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Kris Biddle's dream was to come to Africa, live in a village and teach in a rural school.
In June 2012 she did just that . . . .
 
 
If someone told me last year that I would be spending six weeks of my summer living and teaching in a remote village in Zambia, I don't know that I would have believed them. Although it had always been a dream of mine, it never seemed truely possible. That dream became reality in June 2012.
I arrived in Mfuwe after 46 hours of travel spread over 3 days and 4 planes and spent two days touring local schools and talking to Karen* about the area and what might be expected. However, I can honestly say that no amount of talk or tour could have prepared me for all that awaited me at Katapila.  I arrived on a Thursday, moving into a small teachers' house which I would share with the Head teacher and his Deputy Head wife Ireen,  as well as 3 children, none of whom were theirs (not uncommon in Africa).
 
My first few days  were - (how can I put this?) -  not the best of times.  I contended with a HUGE language barrier, a culture shock unlike anything I have ever experienced before (one of my first meals consisted of whole, roast rat - fur, tail, nose and all!), bugs the likes of which I could never imagine, a toilet that was a hole in the ground, no electricity, frequent bouts of bats flying at my reading light and getting tangled in my mosquito net (only a scant couple of inches from my face - so not a fun experience) and a broken bore hole (which meant a 3 km walk to get water).  I spent much of those first couple of days wondering just what I'd gotten myself into; crying and debating whether or not I'd actually make it.
 
By Sunday I had a plan: work with the Grade 5s on their letter sounds, build their vocabulary, force them to speak lots of English, spend time on math facts and play a few games along the way.  I would do this with small groups of six pupils working at desks set out under a tree.  That day I spent a good amount of time cutting paper and making them into small books held together with pipe cleaners. I also agreed to help a few older Project Luangwa sponsored kids with their English during the afternoons.  Additionally I began to learn the local language, Chinyanja. I'm not sure who laughed more at my initial attempts at pronunciation - me or the villagers and kids (actually, it was the kids!). My first word outside of the standard greetings was 'tendala' - appropriate as this was becomming one of my favourite things - the stars.  
 
On Monday I began to settle in and got my first group together. The kids were becomming used to the 'muzungu'  (white person) and were intrigued by my activities. Although getting them to speak English was, at first, like pulling teeth, I found that anyone can communicate with kids when they're willing to love and laugh. The sessions became times of mutual learning and I believe they taught me far more than I taught them. 
 
Looking back on my time, there is so much that I learned and can reflect upon: the joy on each kid's face (although they had nothing I never once saw any of them sad or heard a single complaint); the fun of playing a simple game with a real ball; the teasing and joking that came about on a regular basis (especially when some ginormous bug landed anywhere near me); the dancing and singing; the walks through the village, which allowed me to sit and talk or work along side the adults caring for those beautiful children; the trusts shared between many of the women and me; being invited to participate in the traditional ceremonial wedding preparation for a young girl; riding a bike barefoot on the dirt road and calling out to the people along the way; pumping water with Deborah *; learning to cook traditional dishes; attending a funeral for one of my 'clan cousins'; teaching the villagers our western games and building friendships that time and distance will NEVER erase.
 
My final 24 hours were some of the best and worst of my life. Friday began with a celebratory party at school - in honour of the survival of all the trees the children planted opver a year ago and to say good-bye to me. We played games, danced, sang, blew bubbles, threw water balloons and ate. The party ended with a formal photo with my class and many, many hugs and tears. throughout the day I i said good-bye to to the villagers who had become my family.  Emotional and exhausted from all the crying I fell into bed early but ended up staying awake all night dealing with an attack of dragon ants - but that's a whole 'nother story. 
 
Come morning many pupils came to sit with me for one last time and to see me off.  More hugs and countless tears later my luggage was loaded and I headed out. As Karen and I drove away the dirt road was lined with people waving and yelling, "Bye Krissy, Bye Krissy", many handing me 'popos' (papayas) as a parting gift. I think it's safe to say that I left a river of tears and most of my heart along the road that day.  Although I've been home for more than a week I'm still prone to tears at the thoughts of my 'kids' and the villagers I left behind.
 
can, without equivocation, recommend this experience to anyone.  It is a wonderful way to make a difference in the lives of so many.  The difficulties I encountered, especially in the beginning, pale in comparison to the love I received and the memories I will carry for the rest of my life.  One day in the future I hope to return 'home' to Katapila. Until that day, if you happen to make that trip yourself do a few things for me: play a game of 'War' with Chamba (but be prepared to lose !); enjoy some of Ireen's koloa; ask Dixon how his English is coming along; watch for satallites with Moses; let Ilena and Ruthie plait your hair; dance with Mateo, Wisdom and Jackson; spread a few hugs around the village and see if you can't find the pieces of my heart I left there that day.
*Karen - PL Director; 
*Deborah - Deborah is the 5 year old cared for by Ireen and Lackson, the Head and deputy Head teachers at Katapila Community School
 

 

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