Saturday, September 27, 2014

Last Pics of Zambia

Enjoying some of the names in Samfya. Another good one? Shikamushile

Climbed a termite mound near the fish ponds. Best aerial view I could get.

Not sure why the kids like to salute and pose like boxers.

Mama on left, Tata on right, Lala up top.

Bagheera 2 and Bamboo

Several years ago, packets were outlawed in Zambia.
A packet of vodka or gin could cost around 50 ngwee (10 cents?)
Turns out cheap shots makes everyone drunk. Found these in Lubwe
I told the owner of the shop they were illegal. "Oh yes, illegal, 2 kwacha."
1 kwacha ~ 20 cents

Got a bag of balloons in a care package. Unleashed them onto the village kids.

Over at my friend Chris's house. The King vs. Elvis.

Stay tuned. Next month I'll be in Uganda for a gorilla trek and rafting for a week, then on to Spain for 3 weeks of eating.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

I'll Remember

This Monday I left my site. It is most likely the last time I will ever see anyone from my village again. I was able to give away most of my belongings as "remembrances" to the people who helped me most. It was great to be able to give back to my village for keeping me safe for 2 years in an environment you can't always feel completely comfortable in. As I was preparing to leave, I began reflecting on my service, trying to think of all the things that will remain lasting impressions on my time here. It was an incredible experience. It was insanely stressful at times, emotional, exciting, humbling. But as I finish, the stress goes away, and what remains is the new person I've become after putting myself into job that demands so much and keeps giving.

I'll remember the bike rides in the rain, the flat tires, and the wreaks.

I'll remember the bus rides, taxis, mosquito bites, and sunburns.

I'll remember when the lights went out for days at a time. I'll remember all the cold showers and bucket baths.

I'll remember carrying water to my house every morning. I'll remember watching the sunsets every evening.

I'll remember lighting a fire for every meal.

I'll remember standing on the road for hours waiting for a ride, and the wind on my face while on the backs of trucks.

I'll remember hiding under a blanket in the back of a cargo truck to keep the dust from covering me, then riding on the top of the cab through my district.

I'll remember the sores, bumps, bruises, blisters, cuts, scrapes, and scars.

I'll remember waking up at night in Chobe National Park in Botswana, looking out and seeing yellow eyes glowing back at me.

I'll remember the letters I read over and over again from friends and family back home.

I'll remember buying fresh vegetables from my neighbors, cooking them for dinner. I'll remember picking fruit from a tree.

I'll remember letting the village children draw on the sides of my hut with charcoal.

I'll remember the first rainstorm of the season, falling asleep to thunder, listening to the insects.

I'll remember my dog Odi, and teaching her to play fetch.

I'll remember biking to town twice with Malaria, the night sweats, the aches and pains, and weight loss.

I'll remember playing pool with locals on a cardboard table with marbles and sticks.

I'll remember my friends and family that went to the other side of the world just to see me.

I'll remember learning a new language, making new friends, and all the meals I shared.

I'll remember dragging a tree through the bush to my neighbors house so he could build a workshop.

I'll remember Mama, her kittens Tata, Lala, Bagheera, and Bamboo, and they way she would meow without making noise. I'll remember waking up on cold mornings with her curled up at my feet. I'll remember when I said goodbye to Mama only to find out later she escaped from her new owner and followed me home.

I'll remember the bike wreck where my front wheel came off, fixing my bike, and hurrying home before sunset.

I'll remember campfires with friends.

I'll remember laying in my hammock, doing puzzles and reading.

I'll remember biking 120 kilometers from my hut to town one morning.

I'll remember camping on the beach for my birthday.

I'll remember seeing a friend of mine who had just lost everything she owned.

I'll remember watching movies all night when I was in town, eating homemade pizza and burgers.

I'll remember meeting a friend of mine in town, selling his shoes so he could buy food for his family.

I'll remember chasing fish around in the mud in my first fish harvest.

I'll remember playing poker with peanuts, candy, and vegetables as the chips.

I'll remember using the British words for everyday things like boot, trousers, and queue.

I'll remember the kids screaming “Muzungu!”

I'll remember the time I was in a car with 9 other adults.

I'll remember when landing in Zambia for the first time, my face pressed against the window, searching for elephants that weren't there.

I'll remember swimming out so I could be underneath Ntumbachushi Falls.

