Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Trevor Report

Trevor's purchases at the Dutch Reform Craft Market:

2 cups filter coffee
1 slice fluffy cheesecake topped with strawberry jam
2 cilantro plants
1 humongous sausage

We also chatted with about 20 PC friends (the craft market is around the corner from the PC office), plus one of the Embassy folks who in March will escort a jazz pianist to Eastern Province for a concert. (They may have to bring their own piano.)

A successful morning. Afternoon plans: Avatar on the big screen!

Friday, January 29, 2010

"Treat" is relative

Even though we're in divesting mode, I couldn't resist the urge to stock up on goodies at the ginormous grocery stores in Lusaka.

... Although honestly, after seeing the Nutella and Doritos other PCVs were buying, I don't feel too decadent about my peaches, bran cereal, strawberry tea, and wheat gluten. Even though it's not too crazy, the stuff still feels like a treat since we can't get it in Chipata. And though we get plenty of candy in the mail, people don't often send bran cereal. (I can't imagine why!)

Speaking of packages/ treats: if any of the newbies are reading this, bring bike panniers with you! You'll thank me the first time you have to bike back to site with a bunch of town food and/or mail.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Close of Service Conference closed

After candlelight ceremonies, handing out of certificates, many discussion panels and lots of reflection, we ate the last of the fancy food and cruised back to Lusaka from the luxury lodge this afternoon.

Trevor opted to ride in the bus rather than a cruiser, so he's still bumping down the dusty road while I check my email in the office and wait for him. A few more days until we're safely back in Chipata. I'm starting to get antsy to sleep in my own bed.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


To honor the fact that most of our group has made it this far, Peace Corps has brought us to a fancy wildlife preserve/ resort outside Lusaka (Chaminuka) to swim, watch ostriches, lions and elephants, and eat ourselves silly. It's pretty great, and there's free wifi that might actually be working (we'll know if you can read this message).

Of course, since this is Peace Corps, there's also a heavy dose of flip chart paper with sticky tack, reflection questions, and overambitious schedules that inevitably drag way beyond the allotted time but still manage to include lots of waiting around.

For me and Trevor, we're ready to move on down the road, but it's rough saying goodbye to such good friends. Just like with real family, we got thrown in randomly two years ago but have been through some unique hardships and joys together (puke-inducing cruiser rides! malaria tests! no water!). We share the kind of bond that makes you think we have to be friends forever, though I know we'll drift apart. Knowing it's the end of an era makes these last few days together a gift.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


We enjoyed Livingstone immensely: homemade pumpkin ravioli at a restaurant run by an authentic Italian, a decent (and cheap!) massage, a relaxing cruise on the Zambezi.

Unfortunately, the ride back from Livingstone took place in the non-luxury bus that lacked air conditioning, and it was really hot. However, the conductor was willing to play my new Star Wars all-in-one DVD, so we enjoyed the first two episodes before rolling into Lusaka. They may not be as good as the originals, but it's still better than the crap kung fu movies we did not enjoy on the trip down.

Upon our arrival in Lusaka, we got to stay with friends who make interesting conversation and excellent hippie food. Plus they have friendly dogs and a washing machine-- only the second time our clothes have been mechanically washed during our entire time in Zambia. All in all, a very satisfactory transition in to the next phase of this week's adventure: the Close of Service conference.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Traveling with Trevor

Since this is our last voyage together in Zambia, It's fitting that
Trevor and i are basking in air conditioned comfort on the luxury bus
to Livingstone.

Yesterday we reunited in nyimba following Trevor's gardening workshop
and cruised into lusaka with his soggy laundry to stay in a decent
guesthouse where we enjoyed the cable tv and free breakfast. Now It's
onward on a rutted road that makes knitting impossible. Trevor is
trying to drown out Zambian gospel music with tunes from his newly
rebuilt mp3 player. He seems excited about billy bragg and john prine-
clearly he hasn't found the william shatner songs yet.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I realized as I crossed the final items off my long (and seemingly impossible) to-do list that a big cause of this week's sour mood was my feeling antsy about the upcoming trip. (Well, that and finding out that the founder of Taco Bell died. That was a low point.)

But the internet is currently working at our house (small miracle!) at the same time the power is on (!!), and I not only managed to find the name of the luxury bus company to Livingstone, but also made online reservations, which you can't even make for an airplane in this country. (I also have a ticket for my bus trip tomorrow, empty promises from the conductor to save me a seat in the front, and hotel reservations for every night in the coming week. Oh, and snacks.)

Those of you who have never traveled in Africa should know that Zambia laughs at people who make travel plans (yes, right now I'm remembering getting on a plane to Missouri in December wearing long pants I scrounged out of the free box, my bag full of swimsuits since I had thought, naively, that I was actually headed to Zanzibar), but at least for this one moment I can relax in the knowledge that I've done everything humanly possible to ensure that this week's trip goes smoothly.



