Thursday, July 25, 2024

Woman who Made Me Love Zambia- Part 4


Zambia Airways

Click here for Part 3

We drove on the two-lane Great East Road from the Lusaka International Airport for 45 minutes to the University of Zambia (UNZA) entrance where the road turned into four lanes but without a middle divider. I instructed the taxi driver to turn right into Chibambe Road after the Northmead Supermarket. Then to turn left on the third road into Buchi Road. I told him to slow down while pointing to turn right into the wide open short two meter high aluminum metal gate to the third house with the short grass fence along the front. As the taxi pulled in, a medium sized family black dog named Spot and brown dog Bobbie rushed to the car barking furiously each dog on both sides of the taxi.

“Ziluma? (Do they bite?)” the taxi drive asked glancing at me nervously.

Only ngati mwabwera usiku(Only if you come at night)”, I replied looking at him with a muted smile. He got my joke as he smiled back as I was paying him. The dogs were running around the taxi barking excitedly.

“Bwana, (Sir)” the taxi driver said. “Sembe namtengelani suitcase but I am scared of the dogs.”
“Osabvutika ba Mdala, (don’t worry big man),” I replied as I opened my car door. “Azanyamula wa nchito (the house servant will carry the suitcase).”

Before I could call the house servant, “Mwabwela ba Tembo (so you have come),” said the house servant Joni as he emerged behind me from the corner of the house as I came out of the taxi. He took my suitcase out of the taxi after the taxi driver had handed him the keys to the car boot through his window. “I heard imbwa but not the taxi. (I heard the dog barking but did not hear the taxi).”
The dogs were still barking, whining noisily, growling, wagging their tails, and feigning biting each other, bumping against my legs vying for my attention.

“Hey, Bobbie and Spot!!” I shouted in a stern voice. “Stop !! Chongo!!!”
The dogs quieted as the taxi driver reversed and drove off. The 1972 white Pegeout 504 was already parked in front of the house which meant Uncle Tenson Ngulube was already back from work.
“Ba Joni muli bwanji (How are you) ?” I asked enjoying Lusaka Nyanja.
“Nili bwino che bamdala, (I am alright big man)”

“Sutikesi iyi mufake mu bedroom yanga, ayi (Carry the suitcase into my bedroom).”
At our house, all formal guests, visitors and strangers used the front door. Family members and other close intimate people used the side kitchen door. I followed Joni to the side of the house as he carried the suitcase up the kitchen door stairs.
“Ehhh! Uncle Mwizenge biza! (Uncle Mwizenge has come)” yelled my 11 year old nephew Tizaso.

“Ehhh! Uncle Mwizenge!!” my 8 year old niece Misozi picked up the chorus in relay as I walked up the stairs each one of them excitedly held both my hands. My 18 month old niece Malita could not come down stairs fast enough. So all she could do was stand at the top of the stairs and imitate her siblings while rocking up and down bending her knees up and down clapping her small hands chanting excitedly: “Ako! Ako! Ako!”
I rubbed her head and stretched my hand to shake her small hand.

“Eh! Muli uli a Malita! ha! (How are you!)”
“You have arrived just at the right time”, amama a Nya Zghambo said from the kitchen as I stood briefly at the kitchen door leaning my shoulder on the door frame. “Good timing. You must be a good farmer. Sima yubwata, I will just add more water, (The nshima is just boiling).”
“Mgachita makora, (That would be good)” I said. “Because I am so hungry, njala yabalilamo bana mnthumbo, (Hunger has even produced babies in my stomach).” She laughed.

The familiar scent and sounds of steaming boiling nshima, mild smell of tiny amounts of burning mealie-meal on the red hot stove, the delicious scent of warming ndiyo, dende, umunani or relish, the sounds of clanking plates being placed on the dining table and voices mixed with TV sounds from the living room. The deep comforting soul of home. There is a traditional Zambian belief that if you arrive at a home when they are either cooking or just about to eat, it means you are a good farmer or chikumbi as the Chewa people would say. But if you arrive after the meal or when the hosts are washing dishes after the meal is over, then you are a poor farmer.

I went to the living room where my uncle Tenson had already taken his bath and was wearing sandals, sitting relaxed in his comfortable sofa chair, flipping through the newspaper, with the grainy black and white TV flickering showing some news program on the only and one TV station channel: Zambia Broadcasting Services television.

