April 27, 2010

The Rains Down In Africa

So it has been about two months since I last posted anything and I can’t even begin to tell you all how much has changed/happened in the two months. I want to write about all of it, but please keep in mind that it will be scattered and you are all going to have to have a bit of patience with me.

From The Top:
We arrived in Zambia on 2.18.10 after a 15 hour plane ride from US to South Africa we were finally in Lusaka. We had been told time and time again that the Peace Corps (PC) would be there when we arrived in Lusaka. Upon landing we found out quickly that PC hardly ever is anywhere when they say that they are going to be as they were an hour late getting to the airport to pick us up. But when they finally arrived all 49 of us were greeted warmly by the staff and Peace Corps Volunteer Leaders (PCVL). After being greeted they loaded us all up into 6 Land Cruisers that made me feel like I was living in every movie of Africa I’ve ever seen. The Cruisers took us to the hostel where we hung out for a few days did some training sessions and ate food that was awful and had us all sure we were going to have to go back home because we were starved to death. After a few days of training we headed out on our 1st site visit.

The purpose of the site visit is to get you out into the bush as soon as possible for a quick reality check. PC wants to make sure that you yourself are damn sure that this is something that you want to do and somewhere that you want to be. So they send you to a current volunteer’s site to spend a few days with them and see if you can handle two years of it. Obviously I handled the site visit fine because well, I am still here in Zambia writing up this blog….

After returning home from site visit we were immediately placed with our host families. The purpose of living with host families is to get you in the nitty-gritty of it all: the food, the people, the culture, the family dynamics…all of it! I was lucky enough to have an amazing host family! Keep in mind these families are a lot different that most things that you come into contact with in the states. Most people live on “compounds” and the whole family lives there with them. My compound was pretty large and my family was pretty large. Grandpa and Grandma started the compound and two of their four children lived there as well with their children and some nieces and nephews. My Amai (Nyanja for Mom) is a fantastic cook that immediately calmed my fears about food in Zambia….turns out the hostel just had shitty food.

So I spent the next 9 weeks there on the compound with the family falling in love with all of the little iwe (what PCV call Zambian children. Pronounced E-Way it is Bimba (a language) for you, so it is pretty much just saying “hey you”). My favorite iwe was a little tike named Batson who was 4 years old. Just to put him into perspective for you everyone on the compound called little Batsy “problem child’ because of how ornery he was. If there was a loud noise somewhere you just had to yell Batsy and his little voice would answer back “sorry sorry.” He just knew the most obnoxious thing that he could do in any situation and was completely different than all of his mild mannered brothers. I loved that kid with my whole heart and when he kissed me goodbye a few days ago I cried my eyes out and know that no other little iwe is going to be able to replace that little nugget of love.

As far as what we did for training here is a run down of our daily schedule:
• 8:00 Language class starts. Because I am going to Eastern Province in Zambia I am learning Nyanja (Knee-an-ja)
• 12:00 Language is over head home on my bike for a little lunch with my Amai.
• 14:00 Technical training starts. We learn all the sorts of things that we are going to need to know when we are in the villages as far as farming goes.
• 17:00 classes are over and we head to a bar grab a couple of beers and then head home to do it all again tomorrow

The schedule went pretty much every day like this for 9 weeks. Learning language for 4 hours straight is fucking annoying and impossible and by the time language is over you never want to speak another word of the language ever again and you certainly don’t want to learn more when you get to the village. You are burnt out and just over it.
On Thursdays we are all together there is no language and we learn culture and HIV/AIDS and things of the general PC nature. Saturdays we have language only and Sundays are used to make sure that your sanity is still in tact by whatever means possible.

So after 9 weeks we are ready to swear in as actually PC Volunteers because for the whole duration of training we are only PCTs and not PCVs which is of course what we all really want to be. So last Friday 4.23.10 at the American Ambassador’s house 46 of us took the oath that we could commit ourselves to this cause for the next 2 years of our lives!

I know that this is pretty sporadic and jumpy but I just wanted to write a quick thing to let you all know that I am alive. I get placed in my new home on Wednesday or Thursday at which point I will start to have a little bit more control over my own life and will hopefully be able to update you all a little bit more often. My boma (small small town type thing) that is 20K from me has an internet café so I am incredibly lucky in that regard. I will be able to write and post pretty much whenever I bike there.

Other little changes, I have a mow hawk now, or as we all like to call it a Zamhawk.

I see my path, but I don't know where it leads. Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel it. -Rosalia de Castro


  1. Maggie you are one amazing sole. May the Collective Consciousness keep you safe and supported. Love, tina

  2. Maggie:
    It sounds like this is where you are being called to serve. I admire your ability to let the big man upstairs truly take you where you are needed most, to teach and to learn. What an amazing experience. I think of you often and am going to be stalking you via your blog!

    Also, I wanted you to know that my new kitty (Harvey) "loves hims mommy too!"

    Take Care!
    Alisha Hanshaw

  3. You are an exceptional person. Follow your heart! Keep blogging, you keep a smile on my face.