BY PAMELA BOWMAN MESA ARIZONA – “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.” — Douglas Adams
When we went to Zambia, we had good intentions. We thought we would bring a new industry to a country that would embrace us and our goals. We thought that Zambia would want an opportunity to expand its employment options. It didn’t occur to us that Zambia or other countries might not want to do things the same way we do things. Some people like to learn from their own mistakes instead of the mistakes of others. I am sure when the wheel was invented, people were hesitant and wanted to stay with what was more familiar. We should have thought of that possibility and been more sensitive to a people’s self-discovery.
Countries consist of people and traditions and pride. Zambia is not any different. Zambia has 73 tribes in its country. Each tribe has their own language, their own history, their own culture. Some of the tribes work together and are friendly to each other. Other tribes don’t like each other much. I am sure history would explain their apprehension with each other. Tribes are like large families. When a couple marries then their children adopt the tribe of their father. Some tribes believe in polygamy. Others tribes forbid it. Each tribe has its own mores and values and standards. But whichever tribe a Zambian belongs to it is the best tribe in the country. If you don’t believe me just ask one! One thing they all have in common is respect. They respect the right of other tribes to live according to their beliefs. Sound familiar?
We also went to Zambia to learn about their culture. We went with the belief that every culture has something to offer. We wanted to know what their culture could offer the world. We spoke with many about what made Zambia a wonderful place to live. The people looked at us like we were crazy. They looked around them and would respond, “Zambia is my country! Why wouldn’t I love it? Look at the people, they are so friendly.” And indeed they were to us!
I believe what ended up happening is that instead of us helping establish a new industry and changing a country, our experience in Zambia changed us. We discovered things about each other, but more importantly we discovered things about ourselves. We are becoming more of who we were intended to be. We keep unlayering ourselves and those around us sometimes are confused as to who we are. They are not alone. We are confused as we discover who we really are as well. It is a process, but it has been self-affirming for all of us.
We may not have gone and done what we intended to do, but we ended up where we needed to be.