It's crazy to think about leaving this place. I made a mini-bonfire
in my yard with my manuals, letters, workbooks, etc, and was amazed with
how fast two years can turn into ash. Words really can't describe what these past two years meant to me. I don't say that as an excuse for not writing a grand last hurrah blog. I say that because I can't put into words the feeling I get when I hear my neighbor's kids laughing, riding my bike downhill into my village, or just hanging out with other volunteers in the village. Some of the most fulfilling actions I've done here have been utterly simple. Simplicity is a beautiful thing; It teaches us how beautiful a sunset is, how good a smile feels, that life is good no matter how bad things may seem, and how precious time is. It inspires us to make the most out of every moment, to live without regrets (or raggrets), and to love whoever is around to be loved.
Many thanks for reading my blog and for all the love and support.
P.S. I've meet incredible people here that I truly love...this one's for y'all.
P.P.S. Sorry CPPC that I've made this the most over played song ever.
Life here is easy when one has low expectations and can appreciate the small things, e.g., a can of peas every three months. Living without the little luxuaries of hot showers, indoor toliets, and
stuff basically working 99% of the time for almost two years really
makes me notice the small signs of development when I travel outside of the
village. So what qualifies as "development" through the eyes of the average PCV? Let me tell ya...
I went on vacation to Namibia last month. I can ramble on for a long time about how much I loved it; but I won't. Every once in a while me or one of the three other friends I was with would announce to the group, "development!" And here is why: Buses left on time, Monster energy drinks, ice cream, sturdy roofs, Cheetos, sassy waiters & waitresses, not only running water but more importantly water pressure, sidewalks, 24-hour convenient stores that serve coffee, streetlights, trash cans, super markets that play '90s pop music, slurpees, and last but not least: Haribo Gummi Bears.
Ok, so my list may not be what the majority would consider "development." But we feel (and when I say "we" I mean me & my friends here) that if a country has Haribo Gummi bears then they're doing somethin' right, it can't be that bad...right?
Anyway, I've slacked off big time on the blog-writing, my apologies. I'll make the time you've spent out of you day worthwhile now by updating you on more interesting things.
I have about four months left. Crazy! I've been working at my clinic every Mon, Wed, and Fri. When I don't have a specific program I help with patients, fill perscriptions, give mini health talks to patients waiting to be seen, and test for malaria. In May I'm going to have a training specific to RDT (Rapid Drug Test) for malaria. It'll be at the clinic and open to anyone who wants to be trained on how to properly administer the test. Certificates will be given to those who become qualified. Zambians love certificates.
A new intake of CHIP PCTs arrives in June and I've been selected to host first site visit and be a week trainer. I'm looking forward to it and I love meeting the new trainees! My COS (Close Of Service) conference will be in July, and I'll start getting those law school applications ready towards the end of August!
Aside from that I'm sailing smoothe until I pull myself from Mailo. I'm soaking up every sunrise, sunset, and all those precious moments in between. Thanks for the love and support, I couldn't do this without it.
Hello there! It's been a long time and I have many adventures to fill you in on...
So my Dad came to visit in May and we had a blast galavanting around Zambia together. We went to the falls, my village, and spent a few days in Lusaka. I enjoyed every second we had together but if I had to choose one memory to go into deeper detail for you it would be experiencing golf in Zambia. My dad taught me to play at a young age so those times are the first memories I have of him, thus, it really meant a lot to both of us to get a chance to play in Africa. It was super surreal, to say the least. We were required to have caddies too, who by the time we were done wanted to have me come back to play in the women's match. The course was above my expectations...but each hole differed in ways other than yardage, dog-legs, and pin placement. The flagpoles for the holes ranged from two foot bamboo sticks to four-foot reugular sticks. The greens were either slow, fast, or bumpy and the bunkers were filled with treasures other than sand. I was laughing about 90% of the time and I will remember every second of it. My village fell in love with my dad and they were fascinated by how much I look like him. He played with the kids, met my neighbors, ate the local foods and...met the chief! My counterpart took us to kick it with him and we stayed for a good hour and a half talking about Zambia, America, and everything in between. It was a sad day when he left, but I hope he'll make another visit next year...
