Tiff's Peace Corps Journey in Zambia

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Hello and Goodbyes November 9, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — tiffsaria @ 10:30 pm

I feel like since I joined Peace Corps I have been saying goodbyes from the moment I left California.   On the plus side, I’m always meeting new people and making new friends whether it be a new Peace Corps volunteer or a friend in town and even in the village.  So, I guess its not a bad thing until your saying goodbye to the people you have formed close friendships in your service.  My friends in the states were my number one support system and I never imagined I could have that and even more here in Zambia.  The relationships you form here are key for support, especially on the dark days.  A simple text from a friend or a greeting from a villager can easily put a smile on your face.  Or just the simplicity and fun of laughing with a friend.


In my first year of service I have learned so much about myself including the good and the bad.  Its never easy to accept your faults; It’s even harder trying to fix them.  One thing that has helped me grow are the friendships that I have formed here.  As much as this is a “self-fulfilling” journey, its also a time to embrace it with others.  I always enjoyed the quote from the book Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, “Happiness is not real unless shared with others.”  Of course, you can still be happy doing things alone, but having someone by your side always makes it so much sweeter.  Whether its hitch hiking and traveling for 14 hours, it’s always nice to have someone by your side to make you laugh when your patience is wearing thin.  This is another Peace Corps moment, but its nice to actually just talk to someone who will actually listen and respond to you, unlike your wall spider in your hut.  Being able to look back and laugh at memories together is so much easier with another person.



When friends here come and go it’s hard to swallow.  You can’t imagine your service without them because that is all you have known.  Just as you are getting closer, someone has to say goodbye and remain, while the other is off to start a new journey in life. That’s life right?  Saying hello, then goodbye.  Sometimes I think this isn’t “real life” here.  In reality, its a an even more challenging, but great life.  There are just a lot more extremes it feels like.  We actually have time to reflect on our life here and try to make a better one.  Life isn’t easy no matter where you live.  What matters the most is to try to make others better and surround yourself with people who love and care for the person you are.  To all my friends who have come and gone here in Zambia, I can’t thank you enough for the memories and laughs we have shared.  And to all my friends who are still with me in this 27 month journey, we still have so many more laughs and memories to come in these next 10 months.


Family Vacation

Filed under: Uncategorized — tiffsaria @ 9:28 pm

When my family came to visit I couldn’t even remember when the last time we even had an actual vacation together.  This was definitely a vacation of a life time and made up for lost time with one another.  Sorry, Mikey you weren’t there, but you were with us in spirit.   I won’t ever forget the butterflies I had waiting for them to arrive that whole day.  When you haven’t seen your family in over a year its amazing the amount of nerves you get.  You think to yourself,  ‘Have I changed?’  ‘Have they changed?’  ‘Are they going to approve of my hitch hiking ways, slow pace lifestyle, and living under a grass thatched hut?’  Those butterflies and nerves soon faded away the moment I greeted them at the airport.  Hugs, tears, and laughs, made everything feel as if time hadn’t passed at all.  They enjoyed their first night sipping on flat tasting Zambian beer and listening to local Zam pop at a bar.  My hair was a big topic of discussion that first night, as my Mom and sister wanted to give me a make-over right away.  I told them to just deal with the explosion of volume or better yet just embrace “the beast.”

The next day we drove from Lusaka to Luapula which takes about 9 hours.  The hours passed as they viewed the endless african sky and sunset, against the lush green scenery when coming into Luapula.  My fellow Peace Corps friends warmly welcomed the Saria family plus 1 (Dave), with a lovely home made spaghetti dinner and tour of our Provincial House.  They charged all their gadgets and packed endless amount of Deet to take on the village the next day.

Three of my great friends came with my family to help assist me in the village and I couldn’t have done it without them.  They helped answer all their questions and concerns, as I was stressing to make sure my villagers were prepared for all the festivities.  Kels was a great organizer and made delicious meals for the fam.  Fresh broke the ice with her sweet dance moves and got us all dancing in front of hundreds of people.  Bob “The Legend,” regulated on the sea of iwes (kids) I have and also was under water control.  My family had no sense of conserving water and forgot that we have to pump water verse turn the faucet.  Thanks again friends!

