Wow! It’s been a while since I’ve written or shared much about how things are going in Zambia! I’ve been trying to post something on Instagram at least every few days, but our time near WiFi is unreliable and so it’s been infrequent.
It is equal parts hard to believe that we have been here for three weeks, while also feeling like we’ve been here for much longer.
I’m feeling pretty acclimated!
The heat is still intense, but the morning brings some relief in the form of a cool breeze. Now that the rainy season has started, most nights the power is on. It is WAY easier to sleep with a fan moving the hot air around. I’m happy to report I still have not stepped on any cockroaches in the dead of the night, and I haven’t caught malaria either. Score and score!
I’m learning how to be a good member of the community here.
For example, it’s REALLY important to our hosts that we make our bed in the morning. In addition, no matter how much or how little you have, you should try to show up to your day and commitments with clean clothes and looking put together. I’ve noticed that even those people who have just one outfit appear to wash it (or at least rinse it) each night for wear the following day. (Laundry here is done by hand with a series of buckets and a bar of soap.)
Community is important here. If you are walking in the same direction as someone else, they will often ask to join you instead of walking 10 feet behind you. We’ve met some really nice people and had some great conversations in this way.
In the States and Europe (and many other places I’m sure) “tunnel vision” as you walk on the street is pretty much a standard thing. But here, it’s far more common and polite to greet each person as you pass. We receive so many “good mornings” and “how are you’s” that I get distracted and lose track each morning when I try to count these interactions.
The other day, we were walking through the neighborhood just a few minutes from school. As we walked, one of the women was out hanging clothes on the line in front of her clay and thatch home and she called out “Good morning, Katie!”
I had a moment of like…absolute JOY at this.
Here I am in the middle of this small African neighborhood, an hour walk north of town, and I’m being greeted by name by a young African woman out doing her morning work.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my time here.
I’ve been revisiting some of those questions I was considering before we arrived.
“What does it mean to be of service in this world?”
“What do we receive when we take the leap and pursue the things that have been calling for us?”
When we run INTO the fire, instead of away from it.
It’s still something that I’m mulling over, but I have noticed that there is a word I keep using when I write or describe many of the personal experiences I have had being here.
It caught me a little off guard because I don’t use that word that much. Not that I’m not a joyful person, but I’ve not focused on it too much until being here.
There are SO MANY quotes out there about how we should not seek for “happiness” but for “joy”.
Happiness is a feeling based on circumstances, but joy is an attitude that defies circumstances.
The attitude here DEFINITELY defies circumstances. And I’m feeling it.
I’m feeling the joy of being a part of this community. The joy of learning all of these new things about myself and about the world. The joy of what it feels like to give and genuinely not expect a single thing in return.
I’m also seeing a new perspective arise in terms of ALL of the blessings I have at home. My loving family, my amazing friends, my home, my cat, electricity, COLD WATER, compassionate teachers who lead me in my spiritual growth and yoga practice … a comfortable bed, the ability to go to the grocery store and having availability of just about ANY type of food I would like without worrying too much about the cost … washing machines and dryers, dishwashers, etc. etc.
In the States, we tend to design our lives around a lot of things… Big houses, expensive clothes, nice cars, the perfect body. I think we all go through a phase where this type of success is the focus of our personal longing, and the definition of when we will achieve happiness. This is often why we stay in jobs that make us unhappy, why we diet non-stop to be thin, why we wrack up credit card debt… yada yada yada.
I’m thinking about the blessings in my life I listed above, and the ones that give me joy aren’t the house, the car, my wardrobe, the ease of having a washing machine or a dryer, or even a refrigerator and cold water. The ones that bring me joy? None of that. I’m here, and I’m feeling joy while sweating buckets, covered in dirt, and drinking hot water.
The joy here is from community, friendships, family, and gratitude for whatever it is that you have. You have a bed? Make it in the morning. Be grateful and take care of your things. Wash your clothes each day. Say hello to people on the street and be polite. Play, smile, share what you have and others will return the courtesy when you need it.
I was listening to some music while doing my yoga this morning, and the lyrics “open up and live, you love more the more you give” ran through my headphones. I felt a moment of lightness at the thought and was considering my sense of joy as a whole, outside of my experiences being here.
