Love Don’t Live Here No More

Is it love that changes…or it is the person that changes?

broken heart

I encountered this question when I was watching a certain drama recently. I had pressed pause and pondered the question for a little while. I had never really thought much about it before until I heard someone ask the question out loud.

It has been said that the only constant thing in life is change. Unfortunately, it is not always that when change occurs, we are prepared for it or willing to adjust to it. Thus, when we look back into our past…when we look back at all the failed relationships and all the broken marriages we wonder – what or who had really changed? Does love remain constant? Can love change? If so, what causes it to change? Do people change? What causes people to change? Is it something that can be prevented or it’s simply nature running its course?

How many times have you felt like you were so in love you would lay down your life if it meant protecting your love? Those moments…when our eyes see no one else but the one…when we feel nothing in the world can pull us apart…when we love without a reason except for our feelings…when together-forever is not just a promise but fact and part of our reality. Do you think you would be asking too much if you wanted things to remain like that, if not better than that forever?

The first time I fell in love, I did not picture myself having those feelings for any other person but that one. Loving another person at that time was not even a possibility! Yet today in my life, I am so in love with one man believing for a fact that I have never felt like this for any other person before. I look at how this man loves me and I cannot imagine him loving another like he loves me. This is my present reality…a reality I do not ever want to see change, ever. But the question is, is that even possible? Can you spend a lifetime loving the same person with your feelings intact to the very end? I want to believe so!

But the question still remains, what causes relationships to end; is it their love that changed or it is the people that changed? Firstly, I want to admit that it is very possible for love to change and by this I am referring to the many stages that psychologists have argued intimate relationships have to go through in their journey of love. That first time feeling you have…all those emotions you wish you could bottle up and take a sip from for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, because we are human beings packed with red blood cells, hormones and senses, we cannot help undergoing emotional changes in our relationships.

At the start of every relationship, there is excitement and expectation. There are things we want and things we expect. As time goes by, we get to discover all of this…the ideas we had in our minds start turning into reality or lack thereof. Sometimes we are disappointed and sometimes we are surprised when our loved ones deliver beyond our expectations. And sometimes we simply choose to be content with the life we have despite it not being up to standard. As always…time is forever moving and we are forever learning, discovering and going through numerous experiences. These too can change us as individuals and also change our feelings towards each other either for the better or worst.

The problem that most people make is never to expect change or refusing to adjust to it when it occurs. Using a very practical example – when a man starts sleeping around after his wife has given birth because he believes her body has changed or that she has been distant since giving birth. A little patience with her and support as she adjusts to her physiological and emotional changes is all it takes to make their love flourish. Any deviation from this is what will lead to a failed relationship. In this case, it would be the husbands inability to adjust to change, to live up to his spouse’s expectation to be there for her in her most trying times and to be understanding…it is these things that would make her believe he has changed and this will ultimately have an effect on her feelings for him. Likewise, if the man strongly believes that she is being unfair to him by not fulfilling her marital duties in bed (not taking into account any possibility of posttraumatic stress), from his point of view, it would be the woman who has changed. This too, if not properly communicated can result in a failed relationship.

Yes, we all want perfect relationships but the truth is that they don’t exist. The only thing we can do all throughout our relationships is to strive for perfection in what we do but never to expect it. We love abundantly, we give abundantly, we forgive abundantly, that we be understanding and all the while expecting the same from our partners. It is foolishness to expect things to remain constant. Of course this does not mean that we should love less or expect less. It simply means that we should keep in mind that how we felt about each other when we were strangers can no longer be the same once we become friends and family.

As time goes by, we will become too familiar with each other, never pretending and ever showing our true colours. However, although a familiar feeling is something that happens naturally, having a boring or less exciting life as a result of it is a decision we make consciously. Yes, it is very boring when every aspect of your life becomes routine and predictable – knowing that today when I go home she will welcome me by the door, take my bag, ask me how my day was, serve me dinner, go to bed, make love the missionary way, sleep, and when morning comes repeat steps 1-2-3, etc. As long as one does not strive to keep things exciting despite being familiar with each other, do not expect a happily-ever-after. The tendency to believe that just because a piece of paper was signed and the deal’s done then we no longer have to work hard is what leads our loved ones to walk away from us.

Personally, I refuse an ordinary love. I rebuke it in the name of Jesus! I want an extraordinary love and nothing less! I do not expect a happily ever after, I am neither a Cinderella nor he a prince in shining armor. But I expect my life to be filled with happiness MOST of the times. I want to be extremely in love even in old age. Therefore, I should…no, we should both work hard to have that because it doesn’t come easy. I should be aware that change is inevitable and change in itself has the potential to alter my feelings. I should be aware that one day my spouse will not be as energetic as he is today no matter how many times he hits the gym, that his head full of black hair will not always be like that, that he also makes mistakes, and that we will not always share the same views.

How will you feel if the man you love suddenly stopped buying you flowers or taking you to fancy restaurants because he either lost his job or because you both made a bad investment and lost out financially? Does it mean that he has changed as a person or that he doesn’t love you anymore? Or perhaps, does that mean you should change the way you feel towards him? I should prepare myself for the unexpected, to not always expect perfection and to be understanding when my spouse falls short of my expectations. And if I am not pleased, I should communicate this in the most respectable manner. It is a learning process, one I am willing to undertake for the rest of my life. Right now I believe I am falling short.

