Earlier in the year, I ended up taking a trip to the very top of Zambia on the border of the DRC. Not a usual experience for me in the slightest. The furtherest I usually travel is to my parents home less than an hour away from Cape Town.
After the trip I sat down with my co-host Miv to chat about travel on our podcast Not Really Radio. Our conversation resulted in some riveting revelations for me personally. Another thing I did was write a blog post about some of the lessons that I learnt on the trip itself. I thought today would be a good day to look back on those lessons. I first want to give you the option to listen to what Miv and I spoke about on episode 3 of Not Really Radio and after that is the blog post I wrote about the lessons I learnt on my trip.
Episode 3 of Not Really Radio
My trip to Zambia started on a Wednesday morning catching a flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg, where we caught a connecting flight to Livingstone. On the flight to Joburg something that I was shocked by was the large amount of older white gentleman on the plane. So my Dad is an older white gentleman who travels to Joburg for work every now and again. I knew that people did it, I was just shocked that it was basically only white men. It was a stark reminder of the financial privilege that we experience as white men, whether we like it or not. Something that frustrated me quite a bit was watching the behaviour of most of these men. Now I know they probably fly a lot and have heard everything before but I have never in my life seen such entitled behaviour. The air hostesses would ask them to do something, like turn off their electronic devices during take-off and landing and they had to fight to get them to do so. I don’t fly that often so I don’t know the full impact that that has on the airplane but nonetheless there are moments when we need to respect authority and I feel when someone has your life in their hands like on a plane, it might be a good idea to listen to them.
Then on the flight to Zambia my anger only got worse. On a flight from Johannesburg to Zambia, there was one person of colour. Let that settle in for a moment, one person of colour between two African nations.
Anyway, my trip started with some internal anger. I had to push it down because I was about to see Victoria Falls. A once in a lifetime experience for most of us. So I took a moment and gathered myself. Then viewing Victoria Falls was an actual treat. I won’t lie, an amazing experience to say the least.
We then had dinner at a hotel close to the Falls. I was the youngest person at the table by 20 years and the only people I knew were my parents. Politics did come up, I decided to not say anything in those moments. I could not quite sit there and try correct 6 other people that were much older than me. For two reasons; that would have been seen as me being rude, while my opinion would probably not have been heard because of my age. So I figured if I was not going to help the situation, why argue? I know ethically that was probably the wrong thing to have done. I felt though that to have disputed certain points would have been to argue for the sake of it with people who I didn’t actually know yet. Don’t stress, I have very healthy debates with my parents because I know their hearts, while I disagree with them on some things I know that ultimately I only think the way that I do because one of the biggest influences over my life was the way that they care for every person in South Africa no matter what the colour of their skin. They’re older white people who are aware of some of the DA’s flaws, highkey, they’re kind of woke.
Anyway, I had some things that made me angry that evening, so I had to drop a prayer or two before I went to bed. There was a part of the journey that felt like I was on a colonial pilgrimage as if that did not cause irreparable damage to Africa as a continent. I did not enjoy that feeling.
I was to learn something that I am still confused about. The family that we were visiting are rather extended, like 3rd uncle twice removed or something like that. Anyway I was there judging how colonial everything was, I was staying at a hunting game reserve. Hunting, another thing I don’t enjoy.
Then Friday arrived, where we attended the event that we had travelled to Zambia for. They were having the opening of a maternity ward of a hospital in the rural area of Kalene in the North-western province. Now my extended uncle is a towering white man, with a booming voice. Two things of incredible interest about him are that he is actually a chief of a tribe in his area and he considers Lunda (the predominant language of the area) his home language.
From what I could tell he was very much against a lot of things that I am against. He called out some of the missionaries for underlying racism within their helping (I loved that fact). He mentioned the fact that conservation is not useful unless it can help further provide for the community around the area. I also really enjoyed that. As important as conservation is, I genuinely feel we need to care for people first. Then he absolutely challenged one of my perspectives about having a hunting lodge.
While giving his speech during the opening ceremony, he spoke Lunda and translated to English explaining that the hunters that visit the game reserve contribute large amounts to the missionary projects in the area, from a mission school that was close to where we were staying and to the hospital that we were celebrating. Then the meat from what the hunters have killed is given to the community for food. Furthermore, the Game Reserve seems to house many of the local residents, without excluding them from the area. I was confused. I am still confused, I don’t enjoy hunting but I do eat meat, so who am I to judge those individuals?
Interestingly I then listened to a podcast at the start of the week with a skateboarder, who actually was my favourite skater growing up, who defended hunting and how it actually helps with conservation as well. Now I am confused, do I now have to believe certain facts rather than reacting emotional to disgusting pictures that I see online? Look I still can’t get into hunting, it is at the end of the day killing something for one’s enjoyment. Not something I’m about. However, I can now see some of it’s benefits.
Then one of the elders of my family also gave a speech at the opening of the maternity ward. She again spoke in Lunda, and told the story of how she was born in the very same hospital that had now just been expanded. She called the area her home. That hit he.
It was amazing to actually see a moment where work that my extended family had done was being celebrated and the impact that had on the community. The event was supported by the provincial minister with him giving a speech as well as the chief of that particular area. It was clear that the community supported my extended family and everything they had done for the area.
The land question in terms of ownership in this whole thing is a tough one. My inner socialist wants to say that the land owned by my extended family should be given back to the locals, but then that land is being used to give back to the locals. So my inner ethical capitalist thinks that everything is completely fine. My actual thoughts, I am conflicted but definitely challenged on some of my perspectives.
I am definitely still a defender of giving the land back in South Africa. If that doesn’t happen though, the best thing people with land can do is find ways to uplift there community with it. Like my extended family is doing. In a very complicated world they are doing some real good and I was encouraged by that.
I went into the trip just noticing the problematic elements of the whole thing, only to come out the other side to see some of the immense good that those of us on that trip were privy too.
So what are the takeaways from this trip? I don’t actually know. I just know that I am unbelievably privileged to have been able to go on it and grateful that good work is being done in the area by my extended family.