Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I finally have my official, plastic drivers license! I am legal to drive in any SADC country. Look out, Botswana!

How I got my license was: a German friend went to pick up his, and when he was looking through the big basket of them at the license office he saw mine and one for another friend, so he took them. Then he called us up and we met up at his house for beers and looking at each others' bad pictures. Also, my birthday is wrong but nobody (except the internets) needs to know that.

A beer party to celebrate getting our drivers licenses. Somehow it just seems right here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A public service announcement

I know some of you out there read this blog occasionally and think, Gee I ought to send Trevor and/or Lisa a letter sometime, and then you go refill your coffee (oh, the coffee) and forget all about it.

It's ok with us, but you should know that around January we're going to ask people to stop sending mail, since in May we're coming home! So if you want to avoid the terrible guilt of running into us at the farmers market after thinking you were going to send a letter (but never did) for two long years, get yourself to the post office soon. (International Priority Envelope! Relatively good deal!)

Is it a coincidence that Halloween candy will soon be on closeout? I think not.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A culinary mystery

What is it with my husband and pancakes? I could go the rest of my life without eating one, but to Trevor they're the pinnacle of weekend dining. At least it's easy to make him happy.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Home again, again

Our little convoy of cruisers arrived back in Chipata bearing nine new PCVs (lots of hangovers, but nobody puked!).

Now the fun + work begins: shopping for everything they need for the next two years (mattresses, forks, braziers for cooking, jerry cans for hauling water, mosquito coils), introducing them to their provincial counterparts, getting their bank accounts straightened out, and delivering them to their new houses.

Several current volunteers greeted us at the house with beers, chocolate chip cookies and a burrito feast featuring a giant bowl of guacamole. We're off to a good start.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


The guesthouse where I stayed last night has two friendly striped kitties and tv with multiple channels.

Unfortunately, when I woke up at 6 this morning, those channels were showing: news presented in Chinese, a program about luxury cars, and a cartoon starring a pickle. And I was locked on the compound until 7:30.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Two last trips

This afternoon Trevor and another volunteer and I went over to pick up a few last things from the old PC house: lemongrass, ornamental bushes, mulberry clippings, and most importantly the strawberries.

I had planned to just dig up a few of the strawberries, but the friendly (and totally deaf) guard from next door came over to help and he would not stop until every last plant was in our truck. It's probably just as well, since the yard will no doubt get trampled when workers start renovating the house. And we love strawberries.

Trevor took the opportunity to toss in a bunch of old chicken wire, rebar, and rocks. And we had to bring the trash pit ladder, which looks like the ladder you'd have in a swimming pool, because the pit at the new house is two meters deep and Ester always sees stuff at the bottom she wants to retrieve.

A clarification

To clarify: The Peace Corps house is the one that's moving. The serene, clean little house where Trevor and I live is staying just where it is, and it is definitely not the PC house, because although I enjoy the company of my fellow volunteers, I certainly do not want to live in what is basically a frat house/ youth hostel/ giant pile of abandoned magazines, phone chargers, and moldering food.

The move continues. Still working on little things, like getting a phone line. I stopped by the phone company yesterday to find out why they still haven't moved the line (they originally said last Wednesday). An hour after I left the office they called to say I needed to pay a fee that apparently didn't exist during my first three visits; could I come back and pay it? No, I could not.

What a wonderful opportunity to practice deep breathing and patience. Grrr.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Oh, the move.

I keep thinking we're done. Then the hot water heater explodes.

Since coming home, Trevor has been on a cleaning bender (it's what he does) that included washing the PC house dog (who, as you may recall, peed herself the other day). He managed to corral her during a rare moment when the water was on and got her all soaped up and clean. Then we all watched as she flung herself in freshly-dug dirt. (This is only because there is not yet a compost pile or trash pit to roll in.)

I know this behavior is a universal dog thing, but it pretty much sums up my relationship with Zambia at the moment.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Home with Trevor

I am thrilled to report that Trevor is home. (And for readers who persist in believing that the "I" of this blog is actually Trevor, please note that I am not speaking of myself in the third person-- I only do that on Facebook. I am me, and Trevor is Trevor. I am traveling with Trevor, though you are certainly welcome to join along.)

To celebrate his being home, we went out with friends. We have a social life! We ate pizza on a hill overlooking Chipata lights (surprisingly beautiful), watched kids frolic, petted a fat little dog, listened to a German guy sing Bruce Springsteen with a charmingly German accent, and got home ridiculously late (for us).

This morning my cold slammed me back into bed while Trevor worked in the garden, cleaned house and washed clothes. That's not the only reason I'm glad he's home, but it doesn't hurt.

Friday, September 18, 2009


On the whole, Zambians are not complainers, don't suffer from road rage, and they like to pretend nobody ever uses cuss words (although they get pretty darned embarrassed when we say certain words related to certain body parts, so obviously somebody's using them).

So it was interesting this morning to observe Ester, the PC housekeeper, when she knocked a half gallon of pink paint onto the fresh tile. Any American would have said lots of angry cuss words, cried, and/or thrown a temper tantrum involving threats to quit or at least go home and drink tequila all afternoon.

