Zambians are really hard workers. Everything they do seems to me to be such a tedious task, because of the luxuries that I grew up with. Where they will spend all day husking and shucking hundreds of ears of maize, sifting and pounding thousands of kernals, drawing water, gathering firewood, and cooking for many hours, I'm just like "Um, I think I'll heat up some spaghetti tonight.."- something that I bought in a store, packaged, and only have to boil in water for a few minutes. They have to prepare their fields by hand (no use of animals or machines in my village), they have to harvest all of their land, and if they want to eat, the rains better come. Their lives depend on the workings of nature. The water source in my village is a shallow well. If the rains don't come, or if they don't come soon, the well will dry up. If people plant their fields at the first rain, and then it's weeks until the next one, they will not have food. If people wait to plant their fields, and the rains come early, then they will not have food. If the well dries up, the women will have to walk, which they do barefoot in the hot sand littered with feces and sharp objects, to another watering source even further away, and carry their water back. 40L on their heads, 20L in their hand, and a baby tied to their front sucking on a breast. If they have to walk further to get water, that means less time can be spent preparing food, doing chores, and completing other activities that are required just to live day to day. They work from sun up to after sundown, beginning the day by sweeping out their huts and living compound then scrubbing their floors by hand, to washing their dishes in the dark after feeding their families dinner. They're awake by 4am, and go to bed around 9, or sometimes stay up the entire night drumming, singing, and dancing. They even work in the hot midday sun, a time when I'm usually hiding out in my hut, and they never complain about a thing. It makes me feel pretty lazy somedays. I still get up at 4, but after using the chimbuzi (toilet), sweeping out my hut, watering and placing my herbs outside, I usually crawl back into bed and read for a few hours. Somedays I read in bed the entire day. Sometimes I don't feel like lighting the brazier, and thats when I eat peanut butter out of the jar or just raw sweet potatoes for dinner. If I skip a bath one evening because i don't feel like making a fire, boiling water, and kneeling on the ground to wash myself out of a small bucket, they will wake me in the morning and tell me I need to bathe right then.
I don't find myself longing for the luxuries of back home, but somedays I do miss certain things. Sometimes I wish I could just turn a knob and have hot water come out of a shower head that I can stand underneath. Sometimes I wish I had an electrical outlet and could plug in a fan, or charge things, instead of having to bike 20km to a house, whose power might not even be on that day/weekend/week. I don't really think that life is tough here, it's just different and calls for a lot more physical work than back home. More work, and definitely a lot more time to do get things done. No pushing a button and zapping food to cook in 3 minutes!
There's a lot that I thought would be difficult that I actually really like. I enjoy going to fetch water with the women, and having them laugh at me when I get tired from only drawing 20L from the well. Or as I stumble and spill water while trying to carry it on my head. I enjoy my long bike rides, sometimes hours long, to get to places. It challenges me, its doing good things to my legs and for my heart, and I get to meet people in every village that I pass through, as well as bike through such beautiful landscape. It can get really hot, but there's always a mango tree to sit under, fresh fruit to eat, and women to laugh with. The language can get really frustrating at times, but I'm still studying and I know it will come in time. The best thing to do is laugh at myself when I mess up, and keep trying. I'm beginning to understand more each day. I drew light switches on the wall in each room of my hut, to give my hut some humour, but I really like that my hut is lit by just candles. I rarely use flashlights or headlamps, unless I'm out after dark. I think it's really cool about writing people letters and cooking and reading by candlelight only... Speaking of which, I think it's cool to be writing people letters in general. I like getting to put my thoughts to paper with a purpose, and I like that someone halfway across the globe will hold that paper in their hands in a few weeks and learn a little bit more about what life is like in Zambia. Sure, it's not instant communication, which I do sometimes need, but there's something special about a letter. I know how great I feel when I receive one, and I'm sure it excites my friends back home to see a personal letter from Africa. It means that someone took the time to sit down and devote time to someone else that they can't otherwise communicate with.
There are other things, like the 500 flies that buzz inside my kitchen during the day, or the scorpion spiders and mice that find refuge in my hut at night, but that all comes with getting to live here. And I've grown quite used to falling asleep to the sound of the termites eating my mud walls and building their home out of mine. I guess I can share. I'm thankful to sleep under a mosquito net each night, it's like my own secret fortress that no bug shall enter. As it's been said, and what I think is the best description, is that living here in a mud hut is just like glorified camping. I thought I'd want a radio to help me fall asleep at night, but the truth is, I don't listen to any music except sometimes on long runs or bike rides. I'd rather my ears be filled with all of the life that surrounds me, which is something I don't expect to become tired of anytime soon. There is always laughter- women, men, and children laughing all day. There is never yelling or fighting, and the children rarely cry. Someone, if not everyone, is always singing. Each night, all night long, the drums are being beat in a nearby village. The silence that remains is filled by the crackling of fires and the sing-songy chirp of crickets.
I get to be in the nature, and that is where I'm happy. As long as the natural beauty of this world exists, and I may live to see it, the sunshine, the trees, the painted skies, the rhythm of people living peacefully and harmoniously, as long as this lasts, I cannot be unhappy. According to the cycle of emotions, I'm in my honeymoon phase of service here: excited and in love with everything. It's said that after this positive spike, there will be a negative one. And while I'm sure I'll face obstacles that will challenge me and put me down at times, I don't think I'll ever stop loving life here. This is me, I'm right where I should be. To be quiet and alone with the heavens, nature, and whatever I perceive god/s to be, is when I feel that all is as it should be, and that people are meant to be happy amidst the simple beauty of nature.
These are the things I think about during my sunset runs.