Thursday, December 24, 2009

welcome to winter!

When I came home in July, I decided that I wanted to spend the holidays with my family. But only where?

Well I've ended up back in America for one week and one week only!

And I've been introduced to winter! Big time.

It all started when I left Zambia with my friend Josh. We missed our bus to Livingstone. The one time a bus in Zambia arrives on time and we show up late. So we waited for 3 hours at the bus stop sweating. I knew it was a bad start to our trip.

It proved true.

We landed in DC on Saturday. In a blizzard. We landed and there was already 6 inches of snow on the ground. And all I had to wear was my shorts and flip flops along with the socks I stole from the airplane. It was quite the eye opener. Because of the blizzard, all flights out and into Dulles were canceled for the day. So we got a hotel room and started enjoying America-tv and internet and a real shower!

I finally arrived home, only a day and an hour behind my original schedule.

And now, I'm in my second blizzard in less than a week. But it does give me time to update my blog, post pictures, and since I'm in America, post my videos on YouTube.

You can check out my videos to the left or go to YouTube, my channel is christainzambia.

My pictures are posted on Facebook but you can check out the public links below. Just copy and paste. You don't need to be signed up to Facebook to see them!

More Pics of Life in Zambia!

Life in the Village

Random Zambian Snaps

Hope you enjoy the videos and pictures! Have a good holiday season!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Baking Birthdays

In the village, birthdays aren't celebrated. There usually isn't the money to make anything special, much less to buy gifts. I learned this when I first arrived to the village. We were eating dinner one night (just like every other night) when my bamaama mentioned it was Sandra's birthday. But how could this be a birthday? It's just like every other dinner, every other day. Where is the fun? The excitement? I LOVE birthdays! I feel like everyone should have a day to feel really special, especially in Zambia. I started to devise my plan.

I didn't want to buy everyone something for their birthday. That would get expensive since there are 15 of us. I also wanted to do something that the family could continue after I left.

The next birthday, Sitemba's, was right around the corner and I still had no idea what to do. So I went to the tuck shops in the village to buy cookies and juice for him. That night after we ate nshima and relish, I gave Sitemba his birthday treat. He shared with everyone even though their wasn't enough cookies for everyone to have one full one! I had seen the communal way families live here-sharing relish and mealie meal and cooking oil when another family doesn't have food to eat, sharing plows and ox carts for field work, and sharing what little a family has to help a neighbor in need. What I hadn't expected or experienced yet was a 6 year old boy sharing his birthday cookies and juice with his entire family. Obviously I needed to devise yet another plan.

My bamaama, who is the best cook I have ever met in Zambia, said she knew how to bake cakes. She just didn't have the ingredients. Well, I have the basics of any American kitchen: flour, sugar, butter, milk, and eggs. “I could bring them over and you could show me how to bake a cake,” I told her. And that is what we did for the next birthday.

My bamaama's oven is brilliant. It's a hole in the ground. She builds the fire in the hole to heat up the ground. Then when the wood becomes coals they are taken out of the hole and placed on an iron sheet. The pan is put into the hole and the iron sheet is placed on top. Presto! An oven in born!

It was a bigger hit than the cookies and juice. A tradition was born!

For every birthday since, my sister Jacqueline and I have baked birthday cake. I even have my very own oven that a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer made for me. It's made of mud bricks for the sides and the back of the oven with an iron sheet for the top and a piece of metal for the door. My bataata even found some scrap pieces of metal rods that act as the shelf inside the oven. And boy is it AMESOME!!!!!!

The kids look forward to every birthday now. As soon as I wake up on a birthday, the kids are at my house excitedly asking, “Kupanga birthday? Kupanga birthday?” Which means in English, “Baking birthday? Baking birthday?” And I'll tell them yes, which they already knew, and they get even more excited. Running around my house screaming and yelling while I try to put water on to boil for coffee.

Every birthday person gets to choose what kind of cake they want. Jacqueline and I have also added brownies and more recently Toll House Cookies (minus the chocolate chips) to our repertoire of birthday choices. With 15 birthdays a year, Jacqueline and I have become professional bakers!

My hope is that when I leave, the family will continue to celebrate birthdays by baking cakes. I also hope that long after I'm gone, the kids will remember all the fun we had baking birthdays.

