Thursday, October 1, 2009

October 1st 2009 Update

Hi Everybody!

Everything has been going well! (I think?) I miss you all but have been doing well. I did manage to catch a cold a couple of weeks ago but am much better now! There has been a lot of sickness going around in the village lately.

I have managed to get quite a few pictures online. So enjoy! It is an incredibly slow process so you had better like them! Here is where they can be found!

I have had a couple people ask what exactly is cassava. (I will post some good pictures next time I come into Mansa.) It is a root like potato. You may be able to see it in some of the photos. There are different varieties, either one year or two year. Most people in my area grow the two year kind. It is very easy to grow (take a branch and stick it in the ground), drought resistant, does well in poor soil, increases food security… We call Luapula “Land of the Tute” (cassava). To harvest they just dig the roots up. Then they remove the outer layer (it kinda peels off), soak in water for 3 days (to remove the cyanide), cut it into smaller pieces, lay it in the sun to dry, and then they can pound it into flour. It is poisonous if you eat too much raw. It also gives you an upset stomach if you are not use to eating it (I try to only eat a little bit at a time). One down side is that the nutritional content is very low, they may never go completely hungry in my area but malnutrition is an issue. In my area that is almost all that they grow partially due to the fact that they are able to sell it to someone who takes it to the Copperbelt(high population area).

It felt good to be home in the village after being away in Lusaka for so long. The villagers were happy to see me back. Since I have been back the kids have been at my house more often. The girls have been trying to teach me their rope games (I unfortunately can not get the hang of it) but they enjoy watching me try. The Bamaayos (ladies) have also been enjoying my attempts at the game as well.

Most of the evenings have been spent with the boys. Anywhere from 4 to 12 boys come and sit with me on my porch. They play their games (which involve hitting each other and then trying to figure out who did it) and talking about whatever. It is limited to my Bemba skills which is not much (my conversations are pretty short). We talk about the differences between America and Zambia, what food I like, and family. It has been very fun and relatively relaxing. The group of boys that come over are very well behaved and friendly.

Goat and Chicken Training

Shortly after I got back to the village we had a training (I happened to find out the day before from my neighbor (he was out trying to buy a goat for the lunch). It was a goat and chicken training put on by the District Veterinarian and fortunately it was taking place in my village (although no one knew where).

The meeting was suppose to start at 8am. 8am rolls around and nothing has happened in the village yet (I was pretty sure a motorcar would bring them) so I went over to my neighbors house. I sat on a stool and waited. In preparation for the lunch, his wife was busy washing all of their dishes, a daughter was pounding the cassava into flour for the ubwali, the goat was tied to the drying rack trying to sneak pieces of food that were in reach for a last meal…

9:30am comes around and finally a motorcar shows up. It dropped people off and then continued up the road to Mubende which is the village past mine, where the Agriculture Block officer lives. There is also a veterinarian up there as well although he had already ridden his bicycle down. 10am and the local veterinarian comes and we go to the meeting together (my neighbor is working on lunch). There were about 20 people in attendance, representatives from all of the villages in the area. I, of course, was seated in the very front of the room with the three veterinarians that were there (kinda awkward).

The meeting started with introductions, of course I was first. And then the training started. One veterinarian talked about goat husbandry and then the next talked about chickens. I was only able to follow the first half of the training, by the time we got to the chickens my brain was fried (I am only good for 3 hrs of Bemba at a time). Lunch was served. I was seated at the head table with all the government people and my headman. They enjoyed the fact that I eat their local food (ubwali).

Overall it was a very good day. Hopefully the information will be put into practice but I am not going to hold my breath. I seriously doubt it. The other part of the meeting is to build a goat house like what they were teaching. It has not happened yet but is suppose to soon (the day keeps changing). It is the practice to let the goats run wild during the dry season and keep them tied up in the rainy. Chickens live in the house in baskets (not healthy).

Other Adventures

Later that week on Friday the 11th I ended up at another meeting in my boma, Mwense. I went there to get away from the village, do some shopping (not that there is much there) and have lunch. While I was trying to kill time waiting for lunch time I ended up at a District Business Meeting. It was very long and hot. The good thing was that the guy who oversees the Business Associations in Luapula was there and he threw his support behind me and encouraged the 20 small business owners there to seek my assistance. He also encouraged the people to go after grants to help develop the district since Mwense is the poorest and least developed district in Luapula. And then we all went out for lunch together.

Since then I have been busy with home improvement projects. It started with the kids wanting to smear the floor of my insaka (with mud and sand) for a little bit of money. That was day 1. Day 2 they redid the floor and smeared all of the walls. I added my own touches after they finished. I painted large 5 foot flowers on the tall side, handprints on the front, and kids’ handprints and couple of drawings on the side. Day 3 was the front of my house. Also on that day a couple of the men re-thatched the roof on my insaka. Day 4 the kids smeared my icimbusu (toilet) and redid the front of my house. Day 5 the men re-thatched my toilet. Day 6 one of the men redug my garbage pit. At this point I have been literally nickled and dimed to death. I had used all my medium sized bills and only had either 500 or 50,000 kwatcha bills (500 will only buy fresh food along the road and the 50,000 are useless in the village because no one has enough for change). I also bought an amazing basket (has a lid and handles, amazing design), a washing basket (for drying dishes), and a stock of bananas (about 75 bananas).

