Earlier this month, I biked down to Mwansabombwe District to visit my good friend Michael Krohn in Ngalama. Michael is a LIFE ’13 volunteer who arrived in Zambia at the same time I did and was posted to a site just 65 kilometers to the south of mine, making him one of my nearest volunteer neighbors for the first year of my service. So of course our sites could not be more different.
I live in a bustling village that straddles a single road, with the main path through my community threading twenty feet in front of my front door and hundreds of people passing my hut every day. Many of these passersby are children who walk to and from the nearby primary school, which is so close that I can hear when goals are scored in football matches and when church hymns emanate from classrooms-turned-chapels on Sundays.
Michael, on the other hand, lives on an isolated family compound 12 kilometers off of the main road along bumpy, dusty bush paths. There are no other houses within sight, so if he doesn’t leave the compound for a program, he could spend the entire day seeing and interacting with nobody but his host family. He does this often, because they’re awesome — Michael eats lunch and dinner every day with his host father and counterpart Ba Rodgers, his host mother Ba Justina, and their seven extremely photogenic and sassy children.
As an agriculture volunteer, Michael works with rural farmers to improve existing farming methods and help introduce efficient new techniques. Ba Rodgers has an incredible work ethic and an amazing integrated farm with a knack for animal husbandry, so while I was in Ngalama I toured the dry season garden, chicken coop, rabbit hutch (with an elevated tray for Michael’s and Ba Rodgers’ newest venture, guinea pigs), duck pond, and fenced pig enclosure. I tried my
hand foot at the innovative foot pump which carries water from the stream up to holding basins near the house, learned how to make palm oil, and ate all of Michael’s pasta. We even watched Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief with the entire family one evening. (Friday nights are movie nights, using Michael’s laptop charged by a solar panel/car battery setup to show various family-friendly American movies ranging from Tangled to How To Train Your Dragon.)
All told, it was a great two days spending time with a good friend and great volunteer, visiting a part of Luapula Province I hadn’t seen before and marveling at the incredible variances that can exist between two volunteers’ sites.