On Day 2 of GHC Training, Dr. Noerine Kaleeba, the patron and founder of TASO Uganda, shared an inspiring talk on resilience in health and development. I etched her phrase, “Bent But Not Broken” into my notebook thinking it would be relevant one day, not realizing just how true it would become for me.
These past few weeks have been overwhelming to say the least. Between moving to Zambia, load shedding, new languages, moving to a new city with just my co-fellow, and everything in between I have experienced loneliness, frustration, and sadness.
Things have not been easy.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect a smooth transition and Zambian friends waiting to pick me up at the airport, but I did work hard to envision what this fellowship year might be for me. I imagined a year of gaining hands-on experience in global health, thriving in Zambia, and creating a new home as I’ve done in the past abroad. I thought I might work on journal articles in my free time or find a local initiative working with women and girls. I thought I’d discover future opportunities in health or make a ton of new friends.
On one hand, I owe myself some slack because I have been through quite the transition since this fellowship started. I packed up all my belongings and kissed my family goodbye to move across the world for a year. I met 150 new people at training, created a new family in #ZamFam and then kissed them goodbye to move to a new city and begin my first professional job. But on the other hand, I have been so grounded in my pre-set expectations that I have let my resentment prevent me from seeing this year as what it is and what it could be instead of what it is not.
Now that I have shed more than enough tears, I am finally ready to embrace what this experience will be for me.
This year will be one of growth in:
- Patience – I have to learn how to work in new cultural environments with new expectations of timeliness and how that affects meetings and work. I have to learn to wait for relationships to develop and thrive on their own. I have to wait to make new discoveries in Kitwe organically, rather than finding events by surfing the web.
- Assertiveness – For those that know me, I tend to find comfort in passiveness, but I have to learn to be my own biggest advocate and to fight to ensure that this year will be one of growth. By doing so, I will only become a better advocate for those I am working for.
- Adulthood – Though the youngest of my family and #ZamFam, I am now a professional living abroad. I am very literally growing up and am having to learn new lessons in adulthood every day. I miss the comforts of college, but this is the first year of the rest of my adult life.
- Fixed vs. Growth Mindset – These past few weeks I have been fixed in my disposition of what I thought this year should have been, but it is time for me to adopt a growth mindset so that I may embrace new lessons and actually learn from them.
The reality of my situation is that I am gaining hands-on experience in global health. I am learning about Zambia, and I am creating a new home for myself. This is development work, as painstakingly slow and different as it might be from the U.S. This is Zambia – nshima, friendly faces, peaceful lifestyles and all. And this is my new home. It’s about time that I start accepting that so that I may begin to grow.
I owe a huge thank you to all of the family and friends, both old and new, who have listened patiently as I have vented, wiped my tears through the phone, and have never left my side. I may be a little bent, but I am certainly not broken.