I went and had lunch with someone and was given another chicken (brings my number up to two chickens). She is white with some brown flecks and I named her Fanny. So now I have Gertrude and Fanny (my neighbor is keeping them right now). And I need a chicken house because I refuse to let them stay in the house (they poop everywhere and I get tired of chasing them all over. As soon as I get back…

I visited the local school. They of course want me to teach a class or two, the Deputy Head assured me language is no problem (although the kids do not know any English even though they are suppose to and I do not know enough Bemba). There are 8 teachers and 360 students (Grade 1 through 9). I may be teaching the environmental club but will probably encourage the teacher to continue herself and just be there for support.

A week ago my house was invaded by ants. And not just any ants but the killer ants. I was in my room resting when I decided to get up and get something done when I heard a strange noise from the back of the house. I walked down the hall and looked into the bathing room. There were a huge pile of ants on the floor and two lines of them coming through the window. I was in shock and pretty sure my bug spray was not going to do the job. These are the ants that kill small animals and children, you do not mess with them. I went outside, there were more coming in. So I walked over to my neighbors house, thankful that he was home. It took a couple tries but he finally understood what I was saying and sent his daughters with me to deal with it.

When we came back the ants were pretty much all inside. We moved everything out of that room, one of the gals brought a large handful of grass and placed it on the floor, and then we lit it on fire. The only way to deter them or get rid of them is with fire. All hell broke loose. They hissed and went into attack mode. They scattered. One person was in the living room killing them as they came over the wall, I was across the hall in the kitchen, and two others were in the hall. We were all trying to not let any escape by stomping hard on them as fast as we could. More grass was brought in, there was a tense moment as embers floated up towards my grass roof (it would not do to burn the house down as well). We finally got rid of them, the gals swept the room out and then left. After they left I realized that my drain was full of the ants to the point that they clogged. I dumped a bunch of water in the room then used a stick to dislodge them. The ants (and their eggs) all washed outside where a bunch of chickens finished them off. When it was all said and over I had a total of 5 bites on my right foot. It swelled and hurt for several hours. When they bite it is pain like none other.

We have been having issues with our borehole…there is a large amount of iron in the water from the pipes so the people are not using. And when the people do not use it as much the water gets worse. Someone from JICA (the organization that installed it) came out and took a sample into Mansa. Hopefully we will get the results back although I do not know how exactly they will solve the problem.

I saw rain for the first time in months. A huge storm came through last Sunday with high wind, lightning, thunder, hail, and a downpour of rain. I was seriously impressed. And my roof seriously leaked in the same places as last time in rained, I need to get the village to hopefully fix it soon(if not I have a large amount of plastic that I am going to put up).

Random Thoughts

I receive a marriage proposal every time I leave my village (they do not even know my name).

Also with marriage proposals they tell their entire life story to draw up sympathy which never helps their cause (my parents died, I have no money for school, I need someone to support me, I am lonely, I need a friend, I impregnated a girl, I need someone to cook…)

I am the perfect height for my house; I have about one inch clearance between my head and the 5 doorways.

The freezer section in the only grocery store in Luapula has been broken for over a month (my only source of ice cream).

Shoprite (the only grocery store in Luapula) now has Christmas tree decorations (where do you find the tree?).

It is also fun when you are at the checkout and they are almost finished and the power goes out (fortunately it came right back on and we just had to wait for the computer to reboot. And there was a collective groan from everybody in the store.).

I have started carrying 10 liter buckets of water on my head (although my bucket fell off last week and broke).

My favorite Sunday morning activity is to sit along the tarmac at the shops and watch people walk by.

Mango season is coming soon but the villagers are already eating the mangos (unripe).

Caterpillar and mushroom season is also coming soon to a forest near me!

Daytime highs have been hitting 99 degrees, lows are only going to 73 degrees.

I had to use my hand to figure out that it is now October.

I have been in Zambia for just over 7 months! (time has flown)

Anyways, I miss and love you all!
Shalenipo Mukwai! (Stay well!)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

August 30th Update

Hi Everyone!
Sorry this is long.
In this edition
Nutrition Class
In-Service Training in Lusaka
Random thoughts

Let me get you all caught up on what has been going on…

Nutrition Class
The first week of August I attended a training with my Senior Agriculture Officer (SAO). It was a Nutrition an Food Processing Class sponsored through PAM (Program Against Malnutrition). The training took place at Mubende which is about 6K past my village (it is the end of the road that goes through my village). Day 1 was a half day and the time was spent figuring out logistics (food for lunch). Day 2 was the learning part and they spent most of the time doing group work (talking about local crops, their uses, seasonal calendars…) The SAO led this and a large about of time was spent correcting his Bemba spelling (he is from Southern Province so Tonga is his native language, he kept getting his ‘w’s an ‘y’s mixed up.) Day 3 was the practical, the cooking part of the training.
Day 3 was crazy and but worked out. I caught a ride to and from the training and on this day there was no room for me in the cab so I was placed in back of the pickup truck with 18 adults, 3 babies, and my bicycle (I rode my bicycle down at the end of the day). Altogether at the training there were about 50 people, only about 12 were women. Most of the men seemed to have disappeared and the women did most of the work, there were a few men that helped but not many. I really saw the issue of gender during this time, during the lecture part women sat on one side of the room and the men sat on the other. I opted to sit with the women and not on the platform or with the men as offered. The people were divided up into 4 groups with each group making three different items (12 recipes). We made lemonade, tomato jam, cassava bread, cassava cake, cassava fritters, potato fritters, rice fritters, sweet potato chips, soya coffee, soya snack, soy milk, and soy sausage. Nothing was organized, the ingredients had to be doled out, but the food turned out great! It was pretty fun. Hopefully they will apply this at home.
Another volunteer came and stayed with me for a night that week as well. She is in the same district but lives on the plateau (I am in the valley). She it a health volunteer and has been here for a year longer than I have. My village does not understand this and now expects me to speak perfect bemba like what she does. Great.

