Last Week Of Community Entry

My last week began with a trip to Kapiri for a bus schedule pick up and tickets.

Usually people hitch rides to places but seriously I’m still scared to do many things but the fact that many people travel log distances for almost no money can be a sign that it is a great way to travel.

Hitching is easy and reliable but it can be annoying to wait upon. There are people who charge but most don’t as they are just nice enough to help you along.

But I wanted a bus. A simple bus to get me on my way to Serenje and easy peezy. So I bought a post bus ticket for 70 bucks. Well, actually I have friends at the post office who bought and reserved it for me. Yes, Meghan is rich in Zambian friends.

I got so many letters from people and though it’s a month later, it felt good to see Happy Birthday. Thanks again for that. I bought some minuscule things and some money for food when I’m at the central house and went home.

It was a hot day and I was happy to just be home. I spent time with family and went to the clinic and enjoyed my last days of community entry.

Most volunteers skip out of community entry and visit people far and wide. I did no such thing. My community and I got so close that I am proud of my patience. Many have traveled around and seen people and events. Many have visited towns and places far away and I should’ve done those things. But when I come back, people will know me better than their villages would. I am proud of the time I put in my village. I stuck around and got to know as much as I can. And though it was great, it gives me more reason to travel now. Visit villages all around and come home and do work.

I enjoy being in my village quite a lot. It’s like being home after traveling and saying goodbye Monday morning was tough but quick. Even Violet came out to say congratulations on the end of my first three months and a hug goodbye.

The week went by like water dripping through the seams of our fingers. It was nice. I’ll be back right? Why should I be so sad?

Because I won’t see my family everyday for three moths after this. I’ll see them but I’ll be busy out of village so much that two months straight is the most I can do. Camps, meetings in Lusaka, traveling. So much will make these months fade. And in blink, just as these months has been, just as this last week had been, I’ll be saying goodbye forever.

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Caterpillars: Relish in Zambia?!

I have always loved food. I love cooking and know the process of buying the right tools in the kitchen. I hate tools with one purpose and I know you don’t wash a nonstick pan with soap. I also know that the reason food at restaurants have calories over 600 is because of a French cooking method that requires butter at the beginning and butter at the end of cooking. I read chef books and devour chances to perfect my cooking style. I know how to cook a 18 pound turkey in two and half hours and that brining is a step you do not avoid. Cooking for me is a pleasure. I enjoy fresh ingredients. Especially a bowl of lemons always on the table for a quick zest for pork to desserts. Or making my own mint jelly or chicken broth or having a squeeze bottle of olive oil filled with garlic cloves and long stems of basil to create the best basil garlic olive oil for garnish or cooking.

Cooking is my passion. Especially the importance of cloves in my special pumpkin pie or making my own crust for my blueberry pie. Or making beef stew using the toughest meat knowing full well that slow and low will make it as soft as tissue paper in water.

I have eagerly waited to be in my village to cook on my own. I have made many things. But I have never been tested so much in cooking.

I cook on a charcoal stove that if without my host family less than 100 feet from me, I’d have to light on my own every day.

Charcoal heats up quickly and when it heats up quickly there is only one temperature. Blowing on it when the ash starts overpowering the flames release a dust cloud that covers everything and if you don’t have lids for your cookware, well you added extra gray garnish. My kitchen is outside and everything else is inside so you either have to go back and forth and cook while also paying attention to any chickens coming near your veggies or cooking food. They are incredibly stupid and daring for food. Or you have to carry everything out at once and then back at the end. It is a tiring job but it’s part of life here.

In Central, there is a wide variety of food available. Pumpkin leaves are so delicious to eat as well as sweet potatoes that are yellow not yam orange and a staple breakfast. There are an incredible variety of mushrooms that are delicious and incredibly healthy to eat.

One day as we went to fetch some sand for a cementing project I wanted to do, I saw Violet searching the ground for feces and then look to the sky. I kept having to stop my bike and I became curious. My number one flaw: my curiosity.

