Friday, December 24, 2010

To Myself

This is the Christmas gift I bought for myself yesterday in Mumbai. They will go perfectly with my First Family earrings and my Obama chitenge.

The savior of the world economy?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


The census results shall be revealed today.

I am not counted.

This makes me kind of sad. I am a person and I should be counted. I didn't break any laws, I paid all my bills. Yet, I have not been counted because I lived in 3 different countries this year, missing the census in each one.

Just my luck.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

India is cold.

I am here to smash this common misconception. India has the Himalayas. It gets cold.

Now I'm nowhere near the actual Himalayas but winter is upon us here in Pune. I've been gone from 'home' for so long that my body would freeze in a tough South Dakota winter. My winter is sweatshirt, jeans, and (on really cold days) socks with my flip flops. I'm perfectly suited for this arrangement.

Sometimes I do miss those South Dakota winters. I miss staying inside, bundled up, in front of the tv with my hot chocolate and marshmallows. I miss watching Keloland tell me to never leave my car if I get trapped on the side of the road in a snow bank. But now that I think about it, I don't miss snow. I technically miss blizzards. Any other kind of snow is just annoying really.

I also miss my furry boots and crocheting new scarfs and hats.

But this Christmas I get to eat not one but TWO of my favorite Indian dishes: misal pav and pav bhaji. In my book, this makes up for being away from blizzards (and my family) for the Christmas holidays.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I'm back to the blogging...

I've turned 26 and had my try at tumblr. It became annoying and time consuming after 3 weeks (when I realized that I was 'blogging' (or do the cool kids call it 'tumblr-ing'?) WAY too much).

I'll stick with my blog.

So what have I been doing while I've been away?

Worked, Turned 26, worked some more, tried to make bagels on American Thanksgiving (this was a semi-disaster), and now I'm getting ready for Christmas in India.

Oh, I've also become obssesed with making videos on my mac. You can check this one out, if you want!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I made it!

I made it! I successfully completed my 9 day fast! And I did not cheat once! No coffee, no soda, no chai. Fruit for 9 breakfasts, fasting food for 9 lunches, and Indian food for 9 dinners.

I can safely say that I can give up coffee anytime I want. I'm actually drinking less than I usually do every day. Which will save me money if nothing else.

Now on to my next challenge. Turning 26.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


It has been 6 days since I drank coffee.

David Sedaris talked about quitting smoking in his last book. I remember he wrote that the first transoceanic flight he took after he quit, he didn't know what to do when he landed. He would always rush out of the airport to smoke. When he didn't have (or get) to do that, flying was a bit anti-climatic.

Every morning is anti-climatic for me. I don't know what to do with myself. I wake up and nothing. (Coffee was my reason to get up 7 days ago, and all the days before that.) So I lay in bed, watching a movie, until I really have to get up to get dressed and go to work.

When I was drinking coffee, it never messed with my sleeping patterns. I could drink coffee in the morning, take an afternoon nap, and go to bed at 10pm. Yesterday I went to bed at 9pm and slept solid until 8am. If anything, coffee was keeping my sleeping habits closer to what is deemed socially acceptable.

I'm sure if I looked up symptoms of addiction, my coffee drinking would be classified as one. It is why I don't look it up AND why I'm fasting from all forms of caffeine for these 9 days. I'm proving that I can quit anytime I want (oh wait...). It isn't like it is bad for me (Oh no...). It's not illegal, Starbucks are everywhere (Oh Crap...). I'm going to stop typing now, my excuses are not helping.

So far, the only positive thing about this whole experiment is that my liver and kidneys are probably very happy with me right now. (Did I mention no alcohol as well?) I've been drinking water non-stop since I started my fast on Friday.

Coffee keeps me sane. It reminds me of home. It reminds me of the village. It is my coping crutch. Now, let's see what happens without it...