On Friday August 14th I made my way into Mansa for a meeting and party. I made it to the road side in good time. As soon as I got my bike inside the shop and the keeper pulled out a stool for me to sit on a bus came by (less than 10min, average wait time is normally 2 hours). It was a big tour bus that was already packed an it took us 4 hours to get to Mansa (should have been close to two). And I was getting car sick due to the fumes from the exhaust, the bags of fish, and dirty diapers. We even managed to break down for almost an hour just outside of Mansa. I even made the toddler a couple rows in front of me cry (pretty regular occurrence at this point). But I made it in one piece, we had our meeting, and then we had a BBQ. We had hamburgers, salad, salsa, chips, coleslaw, onion rings…everything made from scratch. That evening we had smores around a fire. It was great!
Early Saturday morning we took off for our In-Service Training. Our cruiser was taking us half way to Serenge to meet up with other volunteers and where the Peace Corps was sending a bus. It was a long ride and I was seriously car sick the entire time (I think not sleeping the night before had something to do with that). The boys were dealing with serious hangovers so they were not much better off than I was. We met up with the other volunteers in Serenge and the Peace Corps house there and were off once again after several delays (one delay was that their insaka caught fire and burnt completely down). On the way we saw a very bad bus accident. It was partially cleaned up but a large bus hit head on with another vehicle. Transport is incredibly dangerous, at least I am not using it often).
We left Mansa at 6am and arrived in Lusaka at 8pm. The bus driver literally dumped us off at a deserted guesthouse and left us. We stood in the dark for almost 30min before someone came to let us in. The place was amazing. We had our own bathroom, carpet on the floor, TV, AC, there was even a pool out back. We went out for real Chinese food and then came back to watch the African version of American Idol (very funny).
The next morning we had breakfast at the gas station (coffee shop closed because it was Sunday), dumped our stuff at the PC Office, and then went to the shopping mall and hung out. This is the place that all the rich white people hang out. We ate great food (I had a quesadilla with salmon, cream cheese, and avocado). Watched Harry Potter at the theater. Walked up and down the isles in the grocery store in shock at the selection and variety. And also shopped at the Sunday Market where I bought a rug that I had to check at the counter every time I went into a store (the guy laughed at me about the third time I checked it at the same store). We met a guy from Texas who works for the Embassy (he lived in Portland for a while). That night we went out to eat for someone’s birthday (all 30+ of us) It was a tiny Indian restaurant that had an all you can eat special. We took over and the bill at the end was a huge mess!
That week the daytime was spent in classes and the evenings we would go out to eat for dinner. It was really good getting together with everyone else and find out how they were doing in their villages. The boys and I decided that Luapula is the ghetto part of Zambia, it is the poorest part of the country. There are no cows, no maize, Forestry Department has no money, there are no rich farmers, very few organizations and outside help, very few speak English, very few have tin roofs, and all we grow is cassava. Everybody else also lives on family compounds (but we have larger houses up here).
We had a class on processing honey and bees wax, on budding fruit trees (turning lemon trees into orange trees), propagating banana trees, chicken husbandry, and also the Conservation Farming Unit came out and talked to us (we learned that us from Luapula are screwed because there are no resources for us up here and farmers refuse to give up their slash and burn practices). We also learned about how to do clay pot refrigeration, very interesting. One highlight was that we received our seeds for Seed Multiplication!
The place we stayed at was just on the edge of town so we had to walk 3K to the tarmac and then catch a bus for a 10 or so minute ride to the mall. The busses are insane. You have a driver (who drives) and a conductor. The conductor is the one who gets people on the bus, deals with the money, and makes sure they are dropped off at the appropriate site (they communicate with the driver by rapping on the roof or side). Kinda fun to watch. They can be very aggressive and will fight over you (sometimes grabbing you) if there are several busses, they also try to overcharge you. The busses are in a very sad shape and are barely running. The busses hold 14 people but at least 18 people are crammed inside. The drivers you hope are sober (one wasn’t and made me nervous as he took the round-about a little fast as I tried not to slide off the overcrowded seat and onto the floor). Every time was a new adventure and you always meet interesting people. Some of the guys say they are going to come visit me in Luapula. (Right, good luck finding me!)
In the evenings we would take a taxi back because it would be dark and not safe to walk home. They always tried to charge too much and the later in the evening the more drunk they are. We also mastered the art of fitting 7 people in a little 5 seater car.
Dinner included Chinese, Indian, club sandwiches, hamburgers, pizza, wraps, chicken, subway (4 times!), salad…all the great things I can not get in Luapula. Also lots of ice cream, smoothies, and milkshakes. I saw 3 out of the 5 movies playing in the theater. Harry Potter, The Hangover, and Ghosts of Girlfriends past. (The other two movies were Knowing and a Disney animated one with the hamsters.)
The last two days of training we created and planted a Permagarden. A Permagarden is a garden that is permanent (imagine that). The same beds are use year after year. It also includes a technique of companion planting a variety of plants close together in a small space. Initially it is very labor intensive but the benefits are great. We planted bananas, orange trees, cassava, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, onions, rape, cabbage, basil, dill, guava trees, eggplant, corn, beans, pumpkin, marigolds, cilantro, and aloe vera. We also built a compost pile and a seed nursery. It was gorgeous. We also finished it in record time so we had more free time. The education group created one too but you could tell that it was not their thing. Hopefully the guy takes good care of it.
Also the last couple of days my Senior Agriculture Officer happen to have something going on at the same place we were staying at. So one night we went into town for dinner and I also took him to a movie (he had never been in a theater before). Another night he brought his computer down and showed me pictures of Egypt (he went there for a food processing training). I also found out that there is no internet in Mwense and there are no cats either (darn). It was fun spending some time with him; although he will be moving to another part of the country in a month or two to teach nutrition (Luapula is once again too poor for such a program).
The last night we were together we all went out to eat one last time and to celebrate several birthdays. We went to a Chinese restaurant in the middle of the deserted fairgrounds and once again completely took over, there were 35 of us). We started at about 7:30pm and did not finish until after 11pm. The bill for that many people was a mess but it worked out. It was a lot of fun being with everybody for one last time.
The next morning many left early to catch busses home. My boys and I (as well as another volunteer) were taking the night bus so we did not have to rush out. Although by 9am we were about the only ones left and I had not seen any of the guys. Grayson I pulled out of bed and Casey we randomly found in another room after searching (they got back at 3am from dancing). I went to the Office to drop stuff off for the cruiser to bring up and met with them for lunch at the mall (we were going to see a movie but decided there was not enough time). We did some shopping for snacks and then took a taxi to the bus station to catch the bus home.
This bus trip was great. We only left a half hour late. They had to divide us up but I was seated next to Grayson which kept most of the guys away (I still had to deal with those selling stuff but it was not as bad). It was still very cramped. Before we took off an evangelist or someone of that sort came on and gave a good 15min sermon, he really got into the preaching, it made me laugh (only in Zambia). Once we took off they gave everyone a coke which was a great treat. The only down side is that they played the music really loud and I am pretty sure we listened to only one tape for the entire trip (12 hours) over and over and over again. The only disappointment was that when we stopped no one was selling chicanda or cooked sweet potatoes (but I did fin the little sweet bananas that I love). We made it in to Mansa at 4am, took a taxi home, our guard let us in (it was one of the newer guards and he already has my name down), and then we went to bed.

