When I was riding my bike home from training on Saturday I was doing totally fine. I had figured out my gears and had almost gotten the hang of riding this too-big bike over the dirt and rock roads that lead to my house. And then I hit the giant patch of (deep) sand in front of my house and my bike came to an immediate stop. And tipped right over.
So at that point I figured it was a good plan to just get off of the bike and walk it the rest of the way to my host family’s house, and hope that no one saw me.
No such luck.
The two older girls from my host family, Karen and Memory, came running up to me, giggling. I mimed, did you see me fall? Yes, they said, laughing still. So we spent a few minutes making fun of my clumsyness before they invited me to come along with them to do chores.
It was the first time we had actually spoken in the twenty-four hours I had been living with the family.
Whatever I do here I feel like there will be someone there to laugh at me. At me or with me, however you want to see it. Because it is funny to see a muzungu (a white person) trying to do things for the first time. Riding a bike through the sand, hoeing potatoes for the harvest, getting water from the borehole.
Its easier to just start laughing at myself when I get things wrong. When I stumble over the new, foreign words, when I drop things or am generally awkward in a new space.
So here we are in school, at the Peace Corps training center in Chongwe, just outside Lusaka. We are busy getting ready to learn new languages and new skills for our service.
I will be learning Lunda, which is spoken in the Northwest province. I don’t know much about the province besides the fact that they are known for pineapples and honey and it rains there six months out of the year.
But it’s good to remember to laugh at myself for the mistakes I will inevitably make. It’s good to remember to take it all lightly. And it will be good to remember, in a few months when I am in my own hut, when the biggest problem I had all day was falling off my bike into the soft sand of the road.