06 October 2008

Finale (or is it!?!)

Ok ok ok, this has been much delayed. But here it is

I don't remember the timeline on all of this, but I'm pretty sure it all happened before I got on the plane back to the US.

We set up a meeting for our local Jatropha (that biodiesel oil-seed producing plant) growers to learn more about how to plant and maintain the seedlings they had in their fields. We invited Peter (that South African organic farmer) to talk to the villagers about it, to be followed by a presentation by Carrie on AIDS and possible future workshops. We put up signs about the event in all the popular spots. Carrie and I were totally shocked to arrive to a crowd of maybe 100, mostly women gathered under the mango trees at the school.

Unfortunately, very few of them came to learn about Jatropha or AIDS. Most were there to talk to the Ministry of Lands' wife (who also owns this shop in Serenje) for some unknown purpose. Lucky for us, she didn't get there till later, so all those people got to hear about growing Jatropha and AIDS. Peter gave a slightly less than stellar presentation in terms of organization (probably just cause the PowerPoint projecter wasn't working... kidding), but I think people got most of their questions answered. As Carrie was talking to them, the Ministry of Lands' wife came and the crowd excitedly flocked to her and started singing something.

After we got back to the hut we tried and succeeded in scoring a ride to Peter's farm. We arrived to see that his house had been totally burnt to hell by lightning. The mud-bricks still were standing for the most part, but were ready to fall over pretty soon. A bunch of Peter's stuff was ruined by the fire and the rain. Maybe thatch roofs aren't the best things in the world. Surprisingly he didn't seem too terribly concerned.

We spent almost all of our time by the river while we were there. It got pretty boring. Fortunately we had a steady supply of drinks and guavas. We got to sleep outside on the sand between rocks by the river. That would have been cool except that Peter was there too. Three is a crowd. Peter also came down with malaria and so was less than active. One neat thing we saw there one morning was wild guinea fowl. We had seen the much larger domesticated variety at Peters and in villages. The wild ones could fly though, so they were more interesting to watch. Unfortunately they make the same annoying sqeaking noises.

Some funny things at the river were the constant anticipation of seeing mysterious and gigantic "river lizards". As we were walking down, we saw weird tracks in the sand. Peter said that they were from the river lizards which were huge. He said they were really common but we never saw any and they sounded impossible. Another funny thing was going out in the boat. We thought it was going to be a nice long trip down the river, but it was actually just a very short stretch that took maybe 2 minutes to traverse. Carrie tried paddling the boat once and almost killed us both.

The best part of the farm was definately getting to milk a cow. Peter let us try one morning. I had read about how to milk, but it's much harder in practice! Carrie and I didn't get much milk out of her, partially cause she needed to have her udder bounced against (after her calf drank some milk and slammed his head into her udder a few time, she let down a lot more milk for Peter's employees) and also because she was a village cow, not a breed like a Holstein or whatever (village cows aren't specialized for milk production and has short teats) Peter was yelling at his workers about not emptying out the milk pail after each cow, and that was pretty terrible and uncomfortable.

Another cool thing was Peter's radio. He has a radio that can communicate with radios around the entire world! I don't understand how the hell it works, since radio waves are pretty low energy and Peter is in the middle of nowhere. He talked to some guy in Italy for a while. Apparently it's a big hobby for some people. They keep a book with cards from all the people around the world they've been in contact with. Very strange. I just picture all these lonely guys calling eachother and talking about their local weather and how clearly the other person is coming through. Anyway, after a couple days on Peter's farm we biked back to Mpelembe.

Carrie and I tried to buy up and pound a lot of icikanda roots so that we could bring back the powder to make icikanda (African Balogna) for friends and family at home. One day we both ate a bit of the pounded (but not dried) icikanda. It tasted pretty bitter. That night, at exactly the same time, we both got terrible stomach aches. They ended up being in proportion and duration to how much each of us had eated of the raw icikanda (mine being much worse cause I ate more). Later Joshua came over to warn us that the icikanda would poison us if we didn't dry it. He asked if we ate any and we lied that we hadn't. If only he told us earlier!

Our soap went missing again. We asked the neighbors if they knew where it went and they said their dog must have eaten it. Really? Why would a dog eat soap? And if it did, wouldn't it be in some sort of pain or discomfort? Hmm.

It got soooo cold during cold season! One morning I checked the thermometer in the garden and it said 36 degrees fahrenheit! I didn't believe Carrie when she complained about the cold in her letters, but it's true, Africa can get really goddamn cold. I think it's because there is so little moisture in the air, so at night when the sun doesn't shine, all the heat radiates away into space with no water vapor to trap it in.

Joshua and some of the village kids asked us if they could pay us to watch our TV. For a long time we couldn't understand what they were saying. Then we finally realized they thought we had a TV because they heard our music sometimes. Our music must sound so radically different than their conception of music, that they thought they were hearing a movie or tv show!

At some point Carrie and I went over to another PCVs site at Chalilo for the area Agriculture Fair. We got there and couldn't locate the volunteer (Alex) at the fair site. We were then told that actually nothing was going to happen the first day cause the musicians weren't there. Alex's site is also where Chief Chitambo IV (the fourth) lives, so we went to check out his "palace". We were really picturing a palace, so after we biked through the gates of silence (with their "NO YELLING" sign) and passed some huts and insakas, we were perplexed. A guard approached us and asked what were were doing there, and we said we wanted to see the palace. He pointed behind us to the completely underwhelming set of huts (ok one had a tv satellite dish). Funny.

A nice guy led us to Alex's house, but apparently he had just left with the wheelbarrow and his demonstration beehive. So we turned right around back to the fairgrounds. We found him and walked back to his hut. While walking my bike I incurred a slash across my foot from the pedal which would later get infected and require antibiotics Argh!

Alex's house and neighbors were soooo radically different than ours. They had a well with a big bucket and a crank to draw up the water. His family often makes him meals and heats up water every day for him for a bath. His neighbors were all really nice and kinda bwaana, so they never beg or steal from him. He, and apparently most volunteers, use laundry detergent to wash their dishes. So toxic!

The next day, the fair did actually happen bit by bit. We got there too early, when almost no one was set up. We waited forever as people trickled in and set up. There weren't many people with stuff to show and it was mostly corn. It was cool seeing the few weird native crops like this spiky orange cucumber-fruit. One family had a handcranked peanut butter mill! Other people had more field crops like peanuts, millet, and sorghum. Some women had some arts and crafts they had made. There was a good bit of buzz about Alex's hive, so he was over there much of the time. We also got huge pieces of Chalilo icikanda (which is the best cause it has the most peanuts). After a while we decided no more interesting exhibits would open up so we biked back home.

Shortly after that trip, we went to visit Laura, another PCV, to attend a village dairy goat workshop. Carrie had been trying for so long to get dairy goats, so we thought that this would be a good opportunity. And we wanted to just hear about goats. Laura had the best site of all. She had a small canal of water flowing right by her house complete with ducks. Her house was all nicely painted inside and she had so much good food from home! She also got radio so we got to listen to a little of what was going on in the world.

