And only about 34 hours late

2010-04-26

Well, I’m back in the States for the foreseeable future (note, the future is more then a little blurry so trying to foresee it is figurative and the figure is all scribbles in the sand at low tide). Getting pulled from my site went remarkably smoothly and I think, all in all, I did achieve something during my two years. This isn’t to say that I wouldn’t have liked to achieve a great deal more, but in the past month or so before leaving many things finally clicked into place. I posted my Description of Service report in the last post if you want to see the ‘glorious’ achievements I have done. And, of course, since all my potential employers enjoy reading my blog they will gobble it up and contact me immediately.

When I got to Lusaka I was inundated with paperwork until minutes before I rang the COS wheel-bell and was somewhat frenzied until I got to the gate for boarding the plain to Addis Ababa. Well, things did not start off well for my journey home because the plane did not lift off until about three hours after it was supposed to due to fueling problems. This meant that we touched down about 15 minutes after the plane I was supposed to be transferred to left. The next flight to Washington, my next stop, didn’t leave for a day so this meant I needed to spend a night in Ethiopia. Fortunately there was another PCV (or actually I guess now we’re RPCV’s) on the same flight and we shared a room together in the hotel. The hotel was pretty descent and had good food if bad coffee (isn’t this supposed to be the home of the best coffee in the world?). Well, after a day spent mainly watching TV, we finally got in the air again and after roughly 16 hours sitting in fight and about an hour or two in Rome for refueling we made it to Dulles Airport at about 8:30AM (back in America so I need to start practicing the AM PM instead of the 0830 hours).

Customs went remarkably quickly and I was directed to the United Express ticket station to inquire as to when my flight had been rebooked to. It hadn’t. And to make matters worse, the flights to Bradley were booked until Monday. I got a standby ticket and the third wait began. The first flight at 12:20 was already overbooked and although I waited with bated breath, or at least as much of one as I could muster given how tired I was, no seats presented themselves. So then it was to another terminal for the next chance five hours later. It wasn’t looking good as there was a huge group of high schoolers’ coming back from some trip but when everyone got on the plane it turned out there were two seat remaining. I was just about to head to the terminal when those two people with the tickets to those two seats rushed up. And so it was back to waiting. Fortunately at this point the ticket takers realized that I was extremely tired and they were really helpful, so much so that they did some computer magic and got me a definite seat for the 10:30 PM flight. I slept on the seat for about an hour and woke up worried I had missed the flight. I hadn’t and was the first person on the plane. After about another hour I touched down for the last time, only about 34 hours late. And thus ended the two year, two month chapter in my life.

Now I need to figure out what I want the next one to be about.

Back until I leave?

2010-01-29~2010-02-12
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.

Back from Chamanuka, Discussion at the Deputy Heads Ambassadors house U.S. on development

Thursday 2010-01-28
Back from Chamanuka, a bwano kwambili resort, for our COS (close of service) conference. Most of the actual conference was fairly straightforward info about what we had to do before we left and options for when we returned to the states. The food was really good and I don’t really need to eat for the remainder of my service.
This evening many of the volunteers, several Zambian PC staff and US staff who work at the embassy or for various NGO’s went to the deputy ambassador’s house (where I had stayed a little over a year ago in the PC home stay program) to discuss development, what it meant and how it was best implemented. The discussion was very productive and really showed how much the people who work in Zambia (be it PCV’s, Gov. employees or NGO workers) collectively have a grasp on how to best carry out development. The basic points that clarified, enhanced and added to my idea of how to bring development and/or the challenges in bringing development during the meeting were:
1. That skill and knowledge aid should be the primary focus and that financial aid should only be implemented when it is the only limiting factor impeding the organization from growing.
2. That when possible, any form of aid should first be sought out locally
3. That a large factor contributing to lack of development is the lack of motivation to improve and bring new change and new ideas.
4. That one likely reason for this is the lack of an education system that has resources and sparks innovation in the children of Zambia
5. That, turning the camera in the other direction, if a Zambian came to America and said that they were here to help your town develop, would you except their idea with open arms and readily stop what you were doing and turn to embrace whatever development strategies they employed? The Zambians, in large part do, but the more radical a suggestion is, the more resistance a volunteer faces.

Now all we have to do is actually take these ideas and turn them into action (as is one of my signature* quotes:
Vision without action is a daydream,
Action without vision is a nightmare,
One needs both to succeed.)

So here’s the plan / I have uploaded 1452 new ZamPic’s

2009-09-17
So here’s the plan: the cycle gets done tomorrow, I ride the heck out of it this weekend – I can’t bring it back the next because all of the staff are on a retreat somewhere, then on Monday, assuming that nothing has broken on the cycle, I’ll bring the think back to Chipata, then Chadiza. And this epic thing is done. It is going to be sweet to ride (I think, I hope).
Now that is the daytime news, the evening news is that I have uploaded 1452 new ZamPic’s (Pictures mu Zambia) onto my website. Check them out at: The Other Realm .

Well, I think I’ll go to bed

(2009-09-09, roughly 21:27 hours) – Well, I think I’ll go to bed

2009-09-10
Frustrating day, still have a lot to do on the cycle, working on bike cart design and some online stuff.

2009-09-11
Well, I won’t be going back this weekend, hopefully Tuesday or Wednesday next week. Right as I am typing this I have a pot full of oats in front of me – this is isn’t that important, I just thought you might want to know. Hopefully this weekend I will have time to put up my pictures. All for then…

I want to get out of Lusaka!

2009-09-07
I want to get out of Lusaka! At the same time I want to get my water wheel (and of course my cycle) done before I go back. But I need to deal with red (plus green, blue black and yellow) tape. Unfortunately none of it is duct.

2009-09-06
Finished solar stove – only problem is I don’t have a black pot. Still makes the water very hot though.

2009-09-05
Worked on making a solar stove most of the afternoon, right now trying to get my camera to connect to a PCHQ computer because the wireless router needs to be reset. I think the problem with the connection is with the USB port on the camera… which sucks because that means that capturing is basically impossible…

Today was a fair..ly successful day

2009-07-30
Today was a fair..ly successful day. After stopping at the design shop, I went to the Lusaka AG fair. The fairgrounds remind me a lot of the Big-E, only imagine what the Big-E would be like if it replaced the rides and game stands with more AG related things. In about 4-5 hours I found out more about renewable energy and remote internet then I have the entire time I have been researching the subjects. I met with this technology school based in the Copperbelt that had designed a bicycle that could run on solar power alone. The really useful part was when I asked where they had gotten the engine from and they said that it was from a windshield wiper. When I go back to Chipata (tomorrow actually, although I will be back here in a week or so) I will look into getting one of those little things and using it to do the reverse of what the school exhibiting was doing, make a generator out of it. Then I tracked down a digital system engineering company that it was rumored they were making low RPM generators. Although, from the previous stop I had found a almost certainly cheaper alterative to a new specialty device, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to talk to someone there. The company did not stock such a machine and was about to exit the building when I thought about asking him about ham radio. As it turns out, he is a licensed operator in S.A. Unfortunately he didn’t know how to get a license here, but when I stopped at ZNBC, they really liked the idea of an amateur radio program in local schools and got my contact information about getting a program under way in Chadiza. Finally, I was on my way out of the grounds when I stopped at the Zambia Meteorology Department. I overhead someone saying the word “internet” and my ears picked up. Apparently there is a device that is being distributed throughout Zambia and elsewhere in Sub Saharan Africa that is in essence a Short Wave Wi-Fi that is used for its own intranet. When I got back I Google’ed WorldSpace, the name on the top of the units they were using to connect. Initially I didn’t find anything until I found their not-for-profit arm. Essentially they are doing what I have been attempting to do for some time, bring low cost internet to remote villages. Check them out at: http://www.firstvoiceint.org . Alright, still have a lot to do before I get a brief rest and head out on the long trek back to Chipata.

CAD Waterwheel, WiFi, & cycle

Yesterday I spent the morning and first part of the after 1200 hours doing more research in long range wireless radio, then I switched to design and spent the rest of the night doing a CAD drawing of a water wheel pump and printing steps for making a stirling engine. Today I will hopefully be going to DisaCare to work on my cycle and to show them the work I was doing the previous day.

An update of ordinary magnitude

2009-07-02~2009-07-25
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.

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.

I’m now a double digging convert and have found a purpose for 2L plastic bottles

Well, last week we had our mid-term conference. The first two days were a permaculture workshop that was surprisingly useful. I’m now a double digging convert and have found a purpose for 2L plastic bottles (water root drip irrigation). We also had our medical sessions and a few LIFE related workshops. Now, up until my family comes I am working on getting a recumbent trike that works. Then, in almost exactly a week MY FAMILY FROM THE STATES ARE COMING! I’m excited and egger to show them around.
I think one thing I will spend my time here doing is write simple, clear guides on to how to make soap and maybe goat milking. Then I will try to get the language instructor or someone else who knows good chichewa and English to translate the steps into the local language. That way when I finally get back to site I can set up workshops on those subjects and give the steps as handouts.

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 Week in Lusaka…

2008-12-29~2009-01-02

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.

Wednesday

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.

Thursday

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.

Friday

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.