Back until I leave?

On the last Sunday of the month I headed back to Chipata. I had the taxi driver take me to the Lusaka post office because the Zambian mail company has a fairly ingenious idea of combining a mail service with a bus service. I had read in an old travel guide that the post bus only ran on Tuesdays and Fridays or something like that, but I thought it would be worth the short diversion because they definitely leave on a schedule. To my joy they were “going today so I paid the taxi and got all my stuff out. It was only when I heard a number of people talking about Ndola that I happened to ask where they were going, which was not Chipata. Annoyed to no end, lugged all my stuff back to the street and flagged down another taxi. The second bus I got on at the Intercity Bus Terminal was the fuller of the two that were headed to Chipata. I was going to wait at the curb until the first bus headed out but the teeming crowd of ticket salesmen (the number of ticket sales men to customers at intercity is probably four or five to one) convinced me to get on theirs, agreeing that if another bus left before them, I could get on it. Another bus did, and fortunately I was able to rush out, flag it down, argue with the ticket salesmen, load my luggage and get on the bus before it left the station. And thus, I left at a near record of just after 9:30 and got back before dark.
The last Friday in January I had called a guy who ran a computer training institute in Chipata and who is knowledgeable in hardware about having him see if he had a replacement monitor for my laptop. I had set up a meeting with him for Monday morning and went to his school at the third floor of an old British built quasi-government building he rented space from. He seemed to be able to help me but he was either really busy or pretending to be really busy so the whole thing took all day and he hadn’t put my laptop back together before close to 1800 so I needed to spend another night in Chipata. Tuesday he had checked just about everything there was to check and the diagnosis was that the actual monitor part and the tube that makes the screen light up (that I thought would be the logical thing that had gone as the screen goes black) where not the problem but it was the part that process the information that will be displayed on the screen that was, and that was the part that he did not have. So, although now I know what the exact problem is, I’m not sure it was worth the countless hours I spend waiting for him to spend another five minutes on it before he was interrupted. Late on Tuesday though I finally made it back to site where I will be, maybe until I leave for good unless I got to the house in mid March.
Since I’ve been back I’ve been working on getting the Inoviropreneurship program going full swing (first project is doing a version of the TLUD stove that uses only clay) and getting my pedal powered generator working. Alright, need to go get some more chain for the generator.

TLUD, Dimba, Thanksgiving, Getting Stuff, Electronical Failure Mango Chutney, and….

TLUD, Dimba, Thanksgiving, Getting Stuff, Electronical Failure Mango Chutney, and….
The last two weeks before I left for Chipata about a week ago I was basically focusing on two things: dimba and BioChar stoves.
The BioChar stoves (a type that uses small branches and fibery weeds and consists of an inner chamber where the solid fuel goes. This inner chamber has many holes in the bottom for fuel and is coated with a narrow outer chamber that encircles the inner chamber and draws air up so that when it reaches what would be smoke, it is preheated and this smoke can catch fire, meaning that little toxic fumes reach the environment and people’s lungs.) have been a huge success. People are really exited about the idea. After doing a test run in my village, I got the students at Zingalume basic to make a second version. At first they were kind of uninterested in the project but when it was done, and the stove was lit, they were very impressed, as was the head teacher.
My dimba has been a lot of work, getting the beds made and beginning to plant. I so far have five beds (about a fourth or fifth of the garden) planted with some tomatoes, two beets (had a bunch more but the grasshoppers love beets, even tephrosia only slowed their demise), some soya, broccoli seedlings up the wazoo, popcorn, carrots, watermelon, cantaloupe(?), and a few other things.
I have also been trying to get strong enough potassium hydroxide (homemade lye) to make soap. I’m almost there. In the BOMA I’ve been trying for the umpteenth time to get internet in Chadiza, although as of the last meeting with one of the interested parties the meeting still had not happened.
On Monday I spent pretty much all day trying to find transport to Chipata with no success. I finally left Tuesday morning for the provincial meeting and that night we had pizza from probably the only semi Italian family in eastern province (well, there’s a radio station called Radio Maria that has broadcasting towers here… maybe it’s owned by that family… or maybe it’s Spanish).. That afternoon I had also tasted some sour ketchup and threw up all over my sheets that night, feeling miserable until Thursday. The meeting was somewhat uneventful but a little later in the evening we had a talent show and I was impressed at some of the talent, one in particular where one man played the guitar while another woman sang a lengthy witty song about Peace Corps Zambian life she had written. On Thursday at about 10:00 all the LIFE’ers trooped over to the office of the provincial forestry officer where we shared what we were up to and found out what she was wanting to focus on. Then we, or at least some of us, myself not included, got back to preparing our thanksgiving dinner (there were a little too many cooks and another would have spoiled the meal). They had been working on cooking since I got to Chipata and I was very eager to see what they had made, probably compounded by the fact that I hadn’t really eaten anything for the last two and a half days. The meal was really good and the dessert equally enjoyably. To say I was not hungry anymore would be an underestimate.
Friday was Eid and since most of the shops are owned by Muslims, everything was closed which kind of put a damper on my plans to get things I needed but I did finally find a reasonably priced old vehicle generator so that I can finally, at long last make my pedal powered generator. This is a good thing because it means I won’t need to keep lugging it to the BOMA and back every few weeks.
This weekend I began making some mango chutney that has turned out to taste really good. Why is it that if it can be canned, I can cook it, if it isn’t cannable it doesn’t turn out quite like I planed?
Going back to Thursday, when I had tried to plug in my external hard drive, nothing happened. I tried to disconnect and reconnect everything that was connectable, to no avail. I am now almost certain that Zambia is host of the electronic demon because my palm is also beginning to freeze up every once awhile (removing the battery, shaking it and bumping it and putting the battery back in usually fixes it). This means that I will be podcastless until at least midterm conference.
Monday I was walking with a heavy backpack for about 8 hours and on my feet from 5:00 until about midnight with only a few breaks, buying things from shops in the “down shops,” trying to get MTN to have reliable internet again (the MTN shop is about 4km from the PCPH) and bottling my mango chutney. I didn’t get everything done so I won’t be going back today but will go back on Wednesday.

