Looking back at the last 39 months in Zambia is a unique feeling.
On July 17th 2011, I embarked on a life changing journey. An experience that was unlike anything else I had ever imagined or experienced. A whole new world, one which I’d never been introduced to – one ignored by our world history classes, brushed over by our geography classes that treated the African continent as a whole… I was heading to the bright, vibrant, and wildly alive country of Zambia. I wasn’t ready, and in my mind all I knew was the dark continent.
I had traveled before, visiting Mexico, Canada, Western Europe, the UK and Ireland, Italy multiple times, and exploring Eastern & Central Europe with a brief run around in Turkey on a four month solo walkabout, but those experiences hadn’t prepared me for landing at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka, Zambia.
As we gathered together our luggage, and passed out of the short, squat building – we were greeted by warm, welcoming faces and excited cheers. The Lusaka staff, Peace Corps Volunteer Leaders, and support staff had gathered together to help funnel us to the right place. Africa was already nothing like I’d imagined. Cool, we were in the depth of winter, and with shock on our faces we were herded over to an open area and took our proof of life photo, and then loaded our gear into the Toyota Land Cruisers. Those first 24 hours included new food, sickness, bonding, drinking, exploring, confusion, language sharing, and a host of other experiences that I will never forget. They were moments of finding ourselves in a new place, familiar and yet so terribly different. Exciting, adventure!
As the months slipped past, we moved from site visits, and our home stay families, explored more of the country and found our way. We learned how to cook, start fires, bathes, and keep ourselves healthy and motivated. We struggled with the eight intensive hours of training six days a week, compounded by the constant learning of every waking moment. We finally finished up our training – left our host parents behind, took our oaths at the Ambassador’s Residence and headed out to our villages for the next two full years of service.
My Host Mother – Regina Pre-Service Training, Chongwe Zambia 2011.
As we entered our villages and spent every waking moment of the next months adapting, living, and working to understand and help improve our communities, we grew not only as skilled professionals, but as human beings. Our empathy expanded, and our minds and hearts opened up to a new world. We experienced what felt like very single emotion, every possibility – we knew intimately. Those times were fantastic, and if you choose to meander back through those early posts, and take that journey with me – which I highly suggest, the first post starts at http://www.davidberger.net/2011/08/pst-brief-update/ and continues on from there!
In my last year as PCVL, I had the privilege and joy of working in Southern Province, just a few hours north of the astonishing Victoria Falls, it was a difficult but amazing experience which I’ve touched on in the last couple of posts. From Site Development to HR and Facilities maintenance, I was exposed to the whole gambit of program operations and support. In the final two months of my service, with the exciting news that a replacement had been found, I was called to the Peace Corps Headquarters to work in Records Management. I spent that time centralizing the Programming and Training records, and sorting through the entire post history, discovering stories and experiences of generations of volunteers before me, and being able to develop a unique insight into the changes and transition of Peace Corps over the years.
There I also found myself working on mapping and data entry, as well as exploring a completely different perspective.
As my final days slipped by, and I wrapped up my final programs – it was a moving and challenging time. Culminating with a ring out ceremony, surrounded by almost the entire Peace Corps HQ staff, and showered in praise and good will, memories and stories from my service and love and support for the journey ahead, I flew out of Zambia after 39 months, on October 8th 2014 – boarding an Emirates flight bound for Dubai and then headed north to Denmark where Copenhagen, my brother and parents eagerly awaited me.