“Home” means different things to different people, and for the past three decades, I’ve had many different homes, all of which have been great and fulfilling in their own unique ways. And the one thing that always remain constant with each of them is how I feel when I’m there: happy, safe, and supported. As I watch this tour of David’s home in Zambia (thank you, David!), I wonder what my new home of 27 months will be like abroad. I’ve never lived anywhere outside of the comforts of the Bay Area, so naturally, I know it will be quite a change for me. Although I energetically welcome the change and everything that will come with it, a part of me can’t help but feel anxious and nervous. Can I actually do this? Will I be happy? And will I feel safe and supported?
The first 3 months in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, I will be living with my host family, while training and learning about Zambia and the Zambian lifestyle. This will probably serve as a nice cushioned way of introducing myself to living abroad, having my host family present, along with other Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) and locals in Lusaka to interact with. I envision that there will be lots to do during these first 3 months, and because of this, I’ll be busy, taking in everything as it comes, and doing one of the things that I value and love very much in life: learning. I feel that these first 3 months will probably be the most structured time for me serving in Zambia, and that creating a new “home” in this time will be an exciting and natural process. But what will happen when the 3 months are over, and I’m on my own in a remote village in my own thatched-roof hut, similar to David’s? How will I create yet another “home” for myself, by myself, for the 2 years after training? I think this is what I’m most anxious and nervous about. But “Why?,” I asked myself. What are the roots of this anxiousness and nervousness?
After a lot of thinking, I’ve figured out that this anxiousness and nervousness isn’t just from not knowing what my life will be like and how I will be living for 2 years in Zambia, but it also comes from the feeling of not being able to do any of this successfully. I’m committing myself to a very big mission. A very long mission. A very important mission. And what if I can’t do it? What if I fail? Would I be able to look at myself in the mirror and be okay if I do fail?
And then I pictured my father and mother. I recalled their story of struggle to success, 40 years ago, after the Fall of Saigon. A story that has (and will always) inspire me when I need it. How did they get through it? And then it hit me. Life gives us all many chances at bat with many different pitches. The feelings of anxiousness and nervousness, when we’re at bat, are normal; they’re natural. And you swing anyway. You keep swinging. You’ll strike here and there, but you’ll also send some flying out of the park. The process of living in the moment and taking things as they come to you is what defines us as people; it will be what will help us define things in our life, like what a “home” is. And although it will be scary and exciting, I’ll just have to take things as they come and learn how to create this new home for myself in Africa.
I’ve realized that focusing on more specific questions about my new home is a lot more fun and practical than wondering if I’ll be successful on this mission or not. What will my hut look like? How will I decorate my new home? Who will my neighbors be? Will I find a pet to take care of? How far will I have to travel to get water? What new skills will I learn? Can I overcome my fear of getting bitten by a snake/spider/scorpion/other creepy crawler in my pit latrine?
I can’t wait to get answers to these questions as I create my first home outside of the United States.
“Home is where our story begins.”