By Alia Hammerstone
I got a crash course in Zambian culture sitting in Teacher Mafuta’s civics class. One word came up again and again: hospitality. I listened and met with small groups of students who discussed the cultural value of hospitality- the importance of being welcoming which is woven into the very fabric of Zambian society. From walking hand in hand with new friends the first day we traveled to School of Hope, to the reception we were given complete with a song of welcome, hospitality is ubiquitous in Zambia.
Each time I walk into a new classroom, students and teachers greet me enthusiastically, standing and saying, “welcome” in a way that truly makes you feel at home. I love being welcomed and included into these classrooms- from teachers asking me to share my thoughts on educational strategies to students asking me to participate in class and help them with their work. Zambians truly strive to make you feel at home and welcomed in such an authentically genuine way.
One of the most touching moments of the trip thus far was the opportunity to travel to a government school. We were greeted warmly the moment we arrived, and welcomed into a variety of classrooms where teachers were eager to share their lessons and ideas with us. After our observations, we enjoyed snacks in the head teacher’s office and were sent home with chickens as a thanks for our visit. To have been received so warmly and given so much from a school which has so little is indescribable, but so very typical for Zambia.
In a country where so many challenges persist, and so many have so little, one thing is sure: a Zambian’s number one resource is hospitality.