Wow. Where to begin. I talked a little about Second site visit and my host in my last post – Gen. Update September, but I wanted to give you some more details about the village and the area. I love it! It’s gorgeous now and it’s dry season when everything is burnt and dying… I can’t even imagine how spectacular it’s going to be once rainy season hits and the grass and fields start growing and everything is even more green.
First off, we started out from the provincial house in Mansa – the provincial capital and headed down the tarmac to another CHIP volunteer’s site about 35-40 km north of me. She’s my closest neighbor and a great host. She introduced us to her community, took us around and showed us her village, the local fauna (luapula river) and some of the amazing scenery in her area. We were introduced to her Chief, took our language classes, explored the village, spoke about experiences, hardships, and inspiring moments.
Then, I had a pretty rough patch. Looking back on it now, I know that it’s normal and healthy, and those of you who I’d talked with before I left will know as well that I’d expected the reaction, still, it was just as rough and more as I thought it would be…. I know, I know, now that I’ve built it up, what was it?
Well, it’s tough to type out into words. But I’ll just try and be as frank about it as possible. As we were coming back from our meeting with the Chief we encountered a funeral procession. A six year old girl had just passed away at the clinic and the family was carrying her back to the home to begin the funeral preparations and ceremony. The mother had her wrapped in chitenge strapped to her back, and the group was crying and mourning. They passed and went over to their home, at which point we gathered and continued on to the house. Later that night I went to the funeral to pay respect to the family and to show deference to the loss of a child.
I entered the funeral compound, a set of houses and family compounds segregated by sex – men sitting in one area, women gathered in another, family beside a bed outside one of the homes, and groups congregating here and there, mourning, crying, singing. It was overwhelming to say the least. I approached the group of men sitting on the furthest outskirt of the compound and asked where I could go to pay respect to the family. The told me to approach the group of women around the bed. I approached and knelt, lowering my head and showing respect. The girl was dressed up, wrapped in a blanket in the bed, surrounded by her female relatives.
The loss of life is always a difficult subject, and one that is challenging in any light. The loss of a child though is especially difficult. I couldn’t help but ask myself why, why is it that this would happen, or that this could happen? The myriad of emotions and feelings that washed over me and inside of me was something that was difficult to process. It took me a few days to fully work through the event, and the reassurance that these experiences were the reason I’m here in Zambia. To help with development, to assist in the preventative development of services and knowledge to prevent unnecessary loss of life and suffering.
I can’t express what happened, what I felt, or what’s going through my mind right now, I definitely can’t put it into text. But I think it’s important to share it, process it, and share that it served to strengthen my conviction to this program and career choice.
Overwhelmed by the funeral, I returned to the house and as night fell we made dinner. That night, a man accidentally burned down his home, making the night one heck of a adventure.
The next morning the cruiser came and picked us up from our PCV host and carried us away to our sites. We turned at the sign for the basic school, started down the dirt road heading into Chisunka village, we passed the school blue and white, standing in a cleared area, through a forested area, brush, and down into a Dambo (marsh) area across a bridge and stream, up a hill, and past my house. We drove into Chisunka proper through the city center (the Chief’s palace) past the small market and toward the clinic. We arrived at the clinic and I met my counterpart. We picked him up and headed over to my house, a four room brick house with thatch roof and four windows, a porch and a brand spankin’ new chimbusu (pit latrine)! We toured the home and I met with my housing committee, the group of people who were in charge of building and my compound. After we met we headed to the clinic and started exploring the area.
We headed back to the clinic, and I watched some of the work being done, learned about the catchment area and talked about some of the issues they were working on in our area. Then we headed over to my host’s house, hung out, we made dinner and relaxed. The next day, my host had to go to Mansa so I headed over to the clinic and watched antenatal clinics and learned about some of the information they were teaching about PMTCT and VCT. That afternoon, I headed home, grabbed my water, tossed in some iodine to make it safe to drink and rode to the tarmack (8-10k) and then rode down the road checking out more of my catchment. I headed home and grabbed dinner. Saturday we spent practicing bemba and exploring more of our catchment. I visited some of the smaller creeks around my house and explored some of the area. That afternoon they started burning to clear the grass and clear out their fields. On Sunday we rode over to Musonda Falls and the hydro-electric plant. We hung out at the club there, had some water and sodas, played chess and then biked back (around 20-22 klicks round trip). It was great to get out and see the scenery. Small creeks, high grass, forested areas, rolling hills and lakes … now in dry season. I can’t wait to see it once it starts raining daily. It’s going to be so beautiful!
I enjoyed the sunset – my host and I hung out, had dinner (I made breaded soya pieces, fried and they made Ubwali (nshima). Headed home, went to sleep, woke up, grabbed breakfast, then got picked up and taken back to the provincial house.
I can’t wait to get back in October!
More later! Ciao!