- Should I screech my bike to a halt and step towards the side to the road, so as to terrify the children while retaining the excuse of “oh, I was just going to go talk to them!”
- Should I replace the word “chindeli” with the more amicable sounding “boss”? After all, it’s widely used and recognizable to their ears.
- Although, that would simply be replacing one racial moniker for a more privileged one, wouldn’t it? Because “boss” did historically refer to white colonists, leaving black Zambians with the subservient “boy.”
- Do I continue trying to teach “what is your name,” a phrase that grated my nerves in Chipembi, as an alternative to “chindeli, how are you?!”
- Are the two really that different? Is it simply the frequency that makes me grit my teeth and mutter “these fuuuuucking bra- little blessings”?
- Do I turn a cold shoulder and hope they understand my waspish passive aggression?
- Or do I simply turn, plaster a (hopefully minimally) annoyed smile on my face, and wave as if to say “yes, it is I: chindeli. Behold my magnificent sunburn!”
Double feature! In the interest of catching myself up, I’m posting a photo dump and highlight reel on the same day [waits for applause]. Thanks for being patient with me!
Cute and Flirty: I recently bought three ducks, and currently have two (the travel to my house from their farm was sadly too traumatic for one of them). I absolutely adore them! They live in a little pen between my house and garden, and I just love watching them waddle around. Are they as entertaining as chickens? Nah, but they’re more chill and don’t eat all the seeds I plant. Pictures coming soon!
Something I learned from my community: I attended a Food Preservation workshop in late November, and while I was finding a counterpart my host mom decided to show me her own Food Preservation techniques. One of my favorites was how to preserve extra mafu (leafy greens), which I have a huge problem with. With onion greens, she hangs them up to dry, and once they’re browned, she pounds them, adds salt, and you’ve got yourself some delicious onion powder! It’s amazing, simple, and delicious! Why am I here again?!
Something my community learned from me: During Grassroots Soccer with my Grade 5s, I decided to add some LGBT sensitization into the mix. I was nervous, because the existence of queer people in Zambia is adamantly denied in rural areas, much less gay rights. But, during a session about gender roles, we were discussing the difference between gender and sex, and I saw a window. We defined “sex” as “male or female” and gender as “man or woman.” Then, we talked about babies who are born with both male and female genitalia, and added “intersex” to our definition of sex, meaning both male and female. Then, we added “transgender” to the definition of gender, and I explained that while “inter” means “together,” “trans” means “going from one thing to another” (thanks mom for teaching me vocabulary from classical roots!). Then, when we went into gender roles, I explained that while gender is an identity, gender roles can change depending on culture, and I explained that in some American cultures you can still be a man or woman if you date people of the same sex. I was really proud of how respectful both my Zambian counterparts and my kids were during the lesson, and it led to a lot of questions about gender norms in different cultures (ex: the difference between men wearing skirts/kilts/etc., men performing in drag, and males identifying as women). It made me really happy to share that part of myself in a subtle way, and has motivated me to do more of this kind of work!
Shower Insights: I’ve been thinking a lot about what I joined Peace Corps for and what I originally wanted to get out of service. I noticed recently that I’m a lot angrier and reactionary than I used to be (I’m sure a couple people will laugh at that), and I don’t think that’s helping myself or my community. So, I’ve decided to check in with myself every month and ask myself “am I being the kind of person I wanted to be here? Am I doing the kinds of work I wanted to do? If not, is there anything I can do to change that? If I can’t change it, is it beneficial to me or my community to stay in Zambia?” When I tell people this, many get worried, but it’s been really helpful to assess where I am and where I want to be. And I think, because of it, I’m moving forward in a way I’ll be happy with looking back.
Something That Didn’t Totally Fail: I am finally done teaching Grassroots Soccer to my basic school’s Grade 5 class! We taught the program with the 5Bs this month, and I think it’s safe to say that having a class every weekday for two months was a little too much to for my two voluntary counterparts (who are both in college). Fortunately, the deputy headmaster filled in when needed, and the kids learned a lot. Phew!
