This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things 

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*


Touring a Zambian Honey Factory 

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. Buckets of honey in corners allocated to 1) unsorted, 2) high quality, and 3) low quality and/or high moisture

Step Two: Good quality batch is warmed in a water bath at 40-45 degrees Celsius for five hours.The hot water bath used to liquefy honey comb and sort impurities.

Step Three: Straining of the honey on PVC gauze filters and then using a Honey Spinner.Three factory workers posing in front of the honey strainer
Step Four: Honey re-settles for approximately 14 days, and is then “skimmed” (pictured below) and filtered through a calico cloth. The quality assurance manager explaining the skimming process
Step Five: Piston filling into bottles.Piston pumping the honey from a storage container into bottles
Step Six: Bottle capping and labeling. Rows of honey ready for distribution

For high 

Highlight Reel: August & September 2017

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?? 

TED Talk: ‘Don’t Insist on English!’

Something that makes me sad about being here is that upward mobility in rural Zambia is largely determined by your ability to speak English. You could be a science or math wiz, but if you’re not great at English, your chances of furthering your education are significantly diminished. And, whether intentionally or not, volunteers do enforce this. I’ve largely had to choose English speaking counterparts for trainings due to my own limited proficiency, including a rather heartbreaking moment where I had to pass up a great counterpart because there was no translator for that particular workshop. And our rural education program is being pushed to focus solely on TESOL (teaching English as a second language), rather than teacher training or building upon other subjects. However, language proficiency isn’t a determinant of intelligence!

How to Eat Pineapple!

It’s pineapple season, y’all! And in Ikelenge, “land of the sweet pineapple,” this means that there’s makondi nankashi (a f***ton of pineapple). Fortunately for me, everyone has been super generous, and I have been gifted a lot of pineapples whenever I do meetings or field visits (also by my host family, because I live on pineapple farm). So, I’m a BIT of an expert on the matter of eating pineapple now, and thought I’d spread my maana (wisdom) and explain the three main methods I’ve observed during community entry.

Method One: The “Copa Cabana”

Step 1: select your pineapple

Step 2: cut the top off of your pineapple

Step 3: grab a spoon

Step 4: dig in and enjoy!

Potential problems: Although Method One has been observed being performed with languid ease, the non-experienced pineapple eater will find that it’s f***ing hard to eat a pineapple with a spoon.

Troubleshooting: Stab the insides of the pineapple repeatedly (works best if done after attempting with spoon only, so as to build up rage). Drain/drink juice so as to get a better look at how jacked up the pineapple now is, as you desperately attempt to rectify the situation. Upon giving up, discretely hide the remains of the pineapple in trash pit upside-down so that it appears to have been fully eaten.

Attempts: 1

Method Two: The “Ice Cream Cone”

Step 1: select your pineapple

Step 2: firmly grasp it in your hand

OPTIONAL STEP: cut off the spikey parts of the leaves to make a better handle

Step 3: cut off the base of your pineapple

Step 4: peel off the sides with your knife while maintaining hold on top

Step 5: slice off bite sized pieces at your leisure

Step 6: dig in and enjoy!

Potential problems: it is possible that, in an attempt to be cool like your village compatriots, you will try to skewer a piece, using the knife as a utensil. With this attempt, you will almost surely slice open your lip, and will receive a whopper of a canker sore several days later. More likely is that you will lose roughly twenty-five percent of your pineapple by being too eager with your slicing, and failing to grab falling pieces as both your hands are full.

Troubleshooting: Accept that you’re a big fat loser, and don’t try to be cool ever again. Another option is to use a duller knife. Discreetly cover the fallen pieces with dirt so that it appears to be fully eaten.

Number of attempts: 12

Method Three: The “Fruit Salad”

Step 1: select your pineapple

Step 2: place your pineapple on a clean surface

Step 3: cut off the the top of your pineapple, following suit with the sides and base until fully peeled

Step 4: cut into cubes

Step 5: place in a dish and serve

Step 6: dig in and enjoy!

Potential problems: Method Three most likely requires the use of several clean dishes, of which you may not feel like cleaning for just one lousy pineapple, and is also the messiest of the methods. Additionally, Method Three is lame, and reminds you of Betty Draper sadly staring out at the 1950’s suburban wasteland, wondering what it’s all for as she prepares the pineapple for some racist garden party.

Troubleshooting: use dirty dishes. Alternatively, don’t wash your dishes after. Use this method as an opportunity to drift into existential melancholy or, if ennui isn’t your thing, try and imagine how Don Draper would describe this moment in an ad pitch for canned pineapples.

Don Draper: This device isn't a spaceship; it's a time machine

Attempts: 5