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I'm turning 26 this month. This is the first birthday in my whole entire life that I have not looked forward to my birthday with the fervor of an ultimate patriot cheering for his team in the Olympics. I usually spend the 2 months before my birthday reminding people that it is just around the corner. For my 24th birthday, I had a month long celebration that included 3 different countries, a tattoo, and a 111m jump off a bridge. I think that one birthday sums up my love of celebrating the day of my birth.

This year is a different story. I'm turning 26 and not looking forward to it. It will officially mark my downslide to 30. And I'm not ready for that.

I decided I wanted to prepare myself before the big day arrives. To do this, I am fasting for 9 days in celebration of Dessara, a Hindu festival in honor of the Hindu Goddess Durga.

Fasting here doesn't mean no food. I eat curd (just like plain yogurt), fruit, and potato for lunch and a small meal at night. I will be strictly vegetarian. In addition to this food fasting for 9 days, I'm not drinking any form of caffeine. No coffee, no tea, no chai.

This is the part that I think will prove most difficult for myself. The last time I went one day without coffee, I had malaria. And it was literally only 1 day that I didn't drink coffee. I made it but was too sick to actually drink it. But I'm ready for the challenge.

Day 1 is done. 8 more days...

Days Like These...

It is days like these that I wonder why I have chosen to live the way I do.

I learned today that my Zambian sister Sandra is getting married this month.

I'm so excited for her! She is an amazing woman, a wonderful mother, an extremely hard worker, and quite the business woman. Whoever she is marrying is one lucky man. Unfortunately, I won't be there. I never thought living and working in India would be a bad thing.

It is when I hear news like this that I really wonder why I choose to live the way I do. 8,100 miles away from my American family and 8,400 miles away from my Zambian family. (I looked it up, those are the exact distances.) Thousands of miles from friends who are scattered across the globe. Thousands of miles away from the possibility of bumping into someone I know. Thousands of miles away from a 10 minutes walk to visit a friend. Thousands of miles away from anything to remind me of home. (Whatever that may be for me.) I'm beginning to think and feel like there is really something to the saying:

'Out of sight, out of mind.'

I miss the little things; being able to chat with my favorite aunt any time I want, cook dinner for my parents, go for a walk without getting completely dirty or being stared at the whole time. And it is on days like this, when I find out that my sister is getting married, that I really wished I had a 'normal job.' I would have the time and be able to afford a trip to Zambia and celebrate with my family.

I could care less about grocery stores with 9 versions of one thing, electricity that is on all the time, tap water that won't make you sick, and whatever other 'conveniences' America has to offer. That seems to overwhelm me most of the time.

But I guess, for some strange, crazy, insane reason, it is all worth it. I'm having fun.

Patricia, Sandra, and Winnie

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's getting hot.

Which means one thing. My birthday is just around the corner.

The rainy season is ending and the October heat is upon us a few weeks early. (I have realized that if I truly wanted a change of scenery from Zambia, India was not the place to come. Cows are everywhere, you can buy roasted maize on the street, and October is hot.) And the first anniversary of my 25th birthday is one month away. I have to work on my birthday (the very first time ever in my life, growing up sucks) but we are going to the village that day so I'm VERY excited!

Here are a few pictures of my last few weeks!

Ganapati at Mobile Creche (a NGO).

A little girl dancing and singing at Mobile Creche.

Some girls at Mobile Creche, I love this little girl's hair. I have never seen an Indian baby with curly hair like this.

Malin, Cat, Priyanka, me, and Hayley after the Welcome Ceremony.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A New Look

A new internship, a new blog look. It was time for a change and this is it. I think it suits my new position.

I've been adding some of my videos from Zambia and one from my recent visit to an NGO called Mobile Creche. You can check those out on my YouTube channel.

Ganapati (the Ganesh festival) is starting soon and people are preparing! Here is a picture of a Ganesh statue in the preparation stage.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


I've always considered myself a city girl. I've never lived on a farm. I like things being open past 8 pm. I don't care how much it rains or how the crops are doing. The smallest place that I have ever lived is Sioux Falls, well technically Brookings for college, but I only lasted 3 semesters so I don't think that counts. I always complained that I was forced to move there when I was ten years old. It was small.

