Travel writer Sadichchha Pokharel talks about her surprise when she moved to Zambia.
When I first found out that my family would be moving to Zambia, I got this horrible image of living in a gloomy deserted area under terrible conditions, having nothing to eat but couscous and game meat, suffering from deadly diseases and being miserable. Of course, I realised how wrong I was the minute I peered out of the window seconds before landing. A vast green land, patches of blue lakes glistening in sunlight, crisscrossed white roads, tiny brown dots of houses, and trees everywhere. What I saw was the last thing from the dull dodgy place I had in mind.
The warm sun, the pleasant breeze and the fresh smell of African soil immediately cheered me up. As we drove out of the airport, I noticed the cloudless blue sky, beautiful flock of birds in flight, long highways running through green stretches of land, exotic craftwork lined up on roadsides, their plump sellers dressed in bright traditional clothes, giggling schoolchildren, all accompanied by a happy Zambian music playing on the car radio. I was instantly in love with the place.
While it is nature and wildlife that mainly draws visitors to Africa, the true beauty of the continent, I discovered, lay in its rich culture. Zambia has over 70 different ethnic groups, each speaking their own language. The values and norms derived from these tribal groups, combined with European influence, has made Zambian culture truly unique. Art, both visual and performing, is of major importance to these creative people. Everything about Zambian art screams nature and the African way of life, clearly reflected in the exquisite patterns of the chitenge clothing, the cheerful thump of African drums, the intricate designs of baskets, the lively songs and dances, and the skilfully crafted woodwork and ivory often found displayed in the famous local markets. Food is a real treat as well. A typical staple diet consists of nshima (a kind of cornmeal), beans, mixed vegetables, kapenta (a type of sardine), and chibwabwa (pumpkin leaves). The mineral wealth of Africa is as strong as its culture, something that often goes unnoticed. Zambia’s main assets are copper and cobalt. It is second in the world for cobalt production, and seventh in copper. The green malachite is also found in abundance and sold as jewellery and decorative pieces.
Living in Zambia has made me realise that Africa is not at an unhappy place as perceived by the rest of the world. Of course, poverty rate is high, diseases are common, yet the people here are the liveliest I’ve ever met. They have taught me to be content with little joys in life and are perfect examples of how material wealth doesn’t necessarily equal happiness. Neither is Africa all about wildlife as hyped by the media, although you do occasionally encounter a passing giraffe or an antelope on the highway. However, there is so much more to the continent than what is depicted in NatGeo magazines and charity adverts. Come live here and see for yourself.