A Volunteer’s Journal: The Street of Solwezi

Joe Weber is a CRS volunteer working in Zambia. The Kansas City native is teaching theology to rural catechists and assisting the diocesan development office in the establishment of a community radio station. This entry is part of a series of personal reflections from volunteers sharing from their journey and experience overseas.

On International Women’s Day I marched with an impressively large group of women through the street of Solwezi. It sounds funny to say street, in the singular, but to say that we marched through the streets of Solwezi might be misleading. It does not really have streets. Everything is centered around one road.

I enjoyed marching with these women. They had great energy, and it was contagious. I was inspired simply by the looks on their faces, the way they moved, danced, sang, and waved to those who waved at them. After a few meters I realized that I was wearing a grin that went from one ear to the other.

Many of the women marching were older. You could tell to look at them, but you couldn’t tell by watching them. They had a great deal of life coming forth from their bodies, from their eyes. They gave off the aura of school-aged girls, even those who were quite old.

At the end of the march we sat on a great lawn and listened to some songs and some presentations and, while some were entertaining and educational, many were boring. One positive example was a skit in which a man dressed up as a Zambian woman who was complaining about her husband…for a variety of reasons. The issue she settled on was whether or not their girl child would continue in school. The husband character brought up a number of reasons by which she would not continue: that they didn’t have money, that after a certain age, school girls will get pregnant, things like that. It was eye opening. The women laughed and cheered at the spectacle, and at the arguments that the girls should be allowed to study.

What really got my attention was the energy and enthusiasm of the women themselves. To me they seemed proud of their day. They laughed and danced and waved and sang together, and seemed to gain strength with every step.

Palm Sunday brought about a similar experience. With a bit of a smaller crowd, we began an ecumenical procession through the same street of Solwezi, beginning in the trash filled and muddy corner of the bus depot, which is no more than an area with a few shops where busses wait. It can be quite crowded and messy. Later, we processed to a shoe store, to a bank, and to a government office. At each of the five stations, a different denomination would be represented by a choir or by a preacher. The songs and the sermons were in Kaonde, so I did not understand them. At each station people waved their palms over their heads, yipped, and sang.

Later, at the Catholic Palm Sunday celebration, which followed the procession, mass began with a liturgical dance from a group of small girls. They led the entrance procession, and the offertory as well. During the offertory, the girls were followed by the women, who brought all kinds of things to the Lord at the altar: a live chicken, two forty KG bags of mealie meal, and a case of Coke and Fanta. During the homily, people were very engaged, laughing heartily at times. But, as with Women’s Day, it was the energy of the people, of the community, that inspired me more than anything else.

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2 Responses to “A Volunteer’s Journal: The Street of Solwezi”

  1. El Jefe Says:

    I love it, keep sending them to us. You can almost hear the laughter and joy of the crowd. It brought a smile to my face, thanks. LTA is in sunny Calif. with Michael, they are visiting TJ. They expect to be home around the 23rd. Keep them in your prayers asking God for a safe journey.

    What do you think of Louis’ plans?

    We think of you often and we ask God to keep you safe.

    Love, El Jefe.

  2. Mary Says:

    Joe,
    We enjoy reading about your experiences. What a wonderful opportunity to walk this path. You are in our thoughts and prayers.
    Love, Mary and Frank

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