Highlight Reel: October 2017 

I’m back at it again with the white Vans! Wait, that’s not a thing people joke about anymore? Vine isn’t even a website now?? I’m gonna be highly out of touch when I get back so would appreciate a “two year wrap up” song/PowerPoint combo a la Liz Lemon when Avery Jessup returned from North Korea. Wait, 30 Rock isn’t on Netflix anymore?! Jesus. 

Cute and Flirty: Comfort, a little boy across the street has been coming over to my house to color for the past week or so. He’s two, so he’s only slightly better at Lunda than me, and it’s perfect! Two is just such a cute age and we sit and color for a bit before I walk him back to him mom. It’s adorable and I love it.

Something I learned from my community: Several community members have started showing me the different flora of my region, along with the different medicinal properties. The ugly weed growing from the demolished house next door? A highly nutritious leafy green! That strange, almost cactus looking tree? An anti-coagulant! And here I thought I was the one teaching them about agroforestry plants. One you start noticing this stuff you realize just how much life there is and how important and overlooked it is. It also has been a good wake up call for me as an extension agent that the solution to a problem isn’t always (or ever) introducing a new species, and that there are plenty of amazing endemic things around me if I’m just patient and listen.

Something my community learned from me: This guy just finished GRS! Me, my HIV counterpart Regan, and my translator Paddi had 27 kids graduate from the Grassroots Soccer program we started the beginning of the month with the 5th graders of my basic school’s 5A class. We tried to do a session every weekday morning, which didn’t always work out, but I am so so proud of everyone, especially my kids. We started with the second class of 5th graders at the end of this month, and you could tell by their participation that the first class had been teaching them about HIV already. Not going to lie, I got a little choked up. 

Shower Insights: I need to eat more. I absolutely hate lighting my brazier multiple times a day and thus have pretty much just been having soup packets in the morning from my thermos, some combo of fruit and peanut butter for lunch, and then cooking for dinner. I’ve feel fine, Mom! But I’m not doing great in the self esteem department, which led me to grow a mustache, but that’s another story. Anyways, I remembered that cereal is a thing, and realized I can mix baby formula in my powdered milk, and it’s changed my life. I love you, Kellogg’s™ Corn Flakes. I promise never to leave you until I get my hands on Great Grains Banana Nut Crunch.

Something That Didn’t Totally Fail: Two counterparts and I have been trying to get a bi-monthly beekeeping/Men as Partners study group going, and dang y’all getting adult men to talk about any health, much less sexual health, is really hard! But the commitment level of my counterparts has been really relieving and it’s nice having people pushing with me, even when it feels like I’m pulling teeth! We’re working through it! 

Hero(es) of the Month: [Redacted] Basic School’s Grade 5A class! So proud of you!

Villain of the Month: Time! There is never enough time in the day. Also, mortality is inevitable, but that’s a whole other level of worry. 

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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. 

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 a 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 

Winds of Change — A Zambia Log

I was going to feature a different post from my good friend Maddie’s blog, prefacing it with some comparisons of Northwest Province and Southern Province, but I saw this post and my heart sank and I knew I had to post this instead.

Maybe because I’m still trying to process the horror of Charlottsville, Virginia and what’s happening to my homeland from a continent away. Maybe it’s because, for the first time in my life, I’m questioning if America has a place for me anymore. Maybe it’s because, when a tourist couple approached me on a recent vacation and told me how self-sacrificing it was to live in such “primitive” conditions, I just smiled and didn’t say anything. Maybe it’s that I’ve tried to write several posts about the dire situation of climate change, particularly where I live, and have deleted them all after realizing that most people will stop reading after the first couple sentences when they realize it’s not a funny post or doesn’t have pictures. Maybe it’s all of those things, maybe it’s none of those things, and maybe it’s this and more.

I’m feeling a lot of stuff right now. But I’m reading this and my gut twists and I know for sure that I at least have to share, and maybe get off my ass at some point and finally make that post.

I’m waiting for the weight of my confessions to sink in. I think secretly I was hoping baTaata would burst into a fit of rage directed toward me, or transform into a superhero political activist peasant and fly to kick in the door of some executive offices somewhere.
But for a few paces my eager ears met only the sound of his lanky-legged footsteps on the sandy path. Then he just said calmly: “Yes, Maddie. I think you are very observant. Please, please try to tell them.”

via Winds of Change — A Zambia Log

Aside

Things at Site that Make Me Feel Chatama

  • The persistent loneliness that comes with moving to a new place. 
  • Careless insults thrown by inebriated men (or presumably sober adolescents)
  • Having to give up on speaking local language mid-conversation and feeling deflated. 
  • The rush of jealously, quickly followed by guilt, when hearing from a fellow volunteer who is doing really well.
  • The sound of mice crawling through a backpack just as the lights go off.

Highlight Reel: First Three Months

My sister used to do this thing called “Highlight Reel” every month while she was serving in Peace Corps Thailand, so now that Blogspot cruelly deleted her blog, I’ve decided to pretend like it was my idea.

Cute and flirty: I have a pretty sick farmer’s tan, as well as an utterly obscene Chaco tan. Ever seen pictures of yourself as a child and gone “I used to be so tan. Why don’t I get this tan anymore?” It’s because you never go outside anymore, you goon! The average American has spent half the time they’ll EVER be outside by the time they’re 18. That is insane, y’all! Explore this beautiful earth while it lasts and you too can look like you’re wearing sandals at all times.

Something I learned from my community: People are terrified of chameleons. They’re essentially the same thing as a black cat in western culture, and symbolize witchcraft. There’s even an idiom in Lunda that goes “there’s a chameleon on the eggplant bush” which means there is a witch in the village. Almost all cultures have relics of animism incorporated in there (spirit houses in Eastern Europe and Asia, Santeria in South American Catholicism, Druidism and Paganism in western Christian holidays), but there’s a lot of fear surrounding witchcraft and a lot of illnesses get attributed to it. I could go on a long diatribe about how this relates to missionaries and why I don’t support mission trips, but I’ll save that for another time. The point is, be nice to black cats and don’t fawn over chameleons in Zambia.

Something my community learned from me: Had a couple great (but very private) talks about homosexuality. Homosexuality is considered sodomy in Zambia and is a crime. This does not have deep roots in traditional culture, but rather a result of missionary influence. Again, not going to dive down that rabbit trail just yet, but you should watch God Loves Uganda if you haven’t already done so. Anyways, it was really nice to have those moments, and interesting that the conversations I had with Zambians have been far more open and productive than conversations I’ve had with Americans back home.

Shower insights: Bucket baths are awesome. AWESOME, I tell you! Our first couple days we were in a hotel and I had to wash myself squatted in a tub with shoes on, and I was prepared for the worst. But, oh boy. My thatched bathing shelter is just low enough for me to peel over at the sunset while I bathe and if it’s dark enough I can look up at the stars. It is so relaxing and I highly recommend it.

Something that didn’t totally fail: At site visit, my language group was staying with a PCV who was wrapping up his service. During this time, we had to teach a class in Lunda to a large group in the community (because I missed canvassing) and also to a small women’s group. We taught the large group about making compost, and then I did a little thing on tree pruning/shaping with the ladies. When I say I stumbled through, I mean STUMBLED. But guess what, everyone got the gist of what I said and everyone was really sweet. I suspect that our PCV host already did a composting workshop, and his host mom ran the show during my five minute pauses to remember the word “until.” But that’s the point, really. As extension agents, we’re pretty much here to facilitate a space where people in the community can grow the way they want to, and where people can lead from within the community. It was definitely a stress relief concerning language, which strangely isn’t fluent after three months like I thought it would be!