Big Ol’ Update

Hey y’all! It’s been awhile so I thought I’d give you guys a big update on our recent activities!

Fish Farming:

I bet you have been wondering if we’ve actually done any fish farming, since, you know, that’s our primary project. The answer is: YES! We have one active fishpond that was stocked earlier this year and was just harvested. Our farmers were able to sell all their fish plus had some for their own dinner that night. We have another fishpond in the works with our HIV/AIDS counterpart, who is already integrating his pond with rape, maize, and sugarcane gardens around it. Being first-generation volunteers in our community, getting fish farming (or any) projects started has been a struggle because the community isn’t exactly used to a volunteer living and working among them, but we are managing to get a few things done while paving the way for the next volunteer.

Harvesting the pond.

Harvesting the pond.

Selling fish.

Selling fish.

GLOW/ELITE Camps:

We took two girls and a mentor to Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) and also took two boys and a mentor to Camp ELITE (Empowering Leaders In Training and Equality). These were both week-long camps where the kids learned all about HIV/AIDS, gender equality, relationships, higher education, business skills, and more. We had a blast with our kids and are working with them to bring some of the knowledge they picked up at camp back to the village.

Camp ELITE

Camp ELITE

Camp GLOW

Camp GLOW

Grassroot Soccer:

We recently started Grassroot Soccer at the primary school in our village. This program teaches the kids about HIV/AIDS, healthy lifestyles, relationships, and gender equality through different soccer activities. So far the kids absolutely LOVE it and we have heard from the teachers that on the days we have lessons, the kids will show up to school at 6AM because they are so excited to learn and play soccer.

Grassroot Soccer

Grassroot Soccer

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Grassroot Soccer – avoiding “risks” (rocks).

Mosquito Net Distribution:

In May we started working with the Ministry of Health to coordinate a mosquito net distribution in our village. After some meetings and small debacle with getting shorted a few hundred nets, we were eventually able to distribute over 1000 nets in our community. Because we don’t have any staff at our clinic, people in our community have to travel about 20 kilometers to receive any sort of medical care. We are hoping everyone uses their nets to reduce the cases of malaria this coming rainy season.

So Many Animals:

We currently have 2 dogs (Dave and Skinny), 1 cat (Jean) and 4 kittens residing at our house. Our cat was gone for about 2 months (obviously getting pregnant) and just came back a few weeks ago, probably because our house is the safest place to give birth. The kittens are still tiny and mostly immobile, but if they’re anything like the last batch of kittens I am not looking forward to them getting older. Kittens are the worst; they destroy everything. Plus, mama cat will start bringing in dead rats/birds/lizards for them to eat, meaning we will wake up every morning to what looks like a massacre in our living room. One night, she brought in 6 rats and a bird. There were feathers EVERYWHERE.

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Jean pleading with me to stop picking up the newborn kittens.

Funny (or gross) story: one morning I woke up to a kitten crunching on a mouse while sitting on my stomach. I quickly pulled the blanket over my head and pleaded with Brett to wake up and get rid of it. I guess that is one of the benefits of serving in the Peace Corps with your spouse…

Evil kitties on the bed.

Evil kitties on the bed.

While we’re on funny animal stories, when Skinny had puppies last December, one had an unfortunate accident involving our toilet. One morning, while I was still asleep, Brett came running in saying he couldn’t find one of the puppies. I immediately asked if he looked in the toilet. He told me he had not, but when he went in there to do his morning business, the cover that we have to keep bats out was pushed into the hole and he had assumed the culprit was a goat. So, he went outside armed with a flashlight and about a minute later ran back into the house to tell me the puppy was indeed knee-deep in poo at the bottom of our toilet. The hole is at least a few meters deep, so we had to fashion a loop out of rope, coax the little guy to the middle where the poop was deepest, loop it around his neck, and pull him up. I am honestly not sure how this ended up working but we got him out in less than 5 minutes. I think the bath I gave him after was more traumatizing than being in a poop-filled hole. He eventually was adopted by a fellow PCV in our province and was named “Chim,” short for chimbusi, which means toilet.

