Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say “a lifetime of first dates.” That’s the level of awkwardness that my world has reached; every moment is a unconfortable, self-concious, and wary as a first date.
But let me back up. I swore in as an offical Peace Corps Volunteer almost two weeks ago now. Hard to believe, really. Time has taken on a different quality here, like being trapped in a giant jar of honey. It really is a totally different world. Life in America feels like a different world, a different time, a past dream that I woke up from just last week. I’ll try to refrain from being too existential, but being in the village gives one ample time to ponder these sorts of things. Anyway, I have moved to my new home in the village of Mwanachama by the Chofoshi stream. It’s idyllic. I was welcomed to Africa on my first nights alone by a swarm of impashi (fire ants, the ones that can kill babies in the night) all over my hut. Chaos reigned at midnight as I watched my floor crawl with insects and realize that I would have to burn my hut down to be able to sleep in it. So, knowing not a single soul, literally, I run to the nearest hut I can find and bang on the door, in mildly hysteric and broken Bemba explain that my house is overrun with impashi. Welcome to Africa, Ashley. I spent my first night on a stranger’s cement floor, sans mosquito net, with a single blanket and pillow. Never a dull moment, I suppose.
Despite this ominous beginning, I have settled into village life nicely over the past week. Once you realize that you actually can survive alone, the going gets easier. I have already had a surprisingly productive meeting with all of the area’s headmen and women, and am looking forward to getting started working. We’re not supposed to work in community entry, which has led to me wandering around my village aimlessly, spouting “Muli shani?” at every stranger I meet. Hence, the awkward First Date Syndrome. Virtually no one speaks English, and my Bemba (despite my Intermmediate-Mid score on my LPI, which I am convinced is a mistake) is child-like at best. This leads to clumsy introductions and inquiries of health and destination, and, enouraged that I can make small talk, they go off in a flood of garbled syllables that could be Martian for all I know. I smile and nod. Conversely, someone will stutter out a phrase in English and I, hopeful at hearing my native (and only) tounge, ask another question like “Where is the nearest place I can buy tomatoes?” and recive a smile and an “Okaay.”So then we sit in silence together for any indeterminate length of time until the uncomfortable farewell. Language barrier, HA! More like a vast vaccum of liguistic confusion and misunderstanding.
But really, things are quite fantastic. I miss meat. And ice cream. And good beer. And people that I love, like I had anticipated. Overall, however, you would have to drag me kicking and screaming back to Americaland. :D The weather is nice, everyone in the village is harvesting and I’m reading a lot of books and meeting people. Fitting into village life quite nicely, I think. Always on display, but it’s something that you get used to eventually.
Hope all is well back home…