An update of ordinary magnitude

Week one(ish) of July (week of Forth of July, Unity Day, Hero’s Day) I was in Chipata spending some time relaxing after almost a month in the village as well as finding out how to make soap.
Week two (with a bit added on in the beginning and the end to bring the total up to day 18 of the seventh month of the ninth year of this millennium) I was back in the village doing two soap workshops. Probably my most rewarding workshop was working with the teacher in charge of the JETS club in finally getting the Solar Oven project under way. I also had several good conversations with the head teach, who I get along well with, resulting in asking whether he wanted me to work with the other teachers in doing some programming in the area of Inoviropreneurship (innovation, the environment and entrepreneurship). He liked the idea and when I asked him how much he wanted me to do he said that I should write a daily class for ten of the thirteen weeks in a semester. So I’ve been pacing myself in writing the fifty lessen plans.
On the eighteenth day I took a dreaded taxi to the city known as Chipata and spent a while working on beginning the structure of the syllabus. I also made pancakes for the first time since I’ve been here (and a long time before that) and also made some soya burgers that were really good, I just wished my stomach had been feeling better.
Then on the 21st, I headed down to Lusaka to finally get a cycle of sort. Of coarse the shop had not been notified when I would be coming and they were not all geared up to go. Hopefully they will be on Monday. I’ve been spending a lot of time getting hooked on Amateur/Ham radio. I think it would be awesome if I could get myself and a few local Chadizians’ licensed. Then we could communicate throughout the world. The summer CHIP/RAP (CHIP=community health improvement project, a combination of the old HAP/CAHP) intake of ’09 came late Thursday night and were at the PCHQ on Friday. They seem like a pretty good group. Alright, back to haming, pondering whether I should spend some time writing lessen plans and working on a CAD drawing of a portable waterwheel for irrigation I’m designing.

Minto Wonder Wheel


The 7 or 8 days (depending on how you look at it) have been almost as productive as the week before, it would have been as or even more productive as the weeks before this last week except that my back and left leg were complaining that I had been bending over and favoring my right side too much and so I didn’t do any more double digging or composting (although I was approached as to whether someone wanted them to help clear the field of weeds [for a fee of k20,000 for the large side, k15,000 for the small side of course] and they did what would have taken me probably a couple of weeks in a couple of days so I have plenty to compost when I return to the village). I did however make another go at banachar which I got many other villagers interested in and I think it was a success. That is of course contingent on the charballs that the villagers made sure were perfectly spherical burn better then the last ones I made but I think they will. Yesterday I successfully got a taxi to Chipata on the first try and they were only around 40 minutes late!

