Monday, August 31, 2009

More obsessing about food

During last week's trip to Lusaka, I managed to stuff my bag with lots of culinary goodness, like cheese tortellini and brown rice (no Crisco this time-- I'm on a health kick). A health food store has opened up, giving me unprecedented access to things like stevia and wheat gluten. The later is a key ingredient to one of the more bizarre un-meat things we used to eat in Americaland, vegetarian pepperoni. I bought a sack of it and now have a log of pepperoni roasting in the oven.

I continue to appreciate Chipata's range of fruits and vegetables. Though the produce counter at Shoprite would fit in your trunk, they do carry four different kinds of apples. And though the market continues to lack avocado, lately we've been blessed with butternut squash, fresh ginger, and eggplant.

Then there's the bag of chocolate chips in the pantry, crying out to become cookies.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Trust the experts

My colleague and I had a flat on the way to pick up a bunch of PC trainees at 6 am. PC policy is to get a punctured tire fixed as soon as you change it so you'll always have a functioning spare, but I tried to talk Clement into driving up the road a ways to find a new one (instead of backtracking) so we wouldn't get behind schedule. He would hear nothing of it.

Since it was Sunday and the hardware stores were closed (you would think that filling stations would carry spare car parts; they don't), he headed back into Lusaka for a new tube while I went ahead in another truck.

The trip back to Lusaka was 40 minutes one way, so Clement should have been no more than two hours behind us, but it took him five hours to reach a volunteer we'd left waiting. They'd had another puncture.

Like celebrity deaths, punctures come in multiples. This is why PCVs should always carry snacks and knitting.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Busy busy

Sorry I haven't been around to update this week; I've been away from Trevor and so can't accurately report upon his goings and doings, other than what I have learned via SMS from his bicycling trip (after last weekend's knee-shredding tumble, should I be concerned that he texted to ask me to pick up more antibiotic ointment?). Also I have been busy in the land of high-speed internet, which of course leads to no good, specifically large orders on

There was a sudden and dire illness in the cat of the people I'm staying with, so this evening we stopped by the vet hospital to check on him. The vet hospital is nicer by far than any of the people hospitals and clinics I've visited in Zambia. Not that I am surprised by this. Speaking of hospitals, I found out during this trip that the friend who got crunched by the truck with no brakes has been medically separated. He's better but still not well enough to come back to Zambia.

After the vet hospital, my hosts and I stopped by a wine and snacks party that featured little pastry puffs with melted cheese (I got to be friends with the guys lurking around the snack table with me) and a waiter who clearly was not briefed on how little wine you are supposed to pour into those ginormous wine glasses. I am not complaining but I do hope I didn't say anything too stupid to the embassy folks and other muckety mucks.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Spoiler alert for a 5-year-old show!

Last night I was finishing the toe of August sock #2 while watching season 2 of Project Runway, when Santino mentioned being from Missouri. Of course I knew that by Googling him to find out where in Missouri, I would inevitably find out who won, but I couldn't resist. (St. Charles, and it was worth it because I was kind of stressed out thinking he might win, so I can watch the remaining episodes in peace, knowing he didn't!)

Having the August socks in the bag means only four pairs left to complete my goal of a pair a month in 2009. As the holidays draw closer (especially in the crafting world, this is late to start planning presents-- I sent a sack of them to America in July), I'm thinking that we need handknit Christmas stockings. Sadly, as the weather turns to fall in the homeland, it's starting to blaze up here, which doesn't exactly inspire holiday spirit. Still, I soldier on.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Psychic greetings

I'm sending birthday wishes through the atmosphere to my grandma, Wibbie, who celebrates 98 years on the planet earth today. I wish I could take her out for a hot ham and cheese sandwich (her favorite) or better yet, a big pile of candy (her real favorite).

With any luck, this time next year we'll celebrate 99 together.

Quote from the co-pilot

Trevor last night: "You smell like a garage sale. You know, the optimistic part when you first walk up to it."

Sunday, August 23, 2009


The other day we got one of those rarest of Peace Corps treats: a completely unexpected package of awesomeness from an old friend (of Trevor's, since high school!).

