I’m in an odd state of limbo at the moment. We’re in the middle of posting, which is when all of the newly sworn-in volunteers are transported to their sites. Sounds simple, right?
Rule number 7 in the Peace Corps: nothing is simple.
Wait, I take that back. Lots of things are simple. Arguably everything is simple in a place where laundry is done by hand and food is cooked over open fires every day. But nothing is quick and easy. That’s what I meant. And logistics are a royal pain when you’re in a country with a transportation and government infrastructure that is lagging far behind the cellular network coverage. Over the past week and a half I have:
-Crammed all of my belongings into a vehicle, thrice (move over sardines, you haven’t seen packed until you’ve witnessed seven Peace Corps trainees AND all of their continental possessions wedged into a single Land Cruiser)
-Helped cook enough chicken, beef, potato salad, deviled eggs, watermelon, salad, homemade tortilla chips, salsa, guacamole, sweet potato fries, and onion rings to feed 100 people. At one point I had onion rings frying in seven different vats of oil at the same time. I have a newfound respect for caterers and my grandmother.
-Personally hand-served lunch to Peace Corps Zambia country director Tom Kennedy. We’re pretty much on a first-name basis now.
-Checked back into The Barn Motel near Lusaka and had my first hot shower since staging in Philadelphia nearly three months ago. Pure bliss.
-Was sworn in as a Peace Corps volunteer during the Swearing-In Ceremony at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Lusaka, a highly posh affair, while wearing chitenge pants so brightly colored that they were visible from space. We ate breakfast on what were quite possibly the nicest dishes I’ve ever seen. Because I was too classy to steal some china, I snatched a few napkins embossed with the United States seal instead.
-Spent a ton of kwacha during a brief Manda Hill Mall shopping trip on specialty items that can only be found in Lusaka (mostly spices and a few kitchen supplies, though there were some other random things like fitted bed sheets and camp chairs).
-Parted ways with friends in my RAP ’13 intake that I’ve come to really bond with over these past few months. Won’t see most of them again until IST (In-Service Training) in September.
-Drove 11 hours from Lusaka up to Mansa, the provincial capital of Luapula Province, stuffed into a cruiser with seven other people and all of our gear. We woke up before the sun even thought about coming out, some of us in better health/with less of a hangover than others, and arrived at the provincial house long after the sun had disappeared beyond the horizon.
-Spent an entire day shopping for posting and freaking ourselves out as we watched our kwacha dwindle to dangerously low numbers. I now own a mattress, a wicker chair, buckets for drawing water, basins for washing, a hammer and nails and wire for home improvement projects, a Dutch oven, and enough rice and split peas to feed me for the next three months.
-Acquired about 50 GB of new music and e-books from fellow volunteers in anticipation of Community Entry. Community Entry lasts for three months after you’re posted and during this time you aren’t allowed to leave your district, so along with doing a lot of meeting and greeting people you also burn through books and music at a prodigious rate. Bet when you envisioned a bunch of Peace Corps volunteers together in the middle of sub-Saharan Africa, you didn’t picture a group of nerds presiding over a dining room table bristling with laptops and external hard drives and flash drives intertwined, didja?
-Watched my fellow new volunteers depart for their sites all around me. Chris and Jacob were posted on Tuesday, and Lucas was posted today. Ryeon and Michael leave tomorrow, and with several other volunteers leaving over the past two days, the house already feels empty with just the three of us plus Siobhan, our fearless PCVL, holding down the fort. I may very well have the entire house to myself tomorrow after Ryeon and Michael are posted in the morning.