Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Bug's Life (and other pictures)

Ants stealing Bagheera's kapenta.
Friendly frog.
Millipede Bagheera and I played with.
What a meal!
Very upset chameleon.
Double digging my garden.

Another Day in Paradise

I said it before, that this place is beautiful, but it just keeps getting better. Before, during the dry season it was clear blue skies everyday. Now that the rainy season is underway, enormous, puffy, billowing clouds scatter the horizon. Some days are even cooler with the addition of rains and clouds, making it more comfortable to work. Everything has started growing and Mabote is blanketed with a carpet of bright green grass. New birds and songs arise each week. Mangoes ripen and fall from the trees making a loud “thump” in the middle of the night. The large clouds make sunsets more colorful, and as it gets darker, lightning and thunder scatter the night sky. When the clouds clear, thousands of stars come out that make my jaw drop.

December 12, 2012

I've been wanting to put up a post of a typical day, like I did back in PST living with my host family during training. Whenever I do, I feel like not only would I be making up a day, but watering down all the unique parts of each day into a more boring version of them all. That is, until today. I feel like taking one day and explaining it in more detail will give you a better picture of what my days are like than some generalization I make up. So here goes.

I woke up a bit early, something like 5:15, not sure why. I wanted to get to Lubwe for fruits and veggies and go before it gets hot. So I got out of bed, slipped into my tropicals (flip flops) and headed outside to walk around my hut and take a look at my plants. All but one of my watermelons had sprouted so I was pleased with that, then I went to inspect my rows of pigeon pea I planted as a bit of a walkway to my cimbusu (outhouse). I went back inside for breakfast which ended up being peanut butter. I had forgotten I planned on having corn flakes.

I went back outside and planted some marigolds inside the two rows of pigeon pea. I feel like this may be a little extravagant for an outhouse. Then I went over to my mango tree to find what may have dropped overnight, adding those to my growing collection of mangos I have ripening on my drying rack (I've got about 25 right now). I ate a few of the good ones, then began setting up for my trip to Lubwe.

I headed for Lubwe on my new Peace Corps issued bike. These things are snazzy, except they weren't at all built for us. First, they have a new type of braking system we don't know how to repair, and second, cannot support the racks given to us by Peace Corps. So luckily our driver who also deals with the bikes in Luapula went to one of the welders in Mansa and rigged a new, stronger, bike rack which now holds a basket I bought in Chongwe to carry the cat I got in Mansa from another Volunteer to my hut.

So I get to Lubwe and buy my usual things – tomatoes, onions, lettuce, ground nuts (peanuts I roast and eat like candy), amabuns (rolls), and a frozen orange Fanta I couldn't pass up. I would have gotten an avocado, but already gotten one for free from a guy who also sells these neat hand carved knives I use for weeding in my garden. I saw his avocados one day and asked “Ni shinga?” (How Much?) “Oh oh, not for sale.” But a moment later he grabbed 2 of his 3 and gave them to me for free. I had met him once before when I was looking at the knives. I asked how much for the “umwele” (knife). He pleased to hear my speak Bemba and told me I was speaking “true Bemba from Northern Province.” I asked what they called them here. His reply, “Simply, knife.”

So I make it back to my hut and decide it's cool enough to do some work in my garden. The living fence of zazamina has been planted, and looks terrible because all the leaves have died and turned brown. I've been assured everything is okay and it will grow fast soon soon.

So I mark off two rows of 1 meter wide beds I will double dig – a method I learned from the LIFE volunteer manual handbook. Basically double digging is digging double the usual depth to help with drainage and lets the roots grow deep instead of wide, allowing for more plants per area. But it takes longer and is more work. Finally got it all done, just one row, before some heavy rain started up. I was glad it had missed me for the bike ride, as well as it being daylight so I could watch how the rainwater rushed past my hut so I could figure out where to dig furrows so my porch doesn't become soggy all the time.

So the rains stopped and I headed back out, planted two rows of sunflower, then started working on two furrows, hopefully that will help out a lot.

By that time I was starting to get hungry, and exited. I had been planning on this meal. I had ripe avocados, beans soaking from the night before, a tortilla recipe in the Peace Corps Zambia cookbook entitled “Where There is no Takeout”, fresh lettuce, onion, and tomato. Hmm.

So I grabbed the matchbox and a chunk of firestarter, picked up the braser, and headed for my shed where I store charcoal under a sheet of plastic. I place the firestarter in the middle of the braser, light it with a match, then start carefully piling charcoal to make a volcano shape. Once the firestarter burns out, there is a tiny hot cavern of red glowing coals, just waiting to boil me some water. So I rinse off my beans, throw in some rice, and put the pot on the braser, then headed back inside to try and roll some tortillas out with my once lost Nalgene bottle that magically turned back up during the house cleaning when we were at the Provincial House during Thanksgiving. I had lost it for about 3 months.

Took the beans/rice off the coals and began frying up the tortillas while chopping up onions and tomato, scooping out avocado, and rinsing lettuce. When it was all done I took a picture, then devoured it all. It was glorious, well worth the effort. Patrick stopped by for a while during the tortilla frying and had a look around my garden and encouraged me to plant groundnuts. I think I will.
Cleanup was the usual. I brought out a basin with soap paste in a pile on the rim, a bucket of water with a pitcher to rinse cleaned dishes. They all go on the drying rack made out of sticks by my shed that is slowly being overtaken by the mango invasion.

Afterwards I took a bucket back to clean up a bit, and to make sure I got off the bits of avocado on my ankle. The leftover avocado that I didn't eat or drop on my legs went to Amos and two other small children who were passing by. I accidentally developed a relationship with some of the neighborhood kids when I paid them to bring more bricks over from the house that was being torn down. Now they bring me mangoes from time to time. I taped up one of the bills I had paid him with a few days ago and asked him what he was going to buy with it. “Soap”

So now I'm clean, my conscious is clean, the dishes are clean, the sun is setting, the cat is going crazy, so I sit down and read on my porch. Today, “Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist” by Michael J. Fox. Surprisingly good author. Interesting take of someone with Parkinson's.

So now I lie here on my bed again, wearing my hand out as I write this be candlelight. In a few minutes I'll roll out my yoga mat and work out a bit and try to stretch my back out. It's been getting sore on me from all the biking. I'll take a look at the rig I set up to hopefully grow a small avocado tree. I'd dunked a pit in an old peanut butter jar. Internet said it takes about 2-6 weeks to sprout. I've got about 80 weeks left so I should be good. I'll brush my teeth, fill up my water bottle, top off the water filter, kick off my tropicals, curl up, close my eyes and drift to sleep listening to insects and the rolling thunder off in the distance.

Sendamenipo Mukwai (Good Night)