Monday, April 28, 2008

Friends who cook

As we prepare to move to mud huts and cook over charcoal fires, we are soaking up a little luxury here in the Chipata house thanks to our resident Gourmet (he's a former editor! the man knows what he's doing!) Eric.

Last night he made lasagna using homemade pasta and bread with freshly roasted garlic. Caitlin made cookies with chopped-up candy bars (no chips, but lemme tell you, Zambian candy bars work fine in a pinch), and S & A made an amazing cabbage salad with avocado/lemon dressing. Eating fantastic food on the patio with some red wine, laughing with a bunch of new friends: pretty darn civilized.

As I write this at 6:30 am, Eric is rustling around in the kitchen again. He said if he woke up early enough, he'd make quiche for breakfast. Fingers crossed the electricity stays on while he works his magic again.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Shameless request

I hate to turn this blog into nothing but a request line for package fixings, but if you are so inclined, here are some specific things I'm dreaming of following our recent trip to Shop Rite, where they sell peanut butter (thank god) but not Celestial Seasonings teas, alas.

-- mango ceylon or peach ceylon tea
-- decaf tea (Trevor especially enjoys Sleepytime)
-- Fantastic Foods chili mix (oh, how I miss cumin)
-- dark chocolate (yes, it will melt, but it will resolidify eventually), like especially those little Ghiradelli squares
-- seeds for sprouting (try the health food store)
-- generic Kool-Aid type packets (no sugar necessary-- there's plenty here) in cherry or lemonade
-- coffee grounds

Reading material

Besides the hot shower and people who speak fluent English, the best thing about the Peace Corps province house is the bookshelves. The living room wall is covered with books, and there are little stashes in other rooms full of gems. Trevor is reading Lost Grains of Africa and I just picked up Barbara Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible, which I've read before but I think will speak to me in a different way since I'm in a neighboring country to its setting of Congo.
I have an armload of things like Sense and Sensibility and Middlesex to take with me to the hut.
But last night at the dinner table, what was everybody passing around? US Weekly. We're following the Patrick Swayze cancer drama pretty closely.


We have officially sworn in as volunteers!! Now we're in Chipata, stocking up in preparation for being posted on Tuesday.

We spent the morning at Shop Rite buying noodles, spice packets, cans of baked beans-- all the essentials. There are lots of things we wanted that they don't sell here. Like real (not instant) coffee and flavored tea bags. So if you're wondering what would make our day in a package, think drink.

Also, we received a package the other day with another homesteading book, so we're probably covered on that front at this point. Thank you for all the great information! In a few days we'll start putting all the knowledge to good use. And thank you so much for the packages-- word is that we have THREE MORE waiting at the post office. This is a huge thrill. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Things my colleagues have dropped down pit latrines:

Whole roll of toilet paper
Flip flop
Head lamp
Leatherman tool
Video ipod

Playing chicken

There's a social taboo against going into people's houses. This is especially true with the children, who kneel in the doorway to make their requests.The other day Danger, the dog, chased a hen into our hut. She tangled with the mosquito net, ejected downy feathers all over our bed and danced around in my underwear with one of my bra straps around her leg. While we freaked out, Steven, who at ten isthe oldest of the orphans, strode in and grabbed the bird, taking the opportunity to glance around the forbidden territory he has seen only from the door.

Toy Box

In the US, trevor and I are dedicated dumpster divers. There is not a trash can to be found in the village but Zambian kids share our love for trash. We throw our empty chip wrappers, soda cans, and Q-tips in a meter-square pit dug behind a squash plant by the outhouse. The other day Eric the toddler was walking around carrying our empty banana boat sport sunscreen tube. He popped the lid off and squeezed it by his ear so it whistled wheezily and made him laugh. Our old plastic bags get incorporated into the balls the older boys kick around the yard all afternoon. One of the kids folded a bunch of candy wrappers into a bracelet.Everything else gets burnt in a bonfire tended by an eight year old.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Wildlife sightings

Recently: A giant tarantula crawling up C's leg during language class. A headless green snake (mamba? Let's hope not!) being carried on a hoe across the lawn during language class. Baboons chilling out by the side of the road during the drive to Eastern Province.

Our new host mom spends the days during harvest season (now) guarding the maize fields against marauding monkeys, who try to steal the corn.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Random Zam quote

Told to us in a training session by one of the head PC people:
"If you keep any of your American values in Zambia, it should be to cover your breasts and to keep time."

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Some days when we get up, there are mysterious rings of ash circling our huts. Our fellow PCT tried to ask one of the kids about it, but all she got was a blank look, then a handful of ashes. Then the kid swept them away.
I was convinced it was some sort of witchcraft. But Ba Charles explained at language class that the ashes keep ants away from the house.
Anyway, he said, everybody knows witchcraft doesn't work on white people.


Ba Jane and I are aware that we don't quite understand each other, so we both keep brining up the same conversations, hoping to get information that will provide clarification. Luckily, every day provides chances to chat over nshima, the strangely addictive corn paste that is the base of every meal.
For me, the confusion is: who are all these kids running around the compound? She explained when we first arrived, but I didn't even bother trying to keep them straight then. All I caught was, these are two orphans. Later, she introduced a girl to me as her first-born daughter, and later the same girl as her sister's daughter.
Then we learned in training that Zambians consider the sons of their father's brother to be their brothers. Although this doesn't seem to be the situation with any of the family members here, it helps explain how Zambians identify "family."
The question Ba Jane keeps asking me: "You really never ate nshima before?"

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Random items for sale at the Chipata Shoprite: Veggie burgers. Sour Skittles (only sour), with packing in Arabic.

Random Zam quote (from a technical training panel discussion on gender relations in Zambia):
If a woman can't dance, "Try to pinch her. Then she will definitely dance."

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Last week, I had the chance to visit the hut where I'll live for the next two years, starting in about a month. My host, K, who will also be our neighbor, introduced me to my new host Atate (father), who was warm and friendly but looked at me a little blankly until K explained that I wasn't just a random white visitor but would be moving in soon.

His face broke into a huge grin and he grabbed my hand again and shook it about ten more times. "Welcome, welcome," he told me. "This is your home." And, as the Zambians love to say, "Be free."

That night his wife cooked up some nshima and he fired up the generator to show the DVD of George of the Jungle II. Atate also owns a copy of Babe. With that same sense of wonder, he told me, The pig.... was talking!

The next day, he scolded me for saying "Odi" (excuse me) when I approached his house, as is the Zambian custom. "This is your home," he said.