Growing up, we all had family we knew would always be there for us and that, for whatever we needed, we could depend on them. Our families would always have the fridge full and pantries stocked, with a meal ready to go on the table. We realize how hard working our families are and the value of their contributions to our success. Now, more than ever, we appreciate all that we have and what it took to get us here. As a group we all knew that in Canada we would grow up and be able to get a good job, get married, have kids, and retire somewhere nice in our 60's. These weren't pipe dreams, and we realize now how lucky and privileged we have been living in Canada.
As Makuwa (white person) here in Mongu, our group stands out wherever we go. People approach us, take our picture, whistle, and call out "Makuwa" as we pass. As Canadians, we have grown up with such privileges and here in Zambia it became clear quite quickly that nothing could have prepared us for this trip, encompassing all of the things that we will see and experience.
The grace with which the Zambian people take painful strides through hardship is astonishing. We have yet to meet an unhappy individual here, everyone is welcoming, generous, gracious, and beautiful. Community is of such value in the small town of Mongu and Zambian culture. Children are not afraid of us and greet us with many smiles and laughter all while their mothers sit back. Families here have to pull together and work through challenges as a community. The children share what they have and take turns carrying younger children, and anything they have to take back home or to school each day. We have had time to play with them the past few days, and have enjoyed the privilege of their time and company. These children are no different than the ones back home, they are smart, funny, energetic, creative, and caring. One can admire a rose for its beauty, but one must also admire it for the conditions it had to face to blossom and flourish. That is something we are now beginning to appreciate here in Zambia.
We have met girls who are raising their sisters, their children, and children within their community. Yesterday, we met a beautiful 15 year old girl who has 2 children at home. My younger sister (Jackie's) is that age and I can't begin to imagine her in that life. It truly awoke me from my blissful ignorance. My mom (Jasmine's) had me at 15 and has been an amazing mom who had supports, but I could not imagine having a child at 15 in Mongu with little resources and the potential of no parental figures to help raise the child.
For many Zambians, our Canadian dreams of retirement would not be fulfilled. Within Zambia many individuals do not live to see their 40's, a milestone as a child we thought with no doubt that we could and would attain. We also met a man at the phone shop in Lusaka who had his first child at 13. With all 4 of us being in our early 20's, the thought of children is a future milestone- one we wish to attain with a loving partner and a stable financial situation at some point down the line. Within Canada, many of the individuals we have encountered in Zambia thus far would lie outside of the societal norm. However, within Zambia, this is the reality many face and live through each day.
We hope that through these blogs you will see another side of Africa; the Africa we are seeing and experiencing within the context of our Zambian community. Be thankful each and every day for what and who you have in your lives. We are all starting to realize just how important that is!
And finally, we are happy to report we are safe and sound in Liseli Lodge, Mongu! Lots of exciting things coming up. We have a tour of the hospital this morning and the start of clinical on tomorrow! We will all be rotating around different placements, so more stories to come!
To our family & friends, we love and miss you all.
- Rayane, Jasmine, Rachel, & Jackie