Caterpillars are growing now and will be ready to eat soon.

Excuse me. I stopped my bike and looked at her to repeat her words.

You will like caterpillar. I will make some when they are ready.

Um. No. I love me some delicious squid and eel and tree fungus in my Chinese soups. I can eat garlic cloves whole and enjoy chewing on fresh ginger when I have tummy aches. I love truffles and the smell of yeasty bread but excuse me, caterpillars?!

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I forgot that day until I was feeding Cecil some dried fish and I turned to see my dad playing with something in his hands. Green with little stubby red legs crawling up his shoulder was a fat long caterpillar. Eating every leaf in sight made it as huge as his hand and he was playing with it like a child.

I was so happy to see it. It was supposed to be a butterfly and it reminded me of Pokemon as a kid. But he took it and fried it and ate it in minutes. I was so shocked that I used the excuse of feeding Cecil to walk away before I threw up. I understand culture but my stomach doesn’t.

I touched them and they feel like those gummy candy with rough skin on the outside but squishy and jelly on the inside. And they ate all the leaves on my lemon tree so I already despised them. But one day Violet came to my house and had a plate for me to eat and I stared at her and back at the plate. I know what was inside. Could I just say I’ll eat it later and discard it or am I going to have to tap into my inner reserve of strength today in front of her?

My host mom Annie came to join us and I knew I was doomed. She opened the plate and there they were. Cut up and shriveled. Fried in some oil and random spices that will for all I know not disguise the taste of the caterpillar. My stomach was screaming but I was being sensitive.

Until I saw my mom gag and spit out her tongue. I laughed so hard feeling free to feel disgusted as my host mom hated them and never ate them. She handed Violet back the plate and said,

My daughter will not like them. She is my daughter and since she is like me, take it home with you.

I laughed and nodded to Violet, jeering at her statement and added,

That’s my momma!

But as the weeks past, caterpillars did not leave anyone’s mind. As a source of income, people from the town shifted their entire lives into a single bag to come into the villages and into the forest and sleep under trees and harvest these little tree climbers. Hordes of people left their families and slept under mosquito net free skies for an extra source of income.

Violet wanted to search for caterpillars just for some relish for that days food and she kept walking hoping to reach the silent forest. But it took her a few moments to realize the forest had now become populated.

She walked in asking,

Is it a town here now?

She recalled the story to me after her long day about how there were no caterpillars to be grabbed as people’s hands were outstretched to catch them even before they touched the ground. Violet returned with a dying thirst and a lost voice and legs tired without any caterpillars laughing and cursing moments later after some water, all the towns people stealing her relish.

A town has arrived, Megha. And they take it all away thinking they are the only ones who will be selling them in town but you will see, how wrong they are.

And she was right. That Monday, every stall was filled with piles of dried caterpillars. Every stall. It was gross but I watched the faces of the women working hard to get money for their family and seeing their competition sprawled across the entire town.

I will try anything but caterpillars, though full of protein, are not my thing. I cannot get past their form before or after cooked and the idea of tasting them scares me. But to Central Province, it is a delicacy that only comes in late October and a chance for many families from far off to try their luck and gain an extra source of income.

To me, those things are just fat eating competition winners who eat away my beautiful lemon tree, so good riddance.

Home Improvement Is My New Meditation

So far, in my two months here, projects on my house are more successful than community projects. The latter requires cooperation and commitment out of people I don’t know and who don’t know me.

Home Improvement requires mind numbing monotony which is actually relaxing for me.

Laying bricks and cement. Easy.

Painting. Done.

Digging holes for poles and makeshift solar stands. Oh yeah, please…

Meghan’s the new Bob the Builder.

So far I have made six hand washing stations. I have a taller dish rack for my solars to hide away in.

