Written by Ryan Carey ’20
This post is written in response to Ryan’s trip to Zambia in the fall 3-week of 2017 led by Professors Amber Chenoweth and Emily McClung.
One of the most memorable things about my trip to Zambia was when we visited the Sumonga Village. We were there for a tour, but as soon as we started pulling in, we knew that it would be a completely different experience. As our bus entered the gates to the village, we were greeted by children running next to the bus. They shouted, much like most of the children we saw, “White people! White people!” in the native language for that area. They continued to follow us until the bus came to a stop. And when we all got off, there stood an entire greeting party of about twenty children, all of which picked a student, and grabbed their hand, dragging them into the village. Although the national language in Zambia is English, most of the children could barely understand what we were saying.
Initially, I did not acquire a child, probably due to my tall stature, but as the tour progressed I found a child playing with a tire. Upon seeing this, desperate to have a child to call mine, I got on my knees in attempt that he would role it my way. A tire was something that I had seen children play with in other areas as well, so I knew they just enjoyed rolling it around and to one another. As soon as he rolled it to me, I went up and introduced myself. He gave me an odd look at first, and then I proceeded to ask his name. I then tried to ask some more questions, but it was clear that his name was the only English he knew. And from that point on, he stayed right next to me the entire tour. The only time he would leave was to go grab a friend to meet me or to go destroy something. I’ll be honest, he was definitely a handful. I can’t imagine how his parents felt. But honestly, I don’t think they knew how he was acting.
There were about 40 kids that followed our group of students, and yet I saw no parents. The only time I ever saw an adult was one time when we walked past a mother preparing food. The amount of freedom and sense of security that the parents felt was a reoccurring theme I saw throughout many areas of our trip.
As we walked, my new friend kept pointing at my sunglasses, asking if he could have them. I was wearing my pair of Oakley sunglasses that were anything but cheap. I am very often protective of them, making sure they don’t get scratched or damaged. I don’t know what I was thinking, but for some reason, I had built up the trust in this child to go run around with my $165 pair of sunglasses. I can now say, having them returned to me damage free, that it was a good choice. I let other children play with them as well; and to see the amount of joy something so simple brought to these children was priceless.
As my craziness continued, I decided that I would let them play with my phone as well. They loved seeing themselves in the pictures, as well as taking pictures of their friends. So, here I am, letting children, whom I had never met and who speak no English, run around with my phone and sunglasses. I have no idea what I was thinking at the time, but I knew two things: the first being I can run faster and longer than any of the children, and the second being they wouldn’t run away or break my things.
Although this was not part of our tour, which honestly, I wasn’t even listening to, I feel that this was a better take-away. I will remember these couple of hours forever. That feeling of pure joy isn’t something that is experienced every day, and that’s why I’ll never forget that day at the village.