Zambia: We’ve Arrived!

I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out where I should even BEGIN with this first “official “ post.

Unfortunately, our internet situation is really challenging, so sharing pictures will be limited to posts when I can get into town to use WiFi.  So, picturing in your minds eye will have to work for now!

We left Michigan a few days ago, and arrived in Zambia yesterday afternoon.

It took three bus rides, a train, three flights, and a few long layovers to get here.

I don’t think I’ve ever fully appreciated the idea of “power naps” as much as I have over the past few days.  Twenty minutes of DEEP sleep in sporadic segments on airplanes and airport floors was the extent of my sleep during our travel here.

On the bright side of our lonngggg travel time, we had a nine-hour layover in Doha, Qatar!  In our sleepy, travel worn state we splashed some water on our faces and grabbed a taxi to the Souq Waqif – which reminded me a ton of Marrakesh, expect WAY wealthier.  Spice markets and hookah scented the air, Turkish ice cream stalls were set up on the pristine streets, and winding alleyways with market stall after market stall offered unlimited wandering opportunities.  We had some dinner and drinks – mint tea mixed with lemonade (and about a half a cup of sugar in it!) – and walked the alleyways.  It was a brief stop, but unexpected and really beautiful.

If you are able to see Doha, definitely go check it out!

When we finally landed in Zambia, I hadn’t slept beyond those power naps for over 48-hours.  We had a full on sprint across the Johannesburg airport to catch our final flight to Livingstone, and I was WIPED OUT.  I thought I’d be absolutely out of it, but when we stepped off the plane I felt my endorphins start to kick in.  Luke did too.


All the excitement, nervousness, eagerness… it all just flooded in. This whole living from passion and redefined purpose thing is showing me that I can still be ALL IN even when I’ve been awake for 48-hours.  It has me feeling pretty damn good about my choices. 🙂

We were picked up along with four other volunteers by one of our volunteer coordinators, Lazarus.  I was all smiles on the entire ride from the airport.  On the drive, we took in our first views of Zambia.  Our home for the next five-weeks.

First impressions of the environment?  It’s HOT.


100+ degrees in the day, and it doesn’t really cool off at night.

It’s also very dry.  It’s been just one day, and I have accepted that my feet will pretty much always be covered with a thin layer of red dust.  My dry skin has cracked – especially on my feet – and no amount of lotion will be fixing that.  My hair is resembling a lions mane of great frizziness.  It’s kind of epic, and I’m digging it, haha!

The whole country is powered by hydro, and with the extreme drought and the last rainy season being very dry, there is power only sporadically.  We’ve been here for a little over 24-hours, and have only had power for an hour or two.  So though they do have fans, for the most part, it’s just hot and still.  As for drinking water?  We have purified water we can drink, but without power at refrigerators, drinking water is just relief in the form of hydrating your body.  The water itself is pretty close to the temperature of the air.

First impressions of the community?  The people are SO WARM and SO FRIENDLY.  We’ve learned the traditional Zambian handshake already, which has several steps and has me feeling more connected, even if my Nyanja is limited to terms like “Hello!” (Bwanji) and “Good Morning” (Mwauka Bwanji) and a few other basic terms.

On our drive from the airport, Lazarus shared a bit more with us about the country and the language(s).  We learned that there are 72 tribes in Zambia, and about 72 languages too.  Nyanja is the primary language in the area, which is what most of the kids will speak.  We are able to take some language lessons through our volunteer placement (sign me up!), but Lazarus said that while they can teach us some, working with the kids is where we’ll really be doing the learning.

Turning down the road to our compound, we passed an area where they burn trash in the evenings. The large piles of garbage made me think of my experiences working in landfills back home.  For a brief moment, a few local kids ran along behind the car and waved to us with big smiling faces.  Everyone waves when you drive by and our new unofficial name is “Mzungu!”

There are about twenty five other volunteers here right now.  Many of them are from the States, but some of them are also from different countries in Europe, South and Central America and New Zealand.

I’m so happy to be at the compound where we are staying!  Our hosts are some of the NICEST people.  It’s definitely a shift for us.  I showered last night under a small trickle of water, in the dark with my hiking light hung from the door in the restroom.  It was a process of cupping my hands and filling them with water, and then splashing big handfuls on myself to wash off the soap.

There are a lot of cockroaches around, about the size of my pinky finger.  They skuttle along the walls and floors inside and outside.  The windows have no glass, so there is no keeping them out.  I’m waiting for the night when I step on one of these little guys with my barefoot while making my way to the toilet, but I’m happy to report that last night was NOT the night!  Goal – keep it that way.  I spent extra time and care securing the bug net around our bed, and for now, we live in harmony with the cockroaches, big spiders and mosquitos.

We had our orientation with the our volunteer coordinator today, and learned a lot about the origins of the non-profit Dream Livingstone Zambia.  It was so inspiring to hear everything that this organization has developed for the children in the community, and I can’t wait to share more about that in another blog post.  I can’t imagine what it must feel like to have your life’s work be so incredibly meaningful to so many children and families in need, and see it grow in front of you in the way it has here.  It has me SO EXCITED to share about the money we have been able to fundraise.

They will be able to do A LOT with it.

As I write this I’m sitting in our quarters and listening to Lazarus singing outside.  He has an amazing voice! The birds are chirping, the sun is bright and the sky is blue.  There isn’t much of a breeze; it’s around 100 degrees and I’m sweating like crazy with my hot water bottle.

Tomorrow we meet the kids.

I feel myself lighting up, and I (we) CANNOT WAIT to get started!

More to come soon friends.

xx.  Katie

(& Luke!)