The goat workshop was at the house of the family that keeps the goats Laura aquired. The patriarch was this super nice old man who loved to tell stories. He also had a non-funtional fish pond (since Laura is a fish farming volunteer [dry because the woman who "owns" the canal diverted it from the ponds]). A vet from Mkushi came out to talk to the people in Laura's village about the proper care of goats in Zambia. It was pretty long and in Bemba. We understood some of it. During the presentation I sat on the ground with the women (always trying to lead by example about changing gender roles). The women thought that was really funny. After we got to meet the goats a bit, though they weren't exactly "tame". It got sooooo cold in Laura's hut at night. Oh my god. The next morning was spent just trying not to die of hypothermia. After things thawed out a bit we hitched back home (actually Carrie went to Lusaka).

While Carrie was in Lusaka I worked on a new bathing shelter. I designed it so that one could actually stand up and shower for a change. I also tried to make it more wind-proof, but that didn't work out perfectly. It's tall and constructed like a traditional Zambian bathing shelter (out of sticks and tall grass). It's funny how after trying our version of how we want to build things, we ended up going with the Zambian way (chicken house, bathing shelter, chicken laying shelter). The bathing shelter works pretty well, except that it's super difficult to raise up the full drum of water. I tried to counterbalance the weight with a large log, but you really need two people still. I guess Carrie now just stands on a chair to fill it instead of filling it then raising it.

Some final funny things about Zambians. A large number of boys paint their fingernails. When asked why they had no answer. It's especially strange since you wouldn't think nail polish would be readily available in rural villages, and that hardly any women paint their nails. Men who wish to portray themselves as being in high positions not only wear long pointy shoes, but keep their pinkie nails long (not to snort cocaine, trust me). I think they view it as a symbol of not being a farmer or manual laborer, since it would be impractical to have a long pinkie nail and swing a hoe. It's really just kinda silly and gross looking.

Jesus, I have almost another whole blog's worth of stuff to write about our trip to Zanzibar. Hmm. Ok, look forward to an epilogue! Except it won't be anything like an epilogue. It will just be what happened going to and staying in Tanzania. Hakuna matata.

Dad! much belated thanks for the chocolate, cocoa, jam, and brownie mix (even though we burnt half the batch).

Diana! thank you for the coffee! it was much much better than the freeze dried stuff.

15 August 2008

The Long Awaited (2nd to) Last Post About Zambia

Hello Hardcore Readers!

I am finally going to start the end of this blog. I don't remember exactly where I left off and I don't want to copy Carrie's blog. Well, the chicks, numbering 6 kept growing strong. Every day, several times a day, New Chicken marches them inside the house to discover if Carrie or I forgot to close up Finnigan's dried fishes or left other food within reach. Every time we toss them out, but they never learn. Our newest chicken, Corncob, ate all of our strawberry plants (tons of runners we had just set out). She and the others also ate all of our ultra-composted-sunken-bed seedlings, despite my efforts to built an elevated cover of criss-crossed sticks. It had been growing spectacularly. The rest of the garden, save 2 tomato plants is decimated too. It's mostly since we let the elements and termites punch holes in our garden fence. Our previous gardening "successes" didn't encourage us enough to patch it up.

In my last month in the village we built a stand-up showering shelter out of poles and elephant grass. It's great. A person up to 6 feet tall can now comfortably shower with minimal wind to freeze them (which still means a significant amount). It's shaped like a square spiral so you can't see in and wind can't figure out how to navigate to its core.

We also basically finished the fence/patio. There is still one roof section that needs a bit of thatching, but I think it's ok. The chickens all love to gather in the shaded corner and preen and sit with eachother. It's pretty cute. We got to sit in it ourselves a little bit, but since it was cold season, it wasn't as often as we would have liked. Whenever we would sit in our hammocks Finnigan would get upset that we weren't cuddling him and would scribble-scrabble up the poles and sit on us. Sometimes he would get tired of Carrie and jump from her hammock onto me (sometimes resulting in claw-marks on my arm).

I should have written about everything sooner, as I now forget a bunch. OH! Speaking of bunches - we harvested our banana tree before going to Tanzania and Zanzibar. It was a huge bunch of bananas, since we cut the extraneous stalks to direct all the energy into this fruiting one. Heavy too. Well, we hung them in our hut, during cold season, so they didn't ripen up before I left :( Carrie said they ended up being not that great. I imagine that was cause of the cold, slow ripening. The neighbors said to hang them in our insaka (cooking shelter), but since that's just open, I would guess that the neighbors and others would help themselves to our bananas.

Oh. I remembered that I left my list of everything I wanted to write about in Pittsburgh. I'm in Madison, WI visiting my friend Sarah right now. Oh well. I'll save the rest for when I get back to da burgh. It's better to blog in little chunks anyway I think. Expect a bigger post in the 2nd week of September or thereabouts. Take care all.

21 July 2008

Leaving on a Jet Plane

As some of you know, I will be returning to The States shortly. Sorry I have not blogged lately. The computer in Serenje died, and I didn't need to come to Lusaka, so I have no internet access until now. I have a lot to write about, and feel kinda funny about having to write it all up when I am back in the US. I feel it makes it less interesting if everyone knows that I'm slightly less likely to lop off limbs with axes. Oh well.

For now I will just say that I have had a fantastic year here. I've learned a lot about the world, various skills, and I daresay even myself. I will be sad to leave this place with its friendly people and laid back lifestyle. I'll miss living in nature as opposed to on top of concrete on top of nature. I'll miss the strange constellations at night, and knowing when it's a full moon. I'll miss our quaint little hut and our nshima. I'll also be missing our remaining cat, 4 chickens and 6 chicks. Most of all I will be missing Carrie.

Back into the fray I go.

22 May 2008

Everything I Forgot and More

I’m at Peace Corps House in Serenje now. We came for several objectives, all of which failed, other than eating good food. We were hoping to find the goat farmer’s number in Carrie’s mailbox. Nope. We were also hoping that the Zambian postal service had run at a moderate speed and delivered us long promised goodies. Nope. We wanted to buy our train ticket to Tanzania… the train apparently crashed in Kapiri Mposhi, so they probably won’t be repairing the track nor letting any other trains through for a while. Sigh. But we did make and eat: french fries with cheese on top, french toast, grilled cheese, avocado and tomato sandwich, and a fresh-squeezed lemonade smoothie. Tonight we have a vegetarian quiche in the oven to be followed a coconut-custard pie. Tomorrow we’ll probably just have oats and Recoffee (a portmanteau of REally mediocre reconstituted COFFEE).

I forgot to mention some of our other chicken-related events and epiphanies. Not only did the first two chicks to hatch get names – Chipmunk and Arctic, because of their respective coloration and patterning) – but also the first two chickens to subsequently show any extreme differences in body size as well. Vulture is the largest chick, not so much by body mass so much as oversized wings and puffy feathers (with only baby feathers on its head and neck, giving it a vulturine appearance). Vulture is probably a boy. He started out like Chipmunk, but has subsequently become almost entirely black, save his head and neck. Wee Wee Wee is – as an astute blog reader may guess – the smallest chick. Though it’s probably a girl, it may just be small because it’s really stupid. She is sort of a boring splotchy wheat color, like 3 others. When you put out the remains of oats, porridge, peanuts, or any other tasty poultry treat, she stays far back while the other chicks dive at the food in a feathered frenzy. If you miraculously catch her and try to offer her food, she just peeps loudly and tries to run away. More miraculously yet, if she manages to get a piece of food before the others, she drops it and picks up it several times before actually swallowing one (typically resulting in the food she drops being eaten by others).

