Thursday, December 31, 2009

Gold star

Where do I write to request my back-to-the-land merit badge? I deserve the highest marks in vegetarianism because yesterday I made tofu from scratch! Straight from soy beans! It turned out amazingly tofu-like, though it's a little too vinegary and I think with a few days of curing it will have a better texture.

I used the leftover soy pulp to make soysage, and that turned out pretty awesome too. We had it for breakfast.

Now that I've conquered tofu, it's finally time to tackle bread.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I know I've been telling people they should stop sending packages closer to the date we leave Zambia, but I've incorporated the small deluge of Christmas packages (and I suspect a few more are on the way...) the booty from my trip home, and good lord it is a lot of goodies.

We are going to do our level best to knit all the yarn, drink all the Kool-Aid, cook up all the curries, read all the magazines, and eat all the Bacos. At current inventories, I think we can put our heart into it and win, but only if the pile shrinks and doesn't grow between now and April. (Of course, all this consuming may cause us to grow, but we'll worry about that another time.)

If you already sent a package, Thanks! If there's a package on your kitchen counter that you're dying to send, go ahead and do it! We'll share whatever we can't injest or use up and think good thoughts about you.

Of course, letters, pictures, comics and news clippings are always welcome!

(PS: Mom, this doesn't apply to you and the Oprahs. Keep 'em coming!)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Road woes

The rain has forced us to abandon the swampy shortcut from our house to the Peace Corps house in favor of a longer, but paved, route.

Unfortunately, the pavement ends about two blocks away from our house, and while the road was never great, this wasn't much of a problem until the rains started. Monsoon-quantity rainfall has caused the hilly section of the road to split into crevasses that are at least a foot deep and getting wider every day. From the deep tire tracks, it's clear that somebody is at least attempting to drive up the road, which has the consistency of pottery-class clay, though it's hard to tell how they navigate it. I had to get off my bike yesterday at the top of the hill, when my mountain-bike tires slipped off the narrow strip I was riding on.

On my morning commute, I picked up the pavement in front of the fanciest hotel in town. Apparently the president is in town for Christmas, since this is his hometown. The hotel is on lockdown with its gate padlocked, and the building is ringed by police trucks and troops carrying machine guns. Outside, cops wearing white gloves direct traffic away and people cluster in anxious little groups, hoping for a glimpse.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Life, as usual

The internet is still intermittently wonky. The roof is leaking. The flies are abundant and multiplying. I made myself toss the remaining Christmas cookies before succumbing to a sugar coma. Dark clouds are rolling in. The workmen walked off the job because nobody would give them cigarettes.

Just another day in paradise, er Chipata.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Christmas wound up being a little anticlimactic for us, since we were headed to the Peace Corps house to hang out but got stuck in a thunderstorm, so we stood under a tree getting soaked for awhile, then dragged our soggy butts home.

Our morning highlight was opening the package from Heather in Boston, whose bounty included recent Vanity Fairs and what appears to be her kids' entire stash of Halloween candy (sorry kids!) (though I applaud Heather's commitment to making that excess of candy disappear! and I heart Reeses Pieces!) .

We also got to hang out with our other friends in the evening, and I passed a lot of Christmas crafty stuff on to my favorite nine-year-old, Essie (featured in the Malawi photos). This garnered an effusive thank-you note in which Essie offers to be my best friend forever, unless Treva will be crying, in which case she would be willing to serve as his best friend as well.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas eve

The big question at the Peace Corps house today: What do you use in a
recipe that calls for both butter and shortening when there's no
shortening? (Ahh, this is why I bought the Crisco in Lusaka! But we
don't have any at the PC house.)

We're going to try butter plus margarine and see what happens. We will
either end up with sugar cookies or a mess. Either way, hopefully it
will be delicious.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hello out there

Holiday Greetings to you all, especially those who may believe we
disappeared into the silence this week. Internet has been unusually
terrible and i may have destroyed my facebook account completely.

Despite the web absence we are just ok here. We've been enjoying all
the fritos and thin mints i hauled back from the land of plenty, plus
the christmas cheer arriving by zampost. Special thanks to michelle
and the book club, rebecca, tanya, kerrie, and heather in boston,
whose package we are saving for christmas day, in an unprecedented
display of self control.
It's surreal to play christmas music while angling in front of the fan
and chopping mango and fresh avocado for dinner, but we are managing.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Trevor and Essie did manage to stay busy at Lake Malawi, by shifting all the sand around.

The lake images are from our trip there back in October, when it was crazy hot. I shot this picture around 6:30 a.m., shortly after we were stared awake by Essie standing in our bedroom door wearing her bikini, goggles, and water wings, and grinning in hopeful anticipation.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Lake Malawi

Oh, Lake Malawi. You are so beautiful and yet so boring.


