Highlight Reel: November 2017

Double feature! In the interest of catching myself up, I’m posting a photo dump and highlight reel on the same day [waits for applause]. Thanks for being patient with me!

Cute and Flirty: I recently bought three ducks, and currently have two (the travel to my house from their farm was sadly too traumatic for one of them). I absolutely adore them! They live in a little pen between my house and garden, and I just love watching them waddle around. Are they as entertaining as chickens? Nah, but they’re more chill and don’t eat all the seeds I plant. Pictures coming soon!

Something I learned from my community: I attended a Food Preservation workshop in late November, and while I was finding a counterpart my host mom decided to show me her own Food Preservation techniques. One of my favorites was how to preserve extra mafu (leafy greens), which I have a huge problem with. With onion greens, she hangs them up to dry, and once they’re browned, she pounds them, adds salt, and you’ve got yourself some delicious onion powder! It’s amazing, simple, and delicious! Why am I here again?!

Something my community learned from me: During Grassroots Soccer with my Grade 5s, I decided to add some LGBT sensitization into the mix. I was nervous, because the existence of queer people in Zambia is adamantly denied in rural areas, much less gay rights. But, during a session about gender roles, we were discussing the difference between gender and sex, and I saw a window. We defined “sex” as “male or female” and gender as “man or woman.” Then, we talked about babies who are born with both male and female genitalia, and added “intersex” to our definition of sex, meaning both male and female. Then, we added “transgender” to the definition of gender, and I explained that while “inter” means “together,” “trans” means “going from one thing to another” (thanks mom for teaching me vocabulary from classical roots!). Then, when we went into gender roles, I explained that while gender is an identity, gender roles can change depending on culture, and I explained that in some American cultures you can still be a man or woman if you date people of the same sex. I was really proud of how respectful both my Zambian counterparts and my kids were during the lesson, and it led to a lot of questions about gender norms in different cultures (ex: the difference between men wearing skirts/kilts/etc., men performing in drag, and males identifying as women). It made me really happy to share that part of myself in a subtle way, and has motivated me to do more of this kind of work!

Shower Insights: I’ve been thinking a lot about what I joined Peace Corps for and what I originally wanted to get out of service. I noticed recently that I’m a lot angrier and reactionary than I used to be (I’m sure a couple people will laugh at that), and I don’t think that’s helping myself or my community. So, I’ve decided to check in with myself every month and ask myself “am I being the kind of person I wanted to be here? Am I doing the kinds of work I wanted to do? If not, is there anything I can do to change that? If I can’t change it, is it beneficial to me or my community to stay in Zambia?” When I tell people this, many get worried, but it’s been really helpful to assess where I am and where I want to be. And I think, because of it, I’m moving forward in a way I’ll be happy with looking back.

Something That Didn’t Totally Fail: I am finally done teaching Grassroots Soccer to my basic school’s Grade 5 class! We taught the program with the 5Bs this month, and I think it’s safe to say that having a class every weekday for two months was a little too much to for my two voluntary counterparts (who are both in college). Fortunately, the deputy headmaster filled in when needed, and the kids learned a lot. Phew!

Hero of the Month: Latrice Royale for providing a beautiful visual example of drag queens and blowing the minds of my kids!

Villain of the Month: Army ants! They took over my garden and I couldn’t weed anything without being swarmed and bit. These things will kill any animal and when they enter people’s homes people just move out until the ants have hunted everything. Bugs Life lied to me!


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. 

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


Things at Site That Make Me Feel Chiwahi

  • Having a man or woman excitedly tell me the plans for their farm. 
  • The peacefulness of getting drinking water from a natural spring and hearing the wind blow through the trees.
  • Inflecting a joke the right way during a meeting and making everyone laugh. 
  • The first few bites of a ripe, fresh-from-the-fields pineapple.
  • Being surprised by a sky full of stars at night while going outside to pee.