I don’t talk about my fellow Peace Corps volunteers on this blog as often as I could. This is partly because I’m conscious of their privacy, but mostly because studies conducted by reputable bloggers have shown that photogenic Zambian children attract more pageviews than scruffy 20-something Americans. And I’m all about optimizing my SEO.
The truth though is that it’s impossible to overstate the importance of my circle of friends within the Peace Corps community here. They are my sympathizers during the hard times, co-conspirators during the fun times, and witnesses to the plain wacky times. And I’ve been recently alerted that several of their mothers read my blog. So without further ado, I’d like to introduce some of the incredible people who I have the privilege to serve with here in Zambia:
Lucas shooting a vivid sunset
Lucas is in my intake, RAP ’13, and in my province. He was also in my language group during Pre-Service Training and we sat across the aisle from each other on the flight from JFK to Johannesburg. So in Peace Corps parlance, Lucas is one of my first and oldest friends. He’s an extremely laid-back Missourian with facial hair that grows more wild by the minute and eclectic (lack of) fashion, who wears the stereotype of the grungy Peace Corps volunteer like one of his unkempt shirts.
Lucas played college soccer and is better at football than all of the rest of us combined, which makes him an instant hit among Zambians and a cultural integration savant among volunteers. The dude can effortlessly juggle a ball for like 37 hours straight.
Chris riding into the horizon
Chris is the other RAP ’13 volunteer who was posted to Luapula Province with Lucas and me, and the three of us could not be more different. Chris studied fisheries in college and is probably more into fish than I am (impossible, I know), but there our similarities end. Chris is from New Jersey and is fiercely proud of it, knows every single word to approximately 1,256,412 different rap lyrics, and is as ebullient as I am reserved. We’re pretty much polar opposites in terms of personality, yet Chris and I have quickly bonded over a shared love of Britney, Beyonce, and bartering in the market for chitenges and football jerseys.
From left to right: silent soldier dude, me, Meggan, Holly, and Morgan
Meggan is in Lundazi District in Eastern Province and the only other Californian in the RAP ’13 intake, which isn’t that big of a deal because we Californians don’t identify nearly as strongly with our home state as some denizens of other states do (see above, below). She is smart, even-keeled, and funnier than fun itself. Meggan is that rare person whose sense of humor makes everybody around her erupt into gales of laughter at the slightest provocation, and she adopts different comedic voices so frequently that it was three weeks into training before I finally figured out what her actual voice sounded like.
I use the Meggan test as a barometer to gauge my own comic potential: if I say something and she smiles, I know it’s a success. If she doesn’t react, I go back to the drawing board. And if she laughs, you can bet I write that shit down and make a mental note to blog about it.
Holly and Meggan being super cool
Holly is another member of the RAP ’13 intake in Petauke District in Eastern Province, and one of those people who you instantly know is from Texas as soon as you meet her. For one, she uses “y’all” constantly and completely unironically. For another, she’s tiny but her personality is larger than, um, that state down south that is known for being kind of big.
Holly is sassy and sardonic and hilarious and likes to say exactly what she’s thinking, which just makes her more hilarious. What I wouldn’t give to spend a day inside that girl’s head, y’all.
Morgan and Michael acting serious during a game drive
Morgan is also in Lundazi District in Eastern with Meggan, and where she’s from in the States doesn’t matter because she’s not from Texas. Morgan is the emotional compass of our intake, by which I mean she has feelings enough to spare for the rest of us unfeeling heathens. Her laugh is infectious and she’s thoughtful, empathetic, and kind, all traits that come with the wisdom of age. (She’s a few months older than the rest of us, so I take every opportunity I can get to tease her mercilessly about it.)
And the girl can shop. When I’m with her, I hemorrhage cash purely through osmosis. Great for my chitenge collection, bad for my living allowance.
Logan and me
Logan is a RAP ’13’er in Northern Province who is disarmingly soft-spoken and articulate with a lightning-quick wit. We have a lot in common, like a keen interest in writing, talking about girls, and overthinking things, but we differ in that I simply hear about gossip occasionally while Logan is the conduit through which gossip flows, picks up stored energy, and is aimed with military precision at various targets. The guy knows the latest news about somebody before that person knows it himself.
Logan is the type of person who, when you ask him what he’s thinking at any given moment, tells you with complete seriousness, “So many things.” As somebody who has often been told that he thinks too much, I appreciate a kindred spirit when I meet one.