This journal chronicles the adventures of a risk-taking, wanderlusting, kaleidoscope-eyed, strong-willed, peace-seeking
explorer taking on the title of Peace Corps Volunteer in the African country of Zambia. Follow me vicariously through
time and space to taste a little slice of my sweet life!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Sacred Self Reflection

Today I'm thinking about all the sacrifices I have made to fulfill a longtime dream of mine to serve overseas, albeit in the middle of the African Bush. For the contract of over two whole years I have dedicated myself to this land and its people, every day, living closely to both. I am missing my family's and (BEST, seriously each so dear to me) friends' marriages, divorces, career achievements, children's births.. Luckily no funerals yet.. But I have been to plenty here in central Zambia...

I have momentarily forgone other dreams, job opportunities, paths worth pursuing... In reflection, I used to let fear overwhelm me... Fear of missed opportunities, having to choose paths... And now I groggily laugh, HA!, Alas!, I have chosen for now. [These days, as a fact, I no longer fear. Fear escapes me. I have adapted in more ways to more unusual situations than I can count.]

All in all, it's a simple life here. Struggles abound, I greet the light of day with a smile. Even on a rainy day, it is welcome here. It's an odd simulation, though, I must say. I'm given a general outline of a job description, dumped in a two room mud brick house and have to budget a peanut salary. Then, I have a community asking me questions in a foreign language and I'm suddenly conforming to the cultural norms of the village. Ok great - challenge accepted.

Cut to, 10 months and 3 seasons later I am facing a certain time block ahead of me... Knowing what I know now... The language, the job, the seasons... And I just sit here painting my walls with the rain outside and my crops emerging from the soil in my field.. And I think, I am so content. But what's next? I'm a bit of an analyzer, if you know me at all. I take a lot to heart, too. I calculatingly fly off the seat of my pants and I chase dreams til I'm riding their clouds.

Photo courtesy of a 5 y.o.
Just noticed there's paint on me here too, ha!
I mentioned how happy I am these days... But damnit I get filled with inescapable emotion when I think about all the other fantastic days of my family and friends. I truly value the ways in which I can stay connected with them.. When it's possible.. I do live in the bush and half the world's time zones away.

Still, I am carving out this little happy chunk of time to serving the people around me in any way I know how. Oh, and I am in proximity to dozens of wondrous destinations around this continent and I have ample time to see so many! And it's not just me here in Zambia. I have made countless friends and brought along two fantastic ones that I already knew!

Now, I tell you, I'm growing within myself and in my gardens. I'm seeking, I'm finding. I'm being kind to myself and others. I'm gaining confidence in all things. I still have trouble simply living day to day, but the pace of life and the people here have dictated my rate of project completion and enforced a continuum of working to live.

Indeed, I have witnessed both working to live (here) and living to work (in the states) to their extremes.. And as I sit here covered in paint, listening to rain mixed with a cool jazz hi-hat tremble from my speaker, I think, I am so content.

I am as happy for my friends and family living their dreams as I am here living mine.. And I'm real happy for them! I look ahead with my palms outward facing, my blessings on my back, and my eyes wide open to what bliss I am to find next.

This small dissertation was the result of a moment to myself. These moments we each need; to align ourselves with our own destiny. Try it for yourself. Produce art, listen to music, revere nature - all at once if you are lucky. Find inspiration everyday: in the work you do, in the ones you love, in the reflection you make.


I am wishing everyone near and far Happy Holidays and don't forget to keep in touch. Love and Joy!

Brandi
Current Mood: trembling Current Music: Again Today/Hiing My Heart - Brandi Carlile

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A li'l update

Waiting for transport to haul my host's maize to market... Oh, yeah, I cut my hair..
Greetings!

I'm here at the Central Province office catching up on messages, research and electricity consumption! The last few months have proven to be a new scramble over the hills of service. Also, I've been climbing more hills (or mountains, as they are called no matter the size) around my area. I made it well through the cold season, which saw overnight temps of mid-upper 40's Fahrenheit. But, we've forgotten all that and now complain (just like Floridians do) about the heat of October. It's going to hit 91F today! though, soon enough the summer rains will come... For conservation farming purposes, we say to plant on Nov. 15.

