Peas, Compost, Solar Cooker, BanaChar, Hoe the day away PLUS… some other stuff

This last week, in all has been a slightly productive week. I planted some more peas, spinach and broccoli, made a Solar Cooker and was going to try it out on Saturday to cook beans but the day was cloudy. I also started a compost pile using the plentiful supply of cattle manure and made a test run of some “banachar” using mashed banana peels, charcoal dust and a little bit of sand. The test bio-charcoal should be ready in a few more days as they are not dry yet. Yesterday I spent aprox. 7 hours working on hoeing my big garden of weeds to get it ready for planting when either I get an irrigation system set up or the rains come. It will be a big process as I only got a small fraction of the field clear, the soil when dry is very hard clay and there is crab grass throughout most of it. Today I am in da BOMA using the internet and hopefully meeting with my forestry counterpart to talk about setting up two projects. One is collection of plastic bottles for use in drip irrigation and the other is clearing fields using biochar instead of open air burning that is very harmful to the environment and people’s health.

Finally made it back to site a day late because my taxi didn’t go to Chadiza the day I was intending it to leave

Finally made it back to site a day late because my taxi didn’t go to Chadiza the day I was intending it to leave. I feel like I have been trapped in my village for the past week because I don’t have a bicycle and my ankle has still been hurting me. I did a thorough cleaning of the “kitchen/living room” part of my hut and finished building my table. It looks really nice and is really solid; the only thing is it is really tall. I also did my first attempt at a solar stove but because I didn’t have the proper glue I had to use duct tape and couldn’t get it to be flat enough to reflect the rays all in the direction of the pot. I also began making a bed using the “double digging” method that I we had learned before. I planted a few peas and will plant some spinach and broccoli probably tomorrow. Wednesday I will hopefully make it to the Zingalume basic school where I am trying to work with the JETS program on the umbrella solar cooker as well as some other projects.

The second part of my journal entry of the past three weeks; I wanted to get it posted in case the power goes out like it did for most of yesterday

4th week of May…

Sunday I felt better. The taxi came a little after 8:00 and we said good bye to my Zam-Fam and flew as fast as a small sedan loaded with luggage and people can go over bumpy dirt roads back to Chipata. The day was rather uneventful because it was Sunday and just about everything was closed but we bought food at Shopright and I loaded things onto my new mp3 player my family had brought.

Monday we took the bus that does usually leave on time and got to Lusaka about 1500. There we took a taxi to the same guest house we had stayed in the last time we were there and after buying some cloths detergent headed to the Mahak Indian restaurant where they have a really good meal that has free refills.

Tuesday we toured several organizations that make adaptive equipment. We went to APTERS (Appropriate Paper Technology) where they make chairs not that different in concept from the ones my father makes as well as office supplies like the pen holders my family bought. We also went to DisoCare, the wheelchair and general design company that is building my cycle. I came expecting the cycle to be well under way but they were still waiting for payment which was frustrating. The last stop we went on was the Ubuntu office which looked like an office. We bought a shirt made by the wife of the person who was bringing us to all the places who does clothing fabrication and after seeing the house he lives in went to a craft market run by orphans to get some things to bring back as gifts. Then we quickly headed back to the Peace Corps HQ to deal with the cycle issue. We also were going to meet with my APCD but he had gone to northwestern on site prep. Having dinner at Black Night, the really good bread & pizza restaurant, we found a good bus company to Livingston that leaves when it is scheduled to, flagged a taxi and got ready for the next leg of our travels.

We woke up really early again, packed and then waited for the taxi to show up. We were shooting to leave at 5:00 but apparently he had overslept and so shoed up at around 5:40ish. We still were able to get a ticket and this time the bus left almost exactly when it said it would. I really wish this company had a route to Chipata. We got into Livingston at about 13:30 and walked to Faulty Towers lodge where we dropped our luggage and had a lazy rest of the day.

Thursday morning we had breakfast at the guest house and got ready to go see the falls. The falls are very impressive and the climate directly adjacent to them is kind of like a mini rainforest. Like a rainforest, it is very, very wet – it made me think we were in the middle of the rainy season again. My right foot was really rolling over and I decided I needed new boots – and the fact that the ones I was wearing were waterproof did little to prevent my feet from squeezing out water when I walked by the end of the walk. We went back and had a late lunch and walked to a Chinese restaurant for dinner where we met another PCV and her friend visiting from the States.

Friday we had a hurried breakfast and my Dad and I headed out to go on a microlight flight while my Mom and sister were headed to a horse back ride. Although expensive, the flight was wonderful. It definitely reinvigorated my desire to take up flying when I get back to the states… and have the money and time. We got back around 10:00 and waited for the other family faction to arrive. Their excursion was equally enjoyable. We went to the Livingston Shopright and bought a few things for lunch and breakfast Saturday morning, then headed back. For dinner we tried the pizza place there. It wasn’t as good as the one at Black Night but was still not bad.

Saturday we got up somewhat early, ate a quick breakfast and headed to the bus stop. When I got there I realized I didn’t have my water bottle. Against my families concerns I ran back, found it, and took a taxi back to the terminal with 10 minuets to spare. Unfortunately, because I was wearing my water shoes that had less support, I strained my inner ankle in the run back. We made about as good time as in coming to the city and got back to Lusaka at about 1500. First we dropped our stuff at the guest house, and then we went to the PCZHQ to download the photos from my sister’s computer. We forgot my Dad’s which sucked but at least we got my sisters pictures from her semi professional camera. We then took a taxi that was supposed to be headed to the same Mahak Indian Restaurant that we went to last time we were in Lusaka, however none of us could remember how to get there. We finally got directions, but they were for the other Mahak eatery in Kabulonga that didn’t have the same all-you-can-eat dish.

Sunday we regretfully said good buy early because I needed to go to Manda Hill to get shoes and they needed to head to the bus stop. We walked to the end of the road together, and then we headed our separate ways. I think it was a good trip in all. I was successful in finding shoes that fit, although the pair I bought were some of the only ones in the store big enough. Zambians must have small feet. After getting some things from Shopright I took a taxi back to the PCZHQ and started trying to get windows working again on my laptop. I was actually successful in finding the solution to my problem and finally, after 4 months, had it working again. I got to bed really late though and only got about 4 hours of sleep.

Monday I had a few more things to do on my laptop, I needed to check in on the progress of the cycle which of course no one knew what the status of it was, and I tried to get a new mosquito net but apparently they only have the exact number of ones that there are volunteers and they are shipped from Washington so they were not available. I finally got everything packed and got to the bus around 1500. Fortunately, or unfortunately it took an hour before it finally left but I didn’t get there until after midnight meaning another 4 hours night sleep. To make maters worse, I got sick on the bus and just barely made it to the window to through up a couple times. Luckily I was feeling a bit better by the time I got to the house.

Tuesday we had our provincial meeting which was somewhat standard and then in the afternoon there were some workshops for project ideas. By the end of the day I was incredibly tired and I got to sleep before 2100. There was no power or water for most of Tuesday which was sindibwino because I wanted to begin writing this blog.

Wednesday the power came back on and I began writing this epic blog and scanning my laptop for viruses but didn’t do much else because my ankle still hurt.

Thursday, today, I am hopefully going back to my site finally for a good long stay.

The fist part of my journal entry of the past three weeks; I wanted to get it posted in case the power goes out like it did for most of yesterday

Well this month has been, as far as actual village work is concerned, not much of a month. However it seems like it was one of the longer months I’ve been in service because I’ve probably traveled (lets see, Chadiza to Lusaka twice round trip and Lusaka to Livingston once round trip) well over 3,000-4,000 km this month, sleep in nine places and generally been continuing my whirlwind. Things should get back to normal this month at least then probably in July I will hopefully be going to vacation in Malawi and (/ maybe or) hopefully getting my cycle.

The Following is a Semi-Dramatic Textual Documentation of the Events That Have Taken Place in the Last Three Weeks:

2nd week of May…

Three and a half weeks ago, after the mid term conference was over I then began designing my cycle. Working with a local design company called Disocare we came up with a design that should work, but there are a lot of if’s that still need to be worked out. I found a source for irrigation tubing that is much cheaper then anything in Chipata. Therefore the only thing left to do is write the grant to buy it and get the villagers more involved – the later being the biggest challenge. I also did more research into how to make soap and typed up steps to milking goats as well as downloading a bunch more podcasts. Then the tension built as I waited for my family to arrive the next day.

3rd week of May…

Sunday the 17th of May marked the exciting day my family was to arrive. I left before 8:00 by an expensive taxi and got there much faster then I was expecting. I fortunately had brought a Times magazine that I read until around 10:00, then I went to the gait and waited for the plain to arrive. And waited. And waited. The flight monitor showed that the plain would be delayed 40 minuets and it took well over that time for the passengers to start coming out. But none of them were my family. While I was waiting, someone approached and said that he was a founder of the organization called Ubuntu that my family had found through a friend of a friend. Ubuntu does education and advocacy for the disabled in Zambia and my family was very interested in finding more out about the challenges here as opposed to in the States. Finally, after virtually everyone had left, we spotted them.

They apparently had been the last ones off the plane. We piled into a vehicle stuffed with luggage and headed for the guest house. Unfortunately, that vehicle did not make it there on account of a flat tire so we, minus the Ubuntu guest house, finished the transport in a taxi. Everyone was very tired so we had a quick dinner of things we bought at the local Spar and went to bed.