I'll remember jumping in the cold pool at a deserted hotel on our Zambezi river safari.

I'll remember teaching my neighbors how to dive in a pond.

I'll remember living my life without electricity, internet, running water, or plumbing.

I'll remember the wildfires that blocked out the afternoon sun, and lit up the night sky.

I'll remember hearing about the deaths of fellow Peace Corps Volunteers around the world.

I'll remember how books, art, and music began to take on more meaning than they ever have.

I'll remember Martin, his goofy grin, and how he always laughs like he's not supposed to, which makes him laugh even harder.

I'll remember hunting down rats and mice with my cats at night.

I'll remember our ridgeback house dog, Damnit, and how she would sit in chairs like people.

I'll remember Dorkus, the most annoying cat I've ever loved.

I'll remember all the sand in my food. I'll remember the ants in my drink.

I'll remember standing at Danger Point at Victoria Falls, not being able to see a thing.

I'll remember watching Chicken TV in my yard, discussing each chickens relationships and life events.

I'll remember saying goodbye to my neighbors, never to see them again.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Here's a collection of pictures from my last month of travels. I went to Chobe National Park in Botswana again, to Chirundu on a Zambezi canoeing safari, Livingstone for more Victoria falls, white water rafting below the falls, and the Zimbabwe side of the falls as well.
About 300 yards to my left is one side of the falls, to my right is
another half mile of continuous falling water.

Elephant on Zambezi river

Elephant grazing on island

Victoria Falls Gorge from bridge

Canoe Safari on Zambezi, Lower Zambezi National Park of Zambia on left
and Mana Pools of Zimbabwe on right

Found some giraffes fighting in Chobe National Park

African Fishing Eagle

Lions in the morning sun

Female Kudu at sunset


Elephants crossing Chobe River

Crocodile and Elephant in the reeds

Victoria Falls from Zimbabwe. Devils Cataract on the left.

Rock Hyrax

Hippo spotted from Zambezi riverboat cruise

Curious zebras

Cheetah and dinner

Crocodile feeding time


Friendly lion

Monday, May 19, 2014

Helmet Cam!

I decided I should try strapping my phone camera to the top of my helmet so I can show everyone where I bike to regularly around my site and in towns. Here are the first two I've made. The first is coming from the house of my health counterpart, Martin Nkaka, to the dambo where we went diving. The second is the bumpy 6.5 kilometer ride from Martin's brother, Chris Nkaka, to my hut. I've sped up the videos 4x so you don't have to wait around for 20 minutes.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Mwasha Diving Team

At the bottom of the stream I could see what I thought was a clay pot
half buried in the sand and gravel. I convinced Martin that we would
have to go swimming on a hot day and go treasure hunting. I told him
I would teach him how to do a cannonball. When the day came he invited
the best divers in the area, and the pool party began.
Below is hopefully the training video I took of them attempting to dive
headfirst. Good stuff.

Peace Corps poker game. We didn't have chips so we improvised.
imbalala (nuts) are worth 1, sweeties (candy) are worth 2, and impwa
(yellow eggplant) worth 5. Check out how much bigger of a pile of
impwa I had!

There's no grocery stores for about 100 miles. Instead, we have "tuck shops".
Here's one I like about 27 kilometers from my site. You can buy anything from
soap to candy, beans and rice, fresh rolls (when his wife makes them), and
citenge (the fabric used for everything here). This one also has electricity
and a fridge, making him a pretty awesome guy with orange Fanta!
Inside he's got even more random things. Some bike parts, kids toys, clothes,
talk time for your phone, cheap jewelry, tea, even some watercolors.
Soccer game between local villages Kasuba (red) and Mwita (zebra). About
half of the players were barefoot.

Without sidelines the kids kind roam the edges of the field playing their
own games.

Home team Kasuba scores. Kids and drunks storm the field.

Pond harvesting. Knotted net. Frustration.

Actually we weren't really harvesting, but first clearing out all the tadpoles
from the ponds, then redistributing the baby fish to new ponds.

Everyone gets in on it.
For a couple weeks our water pump broke. We found a guy
to come help fix it. Pretty interesting how you dismantle
a 9 meter long pipe with a slippery metal rod down the middle
without dropping anything along the way.

Fixed! The bottom 3 meter long pipe was rusted at the
joint. Could have been much worse.