This last month I have lost many friends due to various different reasons. The first was Geoff, another volunteer from our group. He was close to me because he was a fellow potter. He was literally run over by a semi truck. Don’t worry, he is alive but he has been medically separated and will not be coming back. He was buying fruit along the road when struck, fortunately he was with another volunteer (although ironically this volunteer was hit by a car about a year ago as well). He was medevac to South Africa for surgery and is now back home in America. He had several bones broken in his face and his legs were run over and crushed (although not broken). He is on the mend and doing well.
Another was our Cross Cultural trainer who died suddenly. X-man as he was known. He was great and we all miss him.
Becky, a volunteer from Luapula left early mainly due to serious health issues that she has been fighting with since she arrived. We miss her as well.
Kai, another volunteer from Luapula has decided to leave early. He had been having problems with his village and also decided that he wanted to be with his girlfriend. He was a huge encouragement and loved the LIFE Program. He was also an amazing cook (worked at a restaurant for years) and was always incharge of the large family dinners. I am going to miss his bread and pumpkin pie
Also my Sr Agriculture Officer, Nixon, will be leaving in a month or two. He has been a great resource and source of encouragement. He is the only person in my boma that I can have a halfway decent conversation with and does not want to marry me (both of those are impossible to find). He also always checks in on my when he is in the area. I support his decision but will miss his company. He brightens my day.
The good news is that at the end of September we will be getting 9 new volunteers in Luapula (only one in my district 40K from me). That almost doubles our numbers. This group is the health and the fish farming. The health group will be arriving for a site visit today, tomorrow when they are taken to the volunteer who is hosting I am going to ride along and get dumped near my place. I am very excited. We are planning a huge welcome dinner (Mexican!)