Ester just made some general exclamations of frustration and spent the next hour quietly mopping up a lake of pink paint. Did I mention the water was out all day? When we stopped for lunch several hours later, she was covered in little splotches of pink paint, but just as cheerful as ever.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


In the past 24 hours, I have:
* gone to work for the day, leaving the door wide open
* left my keys in a completely unrelated door
* lost (and found) my cell phone in the truck
* banged into something with my shin hard enough that there's a bloody spot and a huge knot, yet I have no idea what I kicked

Trevor gets knocked out by tequila; apparently antihistimines are what make me a walking zombie. And yet there is no other way I can sleep through this cold. And with a thousand details still for the move (and nobody around to take over), I can't just not show up for my life like I usually would with a cold like this.

Wah! The good news is that Trevor gets home tomorrow night. Unfortunately for him, I plan to dump my problems in his lap and take to bed.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


We are at that part of the move where it seems like everything is done, until we drive back to the house and pack up One Last Load. Then another. When I left this afternoon, the driveway was full of bike parts, our emergency jerry cans of diesel, and a fly-covered sack of cow bones (for the dog) that had been sitting there most of the day, stinking.

Some logistical problems at the new house involving bunk beds and a door that's too small for our stove mean that we can't quite start unpacking yet. I did manage to find the box with utensils in it, so the helpers no longer must share The Spoon.

In other news, our pet lizard or salamander or whatever he is lost his tail this week. Where? Will we find a little withered nub when we're moving out of this place?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Move it, move it

When Trevor is away, I tend to eat crappy bachelorette dinners, like Popcorn. It just doesn't seem worth the effort to cook without an appreciative audience.

Also, moving is no fun without help. The PC house is in transit to a new house that seems smaller but at least has a bigger yard. Luckily for me, several of the most gung-ho volunteers have showed up to lift boxes into the refrigerated truck our landlord sent over, and to help shepherd our ferocious guard dog into the cruiser for the drive. Unfortunately, by the time we got out of the driveway, the ride had terrified the dog to the point she peed, so one of said volunteers walked her to the new house while another volunteer held her dinner bowl of cow bones the housekeeper had just finished boiling up.

Sadly for the new volunteers, all the (3) restaurants in town are closed on account of Ramadan. I would have invited them over, but 1. I didn't think of it in time, and 2. I'm too exhausted to cook anyway. Looks like a granola night.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mayi anga amayanjana ndi kuweta nkhuku*

I am so darn spoiled in Chipata. I can make coffee in an instant, using my turbo-charged electric kettle, and check my email while it steeps in the French press.

Sadly, though, Trevor is away at a conference, I'm getting the cold that's been going around, and things are getting funky in the fridge because there's still not enough power to keep it on. Still, I feel pretty lucky at the moment.

*"My mother is lucky with rearing chickens." I found this in my English/Chichewa Dictionary under "lucky." Under friend, this proverb: "When the beard of your friend has caught fire, help in putting out the fire." (Mnzako akapsya ndevu mzimire.) I also like this completely random example: "The thief stole my possessions while I was playing the xylophone." (Mbala inaba katundu wanga pamene ndinkayimba mangolongolo.) Because we all know that playing the xylophone is a dangerous thing.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Load shedding

After several weeks of consistent power and water, I've gotten spoiled, so yesterday's unexpected outage threw me for a loop. We learned late in the day that it was actually a scheduled outage from 7am until 6pm. Luckily we didn't wait to make dinner, because the lights didn't come back until 8, just when Trevor went outside to look at stars.

It's supposed to be out again today. In fact, I can tell we're already on low voltage, because the fridge is off. I'm trying to do all my power-related things while I can, which is why I pulled a batch of cookies out of the oven at 7am and have every rechargable device in the house plugged in.

A day without power is not such a big deal, except in the late afternoon when the sun is blazing down and all I want to do is bask in front of the fan and drop an ice cube in my glass, but then I hear my mom's voice in my head telling me, "Don't you dare open that fridge! You'll let all the cold air out!" And even though my mom is half a planet away, I don't open the fridge.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Glad to have a friend

For Trevor, the key to happiness is finding a friend who loves jumping on bikes and cruising out on aimless, multi-hour rambles. This would not be me, though I have been dragged grudgingly on many such rides, so I'm happy to report that Trevor has found his Bike Friend in Chipata. Richard is a British construction guy who rides a bike Frankensteined from spare parts and shares Trevor's enthusiasm for steep hills, African political history, and bacon (among other things).

You have no idea what a relief it is for me to no longer be the default bike-riding companion. As a bonus, Richard thinks he can fix the broken handle on our oven. And as a welding consultant, he's got the inside scoop on when the new grocery store and pizza joint will open up. And he bakes (amazing, healthy) bread in a homemade solar oven. I love this guy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Hippie cookbooks are the key to tackling the ever-changing array of vegetables in season here*. Unlike Americaland, where refrigerated trucks allow me to believe that avocados are always in season, things come and go here. (Sadly, fresh peas have gone. And although we keep stubbornly eating our lettuce, pretty soon even I will admit there's not enough mayo in the world to hide the bitterness of this aging crop.)

