Africa the Real Community

Posted on January 12, 2008. Filed under: Community |

I haven’t blogged in a couple weeks. I have been stuck on what else to write about Africa. Before I left I wanted to have this profound experience about African community, I wanted to be able to compare and contrast their community with mine and I feel like I summed it up in the one post about materialism.

I have now realized that I was looking at community all wrong, I was only thinking about the operation of the community, the way people worked together, what they bought and how their days were scheduled. I had forgotten to really think about all of the things in the community that are happening within those schedules. All of the things that happen when nothing is planned. This had all slipped my mind.

So this post will be about some of my observations of the Africans I met. Their community works strong and it is about much more than survival! In all cultures, even in the US, there are more to people than the purchases they make, how they spend their holidays and how they make their money.

I first realized that Africans were different the moment I stepped off the airplane in Livingstone, Zambia. I walked into a tiny airport, with no computers, without security guards at every door, with out machines to walk through. I didn’t feel violated at all at this airport! I felt welcome as I walked up to a high wooden box where an attendant waited to hand write my visa and hand me a carbon copy.

We waited for our luggage to come down the single shoot and I realized that I was going to have to experience another form of African community. My luggage didn’t show up 😦 At first I was really sad, but hopeful that it would show up soon, but as we stepped into their office/breakroom/only room with a computer. I came to realize that if it didn’t come on the next plane I would not get it at all. The attendant handed me a copy of the hand written luggage claim and I walked out the door, trying to stay optimistic about the fact that I was in Africa. When we arrived in the village of Jembo everyone was very helpful about the fact that I had no clothes. I bought some cloth so the women could make me some skirts, they taught me how to do a head wrap, I borrowed shirts from the women we were staying with, I washed my underwear in the sink, and borrowed shampoo from the other girl on the trip. It all worked out and I all I had was one extra outfit. Everyone was so helpful and nice.

As we traveled through the village and met kids and new villagers in Zimbabwe I came to realize that everyone is very gracious. Every time we handed a child a piece of candy or taught them a new song they bent their knees and thanked us for it. Every time I left something behind I found someone standing next to me two minutes later with it in their hands. The communities we visited were full of people who did not want us to have a bad time and appreciated everything we gave to them. It was wonderful to be able to pray with them and share all that I had.

Of course our travels led us to meet new people and at every village we were met with a song and dancing. I can just imagine flying into New York for the first time and being met with 10 dancing and singing New Yorkers that just wanted to welcome me to their city! Africans take pride in treating guests well. Giving them the first drink of Chibwantu, letting them eat first and showing them around their village. They shared everything with us and for that I am grateful. They really made my time their unbelievable.

Respect is one other thing I recognized as a cultural norm. If you meet someone new you call them Ba … This is one of the greatest signs of respect. You shake all hands with a bend of the knee and a touch with the other arm. There is never a time when respect wasn’t shown to one another. I do realize that there is an under culture of jealousy among them, if a visitor spends more time with a specific person, or if someone is working harder than someone else in the trust, but they never made it known to me. I did hear a lot about the fact that if others have something more that their fellow villagers may see them as snobby or what ever. I think that is something all cultures have. There is always some sort of hierarchy, but the difference I saw in Africa was they respected everyone to their face.

Not all of Africa was beautiful, I saw poverty, crime and hate from government. People are dying without support and selling goods for double what they’re worth just to get by, but when you enter the village where orphans are being taken care of and widows work together to make their lives better. I have hope that orphans can make it and that Africa can overcome AIDS and Zimbabweans can overcome their governmental oppression.

My greatest hope is that Americans can become humbled a little by the respect and honor Africans give each other and remember that money doesn’t buy these things. Our community could be stronger with simplicity and humbleness.

As I walked through airports on the way home I became a little sad as I was bumped and pushed around by hurried Europeans and probed and prodded by American security guards, I was entering a community where stress fills the minds of individuals between their schedules. Simplicity may get us in trouble a few times but over all our community may benefit from it. Maybe next time I go on a trip I could make it through just one airport with out hearing wining or anger from passengers about a late flight or a lost bag, it is really a Utopia I am thinking of, but I like to dream!

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