Then I moved to a farm in the middle of the African bush and things changed. Big time.

I now have an unstoppable urge to greet everyone I pass. I need peace and quiet. I have to be by myself way more than the average person requires. I ask about the weather and crops. I am completely comfortable going anywhere by myself with nothing to do; no reading material, no phone, no notebook, no companion.

And after I left Zambia, South Dakota was perfect. I could sit in the backyard and enjoy all the peace and quiet I required.

Then I moved to a city with close to 5 million people, in a country with 1 billion.

I now fall asleep with my ceiling fan and Alicia Keys album on high to the masked sounds of a city teeming with life. Trucks passing by, horns honking and beeping, people yelling, sirens sounding, calls of prayer announced, the night watchman's whistle. It gets to me. I feel myself going crazy because I can't get one moment of silence.

I've started a hunt for quiet places here but so far they have eluded me. Even the coffee shops are loud. I walk around with my iPod on, not because I don't want people to talk to me like in Zambia, but because it is the only way I can have a true moment to myself. A moment for my mind to be free, to wander aimlessly through my mind's eye, to ponder where I want my life to go, to just think.

Zambia gave me plenty of time to think and sleep. I've become nostalgic for the 2 years of quiet, peaceful village time I enjoyed. Hours spent reading in my hammock, hours spent coloring and playing Uno with the kids, hours spent sitting in the family kitchen in the dark discussing life, hours sleeping, hours drinking coffee with nothing but the day to enjoy, hours of walking just to walk, hours enjoying the sunset. I yearn for it.

Yes, yearn.

Unfortunately, those village days are behind me and I'm caught between needing the village and wanting the city.

It is time for me to figure things out, with noise.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Papa Johns

Today was the big day.

Registering with immigration.

And it all went very well. We accomplished everything and were back at Sangam in less than 2 hours. Which in India, is fast. Now Hayley and I have to venture back in 8 days to check and see if our paperwork is finished. Done and done. Well, almost. The hard part is done, now we just have to wait.

On the way home, my mind was blown. India is very developed yet is still considered a developing country. Well I'm officially putting it in the developed category. Yes, that is right. You heard it here first. India is developed. They have Papa Johns.

Yes. Papa Johns. As in Papa Johns Pizza.

Don't feel sorry for me because I live in India. We may not have water in a week but at least we can eat Papa Johns!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Life Back at Sangam

It's great being back at Sangam. A lot is the same but a lot has changed as well. I've been busy getting used to living here again. Meal times are 8.30 am, 1 pm, and 6.30 pm. And, of course, tea time is at 11.30 am and 4.30 pm. My body already gets hungry 5 minutes before the scheduled time. The food is absolutely amazing and the chai is even better!

Unfortunately, I'm still sweating. The humidity is a killer here. And it hasn't really rained since I arrived. My plane flew around the airport for a while before we could land in Mumbai because it was pouring rain, but since then, I haven't seen proper rain. Sprinkles here and there, but no monsoon. Fortunately, there haven't been major water cuts. Yet.

Last night Hayley and I were invited for drinks at Eszter and Einar's home. Eszter (from Hungary) is the Programme Manager here at Sangam and Einar (from Iceland) is her husband. Hayley arrived a few days after me and is the new Guest Services Coordinator. She will be here for one year, just like me. It was really great to get to know everyone 'off campus.' (Eszter and Einar live in an apartment just down the road from Sangam.) It was a nice relaxing night out.

Tonight we had an international dinner with the staff and volunteers. Instead of the ladies cooking dinner for us, everyone cooked a dish that is from their home country. And what a dinner we had! The staff and volunteers are way more diverse than when I volunteered here before. Japan, Malaysia, Slovenia, Mexico, England, India, and United States! Since Hayley and I arrived just last week, we were given a reprieve on cooking. But another international dinner is coming up after the next event and I will be ready to cook a traditional American dish. (I'm thinking soft pretzels. Cause who doesn't love those! And if they aren't 'American,' don't tell me!)

