The Shining by Stephen King

Read: February 2018

Rating: Does George Hatfield stutter or not?? Who is Al Shockley?! I need answers.

TL;DR Recommendation: “Room 1408” by Stephen King


Ted Talk: Don’t Misrepresent Africa

As I was selecting pictures for a September-November photo dump, I realized that I was (subconsciously or intentionally, not sure which) not including pictures of people within my community, particularly children. I do post pictures of people, but it’s been limited and in this case it was like I was specifically avoiding those types of photos. It led me to question why that was.

I think a thing that’s always worried me about this blog is that it’s probably the first thing people at home have really heard about Zambia, or, if they have, the only opportunity for a well rounded view. I had a woman repeatedly tell me how brave it was that I would go to a place so uncivilized as the vague, homogeneous Africa. So from a very early point in my service I’ve felt a lot of responsibility to present things in a way that are fair, and do people in Zambia justice.

The second part has been kind of on my radar as more and more images of short-term mission trips by various people pop up on my Facebook newsfeed. In them, there is usually a young white person, surrounded by a throng of smiling black children (who, of course, everyone assumes are orphans) and a sea of comments about how great it is to helping them, those anonymous children used as a backdrop. Which makes me think of the time a girl in college jokingly told me that she wanted to “adopt an African baby and then return it when it stops being cute.” A close PCV friend of mine summed it up really well the other day by asking “do people see pictures of our kids and think we’re taking mission trip photos?”

When photography first came to be, many cultures feared it would steal your essence, a notion that is laughed off today, but is it really so far off? You put this image of yourself out into this world, and it stops being you. “You,” the image of you, becomes whatever other people want to see, what they think “you” are. And is it fair for me to throw images of my community members out into this world without them fully understanding how much the world will warp that image? To me, people in my community have dimension and reality. When pictures are posted by me, they become flat, malleable to whatever the viewer wants to see (or, perhaps worse, what I want the viewer to see). Comfort ceases being himself and becomes “that little African boy Nick posted.” A friend’s house stops being beautiful or well-made and becomes something that wouldn’t fit American standards for a dwelling. I stop being being a random guy bumbling through life and become this disgusting white savior trope, a whitewashed lead in a story that isn’t mine. Sometimes it feels like a lose-lose.

While this TED Talk focuses more on journalism photography, I found it to ring very true for me. I think it gave me some food for thought on proceeding, and I hope it will for you too.


“Well, the morning after the road was “finished” […] what should we discover but that the road builders were back at work. They have instructions to continue the road […] on its present course right through the village of Olinka. By the time [the villagers] were out of bed, the road was already being dug through Catherine’s newly planted yam field. Of course the Olinka people were up in arms. But the roadbuilders were literally up in arms. They had guns, Celie, with orders to shoot! […] Fortunately, we were able to save all of our things, but with a tarmac road running straight through the middle of it, the village seemed gutted.

Immediately after understanding the roadbuilders’ intentions, the chief set off toward the coast, seeking explanations and reparations. Two weeks later he returned with even more disturbing news. The whole territory, including the Olinka’s village, now belongs to a rubber manufacturer in England. As he neared the coast, he was stunned to see hundreds and hundreds of villagers much like the Olinka clearing the forests on each side of the road, and planting rubber trees. The ancient, giant mahogany trees, all trees, the game, everything in the forest was being destroyed, and the land was forced to lie flat, he said, and bare as the palm of his hand.

At first he thought the people who told him about the English rubber company were mistaken, if only about its territory including the Olinka village. But eventually he was directed to the governor’s mansion, a huge white building, with flags flying in its yard, and there had an audience with the white man in charge. It was this man who gave the roadbuilders their orders, this man who knew about the Olinka only from a map.”

Alice Walker, The Color Purple


TED Talk: How Trees Talk to Each Other

Dating back until at least middle school, I have wished I could see time lapse footage of root movement in a forest. Specifically, when my dad told me we couldn’t plant a Weeping Willow in our backyard because of their knack for finding water pipes and bursting them, it just seemed to me that trees weren’t nearly as static as we think they are. This thought was later built upon when I took an ecology and evolution summer class in college, and my professor explained that the trees are constantly fighting one another for sunlight, albeit so slowly that humans do not perceive it without something like time lapse.

