Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mabote Village!

Google Map View of Mabote Village - Check it out! I think the satellite picture is a bit outdated. I couldn't find a fish farming group's ponds or my actual hut on here, but I'm pretty sure this is Mabote.

My new home.
Check back in a few weeks. I'll be adding my journal entry from second site visit, as well as working on my post Pre Service Training (PST)/entry into village life/what's been going through my head for the past 3 months - blog post.

Also, I have gotten only one suggestion for what to talk about on here so far. Give me something to do, don't let me get bored. I've heard horror stories from previous and current volunteers that when they got bored their pets started talking back to them or they began to translate Shakespeare into Bemba, or Kaonde.

Friday, September 14, 2012


Peace Corps Mourns the Loss of Trainee Paul Blum

Above is the press release given out by the Peace Corps. Below is a link from a fellow trainee about the night of Paul's death.

Caitlin's Blog Post - Sometimes Things Happen

This came as an incredible shock to us all. We began hearing rumors the morning before we were supposed to leave for our second site visit. The night before, had been a joyful, wonderful time with all the RAPpers. We had an oven making competition and pizza contest, along with singing and games. We slept outside and enjoyed ourselves. It was the first night we had all been able to enjoy each others company since we came into this country. (we kinda have a curfew)

A memorial was planned by the CHIP group, the group who knew Paul the most. It was a touching and moving ceremony. I came to Zambia expecting to attend many funerals, but I never once thought I'd be attending an American's funeral. I only knew Paul briefly, but I feel the same for him as I do many people here. We are all close. We are family. From the sounds of it, although Paul was one of the oldest volunteers in the country, he was the youngest at heart.

I'm sure all of the trainees during the last week have reflected on why they are here. The sudden shock effected us all in different ways. I remembered back to the reasons why I joined. If anything, Paul's death serves as motivation to me, to carry on what he no longer can, to finish what he started. Everything can be taken from us at any time, so make it worth while.

I'm glad before his heart attack, Paul had the chance to see his new home and meet with the villagers he would call neighbors and friends for the next 2 years. In a few days I'll be doing the same thing. I'm so exited to see my house and think of all the fun I'll have making it my home, digging a garden, hosting friends and family, sitting around all day and enjoying sunsets. It is awful that he died, but I know he died happy. He was in Zambia, fulfilling a dream he had had for many years, doing exactly what he wanted to do.

RIP Paul. You will be missed.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


RAP trainees off on another wild adventure.

Great East Road
Aaron's Den. Look at all those white people!
This toy is like having the most expensive super soaker on the block.

Typical night - complete with Bemba dictionary with missing pages, broken pen, and toilet paper.

Weaver bird nests

Me, at Chongwe River


August 31st 2012

Ndefwaya ukuwasha ifyakufwala fyandi.
I want to wash my clothes.

I've got enough clothes to last me about a week here. Technically our families are supposed to wash our clothes, and although I let them do my cooking and other cleaning things, I like to do my own laundry. In Zambia laundry is done by hand, in a basin. Add well water, BOOM! Detergent, and you're all set. Mostly what you see people do is hold two pieces of the same item in both hands, then “scrub” them together a few times moving along the whole item until it's finished. When finished, ring the item out and put it in a basin of clean water to rinse. Wash it out in the clean water, ring it out again, turn it inside out, and hang to dry on a metal wire. Why metal? Botflys. If you're squeamish, don't look up what botflys do to you. Once your clothes are completely dry, the job is done and you're ready to get dirty again. Why dry the clothes completely? Botfly larvae. So, ideally don't wear the clothes for 3 days and you'll be find.

For me, I'm still unclear how water moves around the homestay. There are two washing basins and several buckets. I can't tell which ones are being used or what the water in some are being used for, so I've given up. On top of that I'm still unclear who actually lives here and who is just visiting for several months, so I've given up on that too.

I've finally been able to express that “I want to wash MY laundry” but I've yet to do it all by myself. I've been putting off the topic of gender roles on the blog because it's incredibly complex here, but basically doing laundry and drawing water from a well is a woman's job. I've pretty much been laughed at while doing my laundry, and every time they send some kids to help me.

The biggest problem I've run into is washing my underwear. In Zambian culture, no one can see your underwear being washed or hung to dry. They can be hung indoors or outside in the ulusasa – bathing shelter. So far, I've managed to use leftover bathing water, or sneak them in at the end of washing my other clothes. Once I'm at my site, I'll be free to do whatever I want. I'll be the weird American who puts all his clothes out to dry in the sun. If you don't want to see them, don't look at them.

September 1st 2012
Second Language Simulation

Yesterday we had our second language simulation. This one was much more difficult than the last, and encompassed quite a bit more. We had to prepare ourselves to what we were learning in Bemba, Zambian culture, and technical training. I practiced this one a lot. Want to hear?

