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TED Talk: The Next Generation of African Architects and Designers

Ok, so last month I shared a rather disheartening vision of growth and development within Zambia and Nigeria, which arguably would also apply to post-colonial states throughout Africa and the world. This month, I’m going to share the opposite. This talk by Rwandan architect Christian Benimana is so incredibly inspiring, and pays homage to other innovators and idealists in Nigeria and Burkina Faso. There is incredible talent in the continent of Africa.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this video was that the projects referenced were so community-based, and didn’t rely on western-centric concepts. I would love to see how my community would respond to the buildings shown in Burkina Faso compared to a western model. Any chance you’d want to come to Ikelenge, Zambia, Francis Kéré?

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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.

Integration is…

  • deciding that, actually, you’ll sit and read outside today.
  • having a three year-old cry because you have to go teach and can’t play right now.
  • learning to give a formal handshake to a passing neighbor on a bike without stoping.
  • sitting with teachers and shooting the breeze without needing to rush home.
  • a “how are you?” text from a friend.
  • making the conscious decision to be present and content in where you are physically and mentally.
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Nshindwa!

Zambia has some pretty dope fruit, specifically Northwestern Province and specifically Ikelenge District if I do say so myself (I mean, we’re the land of the pineapples!). But, some of our best fruits aren’t the deliciously sweet pineapples that come around twice a year, or the mouth watering mangoes that pop up at the beginning of rainy season. Oh no, one of the best fruits you probably haven’t heard of: nshindwa.

Other names for nshindwa are “Seed of Heaven” or “Afromum,” and there are several different varieties all over the African continent. They appear right at the end of rainy season (now!) and come from a plant closely related and resembling to ginger, a plant that I use to gauge soil quality due to its love of acidic soil. To give you an idea of what nshindwa tastes like, there’s a part in The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis where two of the main characters plant a piece of toffee in the ground of the still-forming world of Narnia.

The fruit was delicious; not exactly like toffee – softer for one thing, and juicy – but like fruit which reminded one of toffee.

That is how nshindwa tastes, except with ginger instead of toffee! It was a little weird getting used to when I first tried it, because American ginger products do not have the strong flavor of actual ginger. But now I’m obsessed!

Anyways, here’s a step by step instruction on how to eat nshindwa:

Step One: Locate the Nshindwa

Step Two: Grab That Bad Boy Before the Kids See!

Step 3: Bite to Crack the Shell (Peel? IDK, the Outside Part)

Step 4: Bask in the Glory of those Seeds of Heaven

Step 5: Dig In, But Be Classy About It!

Side Note: I normally don’t look like this! This is my gardening look! Zambians normally bathe twice a day and take a lot of pride in their appearance (when they are not in the fields) and while I’m not nearly that hygienic, I do bathe every day, and try to look nice when I’m not puttering around my house!

I’m wearing my gardening clothes and covered in dirt because I’m currently trying to mulch a termite mound around my house (yes, the huge hill behind me in those photos is not even the top level of a termite mound). Termites also like acidic soil, hence the abundance of nshindwa! Below is a picture of me getting ready to bathe. I look super cute.

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Shuga!!!

What the hell am I up to? Well, I just started a project that I’m very excited about, and have been wanting to do for some time. MTV has been airing a PEPFAR commissioned television program called Shuga. Shuga is stunning in the fact that it showcases the talent of African countries (Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa so far). Any Lupita Nyong’o fans out there? This was her first big role. It is also an incredible public health project, weaving important sexual health information into compelling story-lines. I took a public health class in college where we talked about the massive impact soap operas have on public health campaigns, and I firmly believe that if Zambia had more domestic soap operas our rates of Malaria and HIV would be much lower (ask literally any volunteer in Zambia; I mention it about once every minute).

Anyways, how does this relate to me? Well, my school has electricity, my teachers have televisions, and I have a flash drive. This will hopefully be a winning combination. I just finished transcribing the first season of Shuga into scripts, and tomorrow will start the process of edition my inevitable mistakes and printing out 15-30 copies of each script. The plan is to start a drama club with my local school’s grade 9s, where we do table reads once a week paired with GRS activities. At the end of each month, we will have hopefully finished the episode and can watch it on TV! I’m beyond pumped, which obviously means my expectations are much higher than my ability to successfully pull this off!

By the way, y’all in America should absolutely watch this show! Specifically, the woman who told me I should wear gloves at all times in Zambia to avoid contracting AIDS should watch this show, because she still has a lot to learn about HIV/AIDS. Bless her ignorant little heart. But seriously, the situations in Shuga are in no way limited to the continent of Africa. I personally could relate to specific story arcs within the show, and there are many people in the states who have never had comprehensive sexual education.

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.