Adventures Abroad

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

City lights

Being the villager that I am, I still woke up at 5 this morning even without the dulcet crows of roosters. I’m in Lusaka once again and there isn’t much to do in the wee hours. Especially when you can’t find a blank quarterly report form. I won’t be home until mid-May. At that point, I’ll only have 6 weeks or so in my village- which is distressing. There is still so much to do. I have to get my roof fixed, find a good home for my dog, spend much more time hanging out with my zamily.

My farmers on the other hand seem to be handling this much better than I. Before I left, I scribbled measurements for 4 farmers and expect to go back to 4 RAP standard ponds ready and waiting for fish. They do keep telling me that they are going to miss my visits. I’m sure I’m very charming when I show up to there houses after a 2 hour bike ride guzzle water, tell them everything looks good and bike back. I do love seeing them ever week, hearing the local gossip and how much they love fish farming. I do have a feeling that if they didn’t expect me to show up regularly at least a few would be more lax with management, but then don’t need me too much anymore. I am working with new farmers too, but they’ve all done their research and talked to their neighbors and have a good idea of what they’re doing. How sustainable.

To encourage this, I am practicing a form of studied neglect, seeing old farmers less and less. New farmers, with first hand experience on neighbor’s ponds, are very quickly becoming old farmers so I seem to have less contact with each individual than I did in the beginning. Now I see most farmers every 2 weeks instead of once a week and some even less. Since I have much more farmers than I did when I first started this isn’t too much of a break. Blah blah blah goats, furrow issues, vigilante justice. So that’s the village.

I’m in town for meetings about training, my close of service conference (means I am in the home stretch) and to finish off my vacation days with a trip to Mozambique. Seafood, diving and laying around on the beach. I’m pretty stoked. I’ll try to put up pictures soon soon.

Friday, March 28, 2008

March Madness

I should really be in my village getting ready for the three harvests, one DoF visit and first ever dirt sale in RAP history that I have to do in the next two days. But I'm in the boma trying to work up the energy to make the bike ride by home. I'm not that sick. I just have some bacterial infection that makes me tired and dizzy. Incapacitating, yes, but not altogether horrible. So I can't do all the things I need to get done and it isn't so bad that I don't feel guilty for not doing them. Hopefully I can spend the next few hours pushing enough antibiotics and ORS through my body that can bike home.

I was getting home from from Easter vacation yesterday, when I started feeling not fantastic. My bike ride home is 8k long, usually it takes me around 35 mins to get home. Yesterday it took 2 1/2 hours mostly because I would stop to lay in people's lawns on the way. I really wasn't thrilled about the trip back out should I need some medical attention. Then it got worse. I called a commercial farmer who came to pick me up as it was getting dark and stayed with me until I had a place to stay in the boma. I am a very lucky girl to have people around me I can count on. I'm a little wary of starting of home now. I feel not bad, but I haven't eaten anything in since breakfast yesterday and I only really start feeling it when I exert myself. So I'm going to hang out or a few hours, try to eat something and slowly slowly make my way back home. This can't possible go wrong. Mean the while, this gives me a chance to upload some pictures from Christmas.

Maybe during my next gastronomical episode I can put up pictures from Easter. Alexy, Kathy and I went to Siavonga which is on the sandy shores of Lake Kariba. It was much closer to Lusaka than I had thought. I was in an air conditioned room by noon after easy transport. It was pretty fantastic. We met hung out with some interesting guys and I was reminded of how weird white people who live in Africa are after spending some time with a Canadian. Then again, I have been reading Norman Rush. We also bombed royally at the English version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The 100 kwacha questions were about the minute geographical details of Essex County and British sitcoms of the 70s. Alexy, Kathy and I are all, apparently, sore losers. But we did end up winning at life by eating too much and all getting sweet tans. If that's not worth a million kwacha I don't know what is. All in all it was one of the best vacations I've been on. It was about time too, March had been a long month.

I had 8 harvests planned or March. Each harvest takes a few days of work before and after and then nearby ponds have to monitored to make sure they are ready to buy the fingerling (seed fish) that the harvested ponds produce. So it was a lot of bike riding and trying to get rural Zambians to appreciate deadlines. Thankfully all my farmers are wonderful hardworking people and things went pretty well. We've harvested 4 ponds and stocked a bunch. By April there should be 28 ponds with fish in them and a few under construction. And we are digging a 7k long furrow (man made stream) that is going to supply water to hundreds of people and increase the number of people who can have ponds. The next volunteer is going to have a ton of work.

