Saturday, January 31, 2009

love, hate

Hate, hate, hate mosquitos. They come out at dusk and find my ears for
hours on end. We light mosquito coils, even in the living room while
watching movies, because they are everywhere, carrying their dreaded
medicine-proof malaria.

Love, love, love the sometimes odd movies our friend Janet sends us
from her video store. Tonight we watched a German one that made us all
want to hitchhike in Europe.

Also I love our friend Victor, who just called to say he's going to
send his bus by tomorrow to collect us and take us back to the
village. He wanted to know how many muzungus to expect. Muzungus=
white people. Yep, that's us. Victor loves Obama. His bus is the one
with the Obama sticker on it, scored by my mom on his behalf.


Yeah. I finally figured it out. I think. Sort of. So, I think we could be friends. Yeah, you can send me one of those friend things. I'll write back to you. If I can figure out how.


I am reminded yet again that i live in a developing, not developed,
country as i stand behind thirty people in line to use the atm at the
bank. Trevor has gone inside to try his luck with a teller, even
though that costs more. A guy just came out and greeted the man in
front of me in one language, the man behind in another.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Pizza and ice cream

We are in Chipata for our semi-regular R&R, which always includes lots
of movies, pizza and ice cream.

This time we're also planning our holiday in Cape Town and talking to
our bosses about big changes afoot in our work and living situation.
Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


We live in a small town. There is a certain charm to how people act
because of this. The other day i asked lloyd if his cousin had made
meat pies, because Trevor loves them. Lloyd sent a kid to fetch her to
sell me some. Today when i stopped by for a drink, he pulled more meat
pies out of the fridge where he had stashed them for us.

The power is out in town, so the main activity this afternoon is
watching the clouds and speculating when the rain will come. I can
live without power as long as we have network.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Like many people the world over, Trevor and I set out a list of goals
at the beginning of each year. Unlike many people, we post them on the
wall where we can/ must look at them every day. This keeps us
motivated towards achievement.

This is why today I owe a big shout-out to Trevor for checking one
2009 goal off his list. As soon as I drop the envelope in the mail, he
will have contributed three new podcasts to his old radio home, KOPN.
If you're a Columbia listener, keep your ears open! Reports from
Trevor (complete with goat sound effects) are on their way to your


Last night when we were eating some hot & delicious Vindaloo Curry
(thanks, Lea!!!!!), we watched about a dozen hummingbirds flutter
around the blooming papaya tree in our yard. They flew away when we
first sat down, but within a few minutes they returned to poke their
crooked little noses into the flowers.

Not so amazing: the thousands of flies and mosquitoes buzzing our ankles.

Monday, January 26, 2009


It seems that an epidemic of ringworm is going around the family. The kids in the household have been shaved nearly bald, starting with the littlest ones and going almost all the way up to the oldest, exposing the tell-tale white patches on their scalps. Also, there has been some vigorous blanket boiling going on. Apparently ringworm is highly contagious. I do not want to find out.

Accordingly, we've been doing all our entertaining out in the yard lately. I itch enough as it is.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

What you can get

Zambia's secret seems to be to take things away for awhile so when it
comes back you're happy with the available scraps.

We are back to network that we have to find by walking around waving
the phone. And i am so grateful for it i would kiss the cell tower if
i knew where it was.

We felt the same about rain after months with none, but now that our
house and clothes smell like rot we are starting to miss the dry.

Also There's powdered cheese. You can imagine the level of need it
requires to crave that. We're there.

Friday, January 23, 2009


For the record, it's not that I have anything against Facebook. It's
just that my computer won't let me sign up for it. I think it's the
crap internet connection. Or the rain. Or something. I could check it
on my cell phone! It would be great! But I can't. So I'm not snubbing
anybody. I just can't do it.

Can you tell how thrilled I am that we are connected to the greater
world again? Do you also get a sense of how annoying it must have been
to live with me when I worked at home and Trevor was the only Actual
Human I interacted with some days?


We finally learned the secret to tortillas that don't crack when I
fold them around a ridiculous amount of guacamole and taco-flavored
soy pieces-- yeast! We used the same recipe as pizza crust, and this
seems to have finally made the difference between self-destructing
wads of cooked flour and something you might find wrapped around three
pounds of delicious at Chipotle.

We also discovered a new Zambian vegetable this week, though I can't
pronounce the name of it still. It looks like an extremely bloated
cucumber and tastes like one, only less so. The lady at the market who
first showed it to me mimed rubbing it on her body, so at first I
expected a loofah or something.


I think we are finally ready to admit that we are outnumbered by the
books on our shelves. At this point, I think our backlog is bigger
than what we can hope to read before we return to the land of the
public library in 2010. So unless you have an amazingly compelling
piece of nonfiction to send us, we probably don't need any more books.

Ouch. That hurt.

That said, we will always make time for magazines. Except that I think
we now own the complete set of People magazines from 2008.

