Encountering Rural Zambia by Telana Simpson (Onematchstick Girl)

Encountering Rural Zambia by Telana Simpson (Onematchstick Girl)

"One of the reasons why I enjoy so much roughing it on adventurous travels is that it reminds me of what I have and am grateful for. It also exposes me to other cultures and ways of life that are different, further opening my world view.”

The hippo’s head was on the concrete floor. “Can we have a photo?” said the man, gesturing to me, the hippo head and his camera. A crowd had gathered around, curiously inspecting the head, and showing the nervous children its teeth and tongue, to which they would pull back in fear.

I respectfully obliged, knowing that being a foreigner and guest visiting their chiefdom and culture, I was as much a novelty as the hunted hippo. But my heart was uneasy with the reality I saw.

I had walked across the Palace courtyard from our campsite to the office next to where I assumed they were butchering the hippo, where I had my camera plugged in to charge in the Palace’s precious and rare source of electricity in rural Zambia.

Shakumbila Palace

I was on expedition with Connect Africa (www.connectafrica.net) to explore the impact of technology on traditional culture. Connect Africa has found a sustainable way of providing ICT connectivity in rural areas. With their grassroots approach, they know that working with the Chiefs living in the rural areas is key and wanted to start visiting them, learning more about the protocols involved and getting a more in depth understanding of the rural community’s needs.

With my role being to blog (http://www.connectafrica.net/?page_id=1424) about our expedition, I got a first-hand experience of the challenges faced in rural areas. I had to find creative ways of charging my phone, camera and laptop, and I was always looking for that elusive spot that had enough connectivity to upload a quick blog post and photo.

We had met a few Chiefs already, as well as their elders, traditional healers and local farmers and teachers. We were now camping at the most modern chief we had encountered, a Senior Chief. He has a satellite dish installed so he can use email and has electricity in his Palace of a few buildings with corrugated tin roofs, which were surrounded by a wire fence with a metal gate.

Meeting one of the other Chiefs was a very different experience with far more protocol. This included a specific clapping while kneeling etiquette to announce our arrival. We had walked through a short maze to a hut used exclusively to meet guests, within the reed-walled Palace consisting of a few thatch huts with no electricity or connectivity.

Chief Breakfast

The day before had been an important traditional ceremony for the Senior Chief and his Chiefdom, in which they celebrated their strength - as the Sala people - to rule over so many chiefdoms for so long. Today he had given his hunters permission to hunt, so that they could feed the entire community.

One of the reasons why I enjoy so much roughing it on adventurous travels is that it reminds me of what I have and am grateful for. It also exposes me to other cultures and ways of life that are different, further opening my world view.

So although I know where our food comes from, it is humbling when you are faced with the practicalities in poor areas that at times struggle to put a simple plate of food on their tables. Knowing that the hippo would feed the entire hungry community, and that not a bit would be wasted, brings more understanding to what is at first a shocking and challenging glimpse of reality for my “protected” comfortable First World existence.

Shakumbila Campsite

After having obliged and posed for the photo, I collected my now charged camera, and walked back across the courtyard towards our camp. Tears welled in my eyes, as I thought of the way our world manages food. In our cities tons of nourishment are thrown away and spoilt, and here, in deep dark rural Africa, people struggle to grow a few crops to survive as there is less rain, and have to resort to hunting to eat.

Being more conscious of food, I started helping to pack up the tents. It was time to leave this chiefdom, and head to our next community we planned to visit, somewhere passed some baobab trees, along the dusty dirt road...

Choosing a chitenge

(PHOTO: Telana with some locals helping her choose a chitenge, the traditional dress in Zambia)

Telana Simpson is a dynamic, transformational Personal Coach (www.innercoaching.co.za) who specializes in communicating and relating. She is fascinated by consciousness evolution and goes on adventures to push her boundaries and preconceptions. She blogs at onematchstick.co.za and follows her joy and co-creates in this world, inspiring others by her example. You can tweet her at @Telana