Highlight Reel: Community Entry 

During the first three months of service, volunteers aren’t allowed to leave their site/district, barring any health/security emergencies or provincial meetings. As it turns out, we did have a bi-annual provincial meeting in the middle of community entry; however, due to some issues with the construction of my house, I had only been at site for two weeks and didn’t have much to update. So, going along with the thread of PST, this Highlight Reel covers three months, May through July.

Cute and Flirty: Whenever I walk anywhere, little kids like to run to the road and scream “Chindeliiiiiiiiiiiii!”, which means “foreigner.” And it always makes me feel like I’m a WWE wrestler entering the ring! It is a significantly less exhilarating experience with tweens, but that’s middle schoolers for ya. The akamamas have recently been laying down the law on calling my by name recently. That’s probably good for the kids to learn, because being labeled as a foreigner is dehumanizing in every country (hard side eye at you, America). But the kids still run to the street yelling some variation of “Chindeli!” or “Nicki!” and I still feel like a WWE wrestler.
Something I learned from my community: on my second day at site, my host mother kindly told me to go out into the field and pick a pineapple to eat (to clarify: I live on a pineapple farm). I went out, and randomly picked one that looked roughly the right size. When I brought it back, everyone laughed and said “it’s not ripe!” They then gave me what I thought were instructions to only pick the red ones. Which was WEIRD, because they’re bright red when they first bloom and then turn green, but I was like “ok who am I to question the color cycle of pineapple growth.” So I pick the reddest pineapple I can get, come back, and proudly present it to my host father. He disappointedly shook his head and muttered “you don’t know anything about pineapples.”
Something my community learned from me: Not exactly my community, but I went in June to a weekend-long agriculture workshop at a health volunteer’s site in my district. I did a session about composting and double digging, which I think went pretty well for my first time (it helped that there was a translator there!) and I got to help out with the crop and livestock sessions afterwards, which were led by government officials. The whole experience gave me a lot of insights and ideas about how to run workshops, and hopefully that community got valuable information. I also got to learn more about fish farming from my other neighbor (an aquaculture volunteer), and was able to do some pond visits in my community as a result! 
Shower Insights: I’ve kind of always had this idea that speaking a second language is like buttering bread: fluid motions, little resistance, and a satisfying reward at the end. But, in reality, speaking a second language is more like someone spilling a big bag of sky blue marbles on the floor and telling you to find the one that’s cerulean. And then, once you finally find it, realizing you don’t know how to play marbles. 
Something That Didn’t Totally Fail: I have had 8 meetings with 8 villages in my catchment! Pretty much, I just explain who I am and what Peace Corps is, how I want to work on projects the community wants, answer any questions, and then do a needs assessment activity to gauge topical interest from different groups within the village (usually men and women but also youths depending on the size of the meeting). I’ve intentionally organized them independently with local headmen, and haven’t set an interpreter, because I want to be viewed as a direct line of contact and also want to practice my Chilunda. Sometimes (every time) my comprehension really screws up the vibe of the Q&A part, and oftentimes (every time) the community doesn’t understand my activity instructions right away, but it’s fun to problem solve on the fly and it’s honestly been the best part of my community entry so far. 
Well, that was embarrassing: I have been making an effort to attend local churches in order to introduce myself to the community and show respect for important community institutions. I went to one church, and everything was pretty casual, every day attire. Cool! The next week, I went to the next church down the road. I was late waking up but, knowing the dress code of the last church, just threw on my sandals, my week-old pants, and my baseball hat, and headed out the door expecting the same as last week. The only way to describe how I felt during that service is to quote the Scissor Sisters: “so I show up at the club, looking like a drowned, harassed rat.” Every man was wearing a black, three piece suit, all the woman had matching chitenge, and an usher kindly (but earnestly) asked me to please remove my hat during service. My mom refers to my hair as “alfalfa hair” when not combed, so I felt really confident standing in front of the congregation at the end of service to introduce myself! 

The Kawacha: another perspective on cultural adjustments

Black Mamba Dreams and Muzungu Things is a blog by my fellow LIFE 2017 volunteer based in Luapula Province. While Northwest Province borders the Democratic Republic of Congo on its northeast side, Luapula borders on the west. Both provinces have distinct similarities, such as higher than average rainfall and less NGO involvement. Luapula even has pockets of Lunda toward the border!  But, despite these similarities, every province has distinct cultural differences, expounded by the fact that Luapula is a Bemba majority province and Bemba is the language overwhelmingly spoken there. Language innocuously shapes almost every aspect of out lives, and even though Bantu languages are clumped together, they’re very distinct from eachother.

Ok, enough rambling. Here’s Catherine Grace’s thoughts on Bemba in relation to community entry!

Catherine Grace Norris

The Kawacha is a Bemba word meaning the sound of light. With this being an autosynthistic word, it goes to express how the Bemba language, while not always considered a highly sophisticated and written modern language, achieves a deep meaning using its traditional tonal structure. Depending on how it is said it can mean kawacha for money, kawacha for when the street lights come on, or kawacha for when the sun is rising; all determined by the tone of the word. While this comes easily for a native language speaker, I have to rely mainly on the context of the conversation to have any idea what someone is referring to and yet I am often still left doubting if I know what’s going on.
When talking money or indalama, as we call it here, I like to abbreviate and call it kwach. The kwach in its easiest conversion is currently…

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When I studied abroad my junior year, something that really surprised me was how life goes on at home. I’d prepared for me to do things and change and grow, but in some weird way I’d expected everything to stand still and wait for me to come back, which is obviously not how life works.