My Friend Ralph S. Mouse

When I was kid, I thought it would be incredible to have a mouse as a friend. Of course this was after I read the books about Ralph S. Mouse. Having adventures together while riding a toy motorcycle wearing a ping-pong ball helmet. What's not to love?

I'm here to tell you, it's not fun in real life.

You make certain concessions when you live in a mud hut. You don't have electricity, you have candles. You don't have running water, you fetch it from a well a la Jack and Jill. You don't have carpet, you have cement. You don't have comfortable couches to sit on, you have hard hunks of wood carved into a stool-like shape. And you have critters.

There is nothing you can really do to keep everything outside since you are basically living outside. I've had one snake inside my house and several others outside. I've had termites raining from the ceiling during the height of the rainy season. I've had spiders catch and eat cockroaches. (It's why I don't kill the spiders Mom!) I've had a bat living underneath my bed. I was fine with all of those things but Ralph S. Mouse is killing me.

Ralph S. Mouse likes to perform his (or her, I'm not sure) hi-jinxes at night. And loudly. I'm a very heavy sleeper but he has been waking me up every single night this month. Its starting to get to me. I'm used to getting a solid 10 (if not 12) hours of sleep every night. Ralph is really cutting in to my sleeping pattern!

And he is eating everything!

It started with a single water flavor packet. Ralph pulled it out of the container I keep them in because I didn't put the lid on tight. Fine. I didn't like that flavor much anyway.

Ralph got into the container the next night and chewed open half of my favorite Crystal Light cherry pomegranate water flavor packets. I'm mad. But I still had a bunch left. There are starving people in the world, who also happen to be my neighbors, so not really a big deal in the grand scheme of things. I remedied the situation by putting all my water flavor packets, along with my tea and coffee, into a bigger plastic container with a lid that snaps shut. Problem solved.

If only I were so lucky.

Ralph starts chewing on the plastic lid to try and eat his way into the container. Ok. I'll put everything in the containers in plastic bags as well.

He found some green tea bags that I forgot were out. Whatever. I'm just annoyed at this point but won't do anything about it. He can do his thing, I'll do mine.

Ralph decided to up the ante and show off his Houdini-like climbing skills.

He ate my onion. That was in a basket. Hanging from the ceiling by string. I'm still not sure how he got there. But he did. This basket was ingeniously designed by yours truly to keep said vermin away from my precious fresh veg. He still ate my onion. I didn't even know that a mouse would eat an onion. INSANE!!!!!

I have cleaned everything in my house. He ate the seeds I was going to use for my garden. He ate my plastic grocery bags that I use for trash. Everything and anything I thought he might be tempted by has been put in a ziploc bag and then into a plastic container.

He ate the lid off my butter container. Luckily for me, he didn't fully succeed and my butter is still safely inside. Now I have to find a plastic container to put my butter container in. This is exhausting!

I washed my dishes and notice the plastic handle to the one 'sharp' knife I own is chewed off. At least I can still sort of cut things.

I find the plastic lid to my back-up instant coffee is half way gone. At least Ralph likes coffee!

Every night I get woken up to the sounds of scurrying and chewing. Every morning I wake up, put on my coffee, and try to find what has been yet another casualty of Ralph S. Mouse antics.

My non-existent strategy needs to find a focus. Cleaning isn't solving anything. I think its time for the big guns. A Zambian.

It might be a mistake but I have run out of options. To fully understand my hesitation, I have to explain a bit about how Zambians generally operate. Nothing is an emergency. It takes days to accomplish anything. Which is usually fine. I have all the time in the world here just like Zambians. But the rats are eating everything I own! Time is not on my side. (And I have recently discovered that yes, there is more than one.)

After I discovered that the rats are eating my Old Navy flip flops, I decided it was time to complain. I usually don't complain because I know it won't get fixed as fast as I would want it to. I learn to adapt and live with things. (A bat living under my bed for several months says it all!) Or I fix them my crazy American way which my bataata says isn't fixing it properly. But I can't fix this problem myself. So I complained. Days ago. And I've complained every day since.

