As I write this I’m sat in at the window of my room for the next 9 weeks, looking out onto a beautiful Zambian morning. The house of my host mother, Gina, is amazing; a sprawling building surrounded by a garden full of exotic plants and furnished with multiple verandas, a guardhouse and a water tower. I can assure my parents that any worries they inevitably had about my safety in Zambia can certainly be quelled, not least of which due to our guard dogs, Talia and Vigor (the bounciest German Shepherd dogs I have ever seen).
This house is incredible and Gina and her niece Noelle have been unbelievably accommodating yet as I write this, I do have a sense of homesickness. Not of the UK, (although pictures of Glastonbury have been tough…) but of Golden Days Lodge, Lusaka. Almost exactly a week since I typed this, 12 of us UK based volunteers were flying over Southern Africa, absorbing the breath-taking views just before landing into Kenneth Kaunda airport on the outskirts of Lusaka. We had pretty much only known each other for 13 hours at this point, save those who had met on their training days, and had probably only just about memorised each other’s names. This was lucky, as we were just about to get another set of names to remember. Land we did, just about – there were strong winds in Lusaka that day and we had a rather turbulent descent – and from the airport we traveled by bus to Golden Days Lodge, which was to be our home for the next week and where we would meet our 12 Zambian counterparts and four team leaders for the first time.
Cut forward to Saturday afternoon, and, as we all departed from Golden Days to go to our separate host families, it says a lot about how remarkable this group of 28 people are that I felt a deep sense of sadness. We would all still be in the same city, we would be seeing each other at least once a week for team meetings, and apart from that, we had only known each other for a week. But sad I was. That week was an intensive bonding session, all of us living in very close quarters, packed like sardines in some cases and seeing each other 24/7, almost literally. We were all in the same boat; far from home, excited but also scared and, at least at first, fairly alone. We rapidly formed tight bonds that normally take weeks or months to develop, and then, before we knew it, we were being split up and sent our separate ways.
Landing in Kenneth Kaunda airport feels like yesterday, but at the same time it was a lifetime ago. We have been so busy and done so much the time has flown by, but by the strength of the relationships we’ve formed, the fact we have only known each other for a week is ludicrous. We’re a tenth of the way through our time in Zambia and if the last 90% is anything like the first 10% I know it’s going to be incredible.