Monday, October 22, 2012

Limo limo ndefwaya kubwela ku Amelika pantu kuli amareasons aya:

Reasons why sometimes I want to move back to America:


well, those are the top 3. Of equal importance.


  • constant electricity and internet
  • independent movies (=Ragtag and equivalent theaters)
  • theatre
  • museums
  • nice cafes and coffee shops
  • sandwiches. turkey sandwiches.
  • church and a church community
  • a bible study/small group
(yes, I realize I thought of sandwiches before Jesus. That's the ugly truth. Also true that I would MUCH rather have a church community than turkey sandwiches.)
  • phone calls. phone calls where you don't have to worry about your talktime running out.
  • Pickles. dill pickles. 

Reasons I do NOT want to move back to America:

  • People constantly on their iphones even while in groups with whom they ought to be interacting
  • Everyone has babies
  • I can go running outside virtually every day of the year in Zambia and find it quite pleasant, or at the least, totally bearable
  • No one speaks Bemba
  • Seriously the weather is really nice most of the time here. Especially if you don't have to worry about biking/hitching in it. The cold part is so short I forget about it so quickly. 
  • Oh, you can't hitch hike in America
  • people are so busy all the time (slow down)
#1.1 I would have to find something to do in America/maybe make a life decision. (yikes!)
  • I'd be just like everyone else. (ok, not really. but kinda)
  • No more market shopping, ridiculous daily experiences, or people who will drop whatever they're doing to help you

But seriously, I really wanna go bowling. I watched The Big Lebowski for the first time recently (hilarious! I been missin out). Gave me a serious hankerin for some bowlin. No bowling alley in Zambia. I heard there used to be one. Can't justify a trip to South Africa just for bowling, though.

And I really miss Halloween. 3 years of lame Halloweens, 2 without any costume or celebration at all (including this one). I didn't even try to think of a Halloween costume this year. That makes me sad. I love Halloween, and costumes.

Sorta surprised at myself that I just wrote this. I guess that's what I need to blog: plenty of internet access (the power is on late tonight) and a lack of friends. Truth tellin' today.

(but never the whole truth...)

Or maybe I just like to share ridiculous things. Like how NPR and pickles make me think moving back to America sounds good.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Chibwela Mushi

Back to the village

Last Sunday I went back to my old village, Mambilima, to visit for the 1st time since I left in early April. I got the chance because my boss was going to Mkushi for the day and could take my bike in the back of the truck. So I dropped at my old turn off and biked the 17km of my old shortcut to my former home. It was a little weird but mostly nice. Nice to be leisurely biking there, without a big heavy bag on the back, without chores to come back to. I finally stopped to take pictures along the way. It's not the most beautiful time of year, but close enough. It was still nice to capture a bit of the beauty of my bush bike ride.

It was fun to see people awkwardly greet the strange muzungu on the road then to see them realize it was me and get excited. 
Getting close, take the left fork.

Almost there
I went straight to my best friend Betty's house. She RAN out and gave me a huge hug. Then hugs from her mom and dad too (the head teacher and his wife). Sadly her son, Baby B (Brian Blair Chewe), doesn't like strange people anyway and definitely isn't used to me, a strange muzungu, so we're not friends yet. Lots of crying. He'll be a year old on Oct 5 so he doesn't yet know that he should love me because I'm his muzungu auntie and namesake.
But I had a delicious lunch of nshima with rape (leaves) and beans. I realized (after having rape cooked on a stove with sunflower or olive oil) that village prepared rape over a fire with cheap cooking oil and tons of salt is by far the best rape there is. And Zam-style beans are soooo good. Betty is a good cook. 

This is one wall of Betty's family's house. The highlight of the photo is actually that small photo on the right (the Mobley family Christmas card)

I met up with Steve, my replacement PCV, at my favorite teacher, Mr. Silungwe's house. Steve's doing great, despite the challenges of the living situation. Which is a relief. He has a garden, a beautiful demo plot of planting basins for conservation farming, and has cooked a giant pot of nshima. Showing me up right and left. Which is awesome. I'm glad people are impressed that he's strong. I would 100% much rather people say Steve is better than me than to say I was better than his is. It's his site and his home now. 