I attended a workshop the week after pops went back to America-land. The workshop is called "Ishiko" which means heart. It's goals are to rehabilitate malnourished children, educate parents on how to prepare nutritous meals (with locally grown ingredients), and educate parents about early child interactions/activities. I brought a counterpart from the village who will be working on the program with me; he is my neighbor Ba Arnold and he and his wife have the most amazing family and are excellent role models for the village for what a healthy family means. He and his wife are also very well respected too and that will help with attendence. Each Ishiko session lasts 12 consecutive days and consists of 4-6 mothers. Ten of the days are spent together at a volunteer mother's house. We meet for two hours; the first hour we cook a nutritious meal and do child activities and the second hour is a health talk and clean up. The other two days the mothers stay at their homes to cook and interact with their kids on their own. What I love about the program is that it teaches parents about how different their child's dietary needs are from their own. So we explain portion size, meal frequency, and the importance of "active feeding" (cutting froods into smaller pieces/sitting with their kids and making sure they eat/etc.). Not to mention that it is 100% sustainable too, cha-ching!
In other news, I found a donor to supply my womens club with fish for their fishponds! Huzzah! So after they harvest their corn we will commence the diggin'.
When new PCTs (Peace Corps Trainees) fly into the country they spend a few days in Lusaka then they go on a first site visit to stay with a current PCV for a few days to experience what life in the bush is really like. So guess who got to host first site visit two weeks ago.?..If you said me you are correct! I had a group of three girls come kick it in Mailo with me from the 23-26 of July. We had a good ol' time. I took them on a tour of the clinic, school, and they got to observe my soya bean program! The cruiser came early on the 26th to take them back to Lusaka to start their training.
Speaking of soybeans...I had a village meeting back in May (my dad got to attend that) and I had them vote on a program that they wanted me to do. The options were soya cooking, gardens, fishponds, and charcoal burning. The vast majority shot their arms up when soya was called so soya it is! The program will continue until I leave, I've got recipes for days! The first cooking demo was about a month ago, we made soy milk and it was a huge success. They grow loads of soybeans in my village but they don't know how to cook them, all they do is sell. In the short term that is ok but they are throwing away a priceless protien source, so they are stoked to learn how to cook it! My neighbors have been brewing up soya milk every few days and they always bring me a mug with a smile on their face. My second soya demo was during the site visit and we made soya fritters, that was a lot of fun! I had the girls pass out the fritters to everyone and when they went to the kids I couldn't help but laugh because the kids flocked around them like seagulls. So I'll have another cooking extravaganze mid-August and we're going to make soybean sausage!
So I'm turning 24 mailo! Huzzah! My goals before I turn 25 are to read Les Miserables, build a basketball hoop at my hut, and learn the locomotion...
I've been jammin' with the guitar everyday in the vill now and my neighbors love it! I love playing for them because they don't mind my novice singing voice. I was making dinner with Ba Favorite and she asked me to teach her an American song, haha. The first one to come to mind was 'You are my sunshine'. She learned it fast and then we taught Ba Ethal. So we sing that while we cook and I can hear Favorite singin' it in the morning when she sweeps the yard. Ba Ethal told be, "the song is very good because you will never know how much I love you," while she pointed at me. That made my heart melt a bit.
In regards to my work:
I had my first visitors a few days ago! Ben and Lizzy are my closest PCV neighbors and they biked on over. Ben is in the fisheries program here, so we met with the women's group to discuss fish ponds. They are very excited to get to work on them and we have good soil to build them in Mailo. The fish ponds will be one of my biggest projects here and it is perfect because it is sustainable. They'll have fish to eat with their nshima and they'll be able to sell them at the Sunday market to make some extra moolah!
I have a program to celebrate a belated "World Malaria Day". It was April 25 but we made our hooplah for May 14. We'll have a good ol' time demonstrating the proper way to hang a mosquito net, play a fun game, and I'll give an exciting talk all about malaria.
School starts back up on May 7! Woo-hoo! I'll be back to my teaching schedule at the schools!
So awhile back I was eating some nshima and beans with my ba maayo (ba Ethal) and her daughter (Favorite, which is ironic because she is not her favorite child) and I struck up a conversation about holidays. Unfortunatly they do not celebrate Halloween here, but...they celebrate April Fools day! They call it "fooling day" though and it is ba Ethal's favorite holiday, ba Favorite sat there shaking her head in disagreement saying she did not like fooling day at all. So I heard about the fools ba Ethal played on her kids and neighbors over the past years, the whole time she's laughing and clapping her hands while Favorite sat there saying with her head down, "this day is not a good day." I couldn't help but laugh because they get so much amusement out of it.
