- Rain means that all the sticks and grass around your house will be wet, leaving you to crawl to your host parents every meal like a loser asking to heat your coals in their fire.
- Rain, interestingly, is the swarming season for many insects. This leads means that, sensing your presence as you draw water, a dense cloud of flies will rise up apocalyptically to engulf your head. On a more day-to-day struggle, this means you’ll wake up to winged termites on every vertical surface of your home, and go to bed to non-winged termites on every horizontal surface of your home (it also means I’m hella good at catching termites with my hands, mashing them up, and feeding it to my ducks. Worth the structural damage? No.).
- Rain clouds the sun, rendering your small solar panels ineffective and your phone dead. Nice in the theory of disconnecting, poor for the practice of keeping to schedules and appointments.
- Rain makes you nostalgic for places you’ve never been or things you’ve never done, like eating a gourmet vending machine sandwich after walking through the streets of Takamatsu. You’ll be sad for about an hour, but crave smoked salmon for days.
- Rain makes you lazy and sluggish in the morning, and creates mud on the road (and thus on your tires) as you bike sluggishly to school in the morning.
- Despite all these things, you still love being tucked under your blanket, reading a book while the rain pounds on your tin roof.
In response to the neo-nazi demonstrations and subsequent terrorist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, Peace Corps volunteers spanning across many countries decided to create collages, made up of portraits of us holding signs supporting equality, questioning complacency, and/or condemning racism. This was deliberately done as a “by individual volunteers” action, and didn’t use any “official” Peace Corps tags or criticize any government figures. Purely coming together to denounce hate and ignorance in our world as we work to build peace and understanding globally.
Despite this, Washington deemed the pictures to be too controversial, and they have since been removed from social media as of early September. There were some absolutely great collections from various countries, and it was very disappointing to see them removed.
So, here was my contribution to the collage. You can decide for yourselves if it’s too controversial *shrugs*
About two weeks ago, I attended a beekeeping workshop in Eastern Province! I’ll show some pics of the hives in my next photo dump, but I thought I’d walk through the tour of factory we went to!
Prior to entering: Wash your hands and put on your hair nets!
Step One: Sampling of the honey and testing for moisture content and sugar content. Honey with a moisture content above 21% is rejected and sent for wax processing. Good quality honey is added up in batches of 320 kg.
Step Three: Straining of the honey on PVC gauze filters and then using a Honey Spinner.
Step Four: Honey re-settles for approximately 14 days, and is then “skimmed” (pictured below) and filtered through a calico cloth.
Step Five: Piston filling into bottles.
Step Six: Bottle capping and labeling.
Cute and Flirty: Mr. Business has an oral fixation, and it’s a problem. It started off with him trying to suckle at my host family’s (younger) kitten, which was all kinds of disturbing, but since she’s gone (Mwenzi isn’t dead! She’s just living with my beekeeping counterpart now) he is still at it! My bedroom blanket, my towel, the mesh insides of my athletic shorts pocket, he can’t be satisfied. I feel like it’s because kittens are generally separated too early from their mothers here, but homeboy’s gotta get it together if we’re going to snuggle!
Something I learned from my community: That, for every bummer interaction, there are two great interactions. I had a moment where, after an extremely uncomfortable and confusing conversation about my veranda construction in Lunda, I rage ate a whole pack of strawberry flavor and stress cry in my house. It’s hard to tell if you’re getting ripped off or not when you’re not great at talking about anything but field crops… but I got ripped off. But seriously, in the time since then I have had so many favors done for me I couldn’t even dream about in the states. My house looks beautiful thanks to two next-door neighbors building me a duck pen and cementing my foundation. My friend neighbor straight up gave me all his pumpkin seeds when I casually said I wanted to find and buy some. On a similar note, me joking about how dirty my bike was lead to an acquaintance using his minimal grease to clean my chain. And man, the sheer amount of pineapples and cassava meal I have received since coming to Ikelenge. I don’t think I’ll ever live in such a communal place again, and that makes me sad.
