I'm officially a peace corps volunteer living in the village! I've been in kanyelele for a little over a month now - we got posted to our sites on april 27th. I love my village - my aspiring rap-star headman, the ridiculously excited children screaming "jesska, jesska" everywhere, my overly concerned neighbors that yell at me for not sweeping my front yard (its a dirt yard, i have trouble seeing the point of trying to keep a dirt yard clean), the 8lbs of nsima i eat breakfast lunch and dinner; i love all of it.
We're in week 5 of school now (in zambia the terms run jan-mar, may-july, sept-nov; april, august, & december are the term breaks). I havent started co-teaching yet, right now i'm going around to the 11 schools in my district spending a couple days at each introducing myself, meeting the teachers and observing classes. Theres nothing like going to a new school and being gawked at by 300 students, who stand open-mouthed mid-chewing of their bananas or sucarcane gaping at what is quite possibly the first muzungu they've ever seen. When they finally work up enough courage, they'll stand waving at me and screaming "hi how are you" (the only english the little ones know) until their arms fall off and their voices are hoarse.
The other day was a holiday (african independence day?), so having the day off from school, i decided to go with my amai to the clinic for the weighing of the under 5 year olds. My amai has 2 children under 5 - sonire, who's 4 and augustine (who knew that was a popular zambian name) who was born 5 days before i got to the village (my amai really was pregnant!). Quite possibly the most hilarious thing i've ever seen, this program, put on once a month at rural health clinics around zambia by the ministry of health to keep track of the health and nutrition of young children in the villages, involves stringing a small scale from a tree with a hook on the end. Mothers come and place their newborns in a cloth sack with leg holes that dangles from the end of the hook. Most children are screaming (what kid wants to be dangling from a giant metal hook?). The older kids, who are too big to fit in the cloth sack, are simply picked up and told to grab onto the hook, leaving them suspended in the air, twirling in circles around the rope while their mothers chase after them trying to read the scale. The community health worker who was there volunteered me to run this program for him each month.
Other than that i've been spending most of my time at school. My zonal center school, chingazi basic school, is awesome. The head teacher, my supervisor, miss banda has been great and extremely involved and excited to have me there. Being the zonal center, its a lot more together than any of the other 10 schools in my zone. Chingazi has 15 teachers in comparison to the 5 or at most 6 that are at most other schools, who are somehow supposed to manage teaching anywhere from 7-9 grades total. I love chingazi - its a well run school (as far as zambian schools go) with a really involved head teacher and a great staff, but i'm also looking forward to working with some of the other schools in the zone that seem to need more help. I'm going to try to rotate to a new school each term, so ideally i'll be able to work at 5 different schools over the course of 2 years. But as i'm learning, lots of things sound great in theory but dont always work out the way you planned in practice.
The things i see as important - like education, women's rights, time - they're just not as important to people here. Which isnt to say people here have the wrong priorities and i have the right ones. In a country where the average life expectancy is 40 years old, its more important to be in the fields picking groundnuts to feed the family than going to school or accepting traditional gender roles because there are more fundamental day to day worries than changing them. Finding a place for education is still extremely important and the only way zambians can advance and find a way out of the bush, but its just figuring out what projects my community really wants to work on involving education and helping them take the initiative towards achieving them. Too often people just throw money at them and projects fail because the community has no investment to work toward something thats been developed without their input or needs in mind which doesnt do anyone any good.
Anyway, on a lighter note, after being here a few weeks, my host family decided it was time to introduce me to chinamwali. Chinamwali is a traditional ceremony that marks a girl's transition into adulthood. This used to mean a girl was confined to her house for a few weeks, maybe a month, while the old women of the village visited her nightly to teach her about being a woman. This practice has mostly been stopped because zambians realized that as soon as a girl found these things out, she immediately wanted to go and try them out for herself, which led to lots of pregnancies, but apparently thats not the case in my village. They still practice confinement and i got to go to one of the nightly ceremonies. Not knowing what to expect, i unwittingly walked into a dark hut with about 40 of the old women in my village singing & sitting in a circle on the floor around a young girl who was only half-dresssed. It reminded me of a game of duck duck goose and the girl was the mush pot. Being the second guest of honor, i got to sit next to the half-naked girl as the women of the village took turns performing. I feel like i hadnt really experienced zambia until i had a group of old ladies - gray-haired, toothless - dance in front of me in a manner that would have made shakira proud.
Lastly, i officially have rats. I think its because its getting into the cold season. I havent slept in 3 nights because of their silly rat games in my roof and last night i finally saw two of them. I yelled at them for being in my house and then managed to beat them out with a broom. Dad, you would be proud. Although after looking up the word mbeywa in my dictionary, i realized my host family has been eating mice the past few nights so thats always a solution (i didnt eat the mice myself. As a rule, I tend to stay away from foods that still have fur on them when offered to me). Its crazy the things you get used to here. Gotta love living in the bush...