February wasn't very eventful. I worked a lot and it was the beginning of my bike problems. Since my bike couldn't shift gears or have breaks I decided to take the bike of a volunteer who had left. Then the clutch arm fell off when I was 20k from home. Luckily 8k of that was downhill so I held the arm and coasted down. Later I would learn that I could put the arm back on if I found the right sized rock to screw it back with and it would last for about 5k. Eventually I got a new crank put on, but for some reason it would wind up and stop turning. After pushing my bike around for a few days I discovered that if I peddled backwards more than forwards the crank wouldn't seize up. I can't tell you how much fun that is uphill.

Tony moved to the Congo. That wasn't great. But he is off building hospitals for people who desperately need them and I'm proud of him.

I am going to be Lusaka for a bit of April so I should be able to put up a few more pics and send out some more emails. Love you all and I'll see everyone before Halloween.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Backwards Glance

Happy New Year kids it's been a while. So lets have a glance back at the memorable events of the past few months.

This month I have been on vacation. The entire thing so far and half of last month. I went to a sweet Christmas party in Serenje where I got Tupperware and whiskey packets in the gift exchange. I can't wait to use them! Then I went on a pretty fantastic trip to Cape Town and the surrounding areas of Johannesburg with my boyfriend Tony. We played with penguins, went to museums rode a scooter around the Cape and ate too much seafood. It was pretty wonderful . I'll try to get pictures up as soon as I can. Then I got to meet his gorgeous 2 1/2 year old daugther a picked up a few words in Afrikaans. It was lekka.

Then the second leg of my trip began. I picked up my brother and we jet-setted around Zambia in tiny planes. Some highlights include playing with lions, Victoria Falls, Malay meatballs, seeing too much wildlife (I love warthogs now) and a really sweet time in my village. I actually just dropped him at the airport today and after a zillion hours of flying he is due back to the cozy coasts of California where there are burritos on every corner and you don't change languages every few towns.

November was also eventful. I had a fish harvest that was by no means a success but what a HUGE improvement over what this group did the last time. last time they got 4kgs from 4 ponds (that is probably the worst harvest anyone has ever ever had) and this time they got 14kgs from 1 pond. So I'm proud of them.

That was also the month that I transported a turkey about 500km for thanksgiving. She was a scrawny well-behaved bird who I paid too much for. We bonded during our 4 trip and then Michelle cut her head off and we had it for dinner.

October was the copperbelt extravaganza. We went to the Kashiba the sunken lake of Mpongwe! It was a lot of swimming and getting burned. We went to a Chimp orphanage in Chingola (where Jenn got pooed on and I got a nasty buffalo bean burn.) Hung out with Tony for the first time since April and had a really fun Halloween party during which I rode on top of watermelons in the back of a huge canter truck.

Also I'm doing training for the RAP 2008 group.

I guess that brings us completely up to date.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Bwangu bwangu

NEW pics.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Half way there, livin' on a prayer

Well it's been a while since I've written. Here's a quick synopsis of the last few months. I'm more than half way through this whole Peace Corps wonderfulness. I am starting to get my village ready for me leaving. I am really going to miss this place.

-My house was expanded. It took a long time. I had to move out but it is huge and wonderful now. I have an indoor shower, a pantry and a proper sitting room. All my furniture was delivered via ox-cart. I painted my house ridiculous colors.

- I have been working a lot. Biking 14ok a week and staking up a storm. I have tons of ponds and my farmers are a source of joy in my life- generally.

- I went to a terrible Bob Marley tribute concert and ended up playing a supporting role which resulted in infamy.

- Jen's parents came to visit and it was lovely.

- I had disastrous fish transfers that were demoralizing and extremely expensive. I traveled a thousands of kilometers, spend weeks planning and counted thousands of fish to have them die over and over again. It worked out in the end because of all the amazing help I got from Peace Corps and awesome volunteers.

- I had 5 boys stay at my house for a week for site visits. I biked them all into exhaustion and cooked a lot. We bought pigs from the Congo (it's a four hour ride both ways- probably longing when you have a huge pig tied to your bike). My Zam-dad was 2 days late coming home from this transaction. It turned out that one of them got loose and he spent 2 days tracking a pig through the jungles of the Congo and then gave up and bought another pig. All this extra trouble cost me about $5.

