Every morning when you wake up it is still dark. The dawn is only just starting to creep in and kick the millions of stars from the pitch black sky, and the roosters have been singing their chorus outside your hut for what feels like hours now.
You unstick the thick mosquito net from the side of your bed and roll out from the sunken middle of your mattress.
It’s time for another day.
You walk outside to the edges of the cornfield to brush your teeth, and the low hills lining the horizon are still blue with dawn. The sky fluctuates between purples and blues and even peaches and greens closer to where the pulsing sun is slowly dragging itself into the sky.
The sun here is bigger than any you have ever seen, but that also comes as a result of living so close to the equator. It is thick and red in this early morning as it gets ready for another day of the dry heat and deep colds that come along with the winter months
The fields are all dry right now. It has been months since the rainy season and it is nearing the end of the harvest season. Nearly all the maize has been collected, and the corn cobs dry in a giant cache nearby. The maize has been pounded, and the resulting powder is cooked into nshima to make up the staple food for lunches and dinners day in and day out.
But a day can turn from so good, so pleasant and nice, to bad so fast. You put your hand out on the door of your hut and a bee stings you. And you get asked to come into Lusaka, into the medical office, because you are allergic to bee stings and they want to make sure you are really okay. Even though you know you are okay already.
And it’s good they are taking care of you, but by 17:00 when you have spent the entire day sitting around the office, being proded and lectured on how to deal with this in the future, and you have been sitting around for hours, waiting for someone, anyone, to take you back you your village, you are simply fed up and frustrated.
You have been here for days and it already feels like months. Every day, all day, is scheduled. Government issued pamphlets and assignments and even friends. And all you want is to be settled. Without someone telling you where to be and what to be doing twenty four hours, every day. Without people watching what you do all the time. Without all the pressures to learn a new language, culture, group of friends. And it all becomes unbearably annoying at times.
But then you get out of the car at your host family’s compound. And the sun is setting behind the swiftly blue-ing hills. And it is deep orange like the morning, and it is still even bigger and grander than any you have ever seen.
And soon the stars will come out: more than you had ever imagined existed.
And your host sisters run up to greet you, “muli bwangi” with their big smiles and questions about your day. And suddenly things feel so much more right again. Things feel more settled.
And, you think to yourself, this is it. This is real life.