Finally my bamaama yelled at my bataata to put the poison in my house before the rats start eating my clothes. Well, that is a comforting thought. They will eat my clothes????!!!! Leave it to my bamaama to get things done! I should have asked her in the first place! My bataata was roasting pumpkin seeds and corn kernels to pound and mix with the poison before I knew what was happening! Action! YES!!! Finally!!!!!! The traps were laid and I was very excited to finally get a good night's sleep!

“Do you hear chirps and squeaks in your house at night?” BaWesley asked me as he was mixing the poison.
“Yeah. It's bats right?” I replied.
“No. It is a rat. Those type of rats are hard to get rid of. Especially if they move into the roof of your house. They eat everything. I think that is what is in your house.”
“Great. I've heard that noise for weeks now,” I said while thinking to myself, what else have they eaten that I haven't discovered yet?
“Don't worry. We will get rid of them,” he said reassuringly.

I'm not reassured.

My house smells like Corn Nuts but the rats are eating the poison! I should have been reassured!

Hopefully this will get rid of them for good. The next step will be mixing dry cement with the pounded pumpkin and corn kernels. I hope for the rats' sake that they take the poison and die peacefully. No one wants death by cement.

2 days later.

My bedroom smells like death. The oh-too-familiar smell of a decaying animal. And its getting worse. Armed with my flashlight, I start the search and there it is. Under my plastic shelves. And because my bamaama loves me, she got rid of it.

Ralph S. Mouse is no more and hopefully his friends got the message. I need the sleep!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Black Water Fever: My good story to tell

When I lived in India I quit taking my malaria prophylaxis. We had it good. Everything would get sprayed once a week and I slept in my mosquito net every night. Wait. I take that back. Sometimes on the really hot nights I would flip the net off of the bed because I thought somehow the mesh of the mosquito net was blocking the cool air from getting to me. Anyway. I never really got bite so I never worried about getting malaria. Thus I quit taking my medicine. Like an idiot.

Fast forward 4 months.

After 2 days in Zambia, I was scared into religiously taking my malaria prophylaxis. Not only is malaria a terrible disease where blood parasites are put into your body by mosquitoes, but over 1 million people die every year from the disease. Along with headache, fever, chills, body aches and shakes, you feel like you are going to die. I wanted nothing to do with it. I hate being sick. I'm a firm believer in the flu shot. There is nothing I hate more in this world than throwing up. That was enough incentive for me to take my medicine everyday.

Unfortunately, you can still get malaria even if you take a prophylaxis. It just won't be as severe because the parasite count isn't allowed to reach dangerously high levels. But I wasn't going to risk it, I was going to do everything humanly possible to NOT get malaria. I take my medicine everyday. Everyday.

I also had 2 other methods to protect myself against malaria.

1) The power of positive thinking coupled with getting into my mosquito net before 9pm every night. If you say you won't get malaria, you won't get malaria. It's like when I was in school and I would say, “Uuugggh. I'm going to fail this test.” Then my dad would say, “Well, of course, you are going to fail it if you say you are going to fail it.” I'm sending positive anti-malarial vibes out in to the universe! Plus female mosquitoes are the ones that carry the malaria parasites and they only come out between the hours of 9pm and 6am. Fun fact: they are also silent. The male mosquitoes are the ones that buzz.

And 2) The Kim Burns Anti-Malarial Treatment. ( Drink a gin and tonic everyday. Why g&t's? History. When the Europeans, like David Livingstone, were wandering around Africa 'discovering' things, they were dying of Black Water Fever (malaria). The only thing the explorers found that would work against the Fever was taking quinine. Which is found in tonic water. And you can't have tonic without the gin!

I was adhering to all 3 of these things and then I woke up one morning in town, with mosquito bites all over my hands and arms. Fatal step #1. I forgot to close the mosquito net before I went to bed. Fatal step #2. I said jokingly to Kim, “I'll probably be back in town in 7-10 days with malaria!”

So I headed back to the village. I was hanging out getting back into the swing of things, and cleaning my house. School started and I was feeling perfectly fine. Then I went to bed. It is hot season so I took the blankets off my bed already. I was cold. I had to dig out my blankets and a sweatshirt. Then as I was trying to fall asleep I got the chills and shakes. This is when I thought something was up. I fell asleep hoping it would go away. No such luck. I woke up the next morning sweating beyond belief. And my head was killing me. I got up to pee and had to come back in my house to sit down and rest. I dug out the extra strength ibuprofen and took 2 to start. I found the strength to go and get fire so I could make coffee and told my bamaama that I thought I was getting sick. I told her my symptoms. She immediately said it was probably malaria.

