Saturday, November 5, 2011

Traveling home

Not really sure I am ready to go back to the states yet......

Borough Market: London, England



Lunch after olive picking: Tarragona, Spain

Lunch after olive picking: Tarragona, Spain

Olives: Tarragona, Spain
Day of the Dead: Barcelona, Spain

Guell Park: Barcelona, Spain
Busker at Guell Park: Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona, Spain
Dali Museum: Costa Brava, Spain
Dali Museum: Costa Brava, Spain

Dali Museum: Costa Brava, Spain
Basillica Sagrada Familia: Barcelona, Spain

Yummy snails!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Growing up

This is my 4th birthday in Zambia and the last year being in my twenties. Birthdays are a really funny thing. When you are young they are a big deal. But as we get older they don't carry as much excitement as they do anxiety and only the big ones carry the celebration that an 8 year old's birthday can carry. Each birthday in this country has be so incredibly different.

I turned 26 ten days after moving to the village. Peace Corps has what is called "Community Entry" for the first three months of being in your placement, meaning you can't leave unless there is an emergency. I don't think birthdays count as emergencies, but they should. My family didn't know they could call me in my village, my village family didn't know it was my birthday and I felt really weird telling them. The day went on as just another day and oh my god did I cry. My friend Justin who lived 100km from me has the same birthday, but he had two neighbors at the time that were super awesome and made him a cake and they had a ka-small party in there in his village. They tried to talk me into coming but I felt weird about leaving the village 10 days after getting there. In hind site it might of been good to have made the trip, but it was a great learning experience. It is important to take the time to recognize someone on their special day because it sucks to be completely forgotten.

The next year was a much better experience. A death defying trip to the Wonder Gorge where we fought forest fires and scaled down the side of a 300 ft. gorge to the river for a cool dip and to collect water. We ran out of water and food, the canter truck was hours and hours late to pick us up. People were scared, even though we had cell phone reception.

The third birthday was ten days after starting my job at WorldFish. I don't even remember what I did for that birthday, if anything.

This year my birthday is 10 days before leaving the country. My boss threw a wonderful leaving/birthday party for me at his home. Friends and colleagues came and enjoyed. For my actual birthday, there are plans to go to dinner at the Chinese restaurant down the road. It is raining right now with no sign of letting up but I hope soon enough it will die out.

I think I am kind of excited about leaving my twenties behind and moving closer to adulthood, I think I am starting to figure out what I want to be when I grow up!

Friday, September 30, 2011

What is time?

Time doesn't seem real anymore. After today, I will have 9 more days of work. There are 3 weekends left in Zambia. This weekend is the Dutch Reform Market, maybe a trip to Sugarbush to buy a grown-up purse, maybe a leaving braai for yet one more person leaving the country. Then I have 5 days of work to get thoughts and some details organized for a project that will be taken over by another volunteer in a couple of weeks. That weekend of the 8th will be a party at the boss's house with ambiguous intentions of being either for my birthday or leaving. The week after that is 4 days at WorldFish wrapping up my paper and a few random projects. The 13th is my last day. The 14th is the 50th Peace Corps anniversary celebration for PCZambia. The following weekend is a possibility of a quick trip to somewhere around Zambia. Then the last week: medical and wrapping up Peace Corps stuff. Time will FLY. I feel pretty good about leaving. I, however, am not really letting myself deal with the emotions of leaving and find I am moody and impatient, that could be from the coffee I started drinking though.

Things I have left to do:
  • Mail stuff home that I don't want to lug to Europe
  • Sell items from around the house, anyone interested in: a tent, a zero degree sleeping bag, a 30 degree sleeping back, an almost new pack, and maybe a couple more items that I haven't yet decided on?
  • Go chitenge shopping
  • Sort through the rest of my items to find things to trade at the market for trinkets
  • Write my COS report
  • Get the last of my clothes from the tailor
  • Pack
It doesn't really seem like all that much to do in 3 weeks but there is something to keep in mind, things take much longer here than they would back home and that much longer without having wheels of my own. Also, there are some hidden tasks that will invariably come to light.

In the mean time I am spending as much time as possible with friends, eating lots of nshima, and pretending that I am not leaving in 3 weeks.

Friday, September 23, 2011

African Democracy

I thought democracy in America was exciting. This is my second election in Zambia. The first one was under extremely unfortunate circumstances after President Mwanawasa unexpectedly passed away. The country was in shock and mourning. I was in the village. There was nothing exceptional about the election. People voted. We sat around the radio listening to results as they came in district by district. And with no surprise the VP who was acting President was elected. It was not the right time for change.