If ever love should change, it should be for the better – from stranger to infatuation, from hate to love, from mere love to a meaningful love. I want to love like that. I expect to be loved like that. So far, I am loved like that. And in the future, I hope to love more and be loved more, not less. Is that possible?

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Have you ever loved like that?

sunset-hands-love-woman-large

You have spent your life searching and hoping that this time
…that this time he is the one
You have had your heart broken,
Been trampled and cheated on,
You have been dumped so many times you’ve lost count
You have cried yourself to sleep
You have given up a million times
Told yourself you are done hurting
You have approached potential mates with suspicion
Always leaving that little space for disappointment
You have vowed never to be hurt again
You shun promises so much that even trusting yourself has become a battle
Will love ever be your friend?

Twenty years…thirty years…forty years…fi…
Stop….! Please freeze time for her
For how long will she wait for Mr Right?
Many have loved her but many have left
Many have called her beautiful
When she smiles, flowers bloom
What man has never blushed in her presence?
A sight to behold, beauty inside-out
They come into her life with roses and diamonds
And to cover the cost, she pays with little pieces of her broken heart
Will she ever find the kind of love she yearns?

She came like a storm
And swept you off your feet
She awakened in you feelings you never imagined existed
Every single day she rode with you on the wave of love
For once it was your turn to discover the meaning of life
There would be no you without her
You are convinced she is the air you breathe
Her sights have been set on you
Never to be swayed by another
A lifetime of happiness is no longer a dream for you
It is the reality you have been living all these years
Have you ever been loved like that?

He said he would love you forever
He made a promise before God and the world
He would love no other but you
And you believed every single word he uttered
His eyes…that look in his eyes that’s always whispering
“I see no one else but you my angel….”
Without saying a word, he made you feel like the most loved woman in the world
The constant phone calls
The constant I Love You’s
The fancy restaurants
The dozen roses every weekend
Yes…you have been loved like that before

It comes like a thief in the night
It creeps on you when you least expect it
A feeling so severe you dare not imagine it
It starts with a little suspicion
Others call it intuition
Before the smoke appears, the smell will
Even when your hands keep burning
You tell yourself it is only a dream
The only time they call is only to announce a funeral or birth
All the roses withered and died
The candles by the dinner table have all burned out
The only restaurant you know is that little room next to your kitchen
When did you discover that love does not live here anymore?

It is like a whirlwind
Sometimes it smiles at you
Sometimes it just walks by
How many times have you asked yourself;
Why is it happening to me?
Why does it keep happening to me?
Why is it not happening for me?
Is something wrong with me?
When will it be my turn?

When your ego has been bruised
When your pride’s been shuttered
When your love has been thrown back into your face
When you can trust nobody
When everything isn’t working in your favour
When the world has turned its back on you
When all you know to do is give up
When he does not love you anymore
When she has fallen for someone else
When you are no longer his priority
When she would rather be anywhere else but with you
When you cannot turn back the hand of time
When memories are all you have
When you know it will never be
Has love ever done that to you?

They say love is blind….
That moment when your heart stands at odds with your brain
Sometimes it happens whether you like it or not
But with love…comes reciprocity
A one-sided love – though fun can be tiring
A two-way love – it is what you should always seek
But it does not always end the way we wish it to
But still, we never give up

And then there is happiness…
It is a decision you make without seeking anyone’s validation
You can cry but still be happy
You can get disappointed but still be happy
They can try to bring you down but you will still choose happiness
Before you love another you will first love you
And if they ever leave, you will still have someone loving you
If they delay in coming, there will always be someone keeping you happy
Where the sun shines, there is always light
Have you ever loved yourself like that?

If you ever need to choose;
To stay or to leave…
To trust or to investigate…
To seek a profound love or to be content…
To rediscover your feelings or go for plan B
To give up or to settle for less…

I hope you choose happiness.

Marriage: In the Eyes of a Sister and Daughter In-law

They say blood is thicker than water. What do they mean by that?

Even in marriage…does it still apply?

African women

When I told one of my friends that I would write about in-laws in my next blog, you should have seen the reaction on her face, epic! Her question to me was; what if your husband sees it?

I had not mentioned to her yet in what context my blog would be yet she assumed that I was going to be writing something very bad. But since when did the word in-law become synonymous with negativity? Is it possible for one to have a good relationship with his or her in-laws? And most importantly, why are women the ones that are mostly entangled in the in-law wars more than men? Why is it common that most people will treat their in-laws – whether daughter, brother or sister in-law as rivals? Who exactly gets to win in these competitions and what price do they actually get? What role does money play in all of this?

To convince myself to finally write about this topic that has baffled me for a while, I reasoned that despite it being a touchy topic, I would do my best to not bring my own wonderful in-laws into the picture. Even as I said this in my head, I couldn’t help laughing. It’s gonna be hard to talk about this subject without drawing from my own experiences. However, today I just want to talk about a sister or daughter in-law in general…but mostly in Zambia if am being specific.

I don’t know about men but for most women, when we start to consider a man as a potential marriage mate, we look at the following things; our love for him, his love for us, personality, for some – relationship with God, his career, ambitions, his family background (and this mostly involves evaluating our potential in-law – rich, poor, or breadwinner of the family?), and another important factor that most women won’t admit – a consideration of his salary!

