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