It is difficult to describe what I do most days, hours, minutes. I mean, there are lots of things that happen lots of days that are just completely normal and run-of-the-mill ordinary. But it is all happening in Zambia. Which I guess makes it seem just a tad bit eccentric.
Here’s a chunk. Just one little chuck of what my Thursday looks like:
I woke up at 6am when my friend texted me to say “hey, aren’t we supposed to Skype today?” (If you’re not into Whatsapp, you should probably join the rest of the world. Unless you have an iPhone. Then we’re still cool and can text freely.) We then chatted for 2 hours (her video worked, mine did not) before she needed to go to bed and I needed to go to work (FYI, Skype/FaceTime works best for me between the hours of 10 pm and 8am. Go figure.) I spent 15 minutes getting ready for work (I’m currently on shamefully few showers each week, but this keeps the morning prep time to a minimum) .
I drove to work (after being supremely annoyed that the day guard was late and I both had to open and close the gate to leave. #thirdworldproblems?). On the way, I picked up Nurse Becky at the clinic (this week is focus on vaccination week, so I watched the hanging scale with cloth bag, you know, for the babies, for a bit) before loading up and heading off to school number one. School number one is only a pit stop –we pick up a few things, speak to the head teacher, and I’m taught just a bit more Bemba (I admit it; I struggle with learning languages. I need to write everything down).
As we drive to school number 2, we stop at the kiosk to say hello to our jewelry instructor. He’s working on his building and working on wood carving projects and working on teaching a class how to make jewelry and start earning money for the household (I feel like I’m just working on how to not make a spectacle of myself everyday). He volunteers me to take a student to school daily (I laugh and passive/aggressively drive away).
The road to school number 2 is dusty and bumpy and surrounded by children who shout greetings at the white woman driving through. I wave. There’s a cheekier bunch that were taunting me in a mock Chinese language last week (there’s a large population of Chinese miners nearby) but this week they only chant “Korea” (South Koreans have recently built a school nearby). I tell Nurse Becky I should chant USA in response (I’ve chanted USA more this past week than ever before, after answering the question “Do you guys call it the Soccer World Cup?”). She laughs , and we move on to the devastation of Spain.
I drop Nurse Becky at the school and head into town. I park on a block with the bookshop and “just say no” when the man on the street asks me if I am looking for someone (maybe it wasn’t sinister. From many people it is not. But he had a certain sneer that left me suspect.) I approached the clerk at the bookstore and tried to explain what we need. His boss is in just now, so he is particularly helpful. But they don’t have. The bookstore in the next town may have a few copies, we can order from there. I thank him, tell him I will return and go to the next place on my agenda.There’s a technology college on the outside of town that may have what we are looking for. I go there. The guard lets me in without question (I wonder about the job description of these guards? Or the requirements of whom they are guarding from? Or what exactly gets me the easy pass? I like to pretend that the easy pass is due to my overwhelming beauty. I move on.)
I’m not sure of who to speak to in administration (from the reaction of everyone there, they are not really sure who is to speak to me). I blanket the room of 5 with my questions (and look around from face to face requesting an answer). Someone makes a call, walks me outside and points to a group of men “that man, there” (“the one in the blue?” I ask before realizing they are all wearing blue). I walk towards the crowd. One of the men speaks to me. I give him my spiel. He tells me he understands and asks me to wait.
I alternate between the sun and the shade. (I already have an awkwardly developed tan. But it is cold in the shade. Like, I was wearing sweatpants, a sweater, and wrapped in a blanket for the entirety of my morning call, cold). I envision someone nearby looking out the classroom window just wondering what that mzungu is doing?
He comes back. He cannot help me. He is not happy about it, but someone has told him he cannot help (I think about sending him to speak to the guard who can obviously speak to my merits). I thank him for his time and drive back to the school.
Just under 1,000 words for the first 4.5 hours of my day.
For the rest of the day, I will take pictures of sponsored children and sit and chat with staff. I will sit with the head teacher and discuss a program he’s planning for next week. There’s a school nearby I hoped to visit – we’ll see how the day progresses. I will drive Nurse Becky into town, stopping again at our jewelry instructors stand to pick up a few finished products to be couriered to friends and then try for the millionth time this week to have a Skype conversation with my boss in the middle of the day (he suggested 10pm. That’s a solid hour past my current bedtime plans).
Tonight I will meet a family I am training with and try to remember why it was I ever decided to begin training for some undetermined 5K. I have to remember to go to the pharmacy for albendazole (don’t Google its use) cause that’s just what you do every few months when you live in Zambia. I will then watch football with people who have a lot of things more at stake in England v. Uruguay than I do (maybe I will learn a few things. Maybe I will nap a bit on the floor. It could really go either way). AND TONIGHT I HAVE TO BUY MY TICKETS TO TRAVEL TO THE US FOR AUGUST (those caps express excitement, but even more than that they express a need from multiple people in my life for me to actually solidify some travel plans).
All this before I will certainly miss my bedtime, but crawl into bed deeply satisfied that tomorrow is Friday. And still without a newsletter to send out to all you kind folks.
I’m working through a to-do list.