Some people believe that when you love someone then it shouldn’t matter how much money he has. Well, that’s very true but if you are considering one for a potential marriage mate, it should matter how much money they have or how much the both of you have or will have in future because with marriage comes more responsibilities that will require you to actually spend money irrespective of how much love you have for each other. But of course, there is always the option – to choose to die together in poverty – sometimes love can be tragic too.

Because I am a woman, I tend to have a bias towards women in some of my topics but that is because I am one myself and I share first hand most of the experiences that women in general go through. With this in mind, I believe that the in-law relationship is mostly complex for women than it is for men. I could be wrong!

Let me start with the basics first.

Why are women prone so much to the in-law drama?

It is generally believed that men are the breadwinners of the family and women are the caregivers and keepers of the home. The man will provide the finances and the woman will administer those finances and at the same time take care of the family relations to ensure peace and stability in the home. This situation puts the woman in more contact with the family members than the man who is mostly out of the house trying to make a living. Although both of them have responsibilities towards keeping the family together, the fact is that the woman will have more to do with it than he ever will because within her lies the potential to either break or build a home.

In Zambia, when the parent in-laws come to visit the home of a married couple, the man will greet them without needing to get down to the floor while the woman will first need to get down to the floor before she can address either of them. It does not matter which side of the family they are coming from, this welcome ceremony applies to both sets of parents. Already, the footing between the man and woman is on different levels so guess who’s at a disadvantage?

For most parents, it will matter what level the woman will bend down when greeting them and this is very important because it has to do with respect. The man of the house will chit-chat here and there and can even excuse himself to go watch a game in the bedroom while the woman goes to the kitchen to tend to the guests. Depending on the relationship – whether they are her own parents or her in-laws, she needs to approach them strategically.

God forbid she decides to serve them chicken because then she would need to go through every piece in the pot to ensure she doesn’t serve the ‘wrong piece’ to the wrong person! How the woman will deliver her food to these people will tell them more about her upbringing and depending on the kind of in-laws she has, it will inform them whether she is a good wife to their son or not…yes, just a piece of chicken and the level of kneeling can do that! By the way, keep in mind that while all this is going on, the man is somewhere watching a Real Madrid game or cursing at Wenger or Anchelotti for the bad formation of their players.

Earlier, I talked about the things that women look out for in their marriage mates and it was for this reason – the kind of family that a man comes from…and here I mean whether they are rich, middle class, poor…if he is breadwinner or not, his ambitions and his salary, his love for you, etc will have a lot to do with how your relationship with the in-laws will be like. This is what I mean:

If the man is rich, those close to him will question your intentions toward him – are you genuine or looking to rise up the social ladder? There is nothing wrong with this of course because, who wouldn’t want to protect their assets? But, it is the approach and the extent to which they will pursue this line of inquiry that will determine the kind of relationship the in-laws will have towards each other.

If the man is poor…this word somehow doesn’t sit well on my tongue so let’s say if the man isn’t well to do, his parents might expect that he marry someone who might help him become better in life and this would mean someone with a better financial standing. However, I do suspect that it’s easier for people that are ‘poor’ to get along with their in-laws because there are times when lack of money can make families draw closer to each other whereas too much money can cause a lot of divisions. Sometimes, it’s the total opposite.

When the man is the breadwinner: A lot of families have this kind of arrangement in Zambia. For me this is the most challenging kind. When a woman comes into the life of such a man, it is natural for his family to get worried; how will things change once this woman enters their lives? If any change is seen in the man after meeting this woman, she will be held responsible; he doesn’t support us as much as he used to, when you ask him for money he sends the exact amount you asked and doesn’t add anything like he used to before he met her…etc.

They say that money is the root of all evil?? Most of the challenges that couples face in marriage would have a lot to do with money be they communication, infidelity, etc. It used to be so easy for me to make judgements on my own sister in-laws (the women married to my brothers) before I got married but the moment I got into a serious relationship and was ready for marriage, my eyes got opened because then I could see things from both point of views.

Someone once told me that ‘your in-laws are not your friends and you should never treat them as such, especially your mother in-law. Fear your in-laws and hold them at arms-length.’

But I also remember the Reverend who married us say this in church;

“Treat your husband’s family as you would treat your own. This one is not your mother in-law,” she had said, pointing at my husband’s mother. “She is your mother.”

Having lost my own mother just a few months before my wedding day, I was excited to gain a new mother figure in my life but the truth is that I was also very confused! How exactly was I supposed to treat this woman people where telling me to fear and others telling me to treat as I would my own mother? I am afraid I still haven’t found the answer to this question.

I have always struggled to understand the dynamics of the in-law relationships. I believe that the way one treats their own siblings should be how they treat their brother or sister in-laws. But is this even possible? You can be free to shout at your kid brother if he does something wrong. He will get mad at you and not talk to you for a while but eventually you will reconcile and move on as if nothing ever happened. But if you upset an in-law like that, will the ending be the same?

Blood is thicker than water.

Literally, or figuratively??

…I have heard a lot of people say this. But, does it apply in marriage? If the two became ‘one in marriage’, then doesn’t that make them a complete part of each other’s families? Who then is closer to whom and should there be such a comparison in the first place? It is like asking a man who between his wife and mother is more important. I think that anyone who asks such a question deserves a punch in the face.

