Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Had a crazy day of shopping in Choma yesterday. It was stressful for many different reasons:
  •  we have a ton of stuff to try to remember to buy
  • we are shopping in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar procedures (i.e. how to pay, what you can/can't carry into stores, standing in line- or lack of lines, etc.)
  • you have to bargain for everything in the market, which gets good deals, but is exhausting!
  • we have no idea how much things should cost or what is/is not a good deal
  • we are unfamiliar with the products/brands
  • we are trying to judge how much of things we need to buy to last us 3 months or so
  • their form of money has huge #'s, so we feel like we are spending a ton, even if it's not so much when you convert it (when I go to buy a sack of potatoes and the tag says 44,000K - I kind of freak out a little bit lol) - I spent 400,000K on groceries yesterday! (this converts to roughly $80)
 Since my mom tells me that everyone is interested in all of the little details of my life, I'll bore you with a list of things I bought yesterday & today. There is probably more that I'm not remembering, but this is at least some of it:
  • Candles
  • Laundry soap
  • dish soap
  • toilet paper
  • cooking oil, salt, sugar, flour, powdered sugar, pasta, rice, beans, soya pieces, powdered milk, baking soda, baking powder, oatmeal, cinnamon, soup packets, tea, coffee, peanut butter, honey, butter, bread, cheese, eggs, boxed milk, potatoes
  • sponges
  • silverware
  • hand towels
  • plastic buckets for bathing, laundry, & dishes
  • 2 pots
  • 4 plates, bowls, cups
  • 2 storage food bins (trash can size)
  • 3 Geri Cans (for water)
  • 2 mixing bowls
  • reed mat
  • brazier
  • screen
  • white paint
  • black paint
  • paint roller & brush
  • mattress
  • bed frame
  • wooden poles
  • floor wax
  • doom- insecticide
  • tupperware containers
  • non-stick skillet
  • mirror
  • comforter
I'm nervous about posting tomorrow. It's kind of scary to be dropped off there and be stuck alone for the next 3 months. I'm nervous about all the hard work of daily living alone in the bush, and worried that I will be lonely and/or have trouble making friends/connections with the villagers. I'm worried- what if I don't like it? What if they don't like me? What if it is too hard? What if my job isn't fun?

I know it is normal to be nervous, and I'm sure it will all be fine when I get there, but for now I am still worrying. They just left to take Meredith to her site now. They will take Larry tomorrow morning, and then me in the afternoon. This is actually the order we always did our language stuff in too. I like to go last :-)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Choma Choma Choma

Swear-in went well! My speech was great- I didn't mess up at all! And I got many compliments from Zambians saying that I spoke like a natural Tonga! lol I'm sure that is far from the truth, but it's nice to get the compliments ;-) I have a video of my speech, but have no idea when I might be able to upload it, as I can barely upload 2 pictures at a time right now, connection is so slow!

After the swear-in we did a little shopping, and in the evening we went out to a Zambian dance club. It was a lot of fun, we all were able to relax and dance....and we all stayed safe :-)

Friday a.m. we drove here to Choma and I got to see my Provincial Peace Corps house for the first time. It is pretty decent, but there is a lot of old junk to sort through, organize, and get rid of. Me and Meredith are going on a cleaning/organizing streak! It is good we are the first and only ones there though, because we have the freedom to start over and make the house our own :-) We just walked into town (about 15 min) right now to get on the internet and do a few errands, then have lunch. Tim, our PCVL (Peace Corps Volunteer Leader) is showing us around. The PCVL lives at the PC Provincial house all year and serve as our leader/resource person in Southern. Tim is our temporary one for about 3 months, until a new one is assigned. Tim has been serving in Zambia for 3 years.