I actually miss my little grass roofed hut. Not so much it's location or the leaks in rainy season, but now that it's hot, I miss how it was always nice and cool. And it was mine. Living alone is nice. 

I almost sent Steve a text to tell Mr. Silungwe that I wanted my hat that he promised to make for me. No need. Mr. Silungwe knew I would ask for it and so got up early in the morning to make it for me. 

It's a traditional 'head sock' as they say, made from the bark of the mutondo tree. I guess you'd call it bark cloth and I think it was one of the things people used for clothes before us whiteys showed up. Silungwe says it'll keep my head dry if I wear it in the rain. I'll add that to the reasons why Mutondo is one of my favorite trees: 1. I can identify it, 2. it has pretty bark, 3. it's an important 'bee tree' providing nectar and pollen to bees which then provide honey and income to beekeepers, 4. it makes good firewood, 5. it's the preferred home of big bright green caterpillars that people eat and can sell, and now 6. you can make a hat from it's bark! as well as other garments. Next time I visit he said he'll make me a skirt. That seriously might be the most motivating reason to visit again.

Timo (Timothy) beating down the mutondo bark for another hat. It's just a tube of hammered down bark closed at one end to make a hat.
After visiting Mambilima, more than ever I feel like it's my home in Zambia. It's still MY bike ride that goes through MY stretch of bush. And it's much nicer than where I live now, much more pleasant. So many more trees.  
But, that's because it's farther from the paved road, farther from town, has worse roads and fewer cows with which to pull ox carts full of charcoal. That's the constant traffic on the road at my current place, oxcarts full of charcoal from the ever decreasing forest, to sell at the roadside. 
Such a dilemma. Everyone wants development, right? Better roads mean development. And they mean destruction of the forest for charcoal and farmland as land becomes more valuable with increased accessibility because of a better road. Mambilima is nice because it still has plenty of trees, because it's less developed, and I think, at least partially, because its road is terrible. People at Mambilima would love a nice road. People at Chilunga (near where I stay now) would love a bridge across the Mulungushi River so they are no longer cut off during rainy season. I dread such developments because they're like a death sentence for the forest. Ok, maybe that's a little dramatic, and I don't have evidence that would happen, but I'm pretty confident it would. But a nice road and a bridge would of course provide lots of benefits, too. 
People need to cut down trees for their livelihoods here--for income from charcoal, firewood for cooking, construction materials. They need to clear new fields to expand and develop their farms. But there's no alternative for when those trees are gone. 

But I digress...

This visit was half of a double whammy of regret for not keeping a good journal during my time in Zambia. The next day a Zambian lady said to me, You are writing a book about your experience here, aren't you? You must. It would be a very good and important book. Mr. Silungwe used to say something like that to me all the time.
Now, plenty of PCVs have written books about their experiences. I wouldn't actually write one, especially not one good enough to penetrate that saturated market. It's still a shame I haven't recorded my stories as they happened. 

So here's a blog post attempting to do just that.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Inkalata yafuma inewsletter ya NGO mu June

My June 2012 newsletter contribution about my beginnings working with The Simon Poultney Foundation:


For the past several weeks I’ve been getting to know our community and its people. I’ve been meeting beekeepers, farmers, schools, clubs, and cooperatives to understand what activities are already happening, their successes and challenges. Gordon and I have been fostering connections with organizations and companies who share our vision for empowering people in community. We’ve been sharing ideas and getting advice.

At Sungula School, we’ve started planning to use conservation farming on the school’s field. The teachers responsible for the Production Unit will work with lead conservation farmers to train the pupils and teachers. This is a great opportunity to teach this simple and effective technology to the younger generation and generate some income for the school from the crops. The school’s field failed for the past 2 years so we’re hoping to turn things around.

Conservation farming is also known as farming God’s way. With both the school and conservation farmers in the community, I will incorporate teaching on spiritual principals, like faithfulness with God’s gifts, with the technical training already taking place.