I have built and dug my new solar shower. Hot showers are a hassle here but a bucket on tall pole with a pipe running into the shower and on and off tap is the solution. It is not done yet but it will be. Once every pipe is sealed tight. I pour water in the morning and the sun heats it up for me. I know it will already work because my hand washing container is filled with hot water at 10 in the morning until almost 6. The greatest thing is because the pipe has fast water pressure, if opened all the way, a full bucket of water like almost 15L, will last twenty minutes. But if opened halfway, which is a great pressure and streaming like from a pipe, a full bucket is a forty to even an hour shower.

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It’s perfect.

My host father is an old man of 68 and I’m telling you. It is as if I am staring at my own father. He is a hilarious man who always complains about backache but always doing house work. Fixing the house from sunrise to sundown. The man doesn’t quit. It makes me miss home when my dad would always be fixing.

However, here my bataata fixes anything I need in seconds. In the middle of the night, my door opened and my mom came to tell me to lock the door. I saw that the lock was broken but being tired, I told her I will tell bataata tomorrow. Next moment, he came in and while I slept, he worked until late fixing my lock while my mom helped him hold the door. They are such amazing parents.

When I come home, my dad is always looking for new things to fix or plant and my mom is chilling inside the Insaka or kitchen. She greets me home and being tired from being under the sun so much, I eat and immediately fall asleep. Because we sit on reed mats on the ground, I sleep on her lap while she combs and braids my hair. It’s like when I am at home and I rush to my mom and she smooths the hair from my face.

I feel so much love here. I am spoiled and called daughter. When I am teased by my host brother, I seriously tattle. And when I need anything, and I push hard enough, I can anyone to help me. And I love putting such attention to my home.

After my bataata cements the walls for me since there is no extra plonto or cement layering flat tool thing, I will paint the entire thing white. Then after I come back from Lusaka for training, I will get some nice color matching my nice blue citenge curtains and then it will painted again.

Or maybe I’ll keep it white.

My host dad asked if I am going to extend my house. He built his entire house ON HIS OWN. Almost NINE rooms, including a sitting room, kitchen, dining room, four bedrooms, storage, windowpanes, a cute skylight for illumination and a indoor shower with the water pouring out to his flowers outside. Granted this is not an American house but an indoor shower in Zambia?!

I am definitely extending my house into two more rooms. One room will be my kitchen/prep/ storage area while the other room will be separated by a wall to make two small rooms. One will be my indoor shower with my solar bucket outside so the water will be nice and hot inside. The other room will be a small hallway which I’m going to deck out with only shelves on two sides and on the shorter sides, one nail on each wall. Guessed it? Yup. A hallway library with two sides of books and a hammock in the center so all I have to do is lean or swing from one side to the other to get and return books.

That room will be officially done done next year I think. But the shower room will be done quick. Especially with my handyman dad. And I don’t like carrying my water to my outdoor shower. I’m not that strong. Even though the night sky is a great view during it, getting water ready. Carrying it, etc is a hassle and of my host family has a indoor shower, I should too.

I am also making a jungle gym for the kids but I need chains and something leather for a swing seat. Then I will test it out with my human adult body and then they will go on it. But I’m only testing it…
I don’t have a lifelong obsession and love for being a complete six year old and swings…….

This is just a fun project for my kids because they have been living here and probably will be for a long time with my parents and their grandparents. It’s a project with no purpose but out of love. I want to take my time with this one and forever Meghan will be in their hearts because they’ll forever be in mine.

Getting the wood for that will be easy. Stripping the bark will be annoying but I brought some hardware gloves for my lady fingers.

Then there are other wood projects. Like a solar food dryer. Which I will do during rainy season when mangoes are literally decaying on the road because fruits will be plenty. I also want it to dry papaya skins because they make amazing meat tenderizers so it will be great when steaks get cheap at the butchers during march. And also dried mango, papaya and all fruits imaginable? I say incredibly worth it.

