Monday, August 2, 2010

Almost at the One Month Mark....

It’s so amazing when you really start to feel yourself changing. I expected that once things settled down a bit I would start to feel more comfortable here, and I certainly have. But what I wasn’t fully prepared for was the initial excitement of realizing that, despite being aware that challenges will inevitably come, I can and will do well here. There is a certain exhilaration to the realization that you can be ok in a completely foreign city, in a country that you do not yet fully understand, working a job that is relentlessly demanding. There is no doubt that I miss my family and friends so much, but I’m being to understand that one can live with that knowledge and still be successful and happy in a new place. And talking to and hearing from the people I care about back home gives me strength whenever I am feeling overwhelmed or nostalgic.

This week has been busy, as always. I've been hanging out with the kids at all the schools, trying my best to get to know them as much as possible before the August break. They really are wonderful...I actually spent 4 hours at Ibex Hill the other day helping three students with their French and English. A lot of them are so curious about America and how things are there...I have loved seeing them opening up to me. Tuesday was a rough day...I got into my first accident of my life...I was trying to merge onto a main highway, and when I went to join the near lane (there was a guy in the far lane) he randomly switched and I side-swiped him. It was pretty scary at first, but luckily after I calmed him down he ended up being really nice and cooperative. The damage was pretty minimal, and insurance is covering it. We had to get a police report, which meant another couple hours of dealing with Zambia’s infuriating bureaucracy. And I got charged $12 for "careless driving." That night I went to a dinner party with the BU grad students, which was really fun and took my mind off of the rough day. There really are so many interesting people here from all over the world. It certainly is comforting to have a network of people here who are experiencing very similar things, very much in the same way the Princeton in Africa network has already been helping me with adjustment process.

The students at Leopards Hill (there are 12 there) are just amazing. They are really funny and talkative, and it feels so easy and natural hanging out with them. Thursday i was supposed to come by with catch phrase and snacks for a little good luck on exams break, but the head of the school said it wasn't a good day to go because exams were just starting. I still stopped by to drop off a girl’s text book and hang out for a bit. These kids are so great, and each one of them has a story..there is this 10th grader Bwalya who is so sweet and genuine and smart, this sassy 11th grader named Gaella, this smiley little 8th grader named Vivian, and so many more. They are so wonderful, and each one of them is unique. I have so much to learn from these students, and I am so excited to get on a more consistent schedule with them. At LH I was apologizing a lot because I had promised them a party, and Gaella said the simplest thing that made me feel so good: "We're just happy to see you." It made my day.

Then I went to play soccer with a couple of the grassroots people. They play at this nice complex (one of the only nicer soccer fields in Lusaka). I was playing with people that used to be on the Zambian national team, and I was wayyyyyy out of my league. I did score a goal on a header though! I also experienced a bit of the power of the Bowdoin network….not only were we playing with a guy Aaron who graduated in 2009, but there was a kid watching who saw my sweatshirt and exclaimed: “My parents went to Bowdoin! That place is magical!” I was shocked and relieved that the Bowdoin community found its way all the way to Lusaka, Zambia.

Friday was the last day Paulina was here, so I printed her out some pictures of us and the family to take back to the village. I'm really going to miss her….despite the language barrier she’s been like a mother to me, making me delicious food, forcing me to swear a sweatshirt out when it’s cold. Now that our housing is a little up in the air, I’m hoping to live closer to this area so I can stop by from time to time. Harrison and I stopped by Chalo Trust to pick up the students’ grades…incredibly, our students are consistently finishing at the top of their classes. And even the one or two students that were struggling have risen all the way up to the top. This was the first time I was able to see just how much KF is giving these students. And the best part about it is that they are taking advantage of this opportunity in every way that they can.

This weekend is a holiday weekend (Farmer's Day), and they have a huge festival all weekend long with shows, farmers' stands, dances, and more. After stopping by the monthly Dutch market from some rare Mexican food, I went with a couple people to the main show at the Showgrounds downtown. It was incredibly bizarre…the show was ENORMOUS, and there were displays, presentations, and contests surrounding Zambia’s agricultural and industrial sectors. There was everything from chickens, ostriches, and pigs to a competitive bricklaying contest. There were soccer games, boxing matches, random concerts and dances scattered about, a small amusement park with a dangerous looking Ferris wheel and a showing of the famous “flotting boy,” and even a big ceremony featuring members of parliament and the guest of honor, the president of Malawi.

Sunday morning I left for a camping trip to Nsome with about 40 other people. There is a Zambian guy in Lusaka who knows the woman who owns this small game reserve about four hours north of Lusaka, so all we had to pay for was gas. It’s so nice to get outside of the city once in a while…Zambia is a beautiful country, with its lush, diverse vegetation, vast open planes, and small villages and markets dotting the landscape. The reserve was right on a small lake, and I spent the day meeting people from all over the world, hiking around the reserve in search of animals (I saw giraffes, sables, and bushbucks!), playing volleyball, and hanging out by the campfire. Today is Farmer’s Day, so everyone has work off. I am taking the day to relax and catch up on some emails. It’s been an exhausting week, and this week promises to be even bigger. Work experience week is coming up, so I have to travel around the city all week meeting with employers. We also have to collect all of the applications for new KF applicants, which is going to take a lot of time as well. As I said before, it’s exciting to feel like I’m settling in and becoming comfortable here. And I am learning so much everyday just by living here and interacting with people. It’s going to be nice to see some of KF’s planning fall into place in the coming weeks. Thanks for reading!

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