Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lights & water

The water went out yesterday just after we finished double-digging two new garden beds in the back yard and wanted to douse them before planting some lettuce seeds. We spent the day with dirt rings around our ankles. The water came back at 10 pm, just as Trevor was done washing an entire day's worth of dishes in a tub using water hoarded in a jerry can.

The power was out all day, too, leaving my weekly shopping trip of groceries to get warm in the fridge. But mercifully it came back on 30 minutes before our dinner guest arrived, so I was able to feed her Martha Stewart pizza version 2.0 instead of having to invent something that could be simmered on our camping stove. Since we had watermelon for dessert, I'm sure we would have survived either way, but it would have been a tragic waste of a light and crispy crust.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

New friends

We like Zambians and everything, but one benefit of living in Chipata is that we can be friends with fellow foreigners, who can relate a little better about what it's like to be different here. Though it seems that any whitey in Chipata is either a 22-year-old PCV or a missionary of some sort, unless they're a South African road engineer or miner. So we can sort of relate.

Our neighbor here is an Italian guy who knows everybody. He introduced us to a whole group of folks who took Trevor to play football/ soccer yesterday while I drank tea with the ladies. Just like the time he broke his finger during the first game of softball season, Trevor managed to come home from his first soccer game since third grade with skinned knees and a bruised foot, though he said he had a Great Time.

I found out that the azungu (foreigners) did yoga on Sundays until their teacher, a VSO volunteer, recently went home. Presto! Here I am, your new yoga teacher! We start tomorrow. Yee-haw!

Friday, May 29, 2009


Today marks the one decade mark of the officially sanctioned segment of our relationship. Yep, it's our anniversary. Since we're in a different time zone than where we got hitched, I'm not sure if it's before or after the blessed event, but who cares? We're enjoying a glass of wine and a recipe for pizza from my new Martha Stewart magazine. We lift a glass to those of you who celebrated with us ten years ago. Save the date for next year's Cow-town shindig, because as we all know, 11 is one better than ten. Dad, start cleaning out the barn!

The only glitch in this lovely day was having to take the Chipata house dog (Sophie) to the vet, as the swelling in her face is drastically worse. For a few days it looked like she had swallowed a golf ball, but now the whole side of her head and neck is swollen. She is such a gentle and sweet-natured girl that she didn't protest to the two injections she got from a vet who was afraid to touch her. (Zambians and dogs, I ask you: WTF?) His diagnosis? Maybe a snake, maybe a wasp. At least the bill was painless-- all that "professional" care for a mere 18 pin, less than $4.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


If you are grateful for nothing else today, be glad that you get to sleep on fresh sheets without having to launder them in a bucket in your shower using soap that blisters the skin right off your hands. I'm not sure what's worse, actually: towels that soak up forty pounds of water or sheets that drag in the dirty water when I'm squeezing them and retain shroud-of-Turin-esque body prints no matter how much I scrub them.

Me, I am grateful that it's not the rainy season, so at least I know that when I hang my dripping laundry outside it's actually going to get dry and not become giant moldering slabs of disgustingness.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pet updates

* Happily, the dogs in Chadiza remembered us again when we visited last week. Sadly, the PCV who replaced us hates dogs and encourages the kids to chase them out of the yard by kicking them. (After I spent a year trying to teach the kids not to kick dogs. Sigh.) The silver lining? These few Zambians are learning that Different Americans Have Different Values.

* Sorry, HRH: No cat updates from Chadiza-- Fez didn't show up during our visit, though we showed our replacement where to buy little dried fishies to feed her and passed on the flea stuff.

* The golfball-necked Chipata dog seems better. The lump is shrinking, and she was really happy yesterday when we fed her the bones from an entire village chicken Katey's host family sent home with her (alive in a basket for the bus journey home!). Apparently American dogs are right when they say, "Don't throw that away! I'll eat it!" We may economize on dog food when we get home and just feed Lulu the garbage she seemed to prefer anyway. Or not.

Hair care

For our first year here, Trevor cut his own hair. After the clippers at the PC house broke about a month ago, he was starting to get pretty shaggy. That's when he decided to try one of the local barbers.

He rode into a neighborhood he wanted to explore and picked the first place that looked open. From a poster on the wall, he chose an illustration of a haircut labeled "The Potato" and paid 2,000 kwacha (about 20 cents) to have his head shaved nearly smooth.

When he returned for a follow-up today, the barber said he had been expecting him. He knew the exact day Trevor had first appeared. Next time, the barber wants me to come for a trim too. Maybe, but I'm not getting The Potato.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Part of my job-to-be as Peace Corps volunteer leader is providing support to my fellow PCVs. This is a job I am happy to take on if it's anything like today, which included helping another volunteer look for knitting projects in the fat stack of craft magazines I got in the mail and helping eat the leftovers crowding the fridge at the PC house.

