New Peace Corps Volunteer, Nick Nagy
“I wanted to send an email to keep in touch and to let everyone at the religious studies department know how I have been doing in the Peace Corps. It’s been almost 14 weeks since I arrived in Zambia and just about two weeks ago I completed my training and was officially sworn in as a Peace Corps volunteer. I am currently sitting outside my new house where I will be living for the next 2 years. The school where I will be teaching is only about 1 km away and I have already met many of the teachers that I will be working with.
Training was intense and challenging at times. Our training staff has told us that we were one of the more resilient groups that they’ve had. My fellow volunteers and I were basically living out of our suitcases in one-room huts for 3 months. Nearly every day I had to ride my bike about 5-6 km at 6-7 am to start the day. I have lost around 35 lbs since I came here. Luckily I only got sick one time during training and I was able to quickly recover. Our Pre-Service Training consisted of different sessions related to cultural awareness, English teacher training, medical, security, and local language. As part of our cultural training, we were fortunate enough to visit a local tribal chief at his palace where he spoke very passionately about ending gender-based violence and early childhood marriage in his chiefdom. I was honored to present him with a gift of a live chicken upon his arrival.
I also went through intensive language training and am now semi-comfortable understanding and speaking the Bantu language known as Kiikaonde. I even got the distinct honor of giving a speech in Kiikaonde during our swearing-in ceremony in which I addressed the difficulties and successes of language training. I owe much of my own language success to my host mother who would often push me to learn more and to say more as we dined together each night. My desire to communicate effectively with her and my host siblings was a driving factor for my success in language learning. By the end of training, I felt as if I could communicate far more about myself and different ideas than I ever thought I would be able to. It was awfully heartbreaking having to leave my host family at the end of training. My experience has been full of ups and downs and twists and turns but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Although some days are hard, I feel beyond excited for each new experience and each new step in my service.
My new long term placement is in the Mufumbwe district of the Northwestern province of Zambia near the borders with the DRC and Angola. There are about 45-50 other Peace Corps volunteers in Northwestern province working in various projects such as education, agriculture, public health, and fish farming. This area is one of the most lush and green areas I’ve ever been to. This contrasts heavily with the region where I did training in the Central province of Zambia. The landscape there was very dry with little green vegetation and few options for food. Where I am now the season for mangos is beginning and children have been bringing bags filled with mangos to my doorstep. I appreciate their sentiment but now I have far more mangos than I can possibly eat. The people here have been kinder and more hospitable than I could have ever imagined. If somebody sees you struggling with something, they will help. My new host family and my community members have been nothing but encouraging as I try to continue progressing with my language skills. I am in the period of Peace Corps service which is referred to as Community Entry and so my primary goals now are to assess the resources and needs of my community, to learn more Kiikaonde, and to meet as many community members as possible. As the new year and new school term start, I will officially begin my teaching career and will teach English to grades 5, 6 and 8. I am both anxious and ecstatic to start diving into my work. I am grateful that my school is well staffed and relatively well-equipped. We have 21 teachers at our school while some of my fellow volunteers are working at schools with fewer than 10 teachers. I am lucky to be situated near a well and a borehole so access to water is made simple. My village also happens to be positioned on a major road so I can travel to the nearest town and to my provincial capital with relative ease either by bike or through hitchhiking. In fact, I plan to travel into town today to meet another volunteer from my cohort. On Sunday I will travel to the provincial capital of Solwezi for mandatory Peace Corps meetings and to celebrate Thanksgiving. I would have never thought my life would be how it is just one year ago. I am appreciating every moment (even the difficult ones) and I am eagerly looking forward to all that is to come.
I have started a blog although I have only written one post so far. It is available here.
Also for anyone who might be interested there is a Peace Corps Zambia Facebook page where the swearing-in ceremony for my cohort can be viewed and my speech can be found. It was a nerve-wracking experience for me.
Included are some photos from training as well as of my new house.
I also invite anyone to reach out to me if they have questions about life here or Peace Corps in general. I can be reached through email fairly easily and I really enjoy talking and writing about what I've experienced thus far. Also a big thank you is in order for everyone at the religious studies department who supported me and encouraged my appreciation for learning everyday. I cannot possibly express how grateful I truly am.”