All these projects are happening now and will be done in slowly but I plan to complete them to enhance my life here. Everything I make I am certain to make with only village materials so as to show that these projects are completely accessible. Monkey bars and swing sets. Solar showers are all plastic buckets and pipes anyone can buy in the cheap market stands. My dog house outside for Carlos is also warm on cold nights because of the padding I made. The beams I put into my Insaka at the top cross each other and locked together but now serve as my shelving for large pots and one of the beams will hold my future chalkboard to teach English to kids or HIV talks to shy children who come to my house.

I also weaved a loose rope to the top that I can lower or heighten by untying the rope from the pole and at the top the rope is attached to a clip that clips on to my light. So instead of the light illuminating one portion of the kitchen, it can hang from the center illuminating everything and when I go inside, I just untie the rope and it lowers to the ground and then boom – unclip. That was my idea. My kitchen has so many beams and areas to use and implement in some way.

I also found some metal pipes that were discolored and with some spray paint I will paint some ombré designs and buy some pretty attachments like small stained glass or bells for some wind chimes to hang from the beams overhead.

Everything I reuse. From bottles to broken pieces. I tell my host mom to never throw hardware or plastic without asking me first. I saw a broken end piece of a plant watering bucket and I fixed it to work as my shower piece so that instead of a stream I actually have a shower head. I might remove it soon for a better choice but the point is, everything is reuse able in some way. You can paint it different, add it someway differently. Just look at the possibilities. I saw a broken bucket and it became a plant holder. Two ripped rain boots now hold my growing tomato plants. A large broken plastic drum is now being dug into the ground with the lid to be my natural compost bin. Cecil and Carlos sleep on a plush bed with their names graffitied on the sides made with duct tape and cardboard, citenge fabric and makeshift cushion and finally painted and designed by yours truly.

Look at your garbage. How much of your stuff can be redesigned, DIYed, revamped, and creatively used in a different way. Reuse what you can find. Rethink garbage. We are living in a world overflowing with used materials and it will be in our children’s lives when these piles become noticeable. Teach your children to reuse and revamp instead of considering garbage as garbage.

Of course I don’t reuse everything but I found a purpose for those things not actually considered garbage yet. Show our children that things can be made a new and given new lives and new chances.

Especially with my projects that can enhance my life with materials found anywhere around my village and accessible materials in town. Especially me walking around my neighbors and teaching about reusing garbage. New chances to revamp life. Use this quote to inspire you about this one Earth we got after the Big Bang.

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

 

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Home, Sweet Home

 

President Michael Sata of Zambia: – October 28,2014

 

Michael Sata

Our president has passed away.
The fifth president of Zambia went to London for medical treatment and passed away five days away the fiftieth Independence Day celebration. It is a painful moment for all the youth who were supported in education and business ownership by this president. Ninety days they will wait until they re elect another president. Ninety days of mourning. For now, the Vice President is acting president. The white Zambian in office. But for now, the country is saddened with this loss.

Here’s to Michael Chilufya Sata. The fifth president of Zambia. Thank you for your service.

Awkward or Empowering

Working with adults can be challenging. They are stubborn constantly because of their own views and wash away their flaws when they are being lectured.

But children are the best learners because they are already accepting change and constant change in their own lives. Teaching children about sex is an awkward topic of course but the problem is that we assume that it will be awkward. Truth is if we give the children a chance to act mature about the subject, you can have a decent and informative discussion. Because they so want to hear you. Unless there are those kids who want to laugh at every dirty part but then all you have to say is some sassy remark to make them quiet and they won’t sneer and giggle anymore.

But why is it so awkward for adults to talk about? Why is it so hard for is to have a decent conversation about this topic especially when it relates to HIV/AIDS or early marriage and/or teenage pregnancy? Why is it so hard for people to say that abstinence does not work?

