Wow, I haven’t posted for quite a while. A lot has happened, so I’ll try to bring you up to date.
First of all, I have finished training and have sworn in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer. The swearing-in ceremony was held on October 5th at the US Ambassador’s residence in Lusaka. The Ambassador’s residence is absolutely beautiful: a large, white house reminisent of an East Coast country estate, surrounded by lush, tropical gardens. It definitely made me momentarily reconsider my future career in science! The ceremony itself was broadcast on national television, and there were many speeches by many important people, including the US Ambassador and the heads of the Zambian Departments of Health and Agriculture. There were also speeches by several trainees made in each of the languages we had learned. After taking an oath, receiving our training certificates, and shaking many hands, it was official: we were Peace Corps Volunteers!
The following morning we said our goodbyes, packed into Land Cruiserswith the other new volunteers posted in our province, and headed upcountry.
That week passed in a flurry of frantic shopping for everything we would need in our village. The best part was when we went to the open-air market in Kabwe. It was everything a market should be. There was a perimeter of small shops selling goods of all kinds, from buckets to blankets to braziers. The inner market was a maze of tables covered in food: piles of tomatoes and onions, dishes of dried beans and fish, and baskets piled high with curry powder and salt. It was exotic, foreign, and exactly how I imagined an African market would be. And the people were so excited to see a group of white people deep in their market. “Muli shani?” they would ask, “Bwino! Muli shani?” we would reply, and they would laugh in delight that we were speaking a Zambian language (“How are you?” “I’m well! How are you?” in Bemba). I have never made so many people laugh as walking through that market: perhaps I could become a stand-up comedian here. All I would need to do is talk, and they’d be rolling in the aisles!
Finally, after the shopping was done, it was time to go to our villages. I have been here for almost 2 weeks now, and am starting to feel settled in. Everyone here is very friendly and generous: sometimes almost too generous! A few days ago I went out with my host father to meet the headman of a nearby village. On our way, we we rode our bicycles past a field where they were picking watermelons (I’m living in the watermelon capitol of Zambia). The farmers called to us to stop, and presented me with 2 basketball-sized melons. I thanked them, put the melons in my backpack, and we continued on to the headman’s hut. We talked with the headman and his wife for about an hour, and as we stood up to leave, they handed me a live pigeon. We put her in a plastic bag with her head poking through a hole, and we set off. On the way home we passed another field of watermelons, and again we were asked to stop. The farmer there picked me four basketball-sized watermelons, and we strapped them to my bike rack. I only wish I could have gotten a picture of myself: backpack bulging, melons strapped behind, riding my bike down a narrow dirt track one-handed, holding a live pigeon to my chest with the other hand. And it all seemed perfectly normal.
Anyhow, I have caught you up on my adventures so far. I have to go see about getting a pigeon-house built, because I’m sure she’s tired of living in my washtub…