Mu Zambia, ndesambilila cibemba, ntambi, elyo no bulimi bwe sabi. Mu cibemba, ndesambilila ukumfwa, ifya ukulanda, ukuleemba, elyo no ukubelenga. Pa ntambi, ndesambilila ifya ukulya ubwali na minwe, ukusamba mu imbeketi, elyo no ukubomfya cimbusu. Pa bulimi bwe sabi, ndesambilila ukulisha isabi, ukuwimba ifishiba, elyo no ukusombola isabi.

In English: In Zambia, I am learning Bemba, culture, and fish farming. In Bemba, I am learning to listen, how to speak, to write, and to read. For culture, I am learning how to eat shima with my hands, to bath in a bucket, and to use an outhouse. For fish farming, I am learning to feed fish, dig ponds, and harvest fish.

We also had to prepare to talk about what we were doing before we came to Zambia, what we plan on doing after we leave, how to ask for items in a restaurant, haggle for items in the market and ask for Mbasela (bonus, think bakers dozen), talk about the Peace Corps and it's 3 goals, talk about the ways you can get HIV/AIDS and how to prevent it, as well as talk about what we do everyday.

(I ended up getting a 4.8 out of 5. I must have been slacking off this time!)

The next exam will not be simulations like the last two. The last one is a recorded oral interview, all in Bemba, where the discussion could cover anything. Anything? Anything. Food, weather, jobs, what people look like, what problems I could run into at post, what books I like to read, what they are about, what do I do in my free time, how to cook things, etc. Anything.

I'll go ahead and mention that Bemba has 18 different noun classes. As far as I know, Spanish has 2 and English has 1. Also, there are something like 10 tenses, but I seem to run into another one every day, some only referring to things that have happened in the past, but only since you have woken, some only referring to things that will happen in the future, of today. Of those, there are 4 different tenses for the present. One is continuous, one that is habitual, one that is happening now but originated in the past, and one just plain, regular, present tense. Come to think of it, there might be 5 present tenses. And that's all before we get into irregular verbs.

A little R&R

Us trainees, we try and find some times to enjoy ourselves between technical training, language classes, and commuting between. At least once a week we try to set up a time to play soccer. Usually this happens with the locals, who, despite being several years younger than us and barefoot, proceed to make us look silly. For the most part it's still fun. Usually on weekends we will find time to meet up at a bar called Aaron's Den (you can see it on the map just east of where I set the link in one of my earlier posts) for 6,000 Kwacha beers, about $1.20, or Fanta for about $0.60. It's a nice little hangout, secluded from people staring at us where we can kick back, relax, and be loud Americans and play music.

I'm still impressed with the people who our in our group, as well as every volunteer I've met so far. I'm sure it has to do with the type of people who will actually decide to be a Peace Corps volunteer, as well as accept an invitation to go work in the African bush for 2 years. We represent small towns and big cities from all over the US. Off the top of my head I can recall Hawaii, Illinois, Nebraska, Idaho, Colorado, California, Texas, New York, Michigan, North Carolina, Florida, Washington, Oregon, New Jersey, Arizona, Wisconsin, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, and of course Kentucky. What surprises me most about our group is I can walk into any group in any conversation and feel completely comfortable and accepted. I would not have guessed 6 weeks ago that I would be good friends with 32 people from the most diverse backgrounds I've probably ever been in contact with.

I can only imagine community entry, the first 3 months we live at our site and aren't allowed out of our district, will be quite a lonely time. We are used to hanging out with over 30 friends everyday, and this will all end very abruptly. We will be cast into a village we hardly know, speaking a language we barely grasp, and thrown into a culture we don't fully understand.

Chongwe River Excursion

Diana and I took an excursion to find Chongwe River. Diana will be my nearest neighbor in Samfya District for our intake once we move up to Luapula. I knew the river crossed the Great East Road east of Chongwe, however, I did not know exactly how far that might be. I was preparing to give up after an hour, turns out it only took 15 minutes. The river itself isn't all that impressive. However, it was water, which there isn't much of here in the dry season, and there were tallish trees, which are rare around these parts.

We saw a lodge that we hoped might supply us with cold beverages, so we headed down a path and were immediately called to and told to come down and that we were welcome. So far, in my experience, overfriendly Zambians are drunk and tough to escape from. So, I figured we were in for an adventure. There were about 6 or 8 guys working on something with a few sitting around in the shade. One of the bosses, we assumed, got up and offered to give us a tour. Alright. Turns out this guy used to be an ambassador for Zambia in the DRC, back when they had political troubles, he said. He was in the process of building the lodge that would have gardens, a bar, fish ponds, and cabins for travelers. Nothing was finished, so, no cold drinks. Otherwise the place was very nice. We talked to the ambassador for a while and then sat by the water for a while sipping on warm water. All in all it was a nice day, except when you realize that you biked to a river and the trip home is all uphill. At least where we're going in Luapula, it's flat.

