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Exciting News!

I’m very excited to announce that (after much patient waiting) my grant is online! My friend and fellow PCV Annikki and I are sending 22 men and women from our respective communities to attend a wonderful 5-day agricultural training in Lusaka at the end of July! Mwinilunga and Ikelenge Districts are some of the most disinvested areas in ZambiExciting a, so this training will make a huge, immediate impact in people’s lives.

Unfortunately, Peace Corps Zambia no longer has the funds to support an agricultural grant, so we will be relying on sponsorships and goodwill from our friends and family back home to make this possible! It costs roughly $450 USD to send each person, which is an unfathomable amount in Zambia. Even a relatively small amount of support could go a long way in making a difference in people’s lives.

I’m going to be posting weekly photos of the people who are attending from both mine and Annikki’s communities, and in the mean time please feel free to like/comment/share! I really appreciate it.

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“Social work didn’t make her happy, though. From one nonprofit to another, from city contracts to federal agencies, she kept running into the same systemic problems. ‘Nonprofits require you to sell your soul to the politicians. You have to fight for money against other agencies.’ She said bitterly. ‘Then I find there’s backstabbing everywhere. And they don’t really care about people. Keeping them poor is their business. As long as they keep them poor, they keep getting more grants and bigger budgets. Then, there are the volunteers. The message implicit in volunteering is, ‘You need me, I’m good. I’m better than you, you have nothing to give.””

Po Bronson interviewing Ana Miyares, What Should I Do with My Life?

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“Mary Jackson could see the air moving around the ever just as clearly as if she were looking at the Schlieren photograph taken in a wind tunnel. Levi’s car was well made; the only adjustment it required between heats was ‘a drop of oil on each wheel bearing.’ Mary and Levi Sr. and four-year-old Carolyn held their breaths as Levi Jr. got into position for the final heat. It seemed like an eternity, but at the end, Mary and Levi Sr. shouted in delight: their son had finished first, saving his best time for the heat that mattered most. Wearing a black-and-white crash helmet and the official race T-shirt, Levi Jr. sailed across the line at a relatively blazing seventeen miles per hour. His family fell upon him in a crush of hugs and celebration. To the inquiring and surprised local reporters who came to hear from the [first black] winner of the Virginia Peninsula Soap Box Derby, Levi Jackson confided the secret of his victory: the slimness of his machine, which has helped to lower wind resistance. What do you want to be when you grow up? the Norfolk Journal and Guide reporter must have asked. ‘I want to be an engineer like my mother,’ Levi said.”

Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures

Highlight Reel: December 2017

Cute and Flirty: This month, I co-directed Camp GLOW for the Lundas! While at camp, in between sleep deprivation and emotional turmoil, I de-stressed by dancing with the kids. As far as I know, people in Zambia aren’t very aware that I don’t dance like a typical dude, but I think I was extra femme for this camp! Either way, I got a lot of compliments on my dancing (I think more for my enthusiasm than my actual skills).

Something I learned from my community:That people like me! They really like me! I had been very unsure of this, but we had a praise wall at GLOW and I got some very sweet messages in my box. It’s nice to hear from people that they see you trying! I was very touched.

Something my community learned from me:At GLOW (yes, all I did this month was GLOW) I led a mentor session on facilitation skills, and group sessions on alcohol abuse and goal setting/future planning. I’m probably most proud of the facilitation skills session out of anything I did in the whole camp, because it was so visible that mentors took it to heart and were practicing those skills with the girls. My alcohol abuse and future planning sessions all incorporated a small group component, and the mentors slayed in regards to facilitating discussions and encouraging participation!

Shower Insights:I made the difficult decision to leave CAT Crew, the HIV committee in was a part of since August. Essentially, I’ve been out of my site a ton, and I just felt like I wasn’t adequately able to do both roles (of committee member and volunteer) well. So I’m gone! Which (tying it back) I guess gives me more time to shower at my site, or at least attempt to repair it before it inevitable collapses into my toilet.

Something That Didn’t Totally Fail: A good friend and I co-directed the Lunda volunteers’ Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) this year! I for some reason thought that it would be fun to write the grant for and co-direct a camp, and I was wrong! That was definitively the most stressful thing I’ve done in Peace Corps, if not my whole life. Case and point, I went from smoking an occasional cigarette to blowing through two packs in two days and then weaning myself off through mass amounts of coffee (which I almost never drink normally). But you know what? The girls and mentors got a lot out of it, and I’m really proud of them! I’m also so grateful to Steph for running an awesome camp spite of me!

Hero of the Month:Mr. Business for holding down the fort and killing those mice while I’ve been away.

Villain of the Month:The Peace Corps assigned dentist who keeps telling me that a recent dental issue can be fixed with buying a new toothbrush. I have bought four different toothbrushes lady, it ain’t that.

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 

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!