Tagged: peace corps

A front row seat to Hannah’s “reverse culture shock show”

Surprise! (or not surprise). I’m coming back to the states for the holidays. I’m coming back to cuddle my little sister, drive on the right side of the road and visit meijer at 1 am. I’m coming to buy a new pair of nikes, drink slushies and make snow angels. I’ve got my little list of to dos and most of them are financially cheap and include touching the people I love.

I’m writing (for the first time in a long time I know, I know) to talk about what it feels like to come home. I’m grateful that I was able to come home about a year and a half ago to celebrate my baby bro and his super cool wife on their wedding day (I was the best woman, cool right?). During that visit, I experienced a phenomenon that I’ve heard other volunteers describe. The phenomenon that when we come home, sometimes it’s hard for people to know… what to… do with us I guess. How to ask us questions, what to ask, how to talk about issues, how to ask if the thousands of dollars of fireworks affect our hearts after our experiences in Zambia, how to interact with us, how to talk with us about Trump, how to bring up family events that happened while we are away, just what to do with us in general. Our presence might make some uncomfortable, understandably. We’re going through some big life changes and we make ourselves uncomfortable sometimes too. Perhaps a more evident and uncomfortable feeling many of us experience, is the feeling that we have when we want to share about our new lives but are nervous, don’t know how or don’t feel like the interest of hearing about it is there. So here are a few of my pointers on how to make my trip back home a little more comfortable for me (and hopefully for you!) and how to make me feel even more love during my trip home.

DO:

  • Tell me that you don’t know what to ask (and I will figure something out)
  • Ask me about the kids that I love

    IMG_5113.JPG

    Oscar

  • Ask me about the differences between my life in the village and in the big city (where I now live)
  • Ask me about what it’s like to miss out big events like weddings, funerals and sports games
  • Hug me
  • Ask me about my Zambian friends, brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, mentors, supervisors, grandma’s and grandpa’s and how they’ve facilitated my growth, comforted me and gave Zambia meaning to me.
  • Ask me about my volunteer family
  • Ask me about my new job as the Peace Corps Volunteer Leader
  • Ask me about Zambian hospitality
  • Ask me about my Zambian family
  • Ask me about my pupils
  • Touch my face
  • Ask me what it’s like living abroad with Trump as president
  • Ask me what it was like living abroad with Obama as president
  • Ask me to see some pictures
  • Ask me to watch some videos

    IMG_20171014_053751.jpg

    Our crew

  • Ask me to teach you some Bemba (the local language I used and one of the 72 Zambian languages)
  • Ask me about any strange phrase I’m using (it might be a new habit. Would love to explain how English is often used differently
  • Ask me about my pets
  • Ask me about my house
  • Tell me you don’t understand something that I’m saying
  • Ask me about Oscar
  • Ask me how many Mangos I’ve eaten (but don’t expect a real answer)
  • Kiss my cheeks
  • Ask my about my crew(s)
  • Ask me about my daily lifeWhatsApp Image 2017-11-20 at 10.06.40
  • Ask me about the difference between my daily life in the village and my daily life in the city (things like cooking, bathing, using the bathroom, etc.)
  • Ask me how my body is adjusting to the Michigan cold (and I will answer how it is not)
  • Ask me about swimming in the lake with my babies
  • Ask me about my newly found love for African music and dancing to it
  • Ask me to dance for you (play a little music and I would love to)
  • Talk about your experiences in travel as your personal experiences separate and different than mine

Please try not to: 

  • Ask me “how is Africa?”
  • Ask me about seeing lions, tigers and elephants in my backyard
  • Ask me a question if you aren’t interested in hearing my answer
  • Ignore the fact that I’ve been away for the past two plus years
  • Compare my experience to your trip abroad (or to anything really, and I promise to try not to compare mine to yours either)

I’m going to be vulnerable and explain that my life here is well… my life here. That to me means that I hold my experiences here deep, deep inside my heart. They are difficult to explain and sharing opens up that space for either validation in them or disappointment if I’m sharing with someone who seemingly doesn’t care. That sharing my life here feels risky sometimes because of that. So I am asking for your patience and grace while I learn how to share my life here and yet still protect it deep inside my heart, which feels like the safest and most appropriate place for it sometimes. Because it is so difficult to explain the value that I’ve found in my experiences here. I think that all of this is okay and I hope my loved ones and I are open to the journey of growing together in sharing our experiences.

