Published: April 4th 2007April 4th 2007
I suppose it’s time I introduce my home and host family.
Chibote is a peri-urban village about 11 km outside of Kitwe - Zambia’s second biggest city and the location of ZATAC’s regional office. I met my host family, the Kalombwanas, through my work in the community with ZATAC. They have been incredibly welcoming to this naïve muzungu from Canada.
The size of the Kalombwana family changes. A lot. There have been as few as six and as many as twelve of us living in the home. It has been a very new experience for me. I don’t think that I have ever lived in a home with more than three other people before, and that was with three other guys my own age in a home easily six times larger than our home here.
Let me see if I can put together a brief timeline of the household. September
My good friend Mr. Chabwe, the chairman of the Chibote Farmer’s Cooperative, with whom I was working through ZATAC, introduces me to the Kalombwana household. Mrs. Kalombwana and I hit it off right away. She wanted me to move in immediately and seemed initially offended
Luio - Rascal Extraordinaire
Stop staring at me, Luio. You're freaking me out.
that I wanted to pay rent because she simply wanted me to be a part of their family. I met her two sons, Luio - grade 5, and Liando - grade 9, as well. Luio seemed quite excited to have a muzungu moving into the home. He simply wouldn’t take his eyes off me. Liando was decidedly less excited - probably because I was bumping him down the pecking order in the household hierarchy.
I moved in a week later and met the men of the household, Mr. Kalombwana and Shawn, Mrs. Kalombwana’s younger brother who is finishing up his grade 12. Mr. Kalombwana is a manager of a security business in Kitwe, which means that he is quite well off in Chibote standards.
We bonded that first week by talking football (Mr. Kalombwana’s a big Manchester United fan, while I support one of their main rivals, Arsenal, which always makes for light-hearted jabbing when they play one another), and by watching the news together and the hit South African soap Opera Isidingo
every night. (I must admit that I can’t sit through the dubbed Spanish soap operas and episodes of Young and the Restless
from the 80s
If any sport mattered to him but football (soccer), Liando could have made a great basketball player in a Charles Barkley mould. Only 14, he's already well above average size.
that come on afterwards, though.) I was surprised to see that they had a TV at first, but I soon came to realize that a TV is often the first appliance that people will buy - often before a fridge or a stove, of which the Kalombwanas had neither when I first arrived.
Kalombwana Resident Count: 6 (Mr. and Mrs. Kalombwana, Shawn, Luio, Liando, Ed) October
Mr. and Mrs. Kalombwana, like just about everybody in Chibote, and much of Zambia for that matter, spend a lot of time in churches on the weekends (I attended once at the Kalombwana’s request. There was no roof on the church and I just about passed out from heat stroke and they never asked me to attend again). One weekend they went into town (Kitwe) for church. When they returned, they came with two young girls, Sherry and Margaret, relatives of the family. I didn’t think much of it at that moment. I assumed their nieces had come for a visit. The girls played outside with Luio and Mr. and Mrs. Kalombwana were their usual jovial selves.
I didn’t find out until much later what had actually happened. Mr. and
Well what a little surprise you were. I hope you do well because I have a feeling that your father is going to come looking for those ten cows one of these days.
Mrs. Kalombwana had gone to town for the funeral of Mrs. Kalombwana’s sister. She passed away from Malaria five years after her husband had also passed away. In Zambia, when children are orphaned, it becomes the responsibility of the rest of the family to take care of the children. It was decided at the funeral that the responsibility of Sherry and Margaret (two of five children) would fall to Mr. and Mrs. Kalombwana, and just like that, under tragic circumstances, our family grew by two.
This was just one of a number of examples that I have encountered of Zambians’ incredible ability to cope with terrible loss. I have attended funerals, and the grieving and pain is no different than it would be in Canada, but the recovery rate (at least externally) is staggeringly fast. November
One day I came home from work and Mrs. Kalombwana wasn’t home. This wasn’t an unusual occurrence. She sometimes comes home late from town where she has picked up groceries, or she tends to matters at the local school where she is the vice headmistress. But it was getting pretty late and she still hadn’t come, and even Mr. Kalombwana was unusually late. I asked Shawn what was going on, and Shawn told me that she was in the hospital. He didn’t know why.
By the time I went to bed (for a rather restless night of sleep) neither of them had returned. When I woke in the morning, I saw that Mr. Kalombwana had returned during the night. I asked him what was going on, and that’s when he gave me the news:
Mrs. Kalombwana was only hours away from giving birth to her fourth child!!
Leave it to me, Mr. Observant, to not even realize that she was pregnant. I guess I had my suspicions, but I didn’t want to ask anyone for fear that she was perhaps just a little obese. I went to visit her and the baby in hospital a couple of days later, and her and the newest addition to the Kalombwana family, Martin (not named after me but Mr. K’s middle name) arrived home.
Mr. Kalombwana, while largely joyous and proud, was also mildly disappointed that it was a boy as opposed to a girl. “10 more cows” is what he said when I asked why. It is customary here for the father of a groom to offer the father of the bride in marriage a gift. This is to be negotiated but in his Tongan culture, he figured 10 cows were what it would come down to. With three boys and one girl, he is running a cow deficit, and the Kalombwanas have decided on no more children, so this was his last chance to draw even.
Within days of the baby’s arrival, Mrs. Kalombwana’s mother and one of Sherry and Margaret’s sisters, Constance, whom Mrs. K’s mother was taking care of, arrived to look after the baby.
Count: 11 December
The school year ends and the Kalombwana’s eldest and only daughter, Theresa, returns home after completing grade 12.
Count: 12 January
Liando moves out to join his uncle in southern Zambia to help him plow his fields while school is on break. (Count: 11) Shawn is also supposed to leave but because Mrs. Kalombwana’s mother and Constance leave (Count: 9), he stays around to take care of the baby. But then Theresa leaves to spend time with friends (Count: 8).
And then came the most abrupt and surprising move of all: I
left. Check out this entry
for more details.
A muzungu couldn’t have asked for a better family than the Kalombwanas. We formed a good team, whether it was poking fun at some of Zambia’s more effervescent political personalities, revelling in our distaste for the Newcastle United Football Club, or just sharing in the joys and pains of Chibote life. It is unfortunate that I had to leave so early, but living with the Kalombwanas was a fun and enriching experience for me. I hope that they can say the same.