Teaching English from Zambia to Japan -Shou Yuan, Zambia 2013-2016

After three years of serving as a rural education development volunteer in Zambia, where he taught English, Shou Yuan headed for rural Japan to continue teaching English. We talked over Skype during his recent visit home to the US, and explored the similarities and differences of teaching English and living in two very different countries.

Photos from Shou’s Story

Shou Yuan’s Peace Corps Story

Where and when did you serve? What did you do?

I was a rural education development volunteer in Zambia from 2013-2015. I then extended for a third year in 2015-2016. I was an English teacher at a rural primary school for the first two years in Luapula Province, in the northwestern region of the country bordering the DRC. My third year extension was in Mfuwe, a town in Eastern Province. I lived on the edge of South Luangwa National Park, which is a famous destination in Zambia for its abundant wildlife. My work there developing/implementing an early childhood literacy program for elementary schools, along with working at a community library.

What is one of your favorite Peace Corps memories?

Sharing a meal with my Zambian host family underneath their enormous umbrella tree.

What is one of your least favorite Peace Corps memories?

Having a black mamba snake drop down from the ceiling of my pit latrine while I was “recovering” from intestinal problems.

What do you miss about Peace Corps?

I miss the camaraderie stemming from shared experiences I had with other volunteers in Zambia. I made some incredible lifelong friendships there with amazing people.

What is something you learned in the Peace Corps?

Nature is brutal and unforgiving. It’s a privilege to be insulated from it with man-made development. Lack of modern resources like electricity, clean water, and education hold communities back in ways that are hard to explain and heartbreaking to witness.

Do you have a favorite quote or local saying?”

In the Bemba language I learned in Luapula, there was a proverb I learned which I really liked. It was used as a school motto for some of the local schools. “Imiti Ikula Empanga”, which means essentially that today’s tree is tomorrow’s forest. A bit like that old Chinese proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the second best time is now.” I like to think the Bembas had it first though. I have no way of knowing what will happen with the students I had in Zambia… But I’ve learned to be okay with it. Things start small and you do not know how far they will go.


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