The box was like a perfect mix tape, blending old favorites (Cracker Jacks! An entire St. Louis Post-Dispatch!) and snappy newness (hurricane mix! hippie necklaces! lime tea!). So far this week it's yielded two outstanding dinners, one featuring an entire bag of corn chips (alas, on the one day Chipata was out of avocados; we made do with salsa and refried beans). The foil-packed chickpeas came with a CD of Indian classical music, so it was almost like we were in a real restaurant.

Thanks Dave and Deborah! Trevor's writing you a real letter while I pick Oreos out of my teeth.

June socks

I couldn't resist posting June's installment. July is done, too, and half of August. With the blustery dead-of-winter weather, I even got to wear most of them at least once! (Note: It's really hard to take a good picture of your own feet. Who knew?)

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Trend-setting in Kasempa.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Easy! Barber shop

Trevor would have lots of options for hairstyles... if he had hair. (His preferred cut is featured in the middle: the potato.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lundazi guesthouse

There are worse places to spend an entire day too sick to move. My Lundazi guesthouse featured:
-- a lime green satin bedspread with matching dust ruffle (maybe the second dust ruffle I've seen in all of Zambia; my mom would feel right at home)
-- an oversized teddybear wearing a miniature Christmas sweatshirt and a stocking cap emblazoned "1988"
-- no bathrobe, but complimentary flip-flops (though they call them "tropicals" here), one red and one green
-- a toilet with the seat and lid not attached (that was tricky when the sick part was going on)
-- not enough water pressure for an actual shower, so I bathed out of a waist-high spigot (also tricky; thank god for yoga)
-- a dining room TV blaring Malawian music videos that featured bad drum-beat mixes and simulated sex acts. Somehow I find it less shocking to see American-style barely-dressed teenagers gyrating than solidly-built African matrons dressed like they're off to church.

I feel much better now, though I may be scarred for life by the music videos.

Kasempa shopping mall

An enticing display of consumer goods, artfully arranged to get you to part with your hard-earned kwacha.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Our safari pictures are uniformly mediocre. For one thing, we have crappy little point-and-shoot cameras. Also, wild animals (besides elephants and giraffes) are adept at blending into their surroundings. Therefore, when we uploaded our shots from the trip, we spent a lot of time squinting at the images and trying to figure out what animal, if any, was lurking in the grass and bushes.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Speaking of how lucky I am to be home, anybody out there looking for a lovely little purple house to rent in the mid-Missouri area until next May? Our tenant just got accepted to school in another state. Two bedrooms, excellent neighbors, lots of flowers.

Road trip

Another morning spent on the worst road in zambia, so riddled with
giant potholes that people drive on the gravel next to the road
instead of what little tarmac is left.

That plus an hour of the cheeziest songs dolly parton ever recorded
and i was set to throw out, as our driver puts it. Then i got to watch
him eat a steak the size of my purse, something that would have
grossed me out even if i hadn't been a vegetarian.

Is this what they mean by "toughest job you'll ever love"? Today i'm
finding zambia tough to love.


We may be thirsty, but at least we're eating well. This is my haul from a recent trip to the vegetable market. I spent around $3 for all of it. (The falafel mix, alas, came in the mail from my mom.)

Monday, August 17, 2009


It's a treat that I'm home today, because I thought I'd be on the road all week. Any extra day I get to spend in my own bed is a bonus.

If the power holds, I'll celebrate by baking some cookies for my poor wounded husband, who crashed his bike yesterday while we were riding around town. I was riding behind him (as always...) so I watched in horror as he careened down a hill and somersaulted into the dirt. I knew he was OK even before I reached the site of the accident, because he was laying in the road with his arms and legs up in the air like a dead bug, laughing and greeting all the Zambians riding past clucking "Solly, solly."

Luckily he was wearing his helmet (as always), was going relatively slowly, didn't hit any rocks with his body (just with his bike tire), and didn't get run over by any of the brake-less Zambians careening down the hill just behind us. Nothing broken, just a couple of grit-encrusted road rashes and shirt smeared orange with dirt.