I also have more yarn that I can hope to knit up, though I am always
willing to pass it along to needy knitters. If anybody has some
unwanted DPNs hanging around, that is one knitting supply that's
un-buyable here.

If you are still dying to send us a package, like for Trevor's
upcoming birthday (hint hint!), we could always use news from home and
snacks: seasoning packs (for example, taco and Chinese ones), any nuts
other than peanuts (the only nut available in Zambia!), those
water-bottle drink packs, any food that doesn't require cooking
(granola bars, etc). Surprise us! We are far from starving but we do
get sick of eating peanut butter sandwiches for lunch every day.

If you know Trevor, you remember how much he loves Wacky Packages,
Fritos, Emergen-C, and insightful analysis of Cardinals seasons past
and future. If you just send him a letter, he will be thrilled.

Back in bidness

People, sorry we have been silent lately. Apparently the cell tower in
Katete was hit by lightening a week or so ago, so we have had no
internet and no cell service until about 10 minutes ago. If you have
been trying to call or email, sorry! We are newly available so please
try again or wait for a moment for us to get caught up on our back log
of messages.

The good news is, the communication drought has enabled us to catch up
on our letter writing! So if you've written lately, watch your mailbox
for a response!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


With Trevor in Chipata the other night, I started thinking about how
my experience here would be different if I were a single volunteer.

Without anybody to chat with in English, I'm sure my language skills
would be better, though I would also talk to myself much more. I would
be more connected with my host family and community. I would probably
get more reading done. I could sleep in the middle of the bed without
getting an elbow to the ribs.

But I wouldn't have anybody to cook for, to share in the glee of
packages with, to plan trips with, to lounge around with on the reed
mat watching the stars shift.

In Zambia, we rely on each other more than ever before. Every day
we're more grateful for each other. I know that the challenge of Peace
Corps service rips some relationships to shreds. For us, it has been a

Way to go, Reese

I want to publically how proud I am of my big brother. In earning his
MBA last month, he has completed what I can only imagine is a rare
triple-crown of higher education: a degree from each institute of
higher education in our hometown.

The MBA makes him co-alumni with my mother. When she attended,
Stephens College was strictly a women's school where the young ladies
wore pearls to dinner.

Unlike me, a school nerd who fondled my new notebooks while dying of
anticipation every September, played school on break, and nearly
fainted when I saw teachers in the supermarket (they were actual human
beings?!?!?), my brother's relationship with school has often been
contentious, uneasy and difficult. The fact that it didn't seem
effortless makes his accomplishment that much more impressive.

Congratulations bro! I'm proud of you.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sew what

I finally taught the women's coop how to sew crazy quilt squares,
though i was never able to communicate the term crazy quilt. This was
probably the high point of my time in zambia so far. Sewing! What
could be better?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Fast food

In America, when you are unexpectedly away from home over a meal time,
you can duck into a Taco Bell or stop by the quick shop for a bag of
Fritos and a big, icy diet Dr. Pepper.


Here in Zambia, there are no quick shops. But there is usually
something to eat. The other day when Trevor & I ran out of snacks
after we rode our bikes to Teferensone, we bought fried soy flour
fritters (they were about as good as you're imagining right now;
though maybe more stale) and bananas from ladies sitting by the road.
Other times we have enjoyed buns, mangos, meat pies (Trevor does eat
them) or samosas (tiny triangles of fried dough filled with rice).
When the bus to Lusaka stops at a road block, ladies swarm up to the
windows proffering boiled eggs, bananas, and little bags of frozen
water or frozen "Jolly Juice," the local version of Kool-Aid that
comes in flavors of cola and pineapple.

So far we have not starved to death or been forced to resort to
cannibalism. Yet.

First day

The new term begins today. The kids were up and scrubbed by six.
Clothes had been redistributed so everybody had something different
on, if not new.

Power is out in town, sadly, as i managed to kill my little solar
charger this weekend. Solios are not waterproof, in case you wondered.

Trevor is trying to go to chipata for a meeting today. When the guy
showed up to drive him, they had to put in the radiator and battery.
Then they tried to push start the car. When that failed they called
Elias to bring another battery. When i left home, Trevor was drinking
coffee and chewing on his arm.

Ingegerd, if you're out there, sorry i butchered your name the other day.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Speaking of our trip home, i was remembering with some shame the
flight to johannesburg in which i shamelessly oogled my neighbor's
dinner. Apparently i also talked at length about zambia. Yesterday i
went to the post office hoping for a christmas parcel only to find a
package of dr. Suess books from the owner of the oogled dinner. Which
was even better than a christmas package, honestly, because it was
such an unexpected kindness. Thanks ingrid! Kids will soon hop on pop
thanks to you.


To clarify, they were veggie burgers. Even if i did eat meat i
wouldn't eat meat that sits around all day with flies walking all over
it. Which pretty much rules out all Zambian meat.

