Swear In

It was a late night for our intake as we hung out past ten but we all were planning for something greater the next day. We were gonna become volunteers.

For the last few weeks, we were eagerly awaiting this great moment as we prepared ourselves, bought icitenge outfits and filled ourselves in excitement.
I woke up so tired at five to get ready and eat breakfast at 6:20. They wanted us to be out early and ready for the ambassador’s house.
Changed into my citenge outfit and dazzled myself up, we were out of the door and into cruisers before I knew it. I found this design for my dress and I was excited to showcase it.
Yellow frill one sleeve dress with a citenge pattern on the bottom. True Bemba princess material according to my Zambian friends. My days have started to become more meaningful. I wasn’t going to be drifting anymore as now my actions have to have impact and purpose.
Today my purpose was to meet as many ambassadors and influential people at my swear in. To talk to them of the work I will do and to see what they can provide us volunteers.
We celebrated the ceremony with speeches in the local languages we all had to learn depending on our region of work. 60 People ranging in age from 21 to 56 clapped hard, presented cultural dances and swore their paths as peace corps volunteers under a bright sunny day.
As beautiful as it could be, we couldn’t stop celebrating. We made it and it was hard for many of us. But we are the capable of the Americans. The ones who can make hard decisions and can do something so frightening. We have already lost a few of our people since three months ago and we will still lose more. But we made it this far and that is what counts. Wednesday: arrived around 3pm and unpacked slightly. No furniture except my bed so pretty much separated luggage. Read. Watched tv show. Listened to music till I fell asleep.

Thursday: first morning in Lunchu. Dust in my bed. Need to put a citenge over my mosquito net. Body pillow was a great purchase. (go Meghan!)

Friday: swept the house like four times today. Dust just doesn’t go away. Need a Zambian broom. Western brooms can’t handle this much air pollution.
Sorry, have to go sweep, again!

Saturday: got my clothesline up and curtains up in my shower and bathroom. Beautiful white lace. Let’s watch it turn brown in the two years….
Put two poles for my tippy tap. It’s a large jerry can on wire connected to a plank on the ground with string. You step on the plank pulling the mouth of the can down to pour water into your hands like a hand washing station. Using village materials only for sustainability. Hand washing etiquette achieved!

Sunday: sick. Cold? Flu? Nope. Sneezing, congestion and fatigue. Yes. Stayed in bed. Family was worried. I need rest. Sneezing. All this dust!!!! Sweep. Sweep. Sweep. Sleep. Sweep. Sleep.

Monday: woke up at 6:30. Damn!!!! Got up at 7:00. Made breakfast. Oatmeal and potatoes with green beans. Did dishes. Put out solar. Sweep and sweep again after the wind blows. Made my cooking area taller so I don’t have to crouch. Played with my kids and ran the rooster out of my Insaka. It’s a mud floor and he’s scraping to apart to make a space for his weft to lay her eggs. Nuh uh! Not here, you gigolo. Hate the roosters here. Gonna condition them to stay away from my house by throwing rocks whenever they come near. But they are too stupid to connect the dots. Can’t wait till I get my dog. Got some broken and old things I can fix up like a wicker basket I can use for….something. Gonna be the first Zambian hoarder. I mean it. I might have to fly in the crew of Hoarders. I keep everything and revamp it. I took a tin can with holes in one side, sewed citenge fabric over it and strung it onto my shower wall to be my soap and bottle holder. So I am a resourceful hoarder. ๐Ÿ˜‰
Plans today: go out and talk to one person.

Tuesday: went to clinic. Village already has a great set up already. Every day in a week is a certain special day. Antenatal or post, etc. every second week they go to a certain village and set up under five clinic checks. Every last Thursday of the month is under five day.
Rained a thunderstorm and it scared the bajeezus out of me. First rain I’ve seen here and it’s crazy loud. I darted outside and marveled at this wondrous moment. I haven’t seen rain in so long. I played music and swirled around before rushing back into the house before I got soaked. People who came to see me laughed calling me, “Itenga. Kwati Itenga.”
They said I am like deep water. Silent and quiet and like itenga or deep water, you cannot see completely through unless you dive in.

I felt so touched to be known so well. Deep water is exactly what I am.

Wednesday: it has been one full week in my village. Damn. Time goes by fast here. Went to see headmen but they were dealing with some family court cases going on in the village. It was trivial stuff but deeply believed by my village.

The court cases took up most of the time so the headmen asked me to come next week. They told me to set up an appointment but then my counterpart explained it is because they want to be ready to give me a chicken or gifts. Some complained corruption and other words but Violet dismissed their worries. She lied saying I’m a student just studying and teaching our village with no medicine or money and only here to help. To tell the headman is to make sure the headmen know who is in their village. Violet takes care of me greatly and I felt so proud and secure when I heard her talk. She knows what I do and what the village needs: sensitization. She doesn’t ask me to be any more than that or has wild expectations.
How great of a person to work side by side with?!
We cycled back together after an unaccomplished day but that day I finished my tippy tap. My hand washing station was finished and I was so thrilled. Violet was thrilled as well saying how clever we are to use village materials to make this. She used it four times before she asked for some lotion for her dry hands while I laughed hard at her excitement. 42 with five kids and still a child at seeing marvels.

Throughout my week, so many proverbs came to my ear. Violet is so wonderful at proverbs I carry a book around to make sure to keep them safe and close to my heart.

When it rained, she said it was the opening of the sun for the hot season. Not a proverb but she continued to say, “The rain today only highlights the shine of the sun in the morning.” The pain today only makes the happiness later worth it.

Riding our bikes to the headmen started off horribly. Violet’s bike gain broke three times before we stopped at a neighbor and she took theirs. Two proverbs this time. For the broken bike she said, “You start the day with a good idea but you end it with a bad one.” Laughing at our change of plans and road, we realized our plans always will change. After we took from or neighbor on a moment’s notice, she laughed at my confused face wondering how long prison sentence is in Zambia for theft. She said, “remember this, Mapalo. Before your family and relatives receive news and come for a funeral on your home, your mutuko (nearby relatives or neighbors) come first.” She continued to explain. “When you wail and cry before your relatives come, your neighbors come and take the body inside. They cook and clean when you are too much in grief to do anything. Until you relatives come, they are your family. So be friends, great friends with your neighbors. For they are the relatives you call in need.” With that she tapped the bike. “I like a mile from this family but they are still my neighbors. A mile away and they are still family. So I can just go to their house and request an egg or flour or a child to help me or a bike to move on my way without anything given in return. That is a true Zambian neighbor.”
How incredible is that relationship? Neighbors bonded on trust and familial duty. A village is a family who looks after one another as best as they could, try to avoid conflict and take care of each other’s kids. Family is always right next door, Ba Violet continued.

When introducing me to the headmen, they asked if I eat Zambian food. He laughed and answered,”Yes! The visitor of the monkey eats what the monkey eats.”

When I told her about the hand washing station, she was so eager to see it immediately. She said, “If you are to follow the teacher, you must do what the teacher does.”

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