As for me and my community, we have been busy with Cooperative meetings and field planning. Also, now is the time to finish up any construction projects before we enter the 5 month rainy season.
Co-op meeting to discuss a piggery project, under a mango tree at my home

 I just started my home garden nursery with seeds from the states (I hope they take!) so I can enjoy some nostalgia and variety in my diet! The field around my home will be planted with sunflowers and soybeans. Both are conservation crops which break the monotony of staple crops like maize and cassava. Sunflowers are an emerging industry with commercial use as oil, livestock and bird feed, and other applications. Soybeans are extremely nutritious and fix Nitrogen into the ground to naturally supplement the soil for the next season. I'll also grow my own maize, in part to demonstrate my earnestness to farm here.

 We recently held a youth outdoor environmental camp in our Province. We took 16 school children and 6 mentors to Kasanka National Park for 4 days of environmental education and nature tours. We had a blast! It was a fun opportunity since likely all of the children there would not have otherwise visited the Park which is just in their own backyards. We had lessons in English and Bemba and games and interactions throughout the day. We even went on safaris and saw an elephant in the near distance... my first sight in the wild and their first time ever! Oh, how they lit up with joy and wonder! At the end of the trip, all the kids had made new friends and went back to their villages to share their experience with their schools. Next, we'll have an all girls camp called, Girls Leading Our World (GLOW).

With friends, Shadreck and Ryan at Camp TREE
Next week I'll be enjoying a bit of exploration in the neighboring country, Malawi. First, we will head for the mountains for waterfall hiking, then down to Lake Malawi to snorkel the clear water and relax with a cold beverage, or three. Once in a lifetime, I will say.

Current Music: "Loving Wings" - Dave and Tim
Current Mood: Seasonal Cold Congestion

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Adventures through the Zambian Bush

Local bridge

                 

Magic moments are frequent here. It seems so easy for exactly what should happen to come to fruition because our lives are overall quite simple; very few distractions (only vices) to take us off the right path. Besides that, adventure waits around every corner!

Here's a day in my life:

From my village there are two ways to get to my neighbor's community south of me: by the Tarmac or through the bush. I have traveled there by road, but only about 10km are by motorcar... The remaining 12km are by foot. Needless to say, I've wanted to find the bush path for some time now.
It was a Sunday when my counterpart, Mr. Mambwe, Rodgers, and I set off on our bicycles to reach Andre's place. First, we crossed the long flooded valley where farmers in my community have abundantly irrigated gardens. Then we traveled 8km of straight, slightly sandy path. We found a village soon and took winding paths through their homesteads - and I was supposed to remember the way. Anyway, by this point we had passed a group of rocky hills, making the scenery beautiful and unique. Now it was time to dip down deep into a ravine and cross a river on a wood log bridge (pictured). We walked our bikes all of this time and reached the edge of André's village (about 16km total)!


Mr. Mambwe

I got to catch up with him while Ba Rodgers attended the local church service. Come to find out though, the main reason for traveling this day was for a soccer match between Andre's village and ours (for which, Ba Rodgers is the coach of). So, by noon we were headed to the field where I immediately recognized the young men hanging out in the shade. Upon greeting them, we took spots to hang out and, quickly, more of our players rode up on bikes. Not having seen any local players, we were able to relax and joke around and dance a bit. Two hours and no locals later, I was already feeling pride for my boys, maybe a little too much in front of Andre... But then we were surprised with lunch from a (drunk, but happy) man named Isaiah: nshima and rape (basically kale) for the whole team! Full and energized, the players retreated to the field...for another hour, as it were. By 15:00 hours, the locals came around and we were ready to play. By now, the players were all changing into their red jerseys and those with silicon (not leather, or lined) cleets had them on...the rest play barefooted!

Our guys in red, winning!
The first half of the game we scored one goal and I entertained the children on our side of the field by passing a zamball (usually plastic bags bound by chitenge) and greeting them in Bemba. After halftime I was placing bets with the locals who could speak English and were drunk on beer made from maize (a very common sight in the villages). As the game and the day grew late we were up 3-0 and I was shouting and cheering in Bemba for my boys. After the last whistle, all the women and children from the other side of the field came over dancing and singing for our team's victory.

