Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back to Village Life...

It has been a struggle...
You know, I spent 3 months getting adjusted and accustomed to life in the village. Life seemed normal. Life seemed okay. I didn't really miss home that much anymore. I could live without friends and family. I could live without electricity and water. I could go weeks without being in town. It was my life. I was, as they say in Zambia, USED.
But then, take me away and throw me into two of the biggest cities in Zambia for 3 weeks, and it is all erased. I spent these weeks being surrounded by friends, and more especially American friends; friends that share my same culture, ideas, history, and lifestyle. We spent our time drinking, hanging out, and going out dancing (things that we hadn't been able to do in the 3 months prior). We got to meet and interact with town Zambians (who are a completely different kind of people than village Zambians). We felt the freedom of walking through shops and restaurants and towns without everyone staring at us and watching our every move. We were not the first and only white people they've seen. We could show off our meager language skills and dazzle those we spoke to (yes they've seen plenty of white people before, but none who can speak local languages). We felt proud. We went on vacation and hung out with tourists. We spent big bucks on safaris, cruises, and rafting trips. We lounged around in bed and by the pool without worrying that anyone was thinking we were lazy. We felt free. We felt almost like normal Americans again.
And then...back to village life...
Back to the loneliness, the boredom, the isolation, the hard labor of making fire and fetching water, the inability to communicate, the inability to get them to understand you and why you do the things you do. Back to the guilt for sleeping in too late, the questions about why you are spending so much time in your house, the random people walking back and forth past your yard and staring at you, the empty greetings, the lack of privacy, the lack of conversation and intellectual stimulation. Back to the unfamiliar culture, beliefs, and lifestyle. Back to never being alone, yet somehow feeling totally alone.
This is my life now. I know I'm making it sound horribly tough... but, don't worry, I'm sure I'll get used to it again. Maybe it will be okay and totally normal 3 months from now... by then it will be time for my next vacation...

