I’m resting on my porch, sitting and enjoying the sweet smell of rains on the air. Flowers are blooming, the land is growing, and harvest edges closer every day.
I’d returned last night to a land that I didn’t recognize. My home is different. I was startled. Caught off guard. In awe. The rains had come. In just 14 short days the grasses had started overtaking the roads, the long tendrils of corn had burst from the loving earth, their talons clawing for the sky. Everywhere was green, everywhere familiar landmarks lay under a tangled mess of green and life. Nature was retaking it’s dominion.
Today, like every day, like every moment in Africa, was a great day. Special. Natural. Real. Peace Corps Zambia has it right. This is the real Africa. Even though I’m exploring this wilderness with my own person, the technology that allows me to communicate this message seems woefully out of place. I chained my trusty Goal Zero solar panel to my backpack today and rode out into the wilderness. I came across another outpost of civilization with cement bricks, paint, rotting wiring and unfinished solar installations. A functioning school, with old desks, broken windows, and eager minds yearning for their only chance… knowledge, regardless of the quality or quantity. They attend trying to gain any edge they can to improve their lives. I fill my canteen, run 90 seconds of UV radiation through it, take a sip, mount up and ride over to the school. The morning rains are here and so are my peers. Five eager minds, all ten to twenty years older than me, with families and grand children… We sit, I stand, and begin my TOT (training of teachers). These five make up my NHC (neighborhood health committee) in this zone.
We start off, I stumble through my introduction, it’s been two weeks since I’ve used advanced Bemba. The message gets through. Then warmed up, we jump into it. Problem identification re-visited, needs matrix, and importance ranking, allow us to select today’s topic… Nothing glamorous or exciting but a topic that will save lives, ukupolomya (diarrhea).
The complexity increases, all in Bemba, as we discuss the problem, do a problem tree, and get to the roots. Then it’s time for some solution finding. We talk our way through well construction, latrine site selection, water contamination, tippy taps, hand washing, and latrine construction. We talk about cutting steps into surface water sources to cut down on transmission of bilharzia and shistosomaisis. Three hours later we’ve got the basics down. The oral fecal cycle and ways to interrupt it. We’ve wandered the halls of knowledge and shared many related topics but our goal is complete. These five understand where diarrhea comes from. Each steps forward and repeats to me what we’ve learned. We’ll meet again and review, but in the meantime it’s up to them to teach and share today’s lesson with their community. We talk about NGOs and aid, about project proposals and we set a date for our next meeting. It’s just the start but it’s a good introduction of topics, problems and the process to solve them using knowledge instead of charity. Empowerment through education, education through empowerment, what a fun discussion.
I say goodbye and leave, declining a lunch of ubwali and ifishimu. Biking home I stop at some familiar spots to record the changes brought by the rainy season.
I reach home, buy some mushrooms the size of my chest, some tomatoes, a citenge to mends some rips in my bag, and retreat to my porch. Just in time to write you this blog! Pretty exciting life I know.