September 4th, 2012
Meeting the Counterpart

So, every PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) has a counterpart who works as a link between the PCV and the community they serve in. Counterparts are chosen by either the previous volunteer or a group in the community who finds an upstanding citizen who knows a lot of people and is well respected. At first the counterpart shows the volunteer around the community to meet important people like the headman (who controls the traditional land and settles conflicts), fish pond farmer groups, women's groups, teachers, etc. They may also work closely to help translate meetings and whatnot. Sometimes they can also be a tutor, where we can get some money reimbursed to us to pay them for teaching us.

We met them yesterday and today in a meeting hall at a lodge here in Chongwe. All 33 volunteers have a counterpart, so there were over 66 of us crammed in a tiny room with a struggling air conditioner. Patrick, or BaPatrick (you put “Ba” in front of someone's name to show respect, so, you put it on everyone's name) is a very gentle looking man, very skinny, with a big smile. He was very patient but communication was slow going. Turns out my village of Mabote speaks a dialect of Bemba called Ng'umbo. Still struggling to pronounce that one.

BaPatrick speaks English, but not quite as well as most the Zambians I encounter at school and training. In Bemba, there is no sound for the letter “R” so it's quite funny to try and get our trainer to say “or” correctly because “R” comes out as an “L”. BaPatrick started asking me about my parents, and if they had arrived. I assumed he thought my parents might be coming to Zambia soon. Turns out he was asking if my parents were alive.
Arrive – Alive
I assured him my parents were happy and healthy.

Another thing I find entertaining about the language is the word “cabipa” pronounced cha-bee-pah. It means “too bad” but is typically used sincerely as sympathy, instead of sarcastically like in English. It was  funny when my Bamaayo said “cabipa” after hearing about how I bashed and bruised my forehead across a bamboo pole in front of my doorway.

September 5th, 2012

In one month, I will be a Peace Corps Volunteer, for life.

September 6th, 2012
Chicken Coop

Today we took a field trip to a local fish farmer we had previously helped rearrange their fish ponds. Now, we helped integrate their fish farming and other agriculture practices. Integrating agriculture is the method of using the output or waste of one system as input to another. So, instead of buying fertilizer, you can use manure from your chickens, goats, pigs, rabbits, cows, etc. to fertilize your garden naturally (and sustainably). In fish ponds, we typically do not stock the ponds with carnivorous fish, we stick with plant eaters. But what do they eat? 70% of the diet of the fish we use comes from a “algae bloom.” To get a good bloom you throw all kinds of organic waste into the pond that will decompose from bacteria into nitrates and phosphates. In this nitrate rich water, zooplankton and phytoplankton use sunlight to grow through photosynthesis and create a rich green water color. That's how you grow big fish. The other 30% of the diet can be other leftovers, finely chopped and eaten right away, before decomposition takes place.

But since fish are animals too, don't they have manure? Well yes, sort of. When you are harvesting your fish typically you drain all the water from the pond to make sure you get all the fish, as well as check to make sure you don't have any invasive species living in the pond. With good planning, you can drain the nitrogen/phosphate rich pond water over your maize field. When the maize grows and is ready for harvest, put the husks in the compost crib of the pond and you're feeding fish with their own waste, sort of. Anyway, this is the idea behind integrated farm management. Zambia is a perfect place to work towards communities and individual farmers becoming more self sufficient and environmentally sustainable. Plus, if done right it saves a lot of money. In the example above a farmer would no longer have to buy fish food or fertilizer in addition to making money if they decide to sell some fish.

Oh yeah, I was talking about a chicken coop. We took a field trip and broke into teams to build a chicken coop over a fish pond. This helps a farmer in several ways. Typically farmers don't want to build houses for their chickens or ducks because they believe someone will steal them in the middle of the night. Putting the house over a pond wards off unmotivated thieves, as well as saves time for the farmer collecting chicken manure and moving it to the pond. The chickens already did that. So, we got muddy, dug holes, tied sticks and bamboo together with soaked bark, and fabricated a decent looking grass/stick chicken coop for a bunch of amateurs. We also had sword fights with long pieces of bamboo, a spear throwing competition, and war painted our faces with fish pond mud.

September 7th, 2012
Logistical Nightmare

So, we are heading on our second site visit on Sunday morning. All 33 of us are heading all different directions to our provincial capitals, where we will live with a current volunteer host for 6 days, similar to what we did at first site visit. This time, however, we are going much further away for a much longer time. So, more supplies need to be bought, more people are coming with us (language trainers and technical trainers), and more land rovers need to be taken.

So, tomorrow morning they are coming to pick up our bags to be kept at the training center, then they will come back to pick us up and take us to the training center. Later, we will go shopping with lists for the groups we will be going with to our host sites. In the afternoon we will head back to the training site to set up tents and camp overnight to get an early, very early, start Sunday morning for anywhere between a 6 and 18 hour drive. After staying at our host's site for the 6 days, we will be taken to our actual posted site to stay for a few days and meet important people and get a feel for what we are in for, for the next two years. Afterward we will board more land rovers and make our way back to Lusaka to be picked up by a bus to take us back home. I was wondering why we had one specific staff member who's job is Logistics. He's been a busy man lately.