Of course.


Then things got bad and a little fuzzy. The high fever, chills, the confusion. I finally started to write down what time I took what medicines because I couldn't remember. I couldn't eat anything but my bamaama forced me to eat nshima, which cures everything, as well as being the staple food of Zambia. My family finally insisted I go to the clinic. Zambians hate seeing me sick so instead of putting up a fight, I went with my sister Sandra. The clinical officer was pretty sure it was malaria but didn't have the reagents to test my blood to make a positive diagnosis. I went back home and called Peace Corps Medical. Yup. It sounds like malaria. Start taking Coartem (it gets rid of the parasite), go to town, and take the blood test.

I went to town the next day and what a ride that was. It was the second worst transport ride of my life, and that is saying something because I've have some pretty awful rides. It seemed to take forever to get there but I finally made it. I took the blood test. It came back negative but that is normal because I was taking the prophylaxis and I already started the Coartem. No doubt about it. I had malaria.

It was like the worst flu you have every had multiplied by a million.

But I survived and was back home less than a week later.

I was at school talking to some of the teachers about it. They asked me if it was my first time having malaria. I told them yes. To which they said, “At least you have a good story to tell when people ask you about living in Africa.”

I will have malaria parasites living in my liver for the rest of my life forever making me more susceptible to getting malaria. But at least I have a good story to tell?

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Rains That Save the Animals.

It’s September 25, 2009.

And it is raining.

It should be the beginning of hot season but there have been signs of rain for weeks now.

The winds are coming from the northwest.
The mosquitoes are insanely bad.
The frogs are singing at night.
The bugs are chirping during the day.

Zambians call it the rains that save the animals. There hasn’t been substantial rain since May which means there is no green grass for kilometers and kilometers. And the dry grass that was there has either been cut to thatch roofs or has been burnt to “improve” the soil for planting next year. The cows and goats are starving. And these are the rains that will, hopefully, save them because grass will now germinate.

And while the animals are going to be saved, gardens will prosper, and people eagerly wait the farming season-I am about to face the worst obstacle I have in Zambia: allergies.

Ever since I was small I have battled allergies. You know you have a problem when you start allergy shots at the age of 4. But don’t think for a second that I was one of those kids who weren’t allowed to play outside. I was always outside running and playing till I couldn’t breathe anymore. I was then forced by my mother to come in to take a shower to wash the outside off. For some reason I’m just allergic to the outside. And I’m not being sarcastic when I say that. I am LITERALLY allergic to the outside. Dirt, grass, dogs, cats, mold, pollen; general rule, if it is green and/or growing, I'm probably allergic. When I lived in India, I was banned from doing any projects related to dirt. We were working on a service project where we planted flowers. Innocent enough. Unless you are me! Within 5 minutes of my hands touching the dirt, I had a bright red rash all over my hands. Needless to say, I have allergies.

Normally, those things would be ok and I don’t like to let them get in the way of what I want to do. In America I could hide from these things in my bedroom, preferably with the AC on, until I'm all better and ready to go. Instead I live in Zambia, where I am allergic to the materials my house is MADE out of! Which makes it difficult to escape from.

Last rainy season, I had a panic room constructed. After having at lease 3 confirmed sinus infections in the course of 4 months and a useless trip to Lusaka, Peace Corps, in their infinite wisdom, decided my house should be ‘fixed.’ This meant having my walls cemented (because mold doesn’t grow on cement) and putting plastic up as a barrier between me and my grass roof. My house is now sporting 4 new cement coated walls, 3 new windows with shutters, and a beautiful clear plastic drop ceiling that the mice like to run across at night. By the time that was all done the rains had stopped and I was feeling better. I have yet to really prove if the Panic Room (or the weather change) made me feel better.

Panic Room Judgment Day has arrived.

My bataata says that it will probably rain this week then stop. He predicts that it will start raining mid-October, stop, and then start again beginning of November. And if there is anyone I trust knowing the weather, it’s him. He could work for the Farmer’s Almanac of Zambia. If there was one.