The idea that women should be held responsible for a man’s change in behaviour after marriage is both true and false. Why do I say this? Firstly, it should be expected that after a man marries, he should, by his own efforts strive to start behaving like a married man. Secondly, once he is married, it should be expected that his family will no longer be dealing with an opinion of one, but of two people who became one. And this takes me back to my point about money. One of the things some men fear about getting married is having to share or report their financial status to someone. When you are single, you have the freedom to spend however you want but once marriage comes into the picture, you have no choice but to learn about budgeting.

If a man used to spend ‘limitlessly’ or within his means before he got married, the moment this changes, the first reaction from his family would be, ‘that awful stingy woman changed him.’ But did anyone ever take the time to find out why things have changed? Like I said earlier, marriage comes with its own responsibilities. Whereas a man only had to deal with one family before, he would now be dealing with two. And even though this fact hurts as hell – whereas his mother’s family used to be his first priority, it now becomes second. This is nature, as designed by God and not man. It is hard for any person who is single to accept this arrangement – as I did too.

Unfortunately, this is the point that most people misunderstand. Just because a man’s priorities have changed after marriage does not mean he has to forsake his own family or that his family should curse the new woman in the picture for having changed their son or brother. Only a fool would forsake those that have been an integral part of most of his life, the ones that gave him/her life and the ones that gave him a family.

Would I be wrong to say that most men don’t bother much about the in-law dramas that take place in the homes and the only time they ever get involved is when they have been summoned by the concerned parties to help with resolutions? Someone be dammed should they have to pick a side! It’s even worse when they fail to pick a side! The poor souls.

However, women are always up in these situations trying to make the other feel their weight. Be it at funerals, weddings, gatherings in general, in the homes…women brought together under the term in-law and under the same roof are too much to handle. It is amazing how a woman who is also married will take pleasure in making another woman’s life (an in-law) difficult. Is it really impossible to get along between women? Sometimes my species really amuse me. The things I have seen mostly at weddings and funerals can cause one to question the idea of marriage itself.

I think things might change a little for women if people thought about this old concept which is as effective as God intended it to be; treat others the way you would want to be treated if you were in that situation. Especially women…why all the hate towards each other? Sister in-laws (and this applies to me too, sadly)…if you are single, you will one day get married too! But if that never happens, don’t take it out on others. And if you are already married, have some respect for other people’s wives if you want others to respect you too. Do not abuse tradition by top-dressing it with your own ignorance. There is nothing like tradition empowering you to make the life of another woman hellish. Even in ‘in-lawness’ it is very possible to get along peacefully and when faced with problems, to address them maturely.

Because I am a sister in-law myself, both by own doing and through my own siblings doing, I want to strive to be the kind of relative they can be proud of…that even when problems arise, instead of treating me as an outsider, or treating them as such, I will choose to address the issues without so much as injuring my pride and respect as well as theirs. There are no scales on which love can be weighed, but families ought to love each other through thick and thin. It should never be a matter of blood or water or even oil. After all, before blood was formed, our own parents were strangers too. It takes two strangers to meet, two people that are not related to come together and unite their blood to make it thicker.

Zambian Politics: A Revelation of Tribalist Tendencies

“I Would Rather Die than Vote for a Tonga President,” I heard him say.

tribalism

I never thought that there would ever come a day when I would feel ashamed just for the mere fact that I am Zambian. However, as the day for the by-elections keeps drawing near and as campaigns intensify, every single day I wake up and leave my house, I keep getting reminded of the truth about Zambians – the sudden realization of how deep certain beliefs lie and how overwhelming the potential for these beliefs to breed division is.

I am not very active when it comes to political issues but I am never one to remain silent when I experience something so profound that it threatens to wreak havoc to the very foundation of my being. I did not know that this is how my people truly are. I did not know the depth and levels of tribalism in Zambia until the campaigns for these elections started. Without meaning to sound like a prophetess of doom…I keep wondering, could we be another Rwanda?

Tribalists: I am not sure if this is an actual word or if it qualifies as an adjective but I will still use it.

Tribalism: The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines tribalism as ‘loyalty to a tribe or other social group especially when combined with strong negative feelings for people outside the group…. Tribal consciousness and loyalty; especially: exaltation of the tribe above other groups.”

I know it is very hard for people to accept that they are tribalists yet it is very easy for them to point the finger at another for being tribalist. But since when did this situation in Zambian become so grave? Since when did I start fearing to express my views when out in public? Since when did it start to matter what tribe my friends are or what tribe the person I am voting for is? The present reality in this country makes me shudder and if people do not evaluate themselves sooner, this could lay the foundation of something on a genocide scale. And I mean it.

Do not get me wrong, I am not Tonga and neither am I married to one but I would not mind being Tonga at all.  I come from the Northern Province of Zambia, Mbala to be a little specific but I was raised in two towns in the Southern Province.  I am married to someone from the East. Through the years, just as I have come to learn more about the many tribes that we have in Zambia, I have come to appreciate the diversity of this beautiful country. Many are the times I have boasted to my foreign friends that despite having such diverse cultures, we are still a nation locked in togetherness. But that feels like it was centuries ago and the truth that is at play now is enough to confuse the devil himself. I am no longer able to boast about that and that is what I find embarrassing because once upon a time, that used to be my pride.

