Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Tanganyika

So, continue the holiday adventure, Marcus, Audrey and I went up to Lake Tanganyika. It was pretty much a little isolated paradise for 4 days. Even the weather, which apparently had been non-stop raining for weeks held off and we actually got 3 sunny days to go snorkling, kayaking, hiking up to Colombo Falls on the Tanzanian border, and generally just enjoying the beach.

A couple random little stories:

The place we were staying was right up against this little fishing village, separated by a section of trees to give the random tourists like us privacy from the locals next door. Well, one day Audrey and I noticed a group of kids on the "other side" playing jump rope down by the water. It looked like a lot of fun so we went over to introduce ourselves and ask if we could play too. They at first were terrified and ran away, but we convinced the 5 or so of them that were there to come back and play and before long there was a group of 30 or so crowded around, watching the muzungus play jump rope. I always find it interesting, when half a world away, kids play the same games kids back in the states play. The only difference is that instead of some store bought jump rope they're playing with a pond weed that's more like a big vine. Anyway, turns out jump roping is a lot more tiring than I remember it and after only 15 minutes or so, both of us were ready to call it quits, and the kids were really sad to see us go. I guess tourists don't go over there to play too often.

The other major story (the rest of the days were spent just enjoying, relaxing and playing on the lake) was our transport home. You gotta love Zambian transport. Anyway, we managed to catch a free ride to Mbala with the guy that drove us back to Mpulungu on the boat, so that cut off a quarter of the trip with comfortable transport. And shortly after getting to Mbala, we found a minibus going to Kasama. However, after we got on, and they filled up the bus, we proceeded to drive around town running errands for more than an hour and packing more people into the bus. When we finally went to drive out of town, the bus broke down and couldn't go anymore. So it turns around and comes back into town going so slowly that people walking are going faster than us. When we reached town again, the three of us got our money back, got our bags off the roof and went to find another way to Kasama. Unfortunately we didn't find anything else, and after another hour or so, the same mini bus came back by. Now, it was getting kind of late and we really wanted to get back to Kasama that day, and figured there probably wouldn't be any more buses that day, so we just took it. So now, we're packed into a mini bus that should probably seat 15, but holds close to 30 people and we have to stop every half hour or so to fix something. In 4 hours of travel, we still didn't manage to make it to Kasama and we had changed 2 tires and messed with something under the engine numerous times. Finally, when we broke down again (judging by the noise, this was more serious than the other incidents) a huge trailer truck was going by and offered us a lift. Seeing as that vehicle was moving and ours wasn't, it seemed like a good trade. So, we gave up on this mini bus for the second time and climbed into the cab of this huge semi with two big trailer beds filled with maize. From there it was another 80km to Kasama, but at least we were moving. We finally arrived in Kasama after 10 hours of traveling (it should've taken about 3) just after dark. You gotta love the minibuses.

Anyway, there's tons more to say, but I don't have the time to write it all now. Hope this little bit is enough to fill your Zambia story needs for now.

200km to Christmas

So, instead of going somewhere exotic, like Zanzibar or Mozambique for Christmas, a handful of other volunteers and I decided to stay in the village for Christmas at one of our sites. The only problem, for me anyway, was that the site everyone was gathering at was 200km away from my house, and what mode of transportation was I going to use? Well, my bike, of course. Anyway, after breaking that up into a three-day bike ride, I was faced with 75km on day one, about 70km on day two and only 50km (on the most difficult trail I’ve ever been on) on the third day. By the time I arrived on Christmas eve my legs were about ready to go on strike and I was completely exhausted.

The next morning was Christmas. Before we went to bed that night (in three tents squeezed into an insaka to avoid the rain) we hung our “Christmas stockings” (various forms of hiking and soccer socks) on the porch. And you know what? Santa comes even if you’re in the middle of nowhere in Zambia. In the morning, the stockings were filled with chocolate, sweeties and various other trinkets (Thank you Santa Jeremy). So, we all sat around eating bars of chocolate for breakfast and listening to Christmas carols on tape.

