Sunday, December 9, 2007

Hi everyone.

I am sitting in serenje counting down every minute until the Steelers/Patriots game tonight (8 hours and 42 minutes from now). I circled this game as the game of the season back when I got the nfl schedule in june, and I just can’t wait. Although, I am also trying to enjoy this anticipation because even though I don’t think the steelers are going to lose by 10 points (the spread is 10 and ½) I really don’t like the chances of anybody going up against tom brady and the pats right now. Baltimore played what is perhaps the best defensive game I have ever seen last week but the pats found a way to win. They have a little too much of the “team of destiny” thing going on right now for me, even though I think the steelers are an excellent football team.

But enough about football. I decided to celebrate the fact that it was a December football game between to solid cold weather football teams by making a huge pot of chili (I would love to have some snow here… but its 75 degrees and rainy). I spent most of the morning working on it, and we (there are 4 of us here who are going to try to listen to the radio broadcast online) ate it for lunch and there is still plenty left over for dinner. I don’t mean to brag, but I think it comes pretty darn close to being as good as Wendy’s chili, and we all know how delicious that is. There is also a cake being made, for no real reason other than we all like cake and want to eat it. Being that we are a reasonable mix of pats fans and steelers fans, I think we are subconsciously trying to build up lots of good will in between us just incase we need a back up reserve once the game starts.

I know I said enough about football, but I have been thinking about little else for the past couple of weeks – and I have a lot of time to think – and it’s hard for me to digress this close to gametime (8 hours, 33 minutes). But I will do my best.

The biggest news I have right now is that my nearest PC neighbor, Matty G., and I have started to record a radio program to be played on Mkushi radio! We call it “The Bridge” and we play a mixture of hot American music and hot Zambian music (mostly pop/dance music… it’s a guilty pleasure) as well as talking about many of the issues facing Zambia as a developing nation (i.e. HIV/AIDS, education, gender equality, poverty, etc. etc.). It’s a great conduit of cross-cultural exchange and we hope that people will listen and at least think about the things that we say. And of course the main reason I’m so excited about it is that recording these radio programs and getting to be a DJ (Matty is DJ Squeeze and I am Special Ted) is really a terrific amount of fun. It’s not really plausible for us to go to mkushi every week, so whenever we are there we are trying to record a few programs, and then they plan to start us off on our weekly broadcasting schedule with a Christmas special. I’m really stoked.

There isn’t really all that much else going on (football!! 8 hours 27 minutes). The village life is treating me ok and I am remaining healthy and well. The rainy season has started in earnest and it is raining at least a bit everyday. This is a relief for the farmers, who were worried about losing their maize crops, and to me, who was running out of water to put in my garden. This season I am growing: green peppers, chile peppers, potatoes, squash, green beans, green veggies, and lavender.
The dogs are healthy and happy. Susie has grown up enough to come with me to the mountain and to be a playmate for daisy. Daisy still generally has her way with Susie, but she is really happy to have another dog around to play with her, and I am happy to watch them.

Well, I’m sorry. But I think I am going to fnish here. I just can’t really concentrate all that well….(8 hours and 19 minutes…)


Friday, November 16, 2007

returning from the sabbatical...

No, I didn't actually take a sabbatical, but I have been so long without posting that it sure seems like i have.

First, I want to say hi to all of my friends in Room 16 at Wilmington Montessori School. I was delighted to receive your letters a few days ago, and I will try to get my response letter in the mail within a week or so. I have also heard that you can view my blog from your classroom. Now that's just awesome, and i am really sorry that I haven't posted in so long if you have been checking up on me. It is a result of me spending a lot of time in my village of late and happening to come to town during a power outage or internet crash. It was rather frustrating, but i am glad i am able to post now!

A whole lot has happened in the last couple of months, and to be honest, i am not sure i remember all of it. But i will do my best.