The one thing I have come to realise is how ‘some’ Zambians are unaware of how tribalist they can be. I feel that most people are not yet aware of their tendencies or they choose to take it lightly or ignore it altogether. You see, I was not raised very traditionally. Because of personal family issues, my father believed it was better for us to speak English at all times – a decision he later came to regret, and so have I.  So the first time I attended a wedding in Zambia and the MC said something about the two tribes that were getting united in matrimony, I got to experience for the first time adults openly insulting and humiliating each other in public. I could see some people getting upset yet more of them where laughing…and mostly at the expense of the other tribe. As I sat there cringing from being uncomfortable, my dear mother whispered to me, “they are doing Chimbuya.”

It was then that I learnt that it was okay for certain tribes to insult and humiliate each other like that and to whatever degree and the one that got offended would be the weird one. It was a horrifying discovery. Years after that experience, I convinced myself that I would not get uncomfortable when such things happen but to this day, every time I hear people playing chimbuya, I can’t help feeling extremely offended despite not being part of the circus. Personally, despite its traditional connotations and essence, I feel that it is this charade dressed in chimbuyaness that is slowly breeding tribalism in Zambia. Yes it’s been ‘in existence for many years and no one really means what they are saying’… but is it really necessary to bring another tribe down just so we could get a rise out of them and make those around us laugh?

I have a historical and archaeological background and I will be the first to preach to you about the importance of preserving a culture. But I will also be the first to remind you of how culture, if not approached properly has the potential to retard development. But have you ever wondered what causes genocide? No matter how innocent you think your utterances are, are you sure that the person that is receiving them in all their humanness will not at all feel the sting at some point? And in all your efforts to get a rise and a laugh at their expense, to what degree have you disassociated your personal judgements and feelings from the ‘jokes?’

Now,  I am not saying that Chimbuya is the cause of tribalism in Zambia. I am simply questioning the practice and ‘wondering if at all it would have anything to do with the current state of reality in political realm in Zambia.’

I keep hearing people say that Tongas are tribalists yet every time I ask them to explain that statement, they only manage to convince me of how tribalist they themselves are and not the party in question. It is always Tonga’s this and Tonga’s that. Tonga’s love themselves too much…you can’t work with Tonga’s…they have bad manners in the work place…and so on and so forth. But seriously, can this be the basis for ‘de-campaigning’ a presidential candidate?

Not so long ago I met someone who said this to me, “Have you ever conducted research? Do you know how facts are collected? Researchers come up with facts based on ratios. If you go out to do research and you discover that the majority of people in that area practice certain things, then your report will say that the people in that area…and not ‘some’ people in that area because you are reporting your findings based on what can be considered general.”

Although those where not his actual words, that was the point he was trying to deliver and all this was because I asked him to not make general statements about Tonga’s. He felt he was justified to make this declaration – “I would rather die than vote for a Tonga!” As I watched and listened to him shamelessly run his lips up and down like a heifer on heat, it struck me;  he was just as tribalist as the people he was accusing of the practice.

Was there any research that was done to prove that Tonga’s are tribalists or Zambians simply came to that conclusion based off their unfortunate experiences with that group of people? If so, how many of those experiences where first, second or third experiences? How many where hearsay? How sure are you that those experiences stemmed from those particular individuals being Tonga’s and not their personalities? If you have had mostly bad experiences with Tongas in your life, at what point in the experience did you become aware of their tribe and did it in any way affect your judgement? Do you think the outcome of that experience would have been different if a person of another tribe was in it or if you had not been aware of any tribal inclinations at all? How much of your own beliefs do you think affected the outcome of that experience? Do you think that just because someone has a Tonga name, irrespective of their social upbringing or educational background, by virtue of them having Tonga blood, then they will exhibit ‘Tonga-like’ behaviour? Have you ever taken the time to find out why Tonga’s behave the way you think they do? I have these and many other questions.

I want people to know that even in a well conducted research, there are always limitations. You simply cannot draw conclusions based on what you think is the majority view. Just because one Tonga behaved in a certain way when faced with one problem does not mean that another Tonga would have behaved that exact way when confronted with the same situation. It is especially dangerous to draw conclusions if your mind already has its own preconceived ideas. Before you judge how others are, ask yourself how much of that judgement reveals about yourself.

I once said this to my sister over the phone about someone I had seen on the streets earlier that day, “She was awfully dressed! She was wearing a long dress but with white sneakers and stockings. She was definitely Tonga that one!” The truth is that that was not the first time I had uttered such a derogatory statement about Tonga’s and laughed about it as if I had said nothing wrong. In fact, one of my closest friends is Tonga and although that fact never at any point came into play when I was getting closer to her, there have been times when I have said to her, “iwe chimuTonga, very typical!” Was I being a tribalist?

Yes there have been times when I have felt like kicking the life out of my friend when we have disagreements but there has never been a time I attributed her judgements, utterances, or behaviour to her tribe. So, could that have been my weakness or her weakness? Another friend of mine (should I mention that she is Bemba?) made this statement;

“I have heard Zambians celebrate every time Mweene the goalkeeper for the Zambian Soccer/Football Team saves a goal…but I have never heard people say anything about his skills having anything to do about him being Tonga or not. In fact, it was only after someone mentioned it to me that I learnt he was Tonga.” And to tell you the truth, I am also not sure if Mweene is actualy Tonga or not. It had never occurred to me to ask.

