Ep. 1: the one that started it all

This first week has been a whirlwind of adjusting to life and the culture in Zambia. Peace Corps has a cycle of emotions throughout service that they keep showing us, but I think we all have experienced all the ups and downs in one day. Every day is pushing yourself a little further and being a little more comfortable in the latrine. 


We spent our first three days in Zambia at a hotel in Lusaka, where we had medical consultations, filled out A LOT of paperwork, and got to know our languages!! We then moved to our training site, which for all the CHIPers is Chongwe. Here we all live with a host family in the village, and then have class at the training center Monday – Saturday. Almost every day we will have four hours of language, and then 4 hours of technical. I am learning Bemba, the most common language in Zambia. Some languages are so specific that you can know which province you are going to based on which language you are learning, but I could be going to one of four; Central, Northern, Muchinga, and Luapula. I honestly have no idea which province I will be placed in, and I’m trying not to form an opinion so that I’m not disappointed! 

Adjusting to the homestay has been a process. My family is so kind and welcoming. They have a table cloth and chair covers all over their home that say “feel at home”.  When we arrived on Sunday, I was so overwhelmed and appreciative at the same time. My family has hosted volunteers twice a year since 2006, so they’ve had their fair share of Americans. They are not at all surprised by my irrational fear of bugs/ all other things I haven’t yet mastered. But, I have a very nice hut, Latrine, and shower house all to myself. I am well fed and taken care of :). I even have a light connected to electricity that is turned on from 6pm to 6am!!!! They know all of us Americans are afraid of the dark. I love it. 

Funny stories of the week: 

  1. The bugs. Everyone knows that I am not a fan of the creepy crawlies. I knew that Zambia would push these limits, but I chose not to think about it. Anyways, we have an ant problem. Millions of teeny tiny black ants. On any given afternoon, you can see me do a stomp dance all throughout my hut to try to kill as many as possible. I also have made an agreement with the wall spiders. As long as they do not enter my mosquito net, I will leave them on the wall. For now. When they get too close to my things, I have to smash them. Those suckers are HUGE. 
  2. This morning there was a mixup on the location of language training in the morning, so half of us ended up at the wrong place. A group of us decided to take a shortcut through some side streets that had seemed fairly straightforward the day before…. but somehow was not nearly as straightforward to us. Imagine 5 white girls in the bush of Zambia, on mountain bikes & wearing helmets, who only know how to introduce themselves in the local language, asking for directions. It ended up that we just paralleled the main road for the majority of the time to the center, with a few detours. Every single time we stopped we attracted a crowd of youngsters yelling “how are you?!”.  I also learned the word the for lost today! It was quite an adventure, and we spent the whole hour laughing at ourselves. That may have been a better cultural lesson than the one we missed? I guess we’ll never know. 

10 thoughts on “Ep. 1: the one that started it all

  1. Hey Katie! Your Aunt Pam and I are so proud of you. Sounds like you are enjoying the local wild life as it were, lol.
    Are there any hedge apple like trees there. Here, in the old days we would cut the hedge apples in half and lay around the basement walls and it would keep the spiders away. Might try it, if they do have something like that.
    Ants, I don’t know, keep stomping I guess. LOL
    From reading your Post, I get the sense that you made the right choice and that you are enjoying this experience of a life time.
    And just remember, those spiders are as scared of you as you are of them.
    Look forward to the next post.
    Uncle Steven


    • I haven’t seen any apple trees, but maybe I could use mangos? With my luck that would attract more ants though!! I’m sure I will find some tricks to get rid of the bugs soon 🙂


  2. Hi Katie,
    Seems like a week full of both adjustments and amazements! Your mom told me about the lizard. I hope it’s found another home by now. I had a mouse jump from an empty flower pot in the garage this eve as I was reaching for a garden tool. I about had a heart attack – but at least I can set a trap! Do you have mail service? I’ll send you one, LOL!! Idk if I could handle the bugs either – sure I’d be in a beekeeper’s suit 24/7! And by the way, a fear of bugs is not irrational!!
    Good news that your host family is experienced with volunteers [I can’t find CHIPers in the online lexicon so won’t call you one till I know for sure what it is!] such that your predecessors have already paved the way – that’ll help you for sure. Like they already knew you’d like an electric light!
    How long will it be before you know what province you’ll be assigned to? And how many of you will be at each location? I looked at a map to see where you are and saw the distribution of all the languages spoken there – oh my! Good thing that you’re such a smart lady – could be quite a challenge. I recently saw a “Destination Truth” episode with Josh Gates as he passed Victoria Falls. Think you should put that place on your list to go see, LOL! Take care as you learn your way around!
    Love you Katie Lady, Great Aunt Pam


    • Hi Pam!
      I have decided that the lizards are friends here, because they eat the bugs :). I’m slowly getting more used to the bugs…. it’ll be a process.
      CHIP stands for community health improvement program, it is the sector which I will be working in through peace corps :). I think I should be finding out my site in 3-4 weeks, and it is possible that I am the only volunteer at my site! But they make sure that another volunteer is within a bikeable distance, so I will never be totally isolated. My plan is to visit Victoria Falls as soon as possible!! Lots of love ❤️


  3. Hi Katie, it is so nice to be able to check the site and see where you are, how you are doing and what your fun and struggles are. It makes your distance away seem much closer. Think about you daily and keep you in my prayers! I know your mission will be a successful one. I am very proud of all you have and will do. Take care, and should we send some bug spray?
    Great aunt Sharon


    • I’m glad you’re enjoying it!! Hopefully I can keep posting regularly :). I’ll let you know as soon as I run out of bug spray! 😉


  4. Hi Katie – It’s Lisa from across the hall of your Mom’s – She passed along your blog to our book club, and know that we are all right there on this adventure with you whenever we read your wonderful, vivid and colorful posts. We are all cheering for you!! Hugs to you and keep smashing those bugs!


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