Dave and the babies.

Dave and the babies.

Which one does not belong?

Which one does not belong?

Travels:

Last Christmas, we had the opportunity to visit Chimfunshi Chimpanzee Orphanage in Chingola. It was absolutely incredible. We were able to do an hour long “bush walk” with a group of 5 chimpanzees that we got up-close and personal with (they picked through our treat-filled pockets and rode on our shoulders while we walked around!). We were also fortunate enough to get to spend some time with the founder and her daughter in their house, where they were raising a 6-month old chimp whose mother had died. Around their compound they also had two very friendly sheep, dogs, peacocks, vervet monkeys, ducks, and chickens. Unfortunately, their pet hippo had died a few years ago but she sounded amazing from the stories the founder told us about her.

Brett's new BFF.

Brett’s new BFF.

Chimpanzee at Chimfunshi

Chimpanzee at Chimfunshi

After our Midterm Conference in May, we headed to Nkhata Bay, Malawi to visit Lake Malawi. The lodge we stayed at was beautiful, built right into the rocks on the side of the lake. Our room had a beautiful view of clear, blue waters and its own little private walkway down to the lake. It seriously looked like the ocean. We got to swim every day, snorkel, canoe, eat delicious food, and explore the town.

Lake Malawi!

Lake Malawi!

We are headed to Livingstone next month to see the famous Victoria Falls. We plan on swimming in Devil’s Pool and going on at least 1 safari, so we will post an update we return!

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Grosssssss

Our dog, Dave, was just lying on the ground when we noticed what looked like a huge white zit on his side. Brett goes, “it’s a bot fly!” and proceeded to squeeze it, causing the MAGGOT to pop out of Dave’s skin. That’s right, I said MAGGOT. During pre-service training we had lots of medical sessions, one of which included a brief warning on bot flies, how people get them, and, more importantly, how to prevent them. Basically what they do is lay their eggs on wet clothes when you hang them out to dry. The eggs can also be transferred to your clothes if you lay them on grass, tree branches, or on a clothesline that isn’t plastic or metal since these are all places, when wet or damp, that they like to lay their eggs. If you put a piece of clothing on with live bot fly eggs, they burrow into your skin making it look like you have a pimple which is actually a MAGGOT living and growing inside you. Eventually they will emerge but to speed up the process you can put Vaseline on the spot which forces it to peek its little head out to get some air, at which point you will grab it with tweezers and pull it out. This is the face everyone in our intake had during this particular medical session:

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Next to snakes, this is hands down the thing I am most terrified of here. Plus, they are prominent in rainy areas and guess who lives in one of the rainiest parts of the country! Aside from ironing our clothes, I am taking EVERY precaution possible to not get one of these things. Now that I have seen one in person I am just crossing my fingers it all works.

Update, Oct 2014:
Skinny had 5 puppies last Christmas, and I made them live outside in our kinzanza (kitchen), with a sheet or blanket to sleep on that I would wash every few days. Because it was rainy season, this blanket got wet occasionally because the roof over it was made of grass. This is the perfect breeding ground for bot flies, so I was popping maggots out of the puppies almost every day for 2-3 months until they all got adopted. I popped so many of these that it was no longer gross, and became just as satisfying as popping a zit. I would see one and say, “Oooh! A bot fly!” and pop the sucker out of it’s little hole, grab it with my bare fingers, throw it on the ground, and step on it so it couldn’t mature and produce more bot flies. I don’t even think I would care if I got one, although I will continue to take precaution with drying our clothes this rainy season.

Copulating Canines and T-bone Trousers

There is this saying we have in Peace Corps Zambia that goes “Zambia always wins” or “Zambia wins again.” For those of you who live in America and probably don’t understand this, I will illustrate it by describing the events of one single day.

