Head socks are what Zambian’s call woolly hats/toques/beanies. Folk here tend to ‘wrap up warm’ in the kind of temperatures that the average tourist is stripping to minimal clothing, and Zambian babies are no exception. In any and all weather conditions, little babies always wear a head sock. In addition to this, they are wrapped in two or three big fluffy blankets. Overheating your baby is not something that is worried about here; if in doubt, add another blanket.
Whilst pregnant with Ben, I felt very aware of how conspicuous I looked. Ndola is one of the largest cities in Zambia, and therefore it houses a fair number of internationals, however, white skin still definitely stands out here. Add in my height and an enormous belly and I could see I caused many a double take… I didn’t blame anyone though, I probably would have done the same. What was nice, though, was that because it’s not culturally appropriate to talk about pregnancy (as previously blogged about), I was looked at but no one really made a big deal about it. Nobody came up to me, nobody commented – I was simply looked at. I was very excited to not be pregnant, for many reasons, but one biggie being, to not get the stares I was getting more and more frequently.
What I never took into consideration was that once the baby was out of the belly, it would become fair game to be talked about and, as a new mother, I would therefore be approachable to be talked to. I fear that, because of this, going out is worse than before. Now I am not just starred at, I am chastised for not putting a head sock on Ben and not wrapping him up in several blankets. Every day I commit the cultural wrong of not putting a head sock on Ben.
I can’t bring myself to put something on his head when it is 28 degrees outside. Where I come from, that is hot – no toque, no woolly hat, no beanies, nothing! When we go out I put him in a full onesie/babygrow and even that feels so excessive for such heat. The number of comments we have got in just the first couple of weeks of Ben’s life have been significant. I won’t succumb though, Ben may have been born in Zambia but he’s still Canadian and British!
Dan is now keen to conduct a cultural experiment of his own. A staff member at one of the community schools knitted Ben a head sock of his very own. Dan was wondering how much is hinged on the hat itself and if we took Ben out in just a head sock, whether we’ll get nods of approval or more chastising. 🙂