The big plan for the day consisted of two main parts, 1: a Christmas feast and 2: drinking various village brew. As for the feast, we had bought 4 chickens that the neighbors helped us kill and prepare. Well, actually, although the guys got to slaughter the chickens, and one actually helped de-feather one of them, the women next door did all the cooking. They’re amazing people. Plus, whenever we offered to help, they just said no and gave us the stool they were sitting on so we could sit more comfortably and just watch what they were doing. As far as I’m concerned, they much more deserved to be sitting on the stool with the amount of work they were putting into that meal, but they would have none of that. The entire process took all day though, with a group of women working steadily away at preparing a massive amount of chicken and cabbage for dinner. For most of the time they were doing that, we basically just sat around and drank katata (a local beer… which I’m not fond of at all given its extremely grainy texture… so I didn’t partake too much, but the rest of them were quite enjoying) and ate scones (I don’t even want to know how many scones I ate over the few days I was there… the woman next door just kept baking, and we just kept buying them… they were so good). Around 3:30pm the main meal was finally done. We were served 24 pieces of chicken and 3 huge bowls cabbage, oh, and of course, a large helping of nshima (it wouldn’t be a meal without that). There was way too much food for us to finish. It was delicious though. It was just unfortunate that the women served the 6 of us alone in the house while all the villagers ate outside. We were hoping for a more integrated meal. But that’s just how Zambian’s are. They want to give their guests the best: to sit in the chairs and eat at the table in the house.

Later that evening we all gathered again at the neighbor’s to hang out and drink katubi, another village brew. This one’s really strange. It’s basically this thick mash in a big kalabash gourd that you drink with reed straws. But you don’t actually drink the mash part, you have to find the pockets of alcohol hiding in the mash by moving the end of the straw around. Then, after it gets drunk down a little, you add hot water to bring the level back up to the top and somehow more alcohol magically forms. I have no idea how it works, but I enjoyed it much more than katata, plus, with the straws and everything it’s just a lot more fun to drink. All the while we were in the insaka with the adults, all the kids were outside dancing, singing and drumming. The drumming was so amazing that I didn’t realize at first that they were just using jerry cans and sticks. I thought they had actual drums. These kids are somehow just born with a natural rhythm I’ll never possess.

To complete the Christmas activities for the day, before going to bed, the 6 of us exchanged the craft-gifts we made for our gift exchange. I mean seriously, it wouldn’t be Christmas without presents (or, a Christmas tree… which I forgot to mention, we did have one. It was a scrawny little Charlie Brown type tree that we decorated with flowers, small fruits and popcorn). Anyway, the gifts ranged from bamboo toilet paper roll holders to bean can lanterns and tuna-can wind chimes.

All in all, a very fun Christmas. All that was left to do after that was bike back. I wasn’t nearly as tired on the way back to Kasama, but I did manage to time my departures pretty horribly and got caught in some pretty bad rain. On the last leg of the journey, I spent the last 20km to Kasama in a down pour (and since it’s the rainy season… more than 24 hours later everything I own is still soaking wet). Oh well.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Helpful Zambians

The other night after coming back from one of the malls/entertainment centers in Lusaka, we were all just hanging out at the hostels we were staying at. At one point I got up and decided to get another drink and someone pointed out that I had sat in gum. I basically walked into the "cocktail lounge" (i.e. hole in the wall where they were selling drinks) twisted around trying unsuccessfully to pick the gum off my butt. There was a woman at the counter that saw me struggling with the situation and without asking stuck one hand in my back pocket to provide a stable surface to scrape against and then took the next 5 minutes picking off the gum. At bizarre as it all was, she did an excellent job. My jeans were completely gum-free when she was done and I would've definitely hurt my back and neck if I had to do it myself, trying to crane around to keep track of my progress. But yeah, in the end, she gave me a hug, gave me a kiss on both cheeks and gave my butt a little slap before I left the cocktail lounge with my drink. Still not sure what to think of the whole situation, but at least my jeans are free of gum.