Speaking of craft magazines (we also got a huge pile of NY Times magazines! Thanks Lorraine!), I'm scheming about how to best use up the colorful chitenge scraps I've been accumulating. Our landlady lent me her sewing machine so I'm itching to craft. Any suggestions?

Monday, May 25, 2009


If you stroll down Zingalume road from Robi village to where our garden was, these are some of the things you might see: Elias carrying some bananas and his cousin with a bag on her head. And you could stop in at Mr. Zulu's store for a strawberry Super Maheu and a package of Bibi biscuits and watch some guys playing draughts with bottle caps.


Happy holiday weekend! Here in Zambia it's African Freedom Day. For us, this means that the supermarket closes early, I can't pick up the package I got a slip for in our PO box, and we have to wait until tomorrow to take the dog to the vet to find out why she has a golfball-sized lump in her neck. (A fellow PCV suspects she ate a wasp.)

We survived our epic bike ride yesterday afternoon. The only glitch was when my MP3 player battery crapped out an hour of rocky hills away from town. Coming home to a hot shower, cold drink, soft bed: bliss.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


This one goes out to Heather in California and my dad. Please notice: my stylish outfit and the fact that I can now make pigtails; the delicious village pizza about to get baked in the reflector oven (in the background) my handy dad crafted for me in his metalworking shop; and Fez supervising it all.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


A while back I wrote a post waxing poetic about the City of Columbia recycling bags. Several people wrote to share their own odes to the mythical Blue Bag. These days I don't have a steady supply of them so it nearly broke my heart to give this one away. I actually considered giving away the yarn and taking back the bag, but I figured that would be tacky, especially considering these women living with HIV/AIDS have enough problems already.

This group meets to craft baby outfits and lacy lady sweaters with knitting needles made from bike spokes. I got lost several times during the 2-hour ride to their village with this ginormous sack of donated yarn strapped to my bike rack.

Friday, May 22, 2009


I like to ride my bike, but the trip from Chipata to Chadiza is five hours (minimum) of red dust kicked up by minibuses, dodging goats and dudes on bikes with no brakes, the stares of several hundred Zambians, warm Cokes (if you're lucky), and eyes burning from sweat-slicked sunscreen. At the end, you get to walk up the hill to fetch some ice-cold bathing water.

Some of the vistas are pretty nice, though.


Trevor and i are on a peace corps mission to visit our replacement and
another volunteer. Because It's Trevor we cycled which let me know how
out of shape i've gotten in a few months. We also learned that we are
too old and creaky to sleep on a dirt floor. But the volunteers are
doing ok and we brought a box of wine so we will survive somehow.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


This will come as no surprise to anybody who knows us: We came to Zambia with two suitcases each, and by the time we moved we were able to fill this entire Land Cruiser with junk, plus a bunch of furniture tied on top and barely room to squash into the front seat.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Lest anyone think we are getting completely soft in our new Peace Corps experience, I should mention that it's not all puppies and rainbows over here. Although we enjoy our new appliances (I'm making bagels right now, in fact!), the power and water still fritz out with a depressing regularity that will increase as we march into the hot, dry season. (If last year is an indication, it won't rain again here until 2010. Sigh.)

When I went running this morning, I was reminded that with the increase in potential running routes (instead of Robi's alternatives: To the left, or to the right?) comes an exponential uptick in stinky, leering guys, kids shouting "How are you!" and snarly looking dogs.

The streets here are peppered with broken people, like the kid who lives in the ditch by the Peace Corps house, the guys who stumble around wearing a shroud of plastic bottles and tattered sacks (there are several! You can tell by their unique collections of trash), and a deathly thin man I saw crawling down the road with what appeared to be a leprous foot. (I'll spare you the visuals since you probably want to eat sometime today.)

I mean, it's still excellent. But it also still one of the poorest places on the planet.

Our house

OK, so we don't actually live there anymore, but this is where we spent the past year. Pretty, eh? Watch this space for photos of the new house.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


We finally moved in yesterday to our new house. Unpacking was a sobering experience, as we consolidated everything we had socked away in our hut and at the Peace Corps house, plus everything we bought in Cape Town and all the packages we've received since moving from Robi. We quickly realized we have way too much of everything.

We are especially stocked up on exotic food right now, which isn't all bad-- in a town with no real restaurants, it's pure luxury being able to whip up a delicious red curry followed up by Girl Scout cookies (thanks, Mom!).