So the day came and I was washing some dishes when one of the kids came to me saying that ba Favorite and ba Ethal needing me right away. So I ran on over in a jiffy and asked them what they needed in a concerned tone. Ba Favorite asked me what day it was and I said, "April 1st," in a matter-of-fact kind of tone. Then she said, "it's fooling day, you ran over here but we really didn't need you!" They started cracking up, and I couldn't help but laugh because I got fooled in such a cheesy way. Little did they know that I had a prank of my own...
...I took my time walkin' back to my house. I waited about fifteen minutes then rushed back over to Ba Ethal and Favorite and in a very serious tone said, "Ba maayo, Favorite, a baby goat fell down my cimbusu (toliet) and I don't know what to do, come quick!" So they rushed over with me with worried looks on their faces. They went into my cimbusu but it was too dark for them to see anything so Ba Ethal said she'll ask a neighbor for a flashlight. I asked her what day it was, like they did to me, but Ethal was on a rescue mission for the goat and didn't bother to answer me like I had answered them (and I was now laughing). So she left to go find a flashlight. Meanwhile, I pull Favorite aside and told her she had been fooled and she along with the other neighbors who were now curious to what was going on started laughing too and chased me around my yard. So Ba Ethal comes back with a sad look on her face saying, "I couldn't find a flashlight." I looked at her and said, "Ba Maayo, it's fooling day!" Hahahahaha, the sad look quickly washed away and was replaced with a mischievous grin, she knew she got pranked bad and took hold of my hand with a look of I don't know if I should beat her (not in an abusive way) or just tell her I love her. We were laughing about that all night, and of course by the following day that was the talk of the village.
So the word for tomorrow and yesterday in Bembe is "mailo" and happens to also be the name of my village. I feel like Peace Corps has pulled a nice prank on me for sending me there, I'll explain by sharing the average conversation I have with people when I travel outside my village. Just keep in mind this is all spoken in Bembe, not English...
"Hello, what is your name?" Random Zambian
"Meggie, and your name is?" Me
"(insert name here), what are you doing in Zambia?" Random Zambian
"I am a Zambian, I was born here. Haha, no but I'm really a Peace Corps volunteer from America." Me
"Oh, yes I know Peace Corps. Where do you stay?" Random Zambian
"I live in Serenje, Mailo village." Me
"Oh, you're going back to your village tomorrow." Random Zambian
"No, I live in a village called Mailo." Me
"Oh, you came from your village yesterday." Random Zambian
"Haha, no, no. My village is named Mailo, it is in central province by Kanona." Me
"Oh, yes yes. I know it now. Mailo, very nice" Random Zambian
So I was a bonehead last week when I went to my neighbor's field to help plant soya beans. Mistake of the day: I went in sandals...
...They were also making planting mounds for sweet potatoes and I thought I'd give it a whirl. I was doing well using an ulukasu (garden hoe), getting in the groove, and then my big toe got in the way. It's a gnarly looking toe now, I put a nice crack in the nail, and garnished it with two cuts. The Zambian's reaction to this was funny in retrospect, they were so worried and hospitable. My Ba Maayo quickly ripped some of her citenge and wrapped my toe to stop the bleeding, her son peeled cassava and handed it to me like how one would give a lollipop to ease a crying child. They must think Americans are so fragile, I'm always gettings some kind of blister, bruise, scrape, etc, I haven't developed their leather-like skin and I probably won't. Yona escorted me back home so I could give medical a call to update them on my adventures. I was a wee bit distraught during the walk back, but Yona eased my mind and made my heart melt a little by repetively saying, "don't worry ba meggie, you will be fine."
I was debating on whether I should tend to my toe in the village or at the provincial house, until Ba Francis (one of central province's drivers) came, had one look at the toe and convinced me to go to the house and nurse it there, I'm glad I did.
I've had a nice stay at the house. I've heard tales from other PCVs and their various injuries, cooked lots of beans, had a Harry Potter marathon (that's right, we watched all of 'em in a row), and now my toe is well enough to care for in the village.
In other news, I'm done with community entry! Having now been in my village a solid three months, I feel that I'll make the biggest impact by focusing on the schools. I'd like to help the schools recieve funding for health education materials and help train the teachers. I will be meeting with the headmaster to set up a teaching schedule that has me coming to the classrooms with some super-duper health lessons. I'm also planning some workshops with my counterpart to teach the village about family planning methods, proper use of mosquito nets, and water sanitation. My counterpart is amazing, and very happy to work with me, he reminds me of Lando from Starwars.
So there's a small update! I'll be wearing shoes to the field from now on.