Changes

So many changes since I last posted. I will bring everything up to date, but for now I just want to say that I am well and safe.

And…. I have been back in the USA for over a year now. No longer posting as part of the US Peace Corps, now I will post as just myself.

I still live in a shed, LOL!!!!! But a much nicer one.

Hope your day, month, year, life is fabulous!

Carolyn

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Transitions

So many transitions the past month!

First – COS. Those who have been in Eastern Province for two years had their Close of Service last month. A little bit crazy, full of anticipation and uncertainty, already missing their friends and villages! Listening to them talk about getting jobs, graduate degrees, apartments, etc. reminded me that the anticipation and uncertainty in coming to Zambia is repeated when it comes time to leave.

Next – new arrivals! The new intake arrived. A little bit crazy, full of anticipation and uncertainty, already missing their friends and the families they stayed with during training! Yup, apparently we have the same feelings whether we are about to start our service in Peace Corps or about to leave. The new intake for Eastern Province is full of energetic volunteers. Watching them with their lists of things they need to get reminded me of my shopping before I was posted. Furniture, mattress, food, pots and spoons…

Then there are the mid-point volunteers. Assembled in Lusaka for their medical check-ups and mid-point meetings. This was the only group I saw the past month who were not facing uncertainty and change. They knew where they lived [for now], and were not facing the challenges of changing cultures. I enjoyed spending time with them.

As for me, well, I am facing a transition as well. Due to some catchment area circumstances I am leaving Zambia with ‘Interrupted Service.’ That means that I am not quitting, but I can’t stay in my current placement. So off to the USA and waiting for a new placement somewhere in the world. I am experiencing the uncertainty of both the COS group and the new arrivals. Leaving the village I love, returning to the home I love, and waiting for …

Guess I just have to wait a bit to find out what it is I am waiting for! A new adventure, new culture, new friends and a new home. Somewhere… someday…

Until then, here are some African proverbs:
Use your tongue to count your teeth before you speak.
Fire and gunpowder do not sleep together.
If the hunter comes back with mushrooms, don’t ask him how his hunt was.
No matter how skilfully the chick dances, it will never please the hawk.
If you give bad food to your stomach, it drums for you to dance.
  You cannot hide the smoke when a house is burning.
If you see a person in a gown eating with a person in rags, the food belongs to the latter.
Too many whistles confuse the dog.
When a leopard is chasing you, do not ask if it is male or female.

Africa, Africa, Africa. I am leaving you, but will carry you in my heart.

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GLOWing

Last week was spent at GLOW – Girls Leading Our World. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFRAsfDJL2s#t=112)  21 girls from Eastern Province spent a week learning skills and dreaming about the future.

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There were sixty-three or so of us there: the girls, the Peace Corps volunteers, and a school representative for each girl. While we taught and talked about a lot of serious things, we did it in a fun way.

Malaria and mosquito netsIMG-20150825-WA0005 IMG-20150825-WA0006

Taking control of your body and keeping safe from diseaseIMG-20150825-WA0003 IMG-20150825-WA0008 IMG-20150825-WA0009

Education and choosing your own future. They glowed!!IMG-20150825-WA0004

I think the mosquito net lesson worked, because when I did a bed check one night I couldn’t find several girls – they had crawled in with other girls. But they were all under the mosquito nets!

Everyone had a great time and some of the girls were amazed and amazing. Amazed that they could do and be anyone and anything they chose, and amazing in what they want to do with their lives.

I can’t wait to see them grow into leaders.

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Special People

The International Special Olympics was just held in Los Angeles. More than 6500 athletes from 165 countries competed. Three athletes from Zambia earned medals. Daisy Nguni came in 2nd for the 100M walk. Kennedy Phiri came in 3rd for the 50M run. Joshua Siankulu came in 1st in Standing Long Jump and also came in 1st for the 50M run.

The first lady of Zambia went around and said people should be nice to the disabled and they should not be hidden away. They do contribute to the community, sometimes with just a smile. Mrs Lungu said children with disabilities constitute one of the most marginalised and disadvantaged groups in society. (https://www.daily-mail.co.zm/?p=37779) ESTHER-LUNGU-3-624x438

In villages other than my own I’ve been told that the kids are left in the house and are not allowed to leave the house. It is illegal to leave the child in the bush to die, although I am told more rural areas [ie: NOT Zambia] do still practice that.

I hope to try and get support for the disabled kids in my village. But outside of my village I have seen no disabled persons as they are kept hidden for the most part I’m glad that someone before me said they should be taken care of and loved and not locked inside unless the weather is bad or there is a rabid dog running around. I’m told by my host that since the missionaries came to Zambia the abandoning of disabled in the bush was stopped. It is also illegal to abandon children in the bush and leave them to die. I’m told that the family will care for the disabled person for their entire life, so the siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and/or parents will always be there for them as sending them off to an institution or to have a house and a nurse isn’t possible. So far I’ve only seen three disabled persons in my village and the one next to mine but I am almost positive that there are others in my catchment area that I haven’t seen.

Kids with disabilities in Zambia tend to be kept home inside or in the village. Some are trained to do chores or to farm, but that’s for mildly disabled persons like the teenager in my village who is deaf. A second child with disabilities in my village is severely retarded. He is kept in the house on bad days but allowed to wander the family compound or soccer field on good days.

My host sister, Lucy, is allowed to wander the family compound and to the soccer field as well. She has been taught to husk and de-kernal maize cobs. Other chores she is still being taught. Her left side is much weaker than her right. She does not attend school. The local teachers told me that disabled children do not go to school as the schools are unable to handle their needs. I talked to teachers and they said that they do not work with the disabled children as they are unable to handle it and don’t have the resources. Parents in my area save their money to send the other non-disabled children to school. School is not free here.

My older sister has disabilities, so I’ve been involved with disabilities my entire life. I’ve also volunteered with our local Special Olympics when my sister was doing rhythmic gymnastics or playing bocce. I would love to work in my village to start Special Olympics participation.

In the United States students with disabilities go to school and are taught in the public school. In Zambia, when I first got to my village, the children told me that Lucy couldn’t come color on my porch because she was “sick.” Her sickness is what we would call mild to moderate mental retardation and epilepsy. I told them it was okay and she loved being able to color. She would come over every day. Sometimes she got angry or impatient, once she had a seizure, but usually she was fine. Since the baby was born she has been told to wait a lot. One day she was visiting and asked for something and I told her to wait a minute. Lucy has not learned how to control her temper and will strike out if frustrated. She punched me in the face, damaging my glasses. She was sorry immediately, of course. But her family was upset and won’t let her come to my house alone anymore without a family member to supervise her.

lucy

I went to Lusaka for a two week training and while I was there I asked Peace Corps Medical to adjust my glasses. I just want them to fit right again, but now they are worried about my safety… They don’t understand disabled people and their difficulties expressing themselves. Lucy is not a danger to me. I know she feels frustration she can’t express. I don’t want to reject her. So safety and security is coming out to my site to assess the danger Lucy poses. I think that Lucy is essentially harmless. She is just prone to violence since she can’t express herself.

This week in Africa –

I bought a new phone. And could not find a case for it anywhere! So my Mom, in the United States, ordered online from aliexpress in China to have a case sent to me in Zambia. Crazy.IMG-20150731-WA0003

We have trouble with cell phone reception in the late afternoon and evening. At sunset you can see how high the dust is. Its like a dirt cloud illuminated at sunset

My Aunt Kate sent me some huge ziplock bags. I’m using the big bags to hold my peanut butter, my homemade pasta [a new skill I’ve learned here] and my dry panties and bras

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Loss and sadness

The past 2 weeks I have been at a training in Lusaka. Lots of good info, and planning when who gets beekeeping training and so on.

Sadly, I just got a text from my Atati in the village. On Sunday my puppy, Bouncer, was poisoned and died. I am told that is often done in cases of jealousy. But no facts other than a dead puppy.

I am heartsick that anyone would kill an innocent pup. And I have nothing else to say right now.

bouncer sleeping IMG-20150720-WA0009 bouncer june 30 puppy nap pup bouncer and diablo IMG-20150608-WA0008 IMG-20150608-WA0003 IMG-20150521-WA0002 IMG-20150507-WA0002

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My backyard in Africa

Last week I wrote about the wild natural Zambia that is my backyard. This week I want to talk about my ‘Americanized’ backyard that I am creating here in Eastern Zambia. My little island of civilization.

I have had the plans for my gardens for a couple of months now. And I bought the chicken wire to fence in and protect my garden in Chipata.  Atate had brought poles to my yard for fencing. And then I waited. This week my waiting ended.The day after the grass fire my yard had a lot of activity, as men and boys worked to put up my fence! It was very exciting, seeing the fence go up. I could not plant anything before the fencing as goats and cows would eat my plants. The fence meant I could plant my gardens.

fence fencing

Garden 1 had been prepared with the ground and border ready for planting, so six of the kids and I planted seeds. These were all planted using seeds I had brought with me from home. The seeds I bought here in Zambia did not sprout sadly. One of the older women came to see my little garden. She was happy for me that I have begun planting. I am happy, too. Not only because I will have fresh vegetables and can harvest the seeds for more fresh vegetables in the future! I am happy because now I am making progress on modeling a home garden for improved nutrition. I hope the garden grows well. I am planting marigolds around it to keep insect pests away.

empty bed

veggiesBack row from left: bush bean, cucumber, sweet pepper, and heirloom melon. Front row from left: carrots, lettuce (buttercrunch), rape, and basil.

The next day we made gates and installed them, so my garden is as secure as it is going to get for now. See how my fencing for the garden goes around 2 of the 4 sides of my house. It makes my porch one way and now the walk way on 2 sides of the house are in the garden and I can use them as a seating area for my classes and for me when I sit in my garden. The left fence is closer to the house due to cows who walk behind the house. I put a tippy tap hand washing station next to the front gate.

tippy tap front gate fenced yard fence fence and bed

The gates and fence mean I can transplant some of my seedlings! So out of my recycled hanging planters came lemon grass, chives, onion, and a rose I bought. My sister Michelle loves roses and has planted many at home. This one is planted in honor of her here in Zambia. Michelle’s Zambian rose! I have no idea what kind of rose or color it is. A bit of a grab-bag, but it looks healthy. The bloom will be a surprise someday. It is the only rose I’ve seen for sale in Zambia and I bargained it down from 20 kwatcha to 5 kwatcha. I planted it in my garden to attract bees! I am planting flowers in that bed to attract bees and butterflies! (someday I still hope to have a bee hive for honey)

zambian rose flower garden

We planted the zinnias I had in my hanging garden then also violas, creeping thyme, marigold, 3 stevia seeds and chamomile. I wonder if any seeds will sprout in the 2 weeks I am in Lusaka for training. My host sister Flora will care for my flower garden while I am gone.

zam tanThis is a zam tan all the tan bits are dirt

I plan to press and dry the first rose bloom and send it to my sister Michelle.

Its odd having my brains be treated like gold and my work considered worthless (besides the fact that everyone uses a hoe better than I do). I’m used to it being almost the other way around where work is appreciated more and is expected. Now I’m asked ‘why are you working?’, ‘let me do that for you,’ ‘just teach me what to do’. Its always “I want to learn, teach me but let me do it.” There is one boy who comes by everyday asking if he can get me manure and to tell him again why manure is good for dirt and gardens. I hope what I teach helps the village and my friends here.

Here are some photos of my host siblings,  sisters host siblings  And Amai Anne making nshima amai anne making nshima And, of course, my furry companion Bouncer. He just crashed into puppy nap after we had a 14km walk. bouncer sleeping

Zambian Observation: grass fires sound like popcorn popping, or a car driving over gravel.


I want to thank some special people who have made my job and life a little easier and more pleasant.

Thank you Debbie Taylor, who read my blog and sent me a great letter! I shared the news of What I’ve Missed in America with the other LIFErs in Eastern Province. We all enjoyed it very much. Thank you also for the ideas on what to do with sunflower seeds and the gardening tips.

Thank you Aunt Kate, who sends me comments and lets me know someone reads my blog.

Thank you Grandpa, who sends me letters and stories about our family and fiction he’s written. Sometimes I wonder if the family stories are fiction, too!

Thank you Marsha Brodie, I love to hear from you. It means so much.

Thanks to my wonderful editor who spell checks and posts for me. She is my biggest fan, die hard supporter, and willing to let me talk her ear off when I’m freaking out, like when the massive bird came for the goat or I saw a tape worm crawl out of my cats butt. Love you Mom! You are the best! Mom uploads all my pictures and text from her phone to WordPress for me. Since my internet access is so poor, I appreciate you uploading and publishing this blog for me. None of this would be possible without you!

