Sunday, May 22, 2011

Should I be concerned about the ants in my computer?

Maybe I have eaten cookies too close to my laptop's keyboard, and a few crumbs have fallen between the keys. That's the only explanation I can come up with to account for the invasion of the tiny ants into my computer. And without a vacuum cleaner, I'm not sure how to suck up the crumbs, let alone the insects. Fortunately the ants seem to be a seasonal occurrence, so in a few weeks they may disappear. Meantime, I have troops of ants marching around in my computer.

These tiny ants also somehow manage to get into the boiled water while it is cooling. And they are so exceptionally tiny that they are visible, but hard to fish out. So I have told the kids, as I give them drinks, that it is okay to drink a few ants--they add protein to their diet.

This week I have been thinking about my "only in Zambia" experiences. These might happen in other places, but my encounters have been here. I'll share a few.

Some of the women from church told me one day that there is a Bible study every Friday afternoon for our zone. They wanted me to know that I would be welcome to attend, someone would translate from Bemba for me. I told them I would come whenever I could, and wrote it in my calendar. So the next Friday, I walked to church, where a few women were beginning to gather. They greeted me warmly. Then the women who had invited me to come asked if I would like to lead the Bible study. "Today?" I asked. They nodded. I don't know if the intended leader was ill or if they felt asking me to present was a polite thing to do. I thought the best response was yes. Was there a particular Scripture for the study? Apparently not, I could choose. I decided that my strength for a spur-of-the-moment topic was forgiveness, so I chose several passages and led a discussion of its importance, value, and difficulty of in our lives. Various people shared; forgiveness is always a juicy topic.

Similarly, as an "invited guest" at a fundraiser or other festive occasion, I have been asked unexpectedly to make a few remarks or to "give a word of encouragement." Now I try to remember to come prepared.

Few people keep pets here. There are stray cats that wander around the campus, at their own risk. Cats, especially black cats, are seen as symbols of witchcraft or of evil. Children might throw stones at them. A small black cat started coming by my door, and since I spoke kindly to him, he adopted me. I decided not to try to make him a house cat, but just to feed him at the back door. After awhile, I began to try to pet him. As soon as he saw me move my arm, he would run and hide, afraid of being hit. It has taken months to win his confidence, but he will only come to be stroked when no one else is near. The belief in witchcraft persists in Zambia, even among educated urban dwellers, and cats suffer for it. So do widows. Often the relatives of the husband will accuse the widow of killing her husband by poison or witchcraft. Of course, this allegation helps to justify their repossession of all of the late husband's belongings and property. This situation exists in many developing countries, not only in Zambia.

Here, it is common for people to drop by for a friendly visit at any time of the day or evening, without advance notice, and sometimes with no particular purpose except to greet you and talk for a few minutes. It reminds me of when I was a child living out in the country, where people might come by on a Sunday afternoon to sit and chat. Only in Zambia, though, have I had visitors at 6 am, even once on a Saturday. Those early birds have generally been students with a request or a purpose. They have morning prayers at 5 am some mornings, so I guess most of them are dressed and ready to go at daybreak.

One of my favorite "only in Zambia" experiences is the spontaneous dancing in church. If the choir is singing a favorite praise song in Bemba, with a strong beat, some of the women, older as well as younger, will spill into the aisles and begin to dance. The spirited movement, and the ululations, are testimony to their openness and their joy. I am aware of how often my inhibitions prevent me from doing something expressive, and I try to learn from these women.

Living in a different culture is a constantly enriching experience. I recommend it to other retirees!

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