January 29, 2011

In the archives

I found this on one of my flash drives and though it may be repetitive (I haven't read through it), it is yet another entry even better-written than the last (but most chronologically intact) entry.

Friday 26 February
Hiya! It has been an incredibly long time since I’ve written but no problem, or hakuna matata, as the Tanzanians really do like to say, or kusi intazi as the Mambwes say, I have written down what I’ve done. Unfortunately, I do not have that info at the computer with me right now. So, as a result of poor planning, I will try to write the basics, the highlights if you will, of what has happened since second site visit during training (which, if I remember correctly, is the last time I wrote). When/if finally I get to a computer with both my flash drive and my calendar, it will be explosive! Or at least there will be some repetition.

I am in Lusaka now, about to head up and I got to ride down with the newest intake. They are all really nice and cool and I think they’ll be great. Also, en route, I saw two Zambians on bicycles with helmets. Apart from the professionally training cyclists that are sometimes seen around Lusaka, I have not once seen this occurrence and I just stared as many people often stare at me. One didn’t have a real helmet, just a batter’s cap type thing but the other had a proper helmet! So proper that I thought he might be Peace Corps but he was just riding what we popularly call a “Zambike” and not a standard issue PC bike.

Work relatedly, this unscheduled trip to Lusaka cost me my first village inspection, which is occurring today in my village, a village which has struggled with actually having an active NHC, to the chagrin of many a past PCV and some others in the community who are in fact doing a lot of work (my counterpart). Otherwise, I have not been at site for a while but at the beginning of the month, I worked once again with the women from Chele, the village between mine and the road, on my first soyaday. It was really fun and because we were mostly cooking and not having too in-depth a health talk, my language skills were not challenged. The women had done a soyaday before with the previous PCVs and had fun. We cooked delicious sausages, mediocre porridge which the children ate up, pumpkin leaves with soya powder which I thought was delicious, and something else that currently escapes my mind. Not breads, not milk. Maybe something sweet? Or spicy? Anyway, though there was far less health talk about the benefits of soya than I would have liked, I counted the day as a success.

These Chele women work well together and are very enthusiastic about learning and working with me. Sometime in December or January, I did a WASHE talk and activity. I was lucky enough to have a guy back from college to translate for me because that would have been horrendous without him. Though the women asked me to come for this, they were not very interactive until my little puzzle activity where they get a topic (say ORS) and must explain it and then put their piece into the puzzle. I even had fun at that part.

I have worked with the schools a fair amount. The happiest story from there is when I went to Lumi school, a school I happened upon because I was bored. I had a meeting with the teachers about clubs and activities such as anti-AIDS and nutrition. I mentioned the importance of those clubs and that it is also important to keep records, make both short term and long term programs, and to get children interested. The next time I visited, there was a list of students who wanted to be in the anti-AIDS club and a program for the term week by week, as well as a general program idea for the year. They were working on a World AIDS Day activity and the third time I went, I saw the rehearsal of the WAD activity. It was amazing. There was singing and dancing and poetry and drama. Very, very serious drama more about incest than about AIDS but nonetheless effective. I was really excited about it but was unable to attend the actual event because it was child health week in Zambia and my clinic was doing outreach.

That was a busy week. Each day I went down to the clinic and we drove somewhere in our catchment and conducted baby-weighing, de-worming, vaccinations, antenatal and family planning and a host of other health-related thrusts. It was interesting and kind of sad because they are supposed to do outreach every month but usually end up only doing it twice a year when the government does child health week, and I saw many children who hadn’t been to their monthly weighing since the last health week six months previous. And some of the days, I was working with one of the clinic staff who doesn’t seem that committed to her patients. One day, she refused to give family planning because she didn’t feel like it, she made me do all the work one day when she wasn’t feeling well (and I must say that having two hundred women pressing forward with hundreds more children crying and all speaking a language I don’t really understand didn’t make me feel very well but I worked anyway…) and she turned women away for antenatal care. However, the other staff I worked with (the one who is sadly on leave until April and then plans to take retirement in June) is great and the mayos love him. He makes jokes and laughs and gives family planning advice, antenatal care, and general information about health. He is wonderful and his absence is further aggravated by his continual presence at the market which is taunting me, making fun of the fact that I am stuck with someone else.

P.S. It now being January, he is back, my EHT. He has returned.

Bit by bit

So, the electricity is out here at the house but Kate was kind enough to let me use her computer and what better way to pass the time than to write away the hours? The following is a mash-up of many thoughts and activities that is really not even that exciting to read! Have a skim through perhaps? Ta.