Personally, I have had many terrible experiences with people yet I cannot remember how many times I attributed their behaviour to their tribe. Looking back, I have had disagreements  with people from almost all the tribes in Zambia! However, I cannot say for sure how many of those where Tonga’s and how many where not. So, do you think I, who was not aware of such a thing has a weakness or the weakness would lie with someone who can count on his/her fingers and more how many times he/she has had bad experiences with Tongas? From when did you start counting and at what point did you discover those people where Tongas? Perhaps, could there be people with such characters from your own tribal group? If there are, would you be comfortable with people ascribing that characteristic to your whole group?

I understand that each tribe has its own tendencies, some very nice and some not so nice. However, before making general statements, how about we put into perspective all variables? Do not just say Tongas love themselves too much or that they are bad to work with. Everyone knows that women are complex creatures of emotion and they tend to be lethal whenever it’s ‘that time of the month’ – this is a biological fact – yet men still marry them and decide to have children with them. The question is why? Because they strive to understand them. Have you ever tried to understand why certain tribes have certain tendencies? If I grew up hearing that my people are backwards, mediocre, with funny accents and so on…will you blame me if I become defensive in the presence of other tribes or if I propel myself to excel to prove the haters wrong? Would you blame me for being proud? How about we both take responsibility for the way society has contributed to my socialization and if the outcome is not likable, can we do anything to change this from reoccurring? Can we do that?

Before you utter anything negative, it is important to think critically about the outcome. Genocides have started for lesser things than playing Chimbuya. It is very easy to practice tribalism and not be aware of it. If you are going to vote for anyone, vote on merit and not tribe. Since when did you start thinking about what tribe your friend or enemy was? Could it be that there is something you yourself is lacking and the only way to discredit others is to attack something of theirs that they had no choice in attaining? Who had a choice in the tribe they are? We can choose our marriage partners yes but our children will have no choice in who their parents are. If you have a problem with that, you can take it to God in prayer. He always answers.

While I was writing this piece, I called most of my friends and asked them this question; what tribe is Hakainde Hichilema and what tribe is Edgar Lungu? You know the answer? It was this answer;

Hakainde is Tonga and Edgar is from Eastern Province.

And no, the answer was NOT HH is from Southern Province and EL is from Eastern Province. People were not clear about what tribe EL really is and it didn’t matter because who doesn’t know the tribes from Eastern Province? By the way, how many tribes are there in Southern Province? My point here is that people are quick to mention Tonga when referring to HH but slow to come up with either Chewa, Nsenga, Ngoni or other tribes from the Eastern. It is the same with all other political candidates, their tribes do not matter but HH’s tribe does.

Why should tribe matter for one and not the other? If we took away HH being Tonga, can we list down the qualities we feel demerit all presidential candidates from taking that position, including the ones we support? Is it possible for us to weigh the pros and cons of each and make an informed decision from that or are we simply supporting candidates based on loyalty? How many of us have taken the time to make such evaluations?

Just because people belong to opposing parties does not mean there is nothing they can learn from each other. I am of the belief that as long as I am not being asked to vote on tribal basis, I can strive to understand different party manifestos, evaluate the candidates, consider the past lessons, and make an informed decision. And once I decide, it is not because I feel that candidate is perfect and the rest are worthless, it is simply because out of all those candidates, I believe that the one I have picked stands for most of the things I would love to promote. If you have personal experiences with HH that have led you to believe he is a tribalist, then don’t support him. However, it would be wrong to ascribe his behaviour to all Tongas. I understand that all cultures have their tendencies but, just as you hate hearing people from outside Africa talk about how poor and Ebola-infested people in Africa are, then stop this Tonga this and Tonga that because what you see is not always a complete picture.

I do not wish for people to see this as a political campaign but instead, an opportunity to think about what they say and what the impact their words can have on the Zambian community at large. If our children grow up hearing the words that I have been hearing lately, can you imagine what the future of Zambia would look like fifty years from now? Even in politics, isn’t it possible to campaign without bashing the tribe of the opponent? Whatever happened to voting based on merit, has it become a foreign concept?

Perceptions: What if you were wrong?

   Perception  Imagine this:

A man and woman…. (I will call the woman Mrs Mwansa and the man Mr Kunda.)

The two have just winded up their long meeting at Arcades and Mrs. Mwansa excuses herself to go to the ‘ladies room.’ She asks Mr Kunda to watch her things while she’s away and he agrees. When she returns, she notices Mr Kunda’s sudden strange behaviour: he avoids meeting her eyes and he’s face is almost turning red from blushing. The two of them say their goodbyes – with Mr Kunda still behaving awkwardly. Not one to entertain misunderstandings, Mrs Mwansa decides to confront the elephant in the room.

“Is something the matter Sir?” She asked. “Ever since I came back from…from the bathroom, you’ve been acting…how should I call it…weird? Did something happen while I was away?”

Because she was standing, Mr Kunda quickly reasoned that it would be best for him to express what was on his mind standing, and he did likewise. He moved to where she was standing, leaned in a bit and whispered the following words; “I am very sorry to have to do this…the truth is…I really don’t know if I am supposed to say anything or not…and I beg your pardon for this…but…your zipper is open. I am very sorry.” And he quickly pulled his head away, blushing profusely.

