It has now been week five and my entire world had changed. Five weeks. Only a few weeks and I have had three homes and a future one that I have imagined a million times over in my head.
Getting the site announced was as if my dreams spilled out in front of me and woke me up, having been knocking on my door the whole time. This week started with the news and so far I have not been disappointed. My village is incredibly large and needs a lot of work with malaria. Shona people in the village do not take medicine except for salt in their water. I am going to be exceptionally busy.
We came into Suwilanji Gardens lodge these past two days. A beautiful lodge 45 mins off from Chongwe in Lusaka with sweeping flora and bamboo bridges. Sculptures of monkeys, toucans, and dolphins littered the landscape with great open spaces and cement building filled wall to wall in graffiti art. In front of my hotel room were two ponds as large as lakes with water lilies closing in daylight and open at midnight.
After a hot shower and a warm bed and getting my friend Casey to finally see Toy Story 3 (yes, she cried and it was worth it), we woke up to a hot breakfast and our host family arriving on a bus. I met my host mother wishing to stall every moment. I am a first generation volunteer. My village did not have a volunteer ever but they know what we are. Except knowing is different from experiencing. Knowing what we do can only mean assumptions and expectations that we are not able to meet.
Was she going to talk about a bore hole?
Or grant money?
Was the village waiting for me to do the work?
But they found me walking and there she was. Silent and humble with a face as nervous as the one I put on that morning. She asked me my name and with nerves acting on our words, it was a hard introduction. Violet Machaya is her name. With five children especially girls impressively in high school and her oldest past 12th grade, she was a mother who valued education. I was happy listening to her speak wishing for her second daughter to also finish school. Most girls here stop school at sixth grade or eighth.
Here was a dedicated mom. Reminded me of my mother always lecturing the importance of education.
I was disappointed at first as she was a quiet person. I am a quiet soul as well but I love loud people. I love excited and eccentric people. I enjoy large families and unique children with character and personalities. But it was also one day.
That day the workshop covered policies to village work and how people in Zambia work on zamtime. Set up a meeting at ten hours and they’ll only arrive by twelve or thirteen hours (1 o’ clock).
Great dedicated hosts stood up and talked about their incredible hopes and with great speeches, we met each other’s hosts. It seemed so exciting watching everyone click with their future family.
I talked with my host mother the next day and she had changed. Calling me by my name, Megha and then Mapalo, meaning blessing in Bemba, we took pictures together, and talked about our village in depth. From
problems to extent of outreach to many topics about SSV. I want to work with women and youth especially hoping to empower women and girls to start careers.
We talked further setting up an action plan for our first three months in community. Integration is two part process and with my family’s help, it will help to be considered part of the village before I get pulled out in December for in service training (IST). And then, it will be difficult to integrate. Not impossible but difficult.
More sessions of policies reinforced or values of sustainable development but this is only one citizen of a village. How would they change the behavior of the all? They will be my link. My strongest link while many villagers will still believe I bring only money.
Except in moments, Violet talked about her wishes. She said her village sent her with wishes for developed buildings but she wished for only one thing: for women to come to the clinic instead of birthing babies at home.
She then said that she realized that after the workshop all wishes coming true were not plausible. She looked at her sheet evaluating the workshop and answered,
“Development does not happen with quick fixes to environment but with change in the heads of people.”
Peace Corps changes more than just your own world and your own comfort zone. It changes even the minds of those you are sent to change even before you arrive at their doorstep.