Tag Archives: lunda

Fires Burning

The sounds of the rain have been replaced by fire. I hear crackling and spitting around me and look out the door, half expecting to see thick drops, but instead see the clear blue sky, the clear blue day. The breezes blow, the sun beats down, and the sounds feel like the fire is in the hut with me. Surrounding me. It is cool, and oddly calming.

Out in the plain, though, it has changed. The tall grasses that once swept by my body, slapped my ankles and tickled my wrists, now crackle with low lying flames. I can see the lines where the charring stops, or has yet to begin. The iwes walk along near the fire, and I don’t know if they are helping it along or just watching it dance, but I skip around the little burning patches and cover my eyes to the smoke and run a bit faster towards a clear part of the path, waving to the iwes as I go by.

And yesterday I went up to Ikelenge, the very tip of the province, to the source of the Zambezi. Tucked into a little forest, a little forest so saturated with water still. It hasn’t been burned, torn down by crops and by fire. It smells like a rainforest, and the little puddle that turns into a stream that turns into the Zambezi into Victoria Falls runs clear and calm through the shady trees.

But back out, out of the protected area, out of the forest, the ground is black like coal, thin brown grasses poking up above the rest that is so dark and bare. Patches of old grass and new, coal black and green, the darkest land I have ever seen looking so saddengly beautiful and bare.  

All the way home to where the wind whips itself into a frenzy of sand and little pieces of ash that fall and cover my arms and chest and face for a minute or so before they calm down again. And I go inside and a piece of ash falls from inside my ceiling onto my hand. And the smoke and the wind and the cracking hiss of the fire die down with the evening, replaced by the ever constant deep deep blue and bright bright shine of the stars above.


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.

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.

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.

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.

The moon tonight was huge!

Chicken and Sunsets

My youngest host sister, Joyce (10/11 years old), came and knocked on my hut this morning around 10:30.
“Come on, Jenna, it’s time for the chicken!”
I looked outside and there she was, plaid skirt, pink top, live chicken and kitchen knife in her hand.
“Come on!!” She implored, and lead me around to the back of the compound.
She the proceeded to walk me through killing the chicken (I’ll spare those details), plucking the feathers, chopping it up and washing it, and then putting it in a pot over the fire to cook for lunch.
I have officially cooked a chicken from scratch.
Anyways, the reason for all of this was that today was PACA day, a day where they have us stay home to learn some of the household chores in the morning, and practice PACA (Participatory Analysis for Community Action) tools on our host families in the afternoon. It involved a good deal of Peace Corps Goal #3.

Goal #3:
Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

So, instead of going to language all morning we stayed at home, doing whatever our host mothers had prepared for us. Which, in my case, was making chicken, nshima, and green for lunch. Yum!
I also did some laundry and swept out my hut.

I get bored in class and draw on myself.

This past week has flown by, though, with lessons every day and a language simulation (oral exam) on Saturday. And between learning to dress for both the freezing cold mornings and the scorching hot afternoons, making hundreds of flash cards, and learning to prepare chicken, time has been flying by.
But sometimes it does get so slow. I have been getting more and more antsy as the days wear on. We have been inching towards the long awaited one month mark of being here, and I am finally starting to feel a bit settled into the routine! I know the bush path I take to school by heart: I know where the bad sand traps are, where the potholes are, where the rocks are that could trip me up on my bike. I know my routine and am getting used to waking up at six in the morning, when the sun is just starting to rise. I am still not used to how incredible the sunsets are, but they’re too beautiful to really settle in to.

The sunset.

I have started to go for runs in the evenings after class, something I never liked to do before. I generally find running to be boring and tedious and boring. But it is becoming more and more appealing, and I am staring to really enjoy it! Possibly because it is the only time that I have truly to myself. Where I’m not feeling self concious for sitting in my hut, where I’m not out with other people.
Sometimes I run with Hannah, which is nice, too, because we get a chance to talk and also just to run in silence.

Me and Hannah, after practicing ukulele on Sunday.

