3 things I have accomplished in the past 12 hours:
Peed in a bucket
Pooped in a hole
Puked in a cornfield
Impressive, right? Last night I experienced my first case of African food poisoning, which I believe was due to some chimanga (corn) that I ate which wasn’t boiled. While it certainly wasn’t fun, the response from my family was amazing and perfectly depicts just how much the community cares for us. When I walked out of the chim (outhouse), I was swiftly greeted by a neighbor who had heard me getting sick. She lead me back to my house and when I walked inside, my entire family (of six) was awake in the main room, awaiting my return. My amayi (mother) then followed me into my bedroom, holding a bucket each time I got sick. She sat in silence and didn’t leave until I had fallen asleep. This morning, it seemed like the entire village knew what happened and I was asked by strangers about my stomach numerous times. The whole experience was so comforting and really revealed the kindness of the people here. I couldn’t believe they cared so much, even though they’ve only known me for a few days.
My apologies for starting with such a graphic story but I felt it would mimic the way we were abruptly exposed to the local culture (and to the local parasites…) As I mentioned, I’m living with a mother and her five children, aged 5-23. I’m not sure if she has a husband yet and don’t have the language skills to ask yet. There are about a million other questions I have too, but those will have to wait. My family is slowly teaching me a vocab like body parts, plants and foods. The two youngest children are pretty shy, but I think they’re warming up to me. I’ve played my guitar, taught them the macarena and tried to follow along with the songs they sing. I also invited one of my brothers to a PC (Peace Corps) community event on Saturday, where we will be constructing a map of the village. So far, I’m adjusting pretty well to rural village life. I haven’t minded taking bucket baths, eating on the ground (we have no furniture) and using the outhouse. The hardest part is just the language. Life moves pretty slow here but it’s a nice change in pace and overall, I’m very happy.
Life in Chizasima seems to be getting more normal with each day that passes. Sleeping on the ground, cooking over open fires and not looking into a mirror for days on end is old news. The stares and small mobs of children that follow me EVERYWHERE are more than expected. I’ve really grown to love my host family and feel like I’ve known then for a lot longer than two weeks. They are all so sweet! For example, after not owning a brush for the past two weeks (don’t ask how my hair has looked), my brother Fatsani saw me borrowing a friend’s brush yesterday. This afternoon, he magically produced a comb that he scrounged up from somewhere and proudly presented it to me. It was such a thoughtful gesture and I am now SO excited to undread my hair. (PS dreads are strongly associated with drug culture here so unfortunately I will be sticking with my old ‘do). Along with the comb, my siblings have also given me lollipops when I’ve been sick. The people here don’t have much of anything (literally all the food that my family owns is stored on one small table), but they are so willing to share anything that they can. The idea of taking what you absolutely need & sharing the rest is really strong here. It makes me question my American values and feel guilty about all of the items I have in my room.
To describe what I’ve been doing the past few weeks, here’s a normal day:
5:30 – Wake up, run, bucket bath, breakfast with the fam
8:00 – Language class
10:30 – Technical classes, safety training, etc
12:00 – Lunch with the FAM
1:30 – More classes
5:00-8:00 – Hang out with volunteers and family, cook/eat dinner, practice Chichewa, go to SLEEP (So tired at this point)
This weekends are free and this past one was particularly awesome. We were issued bikes on Friday, went to a small city on Saturday, and then went hiking up a little mountain on Sunday. The views on top of were gorgeous and we could see as far as Mozambique! Joining us on the hike, of course, were about 20 “Iwe’s” or village kids. It was so nice to be hiking in the woods again, even with a 60+ group. That’s all for now! Comment with questions and hopefully I’ll get to answer them when I have internet next! Miss you all.