Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Trevor's job

Several people have asked what tre does. Officially he is an agro
forestry extension agent. I'm so much more, he says. Specifically he
is distributing seeds for multiplication, mentoring some kid
environment clubs, recording radio pieces and growing conservation
trees. Also he buys a lot of junk at the market, listens to jazz,
searches for stations on his world band radio and glues found pictures
into cast off books. Same old Trevor.

Monday, September 29, 2008


After hearing about them for months, i finally saw some of Chadiza's
famous monkeys. They were in the road, eating trash thrown by kids
walking home from school. They were the size of a five year old kid.
Gray with black faces. Long tails. I want one.


We were running low on sticks so i sent Trevor on a run this morning
while i was frying up banana pancakes. He came back with an entire
tree top. It's like i bought firewood at sam's, he told me.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


We used to wish for a borehole nearby. Now we're just glad they fixed
the one in chipanku, the next village over. Maybe those ladies will
stop draining our spring. This morning when we walked up with our
soapy clothes we could barely dip out enough muddy water to rinse
them. Clean isn't really an option here.

In other news i introduced junior to the can opener yesterday. He is
nine. It was my 'gods must be crazy' moment of the week.


We are never out after dark but somehow evening excitement finds us.
Last night the thrill was looking at the five foot long snake our host
dad's drunk brother killed outside our house. He claimed it was a
cobra though it was hard to make out any features by the time we saw

Friday, September 26, 2008


Yet again nobody showed for english class in musalila village. Still,
teaching opportunities abound. Yesterday i introduced my sister to
word seek puzzles. This afternoon we shared booty from a package with
an elderly friend of Trevor's. A spiderman fruit rollup. We had to
explain that you don't eat the paper, only the sweet part. He
proclaimed it very nice.


The concrete in our new kitchen is finally dry so we are moving in.
I'm reading up on improved stoves. Friends in mo who are pro
sustainable livers sent books. We plan to build a rocket stove and
solar oven when we get some metal. Today i made a haybox of cardboard.
Foil and padded envelopes. A low tech crockpot to cook lunches as we
go through a liter of peanut butter a week and are sick of it.

In other news we learned today that soy milk goes funky just like
regular, complete with bulging carton. Also dogs scratch that spot on
their neck even if they never wear a collar. Fleas are universal.
Puppy belly must be especially delicious.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


If i could give any advice to incoming peace corps volunteers, it
would be to cultivate a portable hobby. You will spend more time than
you thought possible waiting for people and sitting in meetings you
don't understand. Having something to do is a sanity saver. Personally
I recommend knitting. I am halfway through my third pair of socks
since may. Just bring plenty of yarn.


After eating the lunch i made myself plus shima with the family, i had
decided to forgo dinner and instead relax on the stoop with the kitty
and a cocktail. Around the time i was ready to put myself to bed,
Elias came to the door. Shima is all he said. So much for my plan.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Yes we have no

Lately there has been a mysterious banana shortage, so when i saw
ladies selling them by the post office i loaded up on more than i can
eat. An armload cost me 20 cents. The price suggests the scarcity is

Still problems with the mail truck though. But i was shocked to see
their new computer. They want me to teach them to use it. Can internet
be far behind?

Missing Trevor

Since Trevor is still in Chadiza, the house is quiet. But being alone
gives me a chance to enjoy popcorn for dinner and hogging the bed.
Also i bought Trevor his own cell phone last week so we are texting
each other as if we were in junior high.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Now that i'm home from chipata, Trevor has gone there for a meeting.
No time for me to be lonely or bored though. The minute he drove away,
the girls dragged me over and did my hair. A princess lea do only with
multiple buns. I took pictures.

Today i rode over to zingalume school to talk about american education
at the 6 am teacher meeting. Later i will ride to town to help the
post guys with their new computer and visit the tailor. Or maybe i
will grab a puppy and enjoy a few moments of quiet.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


One thing I forgot to mention when I explained the nuts & bolts is that even though I can't actually respond to comments due to my crap internet setup, I love them and read them more times than is probably mentally healthy, so feel free to comment. I'm responding on the inside.

Nuts & bolts

In case you’re a newish reader, I wanted to post a note about how this blog makes its way to the web. Unless I’m in town, which is rare these days, I compose entries on my cell phone. Then I email the posts to the blog using Gmail, when I can get enough bars on the phone for the message to go.

When we first arrived, I couldn’t read Gmails at all. Now, Yahoo won’t work on my cell phone but Gmail will. Go figure. If you send a comment, it will be forwarded to me automatically, and I can read it, but I can’t see your email address to write back to you. For that matter, I can’t see any email addresses to respond, so unless I have your email memorized or written on paper, I can’t send you a message. I know, it’s stupid and frustrating. But it’s better than nothing, right?

I do cherish the comments and emails I get, and try to respond eventually. Unfortunately, even in town I rely on the whims of dial-up internet and frequent power outages, so if it seems like your messages disappear into a black hole, they sort of do. Except that I appreciate them.