It’s just strange to see the weather patterns change and shift so dramatically before your eyes, especially in a country with such predictable weather patterns. Rainy season turns into cold season which turns into hot season and it starts all over again. When I came to Zambia in February 2008, it rained once in March and I didn’t see rain again until November. 2009 has proved different. When cold season started, rainy season didn’t get the message because it rained once a month during all 4 months. And now hot season is here and it’s still raining. No one can really tell when one rainy season stopped and the next one started.

As villagers rush to repair roofs and start preparations in the gardens and fields, I can only think that maybe Al Gore was right about that whole global warming thing.

But why does it have to put my allergies to the test?

I'll keep you up-to-date on my allergies and the weather!

Friday, August 28, 2009

It's The End of The World as I Know it!

August in the village has been pretty slow. Why you ask? Well, school is closed for the holiday and I have no big projects to work on until school starts. What have you been up to? Well, that is why I’m blogging.

For the first week of August I sat at my house, read books, and drank coffee. It was great! Until my world as I knew it came crashing to an end. Well not so much crashing as breaking. I'll start from the real beginning, when I came to Zambia.

If you have ever met me, you know that I love coffee. I came to Zambia with a french press in my carry on (so it wouldn't get broken) and 3 bags of starbucks to get me through the first few months. I drink it all day long, even in Zambia, which is very expensive considering I have to have my mom constantly send me starbucks coffee grounds. Drinking coffee keeps me sane. It keeps me connected to America-land and my old habits. It gives me something to do. The whole time I have been here, I have had coffee everyday except one-I was so sick that I couldn't drink anything. I just love coffee! Ever since I came, I have said that if anything happens to my french press, I'll just go home. I am that connected to my coffee drinking.

And then it happened. My french press broke.

Joy, my little brother, was pretending he was a cow at my house and accidentally knocked it over. And it broke. Beyond repair broke. Not just cracked, but broke. As soon as it happened, I knew it was broken. It was the worst sound that I have ever heard. I knew before I looked at it, it was broken. All the kids that were at my house immediately told me that they were “sorry, sorry.” I sent them all home so I could cry by myself. I cried for a little bit, texted 2 of my friends so at least some one could feel sorry for me, and then Joy came back to my house. And even though he is only a year and a half, he could tell I was mad. I told him to go back home. So he went outside and stood just outside my door, hoping that I would be happy again. He soon gave up and went back home and didn't come back the rest of the day. After a few hours, I was ok with my french press being broken. But I still can't bear throwing it down the pit latrine (where all things glass and un-burnable go). It is sitting, broken and sad looking, on my table.

And as fast as it happened, it was fixed. One of my friends that I texted, Brittany (, texted me back right away and told me I could use hers until I finish. She has saved my life more than she will ever know. And things are right with the world again! (And I have forgiven Joy, even though it was just an accident, and he is back to being happy again!)

Now I'm hanging out in town, waiting for my blisters to heal (that was another August adventure. Long story short, I tried to wear shoes sans socks, got blisters, they got infected, now i'm on antibiotics and waiting for them to heal) and getting ready for school to start next month!

More later!

PS: I’m not leaving Zambia just because my French press broke. Thanks Brittany!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Bye Mutinta!

One of my favorite things in the world has convinced me to stay in Zambia.

I went home for the first 2 weeks of July. It was a great (and really fast) 2 weeks as I got to see a few friends and family I hadn’t seen in the year and five months that I had been gone. But as my holiday began to wind down, I started to have second thoughts about going back to Zam-land. I mean America is amazing. I forgot that the “real world” still existed out there. Hot water that comes out of a pipe and never runs out. Take out and delivery. Tivo. Coffee makers. Driving a car. Mexican food and margaritas. Washing machines and dish washers. An entire AISLE of cereal choices. (And skim milk to go with it!) No one harassing you while you walk down the street. I could go on for days but I think you get the point. It was going so well and I was enjoying it all so much that I didn’t want to go back. On the morning of my last full day in America-land, my Auntie Roxie called me. She asked if I was ready to go back, I’m sure assuming I would respond with a very enthusiastic “YES!” Instead she received this as an answer, “eeeggh, no.” “Well, you could just stay,” she replied. “Yeah but all my stuff is in Africa and I don’t wanna make anyone else pack it all up and send back to me,” which was the only thing making me think that I should entertain the idea of going back. Needless to say, the pros were really outweighing the cons and I didn’t want to go back.