“Ah! Ah! Tembo mwiza? (Mr. Tembo you have come?),” uncle Tenson said once he saw me standing next to the dining room table. “I heard dogs barking and the next thing was a taxi leaving.”
“Enya ndine, (yes it is me)”.

“Mwenda makola uku ku Barotseland? (How was your journey).”
“Makola. (the journey was well).
“Yayi, malonje tizamcita para tarya sima. Mugeze mbafa (take a bath) so that you will be fresh when we eat nshima. (We will conduct malonje after supper).

I went into the house fourth bedroom which was the spare bedroom and my bedroom. I had to take my bath quickly as I did not want the family to be waiting for me at the dinner table. I opened the suitcase and reached deep between my clothes and pulled out the 6 large dried Zambezi bream fish. I had carefully wrapped them into several layers of the Times of Zambia old newspapers. Then I had put all the 6 fish in a large thick plastic bag. I placed the package on my bed and went to take my bath.

All members of the family were sitting at the dining room table. My 18n month old niece Malita was sitting on her mother’s lap. We first prayed as my uncle and aunt were staunch Roman Catholics. We took turns washing our hands with my uncle washing first and going around the table.
“Amama mwacita makora(Mother you have done well),” I said to aunt a Nya Zghambo as we began eating. “Nkhuku, nchunga ziswesi, and repu. Madende wose ngawemi(Chicken, red kidney beans and rape all good relishes, dende, ndiyo, or umunani)”
“Enya, nangumanya kuti mkwiza(yes I knew you were coming)”, she replied.

“Niryenge uli sima? Mulomo utanganikenge na(How will I eat? All the good relishes will distract and confuse my eating concentration).” “Amama mumanya kuti ise a Tumbuka tutemwa chomene nchunga ziswesi(Mother you know we Tumbukas like red kidney beans)”, I said.
“E—nya,” she replied.

“Tikuti nchunga ziswesi za msuzi nge mwana wajipweteka(Red beans has red soup that looks like blood when a child has hurt himself.)” We laughed. “The way my grandmother used to cook the beans in the village,” I continued, “She would put the large clay pot on the fire at about 9 am (9 hours). She would boil the beans slowly all day while asking us to help her add more wood in the fire while we grandchildren were playing. At about 4:00 pm (16.00 hrs), she would add mcerre wolungira (unrefined salt that had large granules). Then she would lift the big clay pot with both strong hands and turn the beans upside down and let it simmer. She would cook a large nshima for more than 8 grandchildren. The beans and the soup was so thick and v—ery delicious with nshima!!”

We laughed as they had heard this nchunga story from me for a millionth time. As we ate, we made small talk but avoided talking about my trip because that would be done during malonje shortly after supper. I was still nervous about whether I should even tell them about Linda Jitanda.

By Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D.
Professor of Sociology


  1. This chapter is boring to say the least please, hit the damn nail on the head, l want to hear more about Linda Chitanda…

    • This chapter?All of them FFS

      All of them, the author is trying too hard.

      The Iron is not hot anymore, leave it- No one is interested



    • @Mushota ama jealous sure pali PhD dissertation yaba zanu! Ba Mushota tay one yayi as we havent even seen the title! Pershaps we shall critique it with Google Plagiarism Checker just to ”ze sure” (absolutely sure)!

  2. its a boring chapter sly to say this. and who is the fu that has time to west writing this chapter if i may ask ai?

  3. That is the purpose of the writer – maintain the suspense. Everybody is craving for the punchline – and will be glued!!!

  4. Two paragraphs about someone getting out of a taxi…I just wondered how many paragraphs he would use for eating dinner and was put off reading further!!

  5. C’mon now, I know you want your readers to revisit good old times but throw in a local line here and there but not every sentence, it’s a bit distracting. This must be the thick undiluted and raw ‘kumawa’ nyanja as some of the words I doubt I have heard them before in Lusaka where I lived.

    I just wished the script could stay and focu on Linda Jitanda. Remember it should be all about Linda and anyone else is a sidekick.

    Only thing I hurt about the Zambian lifestyle is the idea of house ‘servants’… jeez man! I know it’s a source of employment but jeez man that is so archaic.

  6. Missing home already! Very evocative writing on those emotions.

    Only, language interpretation is bit off. Proving there sometimes phrases you can’t explain in other languages! Actually, Mwabwela ba Tembo does NOT mean (so you have come).” In the proper sense of the English equivalent it means ‘welcome .’

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