I am home from chipata, where i had way too much fun watching movies,
baking pizza, staying up late. But that barely compares to coming home
to find a bush fire inches from our outhouse and its grass roof. Elias
put it out with what was supposed to be my bath water.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


There’s a joke that some people see the glass as half full, some half empty, and a PCV sees a glass of water and says, “I could take a bath in that.”

I’m at the Chipata house, where something is wrong with the hot water heater. When the stars align and the power and water are on at the same time, I heat water and take a bucket bath. I feel relatively clean. My white t-shirt, on the other hand, looks like I’ve been dusting the floor with it. White is a bad color for clothes in Zambia. It's sometimes dicey for skin, too, honestly.

Friday, September 19, 2008


I just finished A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins, which was written in the 1970s but was a refreshing answer to Bill Bryson’s Lost Continent, which depressed and ticked me off.

Bryson judged America by truck stops and through the windshield of his car. Jenkins walked through rural America and met real people, who impressed him with their kindness and generosity, as human beings tend to do. “America had opened its heart and embraced me mile by mile, and family by family,” he writes.

I’m not opposed to well-reasoned and usually deserved America bashing, but I think my home country deserves a chance to show its good side. After all, I don’t want to be judged solely by my darkest moments.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


If you're a regular blog reader, you'll know that last week I met a lady who works with PWAs who crochet to try and make a living, and I was hoping that eventually they could sell their stuff to rich white people traveling to the game parks nearby.

At yesterday's otherwise not that interesting meeting, one of the guys told me he was able to find a carpenter to produce wood crochet hooks for me, at a price of 2 pin each (about 75 cents). Furthermore, he was planning to bring me 10 today (he will have to settle for Trevor).

Today when I was trying to figure out how to hook into Chipata's wireless cloud (I know!! And it would cost me three months' salary! It ain't gonna happen!), in the internet-place waiting room I met a lady who works at a lodge at a game park. They have a gift shop! They are just getting started and would love to talk about selling crafts from the village! Here's her card!

It will all come together. Well, maybe not the internet thing. But all the other stuff.

Also, the ice cream parlor that was going to open in June? They have tables and a cooler now, and they're advertising for help. Things are looking good.


Today i had my quickest ride to chipata yet. Plus for half the way i
had a seat where hardly any of me was pressed into anyone else. And
the bus owner would not take money. He just wants me to bring him some
obama stuff when we visit the states.

Trevor and i both get practice in gracious receiving this week. While
i'm gone i suspect people will feed him as if he were starving, like
when i went to the navy ship a few years ago and he had so many
invites he stopped answering the phone.

We came as volunteers so It's easy to forget that we are also members
of the community. This means people want to care for us, not just take
our help. For us this is surprisingly hard.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


We have been setting the alarm a tiny bit earlier every day, in hopes
of finding a deserted road to run on and to see if we can wake up
before the family. But As of today, i give up. When i went outside to
pee at 3 30, our host parents were already awake for the day, working
by moonlight.

This explains why our host mom falls asleep right after dinner
whenever we eat over there.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Maybe because we have less people to talk to, in english anyway, we
seem to talk to ourselves more lately. I overheard Trevor yesterday
saying, what's this in my pocket? It's just my wallet, don't worry
about it.

I will get worried when he starts to argue with himself.


On a good week, The mail truck comes twice a week. With fuel shortages
this has been disrupted such that the truck has not made it out to
Chadiza in more than a week. I tell myself this increases the chance
we will receive something when it finally comes. Sigh.

Fresh start

Saturday Elias came home with two puppies. At first he tied them up
with wire under the chicken house but luckily seems to have decided
It's better to let them romp around like the puppies they are. They
like pancakes. He says i can name them.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Calling all crocheters

I have met a lady who is a working with women with aids to sell
crochet items so they can support their families. They do beautiful
work but need yarn. I am hoping to get them making animals they can
sell for a good price at the game park near here.

You crafters, if you need to unburden yourself of yarn, patterns
especially animals, or hooks, you stand to gain karma, warm fuzzies
and storage space. Ask at your post office about international prepaid
boxes. They seem the best deal. My address is at left. Thanks in
advance from the ladies of mangwe village.

Bush note

For villagers without cell phones, communication is often by bush
note, delivered by kids. Tuesday i got one from the village where i
work with the literacy group.

Dear lisa, i hope you are fine. Back to me just okey. Sorry my friend
people here have gone to zingalume school for meeting with plan. So we
have received a letter that all members with bees should attend. So
come on thursday. Yours in deep love elizabeth.


In the village, we buy oil and cookies at a tuck shop, bananas and
tomatoes at the market, and we wait for the guys to come around on
their bikes with the rest. That's how we bought our reed mat and last
week brooms. I saw a guy the other day with a bike loaded in bamboo

Today i was on my way to a meeting when the basket guy rolled up.
After intense negotiating between him and host mom, i bought two big
flat maize baskets and one that would be perfect for a picnic. Grand
total, eight pin. Less than three bucks. Even better, mom says she
told the guy i want to learn to make them. Traditionally It's man work
but she thinks they will teach me since i am a foreigner.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Plastic or plastic

I always laughed at the warnings on plastic bags. Who lets their kid
play with plastic bags?

