Edward was demonstrating the Brand New Borehole for me.
Zambia is littered with broken-down boreholes. A borehole is a machine drilled well, with a hand pump, which you’ve seen in countless clean water ads. It’s the cleanest and most secure well system, as well as the most expensive. However, it’s often the worst solution for a remote village. You see, these foreign organizations in an air-conditioned board room 1,000’s of miles away looked at the data and decided that they would fund them. Then, a local branch of that organization, still staffed with foreigners, showed up in the village and told someone that they would be bringing in a borehole. They met with someone, probably a headman or chief, who said they represented everyone, and together with that person or few people, they chose the location for this borehole.
Then, the foreign donors brought in a machine, drilled the hole, set the pump, and left. They may have had a meeting with the community about it, but most likely they didn’t. The average community member had no knowledge of its coming and no discussion about its location. They had no power or contribution in the situation. (And we’re not even getting into the gender inequalities with women being responsible for the water but having no power to influence where it is located). They’ll celebrate the clean new water and use it while it lasts. (That is, unless, the headman had it put at his house and tells everyone else they can’t use it. That’s another issue, but we won’t go into that here.) So, for a few years the village uses this new borehole and they have good water.
Then a $30 part breaks and the $10,000 borehole is kaput. No one in the community was involved in the process of acquiring it, so they have no ownership of it. No one knows how to fix it and there are no systems in place to raise funds for the part or the repairs. That foreign donor is far away & tooting the horn about what they did for these people, while the people have gone back to getting their water from the river they always depended on. If the community had been consulted and involved, they would either know how to fix the borehole or the donor would have provided supplies for the village to dig their own hand dug wells that can easily and cheaply be fixed by the same community. That solution costs less than a 10% of what a borehole costs and it is sustainable. It just doesn’t sound as good on the donor’s newsletter.
So, besides a nice little lesson on my opinions of boreholes, why am I telling you this? What on earth does it have to do with you? As your coach, I could
come in like that foreign donor and tell you what I see as the best solutions for your problems. That might even give you a nice shiny solution for awhile. But, because the solution didn’t come from you and you didn’t really buy into it with your whole heart and your own action; when it stops being easy you’ll just give up. It wasn’t really your solution, it was mine. Instead I’ll come to you open to all the possibilities. I’ll suggest alternatives to the ones you’re looking at and help you dream big, using YOUR knowledge and special skills to make the best possible solution for you. And because of that ownership, you will fly higher and farther than either of us can even imagine, because the world is all yours for the taking and we’re not limiting you to the ideas I come in with. In any area of your life, when you participate in the decisions and take ownership of the process, you'll find more success and progress.
(You can also probably see that I’m not likely to encourage you to donate to foreign aid projects unless you know for sure that they’re assisting the local people to implement their own ideas.) If you are ready to find the most magical solutions for your life, please check out my Work page for more info on how we could work together. Or go here to set up a free Fairy Godmother Session to dig into your dreams and see what magic we can find.
My nephew jamming out in his cowboy hat
(Due to the popularity of my Bush Notes- Lessons Learned in Zambia
post, I’ve decided to make the Bush Notes a monthly feature.)
Music is a huge source of inspiration and motivation for me. Obviously dancing is important to me and that is one of the reasons that I enjoyed my time Zambia so much. Music is communication on a soul-deep, cellular level. As long as you can hear, you can hear a beat and feel it moving your body. Most of us have at least one song that we absolutely cannot sit still while it’s playing. You don’t need to speak the language or understand the words to feel the rhythm.
All of the languages of sub-Saharan Africa stem from the Bantu language. The Bantu language has evolved over time, as people migrated and moved away, forming 250 separate languages. But the remarkable thing that I learned is that the root for the word drum –n’goma- is still the same in all the Bantu languages. Other words have changed greatly, but the heart and soul- the word for the core of music- has remained unchanged. This astonished me, but it repeated for me something I’d already learned: music and dancing are essential to life.
"Humans walk, breathe, have a heartbeat -- we are basically rhythmic beings, and drumming taps into
that. When you create that magical space around the fire where everyone has the same information,
the same understanding of how the circle of energy works, then people become more at one with each
other, more whole. The junk falls away, people become more honest on a soul level, and can unfold
and fly. The drum circle has elements of entertaining and being entertained, but it's also the original
church. In that space people can experience real transformation." ~Jimi Two Feathers
Truly, I saw that in my own experiences. Any flat surface or empty container can be turned into an instrument at a moment’s notice. Full moon evening- there will be dancing. Bridal shower- expect dancing. HIV workshop- involves dancing. Church services- dancing. Cooking dinner- dancing. The only occasions that didn’t involve dancing were funerals, because dancing is a joyful activity. Most afternoons in the village, I’d have a spontaneous dance party with the kids who lived nearby. One of them would grab a water container and start a beat. The dancing just flowed. Someone would start singing and we’d jump in and dance. No formal organization, no ‘real’ instruments, no dance floor, just rhythm taking over in the dusty yard. Laughter and smiles were always soon to follow.
