It’s been an eventful week around here. I arrived back in Mpongwe Wednesday to lend support to all of the agents here that are involved with the prepaid vouchers. I’ve been doing a little bit of re-training, lots of marketing, and talking to as many farmers as possible, to let them know about the vouchers.
Everyone has been extremely receptive about the vouchers. They love the idea of getting a discount on their maize seed if they purchase early. So why is it Sunday, August 14 and we haven’t yet sold a voucher, after launching Thursday then? Well the farmers have been selling their maize to the FRA but haven’t yet been paid. This has been a large problem in the past, and is something they have to deal with year after year: waiting for payment. This year though, is an election year, so they are hoping to be paid much sooner. The government cannot pay out as late as they normally would because they want to be re-elected. So, farmers are hoping to get paid this coming week. Do you know what that means? Vouchers galore!
The farmers love the vouchers because they are getting their maize seed at a reduced price. The stockists love the vouchers because they are getting their commission spread out, rather than the bulk of it being in October and November. MRI Seed loves the vouchers because it will make reconciliation time easier.
I’m only in Mpongwe until Wednesday of this week, and I’m really hoping that we sell our first voucher before then, because I would love to be there to witness it (and take photos!). I’m going to go to the FRA shed where more farmers are selling their maize crop to talk to them and inform them of the voucher program. I want to reach as many farmers as possible, because I really believe in the success of the prepaid vouchers.
As far as life goes in Mpongwe, it’s pretty great. I’ve been staying in a guesthouse which has been both nice and lonely. It’s nice to have my own bathroom and shower, but after I arrive back in the evening I get a little lonely. I’m used to being in Anna’s flat in Lusaka with a lot of people. I love my own space though, so it’s pretty relaxing. Except, yesterday I had A MOUSE come into my room!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Anyone who knows me even a little bit will know that I am ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED of mice!! I’ve had a recurring nightmare about them for years now. Years!!!!!!!
I have found a few tailors in Mpongwe, and they’ve been quite good (don’t tell my mom or dad, but I’ve had even more clothes made!). One tailor I met even speaks French, so Saturday afternoon after all the shops closed and I was done work for the day I sat with him and we spoke to each other in French for a long while. He is full of wisdom – and I must admit it’s pretty nice to be able to have a conversation with someone who isn’t hitting on me.
That brings me to my next topic: marriage proposals, lewd comments, and even more outrageous actions from men! Two weeks ago was the National Agriculture Show in Lusaka. In my last post you’ll see that I was looking forward to attending it. Well, I didn’t. Why? Well, Stephanie, Spencer and I stepped off the minibus and immediately we were swarmed by men. I stepped off last and a drunken man hugged me, and I had to push him off. Then that same man grabbed Stephanie – Spencer witnessed this time and had to work to get the guy off. Then he tried to take Spencer’s sunglasses off his face, and at the same time had his hands in Spencer’s pockets. People were attempting to get in our bags and we were not feeling like it was very safe. As Spencer had his arms stretched trying to keep this guy away, there was a man who came up to me, grabbed my chest, squeezed, and said “nice size!” I was not only mortified and felt degraded, but I was extremely pissed off as well. Needless to say, we didn’t enter the show because we just did not feel safe.
As white women in Zambia, we always have men grabbing at our arms and hands and get ridiculous comments that depending on our moods either piss us off or make us laugh. These comments (that are daily, I assure you) include, but are not limited to:
“Will you marry me?”
“Will you find me a white woman to marry?”
“Ahhh, I’ve always wanted to sleep with a white woman!”
“Will you be my girlfriend? I feel that a white woman would understand me and my needs better than the women here.”
“Take me to Canada with you! I want to be your husband.” (To this one I always reply: “Only if you cook, clean, take care of the children, and do the laundry, because I don’t plan on taking on all those roles when I’m married!”)
They don’t even know me at all, but just because I am white they want to a) be my boyfriend, or b) be my husband. They have this vision in their minds that all white people are fantastic, but in fact we aren’t, and sometimes we’re pretty shitty people. They idealize white people. I had girls playing with my hair one day, and one of them said “I wish I had your hair! I wish I had white girl’s hair, and then I would be pretty too.” My heart broke. They think they need to dress and look like us to be beautiful. That’s definitely not the case. Some of the most beautiful people I have seen in my life have been right here in Zambia. I wish they would realize that they are beautiful, because they are.
Upon my return to Canada I’m looking forward to once again being anonymous and just blending in to the crowd.
Currently listening to: Fiery Crash – Andrew Bird