One of Peace Corps famous catchphrases is "PC: The Toughest Job You'll ever love. This is definitely a job that I love, but it's not that tough. Sure, people show up late to meetings (or not at all), they rarely follow through with projects, they learn one thing and do the opposite, and they demand money for volunteering, but the work isn't tough. Maybe its the living in a different culture that's supposed to be tough, but if so, then I really lucked out with the village and country I was placed in, because I really love where I live. Perhaps it's the living conditions...a lot of people back home would find this way of life unmanageable or impossible, but, again, I find joy in the simple lifestyle that a mud hut without electricity or running water encourages. There are definitely challenges and frustrations here, and those might be different than what I've known back home, but that doesn't make life here tough, it makes life interesting. I am constantly being forced to think on my toes, be creative, and to have more patience than I have ever known. Because of this job, I will be better suited to deal with anything that comes my way in the future.
In my future home, I will never become too worked up about a leaky roof; a flooded house; a soaked bed; moldy clothes; children soaked in their own urine or other children's urine; cockroach, termite, spider, flying insect, or ant (biting or non) infestations; power outages; broken air conditioners or water heaters, because I'll have dealt with all of these things on a daily basis for over 2 years. No gas stove? No problem! I now know how to build a fine and cook just about any meal imaginable over it, including loaves of bread and cakes. I'll have no problem walking for many miles or biking for even more if the gas prices get too high. I'll be able to budget, live on a dime, and grow my own food. Being without a phone, computer, or internet for days on end wouldn't bother me, should there be an apocalypse. If I'm stranded in nature, I'll have the courage and
know-how to kill, skin, gut, and preserve an animal. I'll also always be able to tell the time, down to the half-hour, just by looking towards the sky at the sun. I'll look at weevils in my food as an extra source of protein. I could probably build my own house out of local materials; in fact, I can build almost anything out of almost everything. I'll be able to enjoy the world and all that it has to offer; to appreciate the earth and all that it gives, including death, because death is a part of the beautiful cycle of life. I'll be able to survive, in any condition, anywhere in the world. All because I took a chance at "the toughest job I'll ever love," I am a stronger, more understanding, more compassionate, and happier person than I ever was before.
2013 saw many successes, joys and opportunity for growth, along with a few failures and life lessons. In January, shortly after shaving off my entire head of hair, a S.A. truck driver took me to an abandoned parking lot against my will, and I found that I have the ability to maintain a calm, sound mind in a moment of panic, and get myself safely out of a potentially dangerous situation. In February I started a girl's club at a school which, with its successes throughout the year, has now been recognized by the Deputy Head and the Department Education Board for playing a part in reducing pregnancy rates and encouraging girls to stay in school. In March I traveled to Malawi for the first time and achieved my scuba diving certificate. April was dedicated to all things Malaria, and although one of my good friends and counterparts sadly passed away to cerebral malaria, I was recognized in May for doing the most education and prevention work out of all Peace Corps Volunteers in Africa during the month of April. In May I also conquered a 125 mile bike ride in a day, started a boys club, and my best friend came to visit. Emily and I traveled to Livingstone where we saw Victoria Falls, played with lion cubs, rode elephants, walked lions, ran cheetahs, booze cruised with hippos, rafted the Zambezi River with crocodiles, and had tea with zebras and monkeys at sunset. She biked 23 km to my village where she worked with me, plotted in the killing of a chicken for dinner, played with little African children, learned some Tumbuka, and complained about the poor internet coverage and lack of Wi-Fi ;) At the end of her visit we relaxed on the lake in Malawi. In July and August, Peace Corps flew me to South Africa to be pampered before, during, and after a wrist surgery, while back in Zambia my fallen-apart hut was being rebuilt. In October I celebrated my 24th birthday in my village with friends, re-dedicated myself as a volunteer as I entered into my second and final year of service, and then I took off to Namibia. There I climbed sand dunes, camped in the desert, drank delicious German beer at Oktoberfest, and drove alongside numerous wild animals. I ate kudu, ostrich, crocodile, springbok, oryx, and zebra. Upon return to Zambia, we swam in the Devils Pool on the top edge of Victoria Falls as the sun set. In November, with the help of Steve, I put on a weeklong health training workshop in my community, the results of which I am extremely proud of. I celebrated Thanksgiving surrounded by over 40 other volunteers, including my best-friend-turned-boyfriend, all of whom have become an even larger extension of my ever-growing family around the world. In December I was chosen to co-facilitate an HIV workshop for other PCVs and their Zambian counterparts; I started raising laying hens; and a counterpart of mine and I were recognized on multiple radio stations and in a magazine interview for all of the HIV work we've done together. I spent Christmas lakeside in Malawian paradise with some amazing people; the only way it could have been more perfect is if my family was there, too (its hard to be away during the holidays).
In 2013 I stayed fairly healthy (aside from meningitis, a staph infection, a broken wrist, stomach ulcers, and the probable shistosomiasis or other parasites and bacterias floating around inside of me). I learned a foreign language well enough to be able to have a conversation, teach, and write a full letter in it. Two baby girls were named after me, Acaity and Caitilinni. I got to name a baby boy, Reptar Phiri (...Phiri means mountain). All 3 of those children are destined for greatness. I grew my first ever garden. I read over 60 books. I taught village kids, school students, adults, elders, men, women, headmen, chiefs, strangers. I learned even more from them. I played, danced, laughed, cried, hurt, rejoiced. I rejoiced more than I hurt. I laughed until I cried.I grew. I became better.
2014 appears to be another year of adventure, happiness, hard work, and change. This month, I am doing to grant-writing workshops and will be working with two different health committees on securing grants and starting huge projects. One of them is digging deep wells in an area where there is very little water supply and a high number of water-caused illnesses, including typhoid. The other project is to construct and stock a health post in a community too far from a clinic, resulting in high numbers of preventable deaths such as from malaria and maternal death. In February I'll get to explore Tanzania and Zanzibar at a 4 day music festival on the beach with Steve. In March my parents come to visit, in June/July two of my cousins come to visit, and in August another good friend treks out to explore Zambia with me. In April I return to California for my best friends wedding (!!!!). And on September 5, 2014, I ring a bell that signifies the completion of my Peace Corps services in Zambia. Who knows what else, who knows what's next.
Thanks for tuning in, and cheers to 2014 ♡