29 July 2013
I returned to Mfuba late yesterday from four whirlwind days in Kasama, for “Mini Provs.” There were provincial meetings at the PC Northern provincial house in May, but us newbie PCVs weren’t allowed to go because we couldn’t leave the vil or use the house during Community Entry. Mini Provs were supposed to be an excuse to give us a break, let us get online, do work we can’t do in the vil, etc.
For me, though, I hit my “OMG, how am I going to do this“/”Get me the heck out of this village” moments much earlier on. And I got my break over the Fourth of July, when I celebrated the American holiday at a waterfall outside the town of Luwingu with a few PCVs who live in that area. (I’m halfway between Kasama and “the Gu,” as PCVs there call it, so I’m told I’m an honorary member of the “Gu crew,” which is just dorky enough to suit me perfectly.)
At the time, it was the perfect break. Exactly what I needed. Caught up with Adam, from my intake, and met four other great, inspiring volunteers. Just three days, but I returned to Mfuba feeling happy and refreshed after my first “vacation” since I arrived in Zambia. Since then, I’ve been happy as in my vil.
Going to Kasama, on the other hand, never feels like a vacation to me. I’d gone in twice previously, just for the day to get mail and a few groceries. This time, though, there were also government officials to meet; computers I could use to go online (imagine that!); Skyping with my brothers; important info to research about farming, chickens, live fences, etc.; and of course a LOT of other PCVs: all 7 of us NoPro newbies, plus at least a dozen more seasoned volunteers.
It was all a bit overwhelming.
Needless to say, when I awoke on Saturday, the day I was supposed to return to Mfuba, I still had a ton to do. Even though all I wanted to do was to lounge in one of the hammocks and do NOTHING.
So when the power went out, leaving my eggs half-cooked on the electric stove (ah, the advantages of charcoal!), it was a great excuse to finally chill. Played an entire game of Monopoly, then sat down to watch a stupid movie. (The power was back on.) Other PCVs were already talking about sticking around for a third night by staying at a nearby guesthouse. I let myself be talked into it.
Don’t get me wrong: I had a great time that evening, dancing and talking and cooking really gross food at 10 pm. But there were a LOT of PCVs there – many of whom had already used up their allotted four nights per month at the house but wanted to stick around. As I listened to tales of all the different countries they’d visited during their service, I couldn’t help but think: how much time do these volunteers actually spend in their villages?
I’m not about to get preachy here. God knows I’ve had my days where I want to run screaming, and I think I have an amazingly friendly and understanding village. Some other PCVs have a much rougher time of it: Villagers constantly asking them for money, parents openly beating their children, things being stolen from their huts.
But me, I really LIKE my village! I’m kinda getting to love it.
Still, I got lulled into that PCV comfort bubble. The whole ride back to Mfuba, with Adam and Tristan, who were going further on to their vils outside Luwingu, I was enjoying the conversation so much that the time flew. So when suddenly we arrived at my stop – Mumana Lupando, a 6K walk from Mfuba – I was totally unprepared. Suddenly I knew how those other PCVs felt, not wanting to go back to their vils – especially when a drunk guy threw his arms around me and asked me to marry him. (I count my blessings every day that I don’t live right off the tarmac, where the drunks are plentiful.)
But as I made my way back to Mfuba, I was greeted warmly by one person I knew. Then two more. And at the edge of the village, there were all the kids: Mavis, Isaac, Kamfwa, Mary, even little Obed, whose constant stream of “Ba Terri”s used to drive me nuts. “Ba Terri! Muli shani?” They greeted me as if I’d been gone a year, and it sure felt like it.
“Cisuma ukumimona!” (good to see you!) I exclaimed. And I meant it. Said the same to every adult I ran into that evening, too.
As I regaled them with tales of what a pain in the butt it is to find transport on a Sunday (that’s a whole other story, as is transport in general here) and listened to the latest news from the vil, I counted my blessings yet again.
It sure is good to be home.