Just enough light was peeking through the little window across room that her body knew that it was time to wake, but her eyes weren’t ready to open. “Come on,” her body urged. “You have to gather some mushrooms and greet Bamaama. She’s been up for an hour preparing for you.”
The scent of freshly lit charcoal wafts through the little window. It’s a scent that stings the nostrils and signals that makavekave is being prepared. In her mind she pictured what the room would look like when she opened her eyes. Through the mosquito net she would see the mud brick wall. Rolling over she continued to look into her mind. There was the doorway out of the bedroom into a small side room with a table and her bicycle leaning against the back wall. The house was not big, maybe 3X5 meters but over the last three month it had come to feel like a home.
She opened her eyes. There was no mud wall, no bicycle, no table. They had been replaced with the white linens of a hotel. Even the light was different, harsh streaming through large glass panes. Training was over and tomorrow she would be waking up in Solwezi. For three months she biked the 30 minutes to and from the training center where she practiced digging earthen ponds for fish farming, acted out common fraud and crime scenarios to learn how to protect herself and practiced diagnosing and treating common ailments. She lived in her lovely mud and grass thatched house with her Bamaama, Ba Eness, who diligently fed her her daily lump of nshima and taught her how to eat with her hands, wear a chitenge and speak kiikaonde. All to prepare for life as a volunteer.
Thus far she had not been considered a volunteer, but a trainee; the stage which she had never really considered when applying. Pushing herself out of bed she thought about what she thought it would be like coming to serve in the Peace Corps. “It’s different, that’s for sure.” Though she couldn’t put her finger on any thing, she determined that it was the overall feeling, being in a foreign country, playing a part in global development that was different that she had anticipated. She slipped into her special purple fish dress. Prior to coming to Zambia she thought she would feel a sense of grandeur, like every moment would be imbued with meaning. But boy, did training humble her. The monotony, lack of freedom and pressure to learn more that humanly possible wore on her. In the bathroom mirror she applied a little bit of make-up, something she had bought as an afterthought the night before she left Philadelphia. She knew she wasn’t alone with these feelings. One day, about six weeks into training she saw a friend and fellow trainee squatting across the lawn of the training center. She had gone over to join him, not looking for conversation really, just quite company. However, she had noticed a word in chibemba, written in pen on the back of his hand.
“What’s that?” she said, sounding it out.
As happy as she was to be through with training and being called a trainee, she was feeling a bit nervous climbing into the cruiser to travel to the Ambassador’s house. Over the last three months she had come to find that the demands of a volunteer where also different than she thought fifteen months when she first applied; living in a hut with no plumping or electricity was the easy part. As a trainee she had been sheltered from a lot of things volunteers regularly have to deal with. Trainees have other trainees close by with whom to vent and relate, transportation, though not always perfect, is pre-arranged and Language and Culture Facilitators are always within arm’s reach to help sort out conflict, confusion and answer even the most trivial of questions. In a few hours all of this would be gone.
Inside the 12 foot concrete barricade surrounding the Ambassador’s house was a lawn so green and lush that it transported all who walked upon it right back to the US. There were tiny warm apple strudels set out on a white table cloth with coffee. And just like in the US, she was the first one to turn the white table cloth brown. Her nervous where getting the best of her. Juba jikatampa, it is a big day, one that seemed like it would never come, let alone that she would have been selected to make a speech in kiikaonde in front of all in attendance.
“Shoot!” where is that speech? She dug through her purse, her hands still a little sticky from apple strudel.
“Please, if ever one can find their seats!” the Master of Ceremony, Ba Catherine, cried out. “The Ambassador and Chieftness are ready to begin.”
“I Chelsi Burger, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
“Mutende mwane bonse! Jizhina jami ne Chelsi. Nsakwamba mumulaka wa bantu baswa meema. Kwimenako batwetu bepaana, mbena kusanchila kafulumende ya Meleka pa kwituswisha kwiya mu Zambia kabifi ne kafulumende ya Zambia kwitutambulwila na maboko abifi ne kwituswisha kwingila mu kyalo kyabo. Kabifi kechi twakonsha kulubako kusanchila bamingilo mu Peace Corps kuno ku Lusaka ne ku PST pa bukwasho bo betupeele pa kimye kya kufunda. TWASANTA MWANE!”