Random thoughts
So I have way too much time on my hands to think about everything. I will probably be adding to this list as time goes on.
I have not seen a single drop of rain in 113 days.
Living in a mud hut is like living in a fort, I feel like a kid again!
I can be sarcastic but no one gets it.
I am the first volunteer in my area to not be from California (the previous 4 volunteers were.)
Favorite meat is village goat, I only get it during special events (trainings…)
I refuse to sweep my dirt yard everyday.
My charcoal is currently made out of Brazilian Rosewood (Deforestation in action).
I talk to myself quite often, most of the time when I am shopping. (I get strange looks).
I bought an African nativity scene in August.
When someone speaks too fast in bemba I will ask them to repeat slowly, so they yell it at you and talk faster.
I always greet the guards at the stores in the local language (they remember me and want to know where I have been if it has been a while).
When talking to Zambians you use a form of English we like to call Zamglish.
In Zambia we have Zamsip, Zamjuice, Zammilk, Zamloaf, Zambeef, Zamchick, Zamseed, Zamegg, Zamflour, Zamfeed…you get the idea.
In Lusaka I met people from Afganistan, Pakistan, South America, England, China, Japan, and India.
I no longer fit into most of my clothes. (Most of the females gained and the males lost.) My friend Aaron has so far lost over 70lbs!
I am the only white female for miles and miles (I get marriage proposals every time I leave the village).
I get called mommy more often than not. (And I do respond to it, although it is normally my drunk neighbor.)
Everyone wants to go to America.
I just got paid and have over 6 million kwatcha in my account. It has to last the next three months.
Everyone in my village is related.
Everyone in the village cooks the exact same thing, the same way, every day and it tastes the same no matter who you visit.
My village fears the forestry department (probably because they cut down trees they are not suppose to and could end up in jail).
There are small monkeys a few kilometers up stream from my village if I am lucky to ever see them.
There are also black mambas in our area (my neighbor said he will come get me when someone kills one).
Someone begging for money: “Ah but me, I love you!” (Yea well I don’t love you.)
Same guy as before: “But you are white, you have money.” (No, I am a volunteer).
Amaguy at Mulonga (where I leave my bike and catch a bus): “Where are you going? Mansa?” Me: “No, just here.” Him: “You are not going to Mansa?” Me: “Not today.” (He is the conductor and flags down the busses as they come through.)
Nixon: “Shall we hit the road my dear.” Me: “That is a path, not a road!”
Random guy in Mansa: “I want to be your friend.” Me: “I do not want a friend.” Him: “Give me your number.” Me: “Ahway, no!” Him: “But I want to be your friend.” Me: “Great.” Him: “What?” (One of the days I was sick and in a bad mood.)
Random guy: “Don’t you want to have Obama babies with me?” (What!? This comes up often.)
Me: “So what time does church start? (It was Sunday morning.) Neighbor: “Ah, you see the people gathering? About now is a good time.”
Neighbor: “And this is my younger wife.”
Another neighbor: “And this is my brother from my younger mother.”
Bamaayo: “Do you eat these?” (As she shows me a large bowl full of dead mice.) Me: “No.”
Neighbor again: “In your Oregon City, do you have fish?” (After I told him I do not eat fish, it just makes life easier.)
Lady at market: “Ah buy some capenta (dried sardines) for your dog.” Me: “I do not have a dog.” Lady: “But you need some for your dog.”
Lady at the government offices: “Is it real? What do you put in it?” (Referring to my hair. Most everybody wears wigs or hair extensions and are fascinated by my long wavy hair. Those in the village think if they use my shampoo their hair will look like mine.)
Random lady I met along the road: “But this one, this one is my best friend!” (Referring to me. I am everybody’s best friend.)
Village Drunk: “Ah but me, I am yours. And you, you are mine. So Madam, don’t worry.” (Right.) Me: “Okay, goodbye.” Drunk: “Ah but madam, may God bless you madam. Don’t worry.”
Amaguy at bus station: “Where are you going? Livingstone?” Me: “No” Him: “Kitwe? Ndola?” Me: “No, Mansa.” Him: “Mansa?!” Me: “Yes Mansa.” (They do not understand why I am going to Mansa, it is not a tourist destination.)
Our guard talking to a new guard: “Ah, this one I know. This one is BaJessica.”
Our guard BaSmart: “Ah BaJessica, you look like a Zambian!” (As I arrive from transport with just my purse, it is easier to travel light in this country.)
Lady at Market: “Ah, this is my brother. He wants to marry a European.” Me: “No” Her: “Why? What’s wrong with him?”
Lady at market in Lusaka: “Buy a chitange from me so when your baby comes, you can put it on your back like a Zambian!” (I have put on a lot of weight but I am not that fat, I got a really good laugh over that.)

Monday, July 13, 2009

July 13th 2009 Update

Hi everyone!
Thank you for your prayers. I am slowly getting better.
I took a quick tri to Lusaka to see our Dr just to make sure it is nothing serious.
We decided it is just tonsilitis.
The trip down was definitely adventuresome and worth mentioning.
I hopped on the night bus which of course was two hours late. It was suppose to leave at 15hrs but did not leave til 17hrs. As soon as it arrived we piled on. Then we proceeded to drive literally across the street to fill up on gas. After that we drove to another bus station and picked up more people, completely filling the bus (it holds about 70 people). Then on our way out of town we picked up about a couple more people (they had to stand/sit in the isle). About an hour into the trip we stopped and picked up a half dozen more people, a vehicle is never full unless you add several extra beyond it's capacity.