Its raining. Yep. After 7 months of waking up everyday to beautiful weather (well, sometimes it was sunny and beautiful, others it was partly cloudy and beautiful, and for september and october it was "no human being should be subjected to this much heat on a daily basis" and beautiful) the rainy season has finally come upon me. I can't say i'm too upset about it. As much as i love beautiful weather, I also enjoy a periodic rainstorm. And the rain here is rather amazing. When I climb my mountain I have a fantastic view of the surrounding (mostly flat) landscape and these days I am able to watch the different weather fronts shooting across the land. Most of the rainstorms are small and quick, but some of them seem to stretch on endlessly. And from a distance, the falling rain looks like a tablecloth that is slipping over the edge of the cloud. It is a pretty amazing sight.

And lightning!!! I had my first real zambian thunderstorm last week and the lightening was just unbelievable. It wasn't like what I remember lightening at home to be, where you could see a bolt if you were looking in the right direction at the right time. This storm covered almost the entire southern horizon and a lightening bolt would either shoot towards the ground or jump between the clouds every 7 or 8 seconds. I stood transfixed in my front yard for about 45 minutes in the dark watching the approach of the storm. And then after I had gone to bed I was woken up by a crash of thunder so loud that i could feel it vibrating in my ribcage. It was around this time that I started to doubt the strength of my thatched roof when pitted against such a formidable foe. But it didn't let me down, even when i thought my entire hut was about to blow away. What a storm.

The rest of life is going reasonably well. I am almost finished writing a grant proposal for my school, and every time i think i am finished another little obstacle jumps out at me. I guess i shouldn't really be surprised by this, but at times my attention to detail can be less than exemplary, and i have repeatedly fallen into the erroneous belief that i was finished. nope. not yet. Meetings have also started to become a little more difficult due to the rain, both because people are hesitant to walk to bike to a meeting when they are afraid of being caught in the rain and also because this is the busiest time of the year for most of my village. They are in the fields nearly from dawn to dusk preparing, plowing, planting, and pontificating (ok, i made the last one up) and so they really don't have a lot of spare time.

Speaking of planting, i am about to plant my rainy season garden. It is going to be large (almost an acre!) and i am going to grow peppers, chili peppers, beans, potatoes, watermelons, and a few different kinds of greens. i am already nearly salivating at the thought of having options other than tomato and occasionally onion to cook with. Once my garden is ready, I'm going to be the next Betty Crocker.

My bemba has been hurting a bit, i haven't put the effort into it that i should be, but that should change soon due to a new K'Million (best zam-pop there is) album coming out and the fact that I found a book called "Africa: Twasebana" that i really want to read. It means: Africa: we are disgraced (or shamed) and it was written by the first vice president after independence. There are powerful people who are actively preventing it from being translated into english due to the inflammatory nature of this guys commentary about the colonial period in africa. (he also as a book entitled "Kuti Twalusa, lelo Teti twalabe" or "we can forgive but we will not forget") But I really want to read it, which would mean i have to read it in bemba, which i think would improve my skills more than a little.

Two of my puppies have been given away to loving homes of other peace corps volunteers, and one (named susie after the female protaganist in "Jude the Obscure" whom with I was utterly fascinated) remains with me. She is still adorable, except for when she sneaks into my house and tries to eat all my food. Fortunately, she will soon be big enough to not be able to fit under the door. :)

Ok, I must end here, so i can catch transport and make it back to my village before dark. I will try to be more regular with my posts in the future. and i hope you are all doing well.

Friday, September 7, 2007


Daisy has puppies!! They are the most adorable things i have ever seen. They were born on august 28th. Originally there were 8 of them, but 5 died shortly after birth. This was really sad, but in retrospect, i think it was for the best, because i doubt that daisy would be able to support 8 puppies.