So yeah, definitely not something that usually happens in the village (espeically since we don't have gum or cocktail lounges there). But everyone in the village is similarly insistant that they do things for me when they see me struggling or even if they just see me doing anything that looks remotely like work. Apparently they feel I shouldn't have to trouble myself. For example, there was one day I was helping one of my farmers, that was working on digging a fishpond, to move the grass he had cut out of the way so we could measure and stake the pond and he tried to stop me saying I would hurt myself on the grass. I told him I would be fine and was perfectly capable of handling grass safely, all the while thinking to myself "How the hell could anyone hurt themselves on grass?" I've since found out, by trying to break grass to start a fire at my house for cooking that you can indeed cut yourself on grass (at least African grass, which is actually pretty stiff) and the result is something akin to a paper cut. Between grass, poor chopping skills while cooking and lacking the common sense not to touch a hot brazier, my hands are going to either develop serious caluses or I'm going to be missing fingers by the time I'm done.
The other thing I get a lot in the village is people refusing to let me carry anything, even if it's my stuff and it's small or not heavy. And if I'm walking my bike somewhere (usually because the people I'm going with don't have bikes and I'm trying to go their speed) they always try to walk my bike for me. As if rolling my bike along a flat road is somehow too strenuous.

So the help offered by the people in Zambia definitely varies between the village and Lusaka, but the idea's still there. I guess I shouldn't be complaining, but sometimes I think the people in my village just think I'm incompetent and can't do things properly for myself. Oh well. Better have too much help than no help at all.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

First three months at site (continued)

So, here I am, back at the internet cafe...

As for my site, other than my house and my kitchen still being slightly under construction, overall I really like it (or imagine I will when it's finished). My village is about 75km from the Kasama house, which makes for a pretty nice 4-hour bike ride when I come in for meetings, shopping, banking whatever. I could take the train that runs through my village, but it's a little sketchy, only runs on certain days and only stops at like 3:00am, so for now I'll stick with the biking. Although this past trip in my neighbor decided to ride with me since he had to go into Kasama for a doctor visit. That was an awkward ride. If I'm not going to talk to anyone, I'd much rather ride by myself, but having someone right beside you for 4 hours who's not speaking is just kind of weird.

But overall I enjoy my neighbors. My house is in a group of three houses. The other two are owned by brothers so everyone's related. My neighbor has 7 kids (aged 20-<1), which are all pretty cool. And in the second house, they breed dogs. So there are always puppies and dogs around to play with which is really cool. One of them was so cool that my neighbors and I both wanted to keep it (usually they sell them all). So technically they keep it and feed it, but everyone jokes that he's my dog. He's a little sweet heart.

It's a little rough though because I"m the first volunteer at my site. So having an American around is quite the attraction. In the beginning it was horrible. People would just stand outside my fence and stare at me. Or even worse, groups of people would just let themselves inside my fence and plop down on my porch and not speak to me, just stare. I'm fine with visitors, but you've got to be willing to try to have a conversation. The whole thing is made worse by the fact that my house is situated on the main road through my village between the school and the clinic and the train station and the market. So there's A LOT of traffic. It's slowly getting better though. I think the novelty of the American is slowly wearing off.

As for fish farming, I've got a bunch of people who are interested but many of them have the problem of not having an adequate water supply. The last couple years in Zambia have been really dry so water sources that have NEVER dried up in the past, are now dry. But I have managed to measure and stake 7 ponds and those farmers are progressing well. Hopefully we'll do a fish transport in January. The biggest problem I've encountered (other than lack of water) is Zam-time. In Zambia, if you say something is going to start at 900, maybe by 1100 people will start to show up. I've tried to make it very clear to most of my farmers that when I say 900 I really do mean 900. And most of the farmers that have actually started working are actually really good about it (and they all have watches, so it's not like any of them don't know what time it is). But the farmers in my area are not only not starting work, but they're consistently late or absent from meetings. Oh well, fine by me. I"ll just focus on the farmers that are serious about getting things done.

I've also started working with a women's group (unfortunately in a village that's an hour bike ride away... no one within 30 minutes of me is doing anything). I've recently worked with them about starting an IGA (income generating activity) where they used the soya beans they had tons of and no use for to make a flour that they can make a sort of fried dough/biscuit thing out of and it's selling pretty well. And just before leaving site this time to come into Lusaka for IST I worked with them on making a fuel-efficient cook stove out of clay. These stoves are awesome and I can't wait to build one at my own house.