Vacation adventure

On our visit to Northwest Province in July, we crossed a river. Trevor gracefully, me not so much. It was nice being someplace with water.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


This is one of the kids at Marco's orphan school that I made art with. He's modeling the paper bead necklace we made together.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


If I posted these pictures already, forgive me. I think I forgot to put them up last time I had decent internet access. This is the treat we were served on a recent site visit. Not enough hot sauce on the planet to get me to sample that one, thanks.

Today's soundtrack

This morning, our neighbors with the big speakers are sharing tunes that include samples from the old song "Do they know it's Christmas?"

Trevor says the real question should be: Do they know when it's Christmas?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Travel report

Sorry for the absence; I've been on the road for a few days visiting sites that will soon be inhabited by the newbies.

Travel highlights:
-- Nobody yaked in the cruiser on this leg of the trip, though the cruiser smelled like it all week. Yay!

-- I've finally learned how to eat well on the road by carrying my own little packages of soy pieces to hand out at restaurants that offer only shima+ chicken or shima+ beef (this would be everyplace. Well, some places only have shima+ beef). They cook up my soy pieces with some shima and vegetables, and the whole shebang costs less than a buck.

-- Last night's hotel room had TV with two channels, so I got to watch Oprah interviewing Kirstie Alley a few months ago (scary) and the news delivered in Afrikaans (oddly amusing).

-- Many hours of community meetings have allowed me to complete August sock 1 and half of sock 2. I'm celebrating by working on a rug while home for a few days. Back on the road Monday.

Waiting for Water

Our water challenges continue, but we're getting used to it.

Lately it comes on for a few hours after we've gone to bed, so we've been leaving the shower turned on when we go to sleep. One of us gets up when we hear the splashing (usually after a lot of poking and insisting that the other person should get up). Then we fill our buckets, jerry cans, pitchers, and everything else that looks like it will hold water.

Since it has become a rare convergence for the water to be running and the power to be on when we want to shower, we've been taking bucket baths by heating hoarded water in the kettle. We've managed to stay relatively presentable, but I have to say that the hot running water in my hotel room last week was a treat. I spent way too much time in there.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tuesday roundup

-- The Cruiser Curse continues. I will be happy if I never get puked on (or near) for the rest of my life. That said, I am so happy I stashed a bunch of plastic bags in the rollbars.

-- I believe I have now experienced the worst road in all of Zambia (see above). Do I get a prize or something?

-- According the gardener, Ben, there was a genet in our yard looking for chickens to steal. Also, Trevor had been tracking a chameleon with no tail that's living in the house.

-- I had a funny insight while traveling on Zambia's worst road, but I think the potholes jarred it right out of my head. Dang!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sunday, Sunday

We had exactly the weekend I needed: slow and quiet. I think on Saturday, the farthest Trevor went from home was the compost pile. Sunday, we spent the afternoon hanging out with friends, drinking tea, and playing ping pong.

We've had no more than an hour or two of water a day for more than a week now, and the power was out all day Sunday. We had just finished dining on cold food by candlelight when the lights flicked back on, just in time for us to watch the third hour of The Aviator, which I bought at the grocery store in Missouri for 99 cents.

Tanned, rested, and ready: Bring on the new week!

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Halfway through mixing up a batch of bran muffins this morning, I realized I used the last egg yesterday. I walked next door to see if Marco had any. He didn't. So I grabbed my wallet and headed out the gate and a few doors down to Zambia's version of the convenience store, a little tuck shop in somebody's yard, built from sticks and plastic and stocking sugar, gum, matches, Jiggies (Zam-style cheese puffs), and other necessities. He had eggs; now we have muffins.

On my way back to the house, the bicycling vegetable man was headed up the street singing, "Lepu! Impwa!" I could have done all my shopping for the day within 10 meters of our gate, wearing my pajamas.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Garden report, new house

Last week the lettuce leaves were so tiny and fragile I felt guilty plucking them for a salad. But this week the plants are at the edge of producing so much we have to eat salads at every meal just to keep up. Luckily, last night we had a little help.

I didn't have any random vegetables to throw on top, so while rooting around the pantry for something to decorate the salads, I found this Japanese wasabi seaweed + sesame seed stuff meant for rice that I inherited when somebody COSed (thanks, Diana!). It added the perfect zing to the greens.