Now, at the start of dusk, we loaded our bikes and headed back the way we came. First, down the crevassed river pass, we hooted and hollered. Up the other side, through the neighboring village, the night crept in. Still singing, I willfully pedaled in the middle of the parade. I couldn't keep an open mouth grin from my face even with my growing fear of falling off my bike in the dark. The power of the boys' praise songs was echoed throughout the bush. Only the crescent moon lit our way down narrow paths of sand and stone, under sparse forests. As dark as the night became, I exuded elation. Pride for my village team and the adventure I was having. Eventually we made it back to the open valley of the local stream, with millions of stars above our heads... I knew we were home.

I love and miss everybody back in the states...but I hope you're getting a few snapshots of my exciting life here! Enjoy the simplicity in our day and give praise always!

Peace,
Brandi

Current Music: Catching up on 'Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me'
Current Mood: Giddy


Monday, August 1, 2016

First Three Months in the Village



Next week, I will be celebrating my 6-month kilometerstone of living in Zambia! I expected the time to fly by, but I didn't realize just how fulfilling it would be each day. Up until now I have been in the phase of my service know as Community Entry, a time in which I have simply been integrating with my village and getting my home in order. At this time, I have just returned from the capital city, Lusaka, for what was two weeks of workshops and exploring the big city. Lusaka residents live a completely different lifestyle than Zambians in the rural areas of the country, and small towns for that matter. Still, the struggles of the city are apparent as we tried to get around on foot or by taxi. Buses are erratic and extremely unsafe, sometimes the drivers are drunk and you are always battling their attempts to overcharge you....

In Lusaka, there are huge, overwhelming open markets (which are filthy) and large, modern shopping malls (retailers delight). On a visit to the capital, volunteers get to stock up on fancy foods and readymade house goods. Also, dining out in Lusaka is a total luxury, but an expensive one! It's a nice "break" from the simple village life.

At an Irish pub in Lusaka drinking an expensive Guinness!
Out for Korean BBQ and karaoke for Will's B-day!
Back in the vil, I have been getting to know my neighbors...and all the local drama that comes with a small, disparaged community. I've slowly gained a sense of life here, including family matters and making a livelihood from subsistence farming. Right now, farmers are completing the big maize harvest, next comes processing (hand-shucking and milling) and buying and selling among villagers and to the market.

Kalli, who is quickly growing big on a diet of eggs and nshima
Kalli helping harvest maize
Also, I got a kitten! I have named her after the cat I had growing up since she looks just like her! Funnily, Kalli Kay (with different spelling) actually means "let her be" in Bemba....it gets a little confusing at times, ha. She's the best little bed deadweight and mouse chaser and my host family seems to like her.

I want to shout out to my loved ones back home who have sent me letters, post cards, and offered care packages. It is truly my favorite part of this experience to hear from you all in different ways; it really makes me happy. Keep 'em coming!

Here is my new PO Box address:

Brandi Murphy
PO Box 850055
Serenje, Zambia

Once I head back from the Provincial House tomorrow to go back to the village, I'll be getting down to working: planning farming demos, school garden lessons, and bracing myself for the hot season!

Missing everyone back home! xo, Brandi

Current Mood: Anxious
Current Music: I Will - Brandi Carlile

Thursday, June 2, 2016

First Three Weeks of Village Life

On this day, the day in celebration of my 26th year in existence, I am comfortably resting in our Central Provincial House / crash pad for our yearly meeting. I would otherwise be confined to my village and nearest market for the remaining two months of Community Entry. But the fresh intake of LIFErs (like myself) and RAPpers (Aquaculture Specialists) were granted a respite from our disorganized settling in and the strain of speaking local language, not to mention remembering all the new people we have met in our communities!