It’s not that I’m trying to say its a stupid idea to teach it but to teach it only is just being slightly short of ignorance. There is a quote in the school that says, “If you think education is costly, choose ignorance. For you will see how much ignorance truly will cost you.”

I have worked in a domestic abuse office that works with women who come in from abusive relationships and we offer them opportunities to gain their confidence back and maybe decide to leave their abusers. However, we don’t tell them of one method to do this hard and incredibly stressful choice. We give them plenty of options to choose what is right for them and when it is right for them.

I also worked in an office that dealt with teenage pregnant mothers. You can’t even imagine the myths and legends they thought was true about sex. One guy can convince a girl so much and especially teenage boys. Puberty does that but our girls not knowing what exactly happens or what can be used is like expecting them to experiment and figure things out on their own. I believe in education.

Not what to teach exactly but to teach everything. Like did you know there is a female condom? Or that there is a new invention called the Diva cup that saves on the paper for pads and it can be used forever and reusable? That there are many different ways a girl can get pregnant besides the normal way? All these extremes and extra information should be learned. My overall belief in life is to learn as much as I can.

Cause knowledge empowers.

I told this to my head deputy in my school. Granted, being an adult, his views were put on the table. We began with the topic of teaching about prevention etc. and there his eyes filled with concern. The question came out like it always does.

Doesn’t giving condoms to children motivate them to experiment?

It is a honest question. But at that moment, three girls walked past his office with three small bellies and I sighed.

They are already having sex, I thought remembering the two girls who came to the clinic days ago and gave birth at the age of 15. The pain they went through with bodies too young for that ordeal. But though their bodies were weak and small, their minds were anything but.

We kept going back and forth after I said my point. He then told me a story.

Children back in the day didn’t have sex. They believed if they did that their fingernails would grow long and people would see it and there was no sex. But these are modern times.

It is the lack of awareness that makes someone believe that things were better back in the day. There is a reason why the most patients of HIV are older. Because even back in the day, it happened.

He continued,

Back in the day, people didn’t cut the trees for charcoal because they believed spirits dealt there but now they cut everything.

I had to stop him now. It was getting tiresome hearing of the good old days.

I told him straight up.

Fear does not help people. Fear of long fingernails or social stigma or spirits in woods only increases ignorance. One of the volunteers who help the environment has taught his villagers the change of climate that comes with excessive tree cutting especially lack of rains that affect their farming and crop yield. So now villagers don’t cut the trees because they know the science behind it. They choose education instead of believing in spirits to make better decisions about their environment and their standard of living.

For a moment, I realized my face was stern and I was not smiling but before he looked up and saw my face, I put on a smile.

But he did not change,

What can you do? Things were better back in the day.

Still holding on to his beliefs, I sighed not wanting to deal with this. I’m not here to convince someone who didn’t want to be convinced. I said my goodbyes and smiled wide as I left.

I walked outside to my kids screaming, “Megha!!!! Come play freezie.” It was my version of freeze tag that I named after the popular cheap Popsicles that were sold everywhere. But not today. I was distraught. The deputy will now try and control my sessions and I feared that would hurt my attempts to get close and personal with the children to allow them to come up to me and ask and divulge to me.

I don’t try to preach. I don’t. I don’t assume I know best. Nor do I expect my readers to be loyal to my advice but to you who have had the opportunity of education and even higher and graduate education will see the brilliance and strength that comes with knowledge.

It changes you. Your world opens with knowledge. You are empowered with the work you have done for your education.

A girl once told me she got pregnant because her boyfriend said that condoms make it easier for gonorrhea to be spread because of the lubrications. She was a 15 year old Caucasian girl born in the upper city of Buffalo. My eyebrows rose and I asked her how many times did it take for her to believe that crap. She just he said it once. He was a smart guy so she believed and trusted him.

I only said what I always say in that situation. “Oh honey…” Because I know what I would do for my own children.

