Scam, kidnap by South African police

Scam, kidnap by South African police

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Scam, kidnap by South African police

Scam, kidnap by South African police

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Zambia Peace Corps

Photo: My fish farmers, friends and neighbors came to say goodbye.
Out of a Zambian village. Erica Peth. MJoTA 2013 v7n2 p1005

Now here’s a crazy idea:

Quit your job and the city that you love. Go to grad school. Apply to over 250 jobs. Get one interview. Get turned down. Get angry.

Apply to Peace Corps. Sell all your worldly possessions. Move to Africa. Specifically, move to a rural Zambian village into a mud hut with a grass roof and no electricity.

Your mission: Teach farmers to move thousands of cubic feet of dirt to create a hole in the ground from which to raise fish. (Stay motivated.)

Collect water from a stream with a bucket and carry it up a hill. Bath and shit outside. Learn a language spoken only in Zambia. Give up driving, computers, shorts, meat, cheese and chocolate. Never quite come to terms with the fact that someone is always watching you. Say goodbye to your social life as you know it. Become blissfully ignorant to the world outside Zambia. Go months at a time without talking to someone who loves you. Explain repeatedly how you could be 32 years old and still not be married and still have no children.

Laugh a lot. Cry a lot. Laugh and cry simultaneously. (A lot.) Get malaria. Get pinkeye. Get bit by a dog. Fall off your bicycle. (Also a lot.) Convince yourself diarrhea and dehydration are normal. Fail miserably at hand washing your clothes. Learn to fear the rain. Come to understand why sweeping the dirt outside your hut is necessary. Eventually find that you take great pleasure in having well-swept dirt outside your hut. Roll your eyes at the annoyance of having a venomous snake block your bush path. Secretly think it pretty cool that a venomous snake is blocking your bush path. Rush home to identify it.

Make the sunset your evening entertainment. Eat on the ground using your hands… because that is the way it is done. Listen to drums as you drift asleep…at 8 o’clock at night. Befriend the ants, termites and bush creatures and watch helplessly as they take over your hut. Wait two hours for a meeting to begin; understand less than five minutes of what was said. Make children cry at the mere sight of you. Be addressed as Madame, Mommy, Ok!, Soldier, YOU!, Commando….or Muzungu. Get hissed at. Hiss back.

Get asked for money. Get asked for talktime. Get asked for sweeties, medicine, food, sunglasses, a pen, rope, a Bible, your bicycle, your bicycle helmet, clothes off your back. Be able to offer nothing more than your time.

Do this for approximately 700 days. Reflect.

Learn community. Learn humility. Strive to be more compassionate. Wish that you were more patient. Recognize that you are not. Be at peace with who you are, how you got here and where you want to be.

Conclude that this is the best decision you’ve ever made in your life.

Thank you, Luwingu, and goodbye.

Stay well.

Article and photographs (c) Erica Peth 2013
My mission in Zambia. Erica Peth MJoTA 2013 v7n2 p1120

We primarily worked on fish pond construction and maintenance; community members initiated working with me to learn how to demarcate a fish pond and did all the labor themselves.

I cycled out to their farms and we talked about how to manage them to get good results. Community counterparts and I facilitated workshops for community members about things like soybeans or fish farming, and these people are volunteers that I hope will continue working with their neighbors on these things; 2 more Peace Corps volunteers will ideally serve at my site covering a 6-year time span on the same project.

Rural aquaculture program Peace Corps Volunteers work with the Department of Fisheries as essentially extra field agents (however they are based in rural communities). The broad goal of the Peace Corps is technical assistance and cultural exchange, for Americans to learn about peoples of other countries and for peoples of other countries to learn about Americans. My community initiated wanting to work with a Peace Corps volunteer.

Peace Corps in Zambia. SJ Dodgson. MJoTA 2013 v7n2 p1005

I first met Erica when she was 9, when she and her mother Sandy and younger brother Doug were members of Haddonfield Friends Meeting. I started going to Sunday Meetings for Worship with my own 9 year old son, Angus, and my other sons Miles, who was 8, and Allister who was 2. 

The Gulf War had just started, and I had just acquired a television so that Allister could watch Sesame Street. I turned on the television in the evenings after I had fed and bathed the children and pulled out my lab data to analyze and write about, and while I was happily working out ways to convince granting bodies that I knew how to harness for good the carbon dioxide that was rising inside our bodies, I saw snuff television. The general in charge of the 1991 Gulf War showing us what fun it was to kill Iraqis.

The minister of the local church I had attended for 8 years shared the general's enthusiasm, and in a statement that changed my life, told me "Iraqis are not human". I grabbed the hand of Allister, and herded Angus and Miles to the car, and decided that we needed to go to a church where Iraqis are human. The next Sunday we showed up at a Quaker meeting, Haddonfield Friends Meeting. Where we met Erica.

Erica was a Quaker kid. I remember her being well-behaved, pleasant, interacting with children and adults. She was a student at Haddonfield Friends School, daughter of a teacher with a lifelong commitment to doing good. Erica and her brother have followed that path unswervingly.

I love Facebook because I can sit in my office quietly, and find out what world citizens are doing everywhere. Erica is clearly able to fit in anywhere; she has stayed and bonded in diverse communities around the United States and around the world.

In Oct 2013 she left a remote village in Zambia. Her essay is at right. My gosh, she can write.

God speed Erica, and may your blessings be multiplied.