I ran out of good books to read at the hut, so started reading the dictionary. There are way too many entries for variants of simple words or prefixes e.g. “Air”; Air, Airplane, Air-conditioning Airily, Air-traffic-control, Airy, ad. infinitum. Anyway, one of the worthwhile words that I came across that I didn’t previously know was “Alectryomancy”. It is the divination of the future by way of watching how a rooster pecks at corn kernels. Obviously I had to try it – here is my prediction: in the future, large nearly flightless birds will peck randomly yet precisely at corn. Oh, and we’ll all drive hovercars.

Our Serenje culinary masterpieces have been preceded by some Mpelembe ones. Peanuts have been harvested, so we bought and were gifted a bunch. We also still had the macadamia nuts that the South African farmer Peter had given us. These facts, plus boredom, lead to one large batch of delicious homemade peanut butter and one small indulgent batch of macadamia nut butter! We baked bread and it was all delicious. Macadamia nut butter is very oily and very delicious. We also made bagels a week later. Bagels are tough to make in the bush, but they were good.

One day in Mpelembe, Mizz Mumba came up to us and told us there was a funeral. That means she expects us to go. Oh dear. The ones we had been to before involved just going in the house, sitting in there with the body and mourners for a while, and then leaving. Not so lucky this time. It was at the next next door neighbor’s. Someone’s baby had died. We went in and sat down amongst the mourners. One woman was wailing the same phrase about mothers, children, and difficulty over and over. When she was done Mizz Mumba chimed in with approximately the same formula. It was weird sitting on the floor 2 feet away from a dead baby. I felt a little sad for it, but more for the mother, since the baby didn’t even know what the world is about or have any hopes and dreams or anything. After a long time Carrie and I decided to leave and started to walk home. We were redirected. Carrie had to sit with the women, and I was led by some kids to help dig the grave.

6 or 7 men were standing/working around the hole. They were all chatting and carousing. Women are the official mourners of Zambia. The hole was already maybe 4 feet deep when I got there. People rotated digging in the hole and clearing back the dirt that had been dug out. I just helped clear dirt, as at the time I still had an infected wound on my foot. They decided the depth of the hole by the point at which they reached wet clay (which just happens to be about 6 feet). When we were done, we walked back to the house area and sat around. Maurice, the French/Bemba/English-speaking carpenter and Iron Mumba came back carrying a large roll of thick inner tree bark. Apparently they make baby coffins (maybe all?) out of muputu bark (which ironically probably killed the tree). They hammered, cut, and sewed the pliable bark into a box – pretty interesting process. In the meantime, everyone got some boiled sweet potato. When they were done, the coffin was brought into the house and the baby was put in. They brought out the coffin and had Iron Mumba, Maurice, and someone else say something. No crosses or anything. Then we all walked to the grace and the coffin was put in. Immediately, people took up implements and began filling the hole. Most of the procession filed back, the men stayed to finish it. After we filled and tamped the grave, they put a cup on top to mark it as a grave. That explained all the cups and bowls on top of what looked to be cassava mounds in the vicinity.

I had much that happened in Lusaka after my last blog entry. It was really terrible, then it became ok, then it became worth it. First let me stall by talking about Lusaka items I forgot to write about. I have hair down to my earlobes and a crazy beard right now. This has lead an overwhelming number of urban Zambians to conclude that they should address me as either “Jesus” or “Chuck Norris”. I am flattered in both cases of course (if we forget all of the books Chuck Norris wrote). I have even taken the time to bless people by waving my hand around like the pope (when addressed as Jesus – not Chuck Norris, although that would have been funny too).

There is this huge tree that was cut into sections (the base with severed roots, and three trunk pieces) and deposited near a bus stop (“Zesco”, near Makeshi Rd.) for no reason. I felt pretty bad for the tree. Then, when the rains came, the stump sprouted a couple of branches and put out leaves! I’m glad.

Ok so what happened after I blogged is that I went to buy our staple groceries at Shoprite (flour, rice, oats etc.). I had my hiking bag and I stuffed it to the brim. I think it weighed as much as me. Anyway, when I finished packing all of my groceries, I put my money belt with 120,000 Kwacha ($30, all the money I had except for the equivalent of a quarter in my wallet) in the top compartment with Carrie’s cell phone and locked it. To celebrate my packing success, I went back into Shoprite to buy myself a ‘Chelsea bun’. When I came back out, I wanted to check the time on the cell phone and noticed my money belt wasn’t in there. Shit! I searched where I was packing, the garbage cans, asked employees and security guards. Nothing. It must have fallen out when I thought I packed it. Everyone I talked to was very sympathetic and 3 different people offered to give me money for transport back to the guesthouse (luckily I had already paid for that night right?). The guard advised me to go to the police station in hopes that they could flag down motorists at checkpoints and help me hitch back home.

So I went in and filed a report with the officer in charge. He said they can’t make drivers take me. Then some traffic patrol cops came in and heard my sad tale. They said they might be able to get me a free ride aboard one of the intercity busses. I told them some of my stuff was still at the guesthouse, so they decided to drive me to the guesthouse and then to the bus station. By polite asking (by me) followed by uncalled for intimidation (by Detective so and so), I got a 30 pin refund for not staying that night. When we arrived at the bus station, the cops talked to one of the ticket booth guys and he said he could probably put me on the 4 am bus to Mansa (which goes right by Mpelembe). So the traffic cops handed me over to the bus station cops. The bus station cops also filed a report for some reason and wrote me an official (with 2 stamps) note with the subject “RE: STRANDED PERSON” and ending in “Please do whatever is necessary to aid the bearer of this letter”.

While in the bus police station I met a guy with a child’s-print handkerchief who responded to my greeting by saying “Peace and love”. Can’t argue with that. The officer in charge and I talked about some of the finer points of Bemba and he seemed to enjoy chatting. Suddenly three guys were shoved through the doorway, followed by a cop. The cop was yelling “Lock them up! Lock theme up!” and shoving hard. When two of the prisoners were in the cell, he shoved the third against a locker and yelled at him in Bemba (I think) and English. Then he started hitting him about the head and arms for no reason and told him to talk in English. The poor guy offered no resistance, but the cop kept hitting and swatting him. Finally he shoved the guy in the jail cell and left. Needless to say I was pretty stunned. I felt pretty angry and wished I had confronted the cop. My opportunity arose when he brought in a cab driver and repeatedly shoved him into the locker. After he locked him up I told him he didn’t need to be so rough. He said that I didn’t know these cab drivers and that next time he was going to use a baton. I said there’s no reason to be violent, the prisoners weren’t resisting, and that Zambia is a peaceful country. He just reiterated that I didn’t understand. Well, at least I spoke up. 10 minutes and many “Ba Officer”s later, one of the cops surreptitiously accepted a 10 pin ($3) bribe to let the cabbie out. I acted like I didn’t see. Bribes are pretty common when dealing with police to facilitate things (I haven’t done it, but I’ve seen it done frequently).

After all was taken care of in the station, one of the cops walked with me back to the ticket booth, where maybe 30 people were bundled against the cold to sleep or watch some movie. After some discussion he led me to a bus that wasn’t leaving for a long time and told me I could sleep on board. There were some other people on board also sleeping (although two were annoyingly talking nonstop). I ate and tried to sleep. After a while I had to use the bathroom (fee paying – 1 pin), so I showed the doorman my police note and he let me in for free the rest of the time I was there. This was the cleanest bathroom in Zambia! It even had showers! The bus got cold because some jerk wanted his window open – which also let in all the bus station clamor, so it was hard to sleep. I fell asleep for a while only to be awoken by some god-awful extra loud movie with a soundtrack consisting of the same track of a recorder over and over again. From what I gather it was a low budget and/or old movie about an African independence movement. It consisted solely of blowhard politicians giving loud speeches, sometimes interspersed with unenthusiastic masses cheering, followed by the recorder. It must have gone on for 3 hours.

Finally at 4 am I got up and went to my bus. Several different people rotated in to take people’s tickets, none knew if it was ok for me to get on. My note got passed around and finally someone approved it. By that time I was worried there would be no seats, but the bus was less than half full for some reason. By 5, the bus took off. So, by sleeping on a bus instead of in a bed (30 pin), and by getting a free ride to my proverbial doorstep (80 pin), I made up 110,000 of my 120,000 Kwacha lost. On the bus I got a free soda and some coconut cookies, so really with all that, the transport money the Shoprite lady gave me, and the experience, I didn’t lose anything. Ok, so the bus stopped about 2 km past the road to the hut, so I lost a little in sweat and suffering - lugging that pack back. Oh, also on the bus, I got to watch this video of this pot-bellied Nigerian guy with his face painted like Insane Clown Posse dancing and rapping ridiculously. Totally worth getting my money snatched.

The funny thing about those coconut biscuits was that they had a leprechaun with a four-leafed clover on the front. Ireland has no coconuts, and I doubt that 1 in 10,000 Zambians knows what that little guy in green is. There are also these savory corn snacks adorned with a sleeping Mexican wearing a sombrero pulled over his eyes. Post-modernists would have a field day in Zambia.

A few days ago the neighbors saved up enough money to buy a goat. So they borrowed Carrie’s bike and came back with a supposedly pregnant female (African goats are so small it’s hard to believe). I tried to feed it and it just bucked and ran to the end of its tether. I noticed it had been hanging out at the well, and rural Zambians never seem to give their animals any water, so I brought over a bucket that still had some water that I was just about to fill. The goat seemed interested, but ultimately backed away. I shrugged and started to fill my bucket at the well. Ingosa, the neighbor’s only daughter, came over with a concerned look on her face. After greeting me she said “Mbushi, ukusamfya, ukufwa”. I didn’t understand and said so. The sentence didn’t make any sense “The goat, to wash, to die”. After she repeated the third time I understood and broke into laughter. The neighbors have seen us bathing our cats, the dog we had, and even one of our chickens (she was totally crusty when we got her). So they thought I had approached the goat and was now drawing water in order to give it a bath, and they thought that if it got wet it would die (goats do hate water). I explained that I was just trying to give it water to drink, but Ingosa left seemingly unconvinced and moved the goats’ tether closer to their house.

To all the wonderful individuals who sent me/us books, I am returning soonish, so would like to know who wants me to bring back the books they sent. Emilie, you wanted them all brought back right? Anyone else?

Thanks for the Easter candy Diana and Ken!

I actually didn’t finish, but it’s getting late. Goodnight

p.s. the coconut-custard pie turned out delicious

16 May 2008

I forgot my list of what to write about

Greetings, as you can see from the title I will be ad libbing and forgetting most of what has happened lately. Typical.

Today I went to immigration (everyone's favorite inefficient government agency) to retrieve my final visiting permit extension. They couldn't find it in the log-book (side note: Tell USAID to take back the computers given to Zambia for the immigration dept. because they don't use them except to read BBC News) and so the table 10 lady asked that other lady and she said my application was rejected. So I went to ask her if she knew the grounds for rejection and she said she was kidding. Wow, thanks for the stomach ache that lasted 5 minutes. She proceeded to search for my file and found that, but my application and visitor's permit were not inside as they should have been. Whoops! We lost your permit, but hey, thanks for the one million kwacha. So I sat around for an hour while she tried to find it. I explained that I handed it to the guy at the next desk to hand to her, and she said maybe he misplaced it. But of course he isn't in and won't be for a while because his kid is sick. So I made the long, tedious, expensive trip to Lusaka for no reason. I am going to be searching for a good ticket price for returning to the States, but I could have done that in Serenje.

What's new in Mpelembe? We got another new chicken. The guy said it would start laying the next day (or that it layed the previous day? "mailo" is both) but I thought it's eyes were too green (I noticed baby and young chickens generally have green eyes and adults have orange eyes) and it's pubic bone spacing was unsuitable for squeezing out eggs. We bought it anyway. It battled the other chickens including Peeps (who is actually a rooster, but doesn't realize it yet) and got pecked in the eye. So now we had a brand new one-eyed non-laying chicken. Yay. We wanted to call it Corn Cob or Coco Puff, but then decided on Peg-Leg, on account of the missing eye. Well I put some drops in its eye and it healed up, so now it doesn't have a name really.

The baby chicks have hatched! Several hatched in Carrie and my very hands (we even cheated and helped them out, New Chicken also cheated by pecking the egg shells!) It was a very cool experience. We had brought New Chicken and the nest indoors and one night we heard peeping. I didn't recognize it as that at first; I thought Carrie or I had a weird booger and were breathing funny. Then we both realized it was coming from the eggs! Peep peep peep, peck.... peep peep. So we went to bed that night feeling like kids the night before St. Nick and Black Peter come to dole out presents. We woke up early to see the chicks hatch. In the wee hours of the day the first chick hatched. It looked like a wet bird/chipmunk. It's head was too heavy to lift so it just peeped and laid on my hand for a while. We put it back under the chicken to keep warm. Over the course of the day 5 chickens hatched I think, including New Chicken's only child (who was bigger than the others cause N.C.'s eggs are bigger than Fireballs. The next day the rest hatched. All were at least a day early for some reason.

So we have 8 healthy chicks (one is stupid and doesn't eat as much as the others so is smaller). The first two to hatch have names: Chipmunk and Arctic (which Carrie pronounces as Artic). They are really cute, but are now scared of us generally, as New Chicken has been telling them dirty lies about us. They will come over if you have peanuts in your hand. Sometimes New Chicken decides it's time for "Mother Ship" and she makes a certain cluck (she always clucks to the chicks and they always peep to her) and squats and all the chicks get under her. We don't know why she does that. Sometimes the chicks try to jump on her back for some reason. Just trying to be silly I guess or get a free ride.

Chicken hawks are continually trying to eat the chicks. New Chicken is good at spotting them though so goes "Braaaawwwk! Braawk!" and all the chicks scatter and hide. They hide so well and stay so still that you can't find them until New Chicken starts clucking again and they all come out. The neighbors help keep the hawks at bay with their cries of "Iwe!" etc.

I was cutting the top off of a tree I felled with the axe in the woods with Carrie one day. It was for the goat house platform. I guess some self-destructive part of me was dissatisfied at my failed attempt to saw off my finger a while ago, so I missed the trunk of the tree and chopped into where my big toe joins my left foot. Ouch! Blood! I sat down as blood gushed out of my foot. I still don't know if I managed to cut into the bone or not. Carrie became really stressed out which was kinda funny, since I was the one with the wound. I got her to get some gauze from the house and applied pressure. The bleeding more or less stopped so I hobbled back to the hut. There, I cleaned out the wound and put on some handmade butterfly bandages (I didn't want to go to the clinic and get stitches because of concerns about sanitation and lack of anesthetic, but probably I should have). I kept my foot elevated above my heart and generally sat around for several days until a scab started to form.