I just finished co-facilitating a PEPFAR workshop for the newer volunteers. It went well despite that people didn’t seem to enjoy it nearly as much as we did last year. Either way, I enjoyed the facilitation. But here are some fun facts and experiences since last time I wrote.

I got another weave. I also got two wigs and am hoping for another. I also also got make-up. This second year is becoming much more about material things, which isn't exactly something I value, but it is what it is. I have allowed myself to splurge on some of the finer things in life in order to feel more settled? In order to feel more something. So wigs and make-up are the new me! Kind of.

Just today, I met two winners. There was a man wearing a silk blouse and a nice skirt with trousers underneath today at the market. I asked him why he was doing it and he just kept offering to find similar items of clothing for me. And I met another man whose hat I really liked and to whom I offered an avocado in return for his hat. Unfortunately, he refused to give me the one he was wearing but invited me to his house where he had another one waiting which I could take. Then, he called his taxi driver friend who was giving me a ride back to the house twice on the 5k journey back so he could talk to me and become my boyfriend.
Also, last Monday, I had a very good meeting with representatives from most of the NHCs and we discussed sustainability issues, elections and tested every single one who came! I kind of had to bribe my EHT with a Fanta so that he would stay through lunch to give them VCT and he did. Nobody ran away and there were a few who hadn’t been tested ever. It put me on a high for the rest of the week. The end of that week was spend in town finalizing everything needed for the SPA grant to get money for Camp GLOW. It is just so difficult to complete all the required things for these grants. And they put strange restrictions on what the money can be spent on, which is only natural, but for a $4000 grant, only $500 can be used for lodging and transport and food. Also, only $500 can be used on labor (such as facilitation fees for running a training). Again also, they discourage the building of physical structures. So, where the remaining $3000 goes is somewhat of a mystery.

I met with Mula Mentoring Club (all two attendees) but did some fun activities with them from PEPFAR. We did a future thinking activity, kind of planning what you want in the future and thinking ahead. Future planning is not heavily emphasized here and it can be important to encourage people to think about what they want the future and how they can go about getting it. My counterpart, ever-affable, said that he will be a grandfather and that he will own a fuso fighter. I had never heard of a fuso fighter before and he told me that that is a vehicle for transport. The next week while in Mbala, Grant told us about how that is a common dream. Unprovoked, he said that if you ask people in the village what they want, most will say a fuso fighter despite the fuel usage and maintenance problems that they have. That is the biggest status symbol, I guess.

World Vision is working with the local council to bring highly subsidized boarholes to the area. Villages who are in need must fill out a form and return it to the council. I was helping a village a few weeks ago and turned in their information. Apart from the large projects that I am working on with Kate, this is the biggest thing right now.

One of the NHCs I work with is quite far away and very rich. It is bizarre how you can cycle two hours into the bush and come to a village where all the roofs are tin roofs and they have cement walls and floors, and they have satellite! The first time I went to this village, I was invited inside and watched the news from Kenya. It’s just such incongruence. Sadly, I don’t enjoy so very much working with this village. I find them to be rather apathetic. They are chronically late, later in fact, than most people. When they do come, there are not very many of them and nobody participates in the discussion. One day however, there were exceptionally few people and we instead chose to do some water and sanitation demonstrations. These, they thoroughly enjoyed and actually participated in. We did a hand-washing demo where people tried to wash their hands in various ways and people laughed at the one guy who tried to pour water on his own hands to wash them because the ash just stayed coated to his hands. They appreciated the ones who washed with soap and water with someone else pouring water over them.

NHC—Neighbourhood Health Committee
Groups of community members who are committed and take interest in the health-care and well-being of members of their immediate community. They are trained to teach on basic health issues and each NHC is comprised of 2-8 villages. There are 15 NHCs in Kawimbe Catchment.

HCC—Health Centre Committee
Representatives from each NHC are to come to the HCC meeting once each quarter to discuss larger problems facing the community.
VCT—Voluntary Counselling and Testing
Testing for HIV.
VAST and SPA—Peace Corps grants available to volunteers
PEPFAR—President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (US-funded)
HEPS—High energy protein supplement. Given to kids who are especially small.
WAD—World AIDS Day
ARVs—Anti-retroviral drugs for HIV+ people.
NZP+—Network of Zambian People living with HIV/AIDS
RHC—Rural Health Centre
EHT—Environmental Health Technician
CHW—Community Health Worker. One person per NHC who has been trained by the government (or usually World Vision) to assist community members with minor health problems and to give medication and make referrals to the clinic.

