TED Talk: ‘Every Kid Needs a Champion’

I first saw this video when training to work with Parks and Recreation, and it’s stuck with me ever since. Development work, at it’s best, is a lot of teaching, so it’s been cropping up in my consciousness a lot more than I expected, and to be honest I’ve used a lot of her examples in almost ever single meeting/program I’ve had so far. I think it’s also pretty busy to become bitter and jaded* during your service for a lot of reasons, so the segment from A to B has looped around in my head quite a lo, and I once accidentally plagiarized part of it during a group chat discussion, only to realize after the fact!

Anyways, if you can’t tell I absolutely love this video and will just let it speak for itself.

https://embed.ted.com/talks/rita_pierson_every_kid_needs_a_champion

*I want to make a cocktail called a “Bitter and Jaded” and so far the only two ingredients I can think of are bitters and absinthe. If anyone has any suggestions for possibly a better green liquor or anything that would pair well with bitters, hit me up!

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When Life Gives You Lemons, Squeeze Them In Your Eyes to Give You an Excuse for Crying 

Sometimes life gets overwhelming and you feel like a volcano about to erupt or, in my case, a deadly pyroclastic flow. Through the haze of it all the ash (yes, I am going to milk this metaphor for all it’s worth) it can be hard to see everything else around you. In these times, it’s nice when friends remind you to take a step back a reasses from afar. Today, I spent my day painting all my furniture a calming blue and charged my iPod just enough to play some tunes. It was nice, even though I got blue paint on two of my favorite articles of clothing. 

I really miss Steven Universe, one of my favorite shows, and so it was nice when this song popped up. And I feel like my iPod is trying to tell me I need to be more mindful. 

Featured Video: ‘The Story of Bottled Water’

Trash services here are virtually, if not totally, non-existent in most towns and villages. I have a rubbish pit behind my house, and once that is full it’ll be covered with soil until everything breaks down. This probably worked well in the past, but the prevalence of plastic means that, when digging my garden (a former rubbish pit, I am knee deep in plastic wrappers and bottles that adamantly refuse to decompose for another couple hundred years or so (note: this is essentially a mini version of an American landfill). 

The interesting thing is, people used to use better equipment. I’ve seen pictures and heard of beautiful hand-made clay pots that people used to carry water in, or store food in. There’s actually a way of refrigerating food in those pots, in which you put a small one inside another one and fill the space with sand. I don’t think Zambian people would use the term “ice cold,” but the water would be as cold as from a mountain stream, and the pots would keep food fresh for days, even weeks. “What happened to those pots?” I’ve asked many times. The answer is simple: they were told the pots were backwards, that plastic was modern and the way forward and more sustainable. People wanted that, and gradually people stopped making them, and eventually forgot how to make them at all. Now, after just a few decades, the elders will tell you that the young children today wouldn’t even know what the pots were if they saw them. And the “modern, sustainable” plastic? It breaks, and gives way, and it doesn’t preserve food, but it’s waste will be littered across the landscape for centuries. 

Anyways, while this video focuses solely on plastic water bottles, it really makes you think about how much plastic waste is out there in the world! Reducing, reusing, and recycling is key to conserving our resources and making this world somewhere we can happily live in.

P.S. Many stores (MOMs, for example) make an effort to use biodegradable packaging whenever possible. Consumer purchases have a huge effect on how companies conduct business, so please support biodegradable/compostable packing!

TED Talk: ‘The Magic Washing Machine’

It’s currently dry season, specifally, hot dry season. That means the rivers and streams flow at their lowest points, wells dry up, and people women have to travel further out to find water. I’m very lucky, as I have a perineal well just meters from my doorstep, and although the natural spring I go to for drinking water no longer babbles, there’s still water available at only a ten minute walk. However, many women in my community spend a significant amount of their working days carrying water. They’re not like me, carrying just enough to drink from the spring, or just enough to bathe once a day from a nearby well. They’re carrying water for themselves and their families, to drink, cook with, and bathe twice a day. They’re also carrying water for their gardens, for the ability to provide essential nutrients for their children, and for economic support in the lean season. Roads and electricity dominate to table of discussion for development in Zambia , but I sometimes stop and wonder if, were more women (specially rural women) at the table, if plumbing and running water would be emphasized more.

This talk explains what I’ve observed in a truly amazing way. It also encapsulates my criticisms of the “population bomb” argument, not because population growth isn’t an important issue, but because of the way it’s often coded to shift  responsibility from us, the global north, the standard setters of materialism as development, using the most resources per capita globally, onto women in Zambia who walk kilometers to find water. How can we justify people in the global south not being afforded modern amenities that, to us in the global north, are essential?

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!

TED Talk: ‘My Invention That Made Peace With Lions’

The first TED Thursday! I know you (the empty space I’m pretending is viewership) have been waiting with baited breath. I’m gonna start things off with a youth-led one before I head off to an environmental education camp volunteers hold with youth in our communities later this month. I love this video because it showcases the ingenuity of local knowledge, as well as the brilliance of young minds everywhere! Poaching and inter-species resource competition is an extremely relevant topic in Zambia, and people like this inspire me.