Of course once we arrived in the village my community embraced them with warm greetings, lots of food, and drumming for the big dance party.  The family did a good job eating the local staple ‘nshima’ with their hands and fortunately no one choked on a fish bone.  My sister didn’t like the fish eyes staring at her, but still tried it.  We danced like we have never danced before as a family.  Who knew the soul train in 2011 would still be cool in front of 200 people?  My Dad was able to whistle and show that men can shake it too.  Now the villagers are always asking about my Dad and his dancing/whistling ways.

Inside my hut they enjoyed the slow paced village lifestyle by lounging on my reed mat and hammock.  My Mom of course enjoyed cleaning my hut and doing dishes.  My Dad loved fixing things for me again, by repairing my bike and setting rat traps everywhere.  Krista and Dave enjoyed being “Brangelina” in the village by playing with all the kids and holding the babies.  They were all freaked out by the bugs, rats, and using the pit latrine, but for the most part they did fairly well.  Mom struggled a bit, but for never camping she did the best she could.  My Dad could have stayed in the village with me for months and I’m still trying to convince him to do Peace Corps.

After the village, we went to Livingstone and saw Victoria Falls and took pictures right on the edge.  We even had breakfast on Livingstone Island and swam right on the edge where Dad showed off his ‘planking’ moves.   We also went white water rafting on the Zambezi which was a near death experience, but we lived to tell about it and now have a great story that Dave I’m sure tells so well.  The guides assured us that the crocodiles we saw sun bathing on the rocks were “vegetarians.”  After our traumatic experience, we flew to South Luangwa to go on a safari and stay in a luxurious tree house.  We took naps on big fluffy pillows and awoke to elephants drinking water about 5-feet away.  I also took advantage of the “all-inclusive” food service and it all felt like a reoccurring mefloquin dream.  It was a beautiful and peaceful place.  Saw beautiful wildlife and even better scenery with the gorgeous sunrise and sunset rides.

It was the best family vacation and maybe we will top it again in the Philippines 2013, but this was a special one.  It was great to be with my family again, as we laughed and argued.  How boring would a family vacation be if you didn’t did all of those?  I’m so blessed and thankful they were able to share this experience with me and now understand the way of life here.  Thank you guys for flying across the globe, stepping out of your comfort zone, and seeing the “Real Africa.”


Saria’s and a Davila coming to Zambia! August 17, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — tiffsaria @ 3:22 pm

In just a few short hours I will be at the airport welcoming my family to Zambia, “The Real Africa.” I will embrace them with great big open arms, as it has been little over a year since I have last seen them. I have that same anticipation, excitement, and even nervousness as I did when I said, ‘goodbye’ to them at the airport in San Diego. Then I was leaving them not knowing if I would see them until the end of my 27 months of service. After sharing many adventurous stories they are very brave to have the desire to travel across the globe, spend 3 days in a village, and experience “Africa” for themselves. It means so much to me that they have traveled over 30 hours and probably have dipped into their life savings to see my new life here that I have established. Not only have I been ecstatic about their arrival, but my villagers have been planning dance celebrations and feasts in their honor. Two goats are being slaughtered as well as a plethora of fresh fish will be caught from the Luapula River for this special occasion. I’m going to show them my beautiful newly remodeled mud hut; have them watch the sun go down along the unbelievably tall palm trees that border the Congo and see the sky turn amber at dusk. They will even fetch water at the borehole, learn how to light a tricky charcoal brazier, and play with all the energetic children in my village. I will take them on a tour of my clinic and meet the staff that I talk so highly of, especially my counterpart Dan who without him, I would have no direction in my work. The people who are most excited to meet my family are two women’s groups that I work very closely with. Zambian women are the strongest women I have ever encountered. They work so hard to provide literally everything for their families. They take care of the children with love and support. Even wake up before sunrise to get a hard day’s work in the fields, before they have to move onto the other tasks of fetching water and cooking. These women’s groups want to meet my mother and sister and show them how Zambian women live and work in the village, but most importantly they want to teach them a good time by dancing and swinging their hips to the beat of the drums! My family and I will be viewing one of the great Wonder’s of the World at Victoria Falls and we will also go be going on a safari to see the wild animals of course. But, what I’m most looking forward to is to share with them the beautiful culture and people in my village. This is my life now and I can’t wait for them to experience the love I have for my Kawama Community. I’m sure they are quite nervous to spend a few days in a mud hut and even I can’t wait to see how they survive using a pit latrine and eating with their hands. People come to Africa for the wild life, but outsiders who have never been before will be more shocked not by a lion’s kill or roar, but by the generosity and open arms of the Zambian people.


