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Kitchen Party

Gifts for the bride-to-be

On Saturday the ladies of the TEEZ office attended the kitchen party of our colleague’s bride-to-be. I had not yet been to a kitchen party, so was glad to go with some of my friends from the office. Esther, Phyllis, Edina, and I made our way by taxi and minibus to the house where the party was held. Tents were set up in the yard and we were greeted by a woman singing and dancing us into the party. We were some of the first to arrive (even though the invitation said the party would start at 1pm and we arrived after 3pm). Soon the tent was full of women and music was blasting through the neighborhood.

Esther, me, Phyllis, and Edina

A kitchen party takes place when a woman is going to be married and there are still many traditional elements present in this celebration. Once all the guests have arrived the bride, accompanied by her attendants, enter under a length of chitenge fabric. The attendants are older women in the community who teach women about marriage and being good wives, not relatives. The bride will have met with them before and they remain with her during the party giving her advice and explaining things. When they reach the threshold of the party they stop and wait for the groom’s family to present money before they will enter. Once a suitable amount is reached, the bride and her attendants take their place of honor. The attendants emerge from the chitenge, but the bride remains covered until the groom or someone from his family comes to see that she is the right woman. At this party one of the groom’s female relatives uncovered the bride-to-be. Once uncovered, she must keep her head down and show no emotion as a sign of respect.

Bride and attendants arriving under chitenge 

Bride seated between attendants

During the party the bride-to-be is presented with gifts and advice to help her in her duties of taking care of her house and family. Traditionally you would bring your gift to the bride and offer household advice based on that gift. In this case, the families had bought several large items. Therefore the guests were requested to bring money so it was a bit ambiguous about the advice we were supposed to offer. I ended up offering a blessing for her home, marriage, and future family. I noticed a cheese grater among the gifts presented from her family and wondered what sort of wifely advice one gives related to a cheese grater. When presenting the gifts and advice you approach the bride and attendants, then on your knees whisper into the ears of the bride. Then you dance!

Women presenting gifts and advice to bride

At one point the groom and his party arrived to give gifts to the bride. As he approached the bride the chitenge was once again placed over the bride, leading out to where the groom was approaching. He slowly rolled up the chitenge as he approached, finally revealing the bride. Once uncovered, she embraced him then received the gifts he had brought – a basket her favorite foods as well as a bouquet of flowers. The groom was also greeted by the bride’s family before being escorted out of the party by the bride, who kept her head down the whole way.

Bride escorting groom out of party

I was glad for the opportunity to attend a kitchen party during my time here in Zambia. The kitchen party was very different than our American bridal showers, there was much more of an emphasis on preparing the bride-to-be for her duties as a wife than we usually include in our pre-wedding celebrations. It left me wondering where women (and men) receive instruction and advice on marriage in our society. I also found it strange that the bride-to-be had to sit so stoically while the guests danced and partied in her honor. Overall it was a good experience to attend the party and fun to have an afternoon out with the ladies from TEEZ. 

Curious little guys

Posted July 31, 2012
Students in a practice study group

Last week we were in Serenje conducting a Tutor Training course. We had a great group of 31 students from both the United Church of Zambia and the Reformed Church in Zambia. Serenje itself is quite a small town, but has a lot of villages in the surrounding area. Many of the students had come quite far for the training and some were even staying in the church for the week.

Rev. Banda teaching

The students in Serenje were very joyful and participated well throughout the training. A couple of the students also served as translators since not everyone knew English. Sometimes working with a translator can be a hindrance to participation, but at this training we communicated well together with their help. I even nicknamed one of the practice study groups “Chimwemwe group” because they were always laughing together (Chimwemwe means joy in Bemba). We had a really good chuckle together when I taught them the banana dance I learned at Girl Scout camp many years ago – we did it to get our blood moving in the middle of one of the longer lessons.

Study groups around the church grounds

Serenje was cold! Not only was the temperature low, but it was also very windy. Several days I wore pants under my dresses and was glad I had taken two sweaters. When I wasn’t teaching I was often out in the sun or chatting with the ladies making our lunch around the cooking fire. We had a good time with the students there, but we were glad to get back to Kitwe at the end of the week where it is warmer. 

Warming up in the sun during a tea break

Serenje Tutor Group

Posted July 24, 2012

On the compound where I live there is an Anglican seminary, which holds mass in its chapel on Sunday mornings. For a while the services had stopped and they just began again in June. Since services have started up again this is where I have been attending church on Sunday mornings. It is a small gathering, sometimes as few as five. But it is a sacred time and space, an intimate gathering. Sometimes we stumble through the a cappella songs but it is an honest gathering of people seeking to worship God. This past Sunday I was asked to preach, which I did gladly. I am usually very intimidated by an invitation to preach, but it felt like the natural thing to do this time. I was glad to share God’s word with my worshiping community. I’m thankful for our Sunday services where a mix of missionaries and Zambian Christians gather in the name of our Lord to worship and catch a glimpse of God’s kingdom.