I hope that me sharing these feelings hasn’t intimidated you into interacting or not with me during my visit home. I hope you will still feel open to me and share your love with me as you know I want to share my love with you. Even with the dos and don’ts that I’ve shared, I can feel y’alls hearts and will always follow that instinct. The instinct that tells me that your love will be enough for me. I hope that we can all be brave enough to be vulnerable in sharing our lives no matter how deep they might be being held at the moment. Thank you for your patience and grace as I step into my new unknown that I still call a home. See y’all on December 8th. Enjoy the front row seat to my reverse culture shock show…

Much love always.

 

Advertisements

Haven of peace 

"My little haven of peace/hut"

“My little haven of peace/hut”

Whaaaaat upppppp! Long time no wifi (on my part at least). It’s been relaxing but I’ve been excited to update yall on my experience so far.

Disclaimer: all the information I’m about to share has been passed to me by word of mouth (which in my opinion is a pretty cool way to pass info but still…) It may be subjective and emotional based but hey, what do you expect from me anyway! I’m lead by my heart (d’awww).
Zambia is known to some as a haven of peace. It’s history demonstrates very uncommon, peaceful and nonviolent ways of dealing with conflict (Like large scale conflict like fighting for independence and revolutions like South Africa’s fight against their racist regime aka apartheid!) Nelson Mandela and other freedom fighters were welcomed and kept safe in Zambia. Zambians are kind of living proof of this national priority of peace (based on my observations and many people’s opinions). I wish I had Google access so I could research more about Zambia’s rich history. (hint hint if you’re reading this you probably do have google access and should check my facts). For now, word of mouth will have to do for me. 🙂
Zambia has already turned into my little haven of peace. Even through the ups and downs, my heart tells me, I’m right where I’m supposed to be. My host mom’s welcoming smile, the sky full of stars, my Zambian language teacher’s patience, the relaxed nature of peace corps Zambia volunteers … All these things have confirmed this for me so far.
Now that my emotional update is finished (hehe), here is my logistical update: on June 14,we began pre-service training. It’s been pretty intense!
My days usually begin with a looooong trek from my host family’s home to the training center which has been my  biggest challenge so far (I had bike problems and there is HILL! Like a big one and I’m also probably exaggerating hehe). We then spend about four hours in our language classes. The majority of us (including me) are learning a common language spoken In Zambia called Bemba (muli shani my friends!) Others are learning other local languages such as tonga, naynja (sp?) and mwamba (sp?). I’m happy with our Zambian Bemba teacher and our five person PCV language group. We’re all in it together!
We eat lunch either with our families or at the center which is a nice time to relax. In the afternoons, we have various sessions in topics such as, malaria awareness, medical training, teaching skills, teaching English as a foreign language, bikes, cross culture awareness, etc. It’s been tiring, rewarding and information packed.
I arrive home (at my typical Zambian village home stay situation, I.e. No electricity or running water, beautiful sunsets, chickens and goats roaming the yard/compound) as the sun is setting. I play with my brothers for some time, talk with my host mom and dad, take a bucket bath under the stars as they rise and have dinner with the family. I study Bemba and read by solar charged light and pass out early. I sleep in my own mud hut on my family’s compound under a mosquito net. It’s no wonder I feel like I’m beginning to understand Zambia’s name “haven of peace.” Life is simple and I’m finding so much beauty in places I never thought I would have had the opportunity to explore. My heart is full.
There are so many special things (like my brothers, my BOSS host mom, a teaching technical trainer I connect well with, my small biking goals that I’ve met, sunsets, STARS!, Bemba, ahhh soo much Bemba)I can’t wait to tell you guys more. Much love to you all. I still feel that each of you has played a special role in getting me here and for that I am forever grateful.
Do you all have questions/ suggestions of what I should talk about in my next post? I am excited to share my new life with yall. It’s so different than anything I’ve ever experienced and I’m learning so much. I hope to document everything while my eyes are so still so fascinated with the differences! Ask away to help me keep my mind fresh 🙂
 
My brothers

Morning bike ride sunrise

Much Zambian love!

