16 January 2008

Isn't it?

I feel like I’ve been here my whole life. It’s so hard to remember what the states are like now. Maybe someone I know used to live there.

I have a cold. [snicker] My first thought when I woke up with a sore throat was, “Wait a minute…you can get normal diseases in Africa, too?” Hahahaha…

The whole group is now in Linda Compound, a community outside of Lusaka, the major city. It’s about an hour from Disacare on mini buses. We’re working with Light of Hope, a community center that acts as an ad hoc clinic. Kind of. At any rate, it’s the base of operations for a lot of people who are incredibly motivated and actively trying to improve their community.

Chitenge are the long cloths that Zambian women wrap around and use as skirts, or to carry babies on their backs. They usually have super cool designs, but they’re also used as billboards. I’ve seen plenty with campaign slogans and pictures of Mwanawasa, the current Zambian president, and churches often print and give away chitenges with religious messages.

Right. So, a few nights ago, I found myself wearing a “Jesus Saves” chitenge with pictures of the bleeding Christ, scrubbing at an nsima-encrusted pot with a piece of mealie meal bag and sand, surrounded by a dozen tiny curious children, who giggled/screamed and ran away when I looked up at them. It was the best dishwashing experience of my life.

Most of us are staying with local families in Linda. My “Zambian grandmother” is Theresa, a widow with six children who are grown and married. She lives in a two-room mud/concrete house with a tin roof. I’m super fond of her because she makes me cook and wash as though I was one of her children. We cook one pot at a time over a small charcoal fire, and eat by candlelight. Ha, but wait…the best part is that there’s only one bed in the house. The first night was a little awkward, but the bed is big enough for both of us, so it really doesn’t seem like a big deal now.

It’s incredible. I love her house. I love watching the children play outside at night. The wrestle, jump, cartwheel, circle, sing, joke, push, and even just roll through the grass, laughing and shrieking in delight. No TV, no toys, these children seem so alive. Joyful. Exuberant. Creative. Maybe I don’t spend enough time watching kids, but I’ve never seen anything like it.

But what really scares me is how content I am there. Nothing. There’s nothing but shelter, dishes, food, a bed, and a constant stream of neighbors and friends who drop by to talk. (I still don’t understand most of the conversation, but my Nyanja’s improving.) So much time is spent just sitting in silence. And I think a lot about how easy it would be to move here. Nothing. Right. But then I’d get bored. Or I’d be wasting my life. Or my education. Or I’d disrupt the community…or something.

I hate drunk Zambian men. If anyone ever calls me “baby” again after this trip, I’m slamming his face through the back of his skull.

P.S. The hammermill is looking gorgeous.

1 comment:

Erin said...

Man, Not, I'm jealous!

oh, btw, my friend Lacey is going to Uganda with the Peace Corps, and I was wondering if I could give her your e-mail. Hers is lps233 AT nyu DOT edu - I'm sure she'd appreciate any wisdom an old Africa hand like yourself would be willing to impart ;)