Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

Read: February 2018

Rating: Half whimsically modern fairy tale, half biting social satire

TL;DR Recommendation:This is the shortest Salman Rushie book you’ll find. Just do it!


Photo Dump 3: It’s Fall Y’all

One Second After by William R. Forstchen

Read: February 2018

Rating: In On Writing, Stephen King says we should read poorly-written books to better develop our own writing style, which is why I finished this book.

Same-premise-better-book Recommendation: “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy


“Look—here’s a table covered with a red cloth. On it is a cage the size of a small fish aquarium. In the cage is a white rabbit with a pink nose and pink-rimmed eyes. In its front paws is a carrot-stub upon which it is contentedly munching. On its back, clearly marked in blue ink, is the numeral 8.

Do we see the same thing? We’d have to get together and compare notes to make absolutely sure, but I think we do. There will be necessary variations, of course: some receivers will see a cloth which is turkey red, some will one that’s scarlet, while others may see still other shades. (To color blind receivers, the red tablecloth is the dark gray of cigar ashes.) Some may see scalloped edges, some may see straight ones. Decorative souls may add a little lace, and welcome—my tablecloth is your tablecloth, knock yourself out.

Likewise, the matter of the cage leave quite a lot of room for individual interpretation […] We all understand the cage is a see-through medium; beyond that, we don’t care. The most interesting thing here isn’t even the carrot-munching rabbit in the cage, but the number on its back. Not a six, Not a four, not nineteen-point-five. It’s an eight. That is what we’re looking at, and we all see it. I didn’t tell you. You didn’t ask me. I never opened my mouth and you never opened yours. We’re not even in the same year together, let alone the same room . . . except we are together. We’re close.

We’re having a meeting of the minds.

I sent you a table with a red cloth in it, a cage, a rabbit, and the number eight in blue ink. You got them all, especially the blue eight. We’ve engaged in an act of telepathy. No myth-mountain shit; real telepathy.”

– Stephen King, On Writing

Highlight Reel: February 2018

Cute and flirty: What started as me wanting to do a weekly early childhood environmental program (how many adjectives can I use for one noun?) at my school somehow turned into me being a teachers’ aid in the preschool class every Wednesday and Thursday. Imagine me trying to pacify roughly sixty rambunctious 3-4 year-olds by singing “Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” on a loop for 15 minutes (it worked!). Also imagine me trying to teach those same children how to play freeze tag in broken Lunda (it did not work). More consistently, I read them story books that mom and friend Claire mailed to me, we play “Simon Says,” do “Nature Yoga,” and I fumble around trying to teach them about an animal (ex: last class we practiced petting dogs properly by pretending my hair was a dog. I need to get better at locating tactile learning props). Long story short, I now have about sixty little friends who love giving high fives and thumbs up. It’s super cute.

Something I learned from my community: That people are cool. I was having a very existential moment about whether or not I’m helping or hurting by being in Zambia. A lot of western intervention in this continent has been so destructive and exploitative, and I don’t want to contribute to some cultural imperialism on the part of America just so I can pat myself on the back about “helping people.” On one of the days when I was thinking about this a lot, I ended up just hanging out with friends and community members and talking with them about American culture, history, and comparing it to Zambian culture. For instance, we both have really large income gaps between the rich and the poor, both our countries have dark histories of colonization. A lot of people are surprised that I’m a socialist, or that witchcraft is practiced in America, or that African style has greatly influenced western fashion. There’s all sorts of generalizations that we make about each other, but when you start to break those down and really talk to people, it makes a huge impact. Sometimes I need a reminder that I didn’t come here to “help” people, I came to work with people.

Something my community learned from me: I finished the GD malaria mural at my school! For those of you out of the loop, I signed up to be part of a malaria education grant that included a malaria mural at either a school or clinic. Since I work with the school a lot I picked them. A lot of other volunteers had their communities paint it themselves and/or did really beautiful murals. I did neither of those things, as I was super late getting the materials to my site and lacked artistic vision, so my mural just looks like a giant, crude infographic. That being said, it has been so cool hearing kids read out malaria facts during the painting, or having conversations with passing adults about malaria eradication! Jacqs and Sid (the other two volunteers in my district) even came and ran a small education session while I was painting! I haven’t done much any malaria work prior to this but I’m excited to do more.

Shower insights: I am a mosquito killing champion. Ok, maybe Aedes are just stupid, as I have neither seen nor killed an Anopheles (the species also susceptible to the malaria parasite) but I pinched one out of the sky the other day in the shower. Pinched! Out of the sky! I felt like a super hero. During this period of pride I was bit approximately ten times around my ankles. Touché, mosquitos.

Something that didn’t totally fail: Earlier in the month, all of Northwestern Province attended an animal husbandry workshop in Mwinilunga District. In light of that, us Ikelenge District volunteers (Sid, Jacqs, and myself) decided to run a three-day animal husbandry bike tour in our catchment areas. No one showed up to my community meeting, and Jacqs’ meeting was rained out, but we did a lot of biking and Sid’s meeting went really well! My headman rallied people for a rescheduled meeting (it went well!), and Jacqs’ meeting is rescheduled too, so no harm no foul! Also shoutout to George for biking 10 hours from his site to Ikelenge and helping us out.

Hero of the month: Chinyazhi School’s nursery (Pre-K and Kindergarten) teacher for (successfully, I might add) teaching over fifty pre-schoolers at a time every single day in her first year of teaching, using only flip-chart paper, sing alongs, and small games. Seriously, she is killing the teaching game.

Villain of the month: The asshole who stole my bednet beautification bag from the bus station. I am mostly upset because A) it meant I had to put the effort into filing a police report, and B) the bag contained a copy of “The Dolphins of Pern,” a so-bad-its-good sci-fi/fantasy paperback I was really looking forward to reading. Tell me, is anyone else going appreciate the dragon riders of Pern reviving the bonds between land dwellers and the intelligence-enhanced dolphins that crossed the stars with them centuries prior like I would have?!


“‘I’m getting better.’

The sound of his own voice, confident in the silent afternoon, reassured him even though he hadn’t meant to speak aloud. He was getting better. It was possible to graduate from passive to active, to take the thing that had once driven you nearly to madness as a neutral prize of no more than occasional academic interest. And if there was a place where the thing could be done, this was surely it.

He went down the ladder to get the bug bomb. They would pay. They would pay for stinging him.”

-Stephen King, The Shining