Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pride through Poverty in Zambia

By Tom Ginley
in Lusaka, Zambia

Driving down the long dirt road, our driver constantly dodging pedestrians, we finally found an area to park our bus at the Soweto market in Lusaka. The brief glimpses I gathered as we drove towards our spot were merely a preview of the experience we were about to dive head first into. The amount of people flowing in different directions made our travel to our parking space quite a challenge.

The Soweto market exemplified the areas of Africa I came on this trip to experience. The accommodations and restaurants provided thus far for the program were, for the most part, on par with many American counterparts. However, to experience the true essence of Zambia, I wanted to visit areas such as Soweto to interact and understand the people and their ways of life. Walking through the market, seeing the people selling and buy produce amongst mud and garbage, truly humbled me to realize how blessed I am to live the way I do.

Smile and Powerthrough

However, one thing that I noticed about the Zambian culture is that despite their destitute living conditions, the people are very exuberant. It is difficult to see a child selling fruit while covered in mud and flies, yet a bright white smile flashing through. At the Soweto market and in my other interactions with Zambians, it truly amazes me how overly helpful and pleasant the people are. I cannot imagine living in many the conditions that I saw, so seeing how happy and pleasant the people of the country are while enduring their struggles made me really realize how trivial many of my everyday “problems” are back home. At the market it wasn’t uncommon to see people in used and tattered clothes, but it was just as common to see those people laughing and having a good time as well.

The atmosphere and interactions I experienced at the Soweto market make a perfect snapshot of the attitude of the Zambian culture. I am glad that my time spent in Zambia will help me put my own personal struggles in perspective. If the people of Zambia can endure and smile through it all, I hope that I can too.

Tom Ginley is one of 18 students from Ohio University, studying abroad in Zambia over winter intercession, about media, society, and governance, through the Institute for International Journalism

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