First, before I get into anything else, I just want to say THANK YOU SO MUCH for all the packages I got this month. Amazing. Aunt Eve and fam, I hadn’t really even realized how much I miss Trader Joes. Sydney, the little corn shaped candy thing was interesting. I am wearing the necklace now and can’t wait to use my chopsticks!!! Not to mention those other strawberry flavored things, they were great!!! Jess, that is enough seeds to make my garden amazing for next year. Unfortunately, we’ve had an incredible drought and my garden is more or less ruined (not even a single watermelon, beet, pea, or pepper – someone stole my okra – the maize has been “just a bit okay” and I’ve eaten a few cherry tomatoes). Anyway, I am way excited for next year. Tia, I’m so excited about the Burt’s Bees stuff and the book lights!!! Momma, the Christmas Chex mix made it here in outstanding form and was so tasty (and gone in two days – everyone was “enjoying”) and the beef jerky is totally exciting. So, thank you all tons!!! As I was opening them I was saying how it’s just like Christmas, then I realized they were probably sent at Christmas time and that was the intent. So, mission accomplished. Thanks a bundle.
Okay, moving on. It was determined on Wednesday that my house is definitely/probably going to fall over and Peace Corps is going to try to assist me with getting my community to either build me a new house (like they initially promised) or seriously fix up the one I’m in. I’ve had a crazy new bat infestation and the termites are devouring my roof and bricks. Pretty sure if I try to put in the windows I have planned, that the walls will just fall over. I’m not sure why, but Zambians always respond to this kind of thing with an “everything is going to be just fine” approach. One of my favorite/least favorite things about the “Zamblish” language is that they do not use the word “won’t.” Rather, they always use “can’t” where “won’t” would be a more appropriate word choice. Example:
“If you install the lock in this way, the children will be able to lock me inside my house!”
“No, no, no. They can’t.”
“But, they CAN.”
“No, they can’t.”
“But here, watch this. . . . See? They CAN.”
“Ah, no. They can’t.”
I’m sure they’re going to tell me that my house “can’t” fall down. I’ll try to persuade them with evidence that it really potentially CAN, and by the end of April I should have some more news on that front.
Right, so April. . . . I am planning a Girls’ Camp in my village. It is a girls empowerment and HIV prevention camp for one week April 15 – 21. I was approved for the 24million kwacha to carry out this project and I am pretty excited about my committee, who actually seem to want to work for the good of their community. A lot of volunteers do girls’ camps, boys’ camps, sports camps, etc. The beauty of this one is I’m working with PARVEN Foundation (an organization started by two Peace Corps Volunteers that works on income generating activities with commercial sex workers), based in Mansa. They’re sending the facilitators, which means the whole thing can happen in Bemba, and we can have break-away sessions every afternoon (with headmen, parents, teachers, and boys). The other thing of beauty is that we’re having a mobile VCT unit coming to test as many people as possible for HIV. So, I’m pretty excited and it’s going to be awesome!!! That’s pretty much the only work I’ll be able to do between now and then.
This week I was really busy. I’ve been in Mansa since last Friday. We held a Luapula-wide training for Peace Corps Counterparts working under the Ministry of Health. The counterparts facilitated sessions and presented project ideas to share across the province. It went really well. We ended yesterday with mobile VCT. I think 13 of our 25 participants were tested, and several had been tested before. So we were really pleased with the outcome. The training as a whole was pretty awesome. If only I could find a counterpart to work with in my village . . . well, that’s another story.
At the end of this LONG stint in Mansa, I am so ready to head back to my site tomorrow (bats and all). I’ve never spent this much time in Mansa before and it is pretty disorienting. We had a going away party for my friend Shannon. She is going back to the States on Tuesday. I can’t even imagine what that is like after such an intense experience living in Zambia for more than two years. It was a costume party, with costumes assigned by Shannon. Mine was an ‘80s work-out instructor. I rocked it. Photos to come.
I’m eating really tasty food (when I go back to the village, they will tell me that I look like I’ve been “enjoying” in Mansa – basically one of many ways Zambians have of telling you that you’re looking fat [it’s a compliment, but still slightly obnoxious]). We’ve been having family dinners at the house all week and they’ve been really amazing. Homemade ravioli, endless guacomole with homemade tortilla chips, you get the point. I’m sure I have gained back a few pounds this week. Time to go back to the village.
