Monday, June 27, 2011


Spending the weekend in Choma for Provincial Meetings, which means every volunteer in the Province comes to the Provincial House (for now only 6 of us in Southern). And each of the other Provinces around Zambia are also meeting at their Provincials. We had to meet to discuss countrywide Peace Corps information and policies, and then we also had a “House” meeting where we discussed house rules and issues specific to our Provincial House here in Southern. Today, we just have some free time to spend in town, and I’ll be traveling back home tomorrow.
Two good productive things happened this past week. First, I was able to start working on creating a Library/Resource Room at my school. There is an empty office space area within the staff room, that I got permission to use. So, I cleaned it out and set out looking for bookshelves. There are plenty of broken desks piled around the school, so I started collecting the usable wooden planks from the desk benches and tabletops, and then I found some bricks/cement blocks. My administration thought I was crazy to be doing any of this physical labor (carrying wood and brinks) myself and tried to tell me to stop and wait for another time when pupils could help. But, I insisted that I wanted to get it done now. So, I then built book shelves using the bricks and wood planks. When finished with those, I went to the deputy Head and Head’s offices’ to start collecting and transferring books. As of Friday, we have two bookshelves completely full of textbooks and resource books. This week, we are going to attempt to make more bookshelves and then we are tackling the job of cleaning out a certain storage closet that supposedly has boxes of donated storybooks buried somewhere in there. There are also things like charts and posters that can be taken out and used. So super exciting for progress to be happening!
The second good thing is that my school is super excited about me painting world maps, HIV/AIDS, and health messages/pictures on and around the school. And they’ve actually moved past just talking about it and actually gave me the money this weekend to buy paints! Woohoo! Progress!
Other than that, it’s just the same old business- going to school each day, hanging out with the teachers, playing/coaching soccer and volleyball in the afternoons, carrying water on my head, cooking on my brazier, hanging out with my sister Joy in the evenings.
Oh, actually I have a new hobby/coping mechanism! Baking! So, with the help and advice of my friend Heather, I learned how to bake with cooking pots and a brazier. What you do is take the largest cooking pot you have and put it on the fire. Then put some kind of barrier (tuna can, pot lid, etc.) inside the pot. Then place your other smaller pot (with the cake batter or whatever you are baking) on top of the barrier. Then cover with the large pot lid. (The barrier just acts to lift the inner pot off of the direct heat). Then, depending on what you are making, and how the baking is going, you can add fire/coals on top of the large pot lid (then the heat will be coming evenly from the top and bottom). So, far, I’ve made 2 cakes, a shortbread & lemon custard pie, and shortbread/sugar cookies! I would have made more but I ran out of flour! But, now I’ve stocked up on supplies in town and will go crazy baking!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

More Zambian Culture

• I tried to give the neighbor’s dog the bowl of pancake batter to lick, but he wouldn’t eat it. “Wow” I thought “these dogs are super picky” (they don’t eat bread either b/c they aren’t used to/familiar with it). So, I decide to add some Sampu (Zambian maize porridge) to the bowl. He still wouldn’t eat it! He sat down a foot or so away and stared at it, but he didn’t leave. Finally, I realized the issue- the bowl! I dumped the contents on the ground, he wagged his tail and immediately started eating. Duh! He wasn’t used to being given food in a bowl…If he ever tried to lick from a bowl at home he would most definitely be beaten! Oops! Guess these Zambian dogs won’t be helping me prewash my dishes!

• A LARGE number of Zambians will passionately argue that a Zambian child CANNOT learn without a stick (i.e. beating). Corporal punishment is against the law here, but it is far from being removed from the schools. To give you an idea- I see AT LEAST 30 kids get beat each and every morning. The severity of the beating is up to the teacher doing it (usually the “Teacher on Duty”). They line the children up and use a stick to smack the childrens’ butts. You can hear the smack from across the school. Some kids laugh, some kids cry. One teacher just hits twice, but another teacher hits 6 times! The beating continues inside the classrooms, where it can range from a smack on the head, back, hands, or even the face! Behaviors that can earn a beating are wide and varied, and again totally up to each teacher’s discretion. Some common reasons include being late, being dirty/not bathing, giving the wrong answer, not doing an assignment, skipping afternoon work/sports/clubs, not raising your hand, talking, writing too slow, slouching, or maybe the teacher just feels like hitting someone. Unfortunately, somehow, even with all this beating…the students still are not learning. *Addition* I listened to my 14 yr old brother wailing and screaming last night as his mother beat him for about 10 min straight.

