Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Read: August 2018

Rating: The emotional equivalent to getting your feet bound? No; the emotional equivalent to finding out exactly how foot binding worked.

TL;DR Recommendation: Galloping Horses by Xu Zechen

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Quote

“There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.”

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Highlight Reel: July 2018

Cute and flirty: Jacqs and Sid (my Peace Corps neighbors and subsequent besties) are both leaving the district in search of greener pastures soon. I’m a little bit kabit sad, but we went out in style! Sid, Jacqs, and George all came to my house, and we made a huge southern food feast for my host family! We went all out. Like, slaughtered, butchered, and fried two chickens, made sweet tea, mac n’ cheese, and collard greens, the works. All on my little charcoal brazier. Yes, I may not have had the upper body strength to humanely kill the chicken (don’t worry, George did it; the chicken didn’t feel anything); yes, I may have had a mild panic attack once I realized I had no idea how to guy a chicken or where it’s bike duct was; yes, I forgot to put bread crumbs on to the mac n’ cheese. But it was all worth it! And super fun.

Something I learned from my community: I had the opportunity to interview my counterpart George’s parents for a survey through World Wildlife Fund regarding climate change crowd sourcing. Essentially, WWF wants to hear from people in rural areas about how they’re noticing and being affected by climate change. It was really interesting speaking to elders in the community about how much has changed since they were young. Increased wind, increased temperature extremes during cold and hot season and massively increased rainfall in the rainy season, increased seasonal variability, all things I had seen on throughout my time here but not on the scale of a lifetime. It was honestly pretty disturbing and very immediate, as all those changes can be detrimental to an agriculture based community.

Something my community learned from me: A fellow volunteer wrote a RUMP grant for volunteers to implement in their communities and I was one of those volunteers! What is RUMP? Reusable menstrual pads. Most women in rural Zambia don’t have access to products like diva cups, pads, or tampons, and (like most of the world) periods are very stigmatized and not spoken about. Did you know that studies have shown 3 in 10 girls aren’t told about periods until they actually get one? For such a normal process! Crazy. Anyways, the grant provided absorbent cloth, chitenge fabric, needles, threads, and buttons to make pads that can be changed and washed, and they are really neat! It was a really fun project; I got to demonstrate how bad I am at sewing, everyone (including myself) had a good laugh at me trying to talk about periods and menstrual health in broken Chilunda with no translator, and I gained so much respect for the women in my community and how selfless and resilient they are. As Michael Scott would say, win-win-win!

Shower insights: I think it’s finally happened. I think I’m tired of eating pasta, powdered milk, ketchup, and soya for dinner every night. It has gotten old. Will I stop? Probably not; it takes zero time and effort to make! But I have had a recurring dream about salad, so get ready America. Also, I eat so much peanut butter that I honestly can’t tell if it actually tastes like anything anymore?

Something that didn’t totally fail: The Kasisi Agricultural Training happened this month! Thanks to everyone’s donations, Annikki and I were able to send 21 counterparts down to Lusaka Province for a 5-day training on sustainable agriculture and conservation farming. They learned in depth about minimum tillage, composting (microflora ftw!), crop diversification, green manures, and integrated pest management! Also, thanks to an outpouring of support, not only were we able to be fully funded, we even had leftover money for all the trainees to purchase seeds and seedlings while in Lusaka. This is a big deal, as many seeds are unavailable in our neck of the woods.

The travel day was a little chaotic, as we ran into some trouble pulling out the funds in Mwinilunga (see the villain of the Month), but we managed to get enough money pulled out in Mwinilunga and I made a surprise trip to Solwezi, sprinted to the ATM to pull out the rest, and then sprinted back to hand it over to my counterpart just before the bus pulled out for Lusaka. Nothing says “Peace Corps grants” like unforeseen complications and extra adrenaline! Anyways, very happy for everyone who went and grateful to everyone who made it happen.

Hero of the month: Everyone who donated to my grant, shared my social media posts, or otherwise supported my efforts. I’m so incredibly proud to be surrounded by such supportive people in my life, and Annikki’s and my counterparts are so appreciative for your sponsorship.

Villain of the Month: The ATM in Mwinilunga that said it couldn’t complete my transactions, but then told my bank account that it had. RIP money.