In this self-reflection I will look back at the minor and the time spend in Zambia. During our stay I have seen, learned, experienced so many new and interesting things. I look back at a great experience with new insights on social and cultural differences, working attitude and development.
The part I liked most about this minor is that I had the change to go to this developing country and see and experience with my own eyes what we have learned I the first part of this minor. First of all, when we arrived everybody was very kind and they gave us warm welcome. They did their best to put us at ease and helped settling, which I could appreciate very much. The people in Zambia I found, during and outside working hours, very friendly, open and positive-minded. The way of life is very different from what I am used to in the Netherlands. What struck me is that some people only have very little and live their lives day to day but still seem to be so happy and positive.
It was impossible for me to move around unnoticed especially in the informal settlements by which I sometimes felt a bit uncomfortable. When I was in the informal settlements, several times older people came to me to ask if could give them a job so they could pay the school fees for their kids. This was very touching and made me realise even more how lucky I am with all the opportunities and possibilities I have in the Netherlands. Because so far, I haven’t done anything that makes me to be in a better position than they are in, only my place of birth.
When I was attending meetings with PPHPZ and federation members I sometimes found difficulties understanding the discussions. Because, besides English, a lot of people speak Nyanja and Bemba with each other. I tried to tackle this communicative problem by sometimes interrupting to ask where the discussion was about, to give them a moment of realisation to speak English in our presence. This worked out pretty well most of the time.
The working attitude is quite different from the one I am used to. There was no clear planning and everything seemed a bit chaotic. Another thing I learned is that there are two types of time, Zambian time and European time. Which I found sometimes a kind of annoying when struggling for deadlines for example. The information about projects was spread out over the whole firm, which made it hard for me to find the right information within a normal time. However, in the end I always found what I needed it only took more patience and time to find it.
Also I saw a strong hierarchy within the firm, everybody was looking up to the boss. I noticed that many employees didn’t have the courage to speak their minds against Nelson, which I still think is a bad case. Nelson told us to be open and honest towards him, so that is what I tried to do. However, I had the feeling that I was able to speak my mind more freely only because I am an intern from the Netherlands.
On a personal level I learned a lot, especially when it comes to working attitude and insights. Because of their way of working I developed a more proactive working mentality. I learned to sometimes push harder than I usually would have do get something done. In the beginning I was a bit insecure about if this approach was right, because in the Netherlands I would never use such an approach since it will be seen as being intrusive or annoying. But during my stay I experienced that this was the way it is done here in Zambia.
A more cultural difference was the informal chatter I experienced before getting to the point. The Zambian culture is diffuse and in that way very different from the Dutch. However, I could get used and liked it to get to know people better. Thanks to this quickly we made some new friends to hang out with outside the working hours.
My own working attitude is changed during my stay in Zambia. Initially was trying to work with the same attitude I have in the Netherlands. This sometimes led to useless days, because of the little work that I could complete depending on others. I noticed that this was slowing the process, that’s why I developed a pro-active attitude. I also learned to more explain my opinion or vision and convincing someone about my ideas. I think this can be to great value in the future. I am also very happy about our teamwork during this project. Even though the different backgrounds everybody was involved in his or her own way in every project during our stay.
It was a truly wonderful experience to live for 3 months in a totally different country. I learned so many new things about their culture and mentality but I also developed myself on a personal level. I look back at a great time, with many lessons, new insights, appreciation and a lot of joy.