On this steamy Sunday morning our lazy day was interrupted with the distictive ‘clang-clang-clang-clang-clang-clang’ of someone at our gate (a stone banging the metal gate.) Frequently we ignore this most irritating noise b/c if we are not expecting anyone, it’s easier just to let them pass than try to unravel why exactly they need to speak with ‘the boss.’ Once in a while it’s actually someone we want to see but usually it’s someone asking for the gardener (if he’s not answering the gate he’s not here) or someone inquiring about a job (we are not hiring, although looking at the mess in my office, the laundry piling up clearly we do need help!)
Today, it was one young Lunda school-leaver named Bruno, an enumerator for Zambia’s 2010 National Census. He had already spoken with the other family that lives on the property (Uladi (Peter) and Obrin, and their two girls, Margret and Taowanga) but now it was our turn to be counted.
The census has to capture information from the likes of us, a straightforward (we think) nuclear family of expatriots living and working in the capital city as well as capture relavent information from, say, Mwinilunga widow farming in the village and raising the orphaned children of her distant relatives.
The survey counts number of people living in the house, service animals (oxen, donkey but curiously, not horses, b/c horses are not commonly used in Zambia for farming), vehicles (motorcycle to scotch-cart (ox cart), wheelbarrow and bicycle, communication and technology (house phone, mobile phone, computer), construction of shelters (mud and thatch, concrete block, timber frame (very unusual give the ferocity of the termite population) etc), number of rooms (bedrooms, living rooms, bathrooms etc), source of power, source of water, employment, age, education, and the relationship of everyone living in the house. The newspaper today just printed a full pullout explaining about the census and a full-size copy of the census-taker’s survey worksheet (for complete transparency?)
In talking with a few friends we heard that when they were answering questions the enumerator hesitated at the “are you disabled?” box when the man of the house answered “No.”
He stopped, looked him square in the eye: “But.....you are wearing glasses?!”
“How long have you had this disability?”
“What caused this, this nearsightedness?”
He also asked if the children were albinos.....they are ‘white’ for sure but not THAT white. Good to ask, just in case...
In the end, we got a sticker on our gate and Bruno headed on his way to try to track down the other 20 ‘go-back’ houses on his list of 130 houses.