We are soaking in the wonderfulness of our quiet little corner of civilization. Already I have asked Trevor a half-dozen times if he wants tea, simply because it's such bliss to click on the electric kettle and pour hot water. In Robi, making tea required hauling the stools and cups and kettle outside, lighting the fire or gas burner, pouring water out of a 20-liter jerry can, often dodging drips in the leaky kitchen shelter, and shooing away mosquitoes and chickens and goats. We're also enjoying ice cubes, our stove with four whole burners, and the hot shower.

As if the universe is celebrating with us, they even had feta cheese at Shoprite today, something I thought was confined to the rarefied supermarkets of Lusaka.

My excellent husband

"What a nerd," said a friend who spied this picture while passing by.

Is there any wonder why I love this man? He never fails to make me smile.

And never fails to save me from myself in the form of cleaning out the last of the apple cobbler on New Year's Eve. (Note the excellent shirt I picked up at the thrift shop on Christmas eve.)

Monday, May 18, 2009


In order to achieve maximum happiness during dishwashing, Trevor needs world band radio and coffee.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Some things I made recently

These striped socks are the bomb, eh? This is the pair that kicked off 2009 as the Year of the Sock.

The mittens were a birthday present for Grace to wear in blustery Vermont, knitted with yarn from Lea from a pattern sent by my MIL Phyllis. While I was knitting them, they provided an endless source of amusement from Zambians, who found the idea of socks for the hands both marvelous and ridiculous.

Assisting me in the modeling is the boy dog. When I went back for a visit a few weeks ago, he was afraid to come near me. Humans aren't so nice to dogs here.


We got up at 3 am to catch the 4 am bus to chipata, which actually
left just after 5. This gave hawkers time to try and sell us wigs and
cookies and bootleg dvds. One guy offered perfume and socks. Trevor
was disappointed we didn't get a sermon from the loud preacher guy.

It's just past 11 and we are still two hours out. Even though it's
cold season It's starting to get pretty ripe in here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Everybody in Zambia wears random American t-shirts so it seems inevitable I will see one from home eventually. So far the closest I've gotten is one from a bar in Tuscaloosa where we went to grad school.

...until yesterday, that is, when I walked home behind a guy sporting one from the Bass Pro Shop! That's headquartered in Springfield, about four hours south of my hometown. Nearly there!

We whiteys are just as random in our clothing. I currently advertise Girl Scouts of Loganville, courtesy of the Peace Corps free box. I have no idea where Loganville is.


Several friends sent us kid books. We let the kids in the family spend some quality time with them before bundling them up for Zingalume school. I wish I could attach a recording of the sounds of wonder and delight Emmanuel made when flipping through some of the only books he has ever seen.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Cape Town

So, we took a vacation a month or so ago. To Cape Town. It was awesome! Partly because I was with Trevor, who as you can see was pretty excited about the botanical garden, and partly because I had access to modern delights like McDonalds french fries. Anybody want to guess what Trevor thought of the super mall?


Our office internet is working for now! So I'm going to upload some completely random photos taken over the past six months.

This is me and the famous Art, our language tutor. We went to his village for a visit and he insisted on walking us all around the area for social calls. This is the school his younger son attends.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Musalila ladies

Presenting some of the awesome Musalila women's co-op ladies, who recently got a new sewing machine courtesy of the Central Missouri RPCV group (photos to come!). They were really proud to pose with their crocheted rugs and Show-me State Games t-shirts and tractor hats from my dad.

Some of my American friends will recognize the crazy-quilt handiwork from their own mailboxes. That building in the background is the Musalila meeting hall. Groups meet here but the sewing machine will live at the treasurer's house, seeing as how the meeting hall has no doors.

Doctor shows

The other day I came back to the empty guesthouse to find an American preacher ranting on the TV and the remote control mysteriously missing. (I did manage to turn it off eventually.)

Trevor has gone up to Luapula province this week with his new job, so it's just me and another PCVL (Marco) at the guesthouse. Marco went out last night so I got the (now returned) remote to myself.

I thought I would like House because so many people rave about it, but although I think Hugh Laurie is pretty amazing, the show seems flat to me. What I found fascinating was Dr. 90210, a reality show about California plastic surgeons. I can't get this image out of my head of the surgeon carrying away a huge sheet of skin after a post-gastric-bypass tummy tuck. And the other doctor's tacky kitchen remodel.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I have written here before about how obsessively clean Zambians are. Imelda, the housekeeper at my current guesthouse, is even more scrubby than most. In addition to the usual mopping and sweeping, she does things like washing out the trash cans every morning.

I grew up with scrubby people, so I'm used to this. When I was a kid, my grandmother was famous for practically snatching the clothes right off you to wash them. Like Zambians, she ironed everything, including underwear. My mom followed me around, scooping up my discarded possessions. Of course, I married the king of the scrubbies.

