It’s been four weeks since I have been here!! Okay close to it! People have been worrying me because many volunteers said that their friends stopped talking to them after a few months and now they talk once in a while. I don’t want that. Please know your emails give me the courage to get up and talk a language I did not know weeks earlier. Your letters rev me up to do the work I am going to do. If I am connected to home, I can’t wait to go outside and connect with Zambians. If you can’t mail me, send me stuff or anything, I love your emails. Send me pictures or small images or even funny messages on Facebook. I would love it because it was makes me want to get out. Cause I have people who want to hear more about what I do weeks down the line or months or a year down the line. My newsletters may get boring or tedious but I appreciate a place where I can teach about this half of the world to you guys. Stay connected because it only encourages me to keep going.
So on June 26, we went to a clinic to experience first hand what health talks feel like. It was really weird at first. We had a straightforward topic. The warnings of pregnancy during and during childbirth and after childbirth. The woman stared at us while our words were translated. We asked them what they knew beforehand and all they knew was that they had to visit the clinic twice during their pregnancy. None of those visits are regulated. No monitoring or measurements or even pictures.
They just know they are pregnant and they only check if they have issues. Their baby is a mystery to all till the end. Our audience was not entertained or happy. I soon realized I have to try more to gain their attention. Important words coming from an american can make anyone feel scared and less ready to pay attention to scientific and medical terms. I have to work hard to express this language and not just spit it out. Apparently, Zambians love dramas and acting is a skill I want to practice. I’ll talk more about those endeavors later. We have our speech and we returned only to be given a surprise by our teachers. We were brought to a hot spring and it was boiling hot water with the smell of rotten eggs. It was gross smelling but immensely exciting and new!! It shot straight into the sky and steam burst out. Almost wanted a pot of tea.
The next day our female language trainers and home stay coordinator, Ba Harriet and Ba Lombe took us to a kitchen party. Here it is like a bridal shower or ceremony celebrating the betrothed couples. Here people can choose their husbands and it was a large ceremony ad party. We got front row seats because we are musungus (moo-sun-goo) or white people Americans. We watched the bride come in under a sheet and walk under the altar. She was hidden from view util the drumming began. The emcee was the maid of honor in stunner shades dancing away and laughing blowing into the temperamental mike laughing and joking with the audience. She danced her butt into every one of the females faces. Here it is dancing. It is what dancing is. It is not appropriate here but amazing. I couldn’t do it but Ba Harriet promised me I had skills. I can’t promise anything but Meghan has some skills. Then drumming began and a storm of people came in with a man with a gold shirt. He tossed money down and the maid of honor laughed. Not enough she says. Not enough. He threw down everything and still nothing. His groomsmen threw their wallets and then the difficult maid of honor said, “Not enough.” So difficult but hilarious as the audience themselves stood to throw into the pile. Finally she agreed and the bride was unveiled. It was a great celebration and fun to dance until we had to leave. We left knowing our teachers loved to dance better than we can.
I’ve seen two snakes already. Seriously freaking out. But hopefully that is all I’ll see for the next two years. I got myself a snake stick so I can whack the walls and make sure it never happens again. Ugh.
On Sunday, I had a four hour nap. It was amazing. We went to language class and it was great until we found out our Lusaka trip was canceled. We had a test instead on our Saturday, July 5 and on our friend Summers birthday. We needed a destress day and a Lusaka trip where donuts coffee wifi and pizza lived was the best place to do so. Three days of language filled days crammed in our heads was not fun when there were no more donuts at the end of the line. But we kept going and even studying July fourth. We had a jeopardy game and gave out patriotic prizes for correct questions and people sang and danced and it was fun for our Zambians to see crazy Americans dance. But afterwards, we went home to study for our language test on the morning. After our long test with stations and long questions, I had set up a yoga hour and some people came. Chelsea another PCV was a personal trainer and she taught the class. It was the greatest almost hour as everyone was so grateful for it. They wished they could do it everyday and I agreed. I hadn’t stretched since the week before the plane flight. I want it to continue and I’m going to set it up again. I enjoyed it and I want to feel this loose and ready to tackle anything limber feeling. Yoga!!
I hope to continue working out and finding other ways to destress instead of a Lusaka trip full of Wifi. Yoga and running are my escapes but I haven’t been comfortable yet to run in Zambia nevertheless put on tight pants and bend in my yard. Bu I hope at my village, it’ll be different. Because controlling stress is important here. This is a stressful process and I am not even close to real stress most volunteers face. Many things I love to do or plan to do are important for my health and I need to remember that volunteers are human and they need these plans to help them be better volunteers.
I woke up today not knowing where I will be posted. I imagined my site to be distant and yet so warm and inviting. It was brilliant dreaming that vision. But so far my host family has been a dream. They are such sweet people who have done so much and loved so hard. They are incredibly family oriented and I feel as if I might be incredibly upset once I set to leave for my site and leave PST. I kept dreaming this dream and loving my home life that I didn’t notice my host sister disappearing from family events. I didn’t notice my twenty five year old sister who braided my hair not eating and forgetting to feed her twin boys and her seven month old baby. I didn’t notice when she thinned down to a twig in a matter of weeks. Zambia has given me a harsh lesson though I haven’t been here for a month yet. My host sister died of malaria at four am on Thursday morning leaving behind three boys without their mother.
I cried for so long. I am so tired.
She was so sweet and kind and to have known her for this almost month makes me want to cry again. Malaria is preventable. Malaria is treatable. And yet it takes away the young and old. And yet I still couldn’t…
This morning we went to Lusaka to meet a guest of honor. Mrs. Mulenga Kapwepwe was a daughter of the first freedom fighters of Zambia. She was there when her father wanted to name Zambia after the Zambezi river. She taught us the value of culture and the importance of colonialism in gender roles. Before the British, men followed their mother lines. Their names were followed by their mother and their mother were not low because she cooked and was a housewife. She was what you father is not and you father is what your mother is not. Gender roles are complimentary not separation but colonialism and Christianity tore women from these equal roles and put men over them and British rule rule with men chiefs than the women chiefs that started the migration of people of this great land.
She taught us to ask questions. That the newest villagers draws water from the dirtiest well.
She taught us time here is fluid. That Zambian clocks would have hands that move and are still and even go backward. She says in America, lost time is never found. However it is also said time is made in Africa and spent in Europe.
Bubbles are only existent in urban countries and we have to get used to people who ask a lot of questions and are affectionate because it is the culture to acknowledge everyone in a room and inquire about their life. She has seen people from bubble countries being bucked to the wall by Zambians at embassy parties.
She talked about extended families and their importance in Zambia. Her mother’s sisters are her mothers and her father’s brothers are her fathers. Her mother’s brothers are her male mothers and her father’s sisters are her female fathers. Her female fathers and male mothers are the ones who have the largest roles in a child’s life.
We have to work with people who would rely on traditional healers before clinics. But Mrs. Mulenga talked about how 60% of the cure is what you believe.
But at the end, we have to believe that when we meet the people, and taught and worked hard to make a difference, when we return to America, we will find that we are more valuable inside ourselves than the items we bring back in our suitcases.