Mother and puppies are both doing splendidly. I'm not sure if I can adequately express how relieved I was to watch daisy bouncing and jumping around like her old energetic self. She is critical to my happiness in the village. No matter what kind of day i am having, Daisy always makes me smile. We'll both just be relaxing around my house and all of the sudden daisy will decide that we are too far apart and get up and sprint over to me as excited to see me still sitting in my chair as if I had been away for a week. Every moment of life is an exciting surprise to Daisy, and i try to learn from her when i am getting frustrated. I'm really happy she's ok.....

And now she has puppies!!!! Three little girls, wonderful in their disproportionality. Look at them! Aren't they just the most beautiful things you have ever seen?? It seems to me that they are all belly, and from their current daily habits -- eating, sleeping, changing position, sleeping some more, eating -- that is really all they need. They haven't opened their eyes yet and their legs aren't really strong enough to support their big bellies. I love watchting them scoot around on their stomachs, pushing them selves along with those back legs that can't support their weight, wiggling their tiny little tails whenever daisy is around to feed and clean them. It would make even the most hard hearted smile. I haven't named them yet, because I can't really tell them apart.

I want to keep all of them, except i think my village father wants to sell some. If so I think i am only going to sell them to other peace corps volunteers. In general, Zambians don't develop the same kind of relationships with their pets as we do. I often get teased for how much attention I give daisy. Perhaps it is this lack of relationship that causes the Zambians to be so rough with their dogs, but what ever the reason, i refuse to let one of these angelic creatures go to a home where they will be beaten with tragic regularity. Thus, I have turned down all of the villagers who came by to ask me to give them one of my puppies and will continue to do so. There is a volunteer in northern province who wants a dog, and i really want to keep at least two. I don't know how i will leave them when I finish.

The last funny thing about these puppies is that daisy in her infinite wisdom, decided that the best place to keep her puppies until they are more self sufficient is in the corner of my pit latrine. Yeah.... I guess it makes sense: it is a sheltered, small area where they can't get into too much trouble (as long as they don't fall down the latrine!!) but it makes for a rather uncomfortable audience a few times every day. In any case, i am just about as happy as happy can be. Thanks to my super sister becky, I now have a digital camera, so I will continue to show pictures as they grow from beautiful puppies into beautiful dogs.

Well that is all for now, I am heading to ATB lodge to watch the replay of the NFL season opener between the colts and saints. I am going to miss football sundays....

I hope you are all well. I will write again soon.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

on my own again...

First things first: Harry Potter loves Zambia
(thanks to my Aunt Laura for sending this along :) )

Less cheery news: I just dropped my sister off at the bus station in Lusaka. She is riding down to livingstone where she will hop on a plane tomorrow afternoon. Its a bummer. I really enjoyed having her visit. We saw victoria falls (twice. the first time we went at night b/c the full moon creates a lunar rainbow in the mist from the falling water. it was pretty awesome, an almost complete circle of white light that curved into the cascading water, appearing to become an integral part of the falls.). We went on a walking safari where we didn't see an elephant (to my dismay) but we did see giraffe (to sara's squealing delight), wildebeast, bush buck, impala, monkeys, and a whole bunch of birds. Then we went to Kundalila falls in Serenje district, much smaller than victoria falls, but gorgeous. On the second day, we tried to blaze a trail to a different view of the falls and ending up forging through brush and trees walking up the side of the lower river for 3 hours. It was a little stressful at the time (we had no idea how far we had to go, and we kept thinking we had arrived only to see it was a smaller cataract.) but we stumbled across some really beautiful areas we wouldn't have seen otherwise. On our walk we kept being stopped by almost walking into these huge communities of spiders with tons of webs spanning huge spaces in between the trees. The spiders were pretty big, but somehow we could never see them until we were almost right on top of them. It never got less shocking to find a big spider a few inches from your nose when you could swear there was nothing there before. We tried to go swimming under the falls but it is "winter" here and the water was frigid. We couldn't really stay in for more than 40 seconds at a time. We went and spent time in my village, and sara got to meet daisy, the best dog in the world. and then we spent a few days here in lusaka. in lusaka she got to meet my homestay family, and they were absolutely thrilled to meet her, it was almost comedic how excited they were. now she's on her way home.... I know that's a really really brief synopsis, but oh well. I am sending sara home with a bunch of pictures on a cd and she took a bunch w/ her digital camera, so hopefully w/in the next couple of weeks, i will have becky put them all online so you guys and girls can look at pictures of my house, mountain, dog, travels, and really anything else you want to see.