Anyway, I'll be out of site until after Thanksgiving. I think we're going to manage to cook up some sort of Thanksgiving dinner back at Kasama after IST is over. Then it's back to site for about a month before I take off someone for Christmas and News Years. Still haven't really come up with a concrete plan, but I'm working on either scuba diving in Lake Malawi or off the coast of Mozambique. It just depends on who I can get to come with me where. It wouldn't be the smartest thing in the world for me to just go galivanting around Africa alone. But I'll keep you all posted.

OH... and I put up a few more pictures. Sorry, again, there's just a few (6) but they take forever to upload... http://community.webshots.com/album/555560296qPwnqj

Monday, November 13, 2006

First three months at site...

Sorry it's been so long since I've put anything up here, but the internet in Kasama isn't always so great and when it's working, it's expensive, but I'm in Lusaka now for a week, so I should be able to get some stuff on here. Unfortunately the place closes in 10 minutes, so this particular post will be short, but I'll try again later in the week.

Anyway, my house is great. It's got two rooms and I actually have a bed now (for the first month my foam matress was just laying on the floor) and the carpenter said my table and chairs would be done two weeks ago, so hopefully they'll be done when I get back to my site after Thanksgiving. (Things take a LONG time in the village). I have a separate kitchen building which will be really great when the rainy season kicks into full swing soon so I don't have to cook outside, and again, hopefully the roof to that will be finished soon. My house "yard" is surrounded by a big ol' grass fence. It's like a fortress really. But it doesn't really do any good as far as keeping people and animals out. They come and go as they please. The first week at my site two snakes wiggled under my door and into my house. Not wanted to risk their level of poisonousness I just descretely exited the house and asked my neighbors to come deal with the situation (ie kill the snake). After that we built a little cement barrier under the door so they couldn't fit in anymore.

Ok, crap... the place is closing. I promise I'll put more soon. Miss you all.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Back in Mwekera

It was definitely a struggle to get back into the swing of classes after being all over the place the last couple weeks, although it was great to see the rest of the training group and my family again. Language class was pretty much the usual, but in tech classes this week we focused more on integration and agroforestry rather than fish farming. I'm a little disappointed that so much stuff got crammed into one week, but it's not really the focus of our job, so I guess that's to be expected. There are just so many cool extra things to work on.

We were also informed that one person from each language group (not everyone here is studying Bemba) will have to give a speech at our graduation on the 14th... And I get to give the speech for the Bemba's. Not exactly what I wanted, I don't really like speaking in front of people in English, let alone Bemba, but oh well... I'll manage. We're suppose to keep it short anyway.

Yesterday we all got to harvest our fish ponds. Since training was only about 2 months long though, the fish were really small (usually you leave them in the ponds for at least 6 months). We were all completely covered in mud (and leeches) when we were done and ended up going swimming in the river nearby to get all the mud off... the only problem was it was definitely not that warm out yet because it was still too early in the day and the water was freezing. Oh well, at least I didn't have to show up back at my homestay like a ball of mud. We apparently made about $100 from selling all the fish though... which we now have to decide what we're going to do with the money. I think we're going to get gifts for the trainers or something for the town or the department of fisheries station we've been studying at, but I don't know if it's decided yet.

Tonight, we have a big cookout and camp-out planned at the school. One of the trainers killed an impala that we're going to roast. So, tonight should be pretty entertaining. But yeah, that's about it for now... Hopefully I'll get back into Kitwe before I get posted, but if not, well, I don't know when I'll have internet again, just so you all know, it could be awhile. Hope you all enjoyed the random tidbits from the last few weeks. :-)

Second Site Visit

So, the last two weeks of July I was away from Mwekera on our second site visit. There were four of us that will all eventually be posted in Northern Province (me, Audrey, Marcus and Fran) and for the first week we were in the village we were staying with homestays. Jeremy, the volunteer we were visiting, had the four families lined up ahead of time: 3 that sort of speak english, and 1 that didn't. Guess which one I got. So, that definitely made things interesting, especially in the beginning when I wasn't quite sure what the routine was. But it definitely helped my Bemba. I had my own 10x10ft hut to stay in (the family was in a separate hut) but there was no furniture. Not sure why I thought there would be a bed or a chair or something, but there wasn't. It turned out just fine though. I just put down a sleeping pad and hung up my mosquito net from the ceiling. It was just like camping, but in a hut rather than a tent.