Tomorrow I'm off to register with Immigration. I'm sure I will have an entire blog about that experience.

Until then! Peace!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Oh Zambia!

I left Zambia over 2 months ago and I still think about it all the time. I feel like I should still be going back there. Like I'm just on vacation and I'll be going back to resume my village life again. But alas, I am done with Peace Corps and on to the next adventure! Which I'll get to in a minute. I've uploaded more Zambia pictures which you can find by going to the link below. It is a public link so you don't need to belong to Facebook to view them. I'm also in the process of uploading a few more videos to YouTube so you can check those out soon. The internet is a bit slow here so be patient, they should be up sometime today. You can find them by clicking on the video clips on the left hand side of the page.

Now, on to my next adventure! I'm in India!!!!! (Yes, I know what you are thinking, "Don't you like being in the States?" And the answer is yes I do, very much, it's just that it gets boring after a few weeks. Taco Bell isn't as good if you can have it any time you want.) What am I doing here? Good question. It all started while I was still in Zambia...

I had left the village and was living at the Peace Corps office in Choma finishing paperwork and packing up all of my stuff that I had accumulated over the last 2 years when I got an email from my Mom. It was a link to a job at Sangam World Centre (it is the same place that I was volunteering at before) so I checked it out. Unfortunately, the job application deadline had already passed so I was just cruising around their website and found an internship working with the Community Volunteer Programme. It looked really interesting but then I found out when the deadline was. In 2 days.

Now, 2 days in America is no problem. But 2 days in Zambia? A whole other story.

I had to finish the application, questions, and 3 recommendations. It was the 3 recommendations that had me worried. All of my references were in different time zones. I immediately emailed everyone I could think of who would be willing to complete a reference for me. Long story short, I finished my application and questions and all of my references finished the recommendations!

I traveled home and after being in America for one week, I found out that I got the internship! But then I wasn't sure if I wanted to take it or not. I mean, I was having a really great time in America-land, and I didn't really want to leave. My Dad finally said something to me that made my decision very easy.

"If you don't take this internship, I'm not going to let you lay around the house all summer. You are going to have to get a job."

Alright. I'll take the internship!

After a few months of waiting for paperwork for my employment visa, I finally had my visa and was able to buy my plane ticket. A week later, I was out!

Now, I'm in India as Sangam World Centre's Community Relations Intern. I'm really excited about this opportunity. I'll be working with the Community Volunteer Programme and will also be working in building the programme to support more volunteers. So for the next year I will be living and working here in India!

I'll be keeping my blog up to date, so check back! You can also follow me on Facebook or email me if you have any questions! Internet here is more reliable than Zambia but less reliable than America, so keep that in mind.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

What a long strange trip!!!

So I'm back in America-land. I have officially become a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. But let me wrap up my time in Zambia before I forget all the awesome things that happened.

I had a great last few months in the village. I got to spend lots of time with the kids, see my friends and say good bye, and took LOTS of pictures!

I've been gone for 3 weeks now and it still feels like I should be going back. The Sitembas became my family and it is weird to think that I might not see them again. So I don't. I'll make it back there one day, I need to see my baby Joy.

I miss him the most. We grew up together in Zambia. He was just 6 months old when I arrived. During community entry (what Peace Corps calls the first 3 months in your village) I would sit in my family's cikuta (kitchen) while the girls prepared dinner. I was still new so I was glad to have someone to talk to and even glad to help with the cooking! My bamaama would be busy trying to finish up chores around the house, cook, bathe all the children and herself if the sun was still shining. And as soon as she saw me sit down in the cikuta she would bring Joy over and leave him with me because she had things to do. Joy would never cry like every other Zambian baby. You have to understand something first. There aren't many white people in the villages in Zambia. So when the kids see a white person, they think it is a ghost and promptly run away screaming at the top of their lungs. You could understand my excitement when I finally found a baby who I could hold without the reaction being yells of terror. Joy and I became fast friends.