-I went to Lusaka for Jen's birthday. Lusaka is the only place to get ice cream and cheese and sandwiches or to see a movie etc. I came down with giardia and spent my entire time sleeping off my sickness in a fancy hotel. But I did manage to make a miraculous recovery for a few hours to eat a lot of sushi (see picture) and watch the transformers movie. In hindsight- it was probably a poor choice of cuisine but it was glorious at the time.

- We had a Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) event where we took girls from the village to an outdoor activities camp and we had them do a rock climbing wall, canoe, make pottery, sew sanitary pads and we had a lot of girls empowerment, HIV education and whatnot. It was the first time a lot of these had ever used electricity or a fork. It was pretty great. Now I am forming a girl club at the local school with the two girls that went from my village.

- Kabwe

-I spent a week out of my village trying to fix my bike in Serenje (broken axle!) and it was horrible. I love my village too much.

-I finally made a lot of progress with my diary goat project. I'll go into that in more detail later.

- Now I'm back in Lusaka for Mid-term Meds. I've been here for more than a year so they are checking us out. They wait until we leave Zambia to check us for parasites because we are just going to get them again if they deworm us now anyway. While here I'm going to try and have some clothes made by a really great tailor in the big Lusaka market, upload tons of pictures and eat a lot of dairy products.

- So since there seems to be some confusion here is my address again:

Box 840038
Mkushi, Central Prov.

Packages are nice but I really do love getting letters. I am really out of the loop. Write me ten page letters and let me know what you are up to. I promise I'll do the same.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Goats and beer

The Heifer International website makes it really hard to apply for a goat but really easy to donate money. I guess people who need goats don't really have internet access. Except for me.

As I was biking out of my village I saw about 5 different people brewing giant barrels of beer along the road, my family included. It looks like tomorrow is going to be a very interesting day in the village. Some of my farmers are brewing beer to get boys to dig a furrow for them. The president of my fish association said that they will brew the beer and the drunkards will come and dig all day. And they will do it again. Sounds good to me.

Incidentally you can make beer out of anything corn, tea, fruit, ketchup. Local brewing is a lost art in America. It was a huge part of our national pastime. In fact, Johnny Appleseed wasn't planting apples for the kiddies. Apples were almost exclusively used for hard cider just a hundred years ago. Which again makes me realize that Zambia is the wild west, without the guns. All it takes is a few hours in Serenje to realize that. The guidebooks call Serenje unremarkable and explicitly advice people to stay away from Volunteer hotspots in Lusaka. It's nice not to be a tourist.

But here are a few things I am very happy about
- Tanzanian truck drivers
- the swahili language barrier between me and the Tanzanian truck drivers
- Seba's golden soya pieces
- the willingness of Zambian youth to do everything I tell them to
- living in the tomato capitial of africa
- the amount of random volunteers floating around central province
- commercial famers
- the BBC
- powdered milk
- riding in trucks
- riding my bike
- hunting in the bush for things to put in my salads

Things at aren't so great
- All the cell phone numbers in Zambia being changed by national decree. My new number is +0260966106872. It is a little expensive to call but texts are pretty cheap. Let me know what you are up to. And Happy Birthday Patrick!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

On being a minority

I have never been such an obvious minority in my life. It's pretty eye opening. I am under no illusion that 90% of the people I run into see me as "WHITE PERSON" and the rest while constantly aware of it actually see me as Laura. People here will say good morning mzungu (white person.) It's really not a slur, but coming from a society where it is unthinkable to run around screaming "Hi black people!!!" it's difficult to get a handle on.

Then there is the staring. People here have no qualms about blatant staring, they even break into uncontrollable laughter if you talk to them or turn your back. I can't tell you how many times I have gone out to brush my teeth and aimlessly stared at a tree to discover 5 children sitting in it staring back at me. Everyone wants to greet me and is extremely happy to see me all the time. That's nice but it's because I'm white. It's really wierd. It's the closest thing I will be to a celebrity. I've had random people take pictures of me and 7 year olds propose. It's sort of funny, easily frustrating and over in 16 months. Not the worst thing in the world but I can definately understand why someone might beat a photographer with their own camera.

Then there is the strange phenomenon of people thinking that being a minority only makes life easier. I have had conversations with people who tell me it must be so easy for me to get rides because I am white (and that's absolutely true) but refuse to believe that people try to charge me extra for everything because I am white. Even when it happens right in front of them. It's exactly the same as people who think affirmative action is grossly unfair but deny the exsistence of any other type of prejudice.