Greeting one another after service

Father Chibubi, me, and Deepak

There are also several interesting pieces of art in the Anglican chapel. Having grown up with primarily Western depictions of biblical events, I love to look at and ponder these paintings. 

Posted July 16, 2012
Funeral house

Last Tuesday, in the night, one of our neighbors died. He was a pastor and lecturer at the theological college on our compound. For the rest of the week, until he was buried on Saturday, the family home of the deceased became a funeral house. I did not know the man who died, but am acquainted with his wife. On Wednesday, Wendy and I went to pay our respects to her. As we approached the house there was a large tent set up outside and all the furniture that could serve as seating had been brought outside under the tent. This is where the men would gather over the coming days. Since Wendy and I are women we proceeded to the house, removing our shoes before stepping inside. As we entered the living room looked much different than when I have visited before. The couches and chairs had been taken outside for the men and all the remaining furniture had been turned to face the wall or covered with chitenge material. There were only two cabinets left in the room and the room had been lined with mattresses. We arrived early in the day so there were only about a dozen women there so far. The women were sitting or reclining on the mattresses, some chatting and some just sitting in silence. Wendy and I made our way around the room, shaking hands with all the women in greeting and giving our condolences to the new widow. We sat down on a mattress opposite her. It was very quiet, with just a bit of chatter now and then, for about five minutes. Then three women arrived, weeping and wailing as they entered the house, and they all fell down on their knees in front of the new widow. One of them was just crying, but the other two were speaking quickly and through sobs. This brought the widow to tears as well and she began wailing and crying out. Most of what they said was in Bemba, but the grief needed no translation. The women cried together, sharing their sorrow, and taking turns comforting one another. After a few minutes they calmed a bit and began to sing hymns. Wendy and I sat quietly, wiping tears from our faces every now and then. Each time more women arrived there would be an outbreak of crying and fresh grief, followed by a quieter time with a few of the women singing hymns. As we sat there I could feel the heaviness of the women’s hearts. Wendy and I stayed for just under an hour, but many of the women would stay up until the funeral four days later. All through the day people kept arriving at the house. In the afternoon a pickup truck rolled down the main street in our compound, the back was full of women weeping and crying out as they made their way to the house. During the days people sat together at the house and during the nights loud music boomed through the neighborhood. In the daytime many people have to work or take care of their families, but they come to stay with the family at night. For the non-Zambians on the compound it was a challenging week and one of my friends who lives right next to the funeral house reflected, “It is amazing that one person’s heaven can be another person’s hell.” Their house was shaking and windows rattling in the frames for three nights. As I think back on it, I was both amazed by the sense of community and left wondering if the widow and family ever wished for a moment alone or a quiet night.

Posted July 9, 2012
Trade Fair

Yesterday we visited the Zambia International Trade Fair. The Lunds, Jenny, and I all piled in to the Lund family’s truck after church and headed to Ndola for this annual event. We weren’t sure what to expect, but ended up having a great day out. The trade fair was a mix of a Zambian market (clothing, toys, curios), business with informational stands, governmental booths, and trade stands from many different African countries. As we walked through the fair, the vendors selling their goods on the curb kept shouting, “Sale, Sale!”

Vendors lining the walkway

There we also some Boys’ Brigade bands and Girls’ Brigade dance groups who occasionally paraded through the streets. A few stages were set up for entertainment ranging from traditional dancing, drumming and singing to modern Zambian rap. They even had cotton candy and face painting. The face painters kept trying to offer their services to the Lund kids, but didn’t manage to convince them. We did buy a few things from the different vendors and Jenny got a lot of good information about government funding and support, which could be a great help for her projects. I brought home a shawl from Pakistan, jewelry from Tanzania and Kenya, and some Zambia goods: oranges, mango jam, and a few curios.

Playing with our purchases - tray/shield, letter opener, bow & slingshot

It was amazing to be able to see such a variety of goods, businesses, and cultures in the span of an afternoon. Here are several photos to give you a glimpse of the trade fair, enjoy! 

Glen and Jenny speaking with a beekeeper

Boys' Brigade band 

Girls' Brigade

Market area 

Model of Lusaka airport 

Bowls at curio shop 

Picture of Zambian President, Sata, made out of seeds 

Booth displaying agricultural goods from Zambia

Traditional song and dance stage 

Dancers waiting to perform 

Zambia coat of arms, painted at one of the government displays

Posted July 2, 2012
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