In the confusing, constant chaos that is my life, there have been some small (and some very large) blessings. I love my job (I’m the Communications Associate for the CCAP Synod of Zambia) because I get to meet people in the church community and tell their stories. I also love my mentors in the Mandevu congregation, especially the youth choir. They welcomed me into their group even though I don’t speak a word of Nyanja and can’t pronounce the songs we sing correctly. And, finally, I love my host family. The Lupiya family are generous, caring, hardworking, incredible people who have welcomed me into their home and called me a member of their family: I am Kimmy Lupiya and I am a sister, daughter, and aunt.
There are two sides to Lina. There is the giggly 11-year-old girl who buries her head in a pillow whenever she does something embarrassing. But then there’s also the confident tomboy who is so much like her mother. She laughs at me when I try to pronounce Nyanja but also laughs at herself when I catch her doing something embarrassing. She is intelligent and determined, intent on being a doctor when she grows up.
Prince is a quiet 14-year-old who, as his older sister puts it, “has a good heart.” He is taking his high school entrance exams right now, and he wants to be a civil engineer. He is incredibly hard working both at school and taking care of his niece, Wallia. Prince doesn’t say much but he loves taking care of Wallia so I think he’s going to make a great dad.
Tiza is technically my younger sister (she’s 21) but she’s really like a second mom to me. She is the family member I spend the most time with and has been the one I have learned the most from. She has taught me how to hand-wash clothes, wash plates (properly), prepare nshima (traditional Zambian mealy meal), clean my room (again, properly), and take care of Wallia. She is Wallia’s mother and it’s obvious she loves Wallia with every inch of her soul. She wants to go to school in January to become a teacher and she promises that her daughter “will have everything.”
Wallia is the 6-month-old baby that I have the joy to call a niece. She is constantly putting things in her mouth and loves to be carried around on her mother’s back. She has yet to crawl but is determined to figure it out.
Deborah is my age (23) and currently works at a store in town. She works tirelessly 6 days a week and manages to help around the house while also working a full-time job. She is starting nursing school in January and plans on becoming a midwife. She is confident, outgoing, and opinionated (so, obviously, I like her a lot). And from how she handles her niece, Wallia, I think she’s going to be a fantastic nurse and midwife.
There’s not much to say about Gilbert because he’s very quiet. But he’s 26, likes watching TV, and smiles whenever I say hello to him. It’s obvious he’s a gentle soul and he likes holding Wallia in his lap when he watches TV. I’m told he’s mentally ill but I don’t know if he has been given a specific diagnosis or not.
“Amai” Sarah Lupiya
I call this amazing woman Amai because it means Mother in Nyanja and it’s a sign of respect. Amai is the engine of the family, and it’s obvious her children get their intelligence, drive, and determination from her. She has been the one who has cared for me the most since I’ve been sick. She’s also the one who’s given me glimpses into what being a strong Zambian woman looks like. She teaches in a government school full-time while also taking higher education classes in order to get her certificate in education. She is fluent in Nyanja, Tumbuka, English, and Swahili. She is a strong advocate for Zambian pride and believes that Zambians should embrace and cherish their culture.
“Abambo” Evans Lupiya
I call this gentle soul Abambo because it means father in Nyanja and it’s a sign of respect. Abambo is the silent, serious type but it’s obvious he cares very deeply for his family. The best way to describe him is protective. He has tried his very best, ever since I arrived, to make me feel comfortable and welcomed in his home. He’s also very persistent (he offered to put a fan in my room three times before I reluctantly said yes). He works with the government in the office of statistics, specifically with agricultural statistics. He does things a traditional Zambian man would do (like fix things around the house) but he also enjoys cooking and taking care of the chickens, activities some Zambian men would think beneath them.
I cannot tell you what it has meant to have these people offer security and love to a complete stranger like myself. I immediately got sick when I moved into their house and they took care of me. I also cannot eat nshima without vomiting or getting nauseous, which is unfortunate because nshima is what the family eats for lunch and dinner every day. But the family has accommodated my unfortunate dietary needs and has taught me to prepare my own meals so I don’t feel utterly dependent on them for food. I am in the very vulnerable position of being a foreigner who doesn’t speak their native language and who doesn’t know how to do the simplest things (like finding the garbage can or knowing where to brush my teeth). But this family is patient and kind and gracious and has been nothing but amazing to me since the day I moved into their home. In the confusing, constant chaos that is my life, there’s the grounding and omnipresent love and acceptance of this family.