Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Come, sisters, let's put a little wiggle in our walk!

Friday afternoon this past week we went to the Kitwe Copperbelt Agriculture and Technology Exhibition, or what in the U.S. we would call a county fair.

In a lot of ways it was like the county fairs I have attended in the past. There were competitions for the biggest and best produce grown by different farmers. (It's amazing how huge some pumpkins can grow--but here they are cream-colored, not orange. People cook the leaves as greens, as well as eating chunks of pumpkin as a vegetable.) Farm machinery was on display. Kids could get their faces painted and buy cotton candy, popcorn, and fritters. Nurseries had acres of plants for sale. There were pony rides and bicycle trick competitions and many marching bands in their full dress uniforms, complete with baton twirlers.

For amusement there was a live snake and crocodile house with lots of interesting specimens, an arena with rotating entertainment acts, competitive break dancing, clowns with balloons, and more.

For education we visited halls with materials about cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, malaria and other diseases, information about the work of NGOs on gender and development, centers on environmental issues, displays of medicinal plants, and various government-sponsored exhibits. We enjoyed seeing the art gallery which had an exhibition of drawings and paintings by children from various schools.

Vendors were selling many different items, including fresh and prepared food, tools, toys, clothing imported from different Asian and African countries, plants, sports equipment, and animals. One snack stand reminded me of the Oscar Meyer “wienermobile” that used to tour around America. Instead of a car shaped like a hot dog, it was a kiosk shaped like a Coke bottle on its side, with a window in the middle to sell the drinks.

We visited a hall sponsored by the area prison, where they had exhibits describing their programs and services. They were also selling items made by inmate workers in the prison industry at that institution, as well as crafts produced by individual prisoners on their own. I bought a doormat and even met the woman who had designed and made it.

Since it was a school day, many nursery school and primary level classes were there from different schools on field trips. In Zambia all school children wear uniforms, so these school groups made big splashes of color wherever they went. I watched one group which appeared to include the entire school, one grade behind the next like stairsteps. The uniform for each grade had a small variation--a different colored sash or style shirt so you could tell the grades apart, but the basic color scheme was the same, and there must have been over 100 kids there in their lemon yellow and tangerine accented outfits.

Speaking of clothing, members of political parties, or supporters of specific candidates, often advertise their preferences with wearing apparel. In addition to custom tee-shirts (which are not so common here), the outstanding article of political attire is the chitenge (2 yards of fabric used as a wrap-around skirt) with the image of the candidate in huge medallions all over the cloth. I saw many supporters of Rupiah Banda, the incumbent President, at the fair in their political chitenges. Some of the women had quite broad backsides, giving plenty of exposure to his smiling face!

We left at dusk with new plants for our gardens, educational materials for our classes, and a handmade basket and doormat. I had learned about some vegetables and grains I had never encountered before, and my mind was filled with a collage of colorful images for my memory bank. It was a good day.

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