In order to acknowledge that other people are, in fact, living elsewhere in the world, and to send some shout-outs to the peeps keeping me updated, here are some pics people have sent me of what they’re doing since I’ve been in Zambia!

My friend Niki from France is traveling across South America, and she met up with my dear from Patty in Cartajena! It's a small world.pattysuarez1669 Thank you for introducing us all.. We are remembering you here!!! Cheers!!!!

My friend Briana bringing up college nostalgia with her stuffed cow.bwinga1 Did you know I still have Elmer? Did you know I named him Elmer? Do you even remember this cow?

A picture my friend Elise took of sunrise on New Zealand's South Island.dbf42utk If you become a nudist just remember sunscreen!

My mom has gotten into scuba diving and recently dove off the coast of Florida!phyllisann5256 Yay! Back in my happy place!! 🙃😎Saw an 8 ft nurse shark and a yellow sting ray.

My longtime friend Claire got her first tattoo recently, and went big with an illustrated narwhal (her favorite animal). claireann03 Also… got my narwhal tattoo! On my inner elbow area! So detailed I love it

Martha went to her first Capital Pride this year and ended up in the parade!martha_notstewart My tye dye shoes for pride! 

My sister has been food foraging, and has been finding all kinds of delicious stuff in nature!carissa512 Today’s foraging adventure: black raspberries, summer apples, yarrow, day lilies, wood sorrel, peppergrass, plantain seeds, common mallow, wild carrot leaves, clover flowers

Mana serving up fresh-caught tilapia realness in a fitting room!manadelcielo 💜💙💚💛❤🎉💫👑

My cat, Sylvester, curled up with his godmother and being cute as ever!carissa512 It’s hard to complain when you have a cat that holds your hand when you read! #pretendingthisisanactualmessagefrommycat

My friend Nina and her boyfriend hosted a 4th of July cookout, which my sister and some hometown friends attended.ntaylor_94 I miss you. Hope you’re safe and doing good. ❤

I'd bought my dad a gift card to a Frederick restaurant (Ayse Mez) and he wanted to let me know that he's now a regular!johnniewhoops85 Jalepeno, feta cheese n watermelon….wtf!!


Future Line-Up

Highlight Reel + Photo Dumps

I’m going to try and post these at the beginning of every month, but posting pictures is a pain and takes up a ton of data, so it probably won’t happen until I’m in the provincial capital. I also haven’t been able to post during community entry just because of data, so photo dumps might not be every month like I originally planned. Sorry!

Book Club 

I wouldn’t say I’ve read a LOT during community entry, but I’ve definitely gotten back into reading (post-college was a huge slump for me).

Just to kind of share how much time I’m wasting, I’m gonna post about each book I’ve read with a super serious, in-depth review, and then follow up the next day with a quote that stood out to me. Think Oprah’s Book Club, but if no one cared!

TED Thursday’s

The first Thursday of every month I’m going to try and post a video that has:

a) inspired and resonated with me,

b) taught me something new and exciting, and/or

c) has been relevant to me during my time in Zambia.

I think it’ll just be a fun way to share what I’ve learned and touch on stuff that I haven’t written full posts about! It might not be the only time I post media, but I thought it would be good to have a set time.

Featured Blogs

Every now and again, I plan on stealing content from other volunteer’s blogs in the hopes of pilfering their views. In an ideal world this would be once a month, but more than likely will just be when I stumble on something rad.


I’m gonna try and post non-category stuff from time to time. I’d wanted to write a post about trying to figure out where I stand with my vegetarianism in Zambia, but I couldn’t really figure out what I wanted to say exactly, so I’m putting it off.




Things at Site That Make Me Feel Chiwahi

  • Having a man or woman excitedly tell me the plans for their farm. 
  • The peacefulness of getting drinking water from a natural spring and hearing the wind blow through the trees.
  • Inflecting a joke the right way during a meeting and making everyone laugh. 
  • The first few bites of a ripe, fresh-from-the-fields pineapple.
  • Being surprised by a sky full of stars at night while going outside to pee.

Things at Site that Make Me Feel Chatama

  • The persistent loneliness that comes with moving to a new place. 
  • Careless insults thrown by inebriated men (or presumably sober adolescents)
  • Having to give up on speaking local language mid-conversation and feeling deflated. 
  • The rush of jealously, quickly followed by guilt, when hearing from a fellow volunteer who is doing really well.
  • The sound of mice crawling through a backpack just as the lights go off.

Public Service Announcement 

Ok, so I have limited internet connectivity here. As such, it limits my ability to add relevant photos or links sometimes.

That being said, I love posting photos and links, so I will be retroactively editing some posts to add content intended for the first draft. I don’t expect people to go scouring for easter eggs; this isn’t 2005 and we don’t still think Lost is going to resolve any plotlines. But, if you see something different, that’s what it is.