Ya—sign of respect. Akin to Mr. and Mrs. but used far more regularly than in English
Yana/Yasi—mother of/father of. How most people are called. Shows importance of having children in Zambian culture.
Kate—closest PC neighbor. Also a health volunteer and we came in country together
Ya Muwowo—the clinic EHT who is trying to retire and has been working at Kawimbe RHC for years.
Ya Silungwe—the new EHT who is working and will take over once old one retires.
Yasi Gift/ Ya Frazer—my counterpart and a co-facilitator.
Yasi Helen/ Ya Simuchile—another counterpart who has helped immensely with training NHCs.

July 11, 2010

Catch up

Once again, it's been years since I wrote. However, I have tried to compile a catch up of what I have been doing. We will see. Now though, I'm in Lusaka as part of my return from a Malawi beach vacation. I am staying because there is a behavior development workshop that I will attend (and then give presentations on...) which my adviser from Montana is coming to and presenting! That's neat and it will be super cool to see her. Anyway, Malawi was great. Went to a Mauritian resturant yesterday where the food was amazing and where one of our Lusaka staff was having her bachelorette party. Fun to see them doing karaoke. Chuckle. Also, here are some pictures. The Mbala crew with our language teacher at swear-in, the view from my hut, and my hut. Enjoy!

From September:
It is kind of nice being in Kasama. There are a lot of small shops and variety in produce. And yesterday we spent hundreds of thousands of kwacha, well over a million in fact, but I finally feel a little more prepared for being at site. And we are going there tomorrow! Swear-in on Friday was good. We got to go to the ambassador's house and it is lush. Even the napkins had the presidential seal on them. I gave my Mambwe speech to an audience of around 150, perhaps 3 of whom speak that language so it really doesn't matter if I made any mistakes, eh? Then we went shopping, last time for the Manda Hill and Arcades shops with all their fancy appliances and air conditioning, and headed back to the place for sleeping. On Saturday, we left at 6am after a half hour of loading the truck and we arrived shortly before nightfall. Long, long day. Sunday, instead of shopping, we went to some waterfalls, my first time seeing water really, since being here. It was beautiful and we went swimming. It was a great way to cool off and I took pictures but haven't got them with me so perhaps later I can post them? And then there was yesterday with all its shopping.

It does feel good to finally be an actual Peace Corps Volunteer. Once again, I find myself here devoid of things to say despite having written them down. The only one I remember is really nice though. Singing and music here are an integral part of the culture and they break it down into many-part harmony without practicing or thinking. And sometimes, a big truck will pass with a bunch of yamayos or (drunk men) and they will just be singing (usually about Jesus) and they have great harmony and everyone on that transport is singing. It is amazing to see and beautiful.

I guess sometimes, in place of singing, they just talk into megaphones and spread some kind of word. Likely about Jesus but also perhaps about a political party.
On the radio right now they are talking about Barack Obama an throwing in some English here and there, one of the phrases I heard being "most powerful president in the world," or "messenger of peace." It is great. And despite Bush's (impossibly) high approval rating here, Obama is overwhelmingly celebrated and praised. They love him.

From October:
The rainy season has started already, almost a month early and it is cool
so this, the hottest month of the year is much cooler than it has
been. I’m wearing a sweatshirt! Nice as that may be, it is strange and
makes me wonder about climate change...

From November:
I am back in Mbala. I came on Sunday for the big market that they have 2x/month. It was huge. And I bought a head scarf. But it was a sunday and nothing was open so I have cycled back today to use the internet and charge my appliances. And to buy food. And probably charcoal. Though I ordered it over a week ago, the guy has still not made it and I have absolutely none, which is to say that I can't cook or even heat water to bathe. And it is cold around the rain fall!!! I never expected! I met the brother of the family I stayed with during training. That was neat. He is an educated man, excellent English and he greeted me like an old friend. It was just what I needed after a day filled with disappointments ranging from the charcoal to my ordered furniture being 10 days late to the only time I would be able to meet health committees in other areas being next week when I will be in Kasama so I cant do it. But after meeting the brother, I went to a school meeting about the anti-AIDS club and they had done so much! Last week when I talked to them, the club was virtually non-existent and they had no plans for World AIDS Day. But yesterday, they had a huge list of students and plans not only for WAD but a month by month program for next year's activities!! And on my way back, I ran into the brother of a teacher at a different school who is also well-educated and we spoke at great length (mostly about how important religion is and how, since i've been telling everyone i'm catholic, wondering why it's ok to pray to mary, something I could not actually answer and i found myself needing to defend a religion to which i do not prescribe), but it was good nonetheless. Unfortunately, I find myself attracted to the type of folks I usually would avoid at home, namely the rich, bourgeois type. But here, those are the type that are most like me. It is a little unsettling but comforting anyway. So, next week, i will be in Kasama and will likely spend a little more time on the internet b/c here is very expensive!