LIFE and RAP 2016 Central Province

Since we finished Pre Service Training, we were whisked off to Lusaka for our Swearing In Ceremony and to do all of our fancy modern shopping at the malls and whatnot. From there we had to say goodbye to all of our cohorts going to different provinces, which was a huge crying fest. 
We bought furniture and housewares in our local bomas (township) and were rushed out to our sites to greet our hosts. The first few days I was able to get my bed fixed up with a mosquito net and started to unpack bags. My little two-room grass thatch home is filling out slowing...
In the past three weeks at my site I have been meeting and greeting with neighbors, local farmers and visiting the closest health clinic and primary school. 
New bed, familiar sheets, cozy lights


I have seen some very impressive gardens and have been eating fresh from the field for weeks. At the local clinic, the head nurse Ba Grace has welcomed me overwhelming me - I was even put to work upon visiting the clinic on an Under 5 day. This is a day when mothers flock to the clinic (on foot) to weigh their babies, get immunizations and other supplements. I was happy to participate in the reporting and chart checking.
My new home garden :)


The past week I have also been visiting the local Grade 1-7 school a quick 5km bike ride from my house. I first met with the Deputy Head Teacher and her staff to introduce myself and discuss the idea of me contributing to the lessons on gardening and agriculture in the future. I have also been training with the sports teams as they prepare for tournaments this week. I have fallen in love with net ball, which is similar to women's basketball, but you can't move with the ball.


Now, at Provs, I have met the prior intakes of volunteers in Central Province and reunited with my LIFE and RAP boys (and KiKi!). We communally discussed issues of Peace Corps policy and procedures, as well as, site specific inquiries and hardships. There's nothing like sitting down and talking to people one-on-one or together with many insights and perspectives. I have enjoyed my time with the others and all the amenities of a functional, modern home...refrigerator, et. al. We were also just moved to a new Provincial House after, I suspect, over a decade elsewhere. It will be a unique time to contribute to the flair and comfort that our House provides, hopefully that includes wall paint! Ha!

Net ball girls
Futbol boys crashing the picture
Love these kids!










Besides not feeling well at all this week as a result of eating something foul, I have enjoyed my birthday and meetings. Next I will head back to my village to pick up where I was and continue learning, greeting, and growing in the land of the LaLa people. Oh and I am taking home a kitten!
Signing off for now. Please keep me in your thoughts and hearts. I should have a P.O. box set up by the end of the week and I will post it for folks to stay in touch or send me relief packages ;)


Light and Love, B
Burning Man Prov Party


Current mood: Sleepy
Current Music: Two Step DMB

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Transportation in Zambia

We occasionally leave our training village for day trips and visits to Lusaka. When we do, we sometimes take 4WD cruisers or small to medium sized buses. The roads here are mostly dirt and rock...and mud and holes. Traveling to and from town actually gives me anxiety. It feels like the worst carnival ride ever and I usually question the driver's sanity...and these are Peace Corps drivers...

The cruisers could probably double as fall out shelters...but they're still no match for the roads off the asphalt. Looking at a map of Zambia, there are basically 4 paved highway roads stretching NSEW from the capital. My new home will actually because stone's throw off the Great North Road.

We all have bikes to haul to our new sites. It took a while but more that half of us got bike racks on the backs...they can't handle much though. I may not use my bike very often in the village, and I'll probably take public transportation or hitchhike to get to other towns. Hitching is pretty common here, and not always free. People just taxi their cars out and make a ton of money. I am hoping to make friends with people from the national park by my house in order to hitch on with them if they go in to the provincial capital or Lusaka. I also expect to do a lot of camping there!

As I take more public transportation I will have more outrageous travel stories.... For instance, my first "taxi" ride was a guy's tiny 4door Toyota with 6 other people and 2 babies... We were on top of each other, and luggage was piled out of the trunk. I rode this way for 70 km into my nearest town. He also had fresh caught fish hanging from his driver's rear mirror...the smell was intense.  Anyway, the ride cost 50 Kwatcha and took my right to my destination. Otherwise I could have caught a eurovan sized bus ..that gets just as cramped.

Traveling all be an ingoing tension for me. One if the things that continue to make me Africa strong.

Current mood: sinus and throat pains
Current music: On Green Dolphin Street - Miles Davis

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Site Reveals!

So one hidden anxiety all of the trainees have had pertains to the actual location where we will all end up living for our two year service. Based on the origins of the particular language we are each learning comes a village which has requested that the Zambian government send them a PC Volunteer to aid in a specific sector that they feel their community would benefit from. Well the day came and we are now looking into each village and scouring for current volunteers nearby to get insight from.

This week we will actually be meeting our permanent host families for a workshop in the capital and the following week the staff will let us, as bold fledglings, visit our future sites for several nights and even travel, on our own via public transportation, back here to training.

