After about six weeks away from Zambia, I have finally returned to Zambia and to Kasanka National Park. My time in America was great; it was a good time to relax and catch up with friends and family. I also had a chance to help out with a couple of Peace Corps recruiting events at Iowa State University while I was back. It was fun to be on campus again and see the changes that had been made in the last three years. I helped out at both the Student Service and Volunteer Fair and the Study Abroad Fair. I also helped with a webinar for prospective volunteers. I answered a ton of questions – some great, some not so great. The biggest questions I had were about safety and about how competitive the application process is. I tried to clear up some misconceptions about the safety of volunteers, and encourage people to apply. It was fun to share some of my experiences with people thinking about applying and also with the other RPCVs who were also helping during the events.
My birthday was a lot of fun. I celebrated in Ames with a couple of my friends from college. We watched the ISU/UConn football game at one of the bars and then celebrated the rest of the night at some of our favorite hot spots on Welch. It was weird being back on Welch and on campus and not knowing anyone. I was so used to seeing people that I knew everywhere that it was a new experience to me. I also celebrated back in Corning with my family and a couple of my good friends from high school. I’m glad I got a chance to
celebrate in America for the first time in two years.
I ended up getting two extra days of vacation due to the Zambian election. The election was held September 20, with the results to be announced on September 22. Unfortunately this coincided exactly with the dates I planned to leave America and land in Zambia. So, in the interest of safety (with any election, no matter how peaceful the country, there is always a chance for violence) the Country Director decided that he would move my arrival
in Zambia from the 22nd to the 24th. Thankfully, the election went off with only a few minor episodes of violence. Zambia elected a new president, Michael Sata from the Patriotic Front (PF) party to replace Rupiah Banda of the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD). Sata has already been sworn-in as the fifth president of Zambia. It was a peaceful and painless transition. Most people are very excited for this new president, since he has promised to help the poor and the majority of his support comes from the rural areas. It will be interesting to see if changes will take place in the next eight months that I am here.
My flights back were all on time and I didn’t have any problems. My luggage was about twenty pounds overweight, but I just sucked it up and paid the extra money for the overweight luggage. I filled my bags with all sorts of American goodies – mostly food, new clothes, toiletries, and books. I was able to check my bags all the way through from Des Moines to Lusaka, even though I was spending a night in Johannesburg. This made it a lot
easier to check in and out of the airport in Joburg. I spent a night in a small guest house near the airport, which was pretty uneventful. It did give me a good chance to catch up on my sleep before landing in Zambia.
One of my friends from high school happened to be in Lusaka for work the weekend I got back from America. It was awesome to have someone from back home here in Zambia and to show her a little bit of Lusaka (even though she has been here before). It was also fun to make references to Iowa things and have someone there to understand what I was talking about, instead of the blank stares I usually get.
After a day in Lusaka and a day in Serenje, I finally got back to Kasanka on Tuesday. It has been interesting so far, trying to find out what got done while I was gone and what I should start working on next. I am still working on finishing up everything with the Art Contest for Conservation. Unfortunately the final entries did not get picked up while I was gone so I spent the first days back biking around and picking up the entries. Between
being on vacation for six weeks and the heat, so much biking has not been a pleasant experience. Other than that, I will be focused on staying cool during hot season and getting fully adjusted back to life in rural Zambia. It does seem hotter here than it was at my old site, which makes sense since I am about 200 meters lower in elevation. Every day it is hot, dry and windy. Thankfully the cement floors and walls help to keep it a little bit cooler. I’m definitely dreading October, when it will be REALLY hot. I already miss network and internet, but at least I am getting caught up on reading and sleeping!