Now, for the first time in about 3-4 weeks, i am going to go back to my village and be alone again. And that is not all a bad thing. I really enjoyed my vacation and it was wonderful to see sara but i am really looking forward to taking harry potter (which i think has arrived) into the village and reading it 5 or 6 times in the next week. I don't think i could come up with any more perfect plan. to top it off, there is no school this month, so i couldn't really do any work if i wanted to. Just beautiful.

well, that's about it from me now. Be well, and i will talk to you soon....

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Vacation vacation....

Hello everybody.

I am fresh off of a week spent on the shores of beautiful beautiful lake malawi. The transport was a hassle, and through an obvious bias i feel that the average Zambian is more friendly than the average Malawian, but once I arrived at Myoka Village (not a village but a resort right on the shore of the lake) I had an amazingly wonderful time. I think that I will provide bulleted highlights of the trip, just because i feel like i won't remember to mention everything otherwise.

* I got horrifically sick the first night due to severe dehydration the day of traveling. I woke up in the middle of the night with a bad fever, body aches, headache, and a little delirious. But the nice thing about dehydration is that it is easy to cure. several bottles of water and a few hours later, i was feeling much much better. I was still kinda out of it the first day though, but it wasn't a big deal.

* Good beer. You can find two types of beer in zambia, and neither are anything to write home about (hence I haven't mentioned them before) but this place had a wide selection of really good beers for about half the price of either of the beers in zambia.

* The lake was absolutely amazing, even though i probably have schistosomaisis now. The water was perfect temperature and clear and blue and you could see the bottom long after you ceased being able to touch it.

* I spent a good amount of time trying to master the art of traveling in a dugout canoe. You sit on top of a hollowed log, a cross section of which would look kinda like your tongue if you brought the sides together, and do your best not to fall off. This is considerably more difficult than in sounds, b/c due to the circular nature of the log, the vessel itself doesn't help you at all with balancing. You shift a little too much to one side and you are finished. The really amazing part of this is how good the locals are. They stand on it, dive off of it and hop back on without blinking. Every day, one of the employees at the lodge took one of these canoes across our little bay to town to pick up crates of sodas and beer, balanced them in the little crack in the top of the canoe and brought them back, not even stopping to think that if he lost his balance he would dump several hundred dollars worth of supplies into lake malawi. it was wild. The picture i am about to put up is me on of the canoes...

* we took a little boat ride along the coast of the lake for a while and the two main highlights of the ride were jumping off of a 30-40ft rock into the lake (i seem to have lost a lot of my sense of immortality since i have turned 24... its too bad really... i only jumped once) and getting to see a fishing eagle up close. The people who ran the boat trip (we were in a skiff-life boat with and outboard motor so it wasn't very large) would throw fish speared on little shafts of bamboo into the lake and the eagle would swoop down out of the tree on the cliff on the shore and sweep past us and grab the fish. It was an amazing site. The bird is just so huge. He always attacked the fish at a certain angle (which is due to the position of his eyes in his head, this angle allows him to approach the fish at the highest possible speed without ever having to move his head to either side or lose sight of the fish) and once that angle took him so close to our boat that i could have dived off the side and shook his talon.... it was unbelievable.

* the sunsets and sunrises over the lake were amazing. I took some pictures, but i need to develop them to see if any turned out alright.

* i was with a really good group of people and i really enjoyed it. The staff was very friendly (they were great at their job. they made you feel welcome and like their best friend after only 1 day, and they do it with every guest... i hope they get paid a ton) and they would dance (on the bar) with us and play games with us and built a bonfire with us and it was an amazing amazing time.