So, these ideas had been on my radar for some time. However, when my sister sent me this video just prior to my departure, it blew my mind. It was exciting and magical, while tragically hopeless and sad about what we have destroyed.


If you found this interesting, there is a very interesting book that takes this topic from another interpretation: that the fungi (closer in DNA to animals than plants) is actually farming/herding the trees. It is called Mycelium Running, and while I have been unable to find a copy in Zambia I have heard a lot of great things about it from an impassioned fellow volunteer.


“Do not, however, make the mistake of thinking that all desire is yearning. ‘We love to contemplate blue, not because it advances to us, but because it draws us after it,’ wrote Goethe, and perhaps he is right. But I am not interested in longing to live in a world in which I already live. I don’t want to yearn for blue things, and God forbid for any ‘blueness.’ Above all, I want to stop missing you.”

Maggie Nelson, Bluets

Highlight Reel: January 2018

2 years ago, Nick visited me in Thailand and I had him guest blog for me about our trip together. Today he is returning the “favor” as I, Carissa, write his highlight reel for him. He has asked me to post the pictures separately, so don’t worry, there is more to come.

Cute and flirty:  When Nick was first taking geography in high school he told me about this pool on top of Victoria Falls. He said that during a certain season, the water was low enough that people could sit in the pool and look over the edge. I’m not sure exactly how it started, but we made a plan to one day go on a trip through Central Africa. Our plan back then was a tad over-zealous but this past month we did actually get to see parts of it through. #dreamsreallydocometrue

Something Ilearned from Nick’s community: I got to learn about so many things! Here’s a few highlights…

  1. Traditional Zambian beekeeping methods from George…. Bee hives are placed inside of logs which are then elevated off the ground and almost entirely sealed to keep out predators (like honey badgers!)
  2. How to make pineapple wine from Nick’s host mom… It’s a good way to cut down on food waste too! You just use pineapples that are starting to go bad, dice ‘em up, boil them with sugar, and then put them in a bucket to sit for a few weeks.
  3. New gardening techniques from Nick and Kelsi
  4. That there is a kind of leaf that tastes like strawberries
  5. I also learned, from camping near a river, that hippo calls sound like a giant is sneezing

Something Nick’s community learned from me: I made Thai food for Nick’s host family and not only did they eat it all, his host mom asked for the recipes.

Shower insights: If you are someone who read my blog when I was in Thailand you probably know this already BUT wow! I LOVE bucket showers!

Something that didn’t totally fail: Nick and I weren’t really sure what we should expect to see during our safari time in Botswana. Since most of the big animals disappear into the bush during rainy season, we prepared to see mostly birds. But the sun was shining down on us (literally and figuratively) and we ended up seeing two prides of lions, over 100 elephants, an African fox, countless impalas, 10+ giraffes, ostriches, wildebeest, zebras, flamingos, warthogs, hippos, a couple kinds of hornbills, baboons, vervet monkeys, etc. So many animals!

Hero of the month: It’s hard to pick a hero when so many people were so nice and thoughtful and kind.

Villain of the month: Nick lined up a taxi driver to pick us up and take me to the airport on my last day in Zambia. It was kind of a hassle to arrange, from what I gathered, and we were pushing it a little close to the time limit with how late we were leaving. So the taxi driver pulls up and we climb into his car. About 200 feet into our trip to the airport the car stops moving. There were some ruts in the road right there so Nick asked if we should get out and push the car; assuming the car was stuck. Nope. Dude had run out of gas. And he wanted us to just sit there and wait while his friend went to the gas station. At least I got a little exercise in during the ensuing scramble to get to the airport on time.

Since this is me as a guest on Nick’s blog, am I allowed to name Donald Trump as the other villain of the month for calling African countries “shithole countries?” Very enlightened and diplomatic guy, that one.