Monday, January 31, 2011

Year One

It’s unbelievable to think that I’ve been here in Zambia nearly a year now. I remember last year at this time, my life was an impossible free-fall into the unknown. I think I spent the whole last month subconsciously hyperventilating, watching the last moments of my familiar life fly by my eyes at the speed of light. Weird to think about it all now, all of the things I know, all that I have learned and seen and experienced, and it’s crazy to think that all of it has happened in just a short 365 days (although I’m sure my mother would disagree with my use of adjectives). It’s even stranger to be able to look forward to this time next year, and be able to actually fathom how far I will continue to go. It’s mind-numbing, really.

Thank you to all who have stuck by me in the past year. I appreciate your thoughts and letters and packages more than I could ever tell you. Moreover, I am so happy that you are letting me share my experience with a willing and interested audience. Once again, I encourage you all to drop me a line via my e-mail, facebook, or post a comment here. I have pretty good access to electronic communication (just a short 15k ride through the mud away!), and I’d love to hear from all of you. A good-old fashioned letter would be like Christmas all over again, although I do want to remind you all how sketch the postal system is here (when that post-office person “guarantees” that it will get to me in 6-10 days, you can correct him with good authority that while it might arrive on African soil by then, I most definitely won’t receive it for another three weeks. Sorry sorry.) My dear friends, don’t let this discourage you, because I know that you love me more to risk it, however, if you are looking for a response fast fast, snail-mail is not the way to go. It’s more like sloth-mail, or geological formation-mail. I’m used to it by now, but I know you aren’t, and if you are worried that it’s lost somewhere in the bush equivalent of cyberspace, shoot me a line electronically that you would like to know it’s arrived and I can get back to you as soon as it does…if it does. And please don’t tease me with tantalizing promises of actually being able to fit Eric Bana without his shirt in a flat-rate shipping box, I might suspect you aren’t really serious about sending me goodies.

On this same vein, my faithful fans who have been sending me goodies (thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!!!) have stocked me well on bar soap and lotion, cross-words and puzzle books, writing utensils, and hearts full of love. I can get plenty of peanut butter and sweets here, and tuna too, so I’m well-stocked on those. Things that I would be over-the-moon to receive:

-Granola bars, fruit snacks (Dinosaurs, trucks and Batman are some of my personal favorites), and those crackers snacks with cheese. Anything you might stick in your average 6th grader’s lunchbox. Sweet snacks are easy to procure here, but savory is harder to find and those are usually what I am craving.

-instant meals, soups, potatoes…it’s like culinary magic. You know that aisle you always avoid in the grocery store unless you’re truly desperate after a long day? Yeah, go there. The beefier or cheesier or herbier it is, the better.

-Face wipes, hand sanitizer, and pepto-tabs.

-smelly candles are my new favorite treat. If you’re worried about perfuming my savory snacks with floral notes (I probably won’t care…beef jerky is beef jerkey), incense would also rock.

-condiments! Single-serving mayo, brown mustard, soy and taco sauce, salsa, katsup, salad dressing, anything….if you get too many in your next fast food order, don’t throw it away! There are flavor-starved Volunteers in Africa who would love to have those extras.

As always, if you aren’t sure, just drop me a quick e-mail. I love hearing from you! Switching gears. Had the most fantastic trip ever this Christmas, it was wonderful. Spent twelve solid days attached at the hip to my sister, I think we spent maybe 40 minutes out of each other’s sight the entire time, including bathroom time. The showers were glorious, and I even took a picture of my bed at the Holiday Inn, leaving it behind made me a bit teary. Despite some last-minute complications with the snow situation and being sick and unable to eat all of that delicious Parisian cuisine I was so looking forward to, we did manage to see a few of the sights and, most importantly, spent some amazing quality time together being goofy, getting lost, making inside jokes, and spending what little money we had. In other words, it was perfect. Also, to my pleasant surprise (while I was sobbing in the Heathrow bathroom after sending Amber on her way), as soon as my feet landed on Zambian soil, I was so happy to be back. It felt like I was actually returning home, and that felt good. I had a shift of perspective that has made me appreciate my time here even more. I still miss my family and friends, but I am truly content here, and it would take wild horses to drag me back before my service is done. Zambia doesn’t have the highest rate of extension volunteers in all of Peace Corps for nothing.

As my one year anniversary in country approaches, I find myself looking forward to my second year of service. I think I’ll be better at it. I have so many things I want to work on now, plus my own personal New Year’s goal. Feel free to call me crazy, but I have decided to run the half-marathon at Victoria Falls in Livingstone at the end of August. In fact, I call myself crazy every day I go out for my run, but I am looking forward to the challenge. How often would you get the chance to run a race at one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world?

Hope all is well in the throes of winter over there. I got a bit more tan yesterday, teehee. :D Love you all...



  1. Aww Ash, I can't believe it was a year ago that we were giving you your big Vancouver-style sendoff! Things certainly have changed A LOT since then! I love your comments about the Zambian mail system...I was giggling thinking about the prospect of sending you a handwritten letter from here in the Alaskan bush just to see if it could make it all the way to the African bush. I might just try it, and if it does, well, the postal system deserves a medal of honor! I think about you often, sending good vibes your way, and i love reading your blog updates! I'll keep you posted on that letter...(mail pun not intended...)

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