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Africa in my backyard

Holy crap! was how the past week started. A huge bird flew down to grab a chicken and fly off. Turns out the Crowned Eagle is the strongest and most dangerous eagle in Africa. My village calls it ‘docoway’ and tells me it takes goats and small livestock. a few days later I saw one try to fly off with a baby goat. The mother goat head-butted the eagle until it let go. So no goat dinner for the Crowned Eagle that day!

crowned eagle crowned_eagle_manyara

It has a large wingspan, and sounds like a helicopter taking off.  From below it looks almost like a leopard.And it reminded me that wild Africa is in my backyard. Actually, a lot of this past week has been about wild Africa!

Besides the docoway or Crowned Eagle, there is also the Mbulu lizard. When I saw the 5+ foot long lizard climb out onto the boulder I felt like I was back in the Florida Everglades! What looked like an ancestor to alligators is the Monitor lizard. Another ‘do not pet’ resident of Zambia.

lumpini_monitor_lizard_33 Monitor+Lizard+Maybank+Malaysian+Open+xPCQRDApAzEl moniton lizard area

And then, the next day, I headed to Chipata to get some chicken wire for my garden. In my yard the most common menaces are goats and pigs. Yet I was reminded of other common menaces on my walk to the main road.

lion paw print

I have large hands, so the paw print is not of a small lion.

My host wasn’t concerned about the lion paw print. He said they don’t come into the village. He was concerned about the bird, apparently its a big problem. He also said to not worry about the 5ft long swimming lizards and that they eat small things like ducks chickens and puppies but fear dogs.

I really want Bouncer to grow super fast now. Glad I splurged on his food today.

This week I found out that I had been misinterpreting my host’s inquiries about noise bothering me at night. I always thought he was asking about people walking past on the footpath. And when he instructed me to go into my house at sundown and not go any further than the bathroom at night I thought it was a cultural thing. “Young woman, unwed, alone outdoors at night” sort of thing. He said the path is long and has problems at night. I thought he meant navigating the path, but no. It is because of lions and hyenas and God knows what else.

It was really a ‘Africa IS your backyard’ kind of thing. Hyenas. Hyenas that are the reason the goats and cow like to be right on my porch at night. Hyenas that roam the village at night. I am never leaving my house after dark again.

It explains a lot of rules I’ve been told. Like come home before dark. Keep small children and animals at home. Stay in the village where the dogs keep problems away. Also, don’t go anywhere after dark. The chim is ok if it is close to house but don’t go further than that. And if you hear strange noises after sunset don’t leave my house, call host and he will fix the problem. I.E. Bring dog and let dog chase creature away and host deals with people.

I’ve seen tracks of snakes as thick as my arm. But I haven’t seen actual snakes that big, which is fine with me! Not sure what else lives in the forest preserve next to my village but so far the animals I’ve seen or heard of or seen traces of are not disappointing. Plan to carry a large walking stick when I walk through the forest from now on.

There are other things, of course, to watch out for here in the wilds of Africa. Scarier than a giant lizard or the print of a lion’s paw is an inanimate menace that I can’t scare off with a giant stick or hide from in my house at night. Fire.

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It started in the daytime, a smudge on the horizon. Dry season, harvest time has just ended, so the ground is rich with vegetation and dry grass. We watched it all afternoon. At sunset it took on a more menacing appearance.

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I was told to get ready to leave. Wow, what to pack in my dufflebag and backpack?! Electronics, medicines, things that are not easily replaced in Zambia. Pack things up and then try to sleep knowing I could be told any minute to run. Run? Run where? To the paved road that leads to Chipata, where Peace Corps will come fetch me from if I have to bug out. The men spent most of the night battling the fire. And they succeeded. The village did not get burnt! Morning came with ashes and soot on everything. A gray morning, and one of celebration! We were not burned out of house and home, the village is fine, the men victorious over the flames. Interestingly, the gray day silhouetted Mama dog and she was nearly identical to the Zambian Wild Dog, her grandparent.

wild dog IMG-20150719-WA0002

I am grateful that the fire did not spread to my village. I am motivated to get a big walking stick and to plan a bug-out bag in case I ever DO have to evacuate on short notice.

And I am appreciative of some of the softer things in my backyard. Amai Sophia had her baby, a little boy. So sweet and soft. We joked that he is muzungu like me, because our fingers are the same color. Happy Birthday, baby Robert. Welcome to the village, we are so glad it is still here for you to grow and play in.

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And I and my puppy continue to grow into the wilds of Africa, one dawn at a time.

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