Saturday, September 15, 2012
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Friday, June 8, 2012
Saturday, March 24, 2012
It’s official. I am twenty-five, a quarter century old, my mid-twenties, or as I like to call it, my prime. Part of me still feels like I am 21 but when I think about where I was when I was 21 I retract my statement and push it to 22 and then I continue to do that same process until I get to 25. Twenty five I guess is kind of a big deal because any five year mark is 15, 20, 25, 30, oh my! I know the question that is on everyone’s mind, how did I spend my big 2-5? In the perfect way, surrounded by people I love in a place called home.
Last year I had wanted to spend my birthday in my village with my best friend Tiffany, my kids and lots of rain. However one of those inevitable workshops came up last minute so it was spent in our provincial house instead. It was wonderful and everyone treated me like a queen but part of me missed my village on my special day.
This year I was set on having a village birthday and even better I have gained two more amazing close friends that have come in the past year (that’s one of the cool parts of PC with every group that leaves, another one comes). So my closest PC neighbor Katie, my first friend in country, Tiffany and my newest friend, Mollie made the long trek out to Kalaba bringing lots of treats with them.
My birthday was perfect in every way. The morning started with Tiff (who is from Cali) taking me back to my southern roots by making biscuits and eggs. Then there were some intense games of Rummy and scrabble with wonderful phone calls from friends and family in the states intermittent throughout the day. The “party” started around 14:00 (might sound early but consider that we were also sleeping by 21:00) with my friends passing out party hats and blowers to my kids and me (the kids are still blowing those horns two days later and will be until they can blow no more). We took a wonderful walk to my dambo, which is one of those vast expanses that define Zambian beauty. After some birthday pictures, the rest of the day was spent dancing with my kids, teaching them American dances and mostly reverting back to my 5 year old inner child. The night finished with a delicious Mexican feast prepared by all (but mostly Tiffany) and blowing out candles on a cake Katie made me that morning. After some perfect cards, incredible presents and an arousing game of banana grams, we called it a night.
I didn’t have electricity or running water for my birthday. I didn’t go to a bar or club like I would have in the States (although the girls were kind enough to bike out some wine from town) but I was surrounded by people who I have grown with in one way or another over these past 20 months and have become my family here. This will be my last birthday in Zambia and writing that down is hard and brings up a mixture of emotions that I can’t put into words. However wherever I am on my 26, 36, and 50th birthday I will always look back on my 25th as one of the best. Surrounded by the bare necessities, but feeling like the most loved girl in the world.
First I want to apologize for not writing for a while. I have still been writing but the internet at our provincial house has been out for months so I have to post these at an internet cafe in town. This blog was actually written in January right after I got back from the States. Hope you enjoy!
This weekend I went on an adventure. It’s been a little over two weeks since I returned from the land of plenty and I am happy to say I am back to my dirty Peace Corps ways. My friend convinced me if I didn’t wash my hair for 3 weeks my thick curly hair of my past would return to its “natural state” . I am at week 2 and can comfortable say I look like a wet rat. But hey, when else will I be able to get away with looking like I constantly just bathed while simultaneously being filthy ever again? Anyway, lets get back to my adventure.