Tell your children the truth. If they ask where kids comes from, no matter what age tell them the most truth you can until you can tell more details later. Tell them the knowledge of every resource and tool. Of all ways to prevent pregnancy. Of all ways guys and girls act during these “active” years. Even your own history and own mistakes and challenges and experiences. It’s okay to be imperfect in front of your children.

Don’t nudge it away. Teach them to love to search for knowledge. Don’t accept answers. Doubt everything so that when they are told something, they’d search for the answer themselves. But the reason you should tell them everything, no matter how awkward the topic is because they will always know they can expect the truth from you.

They will always trust you would tell them the truth and treat them as an equal. Information and communication would be easier when they know that their curiosities and questions are valued somewhere. For they will only be motivated to experiment and search elsewhere for answers, if they cannot at home.

People think children are children. They are too young. But remember, they are not a constant state of being. They are always growing. And fueling the mind with knowledge from the beginning will only build the best foundation for the mind of the adult they become.

Remember this if you find yourself saying that they are only children.

If he is too young to know, he is old enough to learn.

Birthdays and Independence Day

This week was an astonishing one. Sunday began with disappointment as people never arrived to meetings but I let it go when I drove my built up motivation and actions to make a hand washing place for my family and for the clinic. I worked from the morning till nightfall only to have to fetch water at the end. I was exhausted but I didn’t stop the next day. All this pent up energy was being fueled into the next day and I built a stove top for my braziers and an ash collector with my name Mapalo written in cement. I also made a higher rack I can walk under so I can put my solar up higher and not get caught in wires every time I want to go to the backyard.

And in an effort to finish cementing my walls, every night I haul sand with Violet to make a large pile to begin cementing next week.

I will be doing that every evening!

On Wednesday, I will go to the clinic and meet with people but it will be an easy day hopefully. I just have to wait till Thursday which is the off day I give myself. Only me and my bedroom and a stack of books and 113 on my Kindle and music, music, secret dance sessions and some fried foods.

Thursday was Asha’s birthday.

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We started with games and we played until noon. Continuously it grew tired but we’d wake up and start running again. It was nice to hear her smiling and loud giggles when only weeks ago she feared anyone. But me. I am now her aunty and even when here is no one to console her, I can call her over and quiet her. My host mom and dad don’t tell me I’m raising her wrong or say I should do it this way or that Asha is like that. They want me to get to know her and when she runs, they support the effort to bring us closer. I know when parents try and say things to justify when their kids are not being responsive to me but these people are different. Asha, this is your aunty. Go and greet her.

When I come to see the kids, I actually feel like I’m seeing family. Especially because my host mom brings Asha along to see me all the time. She is a busy woman but she knows that to create relationships requires efforts on both sides.

So now this girl says my name and follows me. She knows my favorite color and this stranger in her yard is now her Ba Mammi. She is a little girl. But the reason she is now the best part of my days is because of my host mom. The effort she put in to making me feel as if I am part of this family is incredible.

That’s one thing I am sure about when it comes to people. Mostly because it is something I do personally. If people want you to be in their lives, they will work hard to keep you in them.

Friday: Independence Day!!
My club did a jump rope dance for Independence Day what the hell a rhyme about HIV. IT WAS THE ONLY THING I didn’t record. Cause I was in it.

But everyone dances and poems about independent and stopping corruption were lauded. It was an amazing day of dance and excitement.

Being 23 Definitely Feels Exotic
My birthday!!!

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It began with my cat Cecil. He was crying and I fed since he is still pretty small. But then started the horns and hats and gift. I got a fedora from my clinic and all day I got Zambian cakes and lemon icing. It was delicious and so worth it.

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I played hide and seek and jump rope and sang and danced all day. I am so tired from running after the kids but I loved my birthday. Especially phone calls from home.

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For those who called I cried so much because I was so happy. Thanks so much for all the love. It can still be pretty lonely here even with everyone cause back home is still home back there. And it can get pretty hard.

Bit by bit my birthday faded away and I realized now I am 23. Wow.