Vacation in Livingstone

• Travelled down by bus (about a 6 hour trip from Lusaka) with Meredith, Emily, Musi, and Andrea. On the way we passed me and Meredith’s towns and our provincial town. We were proud to point them out to our friends (and all the bus passengers that were shocked that we actually live here lol).
• Arrived to find that our hostel was right next to the bus station! How did we get so lucky?!? The hostel was awesome- totally catering to young white tourists- pillows and comfy chairs/lounges everywhere, all open with a woodsy/outdoorsy feel, nice tropical looking pool area, amazing outdoor bar/restaurant area (with the best most variety of American style food I’ve seen in Zambia yet!), simple yet clean rooms, self catering kitchen, on-site travel/activity booking agent, etc.---Amazing! And Affordable! If you are ever going to Livingstone, look up Jollyboys!
• On our first day, we just lounged around at the hostel, simply enjoying being on vacation, and not having to answer to anyone. Plus, I think we might have been a bit tired from going out dancing the night before ;-)
• Our second day, we had booked a Game/Safari Drive in the morning and a Sunset/Booze Cruise in the evening. The Safari drive was awesome- we had a great guide (who even broke the rules a little bit and let us get out and walk)- and we were lucky enough to see all of the animals possible in the park except for the Rhinos- we saw crocodiles, elephants, giraffes, buffalo, baboons, wildebeasts, zebras, etc. We even got to walk up close and look at a Buffalo carcass that some vultures were eating!
• After resting back at the hostel for a bit, we were picked up for the cruise. The boat goes down the Zambezi for about 1.5 hrs before sunset. They serve snacks, dinner, and all you can drink alcohol. The boat stops for the sunset, then returns back much faster than it came, at which point there is a crowd of young tourists downing more drinks as quickly as possible. Me being that smart one that I am, had decided to drink wine that night, since it is expensive in Zambia and I hardly ever get the chance…bad decision! LOL. Let’s just say that my friends were able to continue partying on into the night with friends they made on the boat…while I had to stay back at the hostel in bed  P.S. Don’t ever try to mix Red and White wine…yeah, it tastes okay…but did not make me feel okay!
• The next day, we decided to take a trip to Victoria Falls. We just walked the paths around the Falls, crossed the Knife Bridge, took some pictures, and watched our friend Musi bungi jump. As we were sitting up at the top of the falls, we saw a large group of people gathering on the shore, and we saw some boys coming from a distance, wading through the fast flowing current before the water goes over the edge. As they got closer, we could see there was one boy in front, feeling out the path and guiding the others. There were about 8 Zambian boys following him, and they were carrying something heavy. Finally, we could see that it was a body, all wrapped up in plastic and blankets. The crowd silently watched and waited as the boys slowly and carefully picked their way through the dangerous waters. They finally reached the shore and the crowd parted as they loaded the body into the back of a waiting truck, and drove away. There was a News Crew there that was able to give us a bit of information--- There are illegal guides that will take groups of people along the edge of the falls to pools of water where you can swim and even look over the edge. This boy (he was in his 20’s) and his friends had gone with such a guide last week and the boy had somehow been swept away/drowned while they were swimming. His body never went over the edge, but the search party was not able to find him for almost a whole week. It was only his friends and family doing the search and retrieval…the park would play no role in assisting. Sadly, these kinds of things happen all the time here, and nothing is ever done about it. I wonder if it would have been different if it had been a tourist to drown?
• We were having so much fun in Livingstone that we decided to stay an extra day and book a whitewater rafting trip. Me being the adventurist I am, I convinced my friends to do the full day rather than just a half day trip. LOL might have been a mistake…
• Anyways, the day started with a big group intro, safety instructions, and all that good stuff. It was fun because we already knew many of the guides (I even partied with some of them the night before). For the ones that didn’t know us yet, they soon did, as they were shocked and delighted to hear us speaking to the others in Tonga and Nyanja. After safety briefings, we took a little drive to the Falls, unloaded the gear, and hiked down to the bottom of the Falls- the “Boiling Point”. They set the rafts in the water and loaded us in. There were 7 or 8 rafts in the group. My guide was kind of like the leader, so on the first rapid, we stayed back and supervised as all the others went first. I think the first 3 in a row failed and flipped! Oh well! We had no choice now- we were already in it for the day! Finally, my raft tackled rapid 1… and we made it through! After that we continued on… all boats making it through 2 and 3… then a few flipping on 4… mostly good on 5 and 6… THEN WE GOT TO 7… the longest and hardest rapid of the trip- I think half or more of us flipped- my boat was first to attempt and we flipped right away- I tried to hold on to the safety line, but my hand slipped and off I went down the rapid! Did I mention this is the LONGEST rapid? Meaning I got dragged and tossed and dunked under the water for what seemed like forever! Now I am usually a pretty tough and adventurous kind of girl…but I was seriously scared for my life! I have never been through something so terrifying- I SERIOUSLY thought I was going to drown. I was frantically trying to swim toward the edge or to the nearest safety kayaker, but it didn’t help. I finally gave in and let myself float away, finally being rescued by another raft down where the water finally calmed and smoothed down. I looked around and the river was littered with paddles and people in orange life jackets. The rafts collected everyone, and then took a little break to sort out and redistribute everyone to their correct rafts. Many, like me, were scared and flustered and out of breath, choking and coughing up the gallons of water they swallowed. One boy had a bloody nose and a chipped tooth. I heard later in the day that another girl had chipped her tooth also. Crazy! The next few rapids were terrifying, mostly because I was dreading a repeat of number 7. We stopped and had lunch after 10, which I could hardly eat because my stomach was still doing flips. My friend decided she had had enough and quit for the day. Me and my other friend reluctantly decided to continue. Luckily rapids 11-25 were much calmer and simpler than the first 10, and I think we made it the whole afternoon without any rafts flipping  After the hard day rafting, a bunch of the guides came back to our hostel to hang out at the bar, and then we went out dancing with them in the evening. All in all, an exciting day!
• Finally, the next morning we had to say goodbye to Livingstone. I can’t wait to go back! Going for New Years’ if not sooner! We took a bus to Choma, where we spent the night, more out of laziness than anything… and then finally returned home to village life the day after that.

IST (In-Service Training) in Lusaka

Sorry that this entry will not be very elegantly written--- it can be somewhat difficult to remember and write out clearly all the details of what happened 3 weeks ago. So, I’ll instead just list some of the key events, and hope that is enough to satisfy everyone 
• So, IST (In Service Training) happens at the end of CE (Community Entry), which is the first 3 months in your village. At IST we met up again with all 27 of us from my original training group (this is the first time we have all seen eachother in 3 months). We stayed in the same college dorms that we’ve stayed in before for PC Lusaka events.
• We had 2 weeks worth of workshops/training sessions on a variety of topics like- IGA’s (Income Generating Activities), PTAs, Grant Proposals, Adult Literacy, NGOs, Permagardening, HIV/AIDS, Safety & Security, Libraries, GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) Camps, etc.
• Also included was a 2 day workshop w/ a counterpart from each of our villages, that focused on Project Design and Management, where we learned how to work together to identify and prioritize the community’s needs and then plan solutions/get projects started within the community.
• We also had a 2 day Behavior Change workshop that focused on how to choose a target behavior and how to move a target population towards that behavior
• Outside of session times, we had free time to hang out at the dorms or to travel into town for dinner, shopping, drinking, dancing, etc. After 3 months alone in the village, I have to admit there was A LOT of drinking and going out (some went out every single night for the 2 weeks!). I found it a little bit overwhelming to be in such a large group of people and to be in such a big town, so I only went out 3 or 4 times.
• At the end of the 2 weeks, everyone split into their different groups heading different directions for vacation- some to Malawi, Luapula Province, Livingstone, and some back to their villages.