I was heading home on that bus, after a fantastic vacation with Allyn, Michelle, and my mom (we fit in a safari, waterfalls, 3 countries, lots of market time, relaxing on a lake, and so much delicious food in 9 days. I love visitors). But with the end of my service looming and for sure being in Iowa late in August (someone has a wedding, I hear?), I've been tripping over the word 'home' as it tumbles out of my mouth. The location and delineation of home is slippery.
When you ask a Zambian where they come from, there's a slight hesitation, confusion over the question. "I come from Such&Such village in Luapula Province," you might hear, "but I was born in and have always lived in Lusaka." Here, where one comes from is determined by where one's family is, where they come from. I've been jealous of this all but assumed understanding of where you come from, the people and place that claim you. Those roots run deep, and I've interpreted this as having only rudimentary, shallow roots myself. But looking towards the wedding and talking with my mom about all of the family (both blood-related and not) that we'll see there - some of whom I haven't seen for years - I realize that although I may not have a secure "where are you from?" in the same way that Zambians do, I do have a strong network of "where can you go?" My roots may not be buried deep in the bedrock, but they branch out, extend far in many directions. The stability and security I feel in embracing that is beautiful. Makes it easier to swallow my confusion over my own home.
The past year has rushed by, much like the waterfalls that have played such a prominent role in it. I'm not done quite yet, but it's close enough that I can taste it in the air. Bittersweet. This year has been many sorts of wonderful that I'll tell you about when I'm actually done, but it's also been educational. So...
12 Things I've Learned in 12* Months
- Africa gets cold. Really.
- More than I ever expected to know about malaria.
- Wild animals may look adorable, but they're still wild. Proceed with caution.
- Learning local greetings will make people smile. Learning the language will impress them, earn their respect. Put some effort into it.
- How to use a smartphone. Those screens are tricky.
- Trainings are better when run in a local language, by local trainers
- Putting time, energy, and $$ into a place to make it your own is worth it, even if you'll only be there for 12 - 8 - 6 - however few months.
- Tourists, short term volunteers, and even missionaries have interesting experiences. Don't be so condesending and disregard them; listen to them and learn from them.
- Network. Just put on your big girl pants and do it.
- A hot shower is never going to get old.
- Don't look a baboon in the eye, and don't feed the monkeys. Just don't.
- Your mid-20's aren't going to look like your 18 year old self thought they would. And that's ok.
* almost. 11 1/2 months, stop being so particular.
Peace & Love