Then fate stepped in.

I went to the hospital to say goodbye to my grandpa. I was wearing shorts, a tank top, and my traditional Tanzanian scarf that I got on my vacation to Zanzibar in February. (And who knew that after all these years of making and wearing scarves that it would suddenly become very fashionable!) I got on the elevator to go up to the oncology floor at the top of the hospital. The elevator stopped. Some boys got off and this tiny little African lady got on. Now, you are probably asking yourself, ‘Christa, how on earth did you know that she was African?’ Easy. 2 ways. One. The facial features. Not all Africans look alike. (Although I usually look the same as any other white person to them.) I can also guess a person’s tribe and tell time by the sun. (I’m accurate within a 10 minute window.) Two. She was dressed very conservatively. Long sleeve button up shirt and a neatly pressed long skirt. But the kicker was the head wrap she was wearing. She immediately looked at me and asked where I got my scarf. I told her and she started speaking Swahili to me! I apologized and explained that I don’t speak Swahili but I live in Zambia. Then she greeted me in Nyanja, one of the 7 major languages in Zambia. I couldn’t believe it! We then continued a brief conversation about why I lived there as she held the elevator since we had reached her floor. The elevator started to beep since apparently we were holding it past the designated limit. She wished me luck, the elevator doors closed and she was gone. I started laughing. (Don’t worry, I was the only one in the elevator at this point!) I couldn’t believe it. And just like that, I knew that I should go back to Zambia.

I got on the plane back to Africa. Even though I got my sign that I should go back, I was still a bit unsure. I mean it is America after all! I got on the plane in Sioux Falls at 10am Wednesday morning and walked into the Choma house in Zambia on Friday at 4pm. Yeah. It’s a helluva journey. But I was back.

I hid at the house in Choma for a week. I just wanted to pretend like I was still in America. Then I finally just forced myself to get on the truck and go back to the village. I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay in Zambia but I knew that I should go back to the village first before I made any decision.

I went back in time for the weekend so I just sat around my house and read. Then Monday rolled around and it was WAY too cold to go to school so I sat around my fire all day, drank coffee, and read some more. Tuesday was much better so I decided to head up to school and see what was going on. It was the same old, same old. But it was good to chat with everyone. I had lunch with BaEliza, a teacher at school and a good friend in the village. After that, I headed over to the clinic with Mrs. Banda, one of the nurses. I hung out there for the rest of the afternoon and helped enter patient information into the clinic register. It was the end of the day and I headed back home.

It is at this point in the story that I should stop and fill you in on a bit of information. My favorite thing about being here in Zambia is the kids. All1,100 kids at school know who I am. And it isn’t just because I’m the only white girl living in the village. I’m always greeting the kids no matter where I am or what I’m doing. And don’t even get me started on the kids in my family! They are the reason I’m never lonely or bored. They are all at my house the minute my front door opens (I’ve trained them not to wake me up!) until we go to dinner at night. I like the noise and chaos they bring. Plus they are the reason I know any Chitonga at all!

Back to the story. I was biking home from the clinic and as I came around the bend, there were 2 little girls on the path. I greeted them as I biked past and then I heard the pitter patter of their bare feet as they started running behind me. I slowed down and encouraged them to keep running. Then as we reached the next path, the oldest of the two yelled “Bye Mutinta!” and off they went on their path as I continued home.

I can’t even explain how much those 2 small words made my day, my week, and made up my mind. I knew right then that I couldn’t leave Zambia early. I want and need to spend as much time as I can with the kids at school and the kids in my family. I love them way too much to leave just because I want the convenience of life in America.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

April 2010?

Well, long time no speak my friends! Boy a lot has happened since I blogged last. A quick catch-up: mid-term conference for Peace Corps was the beginning of May (got to see all my friends and officially became a second year volunteer!), then my parents and grandparents came to visit (it was great to see my family in Zambia, although I'm not quite sure what they thought of the place!), then I went back to the village for some peace and quiet and some much needed relaxation (I realized that I need to be alone a lot now, otherwise I freak out for any reason).

