Friday, October 30, 2009


In one hour we head to Mt. Mulanje in southern Malawi. We'll be away for one glorious week. See you in November!

For family: If there's an emergency, call the PC office in Lusaka or Washington, and they can track us down.

Update: Sophie

Trevor and I spent the entire morning with Sophie at the vet, while she got fixed in a room that looked as sterile and equipped for surgery as my kitchen.

She was completely out of it for several hours after we brought her home in a taxi (the driver asked: "Is she vicious?" as Trevor carried her to the car, her head lolling). We put her on a blanket in the living room. She couldn't even pick up her head, but we could tell she was coming out of the sedative when her tail started thumping on the ground.

Oh, dogs.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Further adventures in trying to accomplish anything in a place where you just have to laugh/ cry

Further adventures in trying to accomplish anything in a place where you just have to laugh/ cry

We’ve been trying to get Sophie, the house guard dog, fixed for months, but the vet has been out of the sedative necessary for the operation. We considered taking her to a vet in Lusaka but dismissed this idea after she spazzed and peed herself during her one-minute car ride circa the move, so we asked the visiting medical officer to bring up the medicine when she came this week. (Meanwhile Sophie went into heat and was visited by every stray dog within pheromone distance.)

When Trevor went to set up the appointment and hand over the medicine, the vet told him, “Oh, we don’t need the medicine, we have it.” Apparently they got it a few weeks ago and didn’t think to tell us despite the fact that we have been pestering them for MONTHS and begging them to notify us. This is also the vet who’s afraid to touch dogs, so cross your fingers that Sophie makes it through the next few days.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pizza pizza pizza!

One of the awesomest things about living in Chipata is being able to order fantastic, authentically Italian pizza and have it delivered right to our house. Only in Chipata would you call the pizza lady at 8 am to order dinner. For delivery directions? "You know Marco? Yeah, we live next to Marco." Ok!

We ordered two since we were having company, and it arrived more or less when she said, only in three boxes because she makes them so gigantic they won't fit into regular boxes. Also, they were delivered by her husband who ended up going next door to hang out with... Marco.

Even after being mauled by four hungry, pizza-starved humans, enough remained for breakfast this morning. Bonus!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Drunk & laughing

They say that PCVs from Africa go home drunk and laughing. We definitely drink more, and laughing seems the only appropriate response to so much of life here.

For example, yesterday we got a package slip from the post office, so I stopped by Mwape's window to pick it up. It turned out the slip was actually a receipt from a package Trevor sent last week, but we did have a package there wasn't a slip for. (It was from my parents, full of magazines, blueberry muffin mix, drink powder, Halloween candy. Woo family!)

Also I've been trying to buy a plane ticket, and when I talked to the travel agent yesterday he said he could book a ticket from Lilongwe to Dar es Salaam, but not the other way around. Huh?!?!?? I mean, you can argue, but laughing is probably saner.

Friday, October 23, 2009


I hate running in Zambia. I'm going to keep doing it, because I need the exercise bad (even if I have started losing my appetite due to wormy shima way too much lately).

This morning, two ratty little boys started following me the minute I left our gate. "Madam! Madam!" I turned up the music, and after a block or so turned around and told them to go away. They did!

On my loop, I quickly backtracked when I reached the school swarming with kids in uniforms. Then, when I was about to start back down my own road, a pickup carrying about 20 jeering prisoners turned down it just in front of me. This motivated me to do an extra loop around the block in a different direction, and my anger made me run much faster than I would have otherwise. I'm glad for that, I guess.

Still, I'd rather run in anonymity, without company or commentary.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


After a concerned email from my mom, who is probably the most committed workaholic I ever met (even in retirement we have to schedule our lunch dates and phone calls because she's never home), I have come to realize my recent groaning may be out of proportion to my suffering.

In my defense, can I explain that (unfortunately) it's my nature to complain, there have been issues back home that have us concerned/preoccupied/preemptively grumpy, and it was Freaking Hot as Hades until two days ago. Also, I was staying up too late reading Twilight. That didn't help. (Even worse, the third and fourth books have gone missing from the PC house, so I'm dying of suspense.)

Things are just ok here. Simon continues to be awesome, Stella (the day guard) braided my hair so cool this afternoon that I'm sad I can't go out and show it off, and apparently broccoli is in season in South Africa because Shoprite had a pile of it, which we bought. Yeah, pretty much all of it. (When you don't see a vegetable for 18 months, you can lose control in the produce aisle.)

Anyway, all this to say that we are doing much better than this blog might have you believe. We even have another vacation soon (climbing Mt. Mulanje in Malawi!). The only thing that would make it better is to hear from you. Where is everybody?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A drop

The arrival of our new boss coincided with Chipata's first rain of the season, a 30-second shower in midafternoon that didn't drop much water but did lower the air temperature by at least 20 degrees. I actually had to get up in the night to put a blanket on the bed.

Suddenly, Zambia feels bearable again.

Traditionally, people say the first rain will fall on Independence Day, which comes Saturday. I'm hoping yesterday's drizzle was just a warmup for a real monsoon this weekend. Of course, the change in weather means everybody is coughing and sneezing again. And crews are coming around to spray some version of DDT (so we hear) in houses to keep down the malarial mosquitos whose population will explode when the rains start for real.