We started the day in Solwezi waiting for our friend, Mike, to come to the Peace Corps house so we could all take the bus to our site and spend a few days there. When the time came, we took a cab to the bus station at 12:15 because the bus is supposed to leave at 12:30. Typically, the bus actually leaves around 2PM but last time we got there later than 12:30 we missed the bus (Zambia always wins). So we get to the bus station on time and wait. And wait. And wait. Finally at 2:15 the bus shows up. In Solwezi, the process of getting on the bus is the most stressful thing I have ever experienced in my life. You buy a ticket and they put a number on top. When the bus shows up, EVERYONE (no matter what number they have) crowds the door even though there are people trying to get off the bus. Once everyone is off, they start calling numbers, and when your number is called you have to push your way to the front of the crowd, hand your ticket to the guy, and crawl on the bus which usually has so much stuff in the aisle you feel as if you’re going through an obstacle course on a game show as fast as you can because if you’re the loser you’ll get plowed over by the people behind you. Anyway..

Our numbers get called and we are nowhere near the front of the crowd. We are trying to push and shove our way through to no avail. I end up getting pulled backward by the neck by someone in the crowd who clearly does not want me to get on the bus, and Brett has to elbow a couple old ladies on his way through because they won’t let him pass. I’m not even sure what Mike had to do to get through but this was his first time on the bus so I’m positive he will never be taking it again (You win, Zambia).

Eventually we make it to our site. The kids are excited to have another muzungu in the village and everyone is greeting us and it’s great. After giving Mike the tour, we decide to start preparing dinner because it’s beginning to get dark. We bought some hamburger meat (ok, not T-bones) and are going to have burgers and fries. While I’m cooking the fries, we hear Skinny, our dog who is in heat right now, yelp like something just attacked her. It’s pitch black by this point so we turn the flashlight in the direction of the noise and we see that one of the random village dogs has his red rocket stuck in her vagina, but they are turned around and standing butt to butt. What. The. Hell. Brett is very worried that Skinny is going to be permanently damaged so he steps in and tries to separate them. Of course, the other dog bites him because 1) it’s a crazy ass village dog, and 2) its weiner is not only stuck but twisted around and that can’t feel good. Later that night I message my friend, Holly, because she is just as obsessed with dogs as I am (check out her blog! http://hvangroll.tumblr.com), and she tells me she read about this recently and they turn around like that on purpose to protect themselves. So now Brett has to go to Lusaka for a round of rabies shots for getting in between something that was SUPPOSED to happen (Zambia wins again!). Plus, this has happened about 92 times since the first incident.

(Shout out to PC/Z volunteers – if you’re looking for a puppy around March let me know because I will most likely have some that are ready for new homes!)

Skinny all tuckered out after all the action she's been getting.

Skinny is tuckered out after all the action she’s been getting.

Ok, so after the bite was taken care of, we finally start cooking the burgers. Mike is in charge of holding the plate with the raw patties on it because we have 2 dogs that would love to sink their teeth into some meat. At one point, he gets up to go into the house for something and puts the meat plate on the chair he is sitting on. For some reason in the 90 seconds he was gone, he forgets that said plate is on his chair and sits on it. When I mention that I believe he just sat on some meat patties, he gets up and has raw hamburger all over his pants (Zambia. Always. Wins). We end up still cooking the hamburgers because there will be no wasting meat when you have to transport it 2 hours to site, and he ate the ones he sat on so in the end it did work out.

But, come on, Zambia. Give me a break.

Baking in the Bush

Our most successful project thus far in the village has been our oven. I loved baking in the States, and our first site visit hosts had built one so we did some research and decided to go for it, building it using only materials we could find locally to make it easier for villagers to replicate.

We started by having our host family make mud bricks out of the termite/ant hill behind our house. We let those dry for about a week, and then Brett started constructing the base with a few of our nearby neighbors. The base took a few weeks to complete because we would build a few layers, then let it dry for a couple days before adding more. After the base was complete, we cemented the top (cooking surface) just to make it cleaner, but this step is unnecessary and just adding a mud layer and letting it dry will serve the same purpose.  Before adding the cement we could have insulated it with glass bottles, but glass bottles aren’t very easy to find, and we wanted it to be as easy to make as possible.

Junior making bricks.

Junior making bricks.

Constructing the base.

Constructing the base.

We then did a lot of math based on our research to determine the ratio of base width to dome height to door width/height. Based on these measurements, we cut templates out of big pieces of cardboard to use as a guide while building the dome and door. Brett first built the door opening with bricks that he cut down to size, then we built the shape of the dome in the middle with a slightly damp sand/mud mixture. We then covered the dome with mealie meal sacks, and began applying the mud that would be the outside walls of the oven. This took the longest because we could only add a couple inches of mud at a time (otherwise it would be too heavy and slide off), then we would have to let it dry for about a week in between each layer. We ended up doing about 3 or 4 layers, until it was even with the base.

Constructing the door.

Constructing the door.

The mud/sand mixture covered with mealie meal sacks, getting ready to start adding the mud for the walls.

The mud/sand mixture covered with mealie meal sacks, getting ready to start adding the mud for the walls.

After the dome walls were finished, we dug out the mud/sand mixture (this is where the mealie meal sacks came into play because we knew when to stop digging when we got to those), and built a fire inside to harden the walls.

Lighting the first fire.

Lighting the first fire. 

It took awhile to figure out the best way to cook in the oven. Do we leave a fire in there or pull the coals out after heating it up? If we do leave a fire, can we just have it on one side or should we have it all around the walls? Lots of experimentation and sub-par baked goods later, we found we had the best success by building a huge fire, letting it burn for at least 1 – 1 ½ hours, then pulling all the coals out. We also let it cool down a little before putting anything in so we don’t end up with burned buns. The heat stays in the dome for a good amount of time and it bakes the most even this way.

We make bread pretty often but some of our favorite things have been cinnamon rolls, soft pretzels, and cinnamon raisin bagels. In the States I really only baked cupcakes on a regular basis and would have never made my own bagels or soft pretzels, but they were incredibly easy (even in a rural Zambian village with no electricity or running water!) and I would totally continue to make them when we return home.

Cinnamon rolls!

Cinnamon rolls!

We are really excited about the amount of interest from our community in holding a workshop on how to build the ovens because there is currently no bread or buns available in the area. We are really hoping to promote it as an income generating activity for the women’s club or something along those lines. Our host family is also interested in having their own “bread company.” (On a side note: they made buns one time with flour we bought them for watching our dog while we were away…they used no recipe and they turned out a million times better than any bread we’ve made, so I think a bread company is totally possible).

Goats

Goats are quite possibly the vilest creatures on this planet. Because no one in the village keeps them corralled, they roam around freely eating everything in sight and depositing gifts in front of, behind, and next to our house. We are surrounded by poop.

Goats make some of the most awful noises we have ever heard at all hours of the day and night. Sometimes it sounds like they are yelling “whoooooaaaaa” in an annoying, nasally voice. Sometimes the baby goats get separated from their mom and literally scream “MOM!” over and over again until they are reunited. Sometimes they just scream for the hell of it. It is surprising that the goats don’t get eaten more often just for some peace and quiet.

The goats like to go in our trash pit to see if there is anything to munch on. We don’t put any food in there for this very reason (also the village kids go through our trash – one time we threw away some old cookies and they pulled them out and ate them). Our trash pit is a hole about 3 meters long by 1 meter wide by 2 meters deep. Usually the goats can jump right out but one got stuck in there a few days ago. It would have been funny if the thing weren’t screaming like it was being butchered. We had to yell at it to scare it enough so it would jump out. Everyone probably thought we were crazy yelling into our trash pit.

Goats are the reason we had to build a fence around our garden. Goats are the reason we can’t plant flowers around our house. Goats are the reason we have to sweep everyday. Goats are the reason we can’t leave anything outside unattended. Goats are the reason we wake up way earlier than necessary.

And don’t even get me started on the sheep.