This loosening of the training wheels has been pretty effective to me, despite the drain from a full schedule and cramming a foreign language into my brain. (I'll go into a reflection on training further down the line)

Along foreign culture lines, I had my fill today...

The morning began with a few hours of Bemba lessons including but not limited to conjunctions, strong/polite commands, and shopping/bargaining. I then joined the group in visiting the local Chief at his palace or "ifumu Camuka kwisano". We were all told to dress appropriately so for women that meant cloth wrap skirts known as chitenges..they are often quite colorful or busy with patterns. I am currently having a dress made from chitenge, as well. It is customary to bring the Chief an honorable gift so we had 1 sack of mealie meal (ground maize), 1 sack of sugar, one bottle of cooking oil and a live chicken (shout out to Rikki for handling that thing). Those offering the gifts had a sequence involving kneeling and clapping, we all also got down on our knees when he approached his highnesses chair. The Chief turned out to be extremely well spoken and is taking an active liberal role in his duties. In his lecture (because he is also a teacher at the farm college) he expressed the importance of our work (under God), as well as, the need for gender equality and representation, which I appreciated. I even had a fantastic dance session with the Chief's singing bamayos (motherly women).

Indeed, the cultural differences are becoming more apparent as I spend more time in both the village and the city. Lines are mostly drawn among gender roles. Also, the manual work load is greater here. Of course, I am living and working in a rural farming community...

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Settling in to PST

Hello blog followers! I have finally gotten my phone set up here in Zambia. They have three major carriers and significant reception in most towns. I now have a 12 digit phone number and very limited data.

At this point I am settling in to Pre Service Training with the other 34 LIFE volunteers like me. We are staying in the town of Chipembi and attending the Farm College here. Each volunteer was placed with a host family in the surrounding villages and was given a bike to commute to language classes and technical training 6 days a week. We were warned that PST was intense and after 4 weeks we are feeling the strain.

Still, I am so happy to have so many new friends with such great attitudes and dispositions. We have all been getting along so well and the days have been flying by.

Where should I begin to update?

Well, as I mentioned I am living in a town called Chipembi, which is north of the country's capital. The is the original land of the Lenja's but there are many languages spoken here, especially English. I am learning to speak Bemba, one of the country's most widespread languages. The traditional land of the Bemba's is in Northeast Zambia. So I can expect to have my final site somewhere up there.

My host family is Bemba, but they all know English. My Bamayo (mother) is the head of the home with 2 of her 4 daughters, Mwiza (13) and Martha (23), oh and baby Mienza (1), son of Martha. It is a lively farming home with gardens and maize fields all around it.

My daily routine consists of waking up to roosters outside of my room before dawn, bathing from a wash basin inside a grass shower enclosure and watching the sun rise, playing with the baby while my older sister cleans the floors and then eating my home mother's awesome egg dishes and dough fritters. By 7:45 I am on my bike headed to language class for 4 hours. I head home for lunch and to the farm college for agricultural training for 4 hours. By the time we all bike home, the sun is setting and the family is home cooking dinner. We eat together and basically gossip for the rest of the evening. While I attempt to study at night, by the time my head hits the pillow I am out like a light.

This is just a quick overview of my day to give everyone reassurance that I'm still alive. I plan to break my day down more and post some pictures too.

Also FYI, it was snowing in Philadelphia when we left, and arrived in Zambia to the rainy hot season. I already have a tan on my arms. Unfortunately my legs will remain pale because women can't expose above their knees....

Overall there are plenty of struggles to keep me on my toes and tired. I'm lucky to have good friends with me and Facebook... Ha! Missing home everyday.

Please stay in touch!
Til next time,
Brandi

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

We are off!!!!

Here is my mailing address for the next three months. Keep in mind letters and boxes will that upwards of 6 weeks to arrive!

Brandi Murphy/PCT
Peace Corps
P.O. Box 50707
Lusaka, Zambia

Love you all!

Monday, February 8, 2016

One Night in Philly



Good Day from Philadelphia!

