Muli Bwanji everyone! The past few weeks have been crazy! We finally got our site placements! I will be spending the next two years in Chipata, Eastern province in the village of Chingazi. Google it! Well, google Chipata - I don't think you'll find Chingazi on a map. But the village is only 45 km from Chipata, the provincial capital, where they have pretty much everything I could need - two huge grocery stores, hardware stores, furniture stores, etc. It's pretty crazy how modernized some places in the middle-of-nowhere Zambia are. I updated my address on my contacts page though, so check that out in case you want to send me anything (like candy!).
My site is a first generation site, which means it's a brand new site and theres never been a volunteer in that village before. I'll be the first muzungu (white person) many of my villagers have ever seen! Let alone talked to or interacted with. The school I'll mainly be working at - Chingazi Basic School, the main zonal center school for the area - has grades 1 - 9 and about 600 pupils. Although that's the main school I'll be at, there are 11 schools total in my district that I'll be working with. The idea is to rotate co-teaching at as many schools as possible so we're able to reach the greatest amount of people, but in reality, I'll probably only work at 3-4 schools in my two years, due to distance (my farthest schools are 10-16 km, which wouldn't be realistic to bike to everyday). To reach those schools, I'll still do visits, classroom monitoring, and workshops with the teachers, but the hope is the work I put into the zonal center school - Chingazi Basic - will trickle out to the other community schools in the zone. That's the hope anyway...
This past week we had a workshop with the supervisors from our respective schools, who will be helping us with everything from finding co-teachers to work with to introducing us to the village headmen/headwomen and chiefs. They're usually the head or deputy head (the equivalent of a principal or vice principal) of the zonal school we'll be working with My supervisor is Miss Jane Banda, who is the head of Chingazi Basic School. She's great - I'm excited to have a female head, since Zambia is such a male-dominated culture, even in edicuation, a predominately femaile profession.
A funny story on Zambian culture: When we first got to the supervisor workshop, we met our Zambian counterparts and then went around the room introducing ourselves to each other. One Zambian man stood up with his volunteer and as a way of introducing her, he said to everyone in the room (about 75 people), "I'm so glad America has sent me a fat volunteer!" Apparently in Zambia, being told you're fat is the highest compliment a girl can receive. It's generally seen as a sign of wealth. The girl handled it really well, but it was still an embarassing moment. I later had to try to explain to my supervisor how usually, telling an American girl she's fat will make her cry. To this, she just stared at me in shock and couldn't understand how it would be taken as anything other than a compliment. Compliment or not, I'm not looking forward to the day a Zambian tells me I'm looking very fat...
Tomorrow morning, we'll be heading out for a site visit. Each volunteer is spending five days in their soon-to-be home villages during the work week to visit the school, meet our counterparts and the villagers, etc. Miss Banda, my head, tried to prepare me for the extensive welcoming preparations they've made. I'm not sure what they entail, but I'm sure they'll be big and include lots of dancing - Zambians love welcoming new people. It's one of the many awesome parts of their culture.
I'm really excited to visit my site and see where I'm going to be spending the next two years! And a little nervous - people here tend to see Americans as miracle workers with tons of money, which can lead to some pretty high expectations. The whole idea of Peace Corps is to build sustainable development by helping people to improve their own lives. All I can do is bring my skills to the table and hope that by being there and offering my help, I can give the villagers, pupils, teachers confidence in their own abilities.
Anyway, I'll try to update everyone after the site visit and I'll have some pictures to post to show you all my village and my new home/hut. I miss you all & send lots of love from Africa!
I'm trying to post some pictures on facebook, but here's one of my host family, the Chitatus, outside their awesome pink and blue house:
And here's one of our whole Peace Corps group: