Last week of January, 2009

My dimba (garden) is almost fully planted (when I say fully the term is more reflecting the fact that there isn’t that much more room [although I’m debating the merits of intercropping the rest of my soya and beans) basically all that’s left is to plant more viny things and some plum tomatoes.
Last Wednesday I took a taxi to Chipata and spent the last three days on my feet walking from shop to shop trying to find a number of things, the most important of which as a new phone as the phone I brought with me kept turning off plus I broke the SIM card slot and needed to take the thing apart in order to get it out. I finally got a locked MTN phone that I can connect up to my laptop and use it as a dial up modem connection. The speed varies from about the rate of using LAN line dial up to worthless but at least I can use my laptop. The phone was, relatively speaking, cheap however I could probably get another QWERTY smartphone for the same price if I was in the states and ordered it from eBay.

First three weeks of a new year

Spent Saturday trying to download Fedora Live (a popular Linux build) and podcasts but while the network at the deputy US ambassadors house had been fairly fast during the week, this weekend the connection was close to nothing so on Sunday I took my laptop to the PCZ HQ, where the Wi-Fi wasn’t much better but I started downloading the program on the PC computer using the separate LAN line connection where the speed was faster (although it still was going to take something like 6-8 hours for it to complete).
When Monday rolled around and I was supposed to leave, I took a taxi to the PCZ HQ and checked to make sure that the download had been completed. It hadn’t. Extremely annoyed because this had to be close to my 10th attempt at this, I began the download once again. After hemming and hawing a little bit I decided to spend one more day in Lusaka to make sure that the download got completed as this was a large reason I had gone down there in the first place.
On Tuesday, after a late night spend ensuring that the download would be complete, I got a complete, I got what I had intended to be a few hours sleep the I woke up and realized I had gotten quite a bit more then that because the alarm I had had not been set. I eventually took the mini bus to the Intercity Bus Terminal and made the mistake of following the over “helpful” assistance of terminal workers who, although they didn’t say it, worked for one company that cost 35,000k more then I could have gone down here for and waited 3, 4, or maybe 5 hours for the bus to be full, scratch that, very full. I didn’t get to Chipata until something like 2200 hours and was really annoyed and frustrated. I’m definitely hitching back from now on.
Wednesday I went to the down shops in search of electrical components for trying to build my pedal powered generator and after some asking around, (got sent to one place that didn’t have any electrical parts, got sent to another place that had thousands of components but the people working the shop weren’t knowledgeable enough to be able to help me without a part number so I got sent to a third tiny little store down a back road that had old TVs, computer and unidentifiable circuit boards piled to the ceiling) success!. After some searching around, the store owner who was probably the most electrically savvy person I’ve met in Zambia came up with three of the .47Ω resistors to detune the alternator so that it will be still pedalable when the battery is low and some 12v diodes to make it so that connecting the charger the wrong way around wont fry it. He then took me to still another store that had multi-meters and soldering irons which I didn’t get because I wasn’t sure whether I would be using the tools someone in the Chadiza BOMA has or not. I think I will get them next time I go.
I decided to take an extra day at the provincial house so on Thursday went to the down shops again I think to try to find a stainless steel pot to try to do some canning from. I was outside of one of the shops trying to enter some more talk time into my phone when I someone said something to me and I looked up. The next thing I knew my wallet was gone (it had over a million kwacha in it as I had just gone to the bank to get cash for my coming time in the village where there is no ATM). I gave chase but I hadn’t gotten a good look at the guy who had taken it. Fortunately other people saw that I had gotten something stolen and they also gave chase. Before long I got lucky because they had got him and after a little bit of a tug of war, I had gotten my wallet back. By this point there were probably fifty to a hundred people on the seen causing quite a ruckus so I decided to end my search. I went and gathered my things and started off but before I had gotten far some law enforcement officials showed up in a SUV and gave me a ride back which was nice. My taxi that I had called never showed up and I almost thought I would have to spend another day in Chipata but fortunately when I called my forestry counterpart he said that the Chadiza police man, apparently a close friend of his, would be going back today and after some calls and finally a walk to the station, I found him and got free ~2 hour ride back.
I was somewhat discouraged the next day because I had been counting on the new dimba (garden) I had paid someone to be build had not been completed but my expanded fence which I had put udzu (grass) around had been re-grassed. I would have been glad that they had done it as it would last a lot longer, however I had planted quite a few vegetables which I was really looking forward to their being up but which the majority of them had either been trammeled or had just not grown.
My fence didn’t get done until late Sunday or Monday January 18th or 19th although I planted three or four rows of maze on Saturday and I’m worried the rain will stop before its ready. I started planting the rest of the maze on Tuesday January 20th and was expecting this to take several long days in the field to complete. It wasn’t that long, however, before someone who I realized was the guy who had been building my fence, started helping. Before long he had take over the planting and had the entire field done in about an hour. I guess if you’ve been doing it since you could barely walk, you can do it slightly better then a muzgu.
While I was waiting for my dimba to be ready to dimbanize I have been still trying to work on the internet proposal and try to see if anyone wants to make a short movie for a competition being put on by the US embassy on what “democracy means to you”. So far these two projects have not really gotten anywhere. I have also have been trying to learn more about VOIP and java ME programming for cell phones although there is a mountain of things to learn if I think I want to pursue this project.

This Week in Lusaka…


Monday & Tuesday

In Lusaka for a week, probably spending most of it online downloading things and doing research, also getting some things that can only be got here. Arrived pa Monday and spend last night and will spend tonight at a home stay with the US deputy ambassador. There house just goes to show what people with money can get in Zambia – it looks like a house that someone with a six-seven figure salary would live in back in the states. I felt a little better about it being so posh when I learned that the majority of the large things there are not theirs but are just US Government property and probably the reason it is so grand is because that is where they bring all there guests – many of which probably have as grandiose of a place as there – and might not look good to have it look like a village hut. (there is an argument for why it would, but I’m not going to get into that). Because they have a lot of guests, the food they cook (or their cook cooks) is exquisite.


A frustrating day spent trying to do work on my laptop using the Wi-Fi connection at the PC house that would only work in about one or two minute spurts, and then stop working. I didn’t get much done. That night (New Years Eve) my home stay had some other embassy friends over and we played a round of cranium.


My home stay said yesterday there was Wi-Fi at their house so I went early in the morning and got my laptop from the Volunteer lounge and spend most of the day using their DSL satellite connection to download podcasts, upload some Chichewa words that I had recorded myself saying and edited the little bit of footage I had shot of Dovu village, Chadiza district and Chipata.


Went to the PCHQ and after some waiting, got a ride to try to get parts for my cycle (to no success) and some electrical components (0.47 ohm resisters among other things) however although there was a wide selection, the only thing they did have were some fuses which I probably could have gotten just about anywhere. I then went to the shopping mall (Manda Hill) and stocked up on some more granola (although they didn’t have the type or the size I was looking for) and some shampoo (although they were all out of the size I was hoping for). Surprisingly undiscouraged, I waited around at the PCHQ for a while, trying to wait for the rain to let up and for someone who I had thought would know where there were some used bicycle wheels that were lying around, but apparently they had all been either auctioned off or trashed. I started walking back to the house I had been staying at but my APCD drove up and gave me a ride the rest of the way. I spent the rest of the day working on uploading my video and my photos. Now I am really tired so I think I will go to sleep.