I think I’m slowly getting ready to go out to my site. To have autonomy, to have my own space.
It also means being able to survive in a foreign language, one that I am more and more comfortable with as the days go by, and to be able to go out and do the job I am supposed to do in a new place. A job which I won’t really figure out until I am in my final village. But the tools that they are working to give us are slowly coming together to start to make sense.
In short, I’m starting to be a bit more ready to do all of this.
And excited. Nervous and terrified, yes, but excited too.
I have no idea what each day really brings here, besides a beautiful sunset, but I think it will still be okay.


Sundays here are so long. I sit on the step of my little hut and look at my watch again. It’s only 3pm.
Any other day of the week I would be halfway through a lesson in something to do with health or Zambia or Lunda, the language I have been assigned to learn, or I would be on the way to the market or doing something for school.

Spotted, yesterday: a cloud shaped like Africa!

Every day here is so scheduled. So hectic. But that’s what training is.
I wake up at 6am, my bath water is ready at 6:30. Breakfast is (usually) at 7am. At 7:30 I meet Hannah, my friend whos host family lives right down the street from mine, so that we can bike to class together. We are the only ones who live in this part of the village, 2.5 km off of the main road, and just over 3 km from the Peace Corps training center. She is learning Tonga (and will be placed in the Southern Province), while I am learning Lunda (and will be sent to the Northwest Province). But we bike to the same place each morning, and manage to fit in a daily debrief as we fly down the dirt road that we have already memorized for where to avoid potholes and where to swerve around the majority of the sand.
Our language lessons go from 7:45 until nearly 12:15, at which point we return to our homes for lunch prepared by some member of our host families.
In my language class are two other girls, Katherine and Casey, with whom I will be moving to the Northwest Province come September.
After lunch Hannah and I reconvene at 1:30 to bike to our second session of the day. This one will deal in our technical training: cross cultural issues, health training, and generally anything we need in our skill set when we make it to our sites this fall.

Notes from a cross cultural session a few days ago.

Tech lasts from 2pm until 5pm.
By the time we get home it is usually almost 5:30pm. Hannah and I have had plans nearly every day this week to go for an afternoon jog when school lets out, but we keep getting home too close to dark to do so.
Dinner prep starts at 5:30 or 6, dinner is at 7 or 7:30, and I hang around until 8 or so before going back to my hut to read or do my homework. I am in bed, asleep, by 9. 9:30 at the latest.
Saturdays we have a half day of school, and are finished just after noon.

The winter sun sets by 6pm here.

So, it is a Sunday. I have the entire day free, a rare patch of time with nothing to do. But what to do? The hours have been ticking by, so slowly it seems.
My bath water was ready at 8 this morning, giving me a nice chance to sleep in (not that I need it here). Breakfast was at 8:30, and by 9am I had the entire day stretching out in front of me.
Yesterday, though, Hannah and I left our bikes at the training center. So, at 9:30 we set off for a jog over to collect them. We finally managed to go for that run! We returned back to my compound to stretch a bit, and when she left I settled down to study. It was only 11am. By lunchtime, 1pm today, I had already made 60 flash cards and had worn myself out studying  Lunda. After lunch I washed some clothes, which brought me to 2pm. The afternoon sun was beating down, so I went back to my hut to finish reading my book and to paint my nails.
And now it is 3pm and I have nothing to do. My kindle ran out of battery (one of the things I hate about reading on a device), so it is charging on my solar panel in the sun. I could stay and read it, but the sun is still so hot (despite it being the middle of winter here), and the winds keep coming in and blowing sand directly at me.
The idea of going for another run has crossed my mind, but that, too, would mean spending more time in the heat.
Two hours until the sun will start going down, and then two more hours until dinner.
It is slow here, but in a nice way, I must admit. Maybe I will go inside and do some yoga. Or listen to music. Or draw little cards to give to my classmates tomorrow. I can do pretty much anything I want.
Because tomorrows Monday, and my hectic schedule will return, once more, and I won’t feel this sweet sense of boredom again for an entire week.

On Laughing at Myself

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.

My trusty bike, a bit big for me, but overall good!

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.

Me and a Zamdog at a site visit last week

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.

The tarmac outside the village, on the way to school.