By then it was dark. The guy sitting next to me had brought a drink with him (hard alcohol) and managed to get completely drunk, it was fine because he pretty much passed out a couple of hours after that. It was one of the longest trips of my life. Very long night. We arrived in Lusaka at the bus station at 5am, it was a 12 hour bus ride. It was very cold and dark. One of the taxi drivers had be pegged before we even pulled in. I ended up going with him which was fine although he did not know where the Peace Corp office was at, he did know the road and fortunately I remembered what the outside gate looked like. I am also pretty sure he over charged me as well. I arrived at 5:30am. The guards were expecting me. I promptly went to the bunkhouse, turned on the heater, curled up in a blanket, and went to sleep for a few hours.

While at the office I was able to see the Dr, talk to my boss, and get caught up on some of the local gossip. I also ate out and had a hamburger and pizza, it was amazing. It was fun going to Lusaka but not my favorite place. The city is huge and hard to navigate, it is very dirty, you get hounded by people selling things and begging, and it is also expensive. So I called over to the bus station and got a ticket reserved to go back to Mansa. It was another night bus back for that afternoon, they do not have day busses anymore.

I arrived and of course the bus was about an hour late. It arrived and then it took us almost 2hrs to load the bus up. This time we were actually assigned seats. I managed to get placed in the middle of a church group between to large women. I was able to move to the other side of the isle next to another lady where there was more room. It took us a good hour to fight through traffic and to the edge of town where we filled up on gas. And then it was the long drive back. The ladies sang alot and the lady next to me was one of the lead singers which did nothing for my headache. Zambians have an amazingly strong voice, I am always impressed with how well they sing. We stopped at the major stops and of course picked up more people so that the isles were full. Also at the stops I am heavily targetted by all the people selling food and snacks so I always had alot of people yelling at me. And the one time I stepped off the bus to stretch my legs I would almost get mobbed. They are selling ground nuts, hard boiled eggs, Jicanda (African prune), roasted cassava, bananas, oranges, drinks, and movies. This trip was more sleepless due to the fact that they sang songs off and on for a large part of the night. I think the driver got tired of it at a couple of points because he would put music on(christian of course), although it was not much better than the singing because it too was really loud. Zambians are loud no matter what it is that they do.

We arrived in Mansa at 5am, another 12 hr bus ride. I took a taxi to the house and that was the end of my trip (this driver fortunately knew where our house was at). I was gone for 36 hours, 24 of which were on a bus.

Got to go!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

July 7th 2009

Hi Everyone!
Just letting you know that I am still alive (Kinda) I am in Mansa
(obviously) recovering from strep throat (still waiting for antibiotics to
kick in...).
Overview of the last month...
I have been to several Agriculture shows. It is kinda like our county
fairs. Farmers bring their best produce, it is judged, and they are given a
small prize. One of the shows that I went to was a two hour car ride on the
worse road ever. Another volunteer introduced me to the Senior Agriculture
Officer for our area who picked me up and took care of me. My friend told
him that I am his responsibility, and he has taken that to heart and has
even stopped in to check on me when he was in the area.
The trip back was interesting. His truck was packed with people and produce
(mostly sweet potatoes). It was late afternoon when we left and his gas
gage was on empty. (You have to realize the road we were using took us
through the middle of nowhere, there are no other vehicles traveling on
it). About a half hour into the trip we stop at a small village to buy (of
course) a goat. It took a little bit of time to find the owner and get the
goat tied up which we tossed into the back of the truck on top of all the
potatoes (at one point I looked back to check on it and the goat was
munching on the potatoes).
We arrived in Mwense without any problems and dropped everyone off at their
houses since it was dark. Then we went to his house, bathed, had dinner,
and watched the news. By the time we left his house it was after 8:30pm.
We reached my village at 9:00pm. My village was completely asleep at that
point. He dropped my off as close as he could get (there is no road to my
house) and then left. I meanwhile proceeded to walk to my house and managed
to get lost (don't ask, it was dark). I knew I was in trouble when I did
not recognize the termite mound nor the grass hedge. I was not too lost
because I could see hammer mill. My neighbor saw me, we laughed, and her
husband took me home. I will never live that one down.

I also went with the forestry department to do a Tree Nursery Training.
They were nice enough to pick me up (I was not going to bike that far) and
they managed to be almost two hours late both days (Africa time). It was
done and the Sub-Chief's palace (yes they call it a palace). Meeting him
was interesting, there is a lot of kneeling and clapping three times. I
just followed the ladies that were there. I also had a marriage proposal
from one of the participants, which I did turn down. It was fun getting to
know the forestry officers and spend time with them. We got into many interesting theological discussions as one officer is a Catholic and the other is a Pentecostal (and goes to an Assembly of God church).

Our bore hole was finally finished just over a week ago. Very exciting.
Our stream is looking pretty dirty and nasty. A little boy from our village
also just died due to dysentery a couple of weeks ago.

I bought a large reed mat the other day at the market. They are handmade out of reeds and are about 6 ft. x 6 ft. It does roll up. I did the Zambian thing and strapped it onto the back of my bicycle. I got a lot of strange looks. A white person on a bicycle with a reed mat rolled up and strapped onto the back (it stuck out both side by about 3 feet.) I took up the entire road, it was fun.