Love over fear

Warning- this post is extra sentimental.
Well I sucked every single drop of my people time and am officially on my journey to my next adventure. I’ve kissed and hugged and expressed love and ate and talked and did all beautiful things with my loved ones. The past month was intense filled with activity and a desire to show my love and appreciation for you all. This moment of solitude and reflection during a break in my orientation is bittersweet for me.
I am conflicted with this feeling that I need to grieve the ending of this chapter but also want to celebrate the beginning of this new one. As the Alchemist taught me (holla to my boy Paulo Coelho), we all must chase our personal legend. The inevitable pain that arises during our journey of chasing our dreams is nothing compared to the regret we will face if we allow fear to overcome and don’t pursue our dreams. In this very moment, my goodbye sadness is so real. I’m recognizing these feelings and will pray that my also real (and much stronger) internal joy will overcome them quickly.
Yes yall! I’m emotional! It’s real! Thanks for loving me anyways and as always much love back at ya.

Typical emotional Han and her next chapter

It would be foolish of me to pretend that I am ALL excitement, happiness and pure joy for every new chapter that I start. Truth is, yeah! I get nervous. Goodbyes are hard no matter how many times I convince myself that it is just a “see you later” and the unknown can be intimidating. That being said, peace trumps all other emotions when I know I’m making the right decision and right now, my peaceful emotions are BA and are dominating all others. alhumdulilah thank God.

My next chapter? It’s a big one folks (to me that is). I might even have to call it a brand new novel. A sequel to the book series I call my life. The news is… I joined the Peace Corps! In less than 2 months (June 8) I will leave for two years to volunteer in Zambia with the RED program (Rural Education Development). I’ll be teaching English. Those are the knowns as of now. There are plenty (and I mean plenty) of unknowns. I have been doing as much as I can to prepare myself (online research *mostly youtube videos that is*, meeting with RPCVs (returned Peace Corps volunteers), dating my people A LOT, etc.)

peace_corps_0

Here are some questions that people have asked:

Q) Why? 

  • A) Ecuador unleashed a wanderlust that I cannot contain. I am excited about the unknowns of any trip that I take. About the people that I will meet, what they will teach me about life, myself, the universe, culture, nature, etc. “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.” I have found that to be so true. And there are people out there that know so much that I have no idea about. Topics I don’t even know exist. Holla to my peeps who understand that excitement! I’m thankful that Peace Corps is introducing me to my new community and can only imagine what I will learn from these new people. It’s like my next test in this journey called life. It feels so right.

Q) So you can’t find work in the United States? 

  • A) Maybe! But again with the peace that I felt in my heart after making this decision, I can’t help but follow it. Wouldn’t I be foolish to ignore that feeling? Or am I foolish for not following the traditional “get college degree, get married, buy house, settle down, have kids…. etc.” narrative that we are told? I guess we’ll find out after a few years *wink wink*
    zmaf

Q) How are you gonna handle the conditions you’ll be living in? 

  • A) Another unknown of the whole thing.. I’m not sure what exactly the conditions will be in my village. But likely (95% likely), I will have no running water or electricity. And yes, this will be a huge test for me! Even bigger than that one stats exam back in the day. A life test. How adaptable have I become and can I become through this? How savvy (as my Dad says) have I grown to be? Stay tuned… Anyway, yes. Like I said. I am nervous. But I can feel how right this is because even these challenges that I know I will face, feel peaceful.

Q) What are your biggest fears?

  • I’m worried that a lack of presence will make it easy for people to forget about me. (I know sad but a real fear).  I fear that I will miss my people so much that it will hurt everyday. I’m nervous that I’m not as strong as I think that I am and that I will fail (isn’t it like that with all dream chasers though?) I’m afraid that I’ll get painfully sick (yeah, diarrhea is inevitable I know) and will miss the comfort of home. I’m worried that a student will ask me a question and I won’t have the answer. I’m afraid of loneliness, mosquito bites, insomnia, macaroni and cheese cravings, internet withdrawal, that people won’t accept me, that I’m not healthy/strong/smart/brave/communicative/adaptable enough,… Yeah, I have a lot of narcissistic fears. They’re a real part of this process and I’m choosing to recognize them (even in the public eye of my blog hehe)

What questions do y’all have for me? 

I’m thankful right now to my people for being extra sensitive with me. I’m emotional! (even more than normal… I know you didn’t think that was possible.) I feel like is a big step and I’m appreciative for everyone who has my back throughout it all. Much love ❤

Check out this link for my timeline of Peace Corps journey. Oooo la la 😉