Monday, October 1, 2012

The end (of PST) is in sight!

It’s done, it’s over, it’s finished. Pinch me, I must be dreaming. I cannot believe how quickly PST has come and gone. Months ago, when I got my invitation to serve in Zambia, I dreaded how long pre-service training would be. Each day during, I’d cross off the activities on my calendar, and count down until the day I would swear in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I’d read the description of what was required of us as far as language proficiency goes- to score Intermediate-Mid in an African Tribal language after just 10 weeks of classes, seemed unattainable.
Yet, I’ve done it. I’ve gone through the motions, and it hasn’t been as bad as everyone said it would be. I’ve actually really enjoyed it. I love talking and learning about health, so tech training has been (for the most part) interesting. I love being able to work with my hands and enjoy mechanics, so learning bike maintenance and being able to take my bicycle apart and put it back together has been awesome. And the language.. it’s definitely been rough. In the beginning I was doing very well, until I got sick and sort of hit a plateau. I definitely lost interested in learning for a while, where I was very excited to be learning a new language when I had begun. I became frustrated when one of my classmates decided that he’d be a dick to me during class, and enjoyed showing off his language skills. I’d shut down, because to me it no longer mattered, every time I’d open my mouth to talk, he’d butt in with his answers. I definitely gave up on language for a while, but my teacher never did. Every day he’d tell me that it was in there, I knew it all in my brain, which I couldn’t really believe because I hadn’t been studying. In fact, I never really studied, because I suck at it and I don’t really know how. But I began to practice my language a lot more, and, after my teacher telling me that I could score Advanced Low on our final exam, I started to believe in myself as well, and aimed for that.

On the day of my final exam, I started my morning off with a few cups of wine. This really helped to calm my nerves and give me the confidence I needed to go in for my final interview. It’s a ~30 minute conversation that is recorded on tape, and then listened to by all of the language trainers, scored, and then sent to Washington DC and scored as well. The tester definitely threw some curveballs at me, that I didn’t exactly know how to answer in Tumbuka nor have the vocabulary for. Such as: explain why there are higher rates of HIV/AIDS in Zambia than there are in America, describe why people should sleep under mosquito nets to prevent malaria, what are you going to tell people who use their mosquito nets to catch fish instead; why should young children and people with HIV eat nutritious foods, and what do proteins, carbs, and vitamins do within the body? All of these things I can definitely explain in English, but I didn’t know how to say it simply in Tumbuka, which I guess I really need to work on, since it’s my job! Oh well, I still felt really good about my interview when it was over, partly just because it was over!

I don’t have my scores yet, but I know that I did pass. All I needed was to score Intermediate-Mid, but I was aiming to score Advanced-Low. I’d also be really happy if I got Intermediate-High, but even if I don’t reach either of those, I’m still really proud of myself for learning a language in 10 weeks, and knowing it well enough to understand a good amount of it, and to speak confidently about myself, my family, the differences between here and America, different foods, garden items, and so forth. And I have two years to practice my language a village that actually speaks Tumbuka (where I am now, they do not) and I have a lot of time to become fluent!

So now that we have done all of our final wrap-ups, what’s the next step? On Tuesday, we will have cultural day, where our host families are invited to celebrate all that we’ve learned over these last 10 weeks with us. We will sing a song in Tumbuka, do some dancing, sing a song in English, and present on the things that they have taught us. We will have a huge cookout, with both American food and Zambian food (I’m cooking sima with some old ladies!) That evening we will also say our good-byes, which I am dreading. I have come to love my family so much, and I couldn’t have been luckier with who hosted me. They have been absolutely wonderful, and have done so much for me. I’m really fortunate to have lived with them, and will always treasure the conversations and interactions I’ve had with every one of them. They really understand what it means to serve others, why I’m here and doing what I’m doing, and they definitely appreciate us being here. I’m so blessed to have made families all over the world, and I’m glad that I can also call them my family, and have them consider me part of theirs.

On Wednesday we will travel back to Lusaka and stay in a hotel until we swear in on Friday morning. We have a few sessions on Thursday, about PC policy and what not. On Friday morning I will put on my new chitenge dress that I had made, and will be announced as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer. This makes me really proud! This is something that I’ve wanted to do for a very long time, and I’m happy that I am able to serve my country, this country, and the world, in this way. Saturday (my birthday, woot woot) I will most likely be hung over after celebrating our swear in, but we will go shopping and start prepping to move into our new villages!