The sign of Patriotic Front and Presidential winner Michael Sata.
Not this year. People wanted change this year. Over the past year I heard people saying violence might be the only answer to bring about change. Then we had the Arab Spring. Between a motivated youth, violence and rioting change seemed possible but not how Zambia normally experienced it. People were nervous about this election. "This year things are different." But Zambian nature prevailed and held close to the peace that has blessed this nation since independence. There were a few minor riots with sensational photos of a burning minibus. People were feeling tense not knowing what the results were. The electoral commission was only allowing verified results to be announced. At 12:45 am this morning Sata was declared the new President of Zambia. After 20 years of the MMD party controlling the presidency people were ready for a new party. Graciously, wisely, and respectfully the former President Rupia Banda acknowledged the results of a free and fair democratic election. Being a graceful looser is so much more noble than being a winner. Thank you President Banda for your blessing and encouragement to keep peace within the MOST peaceful Southern African Nation.

People are celebrating like it is Independence all over again. I can imagine what the scene was like in 1964 based on what I have seen today. People are appreciating the value of democracy and what a united voice can do for a nation. The people called for change and change came. People are happy. They are celebrating and have been celebrating since 1:00 am and still going strong. My office is on one of the main roads from where votes were being tabulated direct to state house. The streets are filled with chanting "don't ukubeba" (take what you can from Banda but tell who you are really voting for), honking, singing and dancing. It is a true honor that the people of Zambia are happy to share this moment and let me watch from the office drive way and take photos of their nation's success in democracy.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Speaking one of the local languages has become one of my favorite things about living in Zambia. Every where I travel in the country I can find at least one person that speaks the language I know. Well I should be careful here, I don't know the language very well and it has gotten worse since leaving the village. Leading off a conversation in Bemba however leads to awesomeness.
I traveled to Bemba speaking province for work last week; it was a great time speaking to the women and children in my rudimentary Bemba. We went through the markets and to fish landing sights which gave me ample opportunity to use my rusty language skills. My goodness how much fun I had. In Lusaka I only use my language skills to negotiate a taxi. Up there I used the language to ask the women what kind of fish they have and where it is from. To ask kids to take their photos and to ask random people on the street for directions. To ask people what they are doing and what they are having for supper. I don't use it for an in depth conversation but it I use it to get a laugh out of people and to break the ice. The trip was great fun and reminded me of all the goodness Zambia has to offer (the city wears you down sometimes!).

Boats outside the Department of Fisheries

Traders selling sweet potatoes at the Kashikishi landing site on Lake Mweru.

Lake Mweru, Kashikishi fish landing site.

These kids were hilarious.

Lots of activity at a fish landing site.

As soon as I got back into Lusaka Alex (left) and Martha (right) talked me into meeting them at Plates for the wine tasting, I had juice. I was dirty, tired and had all of my stuff. Alex also had just gotten in from a quick trip out of town and also had all of her stuff which made it impossible to say no to the ladies. Plates is a rather classy restaurant and I walked in with a filthy pack with my running shoes hanging off the bag. People were staring. But I would like to think they were not judging but admiring how hardcore I looked, coming from some place obviously far away wasting no time to have a nice evening in town. (Ladies I'm sorry I am putting this picture up its not the best I know but it was the best end to the day). It is going to be hard to leave Zambia, but I think the time has come.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


There is a group of Native Alaskans that believe that catching a fish by rod and reel is bad for the soul. It is considered torturing your food and eating tortured food is like ingesting negative energy. It all makes perfect sense.  Others would say you are what you eat. The concept is the same. What you ingest has a significant impact on your health and wellbeing. I am approaching 30 at the speed of light and am starting to realize that I am not in as good of shape and health as I should be. This past winter I hiked the Grand Canyon, down to the bottom and back out, with my 73 year old Grandfather and my 69 year old Grandmother. The expectations for my quality of life as I progress in years is incredibly high, I have super genes that I have to live up to. This was part of my motivation for giving up booze and coffee, a quest for a healthy lifestyle.
I passed my 90 days of sobriety a couple/few weeks ago. Weekend before last I decided that I wanted to give alcohol and coffee a try again. In the past two weeks I have drank about 5 times.  Every time after I get a buzz I remember why I gave up alcohol, I don’t like feeling out of control. When I drink, even if it is just 2 drinks and a slight buzz I feel slightly out of control. So I am deciding once again to give up booze. This is after a beer and a glass and a half of red wine. No more booze for me. This time it is for the long haul. I am not putting a time limit. I am just saying I am done. I wanted to know how booze would taste. I think I like juice and tea better now.
Over the past couple of weeks I have had coffee as well. Both decaf and regular. My first cup back was a French vanilla blend. Today I had two cups; the morning cup was again the French vanilla blend. The second was half a cup of a strong pot of a French press. I bought a bag of decaf and drink that occasionally, more than the regular. It all kind of hurts my stomach and it is not quite the wonder drink I used to think it was. It just doesn’t taste the same as it used to. I probably won’t give up the coffee out right, but maybe stick to the decaf when I have a craving.
Here comes the kicker. I am giving up eating land animals. For the past two weeks the most meat I have had was the bruschetta I had on top of my pizza. That is not including the cold water fish I had for dinner last week. I feel so much better. So only water based animals for me: fish and shellfish. No more chicken, beef, pork, goat or other animal raised with hormones and vaccines. Maybe I will keep the option to eat game meat? That might seem a bit obscure though.
I don’t trust people who don’t have visible vices, at least one. So I can’t consciously cut out every single vice I have, luxury and decadence is a matter of quality of life. So I am going to cut out the things that I don’t think are enhancing my life but not cutting out every single vice I have. I will allow myself the option to drink coffee when I want it, when I have the desire and the craving. I will retain my vice for clothes and sweets but knock out booze and most meat (not that meat is a vice, it is more a luxury).

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Stress has become my closest companion lately. Not in a melodramatic, dark-artist sort of way but more in the sort of way when a mouse moves in and you do everything you can to be rid of it and he just hangs around getting braver and braver. If you haven’t had a mouse for a roommate then this might be the wrong analogy for you. You can substitute many things for mouse: cock roaches, wasps, deadbeat cousin…you get the idea now I’m sure. This state of agitation has not made me want to post anything publicly because anything I attempted to write was far too negative for anyone in a decent state of mine. This is by no means is not to imply that my life isn’t decent. Allow me to explain. From my countdown I now have 51 days left under Peace Corps rule. To cut a long story short I don’t know what I will be doing with my life from that point forward. Grad school is on the horizon, if it gets funded. I have been applying to jobs but no response yet. In short I have a huge life transition with no clear picture of what my life will be like after Peace Corps, despite the fact that I stayed on another year with a partial intention of having something to do before grad school started. The other intention was significant work experience I would never be able to get in the states. The latter became very true but now I find myself in a very similar boat as last years, although this year’s model has significant improvements over last year’s.

I digress. The mouse hasn’t moved out yet and I haven’t managed to kill it, we are the status quo. But. But the most wonderful thing happened to me this evening.

After yoga (one of the many tactics I am attempting to combat this mouse) I went to a friend’s house for dinner and a movie, she cooks up the best veggies in town and she has a killer movie selection on her comp. We cuddled up with our veggie curry and 12” computer screen and watched a fantastically girly movie. (Her company was enough to brighten my day, but it gets better). With it being a school night, I headed home straight away after the ending. It wasn’t too late, there was hardly anyone out and about and she literally lives around the corner. I walked home with my keys in my hand ready to bare-knuckle anyone dodgy. As I was about to walk into my gate a car came driving by  hooting at me, sorry, honking at me. Then the guy turned directly into my drive and waited for the guard to open the gate. So I waited. I watched this guy enter into the gate and slowly drive around. Suspicious? I was. I asked Mr. Phiri, the scarier of our two guards who keeps a bottle handy to deal with the boring, lonely, cold nights, who that was. (Well I shouldn’t say he keeps a bottle, but he does like to drink). He didn’t know who was in the car. I told him he had hooted at me down the road. He told me to wait where I was and he would go check the guy out. The driver just sat in the car waiting. Mr. Phiri backed up a bit and told me to enter into the guard shack. I did as I was told, no questions asked. He then came back and said "let me escort you the other way around, then  I will go deal with him." My protest was that I didn’t want the driver to see where I lived. Mr. Phiri assured me that he couldn’t see because of where the car was parked. So he walked me around the back side of the buildings and then told me to carefully walk the rest of the way to my house while he went to go see the driver of the suspicious car sitting in the car park with his dim lights on. I made it around the corner and could see the headlights poking out from behind a wall, so I waited. While I waited I saw someone come out of one of the flats and head straight for the suspicious car. Taxi. Of course he was a taxi, he was hooting at me. But he was a taxi with a legitimate call to pick someone, not just some guy driving around bored, following people. I made it up stairs to my house with no incidence. As I was washing my face and contemplating how suspicious I have become of people I heard a pounding. It sounded like it was on my door, but it was hard to tell with the water running. Just to be sure I went to the front door and there was Mr. Phiri smelling faintly of beer coming to collect guard fees but mostly with the express purpose to check on me. He told me I was right to be scared about the driver, he was actually not surprised by my reaction at thinking the cab driver was following me to find out where I lived, but he told me he was now used to these types of things. Turns out I probably over reacted but better safe than sorry. And I learned that Mr. Phiri is actually a really great guy. I like the other guard better, he is so friendly and doesn’t ask for a thing. Mr. Phiri once asked me for booze while he was working, seemed just a little inappropriate. The toughest part about living alone is no one notices if you don’t come home. But it turns out that Mr. Phiri cares and actually might notice if I didn’t come home. It was so reassuring and uplifting remembering that people are kind and caring. Living in the big city doesn't always give you the most optimistic impressions of people.

Maybe I should give the drunk amaguys at the bus station the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they are really good guys trying to make a measly living, trying to make it through the day. Kind of hard to stomach humbling myself to them when yesterday one of them announced to me quite loudly in front of the entire bus that he was available and wanted to marry me so I could take him back to America. Huh, not going to be any easier there buddy and you would probably hate having a musungu wife. But lesson learned, its good to be alert and on guard. Its not good to be negative and suspicious of everyone, especially of the guy from Airtell that calls you while at work to tell you that you have racked up enough points to collect 3 free telephones from any airtell store. 3? What am I going to do with 3 cheap phones?