After an eternally long night of packing I somehow managed to make the weight of both my checked luggage under 50lb (22.7kg) each. I really had to glean but I am pretty satisfied with what I was able to bring. Here’s the breakdown:



I can tell you numerous things on my excel DID NOT make it. I did however get to carry my tent and sleeping back thanks to my awesome external frame backpack from my dad. The other duffle back has back straps and wheels…plus I have a full carry-on backpack and cargo purse. I’m pretty bummed that most of the candy goods didn’t make it… I am happy to have my hammock. Also, I hope my small bottle of Jameson isn’t ransacked, not sure why it would be.

Anyway, I am preparing now to get registered at the hotel and then run out downtown before our sessions begin for the afternoon. Here’s my current itinerary for the next 48 hours:

STAGING DATES: February 8, 2016 - February 9, 2016

REGISTRATION: 12:00 PM on February 8, 2016

STAGING HOTEL: Sonesta Philadelphia Hotel
1800 Market St 19103
(215) 561-7500
www.sonesta.com/Philadelphia‎

SCHEDULE:

February 8, 2016
12:00
PM: Registration
2:00 - 4:25 PM: Who We Are, What You Expect, What's Next
4:25 - 4:45 PM: Break
4:45 - 7:00 PM: What We Expect, Closing

February 9, 2016
2:00
AM: Check out of hotel
2:30 AM: Bus arrives for loading and departure to the airport

INTERNATIONAL FLIGHT ITINERARY:

09 FEB 16 - TUESDAY
AIR UNITED AIRLINES FLT:7226 UNITED ECONOMY LUNCH
NEW YORK JFK-JOHANNESBURG OPERATED BY SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS
LV NEW YORK JFK 1040A EQP: AIRBUS A340-600
DEPART: TERMINAL 4 14HR 55MIN

10 FEB 16 - WEDNESDAY
AR JOHANNESBURG 835A NON-STOP
ARRIVE: TERMINAL A
AIR SOUTH AFRICAN FLT:62 ECONOMY LUNCH
LV JOHANNESBURG 1030A EQP: AIRBUS A320
DEPART: TERMINAL B 01HR 55MIN
AR LUSAKA 1225P NON-STOP


I don’t expect to have cell service or any communications opportunities with overseas after we leave JFK around 10:30AM Tuesday. Upon arrival in the capital of Zambia (Lusaka), we will be shuffled into a hotel..the Barrel Hotel, I think. I am hoping that they will left us crash for the rest of the day and then remain in the hotel for a few days. I have hardly slept in the last week, plus the emotional and mental drain of goodbyes and preparations is tolling. This gig ain’t for the weak!

Still, I am in a very happy state despite all that I am leaving. What I am facing is a sweet unknown world of African culture and geography which I have longer to encounter for so long now. I am privileged, blessed, and gracious beyond belief by all the circumstances that have lined up this path. With a strong, supportive family, half a decade of higher education, and an adventurous spirit all backing me up I am feeling confident with what lies ahead. That’s not to say that I have doubts and regrets…in fact they are expressing themselves as a pretty consistent eye twitch right now….I just need sleep.

So, after my sessions I will probably catch dinner with some of the other volunteers and shuffle my bags some more, as well as, do any downloading or websurfing I need to do before we truck on out of here at 2 AM. Alicia figured we ought to just stay up until then, great idea girl đŸ˜‰ Hahaa. So, I will plan on posting on more time.



Current Music: Led Zeppelin on shuffle
Current Mood: Autopilot

 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

48 hours to go

Learning curve alert...the mobile version of Blogger does not auto save your draft if you click away from it. Needless to say, I am rewriting what I just got out on paper.

Also, to disclaim, I have been running around shopping and to appointments so hastely that I have hardly stopped to process my reality. Still, I feel enchanted and charged!

Reflecting on all my meetings and gatherings with loved ones to say goodbye, I really just wanted to carry on with them as I ordinarily would. I had lunch with my absolute favorite professor from college and coffee with a political leader who I admire as my friend. I spring-cleaned a butterfly garden on the USFSP campus that I helped create. I Om-circled with my sweet hippie friends at the Blueberry Patch, always magic. I played in the band with the old Tavern crew, and still have their songs stuck in my head. Then my girls took me out for dancing on the town last night, complete with St. Pete's famous Cappy's Pizza! The list continues to go on as I wrap things up here and head back to Lakeland to finish packing and say goodbye to my friends and family there.