Up in northern province, there's a couple things they have a lot of this time of year: casava and beans. And I ate a lot of both. I never would've thought of it myself, but my homestay father one morning put the peanut butter and jelly I had brought (we were eating their food, but also brought some of our own to help ease the burden of feeding us for a week) on roasted casava. It was almost like toast (but not quite). My family I was staying with had 5 kids, although there were always about 20 kids running around so it took me quite some time to figure out which ones were actually theirs. Even at night, after dinner, when the family was sitting around the fire, there were tons of extra people around. I guess having the random white girl stay with you is quite the local attraction. But yeah, that was always interesting. Because most always, other people wouldn't talk slow enough for me to understand them (my homestay father was actually really good about it and I almost always knew what he was saying) and it would get really frustrating on both ends sometimes. One night, I drew a picture in the sand of a fish... that started quite the series of requested drawings... they would just keep saying animals in Bemba and making me draw them. For a while it was fun because it gave me soemthing to do rather than just stare at people not knowing what they were saying, but it got old really quick and I actually retreated to my hut early because I couldn't do it anymore. Then there was the night when I was asked to "tell the story of George Bush and Sadam Hussein". That was an interesting one for sure. There was a guy there that spoke english though... so at least I didn't have to try it in Bemba. My favorite times were just playing with kids before it got dark. All the kids seem to have balls they've made from tying plastic bags around eachother, and we played a lot of soccer. One evening I was even recruited by a group of girls to play net ball (only girls really play that). It's a lot like basket ball with a basket on either end, but you can't dribble or move with ball. You have to pass it again right away, just like ultimate frisbee. The only problem with that day was we played until we literally couldn't see anymore, but that meant it was pitch black by the time I was taking a bath. I have enough problems trying to take a bath without the added complication of not being able to see what I'm doing. So that was interesting.

In addition to hanging out with the family. We also had Bemba class every morning (one of the language trainers came along with us) and some sort of technical aquaculture session in the afternoon but those were much more hands on. One day we staked a pond. Another day we helped a farmer harvest his pond. That was a lot of fun actually... you basically drain all the water and then chase the fish around in the 6 or so inches of water that's left using buckets, seives or your hands... whatever you've got really. You had to keep the baby ones alive and move them to a holding pond so you'll have fish to start your next pond with, and then you eat or sell all the adult ones. There was also one day when we had to teach a group of 7-9th graders about how to stake a pond. We were pretty nervous because we initially thought we had to do it in Bemba and we didn't think that was going to work so well, but it turned out they're teacher was there to translate, so although we through in some Bemba, most of it we did in English.

The second week, we spent about 4 days at Jeremy's site. During that time we mostly just visited a few more farmers to see their pond and field set up and did a few other smaller sessions (We learned how to build a fuel-efficient cook stove out of mud, which was pretty cool). But other than that it was a pretty laid back few days. I think we did a lot less than originally planned partially due to the fact that almost everyone got pretty sick that week, including me. There was one whole day where I'm pretty sure I was dealing with some kind of food poisoning. Only Jeremy and I were sick that day and we were the only two that had eaten the jelly that morning... So, we're guessing that was the problem. Oh well, I hadn't really gotten sick yet, so I guess I was about due. A little bit of throwing up and a lot of sleep and I felt much better the next morning.

On Thursday we headed back to the Peace Corps provincial house in Kasama where we pretty much went on a food and movie binge for 3 days. We made grill cheese and pizza... and I'm sure that doesn't sound that exciting to you all back in the states, but after all the ubwali we ate the past week, it was about the best thing we could imagine. There was also one day when a few of us went to Chishimba Falls (or something like that) just outside of Kasama. It was beautiful. It was a little weird to look at at first because the space the waterfall has is so much bigger than then space it actually uses right now... But I'm imagining in the rainy season there's a lot more water and the whole width of it is actually filled with water. There were two smaller waterfalls there about 15-20 feet high and one huge one farther downstream. On one of the smaller ones you could actually climb up to the top of it and jump off into the pool of water below which was a lot of fun. It was a little awkward though, becuase none of us had thought to pack a bathing suit on this trip so we all just went in in our underwear... which is fine when it's just Americans, but at one point we thought we were going to get inundated with about 30 Zambians we could see walking from farther downstream, but they never really got close enough for it to be a problem. Here in Zambia, women don't really show thighs or stomachs ... so it would've been a little weird.

