Peace Corps Zambia – Moving into the Village

After the swear-in ceremony, Lusaka shopping, and late-night celebrations, 72 new PCVs parted ways for their respective provinces. Twenty three Northern and Muchinga volunteers squished into three cruisers for a 12-hour journey to the provincial house in Kasama. It wasn’t the most comfortable journey, but we eventually made it.

The provincial house is a resource center for volunteers in every province. The vibe reminds me of a hostel in Southeast Asia, complete with bunk beds, comprehensive library, free box, shared kitchen, dingy bathrooms, and plenty of places to lounge. It’s a stopover place for volunteers who must travel to the capital for work since all posts are rural, it will take at least two days for most people to do so. Zambia is one of the only countries to have such houses, so we are lucky.

Shopping & Preparing for Posting

Since Adam and I are first generation volunteers (there are three generations of volunteers for each village), our house had nothing in it and we had to buy everything we need. Peace Corps provides a settling-in allowance and we’re lucky to have double the amount as a couple, but we still went over the given budget. Current PCVs encouraged us to buy a lot because it will be the only time that a cruiser will drive us directly to our house. Otherwise, if we want something like a pocket of cement, we’re on our own to figure out how to get it to the village, and it can be expensive. We can’t buy supplies in the village besides cookies and soap, so we took this advice and loaded up. We also bought from current volunteers and got some clothes and knick knacks from the free bin at the house. Those that know me know I’m all about second-hand and reusing! I’ve also been collecting empty containers like coffee cans and peanut butter jars, which have been worth it for storage!

I sought advice from volunteers on what to buy for posting, so I thought I’d share here for future volunteers who may be reading this. This is not a comprehensive list as we also brought things from America (my packing list) :
-7 pallets (instead of an expensive bed frame, we’re going to make our own in addition to furniture. Each pallet was 20 Kwacha or 2 USD. We wish we bought more because we used most of them building the bed and a shelf already)
-Mattress (this was the most expensive at 960 Kwacha for a double)
-Several used oil buckets for keeping water and food
-1 large bucket for food. Rats are a problem!
-A few basins for washing
-Cooking items (pots, a wok, brazier, knife, tongs, etc.)
-Cleaning supplies (broom, soap, etc.)
-Gum boots for work in the fish ponds
-Chitenge for decoration
-Guitar
-2 pockets of cement
-Thermos
-Paint and paintbrush
-Bulk food that’ll keep for a long time
-Pipes to make gutters
-Hoe tip
-Nails
-Wicker basket
-2 Reed mats
-Hooks
-Rope
-Wire
-Two chairs
-Seeds
-Plunger to make a bucket washing machine

What we didn’t buy that we wish we did:
-More garden tools like a shovel and fork. Most volunteers can borrow from their host family, but we live isolated without neighbors
-More easy-to-make food and snacks like dried fruit. It takes at least two hours for me to make a simple meal and I can’t bother to start the brazier twice a day
-A mixing bowl
-More containers to store food
-Termite poison
-Hammer, saw, more nails
-More chitenge for decoration
-More utensils and dishes. We often eat in our home with host and counterpart
-More seeds for the garden
-Fire starter and more lighters
-Strong wire for clothesline

Items Peace Corps provides:

  • Water filter
  • Medical kit
  • Bicycle, helmet, bike tools
  • Sheets, pillow, and heavy blanket (I recommend bringing a fitted sheet)
  • Solar lamp

With 23 volunteers to move around the province, only a few went per day. We were supposed to be the first to move on Monday, but that morning, we learned that our house was not yet ready, so we were pushed back a few days. I was actually relieved so that we could relax after the chaos the last few days. We took it slow with fellow volunteers, cooked good food, played games, got my hair cut by the lovely Tracey G., and started our first DIY project: the bed frame from pallets!

Move-in Day

Our time finally came on Wednesday morning, May 9. When we piled together our stuff, I was overwhelmed with the monstrous pile of crap we accumulated. Hopefully it will all be handy during our time here and that we’ll pass it onto the volunteers who replace us. We said our goodbyes and wished our Peace Corps family well!

After a 45-minute ride, 8km of which are down a narrow dirt road, we arrived at our home where our host mother and counterpart were awaiting our arrival. They improved the home since our first visit with a newly built insaka (hut) for cooking and fresh lime on the mud walls. We were elated to see them after a whirlwind of a day (and 11 busy weeks of training), but it was relieving to know we’re going to stay put for the next two years – the longest either of us have been in one house since our childhood homes! People helped us move our crap little by little. I broke out a world map to give a little geography lesson with the kids who were observing; that kept them occupied for a while.

That night, I made tuna avocado sandwiches on the living room floor dimly lit by a solar lamp. We were giddy eating in our own home, albeit it on the concrete with bags of unpacked stuff encircling us. As we polished it off, we heard a voice outside — our host mother and counterpart carried over a full meal! We didn’t expect it, but were grateful for the warm food and welcome. What a start for the next two years!

I can’t post photos now, but will update when I get better service some day!

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