After traveling since wednesday, i am finally completely home. A
letter i sent from the airport arrived at its destination before i

It was great seeing Trevor and richard and another friend pulling up
at the airport. Also great: peeling off layers of warm clothes- It's
currently ninety degrees. And finding that all my luggage arrived.
Sadly, i accidentally melted chocolate on my phone, though It's
working well enough to send this message!

I was happy to be home in america and equally happy to come home to
Zambia. I feel pretty blessed by that.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mr. Ngoma

Baldwin Ngoma used to be the night guard at the Peace Corps house, but now he's our gardener. He's very happy about this because it allows him to spend more time with his children and keep an eye on his family at night.

You probably already guessed how unusual it is for the average Zambian man to care about spending time with his children. This is one of the many reasons we all adore him.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I've made it as far as Johannesburg without incident, so things are on track for a mid-afternoon reunion with Trevor. I'm so excited I may not be able to eat breakfast, but since it's included with the hotel (overnight layover in Joburg) I'm gonna try!

I had always kind of mocked people for traveling with those U-shaped neck pillows, but since finding an abandoned one in Chipata, I've become a fan. Also essential: my own earphones. Theirs are painful after the third movie.

I am not a fan of Delta's vegetarian meals--usually ordering the veg option makes me the envy of my neighbors, but this time the food was depressingly lame (two stale rolls! steamed vegetables and plain rice! WTF Delta?), which was even more maddening considering the breakfast/snack they served to regular people was vegetarian already (pesto pizza)! Luckily, my seatmate the evangelical preacher gave me his.

Supposedly my bags are checked through to Lilongwe. In reality, this is giving the famously evil Joburg airport guys more time to paw through my stuff. I'm hoping that my low-tech anti-theft techniques worked: I wired every zipper shut with twisties and strategically placed bras and underpants at the top of every compartment.


I took a packet of origami paper to Marco's school and taught the kids how to make jumping frogs and boats that really floated (until they got too waterlogged, at which point they sank). Fun!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Trevor report, the visual evidence

People are always asking me what Trevor does. One thing is teaching kids all over Chipata how important it is to grow trees, and how to go about it.

This is the tree nursery he started at Marco's school (aka the orphan school). The kids built little grass huts over the seedlings to protect them from the blazing sun while they got established.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Back to Zambia

Tomorrow I begin the journey back to Zambia that will take me 10,000 miles between Wednesday morning and Friday afternoon (if all goes well... last time it took nearly a week).

I stuffed my bags with snacks, Christmas presents, and about a zillion DVDs (thanks, Janet!). I've eaten tofurkey and Girl Scout cookies and drank a frightening amount of fountain soda with ice. I got to visit with my ailing grandmother, most likely for the last time. I even met one of the folks who will join our crazy little band of do-gooders in Zambia in February! Now it's time to get back to my job, my boyfriend, my yoga classes, my little house and, good lord willing, some warm weather.


Traveling with Trevor takes me to some pretty amazing places. (For example...Mt. Mulanje!)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tea, again

Looking through my Mt. Mulanje pictures, I think it's really funny that while half of them are of beautiful scenery, the other half are of us making tea.

Well, the bottom picture is also Trevor taping up his blistery feet.

Five universal truths of the church carry-in Christmas dinner, and a question

1. The evening will begin with an announcement that there is a car in the parking lot with its lights on.
2. Our table will be picked last to get food.
3. There will be jello salad with whipped cream and buckets of fried chicken.
4. During the program, at least one kid will be doing something goony and inappropriate (nose picking and/or eating, skirt lifting, etc).
5. Despite this, the dads will be universally falling asleep or videotaping, no matter how painfully terrible it is.

Question: Does anybody watch all this footage? People were taping the mildly painful 6th grade band concert last week, too. Is this why people have become reality show addicts? Maybe they're only comfortable living in front of a camera, and they figure nobody ever watches.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hut two three four

This is the first hut we stayed at on Mt. Mulanje, and the only one where we saw other white people.

So, so beautiful, made even more wonderful by the fact that the caretaker had carted up entire crates of Carlsberg beer. ("Warm?" my dad asked. Um, yes warm. You learn pretty quickly in Africa that warm beer is just ok.)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Snack break

About three seconds after I took this photo (during a snack break on Mt. Mulanje), Richard dropped the water bottle he's holding and it rolled quite a way down the mountain. Fortunately, Trevor was right there to grab it, and even more fortunately he did not go rolling down behind it, because people we were way the heck up in the air, like so far up that when I saw the trail stretching away from us on another hill I hyperventilated just a little worrying about how we were going to get there. (It turned out ok.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mt. Mulanje

OK so I lied about inserting photos into past posts. I'm not going to do that after all because I'm afraid nobody would go back and look at the pictures and they are awesome pictures, because it is an awesome place. And it is my blog and I can do what I want.