At the Provincial House, there is a kitchen, living room, office, PCVL's room, and 3 bedrooms with a bunch of bunkbeds. We are allowed to come stay at the house 4 nights per month (to be used as relaxation, hang out, or work-related stuff). Usually, all of the volunteers in a province or area will try to plan a weekend each month where they meet up and hang out at the house. Right now there are only 3 of us, but in a couple weeks the 3 LIFE volunteers will join us too. Then in October about 8 more will come to Southern (RAP and CHIP programs). We'll be excited for our province to grow! We have a computer at the house, but no internet yet...but it is supposed to be coming. In the Provincial Capital town of Choma (where the house is) there is a Spar (think small Albertson's or Winn-Dixie) and shops of all shapes, sizes, and kinds (hardware, furniture, groceries, fast food type stuff, clothing, etc.). It is also a main hub for buses running North and South (to Livingston) and the train. Choma is a little over 100K from my district/area. I will probably only travel here once a month (probably by mini bus or hitching). Hitching is a very common and usually cheapest way to travel for volunteers in Zambia. I've done it with others, but not by myself yet. I'm a little scared lol.

Okay, check Facebook for more photos (but my page won't load anymore, so they may be limited :-(

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Celebrations and Goodbyes!

Today is officially my last day as a PCT (Peace Corps Trainee). Tomorrow I will swear-in and officially become a PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer)! We pretty much wrapped up training last Friday- took a medical exam, had the last few sessions, and did the final Language Proficiency Interview. I scored an Advanced Low on the LPI, which is very good and quite rare for trainees to accomplish! There was only 2 of us in the whole group of 27 to achieve this level! And my Tonga teacher said he has NEVER had any of his students get this high! Basically there are 3 levels- Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced- and then 3 distinctions within each of those levels(Low, Mid, High). The minimum each volunteer needs to get in order to swear-in is Intermediate Low. I think everyone in our group passed.

This week, we are doing a lot of logistics- immigration/work permits, banking/ATM cards, preparing/shopping for posting, and getting ready for the swear-in ceremony. One person from each language group was chosen to present a short speech at the ceremony. I will be doing the speech for the Tongas. There will likely be TV crew at the ceremony tomorrow recording and televising it!

Yesterday, we had "Cultural Day" at the training center. Two members of each trainee's host family were invited to attend. We prepared and served the families, and other distinguished guests, an American style lunch; shared a picture slideshow of our families at home and our families in Zambia; had a Zambian drumming/dance crew perform traditional dances for each province/tribe (The drumming and dance performances yesterday were amazing! I tried to video, but my camera died!) ; tried to teach a couple quick American dances (electric slide & macarena); and then finally exchanged gifts with our host families and said goodbyes. Most families gave their trainee a sweeping broom, a cooking spoon, and a small pot/bowl, dish, etc. In exchange, I gave my family citenges (skirt material), markers, stickers, a UF Gator bag, candles, and nail polish. I think they liked it, and they still appreciate the gifts my mother had sent very much! (she sent a package with a baby doll, placemats, shirt, and hat) It was sad to say goodbye to my family. My bamamma is so upset that I'm leaving... she's been tearing up almost every night for the last week!

So, swearing-in is tomorrow (Thursday) at the Ambassador's house. It should be a nice ceremony, and supposedly good food! I'll try to take lots of pictures! Then we are probably "going out" as a group at night & experiencing the Lusaka club scene!

Friday, we will pack up in our Province cruisers and head out! Us Tongas will be staying at the Provincial House (each province has a Peace Corps house in province capital) in Choma for a few days. Due to the Easter weekend, many shops will be closed and we won't be able to get everything we need for site (furniture, household gods, food, etc.)....so we will probably stay at the house until Wednesday. When we have done all of our shopping, we will start to be dropped off at each of our sites.

When I move to site, I will have no internet access (unless I make a trip into town and find an internet cafe). My phone gets almost no signal at site, so I will mostly be limited to text messages (which only require one little bar of signal lol).

The next step is staying at site with no travel for the next 3 months. This period is called Community Entry!