Zambezi is more beautiful than I could have ever expected. I have already experienced so many things for the first time.
I have never identified as a white person before. I have always seen myself as black or as mixed, but never just white. However, just like the rest of the group, I am called “Chindele” everyday by the children of Zambezi. Each day in Zambia makes me question my heritage and my privilege in a new way. Being a minority in the U.S. is different from being a minority in Zambezi. In the U.S. being a minority serves as a route to experience judgement, missed opportunities and, often, violence. In both Zambezi and the U.S., I appear as the odd one out in a crowd, but in Zambezi, being a minority does not mean that you are lesser. Here, I am constantly celebrated. I am given priority at every event. I am fed first and am offered the seats of the Zambezi people. At times I am so overwhelmed by the attention that I find myself hopping over the back fence of the convent, dodging the children of the community as if they were paparazzi. I am not yet sure what to make of this distinction. Perhaps it is only because I am identified as a “chindele” that this is the case. I am still questioning if I receive this attention because I am a minority in this community or because I am considered white. I have never reaped the benefits of being white before now. My experience so far has already added so much perspective but in different ways that I could have imagined.
I was hoping that once I got to The Motherland that I would be removed from all of the stereotypes and generalizations surrounding African Americans in the U.S and be able to feel more accepted while I learned about my heritage. This was an ignorant expectation to have. I thought that because Zambezi was so remote it would be removed from the racist culture of America. I was wrong. During my homestay I started to pick up on the subtle nuances of the same hierarchy of skin colors that I experience back home. My host was only 19 years old and hinted at the impact that lighter skin can affect how other’s see your beauty. This concept of colorism is prevalent within black communities in the U.S and has negatively impacted so much of my life. In another moment, I learned that the weaves and wigs that women and children sometimes wear is the only way to have “good hair.”
I am not sure how to connect this revelation of racism with the superiority with which I am regarded. I can’t help but feel a wave of disappointment after realizing that no matter how connected I think I am to the community of Zambezi, I will always stand out as different. Despite how much I think that my family history originated here, I still feel like an outsider in the community and can’t escape the pedestal I am placed on.
In another breath Zambezi already means more to me than I could have ever expected. We attended the braai yesterday evening and were amazed by the welcome we received. A braai, for those of you who don’t know, resembles an open mic night / talent show but also incorporates elements of a barbeque. The youth of the community danced and performed poems and songs for us in attempt to introduce us more to the culture of Zambezi. In return, we were asked to show them our best dance moves (which took the form of the Macarena) and also sing them some cultural songs from America (“Lean on Me” and also “Zombie Nation”). The braai was one of the first times I felt connected to the community and truly relaxed. I am so excited for the fun times to come and more revelations about my role in this community.
– Olivia Antoine
Class of 2020
Message for Mom:
I’m seriously fine. I hope you figured out how to access the blog. Your lack of embarrassing comments is worrisome. Other than a ton of mosquito bites and living with giant spiders, Zambezi is amazing. I am safe and happy and have been using the skills I learned binge watching “Survivor.” I lived through the flight in the bush plane and even got to fly it! Hopefully I can email you soon.
Update on butt chair:
The location of the butt pinching chair is unknown at this point. Few have encountered it. More updates to come.