From the archives. End of dry season vs. middle of rainy season.

Cleanup crew.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

On the Ranch

Just got done with my longest stay between coming into town, 6 weeks, and a lot has happened since I was here.

Mama Gives Birth

Back sometime in December I noticed Mama was getting a bit fat. I knew she was probably old enough to get pregnant, so I assumed Mama would soon become a mama. Mama has begun a weird behavior when she is on my bed where she tries to burrow into my sheets. She will walk around a pile of sheets looking for the best place to push her way in and lay down. I've seen this behavior in cats before, but it's strange when that place is right under your leg that's propped up being used as a stand for your book. She started this behavior in early February, but began meowing strangely. Took me a second to realize she was in labor. Got her off the bed, blocked her path above my bed (where she likes to go chase rats and put hundreds of tiny holes in the plastic in my roof), and moved her pillow to the floor. About an hour later, we had 2 baby kittens squeaking about, both looking exactly like Mama, same gray patterning.

Mama being a mama.

The kittens are about a month old now and are very healthy. Still working out who they will be given to.

Mama's clones.

Malaria Again

About a week before the kittens were born I started getting headaches I couldn't get rid of without painkillers. I also had a bit of a cough, but didn't think much of it, just a dry irritating cough. This was a Sunday. Monday, despite feeling a bit icky I went over to Chris's and spent the morning and early afternoon at their place talking about their gardens and working on their piggery. I left feeling a bit worse but still functional. Tuesday I would meet Diana in Lubwe, 12 kilometers away to, get some dog food she was bringing up. Network failing because of extended power outages and rain all morning made this rendezvous a nightmare, not to mention a flat tire coming back from Chris's. Monday evening I felt a bit dizzy and noticed my forehead was hot. I definitely had a fever. Checked. 104.6. Text medical. Told me to give myself a malaria test. Checked. Expired. Perfect.

Used the self test anyway which consists of poking yourself in the end of the finger to get a drop of blood to put on a test strip that kinda looks like a pregnancy test. A few drops of solution from a bottle and you wait until the solution pushes your blood drop past a marker and wait for it to turn pink. Negative. But last time I had malaria I tested negative, but definitely had malaria. But I didn't have this cough, so maybe it's not malaria.

The night was terrible. Fever kept me awake, cold chills kept me sweating and tossing and turning, leaving not much dry bed/sheet to sleep on. What a night.

Tuesday morning comes and without knowing when Diana would reach Lubwe because of the network and rains, I take off loaded up with painkillers in the rain to Lubwe. As soon as I get to Lubwe the rains stop. I get some shopping done and wait a few hours until Diana comes to make the exchange. Since I still hadn't had a non-expired malaria test I head to Lubwe Mission Hospital to find a test. Never been to an African hospital before, especially alone. So I walked in and got vague directions from a guard looking guy and walked into a building with a kind of open square courtyard with a hallway around the outside and people sitting and standing everywhere. This is the line? This is impossible. I look around at the signs above the doors and see a few “Examination Rooms” a “Dispensary”, and “Laboratory”. I figure the laboratory might be able to give me directions. Just inside the door to the lab is a table with piles of malaria tests, and seemingly no line. I spoke with the lab tech and gave myself another test. Negative. A woman and child came in to get a test while I was waiting on my results. I glanced at their test. Positive.

Headed back home and got the only ride from Lubwe to my turnoff I have ever gotten, a huge cantor turned onto my road just as I reached it full of kids in uniform. I yelled if they were going to Nkulunga (the school nearby) and they said yes. They stopped the truck for me and hauled my bike up.

Medical says since malaria test came back negative then they would treat me for an upper respiratory tract infection. Start taking Erithromycin, it's in your medkit. No it's not. Double check. Still no. Great, not I have to go back to Lubwe again tomorrow. I met with my closest neighbors, a married couple Jim and Julie who dug through their medkits. They are newer volunteers than me so they must have the medicine that is supplied to us, right? Wrong. So I go into the market and find a shady looking pharmacy sandwiched between the shop I buy my peanuts from and a bike repair station and speak with a lady who speaks no English. I showed her the next of the name of the medicine I needed and she replies that, “we don't have”, grabbing a bottle with a bunch of bubblegum pink pills under some crazy Asian language with the only English on the bottle saying something about keeping out of reach of children. The pills would look tasty if the label said bubblegum, but I decide not to risk it and head back to the hospital.

