Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Zambia - Week two of community entry

I am going into week two of community entry. I want to write about it while it's fresh in my mind.  My first night here I was disappointed with my site. I wanted to leave. I had arrived to my site two days earlier than planned, and my hosts weren't prepared for my arrival. The grass was high so I was afraid of snakes, the lock to my door needed to be fixed, and my permanent shower had not been built yet like I was told it would be at my second site visit.

I didn't have enough daylight to unpack my things, so all of my stuff sat in my bedroom all cluttered and unorganized. I went to bed that night, trying to block out the loud music from the bar by the street. I was miserable. I felt like no one cared that I moved to my site. I was disappointed.  That was how I felt at that time. In retrospect it is understandable that I didn't receive a proper greeting upon my arrival because of my unexpected earlier date of moving in.

The next day I felt better. There was a crew of community members, men and women, slashing the tall grass and weeds surrounding my hut. My host attempted to fix my door and reassured me he will improve my temporary bath shelter prior to rebuilding my permanent bath shelter.

My next challenge was walking to the stores and market. I had done this during my second site visit, but I knew I would enter the fish bowl, yet again, while walking past people on the street.  I dressed in my kitenge, short-sleeve shirt, and Tevas. I made my way toward the stores and I was the center of attention. I felt secure. I felt in control. Children came running toward the road yelling msungu (white person) and 'how are yooo!' in their Zambian accents. I greeted everyone along the way with a few claps, and a 'how are you' in Kikaonde. I eventually made it to the store, then off to the market where I purchased tomatoes for dinner that evening.  I did it. Even still, it is difficult walking in public in my village. My being shy and reserved, this is a huge challenge for me.  I am one out of a handful of white people who live in this village of 3,000. This explains my celebrity-like status.

I have met a few people who live near me. I have new neighbors who moved in next door. The husband is a church pastor. I met him and his wife and I was able to use my Kikaonde. They were impressed to say the least. They also have several children, about six or seven, and they all live in a hut the same size as mine.

The children in the community visit my compound often. I call it a compound because it is a space that includes three building structures: kizanza (outdoor kitchen), kimbusu (latrine), and my hut. Oh, and I forgot to mention my temporary bathing shelter which is made up of three 'walls' held up with branches and covered with black plastic.

There is a lot to get used to in this culture. People are always around, they come by to visit on their way to where ever they may be going. I'm never alone unless I lock myself up in my hut which I have done a few times already.

I am as strange to them as they are to me. I know eventually I will blend in, and the feeling of being the 'odd one' will dissipate. This is a tough time for me. Probably the toughest since I arrived in Zambia. But I'm willing to take on this challenge, and I am so glad I'm here in Africa.

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