The ants go marching one by one… June 7, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — tiffsaria @ 6:00 am

DISCLAIMER: I wrote this post in my journal and one of the most frustrating days in my service.  It was edited and censored for the public.

Today was bad.  Real bad…I don’t know how any other person (not in Peace Corps) would have reacted to today’s events.  Where do I begin?  Oh yeah, today I sat along the road hitch hiking where it took me 6 hours to get back to my village (normally takes about 2 hours on a good day).  Three hours of waiting in the African sun and two sketchy vehicles later, I finally made it back to the village.  All I wanted to do was sweep my hut, unpack, bathe, and lay in my hammock.  None of those things happened today.  The moment I reached my steps to open my door I walked into hell.  I immediately saw nests of ants or imposhi’s swarming along the hallway (imposhis are people eating ants and they are BIG).  I thought well could be worst…I proceed to the kitchen to open the shudders and bring in the light to discover a disaster.  Along the left side of my wall and all the way up to the wooden beam are imposhi’s swarming and hissing!  Yes, hissing every time I got closer.  People eating ants!  My heart was pounding and immediately I start to freak out.  I start pacing all over the place and have no idea how I’m going to get rid of these creatures.

I start sweeping the tiny nests along the hallways which was a very bad idea, as they were going up my leg and attacking me.  As I was screaming and sweeping the rest away  I couldn’t take the piercing bites anymore, so I threw my broom down and called my PCVL (Peace Corps Volunteer Leader) Fresh.  I tell her I’m freaking out and have not a clue how I’m going to kill every last one of these death eaters.  She tells me to relax, do not sweep them, get some women to help me, and be careful because they eat people!  She also mentioned this problem might not go away for a couple of weeks, so I would have to wait it out.  I thought wait it out?  I can’ live like this I’m going to lose my mind!  I just kept thinking this house always has one thing after the next…Bats, rats, raining termites, concrete-eating termites, hole-making termites, flying ants, and now people eating ants!  I can’t imagine what’s next?  Spitting Cobra?

So, I call for my neighbors to begin the war of attacking and burning these creatures out of my house.  My neighbor, Mr. Stephen, makes a fire on the brazier, makes a border of salt around it, so the ants won’t bite his bare feet and pass the fire.  He then starts burning one of his children’s rubber sandals (probably their only pair) and tells me the ants do not like the smoke from the burnt rubber.  Next thing you know, all my little kids are helping as well and keep bringing tire tubes and ripping them apart, and lighting them on fire to kill the ants.  It took two hours, a lot of fire, a pair of sandals, and many tire tubes later to win the battle.  Oh and a lot of smoke that I was breathing in and now pretty sure I have the black lung.

I barely did a thing and just watched my neighbors fight the battle for me.  If my neighbors didn’t help me today, I probably would’ve burned my hut down.  I”m thankful for wonderful and caring neighbors and also thanking my lucky stars that the people eating ants didn’t eat me.


Top 10 Books I’ve read so far… May 30, 2011

Filed under: Book Club — tiffsaria @ 8:24 pm

1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by: Stieg Larsson

2. The Namesake by: Jhumpa Lahiri

3. Life of Pi by: Yann Martel

4. In the Time of Butterflies by: Julia Alvarez

5. The Girls of Riyadh by: Rajaa Alsanea

6. Beautiful Boy by: David Sheff

7. Naked by: David Sedaris

8. Dead Aid by: Dambisa Mayo

9. The Hand Maids Tale by: Margaret Atwood

10. By the River Piedra by: Paulo Coelho

Any suggestions?


Dinner in the Vill!

Filed under: Mud Hut Menu — tiffsaria @ 7:25 pm


Hitch Hiking

Filed under: Hitch HIking Adventures — tiffsaria @ 3:40 pm