Monday, March 8, 2010

My Zambian Experience So Far....

Well, where do I start? I know I cannot possible put into words how amazing and life-changing this trip has been for me but I feel inspired and in a sense obligated to share my story with all of our friends and family members who have been travelling with us on this journey.

I have to be honest; when I first arrived in Mongu (our current home) I was overwhelmed and completely terrified! I was raised in a small town and have barely experienced ‘city life’. Up until this trip my idea of travelling was an all-inclusive trip to Mexico! So, an adventure into the heart and soul of Southern Africa was quite an adjustment. I would compare the experience as something like spending five hours in a hot sauna and then proceeding to do a polar bear dip into the Arctic Ocean... hint- it’s a bit of a shock! However, after spending five weeks in Zambia I can honestly say I do not know how I will be able to leave this place. The things that initially terrified me, I have now grown to love.
Some things I love about Africa:

I have met some of the most generous, caring, thoughtful, compassionate, and friendly people in the Western Province of Zambia. I have cultivated relationships that I will cherish forever. Every day I am warmly greeted with bright smiles and cheerful expressions. I had no idea how extensively the people of Mongu have valued our presence here! Everyone shows such respect and appreciation towards us – it is an extremely humbling feeling.

The landscape is incomparable to anything I have ever seen. We live right near beautiful and vast floodplains and the sunsets that highlight the plains can truly take your breath away. A medley of oranges, yellows, pinks and blues canvas the endless sky. For all those astronomers out there – come to Africa if you want to see how amazing the night sky can be. I had no idea so many stars existed! The Milky Way and Orion’s Belt are so profound, once again words cannot describe.
Song and dance are as essential to Zambian life as air and water. Both are integrated into a child’s life from a very young age. It is no wonder it seems as though every person here has an innate ability to sing and dance brilliantly. I used to think I had some pretty good moves on the dance floor... I now realize that my so-called talent pales in comparison to the people of Zambia. My friends have suffered as they have watched me try and groove with the locals. For the first little while, I thought I was doing a pretty good job- until I realized that the pointing and laughing usually started when I hit the dance floor!

Zambian artwork is another part of the culture that I have grown to love and appreciate. It’s easy to overlook a simple basket made out of straw. However, if you look closely you will see how intricate the details of a hand-woven basket can be. I imagine it takes not only an enormous amount of patience but also an ability to navigate the finest muscles of the hand to be able to craft such a simple yet beautiful piece of artistry. I also greatly enjoy the African paintings... maybe a little too much as they have certainly done a number on my bank account! Artists use radiant colour schemes which perfectly capture the Zambian culture (especially the landscapes!). I am so eager to share the artwork I have found with my friends and family back home.

A Final Note

Although Zambia has so many issues like poverty, widespread disease and other detrimental determinants of health... I can only think of it in a positive light. I have seen some of the most horrible things here, yet these things have not impacted my overall love and affection for Africa. It will always have a special place in my heart. I wish so badly my family and friends could be here to experience what I have had the privilege of experiencing. I will be forever grateful to those who made it possible for me to come here. Zambia has taught me so many things in just a few short weeks. Undoubtedly, the experience has changed me for the better and I will never forget it!



  1. Hey hey hey Jamie!!!! I am so proud of you!!! and all the other angels in your group. Reading all the posts brings tears to my heart, both is sadness and joy. I am so happy for you that you got to experience every thing African! How wonderful that with all the poverty and disease that there are still smiles, music, art ,sunsets and skies with stars, I wish we were there to share every emotion and of course to see you dance. I hope that between you both and your adventures this brings you and Mark closer than ever, look forward to sharing in your stories, love and happiness always,
    Laurie :)

  2. Hello,

    We are working on developing a website for UBC that provides prospective students and their parents information on what it would be like to study at UBC Okanagan and live in British Columbia. We came across your posting here on your blog and really liked how it presented a personal experience. These are the sort of things that we think future students would be interesting in hearing, and from the person who wrote it.

    This entry in particular caught our eye...

    We would like to bring your story into this new site and wanted to have your permission first. The story and images (if have any to accompany it, none appear to posted specifically to this posting) will remain as edited. All we need is your email confirmation saying that we have permission to bring the content and any pictures of this post into our website. Of course, your name will be on the article as its author.

    If you can let us know in the next 48 hours, we would really appreciate it. Also, if you have pictures, hi-resolution versions would be fantastic if you could send them over to me.


    Jamie Bennett