I went back to the laboratory and said that doctors in Lusaka said I had an upper respiratory tract infection because of headache and cough and what they prescribed. I went to the dispensary and they gave me the erythromycin and panadol. I expected to have to pay or sign something. Nothing. It's free.

No free ride back home today, had to make the trip myself.

Thursday morning the pills have not broken my fever, which medical says “concerns them”. Awesome. They suggest I go to Mansa today to get another malaria test. I was just at a hospital two days ago getting a test. I told them I would take my second expired malaria test just in case, but since last time I had malaria I tested negative, maybe I should just start coartem now. They agreed. So now I'm taking 8 pills a day for the possible respiratory tract infection, and 8 more for possible malaria, plus painkillers, plus sore throat lozenges. At this point my body begins to ache. I have a hard time walking, all my joints hurt, even my fingers. That night my temperature dropped to 95. By the second dose of coartem I'm feeling better, fever leaving, appetite returning. I hadn't eaten much all week. By Monday I'm back to normal, but still stuffing my face with food.

Chicken Drama 

The Chicken Family

So when I left the village for Christmas and other holidays, I wasn't around to eat the eggs of my hen “Miss Johnny White” so she laid 8 eggs and started roosting. Eggs take 21 days to hatch, and when the first 2 hatched, she abandoned the nest with 6 eggs in it. So now I have 6 fertilized eggs mostly incubated, unhatched, mother gone. I get out my headlamp and “candle” the eggs. 5 have something inside, 1 undeveloped. Odi food. Now what about the others. I try hatching one on my own, carefully peeling the shell off. The chick is alive, but premature. It takes a few breaths, then falls still. So they still have a few days to go. I get out some candles and rig up an incubation setup to keep the eggs warm, give them oxygen, and I go in every few hours and give them a turn. The next morning one of them has begun to hatch. I help it out and for the rest of the day he lives. But what to do at night? Just before dusk I return the eggs to where the hen sleeps as well as the newborn chick in the hopes that she helps keep it warm at night with the other two. By morning it didn't make it. But another has begun hatching. This time, under the advice of Chris, I let it continue to hatch on it's own. By the morning of the third day it has hatched and following mom. Though alive and kicking, the grass it a bit too tall and it's quite a bit smaller than it's brother and sister, I had to rescue it a few times to help it find mom. By this time I give up on the remaining 3 eggs. Odi food again.

DIY egg incubator.

For a time I had up to 12 chickens. Miss Johnny White had 3 chicks, Eve had 2, Bambi had 2, then there was Shadow and Prince. Now I'm back down to 9. Miss Johnny White lost all her chicks, and Bambi lost one of hers. The remaining 3 chicks are growing fast and look healthy.

Hut Problems

Hooray for rainy season! Though my favorite time of the year here is by far rainy season where everything grows and I fall asleep to thunderstorms many of the nights, it isn't without it's problems. Since making my porch I have been fighting to keep the porch dry. Since the porch was added on after the construction of the hut, the grass that was put over the porch laid on top of the grass for the roof. So, the water draining from the top of the roof went underneath the porch. Imagine putting shingles on backward. So last year I had all new grass put on the front of the hut to fix this problem. A few weeks ago I got up in the morning to see the middle post of my porch had collapsed in the middle of the night. I let the chickens out of their house, took some pictures, and went back to bed.

Just go back to sleep...

Later that day after showing my neighbors what had happened, a group of guys came over to fix it, adding stronger, new poles and adjusting some. But now, after all the work of putting new grass on top, was kinda useless because all the grass moved around during the fall, plus the plastic I put up underneath the porch to catch any leaks was torn because of the movement and readjustment. 

The guys over to help fix my porch.

It's also fun after rainstorms because after putting a cement floor to my porch (which was constructed while I was gone and is now basically a ditch) it fills with water. So I have to bail out most days.

Snake I found in my shed.

Mpashi. Don't step on.

Positive Living Group's garden of soybeans (so far).

Mama and Odi trying to get along.

Some of the vegetables from my garden.

I put some leftover flour on the ground for the animals. Odi ended
up with a layer of flour on her tongue that she couldn't get off.

I'm going to do it again.

Couldn't help myself.