He always has had those big eyes. Even as a baby he would just stare at me, wondering. Brittany says he is an artist, has the emo-sh. Kim came to help me move from the village to double check that I didn't have Joy hidden in my suitcase. I would take him to America in a heartbeat but I can't be stealing children from Africa, like certain other celebrities. Plus he has an entire family there that I can't take him away from. And he wouldn't like America. He wouldn't have siblings to take care of him and play with all day. He would freeze in the South Dakota weather. I have to remind myself of these things because I miss him all the time and just want someone to hang out with and remind me of Zambia. A child is not an appropriate remembrance of Zambia.

I'm glad I left him there. I'm glad I left him there. I'm glad I left him there.

So now the big question. What is next for Ms. Christa? Well I'll tell you.

Right now I'm in London for a WAGGGS conference. Then it is back to the States. Apply for an employment visa to INDIA and I'm off to intern at Sangam!!! It is the same place as I was working at before but this time I will be acting as the Community Relations Intern. I will be working with the Community Volunteer Programme. I'm really excited about it because it is going to be a great transition into actually working everyday with regular hours AND I get to build on what I was doing for the last year in Southern Province in Zambia. So for yet another year, I won't have a 'real' job and I'm using all of my savings to go. But I know it is going to be worth it! Now hopefully I can get my visa.

I'm going to get pictures posted and more video clips on youtube when I get back to the States on Saturday. So check back!

Monday, January 18, 2010

My Advice to You: Future Peace Corps Zambia Volunteer!

It's January 2010. Just in case you didn't know. And that means two things. I leave in less Zambia in less than 4 months and a new group of Peace Corps Volunteers are preparing to come to Zambia. This blog is for them!

A few helpful hints as you prepare to move to the bush for 2 years.

Bring a Solio. I didn't but have become dependent on the Solio that was handed down to me by another volunteer. I charge my iPod with it everyday. Without it I wouldn't be able to listen to my music everyday. And I would probably be even crazier than I am already! (This isn't an advertisement for Solio. Just make sure the solar charger you buy has good reviews and is dependable. Even Solio starts to lose its full charging power after about a year!)

Bring an iPod/cd player and speakers that don't run on batteries. I listen to music everyday. Like I just said, it keeps me sane – even if its very little!

Bring a shortwave radio. I didn't think I would need or want one but after being in the village for a few months with no news, I was beginning to feel a bit isolated. My radio has now become one of my two links to the outside world in the village. (The other is my cell phone!) I can get BBC, VOA, and 2 FM stations in my area. (Just remember, it will be different in your village. I'm not remote by Zambian standards!)

Bring some things that will remind you of home and make you smile. I brought pictures of family and friends but also my Dwight Bobblehead from The Office. If you love The Office as much as I do, you know how happy it makes a person!

Do you need coffee? Consider bringing a french press and some of your favorite coffee grounds. I drink real coffee everyday and it makes my day in the village so much more enjoyable. Now, my french press broke so now I have a rigged up system but it works. (Read: buy a plastic one!) Plus, I have a mom who loves me very much and constantly sends me Starbucks coffee grounds! Thanks Mom!!!!

Bring clothes with elastic. This one is more for the ladies. Bring tank tops with elastic because after a year of hand washing your clothes they stop shrinking back into shape. I have a few cotton tank tops that are 3 sizes larger than when I brought them. They stretch to my knees. Literally. The ones that fair the best have that elastic/cotton blend. I know this sounds weird but after a year in the bush, you'll be thanking me! Same goes for underwear!

Bring water flavor packets. I hate the way the water tastes out of the filters. They help a ton!

Bring a rain coat and boots. Rainy season. Enough said!

Keep in mind! Africa breaks everything. And I mean everything! So don't bring anything you would be heartbroken over when Africa breaks it!

Other than that remember: necessity is the mother of invention. If you find yourself without something you think you need, you can usually find something here that will work. Or if all else fails, you can get a loved one to send it to you from America-land!

Good luck packing! And if you are an education Volunteer, maybe I'll see you on first site visit when you get here!