I learned so much from those kids about letting go of my inhibitions and honoring the wonders of my body (plus some fancy moves). When you dance at an event in Zambia, people will cheer and dance with you. No matter how weird or different your moves, I’ve never seen them laugh at someone who was dancing. Just celebration and joy at the connection to the beat and their bodies. There is a dance move that eight-year-old Mwelwa did that sums up what I learned. It’s a hip bump, but she’d twist her torso around to look at her bum and always look shocked that she could do such a cool thing (it looks more complicated than it sounds, but I don’t have video). It always reminded me to be impressed with cool things my body can do.
I encourage you to honor the beat inside you and the wonders of your body. Put on your favorite songs and just shake your booty. No need to do a specific step or worry about how silly you think you look. Just enjoy the motion and rhythm! Don’t forget to smile!
If you are interested in rediscovering your rhythm and are ready to work with me, please check out my Work page for more info on how we could work together. Or go here for info about a free Fairy Godmother Session to dig into your dreams and see what magics we can find.
Today makes 8 years since I moved into my village in Zambia, where I spent 3 years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Community Health Program. It was Easter morning, so it was quiet there while everyone else was at church. I was fresh out of my three-months of training and ready to start the new life I'd signed up for. I was terrified to be there all alone, thousands of miles from home, to figure out the language and culture and start working at a job I wasn't sure I was ready for. I was excited to try it out anyway and to make new friends. Two years later, I signed on for an extra year, so I obviously fell in love with my job and with Zambia. Clearly, that experience is one of the key events of my life and the impact on my growth and development is beyond words. Today I am full of memories and gratitude for the friends I made and the gifts I gained. I am especially grateful to the children who lived near me- they were extremely patient teachers of language and culture. Even though I was a fully capable, able-bodied adult, I never would have survived village life without the help of children under the age of 12.
Forster, Me, Mwelwa, Chabby, Ellen, Eliza- My best friends and greatest teachers.
Here are just 10 of the lessons I learned there:
1. A storytelling circle is a priceless gift. Gather ‘round the fire with your friends and share your stories. Even if you’ve told them 100 times, it’s still so much better than the reruns you could watch instead. Some of my best memories from the village are of those story times, even when I couldn't understand them, because the feeling in the circle was of love and community.
2. We are each individuals and deserve attention. In Zambia, when you walk into a meeting, you go around and shake hands with each person and go through a greeting sequence with them, asking how they are and how their family is. You don’t just wave hello at the whole bunch- that will be offensive and get you nowhere. Back in American settings, I've found that instead of just plowing into asking someone something- like at the grocery store- if I first ask them how they are and really listen, it changes the experience. It's more personal and connected and feels so much better.
3. A smile can still light up a room, even when you don’t speak the same language. And a tremendous amount of your message can be conveyed with facial expressions.
1. art time in the village! 2. Me, Patrick, Chief Chimesi's son & wife, Chief Chimesi, Parvathy (my best friend & fellow Peace Corps Volunteer)
4. Share whatever you have. I can't count the number of times I'd see two kids sharing one pair of shoes- each wearing one shoe. There is no greater example of sharing than that. And my neighbors always offered to share their food with me, no matter how little of it they had. No matter how little I think I have, I ALWAYS have enough to share with someone else.
5. Make an honest effort. In my meetings, my caveman Bemba normally got my message across (Boil water. Wash Hands. No diarrhea.) and there was always a translator to assist me when it wouldn't. But, the fact that I showed that I was trying to learn the language and making a genuine effort was always well appreciated by my audience. I always got shocked comments from people who were so moved that I'd tried, even though I murdered their language. It's always worth it to try to use your skills, even when you're not yet an expert.
6. Imagination opens the whole world up for your exploration. Zambian kids create the coolest toys. They make their own soccer balls out of plastic grocery bags and string, make real moving toy cars out of juice boxes and flip flops, and use charcoal for chalk. I was constantly in awe of their ability to create something out of nothing.
7. One woman's trash is another's treasure. I know this is a clichéd statement, but I saw it for truth in the village. I learned to look at my trash and at recycling in a whole new light. I didn't throw away plastic bottles- I saved them to reuse or to share with my neighbors. I even sent my charcoal brazier home with the kids every day after I finished cooking; because they used them to keep warm while they slept (I had enough blankets and preferred them). The ashes then came back to me and went into my pit latrine to reduce odors. Nothing wasted.
8. There is always room for joy. Laugh, sing, dance. My friends and neighbors in Zambia were not always well fed. There were periods when the harvest was poor and they were starving or sick. However, they were always laughing and singing and dancing. If they can choose joy when they're dealing with so much, how can I not choose it just because I'm having some minor trial? Also, any empty container or flat surface can be a drum. There is never a good excuse not to dance.
9. You can find love in the most unexpected of places. I met my husband in the market, in front of the used tires and miscellaneous metals. It was over a year later that we started dating, but the market will always be special for us, since that's where we first met.
Me & Joshua- 2007, Zambezi
10. NOTHING tastes as good as fresh, warm peanut butter pounded with your own two hands.
Thank you, Zambia! You are always my second home and I'm so grateful for the multitude of blessings you gave me. Thank you to all the beautiful people who are now part of my life and my heart because of that adventure! If you need support in seeking out your dreams, please check out my Work page for more info on how we could work together. Or got here for info about a free Fairy Godmother Session to dig into your dreams and see what magics we can find.