Enjoying the Land of Chipolopolo

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By Florence Gichoya

Such is the euphoria in Zambia that for the time I have been in the country I have experienced immense excitement and positivity and I wonder if it has always been like this. There was never a better time to be in Zambia than now. Why? You may ask; a new government came to power last year after a landslide victory, and with it came a new dawn for change. In February this year, the winning of the Africa Cup of Nations by Zambian’s national team – Chipolopolo was an icing of the cake.  There is a high spirit of patriotism and pride among the Zambian people.

When African Cup of Nations – 2012 kicked off in Equatorial Guinea in January, most football analysts thought that Zambia had no chance of winning the Cup. They favored other participating countries like Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Senegal.  However, the Chipolopolo boys surprised the critics by winning the trophy to the joy of their fans and all Zambians. They are indeed the champions of Africa.

Zambia traditional dance troupe perform in front of the AFCON trophy

The victory of Chipolopolo which means bullets in Bemba language has brought a lot of business opportunities. Musicians are cashing in and I have lost count of the number of new songs that are playing on radios and local TV stations in praise of the national football team. Every day new billboards are put up by cooperate companies to sell their products as well as congratulate the Chipolopolo boys. The street vendors are also not left behind they are selling jerseys, t-shirts and other merchandise branded with the national colors.

Zambia is a Christian nation, about 99% are Christians. In my first week at work I asked a colleague Sally, if Muslims and Hindus represented the 1% and she joked that many Zambians don’t know the difference between Muslims and Hindus. Interestingly, the current president Michael Sata declared that Zambia shall be governed by the Ten Commandments as written in The Bible.

On my first Sunday I decided to go for shopping and woe unto me because Lusaka streets were literally empty, shops and supermarkets were closed for the day. I asked a passerby why this was so, she was surprised by my question and told me obviously it is a Sunday and everyone goes to church.  I told her that am from Nairobi-Kenya and at home whether it’s a Sunday or a public holiday, you can shop any day and some supermarkets are open for 24 hours. Since then i always ensure to buy what I need before Sunday.

I am also getting familiar with the local currency – Zambian Kwacha. This is the first country I have travelled to that does not have coins; here it’s just notes.

Zambians are nice people, very friendly, approachable and helpful. They are also respectful and their idea of respecting the elders is greeting them while kneeling. Now that was a culture shock to me.  When a child greets a parent they have to kneel and shake the parent’s hands.

I had an interesting debate with my colleagues and they were surprised when I told them that in my culture we shake hands and hug as a form of greeting. They sensitized me and demonstrated on how I should greet people who are older than me; by bending one knee then shake hand. They also forewarned me that if I ignored that and just shook the elders hand I would be perceived rude and disrespectful!

The weather in Lusaka is fantastic and I love it. The main language is Nyanja and it’s easy for me to learn because of my Swahili speaking background. Many words are similar with the two languages. I also enjoy local dish nshima which is like our ugali. Caterpillars are also a common food among the Zambians; though I must admit that am yet to gather courage to eat them.

My first few days in Lusaka, Zambia were tougher than I expected, I was really homesick but every time I called my family and friends from Kenya I felt much better. I have started working and am settling in well. As I make more friends every day and explore Zambia, I am feeling more ‘at home’.