Welll..... that's about it for my malawi trip. I am heading to southern province really shortly, and tomorrow I pick up sara!!!!! woohoo!

all my best, take care.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Reasons to avoid Marriage

So I am not completely aware of the scientific criteria to classify a country as "tropical". I believe that is lays somewhere in the 15-35 degrees on either side of the equator. Either way, Zambia, at around 17 degrees to the south either qualifies or is close enough to not make a significant difference.

I mention Zambia’s position on the globe to bring into context my quite untropical contemplations this morning as I deliberated whether or not the word “frostbite” would be in the medical dictionary for any health institution in this “tropical” country. I was almost certain that my fingers were going to drop off at any point in time. I can already hear you New Englanders laughing at me. No, it wasn’t actually that cold. It was probably about 45 degrees this morning. But when you spent a month and a half in 90 degree bright sunshiney days, 45 degrees is pretty damn cold, not to mention the wind coursing over my hands as I made the ride to Masansa to find transport.

I was heading down a slightly steeper than gentle down slope, rapidly inventing and as rapidly rejecting several ideas for ensure that all of my fingers would be functional upon my arrival to Mkuhsi. I was coasting in a relaxed position on my bike, comfortably resting on the left pedal at the most extreme point of its downward motion when, quite unexpectedly, the aforementioned pedal stopped. Just stopped. Well, to be accurate, stopped at the point of contact with a stone just barely sticking out of the path. The next to links on this particular chain of events would be none other than the entire bike stopped in accordance to the wishes of the pedal and my body continuing in its motion in accordance to the law of inertia. Quite luckily, my body continued its motion in a slightly upward direction, and therefore the rapidly approaching – or, I suppose, the patiently waiting – junction of the handle bars to the rest of my bike did NOT come into swift and painful contact with the junction of my legs to the rest of my body. However, my thighs were soon introduced to my handlebars, thus beginning the summersault motion with which I continued over the bars onto the less than forgiving ground and down the hill a few meters before skidding to a quite undignified halt. I stood up, my hands feeling much less cold with the introduction of the pain in my left knee, and walked back to my bike. I thought about kicking the offending stone, but deciding that would not help in matters at all, I clambered back up on my bike and – gingerly at first – rode on through the dawn chill to manansa, where I climbed into the back of a truck with 23 other people and made the trip to mkushi.

OK. Now on to the subject of this post. Daisy, my best friend and the love of my life in the village, is in heat. She is driving me insane. I could handle all of the boy dogs coming at all hours of the night. I could handle the blood that she is spreading around my yard, kitchen, and occasionally my pants. But she is an emotional wreck. She has no idea what’s happening to her right now and I don’t think she has quite figured out exactly how to handle it. Sometimes she runs away from me when I try to pet her, sometimes she even growls, a feat of which I knew not that she was capable, and sometimes she runs towards me when I am sitting in my insaka reading a book and , crying and whining, insists on climbing up into my lap and resting there for an hour or so. She was crazy before, but geez louise!

In any case, I am having trouble with my dog in zambia whom I can lock out of the house and yell at when she gets too annoying. I don’t know if I will be able to manage if I ever have a wife and start a family. Good lord.

Other than Daisy. Life is splendid. I am starting to do education-volunteer-type-things (surprise surprise) and it makes me feel good about myself. I am learning how to get around my area quite well, and I am amazed at the amount of little things I am able to do. I still worry about the large goals of my project and whether or not I will make any progress towards meeting them, but as I tour the various government and community schools around me I have been able to help in numerous little ways like taking a letter here, or providing advice on submitting a budget there. There is really just very little communication in the bush, and often times schools are unaware of things that are going on (classes, workshops, meetings, district deadlines) that they can or should attend and that very may well benefit. But none the less I always feel happy when I am able to help. I feel like I am doing something other than just sitting and spending two years reading… although wow! I am getting a lot of great reading done. I am certainly enjoying it. I wonder if I will keep it up when I am finished, or if I will just go back to sportscenter.