We drove to Mt. Mulanje in Richard's truck. It took a very long time. I passed lots of sandwiches from the back seat to the hungry men in the front.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Visual aid

Fast internet! Shareware! Free time!

All these things mean I'm going to start uploading photos from the past year of our experience. To make things orderly, I'm planning to wedge photos into previous entries, so check the archives for images if you'd like to see what it looks like in Zambia.

Well, this is what it looks like in Malawi-- a hut on Mt. Mulanje, to be exact. Tea time with Richard and Trevor! Sorry it's blurry, but I thought it captured the spirit of tea time.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A few of my favorite things

-- My fabulous brother, who extracted the photos off my infected disc to that I'll soon be able to share them with you!

-- Silk egg nog!

-- Coffee date (at a real coffee shop (not Starbucks)!) with a friend.

-- Janet at Ninth Street Video (on Hitt), who provided me with movies I've been wanting to see. What a concept--- choosing what movie I want to see, instead of whatever action flick a random Chinese bootlegger decides to put on a DVD.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mercifully quick

Being home has meant getting sucked into the whirlwind that is my family. Today, that meant attending my niece's sixth grade band concert. Yes, these are children who have been playing their respective instruments for three whole months.

These are the moments that make me wish I was back in Africa. However, it is a credit to their band leader that the concert was a mere 15 minutes long. My mom and I stood around twice that long afterwards chatting up people we recognized, which seems about exactly how it should be.

Well, and if they had served complimentary tequila shots beforehand.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


On this trip to Americaland, I'm staying with my parents. When I arrived Wednesday, it wasn't safe to bring my dog from her temporary home at my brother's until after the wedding shower my mom was hosting Saturday afternoon (she hyperventilated when we made tracks in the carpet), but as soon as the coast was clear I grabbed Lulu.

In Zambia, dogs are for protection. Even at the Peace Corps house, where the staff is well used to the crazy ways of foreigners, Ester clucks at the way we talk to Sophie like a person and let her nap on the chairs. What would she say if she'd seen me last night, sleeping with a dog's head nestled in my armpit?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Trevor Report, Tanzania

He finally managed to find an internet cafe but complained it was so slow he didn't think the email was ever going to send, so here's all I know:

The train ride to Dar es Salaam was long and hot and (we were expecting 50 hours; I think it went longer because...) they hit an elephant and most likely killed it. When we took a train to New Orleans a few years ago, it hit a pickup truck. I'm thinking elephant might be worse, though it probably doesn't have a lawyer so maybe they just shove it to the side and carry on.

He promises more news when they get someplace with better internet. Stay tuned!

Friday, December 4, 2009


I'm not sure if it's a sign of my niece's intelligence or my own lack of maturity that has the two of us fawning over Twilight at the same time.

Sheepishness on my part notwithstanding, I was extremely proud of her tonight in the car when I asked her who she prefers, Edward or Jacob (having read, in the many pop-culture magazines abandoned at the Peace Corps house, that the question is this generation's version of Paul vs. John, Simon vs. Nick, etc). Her response? Emmett! Also, she likes Carlisle because "he's nice."

I really hope that as this 11-year-old cutie ages into her teens she keeps thinking for herself and going for the good guys.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Besides visiting my grandma, I could easily spend the rest of my America time on food. I cruised through Sams chowing down on cheesecake and mini eclair samples, and had to take a deep breath in the coffee aisle at the grocery store. Oh, the choices!

Sadly, it seems as if prices have doubled since we left home last time. And packaging has changed-- trolling through my parents' pantry, I came dangerously close to accidentally snacking on a tantalizing-looking sack of dog treats.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


It's mind boggling to me that I'm sitting in my parents' house in Missouri and yesterday I was in Africa.

Honestly, I am so tired right now that I am boggled by many things, like Holy Crap is it cold here, and the toilets flush themselves, and there are 20 choices of soda at the gas station. Also, my grandma is so zonked out on morphine she couldn't even focus her eyes on my face.

Still, I got to see her, even if technically she couldn't see (or recognize) me. That's why I'm here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Change of plans

Trevor just got on a bus headed to catch the train to Zanzibar with our friends.

Me, I'm waiting for a ride to the airport to go home and see my very sick, very old grandma.

Sad to be missing a holiday with husband and friends; sad that grandma is fading away; so excited to see America friends and family that I could just about puke.