Beware of the white girl on the dance floor

This June I will be going over to Zambia for about a month.  And I am excited to get to spend that much time over there!!  Our mission trips officially start June 14th but I will be arriving a week and a half early for a VERY important event.

Meet Susan


 Susan has worked for Arise Africa for a year and a half now.  But I’ve known Susan much longer than that.  Susan works tirelessly at Destiny Community School in our child sponsorship program and watches after 20 kids.  She is so loving of her kids and I’ve watched her mature to become a hard working, devoted, and great employee of Arise Africa.


Susan is getting married this June to Isaac.  We also have known Isaac for a long time and have watched the couple date and it get serious and then decide to get married.  I have spent many hours grilling Isaac about being a husband and taking care of our Susan.  And I have done the same with Susan.  This is quite entertaining coming from the single white girl but I think I have asked the necessary questions like who is going to take out the trash? 


Since I have never attended a Zambian wedding our Zambian staff is helping me be prepared for such an epic event.  I have asked many questions and they have been very patient.  First, weddings in Zambia are ALL DAY people.  I have learned that we will attend the church service during the morning, then a kitchen shower in the afternoon, and THEN the reception.  I will never complain about a wedding in America again.  From the church you all jump in cars and drive through town honking your horns in a big line.  I think your car has to be decorated with like streamers or something.  Then you get to the kitchen shower and hang out and then I think we go to the reception in the car honking procession.  I am leaving the car thing up to our Zambians.   

Through my multiple discussions with multiple staff members let me tell you a few things that I am a bit concerned by:



And let me tell you, I cannot wait to see the dancing.  The wedding party practices their dances for months before a wedding.  That means all the bridesmaids and groomsmen and bride and groom have coordinated dances planned!  They have dance practices for months leading up to the wedding.  And multiple dances.   I have asked many times will I be forced to dance and I hear giggles every time I ask this on our Skype telephone calls.  This concerns me that our staff is ALREADY laughing at me.  I get responses back like “Well yes Alissa EVERYONE dances at a Zambian wedding.”  Oh this is not going to be good or pretty.  Let’s face it, white people just don’t dance like Zambians.  It is a fact, it is in the dictionary somewhere.  Go look. :) God did not bless us with that gene.   And that’s ok I accept that.  But I must admit I am intimidated at the idea of being the only white girl on a dance floor with Zambians who have been practicing for MONTHS on these dances.  I am lucky to clap my hands to the right beat.  I PRAY there isn’t a videographer like there is at USA weddings.  If so I am going to have to pay them major Kwacha to not get the white beacon dancing on the dance floor.



What does one wear to a Zambian wedding?  I didn’t know if I needed to bring the traditional shitanga dress that was custom made for me years back or could I pack a traditional American style dress?  After asking our staff this question they quickly told me that all of my clothing that I leave in Zambia that is stored there will not work.  Well yes I realize this, because all I have there are blue jeans, flip flops, and t-shirts!  I really think they were concerned I would show up in my torn jeans and Arise Africa t-shirt and be ready to go.  Oh our poor Zambian staff.  But then I realized they have NEVER seen me more dressed up than Zambian church, which is a skirt and t-shirt.  And I have never seen them dressed up either!   As much as we know each other and live life as close friends there are aspects of life that we never experience together.  I was told I could pack an American dress and didn’t need to go Zambian traditional route.  This was a relief for me because I feel like the white girl sticks out even more when she tries to fit in with the Zambian clothing.  Then a few of our Zambian staff got on my Facebook page and found multiple photos of me from weddings in America and told me the dresses they thought I should bring.  I’m sorry did I hear the word “dresses”?  Oh yes, one cannot wear the same thing to the church service, kitchen shower, and the reception!  I must bring three different dresses!   Well glad we got that figured out.  Note to self: half of your luggage will be of your dresses for this wedding.  And how does one change between these three events if you are driving around town in a car honking your horn?!



I have made it very clear to our head Zambian, Bwalya that I am going to need a babysitter for this occasion.  He is well accustomed to babysitting the white girl and making sure she doesn’t make a major cultural misstep.  Between Bwalya and sweet Benson who babysat me for a full 5 months I will be covered.  Although I realize I am with people who love me and could care less if I did mess up, I don’t want to.  All of our staff will be at this wedding and know that they are all on call to babysit me, even when they want to run away from me on the dance floor.  That’s part of working for Arise Africa, babysitting the white girl on the dance floor.  It is in the Zambian’s job description.     



I have no clue what the food will be like at the wedding but one would guess they don’t have a mashed potato bar.  Let’s face it, I am a picky eater.  And after the tapeworm incident (we do not need to go into details or else I will definitely be single the rest of my life) in the Congo in 2009 my stomach has never been too strong.  I wish I loved the traditional Zambian food but I don’t.  I just can’t do it.  Our staff knows this about me, and they still love me and look out for me when a local offers me the homemade beer they have been brewing or something like that.  I stick to the crackers and diet cokes over there.  I am prepared to face new and different food. I just hope my stomach holds up long enough for me to get home from the wedding to get sick! 



What does one bring Susan for her special day?!  I know quite well what Susan likes and dislikes.   She is a fashion guru and loves the bling! (another reason that the white girl is concerned about her three dresses and accessories) But apparently wedding gifts are different.  You have to get items that are like “known” as wedding gifts.  There is like a Zambian underground code as to what gift is a “wedding gift” and not.  You can’t bring just anything and I don’t want to make that mistake! Well I don’t know this code.  And Susan hasn’t registered at Bed Bath and Beyond unfortunately.   In fact when I told Susan that people in America walk around stores with guns and point them at items and then a huge list is generated and guests can go online or go into the store and see the list, she was silent for a long time on the phone line.  I think she was in shock at our shannigans.  She asked if the gun could kill people too, that’s when I knew I had said too much.  Luckily, I was told that our staff is pooling together to buy her a big item which I can’t tell you what it is because Susan just might read this post!  But I quickly jumped in on that bandwagon and am covered with the gift.   

As I write about my concerns in a joking manner I am more overwhelmed with the honor of getting to live life with Susan on one of her biggest days.  I am blessed the wedding fell on a date that I could make it happen to be there.  And I am more blessed at all of our staff who have loved Susan and live life with her daily.  I am so happy for Susan and Isaac and can’t wait to see them glorify the Lord as a married couple.  I can’t wait for Susan and Isaac’s big day and oh don’t you worry I’m taking my camera! 

- Alissa Hollimon