My sister used to do this thing called “Highlight Reel” every month while she was serving in Peace Corps Thailand, so now that Blogspot cruelly deleted her blog, I’ve decided to pretend like it was my idea.
Cute and flirty: I have a pretty sick farmer’s tan, as well as an utterly obscene Chaco tan. Ever seen pictures of yourself as a child and gone “I used to be so tan. Why don’t I get this tan anymore?” It’s because you never go outside anymore, you goon! The average American has spent half the time they’ll EVER be outside by the time they’re 18. That is insane, y’all! Explore this beautiful earth while it lasts and you too can look like you’re wearing sandals at all times.
Something I learned from my community: People are terrified of chameleons. They’re essentially the same thing as a black cat in western culture, and symbolize witchcraft. There’s even an idiom in Lunda that goes “there’s a chameleon on the eggplant bush” which means there is a witch in the village. Almost all cultures have relics of animism incorporated in there (spirit houses in Eastern Europe and Asia, Santeria in South American Catholicism, Druidism and Paganism in western Christian holidays), but there’s a lot of fear surrounding witchcraft and a lot of illnesses get attributed to it. I could go on a long diatribe about how this relates to missionaries and why I don’t support mission trips, but I’ll save that for another time. The point is, be nice to black cats and don’t fawn over chameleons in Zambia.
Something my community learned from me: Had a couple great (but very private) talks about homosexuality. Homosexuality is considered sodomy in Zambia and is a crime. This does not have deep roots in traditional culture, but rather a result of missionary influence. Again, not going to dive down that rabbit trail just yet, but you should watch God Loves Uganda if you haven’t already done so. Anyways, it was really nice to have those moments, and interesting that the conversations I had with Zambians have been far more open and productive than conversations I’ve had with Americans back home.
Shower insights: Bucket baths are awesome. AWESOME, I tell you! Our first couple days we were in a hotel and I had to wash myself squatted in a tub with shoes on, and I was prepared for the worst. But, oh boy. My thatched bathing shelter is just low enough for me to peel over at the sunset while I bathe and if it’s dark enough I can look up at the stars. It is so relaxing and I highly recommend it.
Something that didn’t totally fail: At site visit, my language group was staying with a PCV who was wrapping up his service. During this time, we had to teach a class in Lunda to a large group in the community (because I missed canvassing) and also to a small women’s group. We taught the large group about making compost, and then I did a little thing on tree pruning/shaping with the ladies. When I say I stumbled through, I mean STUMBLED. But guess what, everyone got the gist of what I said and everyone was really sweet. I suspect that our PCV host already did a composting workshop, and his host mom ran the show during my five minute pauses to remember the word “until.” But that’s the point, really. As extension agents, we’re pretty much here to facilitate a space where people in the community can grow the way they want to, and where people can lead from within the community. It was definitely a stress relief concerning language, which strangely isn’t fluent after three months like I thought it would be!