A quote that was written on the door to my hut when I got posted. Meant to put it up just before I left the country but was doing a thousand other things.
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.
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, 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.)
Got back to Dovu village a little after 900 Wednesday and was very, very tired; not having gotten much sleep the two nights (or knights as I had, for some reason, written before reading again). I attempted to put a new rime (the old one was very warped on the special hub that was custom made for my cycle but this tiredness progressed into a headache and a general feeling of bad. I lay down and fell asleep until 1830ish when I debated falling back asleep but finally decided to have some tea and rice. Yesterday I finished putting a chabwino wheel on and biked to the Zingalume Basic head teachers house but he was in Chipata.
Next week I will be doing some or all of the following:
getting the Inoviropreneurship project revised and started with the Zingalume head teacher; getting my pedal powered generator working; making a solar stove using cheap bathroom mirrors; hopefully finally succeeding in making soap; if the big goat in my village has kidded, milking her
The two weeks after that I will be in Lusaka, on vacation/starting to figure out what I am going to do when I return to the states the first week, then attending the COS conference the second.
Wanting to go back to the states but wanting to get more things done here before I leave.
Well, the month of December and therefore 2009 has almost ended. While I was in Dovu I was mostly working on getting my garden finished being planted and on finally making a pedal powered generator. Then about two weeks ago I headed to Chipata on rout to Malawi on the 24th. After a hectic and expensive travel (the “taxi” [Canter truck] cost me 3,500MK to take me probably less then 10km) I arrived at Wheelhouse Marina in Senga Bay. There is a gorgeous view of the lake and a yurt kind of thing that is on stilts over the lake where there is a bar. Unfortunately the bar plays very loud music all night and I had to camp in my tent. So I moved to Monkey Bay, the town just outside the national park in cape Maclare, early. There I stayed in a dormitory and they didn’t blast the music all night. But there were no mosquito nets over the beds and the food was way over priced. The water was very nice and the shore is covered naturally with sand. Although I enjoyed swimming and the view I left early because I was spending too much money being board and because I was getting eaten up even though I put on three different kinds of bug spray every night. I have to say, even though I can’t stand dealing with transport of any kind, the bus system in Malawi is much better then in Zambia as there are legit busses that actually leave on a schedule (although they don’t go to Chipata so I had to sit in a crowded mini bus and deal with being hassled. Anyway, now I can say I’ve been to Lake Malawi.
I’ll be in Chipata until January 5th or 6th relaxing and working on my quarterly report, then head back to Chadiza to get my Inoviropreneurship program underway.
In Chadiza charging things and checking email. Have been working on getting my dimba (garden) up and running and finally making a pedal powered generator using a very, very old Landrover generator. I just hope the tork is not too much when I connect it up to a battery. I’m going on vacation in Malawi from Dec. 24th to Jan. 4th and heading to Chipata on rout there pa Sunday. I will be in Senga bay from the 24th to the 28th –monkey bay from the 28th to Jan 2nd and then Senga bay from the 2nd to the 5th (traveling back to Chipata on the 5th).
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.
Well we had our first rain yesterday, probably 3-4 cm at least. I was really worried that the new black plastic my villagers had put on would blow off because they hadn’t had a chance to tie the udzu (long grass) down yet.
What I’ve been working on:
Well, I’ve had quite a few fairly successful classes with some students at Zingalume basic on trying to get them to think in innovative ways. It is interesting to see what things they can do and what things are really difficult. Probably the best class that they really thrived on was when I had them make the paper airplane that could go the farthest. They made one that went quite a bit farther then the quick one I did and even gave good reasons why they tried that design.
I think this time (and what feels like the umpteenth time) I have attempted to organize the Chadiza organizations together for the purpose of internet it will actually work. I’m meeting with the high schools this afternoon and have had several meetings with members of three organizations all of which were very interested (the high schools had already set up a committee to address the issue before I had even returned from Lusaka). Now we just need to have one or two meetings with all the organizations together and get the company we are going through to come and do a technical assessment of the terrain. Then it’s just a mater of getting the equipment.
I’ve also been slowly trying to make some lye that will actually be a basic enough pH to make soap out of fat. I have also been making a fuel efficient stove that burns not only small sticks, maize cobs and other small woody things but also the smoke (like what a roaring fire that has flames shooting out of the chimney does).
Yesterday, after the rain had almost let up I spent an how beginning o prepare my dimba for planting. My garden will (come mbuzi or high water) be bwino kwambili this year!
I forgot to mention this in my last post, maybe I was too annoyed or something but I now have a baby named after me. Born a couple weeks ago, Aaron from Dovu is really cute and really likes to sleep (much more then even I, I don’t think he even woke up when I held him for some photo’s).
This week I met again with Zingalume Basic and set up the date for the first class (Monday). I also worked on my water wheel and need to get some mealy meal sacks for the actual “paddle” parts.
Today I got some more honey, a covered plastic basket to keep food in so it doesn’t get eaten by koswe (mice) but still gets aeration and some mealy meal sacks for the aforementioned use. I did not however communicate with the outside world because the MTN network was down… I hope the outside world is OK!