At home, I stick to a small roster of vegetable superstars. In Zambia, I have no choice but to branch out: what's for sale is what there is. There's no freezer case full of green beans and strawberries, no prewashed bags of spinach. This is why I've been scouring Laurel's Kitchen and the Encyclopedia of Country Living for help dealing with the eggplants currently dominating our market. Tonight: baba ganouj. Tomorrow: ratatouille.

I have to admit, it's pretty cool discovering how easy it is to make something so amazingly good. (I could eat baba ganouj three meals a day. Which I just might until something else takes eggplant's place.)

* Shout out to Lea and Grace, our hippie cookbook benefactors. Thanks!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Shoprite special

The grocery store was closed in the middle of the afternoon yesterday because the guys from the power company were doing something in the road, and the generator wasn't on because everybody who knows how to run it had gone off to eat lunch. Such is Zambia.

This gave me a chance to mill around outside the store with everybody else, and I finally met the Irish priest who has a mission a ways north of here. This is another nice thing about being the only white people around; I figured he was Father Ned because he was an older-looking guy with messy hair. Imagine picking somebody out of a crowd in America based on that description.

Since we're packing up to move the PC house, I brought home an abandoned package of margarita mix. Paired with some (ridiculously expensive) tequila from Shoprite, I had my first real margarita in many, many months. Delicious. If I say I'm already looking forward to tonight's, does that mean I have a problem?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My pathetic addiction

I watched every single special feature, including Tim Gunn's episode-by-episode critique/ blog. I have milked season two completely dry. Auf wiedeshen for now, Project Runway.

Studying the box in anticipation of season three (the only other one I have), I just realized they name the finalists right on the package. So much for suspense.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


I now own a box of Zambian toothpicks, thanks to my generous and perceptive husband. (Who is currently in the bathroom choking on toothpaste. I think he will be ok.)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Festivities, Part 2

This weekend is the big annual festival of the Chewa tribe. A few minutes ago, a giant helicopter landed a block away, which we assume is the president arriving ("or maybe Alex Trebek!" says Trevor). The arrival is a big deal here, considering we never even see contrails.

Everybody in Eastern Province is heading to the festival but us. We're staying home to have quiche and fruit salad with our fellow agoraphobes. And Trevor is currently filling the house with the smell of bacon. ("Mmm," he says. "Fried strips of pig.")

Meanwhile, we are containing our strong opinions about the fact that Zambia manages to have a presidential helicopter. Just yesterday at the BP station I had to wait for a gas pump while MPs push-started their giant military truck. Gives you a glimpse into the national priorities, huh?

Friday, September 4, 2009


FYI: The testing of blueberry muffins is made much more festive by using a cocktail umbrella instead of a toothpick. Of course, I'm only using the umbrella because I don't currently own an actual toothpick. (That's not entirely true. I'm pretty sure I own several toothpicks, and they're squirreled away in one of the boxes in my parents' basement, too many time zones away to make it for this batch of muffins, though the muffin mix did, in fact, come from my parents' pantry, just upstairs from the toothpicks.)

We had our own little Friday Happy Hour tonight with homemade pizza and beer, with our pseudo-pet lizard or gecko or whatever he is watching us from his perch above the door. Whenever he sensed us looking at him, he'd yank his head back real fast and run behind the decorations on the ledge. Personally I prefer a bit more interaction from my pets, but for now this will have to do.


During the first half of my Peace Corps service, it was hard to keep track of the days of the week since it never mattered much. However, after a week of driving around, trying to balance books, and returning phone calls, today I am thanking god it's Friday. I just wish there was a nice Happy Hour somewhere, with frosty margaritas and potato skins drowning in melted cheese.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

File under "How the Hell Did That Come Up?"

On our drive from Navaruli to Chadiza today, I found myself telling Clement that in America you can buy a clock that runs off a potato. His only question was, "An Irish potato?"

Last time we drove to Lusaka, we discussed how in America if you hit a deer you can keep it for the meat. What he found hard to imagine is that anybody might pass up this opportunity.

On the same drive, the subject of the South African man-ish Olympic runner came up, and I informed an incredulous Clement that it's actually possible for a person to have both male and female anatomy. Then I realized I should change the subject, so I did. Fast.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Trevor Report

Trevor returned today from a bike trip around the greater Chipata area, visiting several volunteers and meeting the new trainees.

One afternoon he hiked up a mountain/hill near Liz's site, and on the way back down the road to her village, he was walking behind two ladies chatting up a storm. Until one of them glanced back and saw Trevor; she dropped her basket of sweet potatoes and cucumbers and they ran screaming into the village.

When Trevor got back to Liz's place, Liz theorized they had been telling ghost stories involving muzungus, so seeing one on the road caused them a fright.

"It was a sobering experience," says Trevor, who is happy to be home. (Me too.)