I don't mind the occasional night or two at home alone, though last night I did padlock the bars on our front door for the first time ever.

But it's really hard to use up leftovers without a hungry husband around to help. And I tend to cook way too much food. (Plus another not-so-pretty loaf of bread.) One more night, then we'll ride off into the sunset together. . . on the bus.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Sorry to have been absent this past week. Even though I rarely get any comments, I know people read this blog because the geeky analytic tools and my mom tell me so. I know how annoying it is to follow a blog that goes silent.

Honestly, I'm not feeling the love for Zambia right now. This week has brought a leaky roof, power outages, internet difficulties, belly-bombing greasy food, banking mysteries, compost full of fruit flies, volunteers needing medical attention, laundry that goes sour instead of drying, no mail, and all sorts of other petty frustrations. Nothing is major, but everything is annoying.

I don't want to be the type of blogger who complains constantly, especially since I don't want to freak out our new folks joining us in a month. So I've zipped my lips. But I'm trying to adjust my attitude and I'll be back. That's a promise!

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Trevor Report

Trevor left on the 6:30 am bus this morning for Nyimba to help another volunteer lead a gardening workshop at a clinic. I'll meet him there Thursday, and from there, we'll travel to Livingstone for a quick look at Victoria Falls, and then to Lusaka for our close-of-service conference at a fancy resort.

Because he's out of range for cell service (against his protests, I did buy him a new phone after his got stolen while I was in America), he hasn't received the message that I was able to re-load his MP3 player after our computer mysteriously deleted the entire thing and then refused to recognize it. He's going to be really happy about that, though it's a drag that I managed the feat only after he boarded the bus.

It's a strange thing, loading somebody else's music player. I tried to add music I thought he'd like, but couldn't resist amusing myself with the occasional song that will make him reach for the fast forward button.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New math

Yesterday afternoon Marco stopped by following the first day of a new school year. He was feeling proud because all of last year's seventh graders passed their exams to continue to eighth grade, most of them with high enough marks to get invited to boarding school-- and these lucky kids can actually go to boarding school, since Marco's organization will sponsor them until they graduate. The pass percentage is an incredible achievement, considering that the average school probably gets rates in the single digits.

Every January, Marco admits a new crop of first graders to the orphan school. As kids drop out, class sizes shrink dramatically-- an unfortunate necessity because even though the classes share the building in shifts, they operate out of a tiny old house (though they plan to start building a classroom block when the rains end). Last year Marco had two first grade classes with 25 kids each, but only 13 seventh graders.

Monday, 477 people showed up wanting space for an orphan. Marco could only accept 50. Even though most orphans around here find shelter with extended family, it's the rare guardian who has money to send the orphan to school. Sadly, this means 427 kids (in one neighborhood alone!) just lost their chance for an education.


I have never been a natural morning person, but being so close to the equator makes it somewhat easier to get up at a reasonable hour. As people at home complain about mid-afternoon nightfall and waking up in the dark, we appreciate our bright mornings and 80-degree temperatures.

Our hut in the village had two tiny windows, so it was perpetually dim inside (nice on blazing afternoons; depressing otherwise), but our house in Chipata has gloriously huge windows (albeit ones covered in prison-esque burglar bars) that let in the very welcome morning sunshine.

One more thing we'll miss about Zambia. (Trevor says he's ready to feel winter again... we'll see about that!)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Powers of observation

This morning, while standing in line to do my (completely voluntary) civic duty by paying the television license fee, I took the opportunity to observe my fellow post office patrons.

Mwape, the guy who mans the package counter, was nattily dressed as always, wearing a lavender shirt with cufflinks (cufflinks are the dress shirt norm here, don't ask me why) and a grey vest with a Nehru collar. And the million-year-old man in front of me in line was wearing a newsboy cap and blazer (with tiny ants marching across his shoulder), though he did not have any shoes.

When he shifted to sign a ledger, he dropped his cane and I picked it up. As he turned to take it from me, I noticed that under his blazer, the old man was wearing a black heavy metal t-shirt and an oversized crucifix.

Thanks, Zambia!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Wheat bread

While I have recently completed some serious vegetarian magic (tofu! soysage! homemade granola!), my forays into whole-wheat breadmaking look more like experiments in home fossil-making.

However, after a demystifying chat with Richard of the solar oven and no measuring cup method, I'm ready to try again, this time using more yeast and more water, recipe be damned! Also, I'm feeling optimistic after tonight's no-knead pizza crust turned out fluffy and chewey, with a hint of sourdough tang (from the 24 hour+ rise, no doubt).