Hero of the Month: Latrice Royale for providing a beautiful visual example of drag queens and blowing the minds of my kids!
Villain of the Month: Army ants! They took over my garden and I couldn’t weed anything without being swarmed and bit. These things will kill any animal and when they enter people’s homes people just move out until the ants have hunted everything. Bugs Life lied to me!
“You see men like Walter all over Chelsea and the Village, men who insist, at thirty or forty or older, that they have always been chipper and confident, powerful of body; that they’ve never been strange children, never taunted or despised […] if Richard were still himself, untouched by illness, they could be together right now, arguing about Walter Hardy and the quest for eternal youth, about how gay men have taken to imitating the boys who tortured them in high school.”
Michael Cunningham, The Hours
“Since moving to New York I’ve learned what the word ‘geisha’ really means to most Westerners. From time to time at elegant parties, I’ve been introduced to some young woman or other in a splendid dress and jewelry. When she learns I was once a geisha in Kyoto, she forms her mouth into a sort of smile, although the corners don’t turn up quite as they should. She has no idea what to say! And then the burden of conversation falls to the man or woman who has introduced us–because I’ve never really learned much English, even after all these years. Of course, by this time there’s little point in even trying, because this woman is thinking, ‘My goodness… I’m talking with a prostitute…’ A moment later she’s rescued by her escort, a wealthy man a good thirty or forty years older than she is. Well, I often find myself wondering why she can’t sense how much we really have in common. She is a kept woman, you see, and in my day, so was I.”
Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha
Sometimes life gets overwhelming and you feel like a volcano about to erupt or, in my case, a deadly pyroclastic flow. Through the haze of it all the ash (yes, I am going to milk this metaphor for all it’s worth) it can be hard to see everything else around you. In these times, it’s nice when friends remind you to take a step back a reasses from afar. Today, I spent my day painting all my furniture a calming blue and charged my iPod just enough to play some tunes. It was nice, even though I got blue paint on two of my favorite articles of clothing.
I really miss Steven Universe, one of my favorite shows, and so it was nice when this song popped up. And I feel like my iPod is trying to tell me I need to be more mindful.
Something that makes me sad about being here is that upward mobility in rural Zambia is largely determined by your ability to speak English. You could be a science or math wiz, but if you’re not great at English, your chances of furthering your education are significantly diminished. And, whether intentionally or not, volunteers do enforce this. I’ve largely had to choose English speaking counterparts for trainings due to my own limited proficiency, including a rather heartbreaking moment where I had to pass up a great counterpart because there was no translator for that particular workshop. And our rural education program is being pushed to focus solely on TESOL (teaching English as a second language), rather than teacher training or building upon other subjects. However, language proficiency isn’t a determinant of intelligence!
I was going to feature a different post from my good friend Maddie’s blog, prefacing it with some comparisons of Northwest Province and Southern Province, but I saw this post and my heart sank and I knew I had to post this instead.
Maybe because I’m still trying to process the horror of Charlottsville, Virginia and what’s happening to my homeland from a continent away. Maybe it’s because, for the first time in my life, I’m questioning if America has a place for me anymore. Maybe it’s because, when a tourist couple approached me on a recent vacation and told me how self-sacrificing it was to live in such “primitive” conditions, I just smiled and didn’t say anything. Maybe it’s that I’ve tried to write several posts about the dire situation of climate change, particularly where I live, and have deleted them all after realizing that most people will stop reading after the first couple sentences when they realize it’s not a funny post or doesn’t have pictures. Maybe it’s all of those things, maybe it’s none of those things, and maybe it’s this and more.
I’m feeling a lot of stuff right now. But I’m reading this and my gut twists and I know for sure that I at least have to share, and maybe get off my ass at some point and finally make that post.
I’m waiting for the weight of my confessions to sink in. I think secretly I was hoping baTaata would burst into a fit of rage directed toward me, or transform into a superhero political activist peasant and fly to kick in the door of some executive offices somewhere.
But for a few paces my eager ears met only the sound of his lanky-legged footsteps on the sandy path. Then he just said calmly: “Yes, Maddie. I think you are very observant. Please, please try to tell them.”