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.)