I have 10 months left in my Peace Corps service. I know, I can't believe it myself. It has gone by so fast and now I feel like I really need to start to decide what I want to do next. And time is running out. April 2010, the end of my 2 year contract, is fast approaching and I only know 2 things for sure. I want to travel and I don't want to work in an office. With that, I'll gladly take any and all suggestions! But remember, I'm only 24 years old. I don't need an instant career. I still wanna have some fun. But I'm pretty sure that Dad won't let me live at home forever. Which is another reason why I'm starting my "next step" process now. And not when I get to America-land and don't have an income! So seriously, if you have any suggestions, let me know! I'll gladly look into anything that sounds interesting!

Talk to you all soon! Have a great day!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

(a) Teacher/School Personnel

I feel like I need to share the good, the bad, and the ugly about my service in Zambia. You can decide what category this fits in. And remember, this is MY OPINION!

I'm currently working at a CHANGES2 workshop in Choma. They are an NGO (non-governmental organization) that works with the MOE (Ministry of Education). We are in the middle of the second installment of training community school teachers in child pedagogy. Basically, we are teaching community school teachers how to teach. CHANGES2 is an amazing NGO and they do great work with the MOE. If it wasn't for CHANGES2, I don't know what the state of the MOE would be. They are great to work with, and they will be missed. (Their funding finishes in August.)

One of the sessions involved with this workshop is about the re-entry policy for pregnant girls. The MOE has a policy that says if a girl gets pregnant during her schooling, after she has the baby, she can come back to finish school. It's a great policy and the MOE is trying, but unfortunately, the girls hardly ever actually go back to school. The MOE even has an entire pamphlet dedicated to informing school teachers, parents, and students about this policy. And that's where I found it.

Now, I should backtrack for a small bit and fill you in on a bit of life in Zambia. It's no big deal for girls to get pregnant when they are teenagers. It happens all the time. My mother in the village is turning 41 years old this year. Her oldest daughter is turning 25 this year. You do the math. That is how it is here, especially in the village. There is a multitude of reasons as to why this is. Girls don't have high self-esteem, they don't have any concept of self-worth, they are submissive, they want to please everyone, they want to be like their friends, etc etc. Another big problem that goes along with teenage pregnancy here is male teachers taking advantage of school girls, most often the grade 9 girls and above. They entice the girls with promises to pay for school fees, new clothes, and so on. The girl may end up pregnant and the male will deny the child. That leaves the girl alone and with only her family to take care of her, if they don't disown her in the process.

I've been thinking a lot about teenage pregnancy ever since I found out that Jacqueline, my own 14 year old sister here in Zambia, is pregnant. She is going to have a baby any day. A child is about to become a mother.

That is why I was really infuriated when I read something in this MOE re-entry pamphlet.

In the back of this pamphlet, is the forms that the school needs to keep for record purposes. On one of the forms, it starts with space for the school information, then goes on to the girl information, then the family information, then the 'male involved' information. It asked for the name, then it asked for the occupation of 'male involved.' (A) TEACHER/SCHOOL PERSONNEL. I couldn't believe that 'teacher' was the first option. It illustrates how often this is occuring. And how acceptable this is in Zambian society.

I have thought a lot about how to combat teenage pregnancy in Zambia. But how do you teach a girl self-worth? How do you teach self-esteem? Especially when they aren't getting those same lessons from home? What about the boys? What about the community as a whole?

I don't know the answers.

There is one thing that I have realized and know to be true. I can't bring development or big change to Zambia. The only thing that I can do is show Zambians other options. I can be a positive influence to the school girls I know and the Zambians that I am friends with in the village but it is up to them to change things.

I'm ready to help with they are ready to change.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

An American Easter in Zambia...

This Easter I decided that I wanted to share the American Easter tradition, of an egg hunt and candy from the Easter Bunny, with my Zambian family. I never realized how obnoxious the idea that a bunny would come in the middle of the nite, leave candy in a basket, and then have an Easter egg hunt until I started to share my idea with my sister. She was laughing at me. Just the thought that I was going to hide eggs in the bush was beyond them. And I have to say, I agree with them. Where did the tradition come from? Why do we hide perfectly good hard boiled eggs in the grass and wait for a bunny to come to our house and give us candy? No, really. Why?