But yeah, after a few days in Kasama, we woke up way too early on Sunday morning to get a 6am bus back to Kitwe. It wasn't nearly as bad as everyone was making public transportation out to be. The only problem was it was about a 10 hour trip in a bus with no bathrooms. So every now and again the bus would pull over and a bunch of people with run out of the bus into the woods/bushes/tall grass (whatever was available to go behind), do their thing and come back. But other than that, nothing weird, or scary or difficult about it at all.

When we got back to Kitwe we were able to get a taxi back to Mwekera. When I finally showed up at my homestay, my mother was waiting out by the road for me even though it was already dark. She was so happy to see me... she ran up and hugged me, as did the daughter and the neice and kept saying how much she missed me and how glad she was I was back. It was the most welcomed I've felt since I've been in Zambia. I knew they liked having me, but that just reinforced it and it was just a really nice feeling to be back somewhere where you know you're liked.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

My future site and new address

We found out a couple weeks about about our future site locations. I'll be in Northern Province (just like I wanted, yeh!) about 70km outside Kasama. I don't know much more about it, except a few tidbits another volunteer who's posted nearby told me. There's a well nearby so I don't have to worry about carrying water long distances, there's a train station a few km away in case I ever get lazy and want to find a way other than my bike into Kasama. There's a paramount Bemba chief about 10km away... that should be interesting meeting him. I also saw a photo of my future house, but it looks pretty much exactly like every other mud-brick, grass roofed hut around, so yeah... I'll just have to wait until the end of August to see it.

My new address is posted to the right here. Start using that one now, as I'll be leaving Mwekera (and therefore the Kitwe address) on August 15. Anything that arrives early in Kasama will be held for me, and anything that arrives late in Kitwe will be forwarded (anytime from now... which is more in the time frame of a couple months). So yeah, start using that one.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Pictures

So, I finally figured out how to get some photos online. There's only 4, so don't get too excited, but the connection speed at this internet cafe is rediculously slow and it took a half hour just for those. But anyway: hopefully you can access them if you go to http://community.webshots.com/user/dpumilio2484

Enjoy!

Training thus far

So, we've just finished our fourth week of training. I'm still incredibly non-functional in Bemba, which is a little frustrating, but it's coming I suppose. My family, as I've mentioned before, speaks English very well, so it hasn't been a problem, but I think at this point I'm going to have to ask them to stop. Otherwise it's never going to sink in. Other than that, everything's going great with my homestay family. They're very adamant that I should feel free to do whatever, come and go whenever, and ask for anything I need or any food I want. I haven't really taken advantage of that though, at least as far as food and asking for stuff goes. I just eat whatever's given to to me. I'm actually even starting to like nshima (never thought I'd say that). The only thing I'm having a hard time eating is the fish. Great, huh? Especially considering I'm supposed to be a fish farmer. The thing is, it's not that I don't like the way it tastes, the problem is, the whole fish is basically put on the plate, and you have to pick it apart, remove the bones, gills, fins, etc, and I'm so afraid of eating the bones and the fish are so small to start with (about 6 inches long) that by the time I'm done picking out the parts I'm not going to eat, there's not really that much left to eat. It's just too much work for me.

Anyway, as far as technical classes go, we've had some really great field based sessions. There was a whole week essentially where we had to bike out to a farmer's site every afternoon for class. I love my bike by the way. It's a really sweet blue mountain bike (and it's even better now that our accessories, like helmets, patch kits, pumps, etc have come in... the helmet I had originally didn't clip, it had to be tied on and it sort of smelled like something pissed in it). But yeah, the paths are pretty fun. It's definitely not a trip down a paved road. There's generally some interesting obstacle, like a dam, pond, or log bridge that needs to be crossed every few hundred meters and even when it's just a dirt path, it's often so narrow and windy that it's really hard to actually pedal. At times you have to just walk it. But considering I've never done much biking, I'd say I'm picking it up pretty well. There was one session we had where 80% of the class got lost on the way there and ended up showing up about an hour late (they did find a really sweet waterfall that has since been quite the popular spot to go back to... the path there from my homestay makes for a beautiful run). But yeah, we had an afternoon of site selection, one of pond staking and then last friday we actually got to try and dig a pond. In the 3 hours we had we really didn't make that much of a dent, but it was definitely a lot of fun. I learned that I'm extremely weak. Either that or wet clay is extremely heavy. Because I definitely could not lift a full bucket of dirt and move it anywhere by myself. Carol and I had to pick it up together and move it outside of the area we were digging. By the end it essentially turned into a mud fight though (for 4 or 5 of us anyway). I came home absolutely covered in mud. My homestay mother just shook her head and some something to the effect that I was worse than their 4-year old daughter as far as coming home dirty. I don't comform to traditional Zambia woman's roles very well. (As a side note... it took her about a half hour just to wash that one tshirt I was wearing... but it is white again)