This morning Imelda started cleaning the kitchen while I was still eating breakfast. I walked away to rinse out some undies, and when I came back a few minutes later, my coffee cup was washed out and stacked in the drying rack. It kind of made me nostalgic for home. And it was a great excuse to go out for a cappuchino.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Postage again

Heather in California tells me that postage for the international flat-rate boxes went up again.

While I find this intensely tragic, I must admit that now that Trevor and I live in the land of plenty, I no longer feel the need to beg shamelessly for people to send us essentials of modern life. If we didn't get another package, we would survive. OK, I would really miss reading those Oprah magazines and eating myself sick on Twizzlers, but we would be just ok.

Maybe I'm just feeling extra good this afternoon because I spent the whole day in a session on peer counselling with the Peace Corps psychologist. We practiced a lot of "I" statements. I had a little trouble concentrating, only because the psychologist looks exactly like Emmylou Harris (with a British accent).

Monday, May 11, 2009

Exact change

Since we've been in the 21st-century city of Lusaka, I've spent a crazy amount of time at grocery stores, stocking up on food that isn't available in Chipata and is too liquidy or heavy or fragile to mail. Like cheese-stuffed tortellini, olive oil, balsalmic vinegar, tahini, two huge sacks of garbanzo beans. And more. Much, much more.

At Shoprite they even have barbeque-flavored (but not plain, oddly) Fritos. One afternoon I came home and found Trevor sprawled on the bed with red powder around his lips. He had eaten an entire sack.

I paid with exact change for what may be the first time ever. This is a feat because the smallest bill here is a 50-kwacha note, and since prices invariably end in odd tens I usually don't even bother trying to count out the small bills. This is part of the reason our friends find a lot of 50-kwacha notes tucked in our letters home.

My bill at Shoprite was 120,560. I rounded up.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


makes all the difference. I attended my first Zambian yoga class this morning, held on a concrete patio behind the French school. I watch the clock during many classes, but this time I wanted to slow time down so I could linger as long as possible in that comforting (though not comfortable!), familiar place.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Happy b-day to me!

Thanks for all the b-day greetings!

I dreaded having to spend my birthday among the teeming masses at the mid-term conference, but it wound up being a surprisingly lovely day. It helps that we're staying at a swanky little guesthouse away from the crowds. The day's sessions were about gardening, so I got to dig and hang out under a shady tree. Friends took us out for all-you-can-eat Indian, and I glommed on to another friend's birthday carrot cake, inscribed in blue icing: "Happy Berefday!"

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Yesterday's flu shot has me feeling a little flu-ish, but it's countered by my knitting high as I enter the home stretch of the second of May's sock pair.

There's lots of media-swapping going on here, so last night we watched the National Geo special of Guns Germs and Steel. I wish I knew the movie existed before I slogged through the book. I could have saved that reading time for some of my backlog.

Monday, May 4, 2009


For me, this morning's mid-term medicals meant a trip to the dentist, who works out of an office so swanky I would gladly live there (even in America!). Apparently they've switched dentists because of bad experiences with other ones. This lady was nice, though she sang along to the Abba soundtrack playing on the stereo.

The office had free (but sadly wretched) coffee. I found that more unsettling than the Abba, as I thought dentists were automatically programmed to warn you away from coffee. Maybe she just wanted to drum up business for bleach treatments.

This afternoon I get to pee in a cup. Bring on the coffee!

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Trevor and I are in Lusaka for midterm medical review and a
permaculture workshop that has us very fired up about intensive

We are building a demonstration garden on the compound of the Peace
Corps office. It's extra motivating to hack up chunks of lawn,
property of the federal government. Michelle Obama would approve at
least. Heck, maybe that's where they got the idea.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Highway time

During my year in the village, I often went weeks without ever being in a car. My first week of learning the PCVL job, I spent at least four hours in a Land Cruiser with Clement (the PGSO) every single day.

One thing I learned is to always remember sunscreen on my window arm. The other thing I learned is that Zambians NEVER need to use the bathroom. Clement can drink Cokes and yogurt smoothies all day long and never ever go pee.


Friday, May 1, 2009


I rode out to Chadiza with Clement, the Provincial General Services Officer (PGSO), to help post the new volunteer at our friend Koh's site.

Clement and I wanted to visit a couple of people: Patrick the forestry agent, Elias our old host dad, and Benson the guy who helps with the women's coop. Patrick wasn't in his office, Elias wasn't at home, and I didn't even bother trying to call Benson.

We kinda gave up and resigned ourselves to meeting people next time. Then, after we ate some shima at my friend Mrs. Mbewe's restaurant, I ran into Benson and told him about the sewing machine I had brought out for the coop. We went to look for Elias at the tree by Mr. Daka's store where he usually hangs out. Right as we pulled up, he rode up on his bike. As we were driving out of town, we passed Patrick, who was walking down the road.

Ah, small town.