Still, it's cooler.

Monday, October 19, 2009

New boss

I had hoped that the arrival of my new boss, Simon, would mean I could hand over all my work and spend the next six months knitting, watching movies with the volunteers and making origami with orphans. At the very least, I hoped to never get into a cruiser again.

Sadly, he will not be doing all my work and I will still have to travel, but least he seems like a nice guy, and I'm not the only one who thinks so. Sophie spent all afternoon pressed to his side, nosing his hand for more petting. And unlike many Zambians I've met, Simon was not only not scared of her, he actually scratched her as if he likes dogs. Which makes me think the work could work out just fine.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A confession

I went on a hat-making bender in September and it took awhile to get back into the sock-making groove. Thus, it's more than halfway through October and I'm just finishing the second of September's socks. (They're awesome socks, though-- hand-dyed yellow wool from Lea in Alabama.)

My record was perfect until now. Sheesh.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Taking the temperature

During last year's hot season, we wondered whether knowing that the temperature had reached triple digits made it feel hotter. We spent many afternoons watching our outdoor thermometer from the relative cool of our dark little hut.

I'm getting another opportunity to research the topic this week. Yesterday I peeled myself out of the Cruiser after an hour-long drive that left my entire back side (shoulders to ankles) soaking wet. (Disgusting, but I do welcome the cooling evaporative effect.) A teacher at the school we were visiting mentioned that it was 39 degrees (C), which didn't seem too nasty until I did a quick calculation on my cell phone and realized that was more than 100 degrees F. People, that is hot.

What made it feel truly miserable was knowing I was heading back to a hotel room with an air-tight mosquito net and no fan. (Cue violin music.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The best part

I am completely over driving for hours around the province in a hot, dusty, bumpy Land Cruiser to attend meetings in a language I only marginally understand. But yesterday...

Clement and I traveled out with two guys from the forestry office to hold a community meeting in a village that hasn't had a volunteer before. At first a few people gathered with us at the headman's house, but people kept wandering over until we were nearly 100, plus another twenty thousand or so kids. We gave the usual introductory talk about Peace Corps (no money, you have to build them a house, community integration, yadda yadda) and asked if they were still interested in hosting a volunteer.

Several people got up to give little speeches: how thrilled they were to be considered, hosting a foreigner will be a blessing, they are anxious to develop and learn. It was a very John F. Kennedy moment, filled with possibility and hope.

Now, if they will actually build the house like they promised, and if we can find them a volunteer who's decent and hardworking and likes children and doesn't get sick or decide to quit...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Beach People

We are home from a much-needed mini vacation to Lake Malawi. Highlights included:

--playing card games with a 10-year-old who laughs like a windchime; didn't pout too much that she never got to watch Barbie Christmas; and stood in our doorway at 6 am wearing her bikini, goggles, and inflatable water wings, trying to stare us awake
--floating in the clear water beside a beach we had all to ourselves
--exploring a ghost town of a resort that looked like it had been abandoned by Gilligan and The Skipper, and that we also had to ourselves except for the random dude sleeping on the beach and the mini alligator living in a manky little swimming pool
--staying in a quirky old beach house that smelled like antique furniture and featured 40-year-old books in Afrikaans and a caretaker who grilled up the fish a guy on a bike brought by in the morning
--stopping in Lilongwe on the way back to stock up on Carlsburg Stout, good coffee (brand name: Mzuzu!), pretzals, and peanut sauce.

Trevor and I aren't that good at relaxing, and I have never considered myself a Beach Person, but I think we could vacation at Lake Malawi pretty much forever.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


This space will be blissfully blank for a few days, as Trevor and I are heading to Lake Malawi with a couple of friends for a much-needed long weekend and won't even have cell-phone internet, so we'll be well and truly unplugged. I packed sunscreen, books, and uno. Whee!!

Back Tuesday.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A rat update

Over lunch (they had meatballs but fed me a dish of pumpkin leaves that goes by the local name of chihuahua, which always makes me think of the Taco Bell dog, may he rest in peace), I told my colleagues about the giant rat. Clement says what I saw was actually a "cane cutter," a rat-like animal that eats grass and does not go into people's houses.

And, according to Clement, is delicious.

Run, run, run

I run because I need the exercise and because it's supposed to be relaxing. Alas, there's nothing relaxing about running past a smoldering heap of trash or people who stop to gawk or yell out helpful commentary like, "You are exercise!"

Also, this morning I saw something that seared itself into my brain for the entire outing. (Naturally, I'm going to share the image with you! Enjoy those cornflakes!) Some kids were throwing rocks at something in a tree. Meanwhile, the littler kid was holding, by its rope-like tail, a rat the length of his arm. It was the size of a cat. It had been living just outside my house.

I couldn't help but stare, and for the rest of the run I wondered about the fate of said rat. Lunch or dinner?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Trevor's travels

Today I stayed at the office while Trevor rode the 30+ km out to the home villageof the PC house's night guard, Baldwin, who is the nicest man in Zambia and also the least scary guard I can possibly imagine, seeing as he can't weigh more than 90 pounds after a big lunch. And he is so tiny that when he tucks in his uniform shirt, the pockets disappear under his waistband.

