Thursday, February 3, 2011
In many ways I think going home for the holidays was one of the best decisions I’ve made since coming to Zambia. I saw family and friends, visited familiar sites, and after a couple weeks found myself craving my life and work in Lusaka. I got back on the plane eager to return to my new home, and found the country stifling hot, greener than I had ever seen it (due to heavy rainfall), lush and bustling and just as I had left it. At that moment I was surer than ever that this is where I belonged, that my next six months were going to be different, that I was refreshed and reenergized and ready to take hold of the rest of my short time here and make it into something truly great. An enormous shift has taken place in my mind…when I left in December I NEEDED to get a taste of home. It was a half-way point, a chance for me to regroup and refocus, a much needed break. But now, five months seems like five weeks. When I got back to my house, I got a call from Edna Lungu, one of our dynamic young leaders…”Mr. James, just wanted to check to see that you were back in the country.” At that moment, as I unpacked, things just clicked. Yeah, this is where I belong right now. Right here.
Much has changed since I’ve returned…we oriented five bright new students and their families to the program. We hired a new programs officer, Mwila, a young social worker from the University of Zambia who has already shown that he is going to do amazing things for KF and its kids. Mwila and I were forced to get to know each other very quickly…a week after my return we took all 36 kids on a community service and leadership retreat to a lodge about five hours north. It was another experience that ended up reminding me that I was exactly where I wanted to be…the Zambian staff leading the retreat connected so well with the students, and we spent days doing sessions on leadership, life skills, and community service project planning, mixed in with rock climbing, canoeing, problem solving, and telling stories around the campfire. I grew closer to KF during those three days. I was even given a Zambian named around the campfire…Chikumbuso, meaning “remembrance.” I think it was very fortunate that I came back to Lusaka and was immediately reminded of what I was doing there. After getting back to the city, I could already feel my mindset shifting, my nostalgia for home fading away, and my consciousness focusing almost fully on the places and people in front of me.
Things have certainly been busy…we have a new fundraising consultant who already has big plans for finding donors and expanding and improving our programs. Our grade 12s are in full swing preparing for the most important exams of their lives, and I‘ve been teaching entire history classes at one of our schools (our students tend to bring friends…many of them). Our new students seem to be adjusting well, and it always makes my day when I see them walking toward me with smiles on their faces. I can’t help but remember each of them sitting with their families several months ago, nervous and excited, hoping and praying that they would be picked.
I feel locked in. Zambia is my home right now, yet, I can’t seem to defeat this nagging realization that I am leaving in July. There are things that I have been thinking about that are new and exciting, possibilities I’ve been pondering that I never would have guessed six months ago. Yes, in six months, I have experienced a fundamental change. I am me, yet it’s a different me. Perhaps it’s more me than ever before.