Over the next three months I will be in the phase that is known as “Community Entry”. During this time, we are not allowed to do any work. It is a time to get settled, get to know our communities, and start planning out what we will do during our service. I will begin to nest, and I’m so excited to start making my hut my home. I will cement the walls, decorate, and paint. On the front wall to my hut, I want to paint the kids hands and have them put their handprints all over. Since I’ve been joking about painting rainbows and sunshine on my hut, I plan on doing that on the back wall. On the two sidewalls, I plan to paint something about my job, which entails HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Neonatal, Maternal, and Child Health. I plan to start my garden, plant some veggies, and spread my California poppy seeds around my property. I will most likely build a fence, and hopefully I will pick up some chicks and build a chicken coop. And possibly a dog house. And possibly start a compost pile, maybe at the health clinic. Inside my hut, I’m excited to get some furniture built, put up pictures, and start making candle stands to light it. I might also feel crafty and make a chandelier out of wire, coke bottles, and candles. I’m going to go McGeiver on this shit. Watch out, MTV Cribs. There needs to be a Pimp My Hut- Zambia edition.

Over the next three months, I plan on seeking out a Tumbuka teacher in my village, in making appearances at the local schools, meeting the village headmen and Chiefdon’s chief, and basically just going out everyday and getting completely lost so that I meet as many people as possible and find my way around. I plan on finding out where the other volunteers live, and getting to know my neighbors. I plan on doing a ton of reading- my kindle has 2000 books on it, with characters and worlds just waiting to be explored. I plan on getting better at playing my ukelele, and at juggling. I plan on finding some kids to play soccer with (which definitely won’t be hard. There are three things that I’d really like to do while in Zambia, and I think it’s possible that I’m able to accomplish all of these things. I want to coach a girls soccer team, and be able to mentor them through that, as well as teach about HIV. I want to seek out people that are living with disabilities, and help to disseminate knowledge and acceptance amongst other villagers, as well as do some developmental and possibly physical therapy. And thirdly, I hope to learn how to and assist in delivering babies, which will come in time, as soon as I’m allowed to start working at my clinic!

I’m really excited for what’s to come. I can’t wait to get to my village and meet everyone, and to start making Zambia my home. Amidst all of the excitement, though, I definitely do have some fears. Aside from mambas, things I fear are my safety and security. I keep thinking up different situations that have happened to volunteers here before, and try to imagine how I would respond should it happen to me. One of them is, while laying in my bed late at night, what if I hear someone tampering with the lock on my door or one of my windows? What if someone actually gets in? What if someone attacks me or mugs me while I’m out in the bush? What if I come home one day and find that my hut has been broken into, and all of my things taken? 

I know these are all what-ifs, but they have happened. I feel as if I can protect myself, but I hope it doesn’t come to the point where I would need to. I am glad that I live on a family compound, so hopefully my house and myself will be protected by living so close to my host dad and mothers’ houses.

Some of my other worries are basically about being alone for the first time in a long time, and getting depressed. I don’t want to become frustrated if I can’t understand anyone in my village, or if they can’t understand them. I don’t want to be rejected by them, because they are fearful of white people, think I’m a spy, or don’t appreciate that I’m an independent woman. I don’t want to become shy and shut myself off from my village, because of my fears of being liked by them or not being able to communicate. I’m afraid of missing all of my friends that I have grown so close to over the last two months, and I feel that, although I have not yet been homesick, this is the time when I will become homesick. I won’t be in trainings all day, I won’t be allowed to work, I won’t be surrounded by a bunch of Americans, (or any for that matter), my mind wont be pre-occupied with studying, I won’t have any electricity or technology, and I have a feeling I’m going to be really bored a lot of the time! Then again, these are the times in which I can do all of the things that I’ve previously mentioned wanting to do, and these are the times when I will actually be able to write letters back to everyone who has written to me (sorry, I’ve been so busy!), and these are the times when I can really work on my self improvements. So enough of the fears and stupid stuff, this is going to be an amazing adventure, all of it- the ups, and the downs! And when it all boils down, I’m still completely stoked to be here.

No comments:

Post a Comment