But aside from all the reading and all the preparing that you can do at home, my best advice is to jump right in. Let this experience be your experience, not any one elses. Don't try to shape it off of how your childhood babysitters' daughters' friends' cousins' experience was in Uzbekistan. Or what you read on some silly blog (like this one..). What you put into this is what you get out of it, like so many things in life. If you have an open mind and a positive attitude, and are ready for anything (and seriously, I mean ANYTHING), then you're going to do great here. Embrace Murpheys Law, because in Zambia, if things can go wrong, they most likely will go wrong. But that's okay, because it always ends up being an adventure. And you will always grow in more ways than one as a person because of it. You will learn things here that you never thought could be possible; that you were never really interested in, or ever saw having an interest in. I went from Silicon Valley girl to farmer and chicken-rearer within a year.. and I'm not even an Ag Volunteer! You will accomplish many great things. You will learn a new language, plus a few phrases in about 10 other African tribal languages. You will learn that the most basic of health care, making splints out of sticks or whatever you have around, actually works, and while fancy Western medicine and technology can be extremely convenient and helpful, it's possible to have a healthy and safe child delivery on the mud floor of a hut by candlelight. You will be able to come up with solutions to almost every problem imaginable, like mending your shoe with a piece of old bike tire tube and a fire, or using dirt from the ground to wash your pots when you're out of soap, or how to make pizza from scratch over a small fire.... The lists go on.
You're going to sleep under the blanket of a million stars you never knew existed. You're going to have your entire night lit by the brightest, biggest moon you've ever seen, and realize that a few nights out of every month, you don't even need a flashlight to get around outside. You will witness the most astounding sunrises, along with the even more breathtaking sunsets which span across a seemingly never-ending sky. You're going to sit around the fires of your village at night, laughing with people who are so purely, truly happy. Who will sing you songs, feed you, offer you everything they have even when they don't have anything. You will be engrossed in a culture and a people so beautiful and rich that you forget that there is inhumanity in the world. You're going to travel throughout Zambia and many parts of Africa and find that it is a place that could never be explained with the right words or pictures, it's just something that everyone has to experience. Because it's so different. And it's so electric and full of life and love.
And aside from the Zambian family that you will surely have a tearful time leaving after two years, you're going to gain a Peace Corps family as well. The volunteers that you meet in Philly before you fly out will be your backbone and support through the first 3 challenging months of training (just get through it!!!), and they'll be there standing with you at the end when you ring that final bell, and collect your Pin of Service. The volunteers that are in your Province, of all programs, will be your lifeline and your teachers throughout your service. And the volunteers that are in your district, your closest neighbors, will likely become your closest friends- as you'll get to bike to eachothers sites, camp together and share all your joys and frustrations of life at your hut. The Lusaka staff, another extension of family, is amazing, sweet, and knowledgeable. You will always be able to reach out to them, and they will provide for you, sustain you, encourage and console you throughout your 27 months here.