First instinct for Mrs Mwansa was to look down and there it was, very open! She suddenly remembered why after only wearing it once since she bought it four months ago, she had never worn that skirt again. However, when she came across it that morning, she only thought about how perfect it would look with her new blouse and forgot about the most crucial factor. Feeling embarrassed from head to toe, her hands first moved to cover her mouth and then quickly moved to close the zipper. She looked around her to see if people were looking at her. Mostly, they all seemed to be minding their own business but it was when her eyes moved to the entrance of the restaurant that she realized they had an actual audience.

It was her husband. And he was not a very pleased audience.

She could picture the things going on in his head. Knowing very well what kind of man he was, she knew she was in trouble. Where would she even start? She wondered how long he had been standing there. Where was she going to start explaining from? Would he even believe her? She looked over at Mr Kunda who was absolutely oblivious of her husband’s presence. He was still looking like a boy who had been caught red-handed with his hands in the cookie jar. She cursed the guilty look on his face.

For the four years she had known him, despite being a genius in his work, Mr Kunda was generally an awkward and clumsy man…except, his condition always seemed to worsen whenever he was in the company of a female.

“I should go now; my husband is here to pick me up.” She informed the once light skinned man whose complexion had now turned a shade yet to be included in the colour spectrum. When Mr Kunda followed the direction of his colleague’s eyes, his first reaction was to take a step back away from Mrs Mwansa, a move that led to his leg getting stuck in one of the chair and landing his bottom to the very floor.

When will I stop being so clumsy for Christ’s sake, he thought to himself as he quickly picked himself up.  By this time, Mr Mwansa had reached their table and before Mr Kunda could stand up straight, he was dealt a punch that sent him back to floor.

How did things end up like that?

The answer is Perception.

Perception has been defined to mean the process individuals go through to organize and interpret their sensory impressions in order to give meaning to their environment.

I recently learnt this during one of my classes;

People’s behavior is based on their perception of what reality is, not on reality itself.

As most of my close friends already know, not only am I a book fanatic, I am also addicted to dramas. So I was watching a certain drama when one of the actresses told this story that left me thinking about the many times I might have misinterpreted reality and ended up paying for it. Although not exact, this is what I was able to pick up from that scenario:

There was a family that had an old woman who was very sick and needed to be on a special diet. The family was very poor so every little healthy food they found was always left for the patient. One day, the youngest child in the family was passing through when from a distance, she saw her mother standing by the stove and eating the rice that was meant for the old sick woman.

That day, neither the rest of the family nor the sick woman had eaten any rice. From that day forward, the girl grew up believing that her mother was very selfish and their relationship was strained since.

However, what the girl did not know or see the day she saw her mother eating the rice by the stove is that her mother was not actually eating the rice meant for the patient. They were old burnt… (wait, can I call them that?)… anyway, in simpler terms – it was rice that had somehow fallen into the ashes of the stove as it was being cooked a few days before. It was not food that could be served to anybody, especially a patient. The woman had come across the rice as she was cleaning the stove and after starving for days whilst taking care of her family, she decided to eat those instead of throwing them away.

After listening to that story and after learning a bit about perception, I decided that whenever I am faced with a situation that might be open to different interpretations; I should consider things from varying angles before drawing a conclusion…especially if it’s a conclusion that might not be favourable. After all, wouldn’t it better to know that you did your very best before giving up on something? There is always that possibility….what if you are wrong?

In life, we are forever drawing conclusions and suspicions based on how we perceive things. That’s the reality. But are the things we perceive reality itself?

I think he/she likes me.

S/he’s flirting with me that one, obviously.

S/he must hate me.

s/he doesn’t like me.

I think s/he is having an affair.

I am going to fail that exam.

Etc…etc

The truth is that with perception, sometimes we might be right…and sometimes we might be wrong. But, is there ever a middle ground? I don’t know. However, the fact is that we draw conclusions based on our schemata – our experiences that have structured us into behaving and reacting in certain way.

Can we say then that how we react to circumstances and how we interpret them tells us more about who we are than what those in the situation are – vis-à-vis Mr Mwansa’s reaction? How many times do you think you have held someone responsible for a wrong doing based on your own perceptions and ultimately destroyed what could have been a great relationship or friendship? Do we ever take time to see things from other people’s point of view or we are too quick to draw conclusions based on what we perceive to be the reality? By the way, what exactly is reality?

Sometimes…not everything is as it seems.

And it is always best not be self-centered.

My 7 months in mountainous Kenya: A profile of Roberta Muchangwe

A friend of mine recently told me that he was writing a piece that I might find interesting…and as you all know am all about all things, even “Recognizing women doing great work”! I must say, I did find the woman in this practitioner profile very inspiring especially that I also deep my toes every now and then in communications and public relations work.

In this profile, Suzyika captures the experiences of Roberta Muchangwe when she worked in Kenya as a communications specialist with Community Research in Environment and Development Initiatives (CREADIS). The idea is to get first-hand information from practioners in public domains on challenges and opportunities.

