Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last year

One year ago we had just spent the holidays telling everyone we knew
that we had been nominated to join peace corps in eastern europe in
spring. We didn't know what country but we were betting albania.

New year's eve we ran into an old friend who told us peace corps told
him south america but after he moved out of his house and sold his car
they said it was pushed back six months and changed to africa.

About a week later pc called us and said can you leave for africa six
weeks from today?

Twenty hours of freaking out later i had quit my job and started packing.

Happy 2009 everyone! We'd love to see you all in oh nine, so start
pricing those plane tickets. Lusaka is cheaper but lilongwe is closer.
Either way you're welcome.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Thanks to peace corps, I think i have found my true calling. I have
spent the last ten days organizing every room of the pc house in
chipata. Today i threw away three bins of scratched up old cds and
single socks. Also cleaned out both fridges. Yesterday it was moldy
board games. Before that, expired pills and empty shampoo bottles.
Ratty clothes.

Strangely i love throwing stuff away. Hard to believe for anyone who
has seen my collections, i'm sure, but i am a pro here. Ready to take
it to the next level. Not much call for junk cleaning in zambia
outside the pc community but i bet in america i could make a living at

Monday, December 29, 2008


Thanks to nori from grace and miso from Gennie, i made Sushi tonight.
Inspired by my old korean language partner eun jung, who makes Sushi
like i make chili (throw in everything that will fit), i invented the
zambia roll. Canned tuna, Avocado, mango. I thought it was pretty good
but then i don't like Sushi all that much. I prefer a good egg roll.
On that front, mohammed who runs the pizza joint says he will work up
a sample for me. He brought veggie samosas by on christmas so i have
faith in his fryer.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


In many ways this is Trevor's and my ideal holiday. Reading, eating,
movies, crafts, beer. Trevor is working on one hundred years of
solitude but should read love in the time of cholera since we hear
There's an outbreak in lilongwe, just across the border. If anybody
reading this sees my mom DON'T MENTION CHOLERA.

I'm crocheting a cozy for my nalgene bottle since they tend to sweat.
There is quiche in our bellies and fresh mango salsa in our future.
Plus Trevor just cracked open a giant bar of dark chocolate.

Almost heaven, eastern Zambia.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


I am thankful today that the sun is out so I could wash my smelly
clothes and not have them molder on the line. Unfortunately this also
means that walking through the market results in a burnt scalp since I
forgot my hat.

Trevor hitched down to Katete this morning with a friend to attend a
wedding. Me, I'm trolling the salaula (thrift piles), a terrible
weakness, but I did find a great "Hawaii" shirt.

We are having a lovely holiday lately. Eggplant parmesan and brownies
for dinner and a Natalie Goldberg-inspired writing workshop. No drunk
people causing a ruckus. I can't imagine anything better.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Play ball

I was trying to teach the new house dog to play fetch. It went ok for
a few throws and he was even bringing them back. But then i threw a
wild one that went over the wall between our house and next door. I
heard the ball splash into the mostly empty swimming pool. Luckily our
house keeper is friends with theirs. There's a ladder against the wall
so they can climb up and chat. Esther called over and the ball came

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Let's face it. Holidays are all about the food. We've been lucky that
the power has stayed on consistently. Allegedly this is because the
president is visiting his farm nearby. We took advantage by making a
huge christmas lunch. Burritos, soy, salsa, guacamole. Luckily
avocados are in season and cilantro grows in the back yard. Also i
made baked apples using martha stewart's recipe and mexican chocolate
kerrie sent months ago. Now we are sitting around watching christmas
movies and crocheting. Seriously, i've taught everybody here. Cool,

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Merry Christmas everybody!

Honestly, it doesn't feel like Christmas to me, at all, mostly because
it's still so blazing hot and humid and there is no sign of it
anywhere, except the occasional guy wearing a Santa hat. But a few
excellent people are at the house now, and we've been watching
Christmas movies and listening to Bing Crosby, and Meg has been baking
Christmas cookies. We're trying to get in the mood.

I am doing some last-minute shopping today. I bought Trevor a
Christmas t-shirt that I found randomly at the thrift store. That's a
bizarre concept, huh? A thrift in Zambia. It's called DAPP, and it's
an NGO that sells clothes from bales that get shipped in from Europe.
The stuff is fantastic-- I bought some linen pillow slips for 3,000
kwacha each-- that's less than a buck. We will fill each other's
stockings (uh, socks) tonight, and tomorrow we'll probably drink a
little too much as we pine for home.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


In the afternoon i walked with my friend patricia down to the craft
center run by the catholic church. It was the first time i have
managed to be free when they are open. They teach pottery, wood
working, sewing and weaving. Be still my heart. I'm going back today
to meet the nun in charge.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cape Town

We're thinking about taking a vacation to Cape Town in April. Does
anybody out there know anybody in Cape Town? Someone wtih a spare
bedroom, or perhaps someone who is going on vacation and needs a house
sitter? I'm good at dog walking.


We thought we had a ride lined up on a truck delivering fruit trees on
behalf of an NGO, but they got re-routed at the last minute so we went
to plan B, riding our bikes to Chipata. Usually the 65-km trip takes
about five hours, but thanks to rain, wind, and sandy mud, this time
we took a record-long six and a half hours.