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Frustrations Can Feed On You

“Everyday here can be filled with the highest highs and the lowest lows.”

I remember reading that in my volunteer guide to Zambia from Peace Corps. I imagined my lowest lows but of course you will never truly see them unless you experience one.

I have yet to experience lows with my service. There were lows but not with Zambia. Frustrations are the better word for it. I seriously could look at my time here and see certain bumps by the side but so far, waiting and disappointment have been the two common frustrations I have had.

Since I applied, waiting is the number one requirement for a successful volunteer. Waiting to get posted. Waiting for the plane. Waiting for everything to begin. Waiting for training to end. Waiting to go to the village for three months. Waiting for three months to end.

That’s the frustration I am feeling lately. Community entry is this great process of integration and community that sometimes it can be pretty isolating after a while. I’m here for two years but I’ll be in and out of my village. But here first three months feel like a standstill after a while. Sand under my feet. Trapped. Doing the same routine day after day. Sometimes I wonder if it just me who can’t stand the monotony or maybe it is the fact that we are not allowed to leave our village. Visiting other volunteers is difficult for me without knowledge of transpiration or better word: unconventional means of transport around here. I would like to do as much as possible but waiting is all I get. Waiting for something to end or something to happen soon.

It is difficult to constantly be waiting for things to happen especially when you are supposed to be starting them. Which comes to my next frustration.

Disappointment.

Especially neighborhood health committees pocketing the money for food for the clinic workers who drive all the way there on a small motor bike for under five health check ups in the bush. NHC not knowing their his and assuming they are supposed to be paid. Assuming that our knowledge is not good enough to just be hear but we should provide money and medicine to motivate people to choose better health practices.

It doesn’t happen much but it happens in a way that bites me back. People don’t meet their end of their deal even though they seem enthusiastic in the beginning. They praise and laid and go crazy at the idea of more help but then when I expect them to provide their half of the help, they disappoint.

Life is busier these months for the village but these small frustrations get under my skin and stay burrowed making it hard for me to return to work with such people. But I have to press on with these people. Not all are like this but nothing ever goes to plan which is quite difficult for me to handle.

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Clinic Work Is No Lie

Future Plans
My job as a health volunteer is not typical nurse work. I don’t work with patients or at the clinic exclusively as other volunteers do. LIFE volunteers work with farmers especially whole REDs work in schools as teachers. We don’t work with the clinic, we work with the community government and village groups as a whole to improve the health of the community. I work with the NHC or neighborhood health committees and improve their idea of their volunteer job.

Watching my community have leaders who barely do their job just shows how much work I have to do. NHC training is definitely number one on my list.

UCI at Ifikoko

I arrived later than the clinic workers but a motorbike arrived before my slow mountain bike. I also was extremely tired. Americans get extra thirsty here. I drink about 48 to 72 oz of water a day if I am working or moving or cycling. Even more especially during these hot months. My stash of crystal light is depleting. On a normal day, 24 oz is nothing. Chug that with some pineapple drink mix. The only way to cool down. But today, water was low and I didn’t plan efficiently. I did plan but we left early and we reached later. All the workers kept pushing my talks to later.

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UCI at Katonda B

Biking from my home to this UCI was a test of wills. Mostly because of hills.

Goodness, are my legs tired but I was prepared with water and music. I reached there forty minutes before the clinic and met a new and possible counterpart.

NHC training is a Must. It is a volunteer job that they don’t understand and expect money from.
HIV is another important study an talk I need to do more about. I need to implement topic hats and talks more often. Facilitate good communication between me and my audience to he them asking more questions.

So much work to do. This work is no lie.

Respect Is All You Need

So far, my days in October have become filled with staying inside and keeping to myself because no one comes to October events. Every talk started three hours later. Every request is forgotten and when reminded, pushed aside for more priorities. There is only a certain time for work in these hot days. 8-10. Nothing after that. And the only work that is important is field plowing. Everything else is handled if and only if there is time. So meetings are missed and or late. Church maybe and if I need help construction wise or searching for something for my dog and cat… Not important.