My friend Matt has been inviting me to his village for a while now and a few months ago he set off and found a bush path from his site to mine. However there was one difference to the usual bush paths that us, PCV’s find between our sites, this one involves a boat! You have to cross Mansa river to get from my village to Matt’s. So Friday morning I set off ready to bike and boat my way to Matt’s. We figured it’s about 30k (2-2/12 hour bike), which is a pretty standard distance for us bike-loving hippies. The journey there was quite lovely. Especially because I found out my counterparts village was about half way. I stopped at his for a delicious home cooked meal and a visit with any favorite namesake (his youngest is named after me and was born shortly after I arrived). It is amazing to see how much she has grown. It’s been two months since I’ve seen her and she is walking like a mad woman now! She is a year and 2 months and is turning into a real person right in front of my eyes. I realized on this last visit that she is the first person I have ever seen progress from birth to now and it’s a pretty amazing process. She will be one of the hardest to leave in September. However again I digress, back to my adventure…
After I was full on Nshima, Ba Shaderick informed me that the river was only about 1 kilometer from his house so he escorted me there where we found a nice young man who was also crossing and therefore would become my gondola operator and best friend. Mulenga (my new best friend) I learned was visiting his parents on the other side of the river where he also attends school. Mulenga and I “board” the large canoe where both our bikes and us fit comfortably and Mulenga “paddles” me across (and by paddle I mean dig a large stick into the muddy water and push us across, while standing, hence the gondola reference). The boat ride can only be described as incredible (probably because Mulenga was doing all of the work). We chatted, I enjoyed the beautiful lily pads and vast nothingness that defines the African bush, and we arrived safely on the other side 20 minutes later. From there I just kept asking people the name of Matt’s village and if I was going the right way and they graciously kept helping. About an hour later I was in Matt’s “sub-boma” (a string of shops that isn’t a quite a town but where you can find basics like sugar, salt and my favorite, rolls). Matt met me there and then showed me the way to his village about 12k away. I made it!! However the story only really starts here. Matt’s village was nice. We made a delicious pasta dinner with fresh basil from his garden (he has inspired me to make a garden purely for basil) and chatted about everything Peace Corps. The next day we were lucky enough to be joined by our friend Bob who came with eggs for breakfast (eggs plus rolls plus basil, what more could a girl want!). We had a wonderful breakfast and then I decided to get back on the “road” aka bush path. Matt has told me there was a short cut from his village to mine on another bush path so I decided to try that way. Adventure weekend, why not?
I was off again.. Matt told me I would pass a chicken co-op on my way and just to ask the way from there. Therefore when I came upon a large structure in the middle of nowhere filled with chickens, I knew I was headed in the right direction. What Matt failed to mention (probably bc he came to my site during dry season) was this short cut was VERY wet and muddy which makes biking slightly more difficult. Anyway, about an hour and a pound of mud later I arrived at the river. I made it.. kind of.. There was one problem, there was nobody there to man the boat (where are you now Mulenga?) and the boat was 30% filled with water. Yes, this is what I call adventure, I look around and there is NOBODY for as far as the eye can see. Hmm. Decision time. Let’s put those PC “life skills” to use. I remembered a few huts a little far back where I’m sure I can find somebody to help. I back peddled a little and came up to a very old Zambian woman with her children and tell her my problem. She sends me with a little boy to find the headman who is in charge of the boat. We get to the headman’s house and his wife says he is in the field but will send a kid to get him in her typical Zambian way she offers me a seat and we chat. She has 8 children, 7 girls and 1 boy and currently her girl is next to me petting a dead rat (I try not to gag). Eventually the headman comes and says he will paddle me across. Hallelujah! We get to the boat and he buckets out most of the water but I notice a small leak where water is still coming out. He assures me its fine but to make my America neurotic self feel better I continue heaving buckets of water out while he paddles me. This time there are also three other boys with their bikes (so 5 people, 4 bikes, ¼ of water) makes the boat ride not quite as lovely as my previous ride but still an experience. We make it to the other side and an hour and a half later I arrive in Kalaba. Tired, sun burnt and slightly dehydrated but I made it home. Oh and I forgot to mention I had promised my closest PC neighbor I would bike to her site for dinner. So it was time to chug water, bathe the mud off me and shove a cliff bar down my throat (thanks for those mom) and I was on my bike again. Luckily this bike is only 10k (about 45 minutes) away. Well of course dark clouds and a fierce windstorm come out of nowhere just to test how much my legs could take. Luckily the rain held off and I finally arrived to a delicious batch of chili, cornbread and Mango cobbler. It’s wonderful having a neighbor who can cook!! Thank you for that meal Jerrica, you are a life savor. We had a lovely evening and this morning the wind and rain cooperated and I got back to my village safe and sound.
This weekend I probably tried to squeeze a little too much adventure in 2 days. However I’ve got to say I enjoyed every second of it. It’s these little adventures that remind me why I love this country so much. Smiling faces greeting me in every village, new friends made in a short boat ride and PC friends who are just as crazy and dirty as me. Peace Corps, it really is the best.