On Monday I fly out to Philadelphia at 8 am and check into the Sonesta Hotel for Peace Corps Staging. There, we will meet our fellow crazy volunteers and attend sessions to clue us in on what's ahead, including going over paperwork which I still need to review..

So, I will continue to check in with insights and details of my Peace Corps departure preparations! In fact, I feel much calmer when I do :) Pace is the trick!

✌, Brandi

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Last weekend at the vineyard

The past weekend marked my last few trips down to Bunker Hill Vineyard and Winery. For nearly three years now I have made my way out of town to a grape farm run by environmental advocates, Larry and Lenora Woodham...or as I know them - Pop and Nan. Since the day I introduced myself as their granddaughter's friend from college, I have been connected to them as kindred spirits and gracious employers.

Bunker Hill has a special place in my heart as a respite from my once-busy lifestyle and a learning space for land stewardship and an introduction to small business. While in school, I earned internship credit toward my Environmental Science degree, but I had never imagined finding such a truly sustainable business with such humble owners. They continuously push the envelope for conserving resources and retaining the quality of their wines. From sourcing only local, whole produce to using only bottles recycled from their customers, Bunker Hill is a true green business. I am so gracious to them for all that they have taught me, and for treating me like family.

Kissing their cheeks and receiving gifts from Nan and Pop on Saturday felt like any other day. I have become so at home at the vineyard that it still seems like a regular part of my week to come. Still, I having been running around like a banshee across central Florida these last few weeks just trying to say farewell to loved ones and round out my packing supplies. It just doesn't feel like the "last time" for any of my salutations; however, a mere 6 days are all that's left before I am on a plane to Philly and then off to the African motherland.

With my remaining time, I will continue to visit friends and colleagues to have coffee and cocktails around St. Pete and in Lakeland. I was fortunate to see some of my Murphy family who came to town, as well as, my father's wife who I consider a powerful influence in my life! I set up their Skype accounts and explained that I will be 7 hours ahead of them and I would need adequate power and internet to video chat with them.

If anyone has a Skype account feel free to add me! "brandimurphy40"
I will also have my Facebook active, "brandi.murphy.180"
Soon I will have a temporary mailing address for letters and care packages ;)

More tomorrow!



Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Introduction

Greetings!

This is the beginning of a fantastic journey across the ocean to the country of Zambia in southern Africa. Two weeks from now, I will be departing for service with the US Peace Corps as a Agroforestry Specialist for 27 months. This blog will serve as one form of communication to others, as well as, an outlet for me to recount and relish in the goings-on of my unique travels.

You may be curious how I came to this frontier and, certainly, a little more about me for my acquaintances. Without getting too existential on my readers (just yet), I will say my desire to serve in the Peace Corps has been building over the past decade and the timing simply strummed reality about 7 months ago. Then, as I was nearing the completion of my Bachelor's degree (a requirement of serving in Peace Corps), I was spreading all my plans out on the table. Back to school, job in my college town, Americorps...Then I got a call one day from a dear friend of mine inquiring of my interest in joining Peace Corps (PC). It appeared that the adventure bug was in her ear, too. So, with our combined courage we applied, together since we were in the same fields.

The application process was pretty streamlined, especially for government. Indeed the Peace Corps have been around for over 50 years now! Certainly a lot has changed within the organization over the years, but I like to think that all the right people are in charge for the program to have lasted this long. Besides that, the need for foreign diplomacy, field agents, and aid are high priorities. I am proud to say I am serving my country abroad in these capacities.

So, what do you want to know about Zambia?
Here's a link to the CIA Factbook page, it gives rigid info on the country's stats.
Fun facts include:
  • Zambia gained its independence (formerly Rhodesia) in 1964
  • Copper is their major export, which has been booming and busting for decades
  • It's about the size of Texas, but a totally different shape.
  • 38% of Zambia's land area is protected (compared to 14% in US)
  • Zambia jointly shares the largest sheet of falling water in the world, Victoria Falls!
There will be tons more to learn about my future home and I look forward to sharing my experiences there with everyone reading this blog! Stay tuned as I round out the next two weeks in the states... I will be sharing my packing list, itinerary, thoughts in my head, things I'm going to miss, and other ways to stay in touch :)