Meet Johan Soko

After we landed in Lusaka, we were greeted by a welcoming party from the CCAP (Church of Central Africa, Presbyterian).  From there we went to the local seminary, where we will be spending the first few weeks, before we move in with our host families. The ride from the airport was the first time I have been in a car driving on the left side of the road, which is something I’m still trying to adjust to. After we moved into our temporary living quarters, we went out to get cell phones and dongles. We were quickly introduced to the Kwacha, which is the currency used in Zambia. During the drive around town we were given little bits of information about life in Zambia. We talked about the elections that had just taken place, where we could find different goods in the city, and other useful bits of information. After we came back to the house, we had a traditional Zambian meal of Nshima and vegetables. Nshima is made from maize and is formed into balls. You then shape it in your hand and use it to pick up the other foods on you plate.


Over the next several days we did more exploring of Lusaka. We went to a few malls to get a few things we had forgotten and some food as well. By day two I was feeling comfortable with using Kwacha. I however wasn’t used to the time difference. From California to Zambia there is a nine-hour time difference and coming to Zambia was my first international flight. It has been a few days and I’m still a little jet lagged. I think my only saving grace is that I spent a week in New York before flying out here, which means I only needed to adjust for a six-hour time change. We used Thursday as a chance to really recover from being jet lagged by not leaving the campus at all. It was nice to slow down for a day and absorb our new home at a slower pace.


Then on Friday we were given a chance to use the minibus. It’s hard to describe because it is unlike most modes of public transit I have been on. The buses will stop at different unscheduled stops along a route on their way to bus stops and eventually town. In town you can change buses to get to a different route. The topic of mini buses is a perfect time to talk about a delicate subject for me, my size. As most of you know by now I’m not a small person and that hasn’t gone unnoticed. On the mini bus they try to put as many people in it as possible. You can see, as evident by the photo below, that I take up a lot more space on the mini bus than the average Zambian. I’ve also been told that if you are overweight you are considered to be rich. The concept is if you have enough money for an abundance of food then you must have more money than the average person. So that on top of the fact that I’m a muzungo (a white person), I really draw attention when I go places. I am really uncomfortable when I draw extra attention to myself, so this has been a little uncomfortable for me. With all that said I think it is important that I am uncomfortable. Too often we have the tendency to live life wanting it all for ourselves without considering implications that it has on the outside world.


On Saturday we met our host families for the first time. It was both exciting and terrifying. These wonderful people have offered up a room in their house so an American, that they have never meet, can join both their community and their family. What if I didn’t live up to their expectations? When I was introduced to my host family they started to talk about their new son, Johan Soko. It took me a hot minute to realize that they were referring to me! Johan is easier to say and more common than John. This was when I truly realized that I was part of the family. When my host parents were saying that they have nine daughters and two sons, I was one of the two sons. After all the families had gathered we went to Kalimba Farms, a crocodile farm. The members of my family that were present were my host parents, 2 granddaughters, a niece and a nephew. The niece and nephew have lived with them ever since their parents passed away years ago. It was great to see the children watch the reptiles. Beyond crocodiles they also had many different snakes and a chameleon. After lunch we did a round of mini golf which was fun because it was a new experience for them. It was really reassuring to see how accepting the family was to me and they put any concerns that I had to rest.


On Sunday we went to worship with my new congregation. There was a women’s retreat there that weekend and communion was also that Sunday. Even though I could not understand most of the worship because of language differences , I could feel the weight of every word spoken. The joy and excitement level of the service was also something that I’m not use to. After five hours of worship we went home and had our first afternoon of rest. There was so much to absorb and still much more to come. On Tuesday we left to spend three nights in a village but that deserves its own blog post.




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