that’s ever been true before in my life (except possibly for a few points in transit on the minibus, maybe).

In the morning, they drove me to the ‘station,’ where they secured passage for me in the cab of a truck going to Choma. I think it was a passenger-truck, but I’m very glad I was in the cab, because I don’t think I would’ve been capable of clambering up the wheel, up a couple of metal rungs, and into the bed of the truck. After we’d been onto the road a bit, it occurred to me that I could not imagine a situation in America in which I (or my escort) would flag down a passing truck, and I would climb into the front with three strange men, and feel completely safe. (Well, as safe as anyone feels with an un-vetted driver in a vehicle on any road in Zambia, which is actually quite a far cry from ‘completely safe,’ but it’s incredible how quickly one suspends normal standards and expectations of safety.) I can’t say that I was completely comfortable, especially not the buttock that had slid off of the pad and was slowly roasting against the I-don’t-even-know-what (although that got better after I pulled out my chitenge for Use #7 Of A (Cotton) Chitenge: Rear End Insulation (The first six uses are: #1, Wrap Skirt; #2, Baby Carrier; #3, Bathrobe; #4, To Hold A Parcel Together; #5, Hotpad, #6 To Tie Down A Goat)). But I was quite confident that any danger that befell would happen to the entire truck as an entity, and not to me, personally. And we did indeed reach Choma just fine, where I hung out with Ron and Erma again, who loaded me down with avocados and lemons, and I caught a ride back to Macha with the pilot and his family.


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Further travels

Last weekend we went to what I’m trying really hard to not think of as ‘Tonga Cultural Camp.’ It’s not camp, because that’s Maureen’s life, but it sure felt like it. The other three SALT kids and I got together (Alison, in Lusaka, is learning (chi)Nyanja, not (chi)Tonga, but it seemed like she was getting left out when the rest of us were getting together for a break and cultural experiences, and she was stuck by herself in the city, so they billed it as a rural experience, which it certainly was (This was the first time she’d managed to get out of the city. While I don’t really appreciate the 14 kilometers of unpaved road that separates me from the rest of the world, I’m very thankful that I’ve had a chance to get out and see the country on my assignment).) and went to Mboole, where we stayed with Maureen and her family (husband, six(?) kids ranging from 3 or 4 years old to at least college-age, and a niece). It was a break from our normal lives here, and we just hung out and had cooking lessons and Tonga lessons and went visiting to practice our Tonga and were instructed in this-is-how-you-live-life-in-a-village, and didn’t really do any work aside from studying, hauling water, and helping with cooking and cleanup (And even that we didn’t really do our fair share of; kids here do a lot more work than kids at home. Though I have to hand it to Maureen that the guys did just as much of the housewife stuff as Alison and I. I’m not sure if this is the person she is, or because she had a (guy) SALTer staying with her last year).

I think that Mboole is closer to a paved road than Macha, but it is MUCH more rural. It’s seven or eight kilometers from Sikalongo, where Chris is, and he says that it’s even more rural than Sikalongo. This is not surprising, since there’s a BIC-run seminary in Sikalongo, and Macha has the hospital and the malaria research center and Machaworks (which is to say, a lot of Western influence, and a lot of foreigners in and out all the time). Mboole is off the grid (Maureen and her husband do have solar panels, but they have only limited usefulness right now because the battery needs some sort of maintenance. I saw solar panels on one of the neighboring houses, too.) and all the water is fetched from a borehole (hand pump) about 3/4 of a block (not that there are blocks to measure by) away.

So. My adventure began Thursday evening, when I called the minibus to take me to town the next morning.
“Hello. I would like to go to Choma tomorrow. I stay at Ubuntu. Will you come and pick me?”
(I have to say that it’s really nice that the minibuses come and pick you up. Last time they picked me up at seven, so I didn’t need to leave the house at five-thirty to be at the market at six.)
“I am not going to Choma tomorrow. I have had a blakedown.”
“Er — Is someone else going?”
“I am not going. I am sorry.”
“Yes. Is Someone Else Driving To Choma Tomorrow?”
Silence. “I don’t know. I will ask my friends.”
“Thank you.”
Rustling noises for a bit, and then the line went dead with no further response. Just as well, really, because it was eating my talktime.

So I went to plan B: show up at the market and hope someone was going to Choma. I asked Claire how early I should get there, and she assured me that six was early enough to get a truck, and that I didn’t need to be there at five-thirty.