I'm a little worried about the garden's Chinese cabbage. The neighbors grow it, too, and it's getting to the point where there may not be enough people in Zambia to eat it all.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


This morning we invited Baldwin, the 90-pound night guard from the Peace Corps house, over to our house for coffee. When Trevor offered him a bowl of granola, I realized he had never seen cereal before, so I coached him on putting on some milk and eating it with a spoon.

Baldwin asked me to do a couple of things for the guards, one of which was to return his name to the house softies log. At some point, somebody left him off the sheet where people record how many Cokes they've taken from the house fridge, and he took this to mean he wasn't allowed to have them anymore. It kind of breaks my heart that it took months for him to work up the nerve to tell mention this.

We sent him home with a little baggie of Valentine's candy for his kids. He predicted it would make them jump up and down with happiness. That is something I would like to see.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


The bank was much quicker than I expected-- I didn't even have a chance to get out my magazine. This gave me the rest of the morning to eat cupcakes and hang out with the volunteers currently at the house.

After lunch, I cruised to the shops in our Land Cruiser, a vehicle approximately the size of a suburb, and terrorized bicyclists (not on purpose!) while navigating the narrow streets in search of bulk goods. Chipata's version of Sam's Club is a place called Kavalamungu. It feels like a Wild-West store to me. Everything is behind counters and stacked up to the ceiling. You tell the Indian guy what you want and he dispatches a Zambian dude to fetch it for you.

One of my purchases was 25 kgs of flour. Anybody who read Laura Ingalls Wilder books as a kid remembers Laura's mom sewing dresses out of the sacks. Sadly, our bulk goods come in crappy woven plastic bags that unravel the second you cut them.

Deep breathing

A sense of yogic calm is so helpful in Zambia.

Right now I'm drinking my second cup of coffee and mentally preparing myself to visit the bank to find out if the paperwork has been processed in Lusaka so I can access the funds PC advances to us in the provinces so we can do things like pay the water bill. I'll stuff a few magazines in my purse and probably wish for prescription anti-anxiety meds by the time the visit is over.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


In the village, Trevor struggled to get people to commit to any project. Here in town, he's juggling so many things that he has to constantly remind himself not to create more. Recently he met a volunteer with another organization who's working with the planning office and wants help teaching GIS mapping, so he has the chance to do work that's actually in his field of expertise.

We've also made friends here, besides other PCVs. Trevor has a squash date Wednesday. My Saturday yoga classes are jamming, and we've had several coffee and lunch dates.

We've gone from enduring to living. What a difference.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Time, time, time

Time itself is kinda meaningless in Zambia, but timing still matters. Folks eat the traditional maize meal paste, shima, with globs of cooked vegetables or meat. It takes us white people some practice before we manage to scoop up the last of the okra with the last handful of shima.

One goal of my anti-hoarding campaign is to subvert my usual tendency to save my special things for some mythical special occasion that often doesn't arrive before said special things dry up and rot. Instead, I want to force myself to use them up and enjoy them. I want us to skate out of Zambia on a wave of candy wrappers and the nubs of used-up colored pencils. I want to sip the last packet of Kool-Aid the day we fly out.

The friend who bequeathed me the yarn tried to time the end of her spices. By last weekend, she had run out of Mexican seasoning and salt. She bought one pin's worth (20 cents) of cooking oil in a plastic bag because she didn't need a whole bottle. Her final few days in the village were flavored with cinnamon and Wochestershire sauce. When she was at our house last weekend, gazing longingly into our pantry, I was tempted to offer her little baggies of garlic salt or cumin, but I know that part of the satisfaction is timing it exactly right.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hoarding relapse

Peace Corps Volunteers pass through the country in a cycle that feels excruciatingly long when you're suffering through Pre-Service Training but begins to accelerate around the midway

While it is depressing to constantly say goodbye to friends, one advantage for us dumpster-diving types is that folks jettison vast quantities of perfectly good stuff. Since my quirks and hobbies are common knowledge around the greater Chipata area, I've become the magnet for knitting- and yoga-related castoffs. Today when I pulled my friend Maggie from her site, I inherited rainbow-colored handspun yarn and yoga flashcards.

I'm trying to reform my hoarding ways, but how does one say no to a perfectly good set of circular needles?