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i am late coming to this one... i have to say i don't do podcasts so when i saw "podcast" on the sticky, i kind of ignored it...

How? By placing ourselves in situations where we are the Other.

my biggest recent "other situation" was the month we spent in zambia this summer. we were in the suburbs of lusaka. it's not a tourist town at all (the tourists all go to livingstone) so the bulk of visitors are travelling on business, and they're all downtown. it is extremely unusual to see someone in lusaka who is not zambian.

What is going through your mind during the moment?

we experienced some real culture shock on our arrival - the high stone security walls (some topped with broken glass or razor wire) around almost every property except in the extremely poor areas, the massive potholes in the road and dirt sidewalks and dirt roads in the city, the dryness of the air, the lack of clean running water in all but the most wealthy areas.

What is going through your head about the people who surround you?

everyone in lusaka is very modest (in both dress and demeanour) and polite - so unlike toronto! we found ourselves stepping up and becoming more polite and modest ourselves. mostly we were stunned by the hardship most live with - whole families breaking rocks into gravel by hand, for about $1.50 a day. it really puts the privilege we live with in the west in perspective.

What do you perceive will be their treatment of you?

it's impossible not to feel like you stick out. you do, full stop. and there were a few cases where my mil got mad at locals (market vendors, taxi drivers) for trying to charge us "mazungu" (foreigner) prices instead of zambian prices, so there was an awareness that at least some people saw us as wealthy and were happy to overcharge us (although no one ever tried to charge us what the same services would fetch in canada), which wasn't an issue with us, but really bothered my mil! she wouldn't let me or even my husband (her son, 50% zambian) go with her to buy goats at the market, as we would hamper her haggling.

mainly people saw us as a curiosity, wondered why we were there, but not in an uninviting way, just pure honest surprise and curiosity (we had a couple of helpful taxi drivers who were positive we must have the address where we were staying wrong - surely we couldn't be going there??) - as i say, there are very few non-zambians in lusaka.

mostly everyone was friendly and especially happy to see a mazungu baby in a bapu! we got many approving looks and compliments from strangers. zambians LOVE babies! i think we saw maybe 2 babies in strollers the entire month we were there. one was crying being pushed by its dad, and i called out to him and said "you should give that baby a bapu!" and he looked surprised for a moment and then we all laughed!

How do you act in response to all this stimuli?

i did find myself much more aware of the different shades of brown though - here in north america, it seems that anyone with any visible percentage of african ancestry is black, full stop (i guess that's the old "one drop" rule?) in lusaka, it seemed to be the opposite - my husband, who is one half zambian and is definitely be considered black here, was seen as white there. and while there were blacks at all levels of society, the poorest were all black. we never saw anyone of mixed ancestry in the poorest areas - they all seemed to be working at the bank or shopping at the expensive grocery store.

but really everyone was so accepting of us that we felt at home very quickly. people are people wherever you go - if you accept them as such, they will generally be accepting of you, i find.
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