Anyway, I decided to go along with the American tradition, since 2/3rds of Peace Corps is cross-culture! Jacqueline, my 14 year old sister, helped me boil the eggs on Good Friday. I had to ask for a bigger pot because I was boiling 45 eggs and my biggest pot could only hold half of that! On Saturday, we dyed the eggs. I thought for sure that I would end up with a very colorfully dyed reed mat but we had no major spills. Each kid got a cup of dye and they got to put the egg in the cup but didn't get to take it out, I figured that was way too much instruction for my limited Chitonga skills. We were successful in dying and now we got to decorate the faces of the eggs. The dye kit also came with fun hats to decorate the eggs, which the kids loved even more! Their egg looked like a person, and they had never even thought that was possible. By Saturday nite, the kids were ready to eat eggs and I had to yell at them several times that we were hunting and eating eggs tomorrow! Not today!

Easter Sunday! The kids were at my house super early, ready to play! I woke up at 6.30 in the morning to Joy, my littlest brother who is a year and a half, calling my name to get up. I woke up, made my coffee, and went to get the family when I was ready. Everyone (all 15 of them!) came over to my house dressed up for this American Easter celebration. I decided since hiding 45 eggs in my front yard would be a diaster, (for the obvious reasons, but especially since my dog has a bad habit of eating eggs) I decided to hid 8 eggs, one for each kid to find. Jacqueline and I hid the eggs while Eric, my oldest brother, locked the kids in my house so no one could peek. They were trying to peek out the windows and get a glimpse of where we may be hiding their treats! When Jacqueline and I were finished a few minutes later, we released the masses! They all came barreling out of my house and were ready to find their breakfast (oh I mean egg!)! It was just like an Easter egg hunt back home. Mass chaos: crying when the little ones couldn't find one, and fighting over an egg found at the same time. It was nice to see that no matter where you are in the world, kids are the same! I helped the last few girls find their eggs and we were ready for breakfast. We boiled and colored enough eggs for everyone to have 3 hard boiled eggs. And I think the first in Easter egg history happened, the kids actually ate the eggs! And loved it!!!!!
It was one of my favorite Easter celebrations that I can remember! It is amazing what 39,000 kwacha's worth of eggs and an Easter dying kit sent from Patty can do in Zambia! Thanks Patty!
From left to right: Nchimunya, Joy, Scotty, Sitemba, Jeanny, and Patricia all coloring their Easter eggs!
Scotty and Sitemba studying their eggs!

Winnie with her egg!

45 dyed Easter eggs!

Jeanny, in her Easter dress, and me in my pajamas!

The Sitemba Family!

Left to right, Back row: Turnwell, 21; Eric, 18; Wesley, 50; Sandra, 24; Winnie, 2

Middle Row: Jacqueline, 14; Nchimunya, 10; Sonia, 12; Sitemba, 7; Scotty, 8; Mary, 42; Joy, 1

Front row: Jeanny, 3; Patricia, 4

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It has to be official...

So I'm back! I haven't blogged since I came back from India (a long LONG time ago) and now I'm a US Peace Corps Volunteer. I'm an education volunteer working in Zambia, it's in Africa. (Google it!) I decided to start blogging again for one reason. People have stopped writing me letters and I still want people back home to know what I'm up to here in Zambia. So I figured this will be a good way, once again, to let people know all about the adventures I'm having here in Africa.

I have been living in Siamabele Village, Siachitema Zone, Southern Province, Zambia for the past year. I live in a mud hut with no electricity and no indoor plumbing or any other American convienance of that kind. The only fancy thing I own is a French Press which I use everyday to make coffee. I'm an education volunteer but what that really means is that I am working to develop the zonal capacity of the school system. I'm not teaching classes everyday, I'm helping the teachers with whatever they need. I'm attached to one zone and have 5 government schools and 2 community schools that I work with. I have one more year to go in my service. And more importantly, I'm loving every minute of it!

I'm going to start blogging as often as I can but in the mean time, feel free to post comments or email any questions that you have about life in Zambia or about Peace Corps. I also have a strict policy about receiving letters. If I receive a letter, I will write a letter back! So keep that in mind people!

Talk to you all again soon!