March 6, 2012

And Counting

I have less than a month left in my village. It has been quite a mind fuck to say the very least. I have started having to prepare my village friends and family for my pending departure. I have also started looking through all of my things trying to figure out what will make the move with me to my third year, what will be sold in the village, and what will remain for the volunteer who will be replacing me.

I could never really explain all of the emotions that I am going through, pretty much daily, on my way out of the village. This is not the first time I have lived some where with a residency expiration date. Home: I always knew that I would leave Riley and go somewhere far away for school. My high school Geography teacher once said of his college experience, “you can’t go home if you never leave.” That was my sophomore year and I made my mind up then and there that I would not be attending Kansas State University. College: I was never staying in Hastings, NE for the rest of my life, loved it, but it was always supposed to be the setting for a short chapter. New York: summer internship. I was in and outta there in three months.

But all of those places were different. I can go back to all of those places any at just about anytime I want to. I am not going to be able to do that with my beloved village. Of course I am staying in Zambia for one more year, but it will no longer be my village. My site will be replaced; it will belong to someone else. Places are always different when you leave them. My well-traveled aunt and uncle have a rule about all of the places they go to visit; they never return to a vacation spot because they don’t want their first positive experience to be tainted by a second negative one. Of course I will go back to visit my village from time to time in my third year, but it isn’t going to be the same and I know that.

Since I only have 3 months left I haven’t been doing a lot of work because things are winding down, but that has given me a lot of time to reflect on my past two years. On how incredibly far I have come in these last two years. An amazing opportunity for reflection presented itself to me last week. It is called first site visit. New volunteers are just getting into country. They come to your village fresh off the plane, fresh from America and, for the most part, completely clueless. Exactly how I was two years ago at this time.

Except now:

• I know what all of my villagers are saying to me…and it is not because they are speaking to me in English. They are talking to me in Nyanja, and I am talking back, and we are having a conversation…IN NYANJA. Its actually pretty cool.
• I know that when you are in the middle of the bush there is nowhere for approx. 180K where you can exchange American dollars for Zambian kwacha
• I know how far 180K is in comparison to miles.
• I know how to piss in a hole in the ground without pissing on myself
• I know how to kill a chicken
• I know how to not completely panic and scream when a fucking black mamba snake is slithering its way into your hut…two nights in a row.
• I know how to light charcoal. (Fact, I knew how to do that in America, but it turns out that not everyone from America does)
• I know how to bathe out of a bucket, and come out really clean.
• I know how to clean all of my clothes using less than 20L of water.
• I can carry 20L of water on my head for far longer than the PC medical staff would ever care to know about.
• I am no longer ashamed of telling complete strangers about my bowel movements or that I piss in a bucket every night.
• And…the biggest lesson of all was realizing that it is possible to not loose my cool after my boyfriend and I decide to pay for a cab out of my village instead of biking the 18 hilly kilometers to town; only for him to realize that he left his wallet, passport and all other forms of important personal documents in my hut halfway to town leaving me to bike back to my hut, alone, while he enjoys the cab ride in, and then I bike the 18 hilly kilometers back into town…alone. Don’t worry though ladies, he had pizza and a Pepsi waiting for me when I arrived with all of his belongings. He is a good man

I say that is the biggest lesson of all because I felt like that was the true test of how far I’d come in the past 24 months. I know that 24 months ago after a weekend of pretty much babysitting four grown men in my village, all fresh from America and more clueless than most men are in general (humorous sarcasm intended), that would have totally been the last straw. Instead of loosing my cool at the thought of biking that wet, sandy and hilly path unnecessarily I took it as an awesome opportunity to be alone and think about all of bullets mentioned above, and many more.

Two years alone will do that to a girl. Two years alone makes you really appreciate every little thing. I am so excited for my third year extension. I really am. I am excited that I get to stay in Zambia for a third year, but I am going to miss the solitude of the village.

All good things must come to an end.
There is a season turn, turn, turn.
A change is gonna come…

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