Monday, January 9, 2012
Waku is what we here in Luapula land refer to America as when we are speaking about it. Waku doesn’t actually mean America in bemba, it means “from far” but in our bemba/peace corps slang it has come to be known as America, that land we are so “far from”. As some of you know I spent the last three weeks in Waku. It was an amazing three weeks that I had been thinking about since the beginning of my service. However it was also a learning experience for me as everything seems to be throughout my Peace Corps service.
Throughout my three weeks I visited four states ( Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and New York) and dozens and dozens of friends from all different parts of my life. I felt so lucky and blessed that so many people made such an effort to see me. I got to see my cousins which I usually only see once every three years at our family reunions ( that includes you Kevin Kokal, I told you I would give you a shout out), I got to see old high school friends that live all over the states but who have still become my family ( love you ladies), I also got to see old college roommates, study abroad friends, as well as people who I went abroad with to Israel in 2005 and hadn’t seen since. It really was like I was taking a blast into the last 10 years of my life. It was wonderful seeing everyone and again thank you everyone who came from near or far to visit. It meant the world to me. So now that I have written the most broad thank you note ever written, lets move on to the infamous “reverse culture shock” which I anticipated and experienced while home.
A common question while I was in the States was “ How are you doing? Does this feel weird? What is the most different or hardest thing to adjust to?”. All are valid questions but are hard to answer with one word or even one sentence. Therefore I am going to revert back to the "list technique" which I have used so often in my blogs. So here are the list of the top 5 things which were the most obvious culture shocks in my three weeks in America after being in Zambia for a 18 months. Note, these are my observations that I don't think are necessarily good or bad but different from Zambia.
1. Iphone, Ipads, Ipods, America is ruled by Apple and by “I”. When I left the states the Iphone was present as was the blackberry, android, flip phone and various other types of cellular devices. When I came back it was Iphone nation. One of my friends had a blackberry and people shunned her like she was living in the 19th century. I understand and see the appeal of the iphone very much, however I think it has made people less social and more “I” centered. Its not a negative or a positive, just a difference that was immediately apparent to me. I just hope that as this “I” revolution continues people continue to take time to put down their “I” devices and take in the beauty that is human interaction, experience and adventure, because I think sometimes the ease and “apps” which the iphone provides takes that scary yet useful unknown out of our lives.
2. DRIVING!! I got to drive while I was home and it was incredible. I turned the music up, put the windows down ( just a smidge because it was cold) and just drove. Although I loved driving, I did begin to miss the fresh air. I tried to explain to people that in Zambia I live outside. Yes I live in a mud hut but let’s be honest, it’s a mud hut. It is basically outside. I cook all my meals outside, I bathe outside, I use the bathroom outside and when I have to get from one place to another its by biking or walking, again outside. So although I tried to get out for a run or walk everyday I still felt a little stuffed by the perfectly heated cars, houses and restaurants. The day I got back to Zambia it was in the high 80’s and I went to the house where I was staying that didn’t have air conditioning or fans. It was almost a relief to be uncomfortable by the natural weather. I know I might regret this in a few months when the rains are pouring down and the humidity is unbearable, but for now, I like my uncomfortable weather.
3. OPTIONS. America has more options in every facet of its existence than I remembered. The first week I was in town I drove to a local CVS to find face wash. I stood in the isle for 45 minutes trying to figure out which one I should buy. Do I need pore reducer, foam wash, acne cream, total face wash, scented wash, etc. I just want some soap for my face!?! I became overwhelmed quickly and left the store, face wash had to be bought another day. This same thing would happen whenever I went to restaurants. To preface, we have one “restaurant” in Mansa which contains fried chicken and chicken pies, so to go to a restaurant with 100 choices of which way you want your salad prepared is slightly overwhelming. I usually just went with old classics or whatever the person next to me was ordering. It is exhausting making that many choices!