You can find more information about profiles of practioners on http://courses2.cit.cornell.edu/fit117/

robertaMy 7 months in mountainous Kenya: A profile of Roberta Muchangwe

From October 2009 to April 2010, I worked in Kenya under MS Kenya and ActionAid Denmark. I was placed with a partner organisation called Community Research in Environment and Development Initiatives (CREADIS). After graduating from the UNZA in 2009, I found this job advertisement online and I applied for it. I didn’t even think I was qualified enough but I still applied for it. I pushed in my Journalism Diploma and my Mass Communication Degree and went through the selection process. I later received an email saying I was appointed. It was quite surprising. I put my things together and I was off to Kenya.

CREADIS is an NGO whose aim is to eradicate poverty in rural Kenya by using different innovations in agriculture. They go to different villages and teach farmers how to grow their crops and introduce them to new technology or innovations in the field of agriculture like new chemicals for their agricultural products. Through CREADIS, communities are taught about planting trees and how to conserve the environment. Besides that, it engages communities on how to improve nutrition practices of rural households. Their nutrition program also focused on orphans and vulnerable children especially those that have lost their parents to HIV and AIDS. For the orphans, they would offer sponsorship to go to school and buy them what they needed such as books and clothes.

As a communications specialist, I was there to capacity build the organisation in communications and was expected to inspire the staff of CREADIS in communications. I was there to help them see ways in which they can bring in the use of the media in their projects especially as regards their fundraising strategies. We worked on building the image of the organisation by improving public relations in order to draw donors and well-wishers to their organisation. I trained them and ran workshops where we looked at writing for the media as well as writing to attract the media. We also looked into ways we could organise events that would attract media coverage to put the organisation on the map.

I revived, designed and laid out the CREADIS Newsletter and other communication tools such as brochures, information sheets, photo gallery and posters. Staff member were then trained on how to utilise media in their work through capacity building workshops‏. Capacity building is always crucial, especially for NGOs working with communities to ensure continuity of programmes.

I went out into the field with project officers and got involved with the work that they engaged in and tried to find stories that we could write about. I had to balance my work between the field and the desk though I spent more time in the field where everything was happening. I gathered, edited and wrote news stories and other communication write-ups for the organisation.

My experience was not short of challenges. I never understood Kiswahili which is the other official language that is spoken in Kenya apart from English and of course there are other local languages. CREADIS is an organisation that works in deep rural Kenya where people do not use English. The good thing is Kiswahili is a Bantu language which makes it similar to languages here in Zambia. I could get the meaning of some of the words but for the sake of accuracy, I had to have an interpreter with me which proved a challenge of language none existent.

I found Kenya fast paced compared to Zambia. Zambia is slow paced if you ask me. Kenyan people are always up and about doing a lot of things. Most Kenyans are not in formal employment but are into business and they seem to catch on with the latest things happening around. I guess it is a personal thing and that’s why I might I have felt that way. I am more of a laggard as I always catch on much later on certain things, be it personal or technology wise‏. Adapting to this kind of arrangement was quite a tough one but eventually I managed.

Besides that, I felt some form of intimidation from the staff of CREADIS. I think some of them felt they didn’t need an expert from a different country to come and teach them about communication when they had people within country with those skills. Who can blame them? though the idea with ActionAid was to let the African region create links. Yes they have their own experts; it was about learning from one another and sharing experiences.

As a project, there were times when we didn’t meet the project goals, especially as regards fund raising. Times when I drew up fund raising proposals to different funders and some did not go through. Such times were usually the crucial times for me. But then again, we could only try again.

In terms of social life, I was able to fit in quite well. I understand how African culture works as regards behaviour, dressing and such things so this was no big deal, I was able to easily fit in. I just had to practice a bit of “when you go to Rome do as the Romans do”. An African really just fits in [laughter], but of course I had to ensure that I was sensitive to each and every cultural norm I encountered that was different from mine‏.

Looking back now, I think anything is possible even if you have barriers. You can still break through if you really want to effect change but you have to be patient because you are working people who have different attitudes. If you are going to work with other human beings, you have to be humble. Place yourself in a position where you also want to learn from them. In as much as I went out there to impart this knowledge, I came back with a lot of knowledge myself.

When it was finally time to leave Kenya, I felt like I was living my family behind, I had met great people that I wished I could stay and work with forever. At the same time I looked forward to going back to my country which I missed every day. Mixed feelings encompassed me during my last days in Kenya.

Despite the fact that I didn’t have the required experience, managed to carry out my duties effectively. I worked has and my passion to work with communities and helping to see them develop got me doing the work without the required years of experience. Additionally, I had a previous eight months experience in community work from my previous voluntary job with Restless Development and also with different Media houses as an intern. By the time I was leaving I really felt like I had archived something huge. I left a happy woman because they knew how to utilise communication in their organisation with regards to their projects.

Kenya is beautiful and I had beautiful experiences there. It is a land of diversity though there are divisions amongst people from different tribes. I loved the great landscapes that Kenya has and of course the coastal area with its beautiful beaches. The beaches were a great get away place most times for me. This is not to say I didn’t miss home, I missed it every day but I knew what I went there to do was worth missing home for‏. I did not only learn a lot from the project but I made life long memories and friends.

Roberta Muchangwe is a Lecturer at The University of Zambia in the department of Mass Communication and Coordinator of the Media Project (Zambia).

About the Author:

Suzyika is a Graduate Student at Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy University studying Public Policy.

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