Midway through a winding shortcut, there's a bridge about ten feet
above a creek where kids bring their cattle. Usually the bridge is
logs with mud packed between them so it seems solid. But the rains
have washed away the mud, so it's just three slick, mossy logs. Right
when we pulled up, a guy rode up from the other way with an old dude
sitting on his rack. He carried the bike across and the old guy inched
over the bridge. Then the young guy picked up my bike-- overloaded
panniers and all-- and carried it across for me. After two precarious
steps, I crab-walked across on my hands and feet. Then the guy came
back across for Trevor's bike.

For the first five hours, we saw a grand total of two cars. Only one
was going our way, but unfortunately it was a taxi so loaded down the
bumper was barely off the ground. I was wishing a big truck would
drive by and stop so we could throw in our bikes and ride. Alas, I got
the character building experience instead.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday spirit

Chadizians are getting into the holiday spirit. Where I sit in the
resource center, I can hear music drifting over from the market.
"Jingle Bell Rock" has come up several times now.

I decorated the house yesterday, meaning I draped a skein of silver
tinsel (brought back from the USA-- thank god they had already put
Christmas decorations out in October) over the doorway. It looks

We even got two packages that I insist on calling Christmas parcels
even though one contained leftover Halloween candy (but what happened
to all those Three Muskateers bars, mom???) and the other was kid
books, stickers and gossip magazines (be still my heart). I'm guessing
any "real" Christmas parcels will arrive around March.

In non-holiday news, Trevor says he is feeling like Johnny Zamseed as
he has just given away the last of the 400 conservation trees he
sprouted. Mr. Mbewe is digging a hole for a moringa in the back yard
as I write.

Tomatoes are becoming scarce and expensive in the market, but I did
manage to buy two unusual vegetables-- a pile of okra and three green
peppers-- so we won't have to live on only onions and critter-chomped
cabbage. Next weekend when we return to Chipata, we will further
cultivate the holiday spirit by making peanut brittle! Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Everybody else wore their matching shirts for a group photo but we
whiteys didn't get the message. So at lunch a colleague drove us home
to change. Like many Zambians she is a country music fan so we rocked
out to dolly partoo.


We expected 372 students to this week's training. The number is
already over four hundred and climbing.

One organizer speculates that word got out we give softies aka sodas
and lunch, so people showed up to get in on the shima. This is the
hungry season. We are just beginning to see fresh corn. But most
people especially in villages don't have much to eat.

Just last night the whiteys were talking about office break rooms this
time of year, how people dump excess baked goods to get them out of
the house. I'm glad people here don't know about that. And i wish jill
could send me her grandma's fudge.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


In america i have had to fend off people trying to give me tshirts i
don't want. Those shirts end up in africa, where people who appreciate
irony get a cheap thrill when an especially goofy one walks by.

I got my first free zambia shirt yesterday. The workshop handed polos
out to us facilitators. They are the color of ikea furniture and
printed with olde english type. With all the teachers dressed alike it
looks like an overstaffed big box store or church camp.

Monday, December 8, 2008


We spent Friday afternoon handing out certificates to 350 head
teachers. Saturday they started home. Yesterday we got word that the
minibus to petauke flipped, killing seven teachers and sending
another eight to hospital in bad shape.

Today we launched the next phase of the workshop, with 350 more
teachers. The mood is somber as you can imagine. There are more women
students this time, so lots more babies. One wailed in the courtyard
through my first session. I'm glad somebody cried. The rest of us are

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Many of the teachers at this week's training have never met a real
live white person before. My first clue was when people we don't know
lined up to get their picture snapped with us.

Then at lunch, someone asked if two of my pc colleagues are brother
and sister. They do both have very short hair. But caitlin is an irish
redhead and nearly six feet tall. Koh, her supposed twin, is small,
athletic and japanese american.

You would think that as much as people stare at us they would pick out
a few subtle differences.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


If you're reading this, we haven't written back because we can't
access your address from the phone and computer email is not possible
at the moment. Can you email us your email address? Ok thanks.


This week's workshop reminds me of teaching college. I always enjoyed
coming up with wacky things for my students to do. However until today
i never compelled an adult to act like a rampaging goat. Along with
bursting into song and dance, Zambians love to act out dramas. It
keeps surprising me how goofy they can be under the suits and dresses
and british accents.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


As an agro forestry volunteer Trevor is keen on tree planting and
trying to re green this tragically deforested country. He won't let us
cook with charcoal. He babies his seedlings.

So it is both painful and ironic for me to sit in a usa funded
workshop where the main activity is producing reams of flip chart
posters destined to be thrown out or burned tomorrow. The walls are
plastered with them. And they are pasted atop perfectly good chalk
boards and white boards.

Also my fellow presenter just started and ended a sentence with to. I
sat and clenched my marker. I only correct grammar if i can sneak up
on the sly. Thank god i have knitting to keep my hands busy.


Zambians amaze me. Yesterday a guy showed up to return an umbrella
someone left in his car. A while back a guy followed me up a giant
hill to return a coke bottle i had filled with water and dropped from
my bike rack.

One of the teachers in our workshop brought her two daughters. The
five year old is watching the baby just outside the classroom. When
the baby is asleep the big girl plays jacks with a pile of rocks.

My fellow pcvs helped me comb the house for toys last night. The girl
got a car this morning. After break i will hand over crayons. Tomorrow
a jump rope. Thank goodness for the random crap people send us!

Monday, December 1, 2008

To clarify

When i said Trevor went home, i meant Chadiza not america. This causes
confusion with us here often.

It's world aids day. Africa has suffered from this disease greatly and
today we recommit ourselves to the fight to end it. I am also
remembering friends from home who lost the fight. Here and there, the