I am still looking for a cat. There are absolutely no cats in the village or anywhere else for that matter. We have a house cat in Mansa that I will probably get a kitten from when she gets pregnant. She is only about 9 months old. We tried getting her spayed but there is no vet in the area that will do it.

I made papaya jam! That was a huge success. I was frustrated because I
could not find jam anywhere! Now I can do it myself!

I am teaching one of the young ladies in our village to cook. She is my age
and has a 9 month old and wants to learn how to cook so that she could earn
money to go to school. We only had one lesson so far. It was they day that
I started to get sick and had a mild fever, that made it interesting. I
mixed the dough up and then plopped it into a frying pan to make a loaf. It
was too thick and would not cook so I turned it into fritters which is what
she wanted to make in the first place. I managed to catch my chitange on
fire in the process.
The next day (Wednesday) I was really sick with a fever and she wanted to
make soya pieces and fries. I told her, through my neighbor, that today
will not work. I really did not want any company. She shows up that
afternoon with a bowl of soy beans to cook. Great. I said no we will do it
later. The bowl is still sitting in my house. We will do that when I go
back. Great thing is that I have never cooked soy beans before so this will
be an experience. Everything she wants to learn to cook are also firsts for
me as well.
I debated the whole day about calling the Dr. I didn't because I really did
not want to go to Mansa over the long holiday (most everything is closed).
Also I do not have network at my site and have to bike 4K to call anyone.
Thursday I was woke up and it was only getting worse. So I biked out and
called the Dr. She said go to the house and start antibiotics. So I biked
back home, packed, secured the house, told my neighbor, and then biked to
the tarmac. I left my bike at one of the shops (my favorite shopkeeper was
not in) and proceeded to wait for transport.
It was 2 hours before anything came along. The road that I was waiting
along is probably the equivalent of I-5 or some major highway. There were
about 6 cars that passed in that time, most heading in the wrong direction.
Finally a bus came by so that is what I took. I was just glad it was not a
canter truck.

So I am in Mansa. My throat is still really sore, I feel like I am also on
the verge of an ear infection on top of that. When I came in there was
another volunteer who was getting over the exact same thing. At the house people are always coming and going so the numbers have varied from 3 to 10. It has been fun. Life is also more exciting when the electricity keeps going off or when they run it at low power.

Mansa has been crazy with all of the people who have come into town. The
ATM Machines at the bank have been very busy and are constantly running out
of money. This is the only place where people can do their banking so they
are removing mass quantities of cash. The store has been out of staple food
items (although that happens often anyways). Right now we desperately need
eggs and there are none to be found. I think there are some in the market...

It has been hard being sick, I have not had the energy to leave the house to
do much of anything, it is a 20 min. walk from the house to the town
center. I went to the store for food one day and I really should have
stayed home, fortunately I caught a ride home from our wonderful Peace Corp
driver Manowa (when I first got sick I sent him a message because I knew he was
out and about but unfortunately he was in the wrong area).

The good news is that I ran into one of the guys that works in Mwense. If I
am feeling better when he goes back I will have a free ride and hopefully
right up to my village(although I do not think I will be healthy by then! He comes to Mansa every weekend because there is nothing to do in Mwense. I met him at one of the Agriculture shows, he came up and asked if I knew Jessica (you are looking at her!) He had met several volunteers the previous weekend.

My ipod has been my refuge in the evenings when I can not sleep. In the evening it gets really windy. I worry about losing my roof but also know it is not solid enough to go flying off. It is just really noisy, especially with the plastic lining the area above my room to cut back on the dust. Before I left I downloaded all of last year's sermons from my pastor (I unfortunately have listened to all of them already). I also have sermons from my other favorite pastor (Jon Courson) and just found out I can buy his entire series of over 1000 teachings! (I know what I will be doing if I go home!)

I am going to go. I was going to try to send pictures but I do not have a way of getting them from the camera to the computer right now. Also I have been told by other volunteers to wait until I go to Lusaka, the internet here is too slow (which I agree).

I also want to thank everyone for their prayers, words of support and encouragement, and presents! I just want to say that the mint oreos and M&Ms were like manna from heaven. (There is no chocolate in the village!) Other things to send me are posters and pictures...

Also any specific questions let me know... (I will try to get on internet the tomorrow...)

I miss all of you and hope everything is going well!
Jessica Maslen

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

June 3rd 2009

Jessica Maslen PCV
Peace Corps Zambia
PO Box 710150
Mansa, Luapula

Make sure Africa is written big, some volunteers have found that their package has travelled to other continents before making it to
Things to send me... candy, chocolate, letters, pictures, newspaper clippings, beef jerkey, anything else you may think I might like...

We had a great time with our meetings and dinners. There are 18 volunteers and 8 guests.
3 volunteers will be leaving at the end of the month, and then we will be gaining hopefully 10 new volunteers in late Septemberish.
Electricity has been very sketchy. It seems to go out at the most inopportune times. Like when we are about to put lasagna in the oven, sit down for dinner, watch a movie, or have a dance party. At which point someone calls the company and tells them that they are ruining our party. (At which point the electricity just went out again).

So I wrote this and then the internet stopped working so I am back to finish it up and send it off.