It’s striking to see that much lack. Of effort but it isn’t lack of it. It is prioritizing of life and energy and using efficient methods over luxury. This is plowing time. If you don’t prioritize crops, you will be broke the next year.

It makes sense. Health education will not bring in income.

I remember worrying about waiting for my talks to happen and meetings pushed back so often I have finished another page of writing or chapters of books waiting. But time is elastic here.
Violet came to me one day escorting my host mom to the road for a church meeting in the city that goes through all night and she will return tomorrow night. She laughed when I asked if she was going.

“I’m sorry but I respect sleep too much.”

I wake up at 6 every morning and cooking by seven. I work hard until late at night and I realized her words hit me further. All my work at home is easy. All my meetings are not meant at 9. They are actually at 12 or 2 pm. Which means sleep returns in my morning.

Cooking is later and maybe even a cold morning shower can refresh me for the hot day.

It is okay that things have slowed on this village. It is okay that I have not accomplished as much as other volunteers have. Respect sleep. Respect the priorities of yor neighbors. They are not disrespecting you. Their lives are busy. They see something important on the horizon. So when you look into your lives and see opportunities squandered and people seem as to disrespect your time, remember that that maybe not the case. They have income and chores and work and they may respect why you do but they may need sleep before going to work at six. Move with the flow. Bring a good book. A playlist. Cause those who care, really care will come.

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September Fades and October Looms

My favorite month of the year is October.

Pumpkin pie, orange surrounding me, and crisp air flowing around me. Fall is not found here under the sun. No leaves fall but instead dry up as October is the hottest month in the year. So hot that stepping on the ground was enough for one to dash inside under shade.

I miss you, October. The October of my home when the wind would turn on us and push us with force. I would only rejoice feeling my bones waken when it came by. But no breezes exist here. Not for the Zambian October. In these differences, I miss home the most.

Homesickness came by once in a while and especially when it came to food. But I have never seen much longing until this month. To see so much of home. To see so much of the people I miss too dearly. To sleep in my own bed and walk to the fridge and open it only to realize I don’t know what I wanted to get in the first place. To hear Lovely bark when she saw me. To drive down Mallory Road and speed up a bit when I felt no one was looking. To walk by a Cinnabon and contemplate how special that day was to deserve a splurge of that cavity filled magnitude. To see my mother laugh non stop on something not at all funny only to see my brothers shaking their heads with me, still bewildered at the fact that this dork was our mother. To watch my lavender plants grow and my rose bloom. To sit outside and wish to be somewhere as magnificent as Zambia.

How I crave to be home…My first birthday and I am to be alone, far away from the huge Costco cake my mom would buy for me even though it was only for 5 of us. And my brothers and my cousins and I would finish that thing in a week. To see my cousins come around to see me but especially for the food…I miss it too greatly.

How I crave packages now. I crave pictures and little things of home so much this month. For I need to be reminded of how home feels and to be strong as my new place is not so lonesome. I am blessed for my family with eight children all older than me and grandchildren a plenty, three quarters of them are born in October. Every day will be celebration with Zambian frosted cake and fried dough. My youngest host sister’s daughter Asha was born on the 23rd and the Zambian 50th Year Independence Day is on the 24th and the day after I become 23.

I miss you home. Pumpkin pie and chocolate. Halloween parties and the movie Hocus Pocus. I miss you too much and it makes me cry to know I will be far from the orange and gold leaves flying about on the winds. But for the rest of my life, I can say I was 23 when Zambia turned 50 in its freedom, or My family here celebrated their new daughter’s birthday with the rest of their October babies. For the rest of my life, the years 23 and 24 of my life will always belong to the golden, heat-drenched, shade-sought after October months of Zambia.