There are two stories to be told here.
The first is that of a longtime wanderer who has done a fair bit of world traveling, backcountry adventuring, and general life exploring, but has always dreamed of living in and actually contributing something to a developing country. Serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia has given me this opportunity – and then some.
I live in Mfuba, a rural village in the Northern Province of this vast country, where I’m a volunteer in the LIFE (Linking Income, Food, and Environment) program. LIFE focuses primarily on food security and income-generating activities, along with sustaining natural resources.
I like to think I’m accomplishing something here. Teaching, helping my neighbors to improve their lives, and bringing “development,” whatever the heck that is. In reality, change is slow, often imperceptible, and always subject to questions of usefulness on a local and global scale. My most rewarding moments are spent just hangin’ out with my neighbors – making those wonderful human connections that make the world go round.
My Peace Corps journey began in February 2013, with three months of Pre-Service Training; it will end with the completion of my service on 29 April 2015. See: Timeline
The second story flowing in the background of this blog is that of the slow transformation of a longtime technophobe, whose most famous catchphrase, uttered circa 1998, was, “Wait, you HAVE a DVD player, or you just KNOW someone who has a DVD player?” I did not own a smart phone until I came to Zambia, and this irony has not been lost on me.
I only joined Facebook in April 2014, because I wanted to try to keep up with friends back in the States. I never update it. The best I’ve done during previous travels to keep in touch is to send out mass e-mails once a month or so. I was NOT previously a part of the “online community.”
When I was accepted to the Peace Corps in October 2011, I hoped for a posting in Africa, which had been drawing me in in various ways over the past decade. I pictured myself in a small, thatched-roof hut in a rural village, cut off from technology and all means of communication except letters. This image made me very happy.
Then, not long after I was invited to serve in Zambia’s LIFE program, I learned that I would need to write quarterly (electronic) reports on my work, that there are Peace Corps offices with Internet access (sometimes) in every provincial capital, and that bringing a laptop would be a really good idea. Later, I found out that I would be required – yes, required – to purchase and use a cell phone, preferably one that could send and receive e-mails.
All this kind of turned my idea of Peace Corps service on its head. (Though, as it turns out, I AM still living in a grass-roofed, mud-brick hut with no electricity or running water.) Cell service is extremely limited, but I can usually still send texts and e-mails. There’s no electricity to charge my phone, but I am now the proud owner of a solar charger that does the job just fine.
In this light, I figured, what the heck: I may as well start up a blog!
So here I am. I can’t post from my home, but I can write on my little phone ’til my thumbs get sore, then post once or twice a month when I’m at the Peace Corps office in our provincial capital, Kasama. (Hence the periods of silence followed by five posts all at once.) Given my general technological ineptitude, it’s taken me a while to figure out how to make this site look halfway decent. It took me several months to even get photo posting down!
My apologies. Like life, thewandererinzambia is a work in progress.
I started this blog in hopes of sharing interesting photos; witty remarks about daily life in my adopted home; and profound, life-changing experiences. Instead, I’ve found that, more often, I tell stories of being humbled, committing cultural faux pas, starting over, and trying – over and over – to make small connections and inroads with my fellow human beings on this big, crazy planet. These are the kinds interactions I think we all live for. Personally, they are what make my service worthwhile.
At the beginning of any journey, it is impossible to know what lies in store for us. And isn’t that what wandering is all about?