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“Well, the morning after the road was “finished” […] what should we discover but that the road builders were back at work. They have instructions to continue the road […] on its present course right through the village of Olinka. By the time [the villagers] were out of bed, the road was already being dug through Catherine’s newly planted yam field. Of course the Olinka people were up in arms. But the roadbuilders were literally up in arms. They had guns, Celie, with orders to shoot! […] Fortunately, we were able to save all of our things, but with a tarmac road running straight through the middle of it, the village seemed gutted.

Immediately after understanding the roadbuilders’ intentions, the chief set off toward the coast, seeking explanations and reparations. Two weeks later he returned with even more disturbing news. The whole territory, including the Olinka’s village, now belongs to a rubber manufacturer in England. As he neared the coast, he was stunned to see hundreds and hundreds of villagers much like the Olinka clearing the forests on each side of the road, and planting rubber trees. The ancient, giant mahogany trees, all trees, the game, everything in the forest was being destroyed, and the land was forced to lie flat, he said, and bare as the palm of his hand.

At first he thought the people who told him about the English rubber company were mistaken, if only about its territory including the Olinka village. But eventually he was directed to the governor’s mansion, a huge white building, with flags flying in its yard, and there had an audience with the white man in charge. It was this man who gave the roadbuilders their orders, this man who knew about the Olinka only from a map.”

Alice Walker, The Color Purple

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TED Talk: How Trees Talk to Each Other

Dating back until at least middle school, I have wished I could see time lapse footage of root movement in a forest. Specifically, when my dad told me we couldn’t plant a Weeping Willow in our backyard because of their knack for finding water pipes and bursting them, it just seemed to me that trees weren’t nearly as static as we think they are. This thought was later built upon when I took an ecology and evolution summer class in college, and my professor explained that the trees are constantly fighting one another for sunlight, albeit so slowly that humans do not perceive it without something like time lapse.

So, these ideas had been on my radar for some time. However, when my sister sent me this video just prior to my departure, it blew my mind. It was exciting and magical, while tragically hopeless and sad about what we have destroyed.

If you found this interesting, there is a very interesting book that takes this topic from another interpretation: that the fungi (closer in DNA to animals than plants) is actually farming/herding the trees. It is called Mycelium Running, and while I have been unable to find a copy in Zambia I have heard a lot of great things about it from an impassioned fellow volunteer.

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“Do not, however, make the mistake of thinking that all desire is yearning. ‘We love to contemplate blue, not because it advances to us, but because it draws us after it,’ wrote Goethe, and perhaps he is right. But I am not interested in longing to live in a world in which I already live. I don’t want to yearn for blue things, and God forbid for any ‘blueness.’ Above all, I want to stop missing you.”

Maggie Nelson, Bluets

Highlight Reel: January 2018

2 years ago, Nick visited me in Thailand and I had him guest blog for me about our trip together. Today he is returning the “favor” as I, Carissa, write his highlight reel for him. He has asked me to post the pictures separately, so don’t worry, there is more to come.

Cute and flirty:  When Nick was first taking geography in high school he told me about this pool on top of Victoria Falls. He said that during a certain season, the water was low enough that people could sit in the pool and look over the edge. I’m not sure exactly how it started, but we made a plan to one day go on a trip through Central Africa. Our plan back then was a tad over-zealous but this past month we did actually get to see parts of it through. #dreamsreallydocometrue

Something Ilearned from Nick’s community: I got to learn about so many things! Here’s a few highlights…

  1. Traditional Zambian beekeeping methods from George…. Bee hives are placed inside of logs which are then elevated off the ground and almost entirely sealed to keep out predators (like honey badgers!)
  2. How to make pineapple wine from Nick’s host mom… It’s a good way to cut down on food waste too! You just use pineapples that are starting to go bad, dice ‘em up, boil them with sugar, and then put them in a bucket to sit for a few weeks.
  3. New gardening techniques from Nick and Kelsi
  4. That there is a kind of leaf that tastes like strawberries
  5. I also learned, from camping near a river, that hippo calls sound like a giant is sneezing

Something Nick’s community learned from me: I made Thai food for Nick’s host family and not only did they eat it all, his host mom asked for the recipes.

Shower insights: If you are someone who read my blog when I was in Thailand you probably know this already BUT wow! I LOVE bucket showers!

Something that didn’t totally fail: Nick and I weren’t really sure what we should expect to see during our safari time in Botswana. Since most of the big animals disappear into the bush during rainy season, we prepared to see mostly birds. But the sun was shining down on us (literally and figuratively) and we ended up seeing two prides of lions, over 100 elephants, an African fox, countless impalas, 10+ giraffes, ostriches, wildebeest, zebras, flamingos, warthogs, hippos, a couple kinds of hornbills, baboons, vervet monkeys, etc. So many animals!

Hero of the month: It’s hard to pick a hero when so many people were so nice and thoughtful and kind.

Villain of the month: Nick lined up a taxi driver to pick us up and take me to the airport on my last day in Zambia. It was kind of a hassle to arrange, from what I gathered, and we were pushing it a little close to the time limit with how late we were leaving. So the taxi driver pulls up and we climb into his car. About 200 feet into our trip to the airport the car stops moving. There were some ruts in the road right there so Nick asked if we should get out and push the car; assuming the car was stuck. Nope. Dude had run out of gas. And he wanted us to just sit there and wait while his friend went to the gas station. At least I got a little exercise in during the ensuing scramble to get to the airport on time.

Since this is me as a guest on Nick’s blog, am I allowed to name Donald Trump as the other villain of the month for calling African countries “shithole countries?” Very enlightened and diplomatic guy, that one.

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Shuga!!!

What the hell am I up to? Well, I just started a project that I’m very excited about, and have been wanting to do for some time. MTV has been airing a PEPFAR commissioned television program called Shuga. Shuga is stunning in the fact that it showcases the talent of African countries (Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa so far). Any Lupita Nyong’o fans out there? This was her first big role. It is also an incredible public health project, weaving important sexual health information into compelling story-lines. I took a public health class in college where we talked about the massive impact soap operas have on public health campaigns, and I firmly believe that if Zambia had more domestic soap operas our rates of Malaria and HIV would be much lower (ask literally any volunteer in Zambia; I mention it about once every minute).

Anyways, how does this relate to me? Well, my school has electricity, my teachers have televisions, and I have a flash drive. This will hopefully be a winning combination. I just finished transcribing the first season of Shuga into scripts, and tomorrow will start the process of edition my inevitable mistakes and printing out 15-30 copies of each script. The plan is to start a drama club with my local school’s grade 9s, where we do table reads once a week paired with GRS activities. At the end of each month, we will have hopefully finished the episode and can watch it on TV! I’m beyond pumped, which obviously means my expectations are much higher than my ability to successfully pull this off!

By the way, y’all in America should absolutely watch this show! Specifically, the woman who told me I should wear gloves at all times in Zambia to avoid contracting AIDS should watch this show, because she still has a lot to learn about HIV/AIDS. Bless her ignorant little heart. But seriously, the situations in Shuga are in no way limited to the continent of Africa. I personally could relate to specific story arcs within the show, and there are many people in the states who have never had comprehensive sexual education.