We are also considering options to empower our local beekeepers to improve honey production, quality and market access. Please pray with us that we would earnestly seek and do God’s will for our beekeepers. There is much opportunity in this area, so please pray that we would embark on programs that will truly have positive impact in their lives and in the community. Many a beehive has been given out in rural Zambia, only to end up as food for termites instead of an income generating home for bees.

And my favorite thing—trees! I’m excited to plant tree nurseries with Chilunga Community School and others in the area. Tree planting offers environmental education, beautification, reforestation, and future income generation. That beautiful new classroom block at Chilunga will hopefully be surrounded by lovely shade trees and nutritious fruit trees in a few years.

Next week I’ll be heading home to Missouri for my first visit in 2+ years. I’ll be away for about a month but then I’ll be back to Kakulu, hopefully refreshed and ready to roll.

Mushale no mutende,
Stay in peace and good health,

Friday, June 8, 2012

Nalilembe inkalata yanini

I wrote a small letter

Since I wrote this, thought I'd just post it. It's from The Simon Poultney Foundation newsletter, introducing me to the foundation's supporters. 

Hi Friends of SPF! 

I’d like to introduce myself as the newest member of the SPF Zambia team. I have been in Zambia since February 2010 serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and I’ll be here with SPF through May 2013. For Canadians (or fellow Americans) not familiar with Peace Corps, it is a program of the US government. Here’s the blurb tagged on the end of Peace Corps press releases:

 About the Peace Corps: Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order on March 1, 1961, more than 200,000 Americans have served in 139 host countries. Today, 9,095 volunteers are working with local communities in 75 host countries. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment and the agency’s mission is to promote world peace and friendship and a better understanding between Americans and people of other countries. Visit for more information.

50 years after its creation, the Peace Corps mission and 3 goals remain the same:
1. Help the people of interested countries in meeting their needs for trained men and women
2. Help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served
3. Help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans
Peace Corps is not directly connected with university studies. I completed a B.S. in Plant Science, with emphasis in plant biology, in 2007 at the University of Missouri.

I finished my 27 months of Peace Corps service in April and am extending for a 3rd year, still as a Peace Corps Volunteer, but now working with the Simon Poultney Foundation.  For 2 years I lived in a rural village 20km from a paved road in a mud brick house with a grass thatched roof, without electricity or running water. My Peace Corps program is called LIFE—Linking Income, Food and the Environment. Some projects I worked on in my village were: fruit tree planting at the local school, organizing a field day to promote growing soybeans, linking rural subsistence farmers with soy seed and inputs, agroforestry with conservation farming, beekeeping with women’s groups, and leading a girls club to teach about HIV/AIDS and life skills.

I’ll be using my knowledge and experience working on agriculture and forestry projects in a rural Zambian community to help SPF and Chibwelelo Ward carry out their vision in those areas. We plan to help local beekeepers increase their production and income by equipping them with modern “top bar” hives to replace traditional tree bark hives, providing training where needed, and linking producers to reliable markets for their honey. We hope to organize an agricultural input loan program with conservation farmers so that they are able to plant their crops at the proper time to take full advantage the growing season and diversify the types of crops grown. We’ll be planting lots of trees: indigenous trees, trees for timber, and improved varieties of fruit trees whose yummy produce will be enjoyed by all, and can be sold to a company in Kabwe.

I’ll keep you posted on our progress! Please feel free to contact me.

Takuli ifipusho fimbi?

There are no more questions?

After 2 years and 3 months in Zambia, my favorite question I've been asked is still this one from May or June 2010:

From my host father and his friend Mr. Pauda,
"So this Bin Laden, he is American?"

Um, no.  

Monday, May 28, 2012


Ndeshako means I am trying, in the habitual tense. So I may not always succeed, but I am still trying, throughout. All I can do is try and keep trying. However, if I'm honest, it's often more of a reminder to keep trying than an accurate description of my life.

(I even guessed right with the spelling. Confirmed it today with a teacher at the local school. Dumb maybe, but I wanted to make sure I had it right before I explained, in case I had to change it.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bushe mulefwaya ukwishiba finshi?

Whatchya'll wanna know?

I'll still try to get better at blogging all by myself, but it's a lot easier if I have a question to answer. So if you want to know something about Zambia, me, what I did or do, then comment it up and ask away!