4. FAST PACE AMERICA- Although I loved every minute of my time in the states I am exhausted!! I am at my provincial house currently about to go back to my village and have slept for 10 hours each night. Although I didn’t “do” that much in America the amount of things that everyone tried to fit in their day seemed exhausting to me. Lets compare a day in the village to a day in America. A day in the village: Wake up, go on a run, eat breaktfast, bathe, read, have a meeting, cook lunch, read, wash dishes, sleep. A day in America: Wake up, Run, Shower, Go to breakfast with friend 1, go to target to get unnecessary yet wonderful accessory, stop at the bank on the way to take out money, drop off dry cleaning on the way to meet Family member 1 for lunch, go to doctors appointment, meet friend 2 for coffee, go home and take an hour to get ready for dinner with family member 2 and 3, then meet friend 3, 4, 5 for drinks after dinner. Don’t get me wrong, being able to see this many people that I love in a day is something that I will be forever grateful for, but can you see the difference? Even if it is just eating or getting a cup of coffee Americans don’t just “hang out” anymore. There must be an activity, going to a movie, or shopping, or eating or drinking. In my hut I might read for 4 hours a day, when I come into the provincial house we might watch a movie but mostly sit outside just talking about nothing ( mostly because there is nowhere to get a bite to eat or drink). I noticed in America I was always doing something when sometimes I just wanted to be still.
5. Marriage, babies, engagements oh my!! I am so thankful I was able to meet two little new additions to my family ( Hayden and Dylan) while I was home. I was also able to meet new boyfriends, wives and significant others that I had been waiting to meet for some time. It was wonderful. However this theme of marriage, babies, engagements seemed to be present in every city I visited or friend I talked to. People were either getting engaged, wanting to get engaged, tired of hearing about engagements, going to 5 weddings in June, sick of weddings, wanting to be in a wedding, etc. Again, I hope this doesn’t sound negative it was just a difference that I found since I had left the states. I understand I am 25 and this is the new reality. However I guess I spend so much time in Zambia explaining to people why I am NOT married or NOT engaged or NOT with child that it just came as a shock that it was the topic of conversation with so many different groups of people. It’s obvious to me why it was a shock as one of the main messages and topics of health education I focus on is delaying early marriage and early pregnancy ( as it is common to see a 16 year old married and pregnant and therefore dropping out of school at an early age), so I guess I just didn’t expect to talk about it as much with my peers who are living such completely different lives.
I want to be honest and say this blog has been really hard for me to write. I don’t want to come off as negative towards America or condescending or patronizing in any light. I know where I live and how I live my life currently is drastically different than the majority of the people I know. I know I went from living in a third world country to visiting one of the richest countries in the world. I know that the culture shock would have eventually worn off if I had stayed long enough and it will wear off when I come back later this year. I just felt like it was important to acknowledge and share my experience as I have since starting my journey of Peace Corps a year and a half ago. Even though going back to the states was going “home” I felt at the end of my trip that I was also going back “home” to Zambia. I think you can have multiple homes throughout this world and I think depending on what your doing or how long you’ve been there your comfort level at those homes can vary. Currently I feel most at “home” in Zambia. With my lack of electricity, dirty peace corps volunteers and fresh humid air. I know my home will shift back to the states soon enough, but for now I am content where I am.
I can’t finish this blog without thanking my parents for everything they did for me over the past 3 weeks. Mom, I hope you can get some rest and take care of yourself as I know you were taking care of me every second I was home. You couldn’t have made it more perfect, I enjoyed every minute of my time with you and hope you know how much I appreciate everything. Dad, I know you took off work and made it your priority to be with me as much as possible. Thank you. ( B- I didn’t forget about you, thanks for spending the most time either of us have spent in Greensboro in years with me. It made my homecoming that much sweeter).
Hope everyone had a Happy New Year and are looking forward to what 2012 will bring, because I know I am.
Friday, December 2, 2011
**This blog was written November 30,2011 the last night in my village before I am gone for a month, I will be in Lusaka (the capital) for a workshop for a week and a half before I fly to America on December 14, I won't return to Zambia until January 5th. It will be the longest I have been away from Zambia and my village since starting Peace Corps 16 months ago. So apologies in advance if it is a bit over dramatic. The village does that to you sometimes.***