From March:
Work here is picking up finally. But its rainy and biking
is quite awful and muddy. And I almost fell into a newly formed river
thing today. But womens day on mon was amazing in mbala and there were
hundreds of women. And I decorated my hut which looks fabulous now.
But ants and termites all about.

From May:
It smells like autumn. It is really nice. The corn stalks are drying
and people are harvesting. The weather is getting cooler (it was
freezing two mornings ago-maybe about in the mid fifties). I am
realizing that fall is my favourite season and I am glad that I will
be coming back to greet the northern hemisphere fall. But the pumpkins
are finished. They were fantastic boiled with a bit of salt. I could
eat them all day.

Friday, I went to the last village before the border. It was very far
and all uphill but it was a good group that I met with and they are
enthusiastic about forming a health committee. And the ride back was
easy peasy because it was all downhill. Speaking of Friday, I met a
man called such the other day. That makes three days left that haven't
manifested themselves in names of people (there are Sundays, Mondays
and Wednesdays). However, Monday I went to another very far village
(the one I talked about before) and it wasn't as good. The guy that
was supposed to come with me (it is through bush paths) couldn't come
and when I got there, there was nobody and when they finally collected
people, they were totally uninterested in what I was teaching.

Also, I have been sewing a lot. I made a skirt for a little girl and
am working on one for her mother. I made some pretty cool bags and
most proudly, a glasses case to replace my stolen one. It looks pretty
neat and I can't wait to show it off!

From June:
Lost my sour milk en route home. That was sad. But from the road to my village, little kids helped me carry my stuff. I got a ten litre bucket and a tap that I will make a wash
stand with. Its my gift to myself and I’m super excited. About a bucket...

September 6, 2009

Vising the Sites

So, it sure has been a while. But things are still good here and I am on a computer for the first time since arriving in country! We are going back this afternoon to our homestays after a week of visiting our provinces and our individual sites. I must say that despite Peace Corps really, really dropping the ball on many things, the rest of my service looks like it will be very nice. My hut is huge and I have a great view of the sun setting over the mountains. Also, during the rainy season, things are supposed to be absolutely gorgeous. The clinic I will be based at looks very competent and well-staffed and the village I am in is very welcoming. I am looking forwards to actually arriving at site with a braizer, buckets for water and food, none of which we had for this visit becaus we were told that it would be provided...

Otherwise, things are going well. Hmmm, now that I have the access, I cannot think of what to write. We have quite a bit of time in Lusaka today before the bus picks us up (we are here after a night bus from Kasama) and I intend on eating all sorts of unhealthy food to stock up until the next time I come in. We have all come back with our counterparts, someone from the village that we will be working with throughout.

The weather is getting warmer and the extreme heat will soon start. Please let me know how you are all doing and in preparation for my next posting, I will take notes so that I don't run out of things to say. Also, give me your address if I don't already have it!

Take care!

August 7, 2009

So it begins!!

aah, this is good. It's a full moon, i am undermy mozzie net listening to joni mitchell and relaxing after a goodmeal, a tea and a chat with my host mum. Despite some bug bites, dirtyfeet all the time and impossibly cold showers outside, things aregoing well. I am learning mambwe, a language spoken by the tanzaniaborder and that is where my family is from and they say it isbeautiful. The people-zambians and volunteers alike are great. Thesunsets are like montana as are the fluxtations in temperature frommorning to afternoon. We did a site visit last week and it was goodbut the amount of free time is a bit daunting. Training is long andtedious and i am anxiously awaiting the start of my service. So, allis good and please let me know how you all are! Take care!

July 10, 2009

So little time left...

Hi. Welcome to my first blog entry. Before I leave for Zambia, I thought I would say a few words to open up the blog. Time is moving very fast and in less than two weeks, I will be in Zambia with several other volunteers, learning and adjusting. Preparing has been less than easy with chronic procrastination and trying to see friends, not to mention trying to accept Michael Jackson's death. Anyway, prepared or not, Zambia will come sooner rather than later and I will hopefully find myself ready to start this new endeavor. Next post from Africa?