Waking up incredibly early the next morning, we headed to the bus terminal and boarded one of the many busses headed to Chipata. Unfortunately the bus we chose was almost empty. Finally, after waiting around 6 hours the bus finally was full enough to leave. Yeah, that day was not the best part of the trip, but at least my family got to see the anti-exquisiteness of transport in Zambia. Finally arriving at the Chipata guest house we very quickly went to bed, quite possibly even more tired then the night before.

Tuesday we finally were going to get to our destination. We left later then we had wanted to as usual, after having repacked, banked, and food shopped we got a taxi and headed out on a very bumpy road. Getting in just before dusk, we were very glad to not need to travel for two days. Sitting and looking out at the wildlife that it was amazing the amount of given that virtually everywhere else in Zambia the only mammals are farm animals and mice we finally got to relax. While we were sitting a woman who works at the camp greeted us and when we engaged in discussion she seemed to tell us about how she grew up in Zimbabwe on a farm but as a teenager had to leave because of the redistribution of land by force that was going on. She fled to New Zealand where she went to college and gave up her initial plans of taking over the farm from her father. Not comfortable with the more urban life she was leading she came here and is working as a teacher in the morning and training to become a park ranger at night. Well that was an interesting enough story but then she began talking about her future plans to kayak the entire length of the Congo River, a feat not done before. To just kayak down the rapids there is a daunting task in of its self, but to do so in the Congo Rainforest with all the natural dangers of such a climate plus the fact that many stretches are in the middle of a guerilla war is almost ludicrous. She can probably talk her way out of a fight with a lion though as she wove her fascinating tale effortlessly.

We still needed to wake up very early the next day because our wildlife tour began at 6:00 and breakfast was at 5:30. We ate quickly and headed out on our mini exploration. Although it was kind of the standard Sub-Saharan wildlife you see in nature shows on TV, it was good to see them in real life and to learn a little bit more about them. We took a lot of pictures and I shot some footage, both of which I hope to post on my website the next time I’m in Lusaka. After the morning escapade we ate lunch and relaxed some more until about 1600. Then we headed out on our night trip to see more of the pray that ate the animals we had seen in the morning. We saw some lions, a jaguar, and caught a glimpse of a wild dog, which is supposed to be very rare as well as many more animals. Of the two trips, I would definitely say the daytime one was better because we could see all the wildlife instead of needing to stare out at the ever moving spotlight. We had a good three course dinner and stared out at the night sky for a little while, then went to bed fairly satisfied we had had a good day.

Thursday marked a lull in activities and we had a lazy day reading magazines and chatting. I was somewhat frustrated as my feet had slipped out from under me when drying off from a shower the day before my family arrived. My tailbone and left buttock really hurt when I walked more then a few meters so I wasn’t able to go exploring the limited “safe” part of the part, so the day was mainly a day of rest because tomorrow would be another long taxi ride to my village in Chadiza.

When Friday rolled around, we hurriedly gathered our luggage, ate a quick breakfast and then the taxi came at 8:30. After the three hour bumpy ride to Chipata, we got some more food, ate some of it for lunch and then took another taxi to Dovu. We were welcomed by everyone and we chatted fairly easily, surprisingly enough, the headwomen and her son and law knowing much more English then I thought.

Saturday morning the first thing we did was go to see my chief, although whether he was expecting us or not. This was actually the first time I had been to the Zingalume palace, although I had met the chief before when he had stopped by my place. We gave him k50,000 and some homemade goat soap as gifts and heard afterwards that he really liked the soap and wanted to learn how it was made. The meeting was fairly quick and more of just a formality, and afterwards we got a tour of Zingalume village of whom the head women is the sister of the Dovu headwomen. After getting oranges picked from the trees in front of her house, we headed back to our village. Then my Dovu and U.S. family set about making peanut butter. Everyone was in a good mood and all chipped in shelling a huge bowl of ground nuts. After the shelling was done, we ate a lunch of Zumba, a local leaf that is dried and cooked with ground ground nuts, some baking soda and a few tomatoes. Because the first time I had eaten it I had said I really liked it, they now often bring me some when they make it, however I’m actually not that thrilled about it, and it is definitely my dad’s favorite dish. During the course of our return back to Dove from our morning trip I started to have a bad headache. I thought it was because I was thirsty and I drank a lot of water but it wouldn’t go away. I really wanted to climb a hill that I had climbed almost a year ago and had an amazing view so we headed out despite my pain. Most of the hill would require climbing equipment to even attempt the ascent but there is one side that is climbable although still difficult because it is covered with loose pebbles and grainy sand. I somehow made it up, my head pounding and my stomach not doing the best. After some hopefully good photos and a brief rest we headed back down. By the time we finally got back, (or actually well before) all I wanted to do was lie down, which sucked because the rest of my “families” were enjoying watching the young ones dance and sing. My headache finally subsisted and I think lying down was just what I needed. After a dinner that lacked much flavor we went to bed.