My little brother twisted (and maybe broke) his ankle playing football and had to go to Lusaka with my Ba Mayo. I worry about him, but I am much more selfish in my desires for them to return quickly. Life is a little less cheerful without ba mayo around. She is always laughing and helping me with whatever I need. She also is a big help in my bemba, and it is already suffering with her gone. And dinner is no where near as good without her around, both for her company and the fact that the boys just are quite as good at preparing nshima as she is… come back ba mayo, come back!!!

So I am trying to find this book “The White Farmers Bemba English Dictionary” A fellow volunteer has it and it is glorious. I found a copy online, but when I ordered it, it turns out that it was mistakenly listed. So if any of you happen to see a copy around, tell me!!! Or just send it (wink wink)

Ok. It is about time for me to go eat lunch and accomplish a few other things. I am heading back home today and so I don’t really have all that much time here.

I love you all… be well.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

not terribly exciting.

Hello hello hello.

I am once again in the rocking metropolis of Mkusi. Tonight there is a concert in town. A guy named K'Million is coming in and he is a superstar in all senses of the word. I'm pretty stoked to see a live Zambian show, although i have also heard that he sometimes forgets to come to his concerts, so I am a little worried about him not showing up. But, hey even if he doesn't come, at least I get to use the internet.

Over the last few weeks I have become quite enamored with Zambian music. The musicianship is not really all that great, it is almost entirely drum machines and other synthesized instruments, but the songs are fun, and they are my new approach to learning Bemba. I listen, transcribe and translate a song at a time. (well, as of now I have only finished one, but i plan to continue) This works out really well for me because it not only teaches me new words and language patterns it also goes a long way to help me pick out words and understand the language as it is spoken, which is my biggest problem right now. Oh, and I guess that the other huge benefit is that if I am walking through the market and I am able to sing along with the song being blasted on the radio, the Zambians think it is just about the most hilarious most fantastic thing ever..... major brownie points.

How did I get all of this Zambian music you might ask? Well as it turns out the Mkushi radio station just got a brand new computer system that they don't know how to use. It also turns out that the computer came with itunes. Thus comes the exchange of my computer knowledge for the opportunity to transfer music from a cd to my ipod. It's brilliant. Quite the symbiotic relationship.

In other news, the village life is great. I have gotten used to much of what was bothering me before and I am finally feeling comfortable in my day to day life. I still get frustrated, like when i was following a neighbor home from a meeting and I was starving and we stopped to chat with various people on the side of the road no less than 7 times, each for between 5-15 minutes. These are times when I really should be interested in talking to people and making more friends, but i could think of nothing other than the leftover rice and soya pieces i had at home and how good it had tasted the night before and how good it was probably still going to taste (it did, by the way, still taste remarkably good. curry, paprika, salt pepper and cinnamon... delicious).

I also finally got a table for my house, which is great for all reasons except that now i have no excuse for my terrible penmanship. To all of those whom i promised increased legibility in future letters... sorry, you are still going to have to decode all my messages home.

Other good news is that I have a digital camera coming my way! Becky is sending me one, so hopefully in the next month or so I will be able to give you guys a visual of what my life is like.

Sophie-- Congratulations!!! I got some graduation pictures from your mom, I wish I could have been there.

Well.... I don't really have too much more to say... not a great update, but life has normalized to such an extent that i really don't have that many new exciting stories. I mean, even transport has improved. Now that I bike the 30km to masansa to get direct transport to mkushi, it only takes me about 4 hours (including the biking) to get to town.. and yesterday the 6 foot bed of the pick up heading to mkushi only had 16 people and 4 babies.... positively spacious! :)

Ok. I hope everyone is doing well... and maybe the next time i have access to the internet (everything is closed on sundays) I will be able to tell you some great stories about the concert.

all my best.