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!)