The End (of Training)

Last night my Bamaama, my host mother here, told me that she is looking to lose some weight. That she wants to “reduce her weight”, possibly by cutting down on the number of lumps of nshima, the staple thick-grits-like food that we have with every meal here. It struck me because, in a country where we are focusing so much on malnutrition, and not having enough to eat, it seems rare to me to be talking to someone, especially in the village, who is focusing on eating less, and not on eating more.

Especially because they use being “fat” as a compliment here. Being told that you are looking fat, or that you have gained weight, is a good thing. Opposite of what she is trying to do.

That just struck me as odd.

A card I made for Casey's birthday!
A card I made for Casey’s birthday!

 

I am in the middle of packing my things. Spending my last days with my host parents, packing all of the books that Peace Corps has given me over the course of training, shopping for a farewell gift for my language instructor and for my host family. Spending the last days in the village, and in my hut. Working on fixing my swear-in dress that the tailor butchered. Buying food in town and eating picnic lunches with Hannah at the filling station (one of our favorite pastimes).

Me, Hannah, and a picnic made of buns, peanut butter, and apples!
Me, Hannah, and a picnic made of buns, peanut butter, and apples!

We finished all of our final exams and presentations this morning, and we have a cultural ceremony tomorrow. Each of the language classes has prepared something, mostly some sort of song or dance, and all of the trainees are cooking a giant American meal for our hosts.

 

And then we go to Lusaka.

In Lusaka we have swearing in on Friday, where we officially become volunteers! And it’s about time.

The training period has been long, and has felt even longer. We have gone through all of the highs and the lows that they promised us that we would, and we have gone from knowing nothing about where we are to itching to get out of the training village and into our real villages to get to work. We want to start working, to start learning to fit in, to start our next two years.

The past three months have been aimed at teaching us the skills to thrive in our communities in our actual service, but now we are ready to stop having our hands held, to stop being taken care of, and to actually dive into it all.

At least for the most part.

The Lundas! Katherine, A Harriet, me, and Casey
The Lundas! Katherine, A Harriet, me, and Casey

 

I will miss little things, like getting help with my laundry. And as much as I am itching to cook my own food, and eat what I want when I want, I will miss coming home every night and having food waiting, and prepared.

In the end it almost feels a bit like going off to college. Sure it feels scary to know that I am moving to a new place where I don’t know anyone and don’t really (well kind of) speak the language. But it is also exciting. It sucks to have to leave my friends here, but I know that we will talk, and I know that I will see them (well, the ones that I want to see) again. And it’s weird to have to think about not having anything definitive that I am going to be doing for the next three months (at least), and no idea of what I will actually be doing for the next two years, but that is also pretty cool. I’m going to get to do anything I want. And everything that I want. All on my own.

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Chidi Chalema…

I feel like I spend a lot of my time here analyzing things. Analyzing the place I am in, myself, the things I am learning. The challenges I face while being here, while not being at home, being away from friends, from family, and the challenges that come with the need to forge these new bonds in a new place, all the way across the world from my home, in situations and places that I can barely even begin to describe to my friends back home.

“Yika yidi yikala neyi mukweti kunu?”, my teacher asks me, in Lunda: what are the challenges that you have here?

“Well,” I reply, “chidi chakala kudiza kuhosha Lunda. Nawa, sweje, chidi chakala kuhosha na mabwambu ami ku Amelika, na chidi chalema kuyileja haja wumi wami kunu.” It is difficult to learn to speak Lunda. Also, especially, it is difficult to talk with my friends in America, and it is difficult to tell them about my life here.

And I go on. It is difficult to learn to live in a new country. It is difficult to be living in someone else’s house again, and to not have full autonomy over my life. It is the new customs: a need to greet everybody when you meet them on the street, whether you know them or not. People staring at me. Kids shouting at me whenever I go by. Asking me for money. Making fun of how they think Americans speak. Ilanga, chidi chakala nawa kutongajoka ya yikala ya wumi kunu. But it is also difficult to think of the challenges of life here.

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Some kids joined Hannah and me on our run the other day.

Last week we went on site visit, and I got to go see the village in Northwest province where I will be living. Its called Minyanya, it is probably 60 km from the district  capital at Mwinilunga, and maybe 250 km from the provincial capital, Solwezi.

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My new hut!

And while in Minyanya I could start to see all the new challenges that I will start to face when I move. Because the first few months will be difficult. It will all be difficult, but especially the beginning.

New challenges: not just learning to speak Lunda, but learning to understand what people are saying when they refuse to slow their speach down for me when we talk. The fact that my house is right behind the clinic, where all of the clinic staff lives. This is nice because it is convenient for me, but because the clinic staff are all government workers, they are not really part of the community. So I will need to work extra hard to make sure I get out into the community and integrate myself.

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The woods by my new hut.

And there are also those things that everyone is going to face during community entry, those first few months in the village: figuring out projects. Determining where to work, with whom, and how. Figuring out a daily schedule for myself. Fixing up my hut to make it my home. Learning how best to get around this new place. When and where to get my food, water, charcoal, everything.

But these challenges are all also exciting. Daunting, but exciting.

It’s kind of cool to get to admit that I am heading into something that scares me so much, but that I am also so excited for at the same time.

Because I really am so excited to post. To have autonomy. To be in a new place. To be in my home. To really and truly and finally get started with this whole thing.

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The moon tonight was huge!