092213 Chief’s Ceremony, Lusaka, Zambia

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Though this ticket stub clearly states that this event occurred on September 13th, 2013 my field notes from the trip completely contradict this information.  According to my notes, on September 13th I was several hours from Lusaka embarking on a river safari along Zambia’s famous Zambezi River in an attempt to stave off time and aggravation while m’lady and I waited for our first Instruments For Africa shipment to arrive in the capital city.

(Spoiler alert – the shipment would arrive a full five weeks late, at the very hour that our return flight was scheduled to take off.)

Anyway, until I can find further verification of the date in question, I will pretend that this event occurred on September 22nd, 2013 instead, if only because to date I’ve never attended an event on any September 22nd, so this function fills an empty hole in my ticket book.

Regardless of the date, this was a very memorable event that I would take back in a heartbeat.

I almost didn’t go; I certainly didn’t want to shell out five hundred kwacha (nearly $100CDN), but one of the first government officials we had met in the country – I believe she was the director of Zambia’s Arts & Culture society or something similar – had suggested we attend this fundraiser for the local tribal chiefs, invited us even, and I felt like I would be letting her down if we didn’t go.

Plus I was of course very interested in seeing something so darn cultural.

So we shelled out the big bucks and took a taxi to what turned out to be a convention hall in a local hotel.  We went in and found a seat at one of the big round tables in the nondescript, fluorescent-lit, carpeted room.  Soon enough a procession of chiefs (clad in street clothes) entered following behind a group of traditional drummers and dancers in native dress, who contrasted starkly with the modern furniture set with white linen.

The chiefs took their place at the front table and a small, extremely disappointing buffet was brought out.  And then the fundraising began.  

The chiefs and their consorts started asking for money, saying they needed vast amounts of kwacha in order to host a chiefs day to celebrate themselves (and their tribe, I suppose).  Now, we were in the country attempting to do charitable work of our own and m’lady and I definitely felt that our ticket price was enough of a contribution to their cause.  

The chiefs thought otherwise.  

At one point the host pointed to our table and exclaimed, “Here we have two white people!  They can give and give!”  On cue a couple of children approached us with cardboard boxes, ready to receive the insides of our wallets.  As I sat there shaking my head the announcement continued:

“How much will the white man and his wife give!  Come on white man, pull out your money!”

I swear this is true.

I was aghast.  I cringed and shook my head, “no”, and waited for them to move on.  They didn’t.

“Come on white man!” he continued, “We know you have lots of money…” and then, addressing the crowd at large with sweeping arms, “How much will the white man give us?” 

It went on and on until finally I crossed my arms and sat steadfastly still with a stony look of disgruntle plastered across my demeanour.  We gave nothing.  Eventually the children with the cardboard boxes moved on, casting condemning glares in our direction as they walked away.

Oh, did I mention that our government lady didn’t even show up?  One of the main reasons we went was to shmooze with her and to show her support, and she didn’t even come!  Oh, I was ever-so-disgruntled.

At the end of the night we took a pricey taxi back to our very cheap hostel and settled in for several more weeks of bouncing between extreme frustration and spectacular cultural experiences.

As they say, “TIA” (This Is Africa).

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