And so I saw my first Zambian sunrise. The sunsets here are always marvelous, and I am pleased to report that the sunrises are just as nice. I may need to shift my schedule in order to see them on a more regular basis. (Also, it’s not hot at 5:45 am, and there’s always running water and mostly-always electricity.) I arrived at the market and encountered a minibus that seemed almost to be waiting for me. It transpired that they were in fact waiting for Koen’s parents, who had been visiting and were going to see Livingstone (Victoria Falls), but one mugoa is much like another, and what’s a difference of thirty or forty years? The bus driver was pretty sure that there ought to be two of me, though. I got to pick my own seat, which meant that I could sit in the front and have enough leg room/be slightly less squished, and this trip I packed in such a way that I was comfortable handing my backpack and extra bag to be tied to the top of the vehicle, and so just had containers of shoofly pie on my lap, rather than everything I owned). After waiting for a bit, we wandered over to Ubuntu and picked up Koen’s parents, and then swung by the market to get more people, and we were off.

I’ve become quite blasé, one might even say sanguine, about Zambian roads. I realized, as we raced along the narrow verge of almost-flat orange-y gravel between the ditch at the side of the road and the lumpy gully towards the middle, that two months ago I would’ve found it quite terrifying to be racing along a road of this quality at such speeds. On Friday, I merely glanced over at the speedometer to figure out how fast we were actually going. The speedometer was broken. Oh, I thought, how very Zambian.

We got to Choma about eight, before the grocery store was even open (though they seemed to be opening it when I came by later at twelve-ish, so I’m not sure what’s up with that. I’m pretty sure it’s been open in the mornings before), so I showed Koen’s parents to the bus stop, successfully retrieved the package that I didn’t manage to get two weeks ago, and trekked out to Nahumba, BIC Church headquarters in Zambia, and spent a very pleasant few hours with Ron and Erma (she fed me strawberries! And gave me three ripe avocados to take to Mboole (they have a tree. I still cannot get over the fact that avocados just grow on trees here in Zambia. Though there don’t seem to be that many trees, and finding avocados can be a bit hit-or-miss).

On my way back to town, I fell in with a fellow who offered to take some of my bags, which I tried to refuse as politely as I could (It’s not that I didn’t trust him. But they weren’t that heavy, and they were layered in such a complex way that it was much more work to extract any of them than to just keep carrying them), and had a very interesting conversation that ranged from the stages of Revelation to immigration policies of the US and Zambia to interracial marriage.
(“In America, can a black man marry a white man?”
This question threw me momentarily, but I eventually concluded that we were using ‘man’ in the ‘kind of person’ sense, or perhaps just having gendered noun confusion (I don’t know how many times I’ve heard ‘he’ for ‘she’ and vice versa), and talking about race relations, not homosexuality. “Er, yeah, a black man can marry a white woman. Or the other way around.”
“And in Zambia, can a black man marry a white man?”
“Um, yes? I know some people who have.” (This is stretching it; I know of such couples here, but haven’t actually met any of them, that I recall.)
“They shouldn’t do that. It is wrong.”
“The Bible forbids it.”
“You tell me where in the Bible it says that.”
Silence. “It is because black men are troublesome.”
“Is that all? I know plenty of troublesome white people.”
“You are saying that all people are troublesome?”
“Well, if you know that, it’s okay.” Pause. “But YOU shouldn’t do that; it’s wrong.”)

I got to town and acquired groceries for the group (and have to say that the vegable and meat samosas they sell in the grocery store are pretty yummy. But samosas are a lot harder to eat if you’re not biting with your front teeth), and then hauled my then-very-heavy bags to the Book Room, where we had been told that we could get a truck that would drop us off at Mboole. There wasn’t any sign of a truck, but since Matt and Alison hadn’t gotten there yet, either, I figured that was just as well. I did encounter Moses sitting on one of the benches in front of the book room. Presently Alison showed up, and then Matt, but there was still no sign of transport. Eventually one of the people we’d been sitting with (who’d heard my discussion with Moses) came by to inform us that there wasn’t any ride to Mboole forthcoming. Well. We were investigating options for getting to Batoka (the turnoff to Mboole) when then same person came back with one of the teachers at the Mboole school, who would give us a ride. At sixteen hours, was that okay? Since we weren’t sure how else we were getting to Mboole, we said that sounded fine.

There were no breakdowns, and we got to Maureen’s house just as it was getting dark. We’d missed the killing and plucking of the chicken, but Maureen had been holding off on disemboweling it until we got there.

More later, after I get the pictures off of my camera.


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