from a different perspective
The kids and I had heard a lot about Zambia but this was our very first trip. We thought it would be very important to speak to our 4 year old son about what to expect, how to react, and what was acceptable. I'm really glad we did. And I'm really impressed with the way our DS handled himself.
I really loved Zambia. In fact, I would absolutely love to live there one day. The trip was the most amazing thing I have ever done, but it was even more amazing to watch our children experience it. Our daughter was just 1 1/2 so she just sort of goes along with anything. I'm not even sure that she was aware of the differences, she was just pleased to have cousins to play with. Our Son is 4 1/2 and absolutely noticed everything that was different from his home in Texas.
If someone gives you something, smile and say thank you... no matter how you feel about it.
If someone gives you food or a drink, ask Mommy or Daddy first.
If the food is different, taste it. If you don't like it, smile and eat what you can.
If the potties are different, or there isn't one, that's life... use the potty that is there and don't complain about it.
If you are nervous, talk to Mommy or Daddy... but quietly.
If things are dirty, or smell different, or look different, be thankful for what you have and think about ways to help instead of complain.
If someone is dressed differently, think about why they don't have nice shoes or have holes in their clothes instead of pointing and drawing attention to it.
If you have extra, share.
We talked about these things a lot. We had many conversations and did some role playing to practice. Our son is Zambian as he will quickly point out, but he's not used to Zambia and we didn't want him to come off as spoiled, or ungrateful, or rude.
I could not be more proud of how he handled himself. From the first day that he met his cousins, he just fell right into the group and did what ever they did. If they were playing soccer barefoot, so was he. If they walked to the corner store to get snacks, so did he. If they were speaking Nyanja, so did he (well he tried his best). If the lights went out, he just kept playing. If the food was different, he ate it, smiled, and whispered in my ear "this isn't my favorite but i'm doing my best ok Mommy?"
We pile about 20 people into a van to get home from Vacation Bible School and he's excited because it's so crowded that he can't see out of a window. The electricity goes out and he joins a sing-a-long with his cousins being let by his Uncle Kennedy. His dinner is a fish, eyes and all, and it's staring up at him from his plate... he speaks to it first, giggles, then eats it. His cousins don't have beds, so he wants to go home and get his bunk bed and bring it to Zambia. He's excited to leave all of his clothes and shoes for his cousins to wear. He loves it so much at the family house that he often cries when we have to take him back to our rented apartment for bedtime.
I'm really not sure why I was even worried about him adapting. He wants to live in Zambia so that he can play with his cousins every day. I don't really have an argument for that. I loved every minute that we were there. The spirit of every person I met in Zambia was just amazing. Sylvester's family operates differently than any other family I have ever met. They are truly a family unit all working together. Everyone seems to have a role. Each adult either earns money, or works at home. Each child helps out with chores and looks out for their siblings or cousins. They have taken in family members that needed a place to live. They love each other and it's really obvious to anyone looking in. They pool what little money they have to help each other go to school, or get a job, or start a business. They are the hardest working people I have ever met. The best thing was that they loved me, and my children like we had always been a part of the family.
All of Brandon's cousins watched over him while they played together. Each Aunt and Uncle would step in and praise, help, or discipline a child, no matter who they belonged to. I'm not sure that Maddie's feet ever hit the ground as there was always an Auntie or cousin to wrap her on their backs "papu" style anytime she wanted. She was quite pleased with all of this attention and still requests papu now that we are home.
We miss our family like crazy and are wishing we could go back to Zambia already. Now that we have seen how easily our children adapt to life there, we are even more excited to get them back. The cost of the plane tickets is so great that it will probably be several more years before we can save up enough money to go again. That makes me really sad as there are so many things that I still need to do at the Zambian Vocal Group Academy. Sylvester will likely return next year for the mission trip, and i'm dreading the moment when we have to tell Brandon that he can't go. That little boys heart is in Zambia and I think it always will be. I can tell from his spirit and attitude that he is going to grow up and be just like his Daddy, and I couldn't be more proud of him!