But i enjoyed that nature burger and the peanut butter cookies i baked
in the reflector oven my dad built me when we visited home. The
cookies were my first experiment with the oven and i will have to
refine my technique some but still. They were delicious if slightly
raw. And To be able to bake in the bush is a pretty amazing thing.
This does not bode well for my goal of cutting down on sugar this
year, but maybe i will just fatten Trevor up finally.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Greatest thing

[Forgive me if I've already written about this subject. Bad memory +
many entries + bad internet connection so I can't check = the
occasional lapse.]

I never understood that American cliche "the greatest thing since
sliced bread." Until I came to Zambia and bought beautiful loaves of
fluffy white bread that disintegrate into giant piles of crumbs when I
try to slice them. (The story is that because of ever-present power
shortages in Chipata, from whence our bread is imported, the bread
gets baked but usually not sliced.) Sometimes the loaf holds together
enough that I can actually create "pieces." Unfortunately, due to my
lack of depth perception and an unsteady carving hand, the slices are
inch-thick uneven wedges that make jaw-defying sandwiches. The cut
surface is impossible to spread anything on, so we resort to glopping
on the peanut butter, hoping to maintain an intact slab.

Since I was already on a hunt for the elusive tomato sauce today, I
held out for bread while visiting my three regular shops. The last
one, The Pink Shop, had a huge pile of bread. Two of the loaves were
sliced. Hallelujah! (I only bought one. The only bigger tragedy than
unsliced bread is bread that gets moldy before you have a chance to
eat it.)

It's the little things. Like thin little slices of bread. This calls
for burgers for dinner!


Usually, the ride to Musalila village is hilly and rocky. Yesterday it
was also soggy muck with the occasional giant puddle of warm, murky
water as Trevor and I rode over to see if the cooperative there had
managed to plant the trees they unexpectedly received just before we
went to Chipata for Christmas.

They gave us a tour around the orchard where they planted dozens of
trees and are eagerly awaiting more. That was impressive enough, but
the bonus was getting to eat ripe mulberries off a tree in one
villager's yard. We also saw huge patches of pink zinnias and a bunch
of flowers we didn't recognize. And we made it home before dark and
before the rain.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Home after Christmas

I survived yesterday's 71-km ride back to Chipata with the help of
Trevor's pep talks, Tootsie Pops, and a Diet Coke that managed to stay
cold for two hours nestled among frozen water bottles. Thanks to a
mainly cloudy day, we arrived with a minimum of sunburn, mainly
concentrated in the areas we never think to apply sunscreen (backs of
the knees, sliver of thigh between where bike shorts ended during the
last trip and where they rode up this time).

It's lovely to be home except for the dozens of leaks that sprouted in
our roof and the moldering smell that accompanied it. Luckily we
covered most of our stuff in tarps and even leaned up the mattress
against the wall, so it only got mildly soggy when rain dumped down
just before we went to bed last night. This morning's project was
covering the roof with giant sheets of plastic we brought back from
Chipata. I only wish we had bought twice as much.

We were finally able to check for mail, and I'm happy to say Santa
found us via the US Postal Service! We got Christmas cards with
newspaper clippings and pictures from Trevor's excellent army of aunts
and Hava now of Baltimore; and parcels from the Terra Novans, John &
Gennie, and Trevor's mom, who wrapped every single thing, so we're
going to take it home and have a proper gift-opening while sucking on
candy canes. My most Christmassy feeling yet came when I pulled the
reindeer-covered tin out of John and Gennie's box, knowing it would
contain homemade deliciousness. Peanut brittle!! My favorite. I'm
picking it out of my teeth at this very moment.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Meg is back from her vacation in Malawi and we are all very happy
about this because she is fun and also because she makes homemade
baked goods and is at this very moment whipping up a batch of her
famous mango salsa. Yea, Meg!

Trevor and I are packing up for our big bike trip home tomorrow. A
little piece of me hopes that a canter truck will offer us a ride,
hopefully within the first hour. But the rest of me is ready for the
challenge of a five-plus hour bike ride. I think. On Koh's advice, we
are going to stay on the road instead of taking the shortcut that led
us through wheel-sucking mud and over the washed-out bridge last time.

Today I geared up for tomorrow's ride by getting spectacularly lost
looking for a meeting. My odometer says I cycled more than 10 km. The
elusive office is about 1 km from the PC house. Um, oops.

The woman I met with runs a community magazine focusing on youth,
gender issues and health. Also she does outreach with commercial sex
workers, teaching about HIV and income-generation through crafts.
Seriously. Cool.


I had a great talk with my parents last night. No static and hardly
any delay, though the first time they called they couldn't hear

I love hearing about all the regular things. Sleepovers, dinner
parties, road trips. I especially like stories about terrible weather.
They remind me to enjoy zambia's summer while my friends freeze their
buns off.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New year

We celebrated last night by baking cookies with blue frosting and
trying to stay awake until midnight.

Today we explored chipata by bike, riding down the side road until it
petered out. When we looked around we couldn't see a sign of people in
any direction, except the path. And the hills are being stripped bare.