I would love to be able to decide on the spur of the moment to pop downtown for a shrimp and onion pie at Tony's, but I also love the fact that because I don't have that option, I'm developing some serious chops in the kitchen.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Dear Newbies,

A friend's picture popped up on Facebook today, causing me to recall the day, exactly two years ago, that I took my best work buddy to coffee and told him I was giving my notice that afternoon so I could join the Peace Corps. Unfortunately, it was his birthday, and I felt awful giving what to him was pretty bad news, though I was thrilled (and so nervous I felt like puking for about 6 straight weeks).

Anyway, this makes me think about the RED and LIFE 2010 volunteers who are currently packing up their own lives in preparation of joining us over here, and since I know that at least one of them is reading this blog (hi!), I want to offer some advice.

Breathe! (That's my first piece of advice.) It's all going to be fine!

My second advice is: make sure your mail-sending people know about the post office's international priority envelopes and boxes. This will save them tons of money on postage as well as post-office hassles regarding weight. If you have five minutes between now and Feb. 17, go to the PO yourself and pick up a bunch of them for your mom; they're free!

See you at the airport! Love, Lisa

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cleaning out

Knowing that we leave in three months has freed me to winnow down my
bookshelf, clothes, and even the pantry.

I know it's supposed to be super healthy, but honestly whose idea was
green tea? Why did people ever decide to drink something that tastes
like boiled yard clippings?

Well, hopefully a volunteer likes it, since I dumped a bunch in the
free box. Plenty of Kool Aid left for me.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I heart electricity, part two

Another great thing about electricity is how it allows for leftovers. OK, we did occasionally finish up last night's dinner for breakfast in the village, but an unfortunate and explosive incident with unrefrigerated stir-fry caused me to respect the perils of foodborne bacteria.

But in Chipata we have a fridge! So I can cook giant vats of things for us to enjoy over several days, like the potato soup and chocolate chip cookie dough we finished up last night. The only time this backfires is when I make something eh and we are forced to keep eating it for days and days. At least when something is truly horrible (like the grilled eggplant that turned black and soggy), we can simply chuck it and know it will make nice compost.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Strange luxury

One unanticipated luxury of living in town with electricity is that I can now use DVDs on my computer to exercise behind the curtains of my own private living room.

This is fantastic because although I want and need to exercise, there's no such thing as a gym membership in Chipata, and I have come to loathe running in a place that is always muddy or dusty and where my every (outdoor) move provokes unwanted commentary from the hundreds of people who everywhere I want to be, no matter how ungodly early it is.

Trevor loves to mock that I'm jumping around to the 30-day shred, but I am thrilled to have a way to burn off a little of the stale, melted, and/or pulverized Halloween candy I can't seem to resist.

It may seem like my life would be easier if I could just resist the candy, but unfortunately this does not seem to be an option for me. Plus, life without the occasional mini Butterfinger is just not worth living. So thank god for Buns of Steel.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Oh, Monday

It might just be a symptom of my brain overload due to the zillions of Very Important Things on my to-do list this hectic Monday, but I've been carrying on a conversation with a friend via SMS that just included the message "I already did!"

I have absolutely no idea what that refers to. And somehow that seems so appropriate for my day.

On an unrelated note: Is Tracy Chapman one of those "famous in Belgium" kind of people? I know some people in America like her, but in Zambia it's ridiculous. She is a favorite artist of both the people across the street who like to share their really loud stereo with the entire neighborhood (same song! on repeat! for hours!) and the volunteers who control the ipod station at the Peace Corps house. I can't get away from Tracy Freaking Chapman! And I really really want to!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Zurphy's Law

I know this isn't unique to Zambia, but why is it that toilet problems always happen on Sundays? At ungodly hours (like, oh, 7 am)? On days that I was really hoping to stay home and finish watching Project Runway?


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Fresh start

After a trip to the grocery store/ vegetable market, I spent the rest of the second day of 2010 unleashing my inner compulsive on our kitchen pantry: scrubbing away the sticky stuff on the shelves, consolidating opened spices, color coding the Kool-Aid, all while listening to a book on CD (thanks Susan!!). It was a fun and cathartic, if somewhat pathetic, way to kick off the last few months of our time in Zambia, especially since one of my New Year goals is to subvert my usual hoarding tendencies and enjoy all the fancy foods people have sent us.

To meet our goal, we'll have to drink a lot of red dye and eat a lot of Indian food. This is just fine with me.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New year

We enjoyed a quiet evening at home last night, except for some
neighborhood firework explosions, so we'd be fresh this morning for a
bike ride. Trevor wanted to deliver some seedlings to a farmer he met
on a previous ride, an hour or so away, Trevor said.

After we clocked more than two hours with no mystery farmer, the sun
started cooking us so we found a random guy who promised to plant the
trees and we headed home., with a stop at the takeaway for cokes and
snacks of course.

And the water and power were both on so we got hot showers! An all
around auspicious start to the new year, for sure.