Then I started going outside (big mistake). I was trying to get a chick to take a picture of its development and accidentally kicked my right heel against my wound and broke it open again. Blood, pain etc. Well, this time it didn't heal up fast. I sat inside again reading for some number of days. In spite of the butterfly bandages the wound wasn't closing. One night I had a bad headache and got really cold. I barely slept because I kept getting alternately hot and cold. La Fiebre! My joints ached etc. Well, in this part of Africa, with those symptoms we generally like to assume it's malaria. Carrie found out that the clinic had the rapid diagnostic test, so got me one of them to try. It came out negative. Still I didn't know whether to start the treatment or not. I felt better the next day and cleaned and redressed my wound. I noticed a lot of fluid oozing out of the wound and then realized that the cause of my fever was of course that my toe was infected. I wrote down some antibiotics that would work (thanks to referencing Where There is no Doctor) and Carrie got them from our friend Mulenga at the clinic. After taking those for a while and applying hot compresses (which alone might have been sufficient to clear my infection) my wound stopped oozing and closed up. Now it's just a big scar, but the joint still hurts a bit. Yesterday I stubbed my other toe really hard (which happens every time I come to Lusaka - land of the thousand uneven/absent sidewalks), so I have two bum toes.

There's more I want to write about, but I forgot most of it. Maybe this will be yet another two part blog.

Oh, we could use more Tom's Spearmint Anticavity toothpaste. Also natural soap bars are badly needed. All the soaps here seem to have sodium tallowate, which I think is the ingredient that makes my interdigit area get hives. If anyone has a spare milk goat, they could send that. Because the lady who knows the farmer with the dairy goats still hasn't replied to us about the guys phone number. It's been months!

Take care all!

10 April 2008

Continued from the previous

Barely made it in time to pick up the visas. Whew.

Anyway, I am in Lusaka primarily to renew my Visitor's Permit for another 3 months (April 21-July 21) which is my third and final renewal. Despite the Permit's seemingly limitless pages on which to stamp renewals, one is only permitted three (9 months) in addition to the entry visa you get at the border (3 months) for a total of one year. Since I was not able to secure a position under the Honorable Ministry of Health and Paper-Shuffling before Mpelembe's Clinical Officer and EHT left, I have no recourse but to leave by July 21st. Then I am told I cannot reenter Zambia for one year.

I wanted to write about personal developments and revelations and so forth, and now I have the time. One thing I have really noticed about myself (and to some extent Carrie as well) that we've gotten from the States (and I'm not sure if it's good or bad or both in different circumstances) is a rugged sense of individualism. Zambians absolutely love to help - in any capacity from cutting trees, to drawing your well water, to digging a hole. And frankly I get annoyed when it happens. The funny thing is, one part of me is grateful for the help if it's a big project, and one part of me resents it. Every project I embark upon I want to do all by myself (or with Carrie, depending on the project). I get a real sense of pride when I singlehandedly build or do something, and that's diminished when someone helps me. I also am less confident of the quality. Sometimes with good reason. As I've said Zambians have a very set way of doing things.

A good example of this dilemma was a week ago when I was cutting apart an already fallen tree (the one the kids cut down so they wouldn't have to climb to get caterpillars) to make into boards to make a door. The tree was one of the hardest of Zambia's hardwoods called Kapanga, and it had been felled many months ago so was well aged or cured or whatever - harder than when it was fresh. I had cut through the central trunk to make a 6 foot long log that was about 2 feet in diameter (The tree is 23 years old if anyone cares). About the time I finished and was trying to figure out how I was going to split it in two to start milling it into boards, our other neighbor Kapiria comes over through the woods. I told him what I was up to and he wanted to help. So he starts hacking a line down the trunk on which to split. I winced with every slightly off center stroke (not that I am an extremely accurate logger) and finally said I was going for lunch and "tapali ubwafia" - no problem - in reference to me continuing. He mentioned they use poles to split the wood usually and said he would look around. I ate lunch then went to the Headman to ask for the spikes and he had them and a sledgehammer head. I went back to work and shortly both the Headman and Kapiria return. I was going to use a hand adze to cut a straight line on both sides of the log so that it would split exactly in half, but they decided to start splitting right away. It was slow arduous going. I still did most of the spike driving (as evidenced by the worst blisters ever), but was bothered by their assistance. The worst was at the end when it was clear that the tree was not split on a straight line at all. The heartwood had even gone in one half only. This translates into an immensely larger amount of work for me to make each half into a level plank, as I have to cut away everything higher than the lowest point. Finally I have make a large adze out of the hoe handle and axe head, so it won't kill me, but still.

Okay another very American and non-Zambian trait of mine is a desire for privacy. Our hut is placed such that all sides and the all parts of the yard are visible from the frequently used path that passes through our yard. So if you go to read a book on the porch, inevitably some kids will come over and sit by you, probably followed by watching, noisemaking, or asking for things (usually a combination of all of those). This makes it very unpleasant to read or do anything at all outside. Even if you are in the garden the kids usually see you through the grass fence or reed door and let themselves in. I've given up caring about the cultural taboo of not wearing a shirt (it's not super taboo anyway, some men (and women) go shirtless when doing something sweaty) when I'm working hard like hoeing a garden bed or chopping wood. My desire not to be bothered has at times even led to me moving about different parts of the porch as people pass, to avoid being seen. Pretty silly I suppose. But if you had to greet everyone who spots you and had to explain what you're doing to half of them who sit down, and try to deter a quarter of them from helping, you might do the same. The only time we can read is to go sit in the mango tree by the garden. Even so, some people will come to your closed house and "odi" (the greeting for "may I come in?" which isn't much of a request, since I've said no to the kids and they come anyway to ask for stuff) for several minutes.

So generally we read in the darkness of the house. Of course the neighbor kids still bug us and sit on our porch and ask for things.

One definitely good trait I've inherited from the West is a respect for animals. Zambians see all animals as either a source of food or a tool. They throw rocks at dogs and goats, don't feed dogs enough, and smack them for the slightest infraction. They steal wild birds' eggs and baby birds out of nests to eat. In spite of the tiny size of wild birds' eggs and the much larger size of chicken eggs, most people in our village won't eat chicken eggs. Because of living on the verge of starvation, Ndumfwa ("I Understand") - the neighbor's dog (the single survivor from 4 puppies) - comes over and eats scraps of food we put out for the chickens and the chicken's eggs. I didn't believe at first that a dog would know that there's food in eggs, but after 4 or 5 eggs disappeared and I noticed the dog lurking around a lot, I decided it did. This also explains why whenever we leave the hut for days, Joshua always takes our eggs to put inside their house. I asked how to protect the eggs, and the neighbors said to hit the dog. Frustrating.

Another good one, possibly related, is respect for the environment (certainly not terribly common even in the West). When Zambians are driving they throw their trash out of the window. Always. Rural Zambians have no compunction about chopping down any number or trees or burning any hectares of land. They happily use fertilizers (subsidized by the state) and pesticides - when they can get their hands on them (which is probably more from lack of information). I try to minimize the number of trees I cut, and when I harvest bark for rope, I only harvest one strip per tree, so they can heal it back over. In their defense, trees do grow very fast here and many species will grow back from stumps. Unfortunately they've reduced the forests to only fire tolerant trees and shrubs with an open canopy in most places. Also I imagine there would be a lot more wild animals if they didn't burn. To their detriment, burning drives destructive insects away from their normal foodsources and onto crops. There would be more trash in the village, but most people can't afford to buy a lot of products that tend to come in wrappers. Of course Zambia has no garbage trucks in most parts, so trash is burned (Lusaka is riddled with the reek of burning plastic at times) or buried. We have a pit out back where we put all our trash, so I guess we can't be saints on this cause. Kids reclaim a good portion of the plastic to make soccer balls. They also scavenge condoms from somewhere to blow up for the center of the soccer balls. Needless to say, that practice worries me a lot. That's the main reason why, at HIV/AIDS trainings, they tell people to put condoms down the pit latrine.

Ok can't think of anything else for now. So howabout some wacky Zambian things.

I saw a hand painted sheet today outside of one of the bus terminals in Lusaka with the following: "HIV/AIDS WAS CREATED IN A SECRET LABORATORY IN NEW YORK CITY, USA, FOR THE PURPOSE OF TAKING BACK AFRICA. IN [2000 something] 6[or so] FOREIGN MEDICAL WORKERS IN [some African country, not Zambia] INTENTIONALLY INJECTED THE VIRUS INTO [some number of people, subsequently infecting some high number of people (which wasn't equal to the number of people who actually have AIDS) and so on]". I remember reading the story on BBC. Some poor European doctors in some North African country were accused of giving people aids and have been in jail for several years. Rediculous.

It's a widely held view in rural Zambia (at least Mpelembe) that white people only have white skin because we haven't spent enough time in the sun. They must think we are indoors all the time back home, or that it's always cloudy or something. We tried to explain that we will get a little darker, but eventually just burn. They wouldn't hear of it.

In the market they sometimes sell balls of white clay they simply call "soil". Carrie bought two not understanding what their purpose could be. She asked the head teacher and he explained that they supposedly have a lot of iron and that when women are pregnant they crave them.

All cooking pots in Zambia (usually cheap aluminum affairs) must be cleaned on the inside, but especially the outside with sand and water. Women scrub their hearts out to keep the sides and bottoms of pans and pots spotless (this is an immense amount of work when you consider that almost everyone cooks over sooty wood or charcoal flames and usually no soap is involved). Pointing out that it's just going to get dirty later that day when they make dinner does no good. Neighbor lady even came over and scrubbed one of our pots randomly.

Whenever Zambians get almost any illness, they claim it's Malaria. Even when the symptoms are totally inconsistent. Sometimes they will admit they have a cold though.

Ran out of those. Now back to what has happened lately.

Actually this part was a while ago. For about a month I was teaching first the neighbor kids, then a bunch of random kids how to write. It started when Patty (5 or 6 years old?) wanted to read some books. Eventually I brought out some kids books with the letters and tried to explain them. Kids found out and the next day 10 kids were all huddled around. The request arose for writing lessons and so I gave like 12 kids pens and paper and we all practiced the letters. Sometimes we did numbers and I would reward the kids with gum if they could get to 100 (sometimes a string of numbers like 70-79 would repeat itself, but I gave them gum anyway). After our supply of gum and pens was exhausted, fewer kids came. Still I usually had between 4 and 8 kids. We ran out of paper and kids lost/forgot/were not the same kids I gave pens to, so we started writing in the dirt. The kids loved it! Their favorite part was erasing letters with the sound effect "kshkshkshksh". They went wild. It was hard to keep the kids all oriented so that they were seeing the letters I wrote right-side-up, so we had a lot of M's and W's confused. Also some kids are dyslexic, and some have never written before. Sometimes kids who were obviously old enough to be in a grade beyond writing letters would come. I think they just liked the personal attention and my exclamations of "cawama" (it's good). After class (back when we had paper) the kids would rush up to me to get their papers graded.

One day when class was almost over, I had to run to the school for something and I left the kids with their writing tablets (magazines) in the insaka to continue. Joshua (who I trust) and Wizzy (who is 14 at least and is the Headman's son, and who I told to watch the kids) were both there. I was gone for maybe 8 minutes and when I came back all the kids had left and Joshua was wailing nearby. Apparently Iron Mumba came over after I left and chased away all the kids and hit Joshua. He said that the kids would have stolen the magazines and then we would blame it on him, so he had to chase them away and hit his son for not alerting me to this fact. Obviously I would have assumed the kids and not Iron Mumba stole the magazines. It made no sense. My little schools attendance fell off a lot after that.

One day I was teaching some kids in the insaka and I had some peanuts drying. When the lesson was over I told the kids they could go home and I really had to pee. I got distracted by something else and when I returned I saw that all the peanuts were gone. When the kids came back the next day, it was most of the same ones, and I asked why they stole the peanuts. One older kid said it was this 3 year old kid they brought along that did it. I said he was lying and there would be no school that day. Ever since then my teaching career has basically been over. Doug's school of writing excellence turned into Doug's school of hard knocks I guess.

One day maybe 2 months ago, Carrie and I made a trip to the Mulombwa river. Carrie had been talking it up and wanted to go for some time. So one auspicious morning we set off. Right away I noticed the neighbors had lowered my seat again when I lent it to them. So there was a long delay while I struggled with stripped bolts and a broken rear rack. Finally we got going. When we reached the road, I dismounted briefly and my saddle fell apart. This was the saddle I bought to replace the original saddle that broke. Good beginnings for a picnic at the river. As we went further, Carrie wasn't entirely sure of the way and since it was rainy season we soon found ourselves biking/walking through between 6 inches and 2 feet of water that had flooded the road. It was so terrible it was funny. For me anyway - Carrie was kinda upset about it. After a long time we asked where the river was and a guy just up and offered to lead us all the way there. So onwards we trekked. We passed an area so low lying that a woman was pounding cassava in an insaka that was an island in the middle of a small lake along with the house. Finally we reached the river. It was huge! Really wide with a fast current. This guy who was sitting there checking his fish traps offered to take Carrie and I out in his dugout canoe. It was awesome, the canoe was barely above water level, very tippy, and it seemed the current would sweep us away in the middle. The river had flooded so that many trees were submerged near the bank. After the center with the current was a grassy waterway with slow moving waters. It was nice. The fisherman said that there used to be lots of crocodiles in the river, but they had killed them all. We ate our picnic and it started to rain a little. We biked along the river looking for something or other, then biked/sludged back home.

Our corn finally produced months ago! We had 4 delightful ears of corn between 3 and 5 inches long and up to maybe 3/4s of an inch wide from maybe 20 corn plants. Guess we should have burned or used fertilizer. We didn't have enough compost for the whole field (not really even enough for the whole garden). The corn was quite good, what little there was. Very sweet. One day I was walking through the field and I saw a snake! It was 3 or 4 feet long and black. I yelled for Carrie and we got the camera. It turned out to be a cobra, how cool is that. It reared back and spread its hood. I had glasses on so I wasn't worried (they are usually spitting cobras). We backed off eventually and let it slither off. Recently I saw a much longer black snake - just the back half - sticking out of the pit latrine. At my approach it went down the hole. Probably after a mouse.

We have these terrible biting ants (imposhi) that move in nomadic columns in search of food. They often come at night. If they come into your home, your only recourse is to spend the night in someone else's house (the good news is they clean your house of all insects and crumbs). Other PCVs have had their chickens killed by them. They eat anything. Twice they have come after the chickens. I don't know how they locate food, but they managed to climb up our elevated coop and attack our chickens. We were awakened by strange scratching sounds in the middle of the night. We went out and realized it was the chickens using their beaks to detatch imposhi that had latched on. We tried to use burning thatch waved on the ground to cause them to flee, but there were so many and they kept biting us. There are several different size imposhi in a colony, and the biggest ones love to climb unknown up your pant legs and bite tender areas and your armpits. The chickens decided to literally fly the coop. We brought some inside the house and one ran to the neighbors.

They attacked again recently, which was more terrible because only I was there to defend the chickens, and New Chicken was sitting on the eggs and so refused to move in spite of being under attack. It took nearly an hour and much burning thatch to convince the ants to go elsewhere. At one point I tried to clear the ones out of our laying shelter (which has grass for padding on the floor and a thatch roof) to get to New Chicken and the eggs. The only method is with fire, so naturally I accidentally caught the nest caught on fire, which caught the roof on fire, and caused New Chicken to flee. The flames were huge, but luckily I had been working with lushishi (bark rope) which requires soaking in water, so was able to use a nearby bucket to put the fires out before they ignited the hut's roof. I grabbed and dried off the eggs and put them in a basket with New Chicken. Luckily none of them were hard-boiled and I was able to pull off all of the imposhi from the chicken. Disaster averted. The laying shelter roof wasn't even damaged too much.

We ate bugs! There are the rather large bugs that screech really loud at night during rainy season. The kids in the village dig up their holes during the day and eat them. I had been finding a few at night when they leave their burrows to feed to the chickens. The cat also drags them in sometimes. "Look what the cat dragged in" - actually "Listen to what the cat dragged in". The bugs are so loud it hurts your ears! Carrie and I decided to try them. I killed two quickly by putting their heads in fire. Then followed the recipe we had been given. Pull off the legs and wings, fry in cooking oil, eat. They were pretty good actually. Kinda like shrimp or crab or something.

Mango season ended some months ago. There were a few unripened ones hanging around Carrie and I tried to keep secret, but the kids found them and stole them. We also had many big green oranges on the orange tree by our insaka. Carrie and I both left Mpelembe at one point and when we came back, there were only about 6 oranges left. I don't know why Zambians eat unripe fruit. Carrie claims it's to make sure that someone else doesn't get it before they do.

A couple of weeks ago Carrie and I took a trip up to Mansa and Samfya in Luapula province. We mainly wanted to go to Samfya, which is on Lake Bangwelu, but we thought we should check out the Peace Corps House in Mansa and get some food for the trip. Mansa turned out to be a terrible city. It's like if Serenje were dingy-er and much bigger, but exceedingly spread out. Walking anywhere took forever and the streets have no logic to them. Turned out that day was Easter, so instead having a low-key night maybe watching movies at the house, a bunch of people were there and were going to drink and play twister. Someone started watching Pirates of the Caribbean 3, which we wanted to see, but then the power went out. Apparently happens all the time in Mansa. The next day we bought some cheese, bread, PB&J. The cheese was moldy from the power outages, and the bread was stale. Ugh.

Anyway, we went to Samfya. Right down to the water. There were 2 guesthouses, both ridiculously expensive, so we camped on the beach. I must admit, those thermarest things are essential to camping. Even on sand our hips and shoulders would get so sore and we'd have to roll over every half hour, all night. In the evening, we got rowed across the way to the actual town and got some good nshima. I ordered nshima with fish!!!! I decided to violate my vegitarianism to try the fresh local fish. It was delicious. We found some secluded spot on the beach and set up the tent and slept poorly. The next day we tried to find out about going to one of the islands in the middle of the lake (it's a big lake), but the boat only leaves on certain days and was too expensive so we just laid on the beach, drank hard cider, read, and swam. The water was really nice once you got in. Now I probably have schistosomiasis. We'll know for sure if my urine becomes bloody in the next 10 years or so. It was worth it. There is also a single dose cure. We put on sunscreen (except my legs which were judged by Carrie to be dark enough) and we both got sunburned on the backs of our legs and Carrie on her back as well. Damn. It's been many years since I got really sunburned. Hurt like hell and made sleeping that much harder. It was neat watching the fishermen go out in their dugouts and cast their nets. They didn't bring in much. We also wanted to see crocks, but they are on the other side of the lake. That night we asked around the guesthouses for nshima, but they said they didn't have any power to cook. Eventually, the one guy let us use their charcoal brazier and their mealie meal. We just had to buy the eggs.

I built Carrie a swing as a surprise one time when she had to go to Serenje. I braided together 3 strands of lushishi, and then three of those braided strands to make strong rope. I milled down a log into a board for the seat. It was pretty sweet. We put it up and used it a little. Mostly the kids who pass by and the neighbor kids use it. They broke it a few times from swinging wildly. I broke it once cause I'm too heavy :(

We are considering getting a dairy goat! We want to start a project in Mpelembe to get people to take care of dairy goats (which are rare in Zambia) as a source of income and protein for themselves. Carrie is trying to get a grant to make the goats available cheaply for the villagers. First we want to buy a goat for ourselves so we can teach ourselves before we teach other people. We've read up on it a bit, mainly in "The New Goat Handbook" and an article in a magazine my Mom sent. The handbooks warns that goats have the sort of curious behavior that may seem to result in "malicious pranks". I can only picture them putting a full pail of milk on top of the barn door. We started to build the goat house. The log I was splitting will be the door, and we have gotten the posts for the raised floor already. The floor will be raised to keep the goat dry in rainy season, and so we can gather the "berries" for natural fertilizer. I bought chain and a lock to tether the goat (we'd love to just let it loose, but it would eat our and the neighbor's crops. Also someone might steal it because milk goats are much bigger than the dwarf goats most people keep and probably will look very different). Carrie and I are super excited about getting a goat. They sound so funny and intelligent. And of course, then we get fresh milk!!! No more Nido or Cowbell for our oats and coffee. We're hoping to give out free samples of the milk to people to get everyone interested in the project too. A Peace Corps Volunteer in Mkushi district has already started a goat project in her village, so we may even get a goat or few from her. A baby goat would be really cute. We are so eager I might try to get a goat on my way back from Lusaka. Probably not though, because the PCV with the goats hasn't gotten back to us with the number of the farmer she bought from yet. I wrote down some numbers from the telephone book and may try them on my way back. Who knows.

I guess that's all the updates!

Now I will try to recall who to thank for packages.

Emilie! Thank you so much for all your goodies and the nutritional yeast flakes. We've already almost eaten everything.

Dad! Thank you also for the goodies! The toothpaste was also much appreciated.

Nonna! Thank you for the chicken book! I'll have to bring it back for Dad, as this would be an especially suitable method of chicken-raising in the garden plot.

Everyone with land should get chickens! Fresh eggs are so much better than factory farm ones. Even if you are in the city it is feasible. There is a book on urban chicken husbandry out there. I know Carnegie library has it.

Can someone (not everyone) send us non-animal based rennet and mesophilic milk culture? Co-ops might have both. I know the East End Food Co-op had rennet. We want to make Chevre! Thanks!

Mares eat goats and lambs eat goats

Long time no blog as they say.

Well. What has happened in the past few years I've been in Zambia? First to expound on the issues raised in my last post.

One day Joshua was walking to school with their white (good, wise) rooster bound at the feet. I asked him what he was doing and he said that they were selling their rooster to "Ba Head" (the principal) to pay for school fees or books or something. I said I'd pay him 5 pin if they sold the "headless" (evil, ugly, defeathered) rooster instead. We went back to their Insaka to discuss the matter with the great patriarch Iron Mumba. After much confused broken Bemba and incomprehensible gesturing, Joshua and I made Ba Iron understand that I wanted them to sell the other rooster and that I would even be willing to give them our beautiful rooster as a gift as incentive (better than 5 pin for them and us, as our rooster was one of those delightfully chronologically-defective individuals who begin crowing at 4 or 5 am, and roosters cost like 20 pin). Most of their misunderstanding stemmed from the fact that Carrie and I are known to desire our hens to produce eggs. Rural Zambians are convinced that a rooster is necessary for the hens to lay. So why would we give away our rooster if we wanted eggs (they failed to think about the fact that our houses are definitely within rooster walking distance, and that we had eggs before we bought the rooster). How they explain why women menstruate even without having constant sex is unknown. Anyway, they finally sold the terrible rooster at the road (Ba Head didn't want it) and now have our rooster and the white rooster.

Post script to this drama is that I had taught our now ex-rooster my chicken call (a whistling pattern) and so he comes over and steals food whenever I try to round up our hens to eat. He's a pretty bad rooster, he fails to mate with our hens most of the time because he runs after them really slowly, gives up early, and doesn't understand how to trick them.

We didn't eat the last batch of eggs from our 3 laying hens and have allowed New Chicken to sit on them (~15 days out of 21 so far). Candled the eggs to see the embryos. It was pretty cool. They are sort of swimming around in the eggs. New Chicken attacks the cats viciously whenever she is off of her nest for exercise or to eat.

She nearly killed the kitten (who I have yet to mention in depth). He either had a heart attack, a stroke, an seizure or something like that. He was unhurt from the attack, but started pawing at his head and then stopped breathing and went completely limp and unresponsive. I pinched him as hard as I could and he didn't move. I gave him CPR and he came back to life after the first breath into him. Scary as I had a puppy die on me a month before that in the same manner.

We had a puppy for less than a week. One night we heard this terrible yowling outside the hut and I found a miserable looking tiny puppy with hair gone from his forehead, congenitally in-turned front paws and several bot flies and infected bot fly exit wounds. We put him in the insaka with some water and decided to take care of him if he was still there the next day. He was. Pulled out 6 or so huge bot fly larvae, gave him a bath, put on antibacterial gel, and force-fed him reconstituted milk. He wandered around a little, usually just to leave his clean bed of straw and lie in the dirt. We asked around to see if someone lost a dog (figuring it wandered off and had a terrible time in the forest), only to find out that this kid has ukuposa'ed (thrown out, as in garbage) the dog because he said it looks bad. Ok it did look bad. Especially when he brought over its brother who was easily 2/3x as big and healthy and bright-eyed. Obviously ours was a runt that maybe the mother rejected. The kid tried to sell us the healthy dog offering to hit ours over the head with a hoe (why didn't they do that in the first place? why cast it out to die a slow and painful death?). It only strengthened my resolve to make our dog healthy. Not that we particularly wanted a dog, but we couldn't just abandon it. It seemed to be getting better until one day it got really bloated with diarrhea. It became less and less responsive and iridescent flies started laying eggs on its posterior (carrion flies I believe). After washing off the eggs it was in terrible shape and eventually quit breathing and went limp. I was pretty upset about it, and Carrie had gone to Serenje so it was especially hard to bear alone. I buried it between two old Cassava heaps in the backyard under moonlight.

Boy that's f-ing depressing huh.

So when Carrie and I were in Serenje last we were in "Tusheni's Grand Bazaar" and we saw these kittens creeping around. Carrie fell in love with the long haired one and I agreed it was pretty cute. I'm sure she gave a lengthy description in her blog if you want to read about the kitten. We named him Finnegan, though we usually refer to him as "Little Cat/Kit/Kits", which I imagine will actually become his name as per New Chicken's example. He is pretty damn cute, but looks terrible when wet. He is always climbing up us, uselessly attacking the other cat Professor and bounding about like a kitten.

After the first colony of bees absconded, we heard of another swarm near school. We put it in our hive (only 3 stings for me) and put on paperclips to keep the queen inside. Of course she needs to mate to get the colony going so we had to take them off eventually. A few days after that the new colony absconded. Sigh. They built a tiny 2x2" section of comb before they left. At least they contemplated staying. Swarming season is over so now we may resort to kidnapping a colony which has already established itself in a dead tree (our neighbor has offered to open the hive up for 3 pin).

Went to Livingstone (Zambian side of Victoria Falls). The ride there was terrible, as the road is in extreme disrepair and we took one of the smaller busses to save ourselves 10 pin or something. Ended up taking 2x as long as it should have. The guesthouse (Jollyboys) was delightful and cheap. Even offered a free ride to the falls. We went there and hiked all the hell around it. Of course it was rainy season and we didn't realize that the volume of water going over the falls is so great at this time that the mist actually obscured about 3/4s of the falls. Silly us. It was still gorgeous and awesome (as in inspiring awe). We saw it from the side, the top, and the gorge at the bottom where the river executes a nearly 180 degree turn (called the Boiling Point, due to the madly roiling nature of the water movement. There was a big log stuck in the whirlpool just going around and around for who knows how long. We had to hike through a flooded path and ate some wild dates to get to it). At the top about 10 feet from where the water actually falls over the cliff I first stuck my leg in and then (much to Carrie's dismay and anxiety) my whole body from the stomach down while holding onto a tree branch (don't have a heart attack Mom, I think there were some rocks I might have been able to grab onto had I slipped off the limb). I just let my lower half be bobbed around by the current. Fun! Dangerous! Carrie took pictures! We got soaking wet hiking beside the falls. It was fun.

Then we went to get some souvenirs! Can't tell what they are since some will be presents. Took a long time. Those guys are hucksters of course. "What kind of wood is this carved out of?" - "Mukwa" (I've cut down mukwa trees and it didn't look anything like it). After we were on the minibus back from the falls to Livingstone, I realized that the light weight and lack of coldness indicated that some of our items were carved from wood with lots of paint instead of the "river rock" that lines the river gorge. Damn. Oh well. Some stuff is pretty sweet. Carrie kept trying to get close to this olive baboon that was eating trash at the falls. It was so tame. She almost touched it practically.

Half the garden beds are functional. One whole row of stawberries, 8 tomato plants, maybe 10 green bean plants. In the field our watermelon plants are finally making watermelons and a discarded watermelon and tomato seed in the compost grew and are very productive (though I think the neighbors/chickens are getting most of the tomatoes). Had to repair the grass garden fence, which partially collapsed during the rains. Rainy season is basically over. Beginning cold season. My favorite.

Oh god, I am supposed to pick up Carrie and my's visas for our upcoming trip to Tanzania at 2 so I can't finish this blog. It's already 3. Maybe I will be able to get back to the internet after I retrieve the visas. We are going to Zanzibar island - spice and cultural mixing pot of the ancient world! in Junish.

Sorry I never have enough time to post!!! I even am staying an extra day in Lusaka and I still am running short on time. All bureaucracy takes longer than one thinks of course.