The Green Jersey

On 24 October, 2012, Zambia celebrated its 48th year of independence. Lusaka was decked sidewalk to rooftop in the green, red, copper and black colours of the flag. Zambia is my home for these four months and I have been so welcome to call it such.

The Freedom statue decorated in Zambian colours. A monument honouring the strong people who made Zambia the free nation it is today.

On this day, I wanted to celebrate their independence and nationalism just the same in appreciation of their welcome. Zambia is a wonderful country, no matter the economic or political criteria that may relegate them to the tail end of some global lists. So on this morning I donned my Chipolopolo jersey to show my support (for those who missed the Zamfact, this is the nickname of the Zambian national football team). Little did I know the attention I would attract when I had really just set out to be one with the celebrating crowd.

I set out to meet up with some fellow EWBers in Lusaka: Chelsea, Katie, Kaveesh and Courtney. Not ten steps out the door I was met with the first appreciation of the green jersey:

“Good morning, my friend! You are a true Zambian now.”

I blushed a little and said:

“Thank you, sir – good morning to you too and happy Independence Day!”

I thought to myself after this first encounter that it might be quite the day ahead if even a few true-since-birth Zambians congratulated me on my jersey. Oh did I have a whole different level of centered out coming…

First was the walk to the EWB flat in Kabwata after hopping off the bus – it is a dynamic neighbourhood closer town than where I stay with a great atmosphere in the market and main road. I got some cheers from some groups of guys hanging at the roadside shops on my way in. I continued my somewhat embarrassed waving and well wishes for their day. After arriving at the flat, we decided that since it was a day for Zambia and we didn’t know when or where the main festivities were taking place that we’d hop on a bus to town and wander through City Market. Why not head to the heart of activity in town on such a day?

I felt like a celebrity cast into my role without suspect. Every sixty seconds of walking further in the market was met with the refrain:

“ZAAAMMMMMBIAAAAAAAA!!!!”

At one point, Katie decided to walk a few strides behind me just to catch the spectacle I was leaving in my wake. Many people, young and old, men and women, those hiding in the shade of shops or out selling water and food, were excited to see a young white guy walking through the market in a Zambia jersey on their special day. I just embraced the attention after having been embarrassed for the first little while. What could be a better excuse to pass on my well wishes for another year of independence and thank them for welcoming me to their country? So I passed on those words, a thumbs up, and some waves as I wandered along asking for not one ounce of the attention I received.

What a day. And it left me thinking after all of it how I ought to feel about causing such a ruckus. What was it about me wearing that jersey that, at the root of things, got my fellow Zambians so energized? The day, in tandem with reading How to Win Friends and Influence People (guffaw if you want, but it is really a revealing read), made me conclude that people are just excited when someone takes a genuine interest in them. In their identity, in their interests, and in their well being. By wearing that jersey, I was showing that I wanted to join in their celebration and that I had a desire to be more than just a spectator in the day. Besides the simple spectacle of me in a Chipolopolo jersey (which has caused a stir in times before) there was something more in this day that amplified the reaction.

Zambia was in celebration of their identity and I was wearing it along with everyone else.

In spite of my blushing and feeling like I was being over-congratulated for such a simple gesture, there was a good lesson to be learned. Take an interest in those that you interact with and you can find a connection in their natural human desire to feel appreciated. We could all use some friends and supporters each day.

Ever had a similar experience or feel like you see a similar nature when interacting with others? Post it below!

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