Something my community learned from me: I’m gonna use this section to brag on my counterparts. Regan, (who came to Peace Corps HIV workshop) and I are co-leading Grassroots Soccer with the Grade 5s at my local basic school (basic: grades K-9), along with Paddi, one of my other counterparts. Rodgers K. (who came to North-Western Province’s Men as Partners training) is gearing up to work with George (who came to Feed the Future‘s beekeeping workshop) to pair beekeeping with HIV/gender education for adult men. And Pethias, Gilpin, and Precious (my crew for Camp TREE) beat me to the punch and are starting an environmental club at the school! Did I directly teach this material to them? Well, some, but mostly no. But it warms my heart to see how much connecting people to educational resources makes a difference and motivates people to be changemakers in their communities! I’m a big fan of Peace Corps’ emphasis capacity building, and I think this illustrates how much it can work. My peeps rock 🤘🏻
Shower Insights: My sister sent me a care package a bit ago containing, amongst other things, a camp solar shower. I foolishly forgot to use it for almost all of cold season, but finally got around to it in August and wow. It was probably the most luxurious thing that I have ever done in my whole life. I feel like no one will understand in the states, but it was just lovely and I’m not saying that because my showers sucked before (they were pretty cold, though). Also, that thing is five gallons and it was a really nice bath; we really take water availability for granted in America and squander a lot of it!
Something That Didn’t Totally Fail: In the week between IST and other trainings where I was back at site, my neighboring health volunteer Sid and I ran a joint workshop at my local basic school. I notified all my headmen, in the hopes of getting a decent crowd, but got very nervous about it being too big when my villages headman sent callers out the night before! I shouldn’t have been worried because only 23 people showed up, but 23 is actually a pretty good turnout for a workshop and everyone was very motivated. I went over different forms of compost as a supplement to commercial fertilizer, and addressed soil nutrients (ideally, you feed your soil, and your soil feeds your crops; compost feeds your soil, whereas commercial fertilizer just feeds your crops). Then Sid segued into human nutrition, and we did some fun energizers to keep people awake (it was held in the evening)! Also, a water buffalo wandered out of a semi-nearby game reserve and it was a huge deal and we stopped for a bit to go try and find it. All in all, good experience!
Hero of the Month(s): My counterparts for being amazingly motivated and supportive!
Villain of the Month(s): The termites now living in my ceiling beams. No poison can dissuade them! But seriously, how much poison does a kid have to slap onto their ceiling to catch a break around here??
It’s currently dry season, specifally, hot dry season. That means the rivers and streams flow at their lowest points, wells dry up, and
people women have to travel further out to find water. I’m very lucky, as I have a perineal well just meters from my doorstep, and although the natural spring I go to for drinking water no longer babbles, there’s still water available at only a ten minute walk. However, many women in my community spend a significant amount of their working days carrying water. They’re not like me, carrying just enough to drink from the spring, or just enough to bathe once a day from a nearby well. They’re carrying water for themselves and their families, to drink, cook with, and bathe twice a day. They’re also carrying water for their gardens, for the ability to provide essential nutrients for their children, and for economic support in the lean season. Roads and electricity dominate to table of discussion for development in Zambia , but I sometimes stop and wonder if, were more women (specially rural women) at the table, if plumbing and running water would be emphasized more.
This talk explains what I’ve observed in a truly amazing way. It also encapsulates my criticisms of the “population bomb” argument, not because population growth isn’t an important issue, but because of the way it’s often coded to shift responsibility from us, the global north, the standard setters of materialism as development, using the most resources per capita globally, onto women in Zambia who walk kilometers to find water. How can we justify people in the global south not being afforded modern amenities that, to us in the global north, are essential?
“There was some open space between what he knew and what he tried to believe, but nothing could be done about it, and if you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it.”
Annie Proulx, Brokeback Mountain