LearnServe AbroadZambia

Pumps for Life—and Other Zambian Ponderings

Severe jetlag and near-sleepless flights did laughably little to diminish our excitement and enthusiasm upon reaching Zambia. On the ride from the airport, when we might have othewise been staring down at our iPods or trusty books, everyone had their heads uniformly turned to face the windows, where dense grasslands, sturdy trees, and messy slabs of concrete combined to form the passing scenery. After swerving around the Zambian equivalent of Dupont Circle, we bustled down a skinny road and arrived at our now-beloved Juls Hotel. We dropped off our luggage, took well-needed showers, and in less than no time were laying face-up in our beds, indulged in the first of the profound discussions amongst ourselves—so profound, in fact, that hopefully we didn’t use up all our conversation fare on the first night of our three-week stay.

Having settled in quite smoothly, we piled back into the bus, and were chanting "Ms. Jackson," "Fresh Prince of Bel Air," and other hip-hop favorites by the time the wheels were rolling. Our high spirits were somewhat tampered upon entering the skinny lane of the Changwe Compound, which exposed us to grim signs of poverty and pollution.

But all was well again upon reaching the community school, where we had our first real-life encounter with one of the famed "PlayPumps". Though we already knew some about these water-pumping carousels, there was nothing like riding them ourselves to the sound of water getting chugged into the tanks overhead, as well as learning of how the school elaborated on the genius of the system—having spilt water from the faucet run into a fish pond, as opposed to just letting it dry up on the ground.

We were then greeted by our guide "K2" and the kindly nun "Sister Rita," who escorted us through the school and the nearby "Chawaniazocs" missionary. They aswered many of our questions on the site—how the school is managed, how its schedule is set up—and, in return, we were asked of our goals as a "LearnServe" group and how life in America is comparable to life in sub-Saharan Africa. After a few snapshots with the grinning kids we met, we were crammed back into the bus and drove away. Highlights of the return trip included hearing of the Zambian soccer team’s 1-0 triumph over Swaziland, and spotting a local hip-hop duo thrilling members of a local crowd.

Our journal reflections of that afternoon show that, though we’ve only been here a day, it feels like a whole week, thanks to the depth of knowledge and insight we’ve acquired on Zambian culture. Having gotten a first taste of the trip, it’s safe to say we’re all pumped up for more.

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