Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Makiya Village, My Village

Makiya Village, my village and home, is a tiny place made up of eleven huts in the shape of a Q. And since my compound is set just outside the main village, my hut acts like the Q’s tail.
It isn’t likely to be on any map except Google Maps where I finally found, after 10 minutes of searching, what I’m almost certain is my hut and the huts of Makiya Village.
It isn’t much to see in person — just a few grass thatched huts — but it’s home just the same and those who live here are about as close to a Zambian family as I will ever get.
About 65 men, women and children — all of them related in some manner as cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers, etc. — live in my village’s 11 huts. In this one village there are four generations of the Baboon clan.
This is about 2/3s of the people I lived with during the past two years.  The villagers of Makiya Village were wonderful to me.  I wanted to take a picture like this for about 6 months but could never get everyone together... until my last week in the village.  Please notice Grandma on the left-side throwing up the double hand wave and Nshimbi in the blue shirt.  Makes me smile every time.
Of the 65 people in the village, the majority are children. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and with so many kids scurrying around, over, and under everything, it’s good they’re all related because no one mother could keep an eye on them all. I once saw a woman give a pretty serious spanking to her niece after she had pushed down a cousin that belonged to another sister.
In the village hierarchy there is Mr. Fred Fubisha, the village headman. Formerly one of the best bush hunters in the area, his body is now wracked by rheumatoid arthritis and his mobility has been greatly reduced. But his mind remains as sharp as ever.
The headman, Mr. Fubisha (on the right side of the photo) in his arm-powered wheel chair. 

This is a much better picture of Mr. F (he's not in the middle of eating at least).  Back in his prime he was a very well known hunter in the area.  His specialty... elephants.  The man has some amazing stories.
He’s not the oldest person in Makiya Village, though. That designation belongs to his mother, Nelo, who seems to play the role of stern, respected, wizened matriarch to perfection at 80-plus years of age. She’s no pushover.
Grandma Nelo with the newest addition to our village, baby Jordan.  She's a tough old lady: stern but fair.
After the headman comes the head of each household, and for my village, those are mainly the mothers. For whatever reason there are only four huts with men always present. Sometimes due to employment opportunities elsewhere, death, divorce or other issues, the women largely dominate the social landscape in this village.
And that’s a good thing for me because it means that I basically have nine mothers and one stern, but fair, grandmother keeping an eye out for me.
My brightly painted home.  To be honest it was a dumpy hut, but that's mainly my fault.  I didn't take much initiative to keep it in tip-top condition.  Nonetheless it was home.
For example, last year I got really sick from an especially bad case of food poisoning. Throughout the day, all of them would stop by to check on me and see if I needed anything, even going so far as to empty my bedside bucket.
They think that I’m something more than just a helpless volunteer that’s been implanted into their community.
Recently, one woman claimed that she considered me to be her first-born child (an honor in Zambia) in front of her actual first born and a gathering of villagers. Kind of awkward, I know, but he later told me he took no offense to her comment.
Smiles everyday... that's what Makiya Village offered.
For all the female involvement, there is absolutely preferential treatment among the children. Due to typically large families (six children on average) and limited funding, boys are sent to school before girls and there is a discrepancy between how long they’re sent (the older children go for much longer).
There’s one man in Makiya who can speak English incredibly well because of a decent education, while a younger brother speaks only the local languages due to less educational opportunities.
This overall scenario of my village’s makeup is similar throughout rural Zambia where the Zambian nuclear family greatly outnumbers the American version by at least 2 to 1.
Even the proximity of family members to one another is like this throughout the country. There may be a cousin, sibling or child who acts as the outlier and has moved away to a better job somewhere else, but mostly they live in large familial clusters.
Some villages may have huts numbering more than 100, but I’m thankful for my small village. I know everyone, they know me, and we get along perfectly.
It’s an ideal setting that allows me to have a safe community, local friends and experience firsthand the happenings of an African village and its nuclear family.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for taking the time to write these articles. I almost felt like I was there with you. What an awesome experience!
    Jeff Young