Anyway, Baldwin wanted Trevor to meet his family so off they went. Our thermometer read 94 degrees when I made the morning coffee, so Trevor got good and cooked, especially on the way back, but he enjoyed some Zambian hospitality and terrified a few babies. Now that he's home, he's feeling especially grateful for the electricity powering our fan and a freezer full of ice cubes.

Besides bike rides, Trevor's big project this week is monitoring a sweet potato that started sprouting in our vegetable basket. It's in a pot of dirt on the dining room table where he's been measuring it twice a day and wants me to keep blog readers updated on its progress. Sadly, I don't know the HTML necessary to chart it out, so you'll just have to believe me when I say that besides finding a warehouse full of broken karaoke microphones, this is the biggest thrill we've had in awhile.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The other side

Ok, so It's not all paperwork and lines. After wrassling with excel
all morning I got to buy curtain fabric and chat with the guys at
modern bazaar and the post office. And i handed over the keys to the
old house, which was the easiest part of the move so far, since all
the inspecting guy did was check for broken windows, of which there
was one, a number he seemed to be pleasantly surprised by.

The craziest thing today? A big pile of discarded toy boxes outside
the fabric shop led me to a massive and broiling hot third floor
warehouse strewn with tons (literally: a cargo container load) of
reject american toys, selling for 50 pin per 50 kg bag if you pick
your own, 25 if you take your chances. Naturally, Trevor plans to be
there first thing tomorrow.


My new job is such a contrast to being a regular PCV in Zambia, which is free-form and self directed. While it's also an emotional roller coaster of getting stood up for meetings contrasted with the occasional feeling that something good might happen, at least it doesn't involve filling out massive piles of government paperwork, wrangling with freaking spreadsheets, and standing in line at the water company.

On a good day, I get to visit a volunteer in the field or have a good chat with somebody at my house over dinner. But on many days, I feel like I'm back in America working for The Man. If I'm going to work for The Man, I want the paycheck, the coffee breaks, the gym membership, the fun lunch dates and the weekends to go with it, you know?

(Through it all, though, I have to say: Thank god for Trevor. Without him, I would have already lost what little sanity I have left.)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Attitude adjustment

I am finding the biggest challenge of my new job is keeping a positive attitude. Sometimes when people hold this position, they end up somewhat bitter and frustrated. Since Trevor didn't want me to take the job in the first place (believing I would become bitter and frustrated), I'm trying really hard to prove that I can stay happy despite the challenges.

Unfortunately, it's not easy when I wake up to a co-worker text at 6:45, well before my first cup of coffee; arrive to find the PC house empty of people but full of dirty dishes, sticky tables, and a guard who needs to get a tooth pulled but can't call the guard company for a replacement or she'll get fired; get interrupted from a to-do list the length of my arm by a plumbing situation; and find out that stray dogs attacked the (in-heat) house dog last night. Among other things.

All I can say is thank god for Trevor. He's taken on the job of trying to get the dog fixed (which we hope to achieve after getting the necessary medicine sent up from Lusaka), along with lots of other little tasks that would make my head explode if I added them to my list. And he reminds me to keep a smile on my face, because dang it, I'm going to prove that I can.

(Am I positive, or just too stubborn to admit he could be right?)

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Because he is so good at chatting up random strangers (in this case, somebody he found while waiting for us to have a meeting at the Provincial Health Office last week), Trevor has found himself another new friend. This one is a former member of the Zambian national track team (event= 400 meters).

This morning (Saturday), they went out at 6 to run repeats up a big hill nearby. Sounds fun, huh? Tre came home grinning and with plans to do it again Monday. Meanwhile I was in bed sleeping off having stayed up too late for the third night running finishing Twilight, a book I found surprisingly entertaining given the near complete lack of plot and character development.

One entirely unexpected benefit of being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa is that we are really catching up on American pop culture. At home, Trevor and I fraternize near the edge of normal, what with not having cable and Trevor buying most of his music on vinyl at thrift stores. But now! I have opinions about Gray's Anatomy, Akon (though I still don't know how to spell it), Project Runway, and Twilight! Several years out of date, but still.

Also, I really really like the new Wilco album. It's still new, right?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Mavuto (trouble)

If you are a friend who hasn't gotten any email from us lately, it could be because our computer/ internet has been acting funny ever since I tried to download a new anti-virus in Lusaka and ended up with a porn virus instead. Seriously, how the (*&$# did I manage that?

Anyway, we've been trying to figure it out but mostly we're emailing from the phone or the house computer lately, which has cramped our style. Sorry! We still love you. Really.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A mystery

Seriously, what is up with the puking? I have now lost count of the
number of times someone has gacked in my presence in this country. I
haven't seen this much of other people's body fluids since i taught
pre school, back when i still liked children.

I never made people barf in america, at least that i am aware. What's up?

Also today marks the first time i've been in a truck that killed
something. (Only a guinea hen that is now someone's dinner.) Let's
hope vehicular slaughter does not also become a trend.