I am getting increasingly more and more excited about the upcoming visit (and oh yeah, wedding) in July. I’ve been thinking about it every chance I get and I’ve never been so psyched about anything in my whole life. Who knew that I’d be getting married, and that two of my best friends in the whole world would be coming all the way across the ocean to visit me in my mud hut in Africa??? This was not even on the radar when I left the States. Madness.
Many thanks to all those who’ve sent their congratulations. The news has traveled like wildfire through the Peace Corps Zambia grapevine. I’ve also heard from some people that they heard from their mom or friend in the States that I was getting married. Yes, friends it’s true. And clearly this means I’m a celebrity of sorts on the Internet. Woo-hoo!
So, I just wanted to prepare those of you who are coming for the big event (and those of you who just want to experience a little Peace Corps GOAL 3) with a little Bemba lesson. Study hard now, I want you all to wow the chitenges off Blessed’s family when you attend the big day. That’s right, we’re going to convince them you’re fluent. We should begin with greetings, arguably the very most important part of culture in Zambia:
MWASHIBUKENI MUKWAI (mwa-she-boo-kane-ey muh-qu-ai)
This is the morning greeting. It literally means “you have woken”
The response is:
EE MUKWAI (aaay muh-qu-ai) or ENDITA MUKWAI (en-dee-ta muh-qu-ai)
This just means “yes”
Then they might ask you:
MWASHIBUKA SHANI? (mwa-she-boo-ka sha-nee)
Litterally “how have you woken?”
BWINO (bwee-no), BWINO BWINO (bwee-no bwee-no), or TWACIBUKAFYE BWINO (twa-she-boo-ka-fee-ay bwee-no)
This means “good/fine,” “good good,” or, for the more adventurous, “we have woken just fine”
You can also return the question by adding:
NGA IMWE? (ing-ga eem-way)
It means “and you?” Wait for them to answer. They’ll either give you a “BWINO” or:
PANONO FYE (pah-no-no fee-ay)
It means “just a little” in literal translation, but if they say this they mean that they’ve woken sick or something is wrong. You rarely hear this one. If you do you should say:
CABIPA (cha-bee-pa) or CABIPA SANA (cha-bee-pa sah-nah)
To indicate that you’re sorry or very sorry (respectively).
If they, or you, say “BWINO” the appropriate response might be:
CAWAMA (chow-wa-ma) or CISUMA (chee-suu-ma)
Both of these mean, “it is beautiful” and are optional responses.
Here’s a much clearer dialogue:
Me: “Mwashibukeni Mukwai!” -- “You have woken!”
You: “Ee Mukwai.” -- “Yes.”
Me: “Mwashibuka shani?” -- “How was your waking?”
You: “Ah, bwino bwino fye! Nga imwe?” -- “Ah, just fine fine! And you?”
Me: “Twashibukafye bwino sana!” -- “We have woken just very fine!”
Bemba is a language that incorporates a lot of respect for those who are older or, for whatever reason, deserve a lot of respect (that’s the whole point of the MUKWAI – it is additional respect, it can’t be translated into any English equivalent). So when you refer to someone with respect, you use the same form as for 2nd person plural. So, as I understand it, you answer on behalf of many other people so as not to assume that you are being afforded all this extra respect. So, rather than saying “I’ve woken just very fine,” you say “We’ve woken just very fine!” It’s an awesome language and I love it!!! I’m getting pretty good at understanding, but I honestly don’t give myself enough experience in speaking. I promise to work on it and wow you when you come.
Fear not my friends, there are more lessons to come. For now allow me to end this lengthy flow-of-consciousness entry by saying: I MISS YOU ALL SANA SANAFYE (just very very much). I hope that all is well with everyone “that side” (another Zam-ism). Thank you again for the letters and the packages. I’ve been so spoiled. You are all tooooooo good to me! Think good thoughts for me that my funding comes through in time for my Girls’ Camp in April (always a challenge), and that my house doesn’t fall down before another/better solution arises. I promise that all will be well by the time my visitors arrive at the end of June!!! (Oh, my gosh, that’s so soon, yet so far away at the same time.) I love you all and send you hugs (sana sana).