Tuesday was somewhat of a relax veg out day and I stated up too late watching movies (an ok movie about a Egyptian born engineer married to an American who gets kidnapped by the CIA and tortured because of a terrorist act he did not commit and Fight Club from beginning to end without being interrupted by the pesky parental party). Today I found an ingenious idea for a means of generating power using a small temperature variant. Basically the way it works is you have a bunch of tanks containing a fluid that easily converts into a gas arranged in a circle in such a way as to look like a big watermill (the circle turns). The opposing tanks are joined by a pipe and there is a source of heat in the bottom and something cooler on the top. When the liquid in the bottom is heated and turns to a gas, it rises up to the tube on the top. The tank on the top is cooler however and so the gas converts back to a liquid causing the tank on the top to spin downward towards the bottom and the tank on the top to spin upwards. Although the whole thing does not spin that fast, if you have a large enough circular structure, the torque is enough to give off a descent amount of energy. I am definitely going to build one, the only problem is finding a liquid that changes to a gas easily but is not supper flammable or toxic or both and not really rare. Most of the fluids I have found in that people are using are at least one of the above mentioned heal risks. I would use mercury I think if I was in the states and designing it for a large scale production but to put such a toxin in a place that A. there are almost as many iwe’s (children) as there are udzudzu (mosquitoes) this time of year B. most people have an innate need to take things apart and tinker with things C. there is a remarkable lack of mercury in Dovu village and lastly D. that probably most villagers have never seen mercury or have any idea what it is. Therefore I am in search of a fluid that meets the required specifications and is not dangerous or rare in Zambia. This challenge aside, I think the project has great potential to power villages all across Zambia for next to nothing in parts.

All for now, I’m still wondering why this inventive idea is not more widely known and utilized.

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 Weekly Whirlwind

The last two weeks or so have been a whirlwind. This time a week ago I was in Lusaka although it seems like a month ago. I got some x-rays of my neck because that was where the discomfort had been and there was nothing out of order. However I stayed in Lusaka until Thursday because PC was finally going to work on my cycle to make one which was ridable. Last Friday I went back to site for the weekend and set up a jury rigged “irrigation” system that basically consisted of 25′ of hose connected to the 200L barrel I bought a while back. The kids were eager to help and filled up the tank several times and watered what was in the range of the hose.
On Monday I went back to Chipata to investigate possible bicycle engineers in the area to work with on the creation of a ridable cycle, however this was in vain. Although there is probably the biggest bicycle plant in Zambia here, they didn’t want to deviate from the standard cycle ridden by practically every Zambian. Another engineer was more interested, however he didn’t really have the resources to work on the complexities of designing a three-wheeled cycle using local materials. All this means that it is back to the same designers in Lusaka in May. Monday afternoon I went to the Msekera Conservation Farming Center because I found out that they have low cost irrigation systems for farmers in the area as well as training in their use. They were going to come to my site on Friday the 24th, however since then they have said that their schedule is too tight and it will have to be sometime in May. The one thing I was able to get is a rhizome of bamboo to plant in my Village as the closest place to find bamboo in Chadiza that I or my villagers know of is in Mozambique.
I tried to go back to site Wednesday the 22nd but the taxi didn’t come until after 1700 and I didn’t really want to get to bed at 2300 hours so I didn’t take it and will go today hopefully around noon.
Although I would have liked to set up an irrigation system this week (next 7 days), I’ve set one of my goals for before I go to Lusaka for the midterm conference is to get a working brick oven. I made one a while back but I have yet to try it out. I also got an innovative way of making a solar oven that uses an umbrella turned upside down. I also plan on making that in the next week. All for now.

This week, this horrible week

Had a rather scary bike accident Monday where I blanked out briefly. I first couldn’t remember what I had been doing that day, and had gaps in my memory in other times. That had mostly gone away that night and was completely gone the next day. My neck hurt though and I just felt kind of off that next day. I got a ride with the Eastern Province General Service Officer and spend the night in Chipata, then headed to Lusaka the next day. To make this week even more horrible, my wallet with all my bank card, my ID cards and a million kwacha (just about a months pay) in it. PC reimbursed me for the money but it was the irreplaceable things like my college id and such really sucks to loose. Hopefully someone will find it.

This last week I have been in Chipata in a HIV/AIDS training session

This last week I have been in Chipata in a HIV/AIDS training session with local counterparts. It is interesting to here the Zambians speak openly about sex and the differences between men’s and women’s sexual relationships and their perceptions. The training ended on Thursday and I have been busy trying to install a Linux build on some flash drives which I finally achieved but now the problem is that I still can’t access the internet on my cell phone because it requires an .exe (windows) program so I have been trying to find a windows emulator, so far unsuccessfully. Short one I know.

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.