I couldn’t fit all of my friends on one post (yes, I’m that popular), so here’s Part 2 with some of the wonderful volunteers in Luapula Province:
Eddie was a RAP ’11 volunteer who just finished his service in October, but during the five months we were in Nchelenge District together we bonded over several hours of earnest conversation about Peace Corps and development and the meaning of life. To say Eddie is well-read is like saying Bill Gates knows computers. The man can tell you a fact you’ve never heard before about literally any subject you happen to be on. Eddie was also a sneaky conversationalist. People who only saw him at the house would swear he never talked, but get him one-on-one and the guy wouldn’t stop yapping. No judgment; I’m pretty sure that’s what they also say about me.
Emi, a CHIP ’12 volunteer, is currently my nearest Peace Corps neighbor and the only other volunteer in Nchelenge District, which is a nice way of saying that my hut serves double duty as Emi’s bike storage shed and free food stop. Only kidding! Emi is one of the nicest and most conscientious people I know and on the rare occasion when she does have something not overwhelmingly positive to say, she couches it in caveats and hedges it with disclaimers.
However, she’s from Washington, which means she’s the worst kind of hipster: the kind that doesn’t think she’s a hipster. She denies it vehemently, but if you ask her what kind of music/movies/food she likes you can be sure it’s something esoteric and only found in Seattle. Emi is also a model volunteer, with new projects and groups every time I see her. Ugh, Emi is despicable.
Chantel (CHIP ’12, Samfya District) was one of the first volunteers I met in Luapula Province back in April when we came up for Second Site Visit and is vivacious, razor-sharp, and an otherworldly dancer. We basically occupy extreme polar opposite ends of the physical expressiveness spectrum. However, we have very similar senses of humor (read: the inappropriate kind) and so we get along fabulously and crack each other up on the regular.
Chantel went to Howard, but you’d never know it because she never mentions it, ever. Nor does she talk about how Howard’s homecoming is the best homecoming, or how Howard’s marching band is the best marching band, or how Howard’s men are the best-dressed and most handsome men. She has not once said any of these things.
Emily (RAP ’12, Mansa District) is the tallest female volunteer in Luapula, which means she’s probably the tallest woman in the entire province, too. (Zambians are not particularly known for their height.) This is because she’s from Nebraska. They eat tons of corn there, I think, which turns them all into giants. As if this weren’t intimidating enough, she’s also fiercely competitive and talks more trash than an inner city basketball team. None of these things have anything to do with our friendship, which was cemented by a shared love for Barbara Kingsolver and a mutual fondness for teasing Asians.
Emily is another one of those annoying volunteers who is always busy and involved in everything and generally makes me feel like a complete slacker in comparison.
Michael is a LIFE ’13 volunteer in Kazembe District about 65 kilometers south of my site, which makes him one of my closest volunteer neighbors in the province. Michael is that guy, the guy who is cool without trying, who exudes affable trustworthiness, who is instantly good friends with you as soon as you meet him. He’s a jack of all trades, good at everything from Frisbee (he played Ultimate for a club team back in America) to cooking (when he’s in charge of house dinners people start salivating four hours in advance) to listening (he was elected to VAC, our volunteer peer support and advocacy committee, without even being physically present for the vote).
Michael is also completely ridiculous. He’s that guy who crosses the line between what you should and should not say every single time, no matter where it’s drawn. Yet somehow he’s so affably charming that he never gets in trouble for it. Michael is one of our resident barbers (and it goes without saying that he’s excellent at it) so even if I could think of anything bad to say about him, I wouldn’t. It’s hard to get a good haircut in Zambia.
Ryeon (also LIFE ’13) is in Mwense District and is my bankashi, or sister, in every sense of the word. We’re both in the Luapula volunteer family, we each secretly think we’re smarter than the other, and we argue with each other constantly. One thing I won’t argue with her about though is anything involving keeping score; Ryeon approaches games and sports with an unbridled ferocity. However, despite this frankly shocking facet of her personality, she’s an incredibly sweet person when not engaged in competition. Ryeon has an open and genuinely curious soul, and when you combine this with her Bemba proficiency (best speaker in Peace Corps Luapula) you get one heck of a volunteer.
Because Ryeon and I take the same road to get to our respective sites, we travel out of Mansa together often enough that we’ve begun to establish a routine of sorts: we pick a time to leave the house, Ryeon gets distracted doing something, the time comes and Ryeon is still packing, we scramble out the door, Ryeon realizes she can’t find her phone/money/passport, I find it for her, we hurry to the bus station overladen with bags, and just barely catch the bus before it lurches off. And she’s still convinced that she’s the big sister in our relationship. Please.