One really cool thing that's happened lately was on the 4th of July (I'm not sure if the date was a coincidence or not) we had a Zambian cultural day. This basically entailed all the mothers from the homestays coming to the training center and preparing an entire array of traditional Zambian dishes. We were supposed to go around and observe how it was all made. That only lasted for about 30 minutes, but during that time, a couple of notable things happened. About 6 or 7 chickens needed to be killed so we could eat and two of them were killed by two of the trainees in my group. This basically entails standing with one foot on the chicken's legs, the other on its wings and holding it's head with one hand while you cut through its throat with the other. Let me just say... it's quite the bloody event. After the head comes off, you have to keep standing on it because otherwise it will get up and run away, but while you're standing on it, it's basically convulsing and blood is spurting out of it's neck. I'm just glad I didn't have to do it, not so much because i would mind killing it, but because I wouldn't want to have to worry about how much I was torturing the poor thing becasue I wasn't strong enough to get the knife through the neck inthe first couple slices. The other interesting part was pounding ground nuts. I have so much respect for women in Zambia. Cooking is hard work! I was tired after about 30 seconds and I hardly made a dent in what needed to be smashed. (I know at my homestay my mother tries to get me to stir the nshima sometimes and it's so thick I can hardly do it for more than a few stirs before I have to hand the spoon back to her because I'm afraid I'm going to burn it or ruin it and then there won't be any dinner). After the observing was over, we pretty much left the women to finish everything while the trainees and trainers played volleyball. (I must say, I was not expecting to play volleyball for a few years, but I'm very happy I have). When it came time to eat, all the mothers lined up their dishes along a wall and we basically walked down with a plate and got a little sample of everything. Of special note: I ate a caterpillar. I didn't want to, but that was the dish my mother was making (no she doesn't make it at home) and I felt bad not trying one. So I told her to pick out the very best one for me, which I think just turned out to be the biggest one (it was about the size of my thumb). And after this past semester at Williams, and my new found hatred for caterpillars, I really never thought I would be eating one. But yeah, it was so fried up that it was mostly just crunchy with no taste. I know a lot of people said it was the most disgusting thing they've ever had, but I didn't mind it that much. I also wouldn't say I liked it, and I definitely didn't go back for seconds, but oh well... maybe if I get really hungry some day and that's all I can find. I also got to eat impala. One of the current PCV's killed one and roasted it up. The meat was really tough, but it was good. Other than that there were a variety of vegetables and meats (chicken, fish, beef), nshima made out of mealy meal and casava and some local beverages. They're not alcoholic (although there are local beers) and I thought they would be more like juice, but they were really a lot like vomit in taste, smell and consistency, so I didn't have too much of that.

After the feast all the volunteers got together and basically just hung out around a fire and toasted up some marshmellows and played some good ol' American music. There weren't any fireworks and we weren't in the U.S. but I'd say it was a pretty damn good 4th of July.

As for the next few weeks: We leave for our second site visit on the 17th. I'm still not sure where I'm eventually going to be posted, but they have to tell me before then because I get my site visit in the province I will eventually be posted in. I pushing for Northern, but I'd be happy with anywhere in Zambia. This whole place is amazing. But yeah, that will be for two weeks, so if I don't get back to Kitwe next weekend, I won't be posting or emailing again until the very end of July/beginning of August, just so no one gets worried. Well, that's all for now... I'm going to see if I can wrestle technology into letting me post some pictures somewhere that you can all see. I'll let you know how that goes.