I think of this because i just saw our cattle boy walk by wearing a
tribal looking headdress fashioned of grocery sacks. Without plastic
bags most zambian kids would have no toys at all. Definitely no soccer
balls. Just now junior is testing a spinny push toy made from wire and
oil cans. Their creativity amazes me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Trevor says he will never be bored enough for chess or solitare. I am
not bored but lately have gotten into crossword puzzles. I am terrible
at the but find those little boxes maddeningly addictive. Is it
possible that i miss filling in forms? Pseudo thoughtful busywork?
Standardized tests? ,

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


If i am turning into my grandmother, tre is boo radley. We fretted
about what to do with junk too good to burn but too junky to give
away. After he broke his childhood compass, he stashed the cracked
shell in the crook of a tree. Within the hour the treasure had


They say women turn in to their mothers as they age. I think i am
becoming my grandmother. I have her chin and hope to inherit her
longevity. She's 97.

Living in the country and back in time has me obsessing over beets and
yeast rolls. I wish i had learned to pickle and can while grandma was
still cooking. She would laugh about my attempts to learn from a book.

Monday, September 8, 2008


It is remarkable how much sand you can pick up, simply by dumping a
tub of freshly washed laundry in the sand.

Trevor thought it was funny. We'll see if he is still laughing when he
is shaking grit out of his underwear all week.

God, i miss my washing machine.

Sunday paper

We had the perfect sunday. Long run in the morning, way too much
coffee, trading sections of the new york times. So what if it was a
month old? It is such luxury to revel in that great writing, the
quirky stories. It felt like a vacation, at least in our minds.

First the bad news

The sweet dog we called twinkie got run over saturday. Yes, on a road
that sees maybe ten cars a day. The driver left her sprawled in the
road. It looked like she was sleeping.

Elias says we will get two new dogs. There are plenty to spare. This
time i will not get attached.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


We seem to have no luck with dogs here. Yesterday the sweet girl we
called twinkie got run over. The guy who did it just left her sprawled
in the road. I thought she was sleeping.

Our host dad says we will get two more dogs. There are plenty around
here. Next time i will not get attached.


Thursday, September 4, 2008


Today was the most successful language class yet in musalila, a
village up in the hills near here. I held a baby born friday and
taught some ladies right and left, hand and foot by playing twister. I
laughed until i felt kind of queasy. In other news, tre gave up sugar
this morning. After lunch he decided he would feel better if he had a
cookie or three. Seemed to help his general outlook.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Small dried fishies cost more than big ones. As i established this,
the nearby lady who sells beans told another lady, she isn't going to
eat those. They are for her dog. The other lady asked me, is that
true? I had to admit it. Except It's the dog and cat both. This caused
a mild scandal in the market. I am proud that i can have this
conversation in a language i had never even heard of six months ago.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Several people have sent things for our host family. I wish you could
be here to see the joy your gifts bring. But we are learning that gift
giving is complicated here. Anything we give directly to the kids,
aside from sweeties, evaporates into the sand. And jealousy causes
conflict. So we hand gifts over to mom and dad for distribution. I
gave mom a package intended for elizabeth. Mom and the big kids tried
out the jump rope. She folded away the dress for eliz. The sparkle
flip flops took a cinderella trip through the family before finding a
fit with junior, the middle son. He is thrilled to own shoes. Around
dinner he skipped over to ask me to read the label. Fittingly, it is


Our latest round of mail ran the spectrum of contents, from fancy
health food snacks to junk drawer flotsam and leftover holiday gifts.
While we love and admire the folks who shop carefully, the junk
senders are nearest my heart, since That's exactly what i would do.

My parents sent a much needed replacement headlamp. They have also
been sending our mail along with the food we dumped at their house
when we moved. Every box also contains random tea bags and candy from
distant holidays.

Tre's old roommate Kerrie sent a trove of vegetarian delight and
filled the box's air spaces with mini toothpaste tubes to counter the
candy, and take out ketchup packs. I am so impressed. And hoping she
fills up her purse with mild sauce next time she goes to taco bell.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Mail call

For the record, i am grateful i can email from a cell phone in rural
zambia. So what if there is the occasional glitch, like being unable
to access my address book or in any way find contact information, the
important thing is that we got a fat mail haul today and my parents,
john and gennie. Kerrie, and the ultimate mail goddess lea should
watch their mailboxes for love from zambia. I just posted a batch of
letters after the last blitz. We are getting to be pals with the post
guys. They love our old economists and newsweeks. I love their little
green package slips.

Small town

We may as well be in the midwest again. Our host dad bought a small
truck, so sunday afternoon every guy in town stopped by to help him
fix it. A dozen kids watched. When it was finally running, all the
kids piled in back for a ride. I spent many summer afternoons in the
back of a pickup truck. Trevor remembers hanging out with the guys,
listening to cardinals games on a transistor radio. All That's missing
here is budweiser.