Thursday, January 9, 2014

Rainy Season!

Sorry to take so long getting back to you. It's been a bit busy throughout the holidays and I got a bit lazy keeping up with the blog.

I guess the biggest news is that I finally got a dog. I had always wanted to get one here, but I never felt that it was a good time, or that I'd be able to take care of it well enough. Diana had 3 stray puppies that found their way into her house and just like the kitten I ended up with, she began feeding them, and of course we got attached to the little things. One ended up running off, leaving a white one with spots and a brown one that was obviously the runt. We named them “Odi” and “Kalibu”. In Bemba when you approach a house or something it's customary to begin with saying “Odi”, asking if you are welcome to come in. The reply, if it is in fact okay to approach, is “Kalibu”. We got a lot of laughs telling villagers their names. 

Odi posing in front of my herb garden.

I ended up taking Odi home with me in a basket, 43 kilometers, a marathon. On the way I stopped by a market and bought a goat's foot for 1 Kwacha, about 20 cents. I arranged my closest, Innocent, neighbor to help feed her, I'd give him extra food each month, to allow more leftovers for Odi. I supply the treats, kapenta and cisense (pronounced chi-cent-say), aka. baby fish. She's growing fast and learning sort of. She can play fetch with a tennis ball, but gets distracted easy. She steals things my neighbors leave around, including cups, hats, rags, and tools. I have to go return these throughout the day. Although she's beginning to understand that she's not allowed inside, she still likes to play with my cat, Mama. But, Mama does not want to play and groans and hisses and swats at Odi. In response, Odi thinks this is a fun game, and tries to play more. Mama gets treed a lot.

Odi "playing" with Mama

I've begun taking Odi on my bike rides around the villages, she's a bit slow, but can do 13 kilometers in a day, pretty good for a little puppy.

For a quick holiday vacation I went up to Kapishya Hot Springs, in Northern Province. A group of us almost went during our Easter vacation last year, but it didn't work out. The place was amazing. A small river runs along the lodge, feeding the river is a small hot spring. The land has been worked by the owner for the past decade or so. Almost anything will grow there, so I spent quite a while wandering their gardens. As a parting gift, the owner, Mark Harvey, gave me a ton of seeds and cuttings, as well as about 10 coffee seedlings to give to one of my farmers. 

Kapishya Hot Springs

Just a kilometer or so away from the lodge is a rocky hilly area. For thousands of years, the area was inhabited with hunter gatherers, who left behind, among stone tools and other artifacts, rock paintings. I was given directions, and ended up finding 3 sites nearby. The concentric circles and the circle with the lines radiating is supposed to represent weather. The other looks to be a tiger fish.

Tigerfish painting

No one has done real scientific research on these specific
paintings, but the estimates are something like 20,000 years old.

Coming back to the village next week I'll be working on a few projects. I bought some seeds to begin a Positive Living Group. I forget if I've mentioned this before, but I hope to create a group of about 10 people who are motivated only by the idea that a group will get together once a week and talk about HIV/AIDS, creating a place for anyone (infected or not) to learn about HIV. The group will meet at their garden, weeding, digging, and talking. The gardens will create a bit of income for the members, and I have a few books that can help guide our meetings. I don't want to plan out too much of how the group will be months from now. Here, you can never predict exactly what will happen, so we as a group will figure out how we want to continue.

I've also begun a project for myself. As I travel I'm always looking for unique carvings and statues. A lot of what you can find here in Zambia was not made here. Finding locally made things is difficult. So, I decided I'd make them myself. I bought some chisels and sandpaper from a hardware store, and found some wood around my house that should work nicely. My first project is an African wild dog. I thought I was going to get a good one in Tanzania. I found a carver at a small shop. He said he already had a dog carving, but it wasn't quite right. I showed him a few pictures I had taken of wild dogs in Botswana, and he said he could do it. I came back a few days later, and all he had done was paint over it, saying he had sold the other and made a new one. Hah.

I believe my fish farming group is also about to begin redistributing fish throughout their ponds. When the fingerlings were delivered earlier last year, not all that were supposed to be delivered were given, many died, and some probably escaped. The surviving fish now have grown and begun breeding. So now we can start moving the babies to new ponds to let them grow. The group was supposed to be building a housing structure for their pigs, but that has fallen through. We will have to wait until the rainy season ends to start construction.

This year I was finally ready for my garden and the rainy season. I have been having trouble getting pepper and tomato seeds to germinate, so I bought a pack for a few of my good gardeners, who gave me back a few of the ones they got to grow. I transplanted those to my garden and they seem to be growing well. I also have pumpkin, watermelon, pole beans, green/spring onion, garlic, coriander, hot pepper, maize, sunflower, and mint. A friend gave me some poly pots to grow tree seedlings in. I've planted some mango, avocado, red mahogany, moringa, and citrus. I had some pawpaw seeds I planted several months ago, but forgot about them. About 20 of them have sprouted, so I've moved those to poly pots as well. Hopefully I will have enough trees to give each family in my village a few by the time I leave in September.

Mabote, from the water pump. The trail going straight forward leads to my hut.

Although the rains can mess up your day because you never know when they might come or for how long, rainy season is by far my favorite season. I love falling asleep to the sound of rain, and on the nights it isn't raining there is a symphony of insects and frogs all around. Some nights it's storming all around me, but the sky is perfectly clear above my hut, so I can watch the stars and flashes of lightning off in the distance. Everything grows in the rainy season, so the village has turned lush and green. A wall of grass is slowly surrounding my site, a blanket of green covers what was dead dry earth. Mangoes still drop throughout the night, giving me breakfast for the cool morning. 

Lightning over Lake Bangweulu


  1. Are some of the places around your hut (and village) always bare of grass? Has the ground been packed down that hard from years of use or just by daily traffic? The garden is really looking good this time around.

  2. Villagers hate snakes. They dig up all the grass around their huts for a few meters in each direction to hopefully prevent snakes wandering from the grass up to their hut. They also believe that mosquitoes breed in grass, so there's another reason to keep it away. They will also say that it just looks better.

    I like grass so I let it grow. I keep the path to my bathing shelter and outhouse cut as well as other paths I use a lot.

    In the dry season all the grass will die either by drying out or burning. Last year I tried to keep my yard from being burned and it almost cost me my house when some kids, trying to catch a rat, burnt a field down by my house torching my bathing shelter and completely burning one of my neighbor's houses down. This year I'm going to try and set up firebreaks to protect my property.

    The paths are used quite a bit and are hard packed, but silt runs off because of deforestation and digging, so although the path itself is hard packed, you can still wreck your bike in the sand traps.