The power is back on, that is good news! Tomorrow morning I will be going back to site. I might be back in town on the 4th (I also had an invite to go North to an orphanage up there). We will see, it is a five day weekend that week (Friday through Tuesday) which will make travel interesting. I am actually not sure if I am allowed to travel up there yet so I might just go down to the house.

Okay, got to get back and pack up!
I Love and Miss all of you!
I hope that all is going well.
I can not believe how time seems to fly right on by!

(And I am sending this before anything else happens. The power just went out again. Everytime I try to send this, it has taken all day. And I am at the place that does not have a backup generator. Fortunately it was just a few minutes this time!)

June 1st Update

Everything has been going as well as expected. Not perfect but you have to expect a few bumps in the road.I was dumped at my site on April 27th, spent the first 2 days trying to find stuff and get settled. The second night I managed to get violently ill at about 3am (not fun). At daylight I was able to hike to the termite mound and call the Dr. She said to get to the PC House in Mansa, probably Malaria. So I called the lead volunteer and she came and picked me up, there was no way I could have made it to the road to hitch a ride. I started the medicine and was better in a couple of days. (Although my fever was over 103 for about 36 hours and was over 105 at the worse part.) I stayed a couple of days in town to recouperate and then headed back to site.

At site things have been going well. I have been meeting people, yelling at the kids, chasing my chicken, and fetching dirty water from the stream. The hardest challange is the language. I speak so very little of it. I understand quite a bit and getting better although the people think I know nothing. The kids have been helping me out some (when they are not driving me crazy). One thing that is kinda funny is how they say my name. BaJessica. The last part of my name sounds like seka which in bemba is the root for laugh. Which they say fits me because I am always happy and laughing (probably because I have no idea what they just said).

Yes I do have a chicken. I ended up going on a day trip with the headman from the neighboring village to buy nails for my furniture that he is building, This was an all day trip which involved several stops to visit family. I received 20 oranges, 12 large sweet potatos, a stock of sugar cane, and a chicken. All of this strapped onto the back of our bikes. It was very interesting. I felt so bad for the chicken. You had to have been here... He is about 55, yellow winter coat, blue sailors hat, hot pink sunglasses, complete with a chicken strapped on the bike.And yes my water source is a stream. It is dry season and the water level has dropped and it is looking pretty sad.

They are working on a bore hole but who knows when that is going to get finished (do not hold your breath). It is where everybody bathes, washes clothes, washes dishes, soaks cassava, and also soaks reeds and grasses for baskets (they make alot of baskets).

Food is very limited. There is no meat (almost). All they eat is fish (which has caused a lot of blindness). There is also sweet potatos, cassava, and peanuts. For fruit there have been oranges and lemons.Things have been moving slow but that is just the way it goes in the village.

I have to get going, I am only in town for meetings.If anyone has any questions let me know...It will be another month before I come back and have internet access!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hi everybody,Just a few more days left in this stage of training. I visited my site a couple of weeks ago. I am in the Luapula Province, in Mwense district, in the village of Chiposa ( 7 K east of the town of Mwense). My house is situated smack dap in the middle of the village. My nearest volunteer neighbor is 25K away although he is finishing up his service so then the next is 40K away. I have a large house (in terms for volunteers) complete with 4 (although small) rooms. And thanks to the previous volunteer the bathing shelter is in the house (cement floor with a drain). I have a very small nsaka (gazebo) for visitors since it is not appropriate to have people in your house. And I have plans to add a chicken coop and an oven. I will also need to get a cat because there are mice and snake problems there. The previous volunteer did alot of work with the schools, tree nurserys, and seed multiplication. So I will be continuing that and would like to include rabbitry, beekeeping, food preservation, and other income generating/ food security projects. It will depend on what the community wants to do. I know the women are very excited about having a female volunteer and already said that they want me to teach then to sew (they probably know more than I do). We were left alone at our respective sites for a night and then had to hitch into town. I took a mini bus which was interesting, it took us 3 hrs to reach Mansa which is where the Peace Corps Provincial House is located because we had to stop at every little village or shop to pick people up or drop them off. From there I was going to meet up with other volunteers and we were going to take the night bus back to Lusaka (9hr ride) but upon arrival at the house found out that our visas had expired. So the Peace Corp had to drive us back. We spent all afternoon at immigration getting it straightened out but I still do not have my work visa, hopefully it is not lost!

Next week is going to be very busy with exams as we finish up. On Friday we Swear-In and officially become volunteers! And then we are dropped off at our site where we are left to cry (so we have been told). The first month is community integration where we are not allowed to leave our site at all fot the first month and then the following two months we are not allowed to leave the Province but I can go to the house in Mansa. The Provincial house is a place where we can hang out. We are allowed four days a month. There is electricity, TV, tons of movies, lots of books, bunkbeds, and best of all hot water and a shower! After the three months we go back to Lusaka for a week of training and then sent back to our village.

I miss you all but have been doing well! My boma is pretty small so I do not know if I will be able to have internet access. It may just be when I go to Mansa to the house. (I do not even have cell reception in my hut!) I was going to include pictures of my house but they will not open on this computer. I will try later (the computer and internet is very slow!)

Love you all!Jessica

And like always please share this with everyone!