I’m feeling joy from giving without expectations.
I’m feeling joy from the simplicity of daily life and interactions here.
And I am recognizing that the blessings in my life that are a part of my joy at home are the things I’m missing right now.
My family and friends. I miss them. My community and support, my yoga practice and my teachers. I miss them. Michigan nature – I miss that too. Those red pine forests keep popping up in my dreams.
So.. my lessons so far?
Giving without expectations brings joy. And honestly, you receive so much more than you could have expected in return.
And GRATITUDE- true gratitude brings joy.
No wonder I feel like I am on fire over here (in a good way!)
As for a general update and a bit about how things are going at school?
Really wonderful. 🙂
This place and about 50 Zambian toddlers have really wiggled their way into my heart.
I know all the kids names now! I know which of them have learning issues and who needs more help. I know which of them are really smart and will be done before everyone else, thus needing something to keep them busy until the other kids are finished.
I know the drill when we get to school, and can help Cecelia and Elizabeth without too much instruction.
I know the life stories of some of the kids too, and it explains why some of them follow me around and want more attention than others. It helps me to remember softness and compassion even in moments when they won’t let go of me and I really REALLY need to go to the bathroom (ha!).
I know almost all the words to the Zambian national anthem now, too! I try to keep up with all the enthusiastic toddlers screaming it out, and I don’t even come close, but they smile at me while I try. I can also greet them and say goodbye or see you tomorrow in Nyanja now.
We have a few favorite games at recess, and I’ve been trying to modify them to teach them something new even while we are playing. The favorite playtime activity this week is a hand clapping game to the song “In the Jungle.” I’m pretty sure Luke started this, and now they LOVE it. We finally got them to form a line and take turns playing with us, and about ten of them will move through the line, constantly pushing each other and struggling forward until you have to stop and remind them the line goes slower when they push. After they have a turn, they immediately run to the back of the line again. After a while, I was a little sick of singing “In the jungle the mighty jungle the lion sleeps tonight” over and over and over again. I decided to change it to things like “In the Safari” or “In the River” and they have to tell me what kind of animal might sleep there. Then we sing the song, and I teach them a little something about that particular animal.
We brought a Bluetooth speaker we borrowed from another volunteer a few days ago, and we played the Macarena which the kids LOVED. The whole schoolyard was a dance party worthy of any 90’s roller rink in the United States, minus the roller skates. After all the obsession of “In the Jungle” we also played that song for them, and they jumped up and down and immediately paired up and began playing the clapping game on high speed and yelling all the words. So much fun! They also love “Baby Sharktooth” and “Waka Waka” by Shakira.
Last week, I asked if they know how to stand on their head. They looked at me like I was an exceptionally odd Mzungu. I cleared them apart, and lifted up into a headstand. They went CRAZY! They were so excited about it that they had me do it several more times, and given all the enthusiasm, we had a headstand lesson during lunch that Friday. Cecilia and Elizabeth brought a big piece of thick fabric to school and I helped them one by one on the soft pad. Only one of the older students got it, but for all the others I lifted their legs up for them while they were upside down, and they still loved it. After that, they asked me to teach them all the things I teach at home. I’ve been showing them different yoga poses and they are totally into it. They love tree pose, dancer and standing pigeon. It’s so much fun to share with them.
Homework club has gotten easier, too. I have been working on English, science and math with the kids. I put together word searches for them, and I ask them questions about plants and human anatomy. They are pretty sharp. They still ask for things, but it’s becoming easier for me to deal with. I’ve started to carry an extra water bottle to offer when the kids say they are thirsty, keeping one just for my own use. I feel better about this, and it’s been working pretty well.
On our weekends, we get to do amazing things. We went on a Safari in Chobe National Park in Botswana a few weeks ago, which I can’t wait to write about. We went on a Rhino walk last weekend, and saw the largest group of white Rhino’s in Africa- one of the most rare animals in Africa due to poaching. We are going to Victoria Falls this weekend, which will be beautiful.
That’s all for now!
Until next time. Much love from Zambia.