Highlight Reel: April 2018

Rainy season’s last hurrah! For most of this month I was wishing rainy season would end so I could start working more, but now that it’s slowing down I’m realizing how much I’ll miss it! Anyways, here’s some stuff that happened.

Cute and flirty: What is cuter than ducklings?! Definitely not dead ducklings. Jujubee laid nine eggs, I ate five, and three hatched (the rotten egg is sitting in my house because I’m a hoarder and think I’ll do some sort of kids education with it eventually?). One was immediately crushed by RuPaul (the daddy duck; all my ducks are named after drag queens), one died from unknown causes, and one almost drowned. The drowning survivor later went missing. The life of a duckling is perilous. But they were so cute while they lasted! Future is also super cute by saying “lusesa mwani BaNaka!” (sorry, BaNaka!) whenever he passes where we buried Baby BaNaka.

Something I learned from my community: I get a lot of flack from the ladies in my compound (Mwazie, Prudence, and Flora) about how I do laundry! Admittedly, I hate washing clothes; I’m bad at it, it takes forever, and I half-ass it. Zambian women, on the other hand, make a laundry machine look foolish (although people here still deserve laundry machines)! They’re out there wringing and scrubbing in one fluid motion while I’m completely slowly-but-surely missing stains and scrubbing a hole in my boxers. Needless to say I’m still learning!

Additionally… this month my friends Mario and Rodgers helped me propagate sugarcane from cuttings! It was super fun, and I’ve got sugarcane popping up all over the place now! And Mario spent his only day off (he works very long hours six days a week at a construction job) to walk me to the family’s woods patch and teach me about native trees. So I’ve been learning a lot from people.

Something my community learned from me: While I haven’t been having luck with workshops (people are very busy in their fields this time of year), I have had some really wonderful informal education conversations! While planting sugarcane, I had to kill a snake hidden in the grass (most snakes in Zambia are highly venomous so you don’t want to take a chance if it’s close enough to bite you) and got to do what I miss doing: teaching people about snakes. I had dinner with Silver, a neighbor of mine, and we got to talk about soil fertility and green manures. I spotted a chameleon on the road and forced all the kids hanging around my compound to sit with me while I talked about it and then re-home it. I’ve been doing semi-regular story times at my house and am trying to get kids who can read English to read Little House in the Big Woods with me. Things are great! Sticking around my community and finding your niche has really worked for me, and I plan on keeping it up for the next year.

Shower insights: I’ve heard two really good nuggets of wisdom this month: “the only person you should compare yourself to is past versions of yourself” and “you don’t have to do it well, you just have to get it done.” The former I am employing in my ongoing mission of self reflection and growth, and the latter I am applying to finishing mulching the termite mound by my house!

Something that didn’t totally fail: First, let me begin with something that did totally fail. I had wanted to do a chicken vaccination program in my village this month, because April sees a huge resurgence of Newcastles Disease every year and it can decimate a chicken population. I’d thought everyone would be on board, no problem, but no one was interested in being my counterpart for the project. So, I went to a neighboring village where I knew people were already implementing good chicken keeping practices and pitched it to local leadership. They were on board! They asked someone to be my counterpart and he worked extremely hard to get a total count of all the chickens in the village so we could get the right quantity of vaccine.

But, when we held the meetings, there was a lot of apathy from most people and a lot of people didn’t attend. This was not good, as all the chickens in an area need to be vaccinated for it to be affective. People who attended got excited, but not enough people were attending. I tried holding three meetings, and on the third I had to make the call that it just wasn’t going to work. I was so frustrated! I thought I’d done everything right, involved local leadership, worked with a counterpart, based the project off of community feedback, all of it, involved the district’s Department of Livestock, and people just weren’t responding. It sucked.

Anyways, I got home and was really upset and after talking to my host sister Mwazie walked through the pineapple fields to the river to get some air. At this point I should mention that I’ve been trying to get kids to slash my grass for me in front of my house, in return for me paying their school fees, but the kids just haven’t gotten around to it (this isn’t laziness; people will say yes to stuff they don’t want to do because it’s considered very impolite to say no to something, and whatever subtle indicator there is in Lunda culture I have been unable to pick up on it). So a lot of things were just piling up. But, when I returned, all six of the kids I spoke to were slashing. Mwazie had talked to them for me and they realized it was important to me. And one of my neighbors came over and sat with me for a while because he’d seen me looking unhappy on the road, and we talked about chickens and life for a while. It was one of the most heartwarming moments I’ve had here and it still makes me a little emotional thinking about it.

Hero of the month: Mwazi, for keeping my head cool.

Villain(s) of the month: 1. Whichever animal ate Raven, one of my adult female ducks. Sad day.

2. Peace. Corps. Grants. Online. Ooooo if I could murder software system I would! Annikki’s and my grant is still not online, putting us a month behind on fundraising!

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