Saturday, August 15, 2009

July where did you go?

Just finished a week of PEPFAR training here in Kasama. PEPFAR stands for the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief. $45 billion dollars has been earmarked for international AIDS relief in countries that have the highest prevalence rates in the world. Zambia is one of them. The rate of HIV infection in Zambia is about 17%, in all of Southern Africa it is 5%, in the US it is about 1%. We had Zambian counterparts with us at the workshop, both men and women. It was interesting and infuriating at the same time to discuss issues such as sexuality and gender.

The most eye opening discussions we had were surrounding women. According to Zambian men the only time a wife can refuse sex is when she is on her period or she is sick (really, really sick). She cannot say no just because she doesn't feel like having sex. We also learned that the most import thing about sex is the mans orgasim. And the difference between a Zambian man's wife and his girlfriend is that he gets tired and bored with his wife. Naturally my question was why even get married then, the response was to have children. But that makes no sense because there are so many children born out of wedlock and, if a husband and wife were to get a divorce the husband would stop taking care of those children. Needless to say the Americans (men and women) were frustrated, angry and judgemental for these discussions. Its not our place to condem peoples culture, we have our own issues in our culture we need to work on correcting. It was, however, very difficult not to condem especially when there were married Zambian women who asked some of these questions and that was the response they got. Talk about feeling unloved and unwanted. It broke my heart these women had to endure those conversations, no wonder they never speak out when men are present. This was just one of men stressful experiences of the month though.

The last month has been pretty stressful. Found out a few weeks ago that a man was found dead in a village 13km from my house in a village that has been trying to get me to come out there to work. It can neither be confirmed nor denied by the police that he was murdered. Nor can it be confirmed nor denied that there were body parts missing (like the chin, heart and penis). The story was conveyed by one of my fish farmers who attended the funneral of this man who was a relative to him. Peace Corps knows about it, they had me leave that weekend to go to the house because they didn't know what was going on. The same day I found this out I also found out that my dad had a minor heart attack. That was a terrible night in the village.

Dad is ok now, he had surgery in Isreal although they waited until after shabot to preform the surgery (he went in thrusday and they cut him open on sunday). His artery was 100% blocked. He is doing well now it sounds like. But he is having a change in lifestyle; healthier and some restrictions (no travel to developing countries).

I haven't spent much time in my village either. I went to Lusaka for a week for the National Agricultrual show. It was interesting to be in Lusaka around highly educated, wealthier Zambians as opposed to the less educated farmers I am used to working with. Even the more educated people in the village have somewhat of the village mentality compared to those living in the cities. I was then in my village one night; there was a meeting with Department of Fisheries (DOF) and my fish farming group. Then I headed back into Kasama after DOF didn't show up the next day for the second meeting we were supposed to have. Which brings us to the week of PEPFAR and my second weekend in Kasama.

Now I am trying to get information and people organized inorder to figure what I am going to be doing next. It seemed to be decided that I should leave the village and work on something else. There is a national park, Kasanka, that I am trying to get information about and I also am trying to get intouch with someone at the Human Rights Commission in Lusaka to work on HIV and Gender projects. Life is unpredictable day by day and I am trying very hard to cope with the stress of not knowing what tomorrow will bring. I don't think I am doing that well because people keep telling me not to leave Zambia even though I haven't really seriously considered that option. I just want to have a better experience here and reestablish my faith in the human race. Hopefully next week will bring about so good opportunities.

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