Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Africa: Second Week: A Tour of Mulaweya Village

I became busy and got a little off my posting schedule so this post is a few days delayed.

After a couple of uneventful days we asked one of our interpreters, Dooley, to give us a tour of one of the local villages.  The village was only a short walk away, perhaps 10 minutes, initially down the paved road but then off onto some dirt tracks.

Mulaweya was the original village that Zimba grew up around.  After the railroad was built the train stopped where Zimba is now, Mulaweya and Zimba grew up around the train stop.

The train tracks and Mulaweya behind.

 Touring the village gives us a better idea of what the people live like.  Most everyone farms, usually small plots of corn with some other vegetables grown alongside.  We see some fields being cleared, much of the land is officially owned by the railroad but the villagers often clear it and use it for fields.  We are told by Dooley that the railroad intends to sell the land, this makes me curious about Zambian property rights but I'm not able to find out very much on the subject.

This baby goat takes great exception to our presence and runs towards us baaing, acting as a guard dog for its young charge.  It doesn't quiet until it sees that we've gone a fair distance away.

In addition to the fields we see a lot of livestock.  Chickens and goats pretty much just run loose, we also see some sheep, cattle, and pigs which seem to be kept under closer watch.  In addition to the mud huts that make up most of the village there are also some nicer buildings made of brick similar to those we see in Zimba.  These are often built right alongside the traditional mud buildings.  There are also a number of small market stalls where peddlers sell there wares.  We see a lot of agricultural products, tomatoes seem to be in season and there are also a lot of beans and corn, as well as items like phone time cards.  In Mulaweya we mostly see 100 Kuacha notes, which apparently is about 2 minutes during the day, more on off peak hours.

Dooley informs us that these traditional buildings last for about 10 years.  Some villagers reinforce them with wood so that they last longer.  More successful businesses and individuals build more permanent structures.  We see some businesses, like general stores and a charging station for electrical devices.  The selection in these stores can be very eclectic, especially considering their small size.  In one of the larger ones we find building materials, some clothing, food, as well as DVDs (often with more than one movie on them), phonecards, and some other small electronics.  The main economic activity remains subsistence farming, however.  Most people grow enough corn for themselves and their families, sometimes producing a surplus, with their other business activities giving supplemental income.
A small patch of corn in Mulaweya.  There are many of these small patches in the village nearby houses and on any small patch of unused land.  Bigger fields are nearby the village.

Dooley also tells us a bit about the family habits.  Dooley tells us what I suspect, but am not sure, is a tall tale about his father.  According to Dooley, his father is a witch doctor and has 15 wives.  Many of them live on the family compound a few hours from Zimba.  He has a few others, one in Zimba, another in Zimbabwe, one in Botswana, and I don't recall where the others are.  To support this family he has several hundred head of cattle.  I'm not sure about this story, but Dooley himself has children from three different women.  In Zambia, it tends to be the men who have the stronger parental rights and Dooley is supporting all his kids.  He only takes care of one of them, however, I believe he said the rest are being cared for by one of his sisters.  I can't help thinking about how well the HIV treatments are going well in the country they don't seem to be doing as good of a job in making condoms more widely used (Dooley himself is healthy, but he was obviously taking some risks at one point).

After visiting the village Dooley takes us to Zimba High School.  He arranges for the teacher on duty to give us a tour.  This high school, like most in Zambia, is a boarding school.  There are a number of small dorm buildings for the students, the teachers are also provided with housing, and sometimes vehicles.  The school itself was built by the Japanese.  The school buildings are all long and low with metal roofs.  They are also rather hot.  We see the computer lab, which has somewhat newer computers than I expected.  Most are Pentium 4s, I had been expecting 20 year old computers, not 10.  There are a lot of broken computers and monitors, however.
A Zimba High School Classroom

By this point we are getting pretty hot and a bit tired so I absorb less than I would have liked to.  Zambian schools teach a full range of subjects similar to US schools.  I don't know anything about the actual level of the curriculum.  School fees are required, though it seems to be subsidized to some degree.  The Zambian government provides fee eduction from grade 1 to 7, after that parents usually have to pay tuition.  Most young people in Zambia do at least learn literacy and some basic English, since it is the national language, but in the outlying villages I'm told that school attendance isn't as high and that some of the teachers in these areas don't know any English themselves.

We are also shown the school cafeteria, including vats of the national staple, nshima.

A scoop of nshima, which is a corn meal paste.  It is rolled into a ball into which an impression is made.  This is then used to scoop out and eat a variety of relishes, often meat, fish, or vegetables.

A mud and thatch hut in Mulaweya

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