• Living in a Zambian village, it always sounds as if people are just hanging out in your yard or just outside your window. And sometimes they are!- with somewhat good reason- i.e. your house just happens to be in the middle of the path/direction they want to go; their cows are hanging out in your yard, therefore the herd boys are hanging out in your yard; they are stalking their pig/goat/chicken that happens to be hanging out in your insaka or veranda. And sometimes you find that even though it sounds as if they are right outside their window, they are actually at their own house next door (which is so close it could still be considered your yard) sitting around the fire talking.

• Sports here is kind of like school- unorganized. There are no clearly defined teams. Girls can float freely between netball, volleyball, and soccer. 50 girls can show up for practice one day and only 15 the next day. They have never been taught to do any kind of drills or training- their idea of practice is to put everyone out on the field and let them scrimmage the whole time. During which time, 22 girls are running and flailing around the field, frantically chasing after the ball in one massive herd. And this will continue from one day to the next and one year to the next. I am trying to introduce some organization and some practice drills, but I am being met with opposition from my assistant coach, who insists on continuing with the “put them all on the field and let them play” idea.

• If you are riding your bicycle down a path and come across a herd of cows coming your direction, should you?: (Choose your answer, and I’ll tell you mine next time) (This situation occurs for me once or twice or even three times every day)
o Shout and toss sticks at them
o Move off the path and wait for them to pass
o Grab stick, stand still on path and wait for them to pass
o Continue slowly on the path and force them to move around you
o Ride off the path and through the bush to get around them
o Turn and run/ride the other way

Birthday Post

Today is my birthday. I am 25. It seems extremely weird to be having my Birthday in Africa. Also seems weird to be 25! I just met Heather (LIFE) and Tim (PCVL) in town. We are going to do a few things in town (like get a free ice cream for my birthday from the boy at the ice cream stand!). It is banana soft serve, which sounds disgusting, but is actually quite delicious- me and Heather get some every time we come to town! Then, after town, Heather and Tim are coming back to my place and spending the night at my house in the village. I’m not sure if my family is planning anything for my Birthday- except my bataata promised he would kill a chicken and have one of the wives cook it for us. But hopefully, my sister also said maybe there will be some music and dancing…we’ll see. On Sunday morning, I want to take my friends to the school, where some games will be going on, so I can introduce them to some of the teachers and pupils. Then, they will leave Sunday afternoon, and Tim will go to visit/spend the night at Heather’s place. Also, I’m sure at some point I will have a bucket of water poured on me, as that is their Birthday tradition here (I think to symbolize birth, but I’m not entirely sure).

So, things are going good here. I’ve been super busy. It is hard to find time now to do just the little things like sweeping or doing dishes or even bathing! It is winter, so daylight hours are short (and almost entirely spent at school). I am getting more used to eating lunch late- or not eating lunch at all. If there is a meeting scheduled for that day, you can almost count on missing lunch. That’s just the way it goes here. Luckily, they usually feel some sympathy for the “Mukuwa” and at least give me some biscuits (cookies) to snack on. I spend my days at schools observing teachers and taking notes on what I might work on to fix/change at the schools. I’ve become very familiar and comfortable with most of the teachers at the Zonal school where I spend most of my time. They are getting to know me too- how I will speak my mind, and not let them off the hook for being late or missing their classes lol. I’m still working on traveling to and getting to know the other schools and the teachers there. One day a week I am supposed to work in the community, but this time is very open and unstructured, so it is difficult on these days to know exactly what to do. But, I am slowly meeting some people in the community that I might eventually work on some projects with. We held my “community agreement” meeting earlier this week, where representatives from each of the schools and PTA’s came. I reviewed the PC and RED project goals with them and then went through the contract that we were to sign. It was a very good and productive meeting :-)
Well, I am tired of writing and want to try to put some pictures on. So, hope everyone and everything is well at home. Thank you for packages and letters!

One Month In....


• Met Heather in town again, brought my sister Joy with me b/c she was supposed to meet her boyfriend in town- unfortunately he never showed

• Went on internet & spent most of the time explaining things to Joy and showing her pictures from home (all along she has heard me saying I want to go on the internet, etc. and she had no idea really what it was or what it meant to “get on the internet”)

• Ate 2 ice creams lol- banana soft serve- never heard of such a thing or would have thought it would be good- but it’s actually pretty okay 

• Horrible ride home in back of canter truck! Way too many people squeezed in- can’t even explain how squished and uncomfortable we all were- also had stupid drunk man yelling things at me 


• Slept in until 8.

• Washed my bed sheets

• Finished painting leaves on the trees of my 2nd mural

• Started painting 3rd mural-sunset scene w/ ocean and palm trees

• Got very sad today- it started with me thinking about and missing my boy at home- then down spiraled from there until I was just sitting in my bath bucket crying and thinking “what the heck am I doing sitting here alone in the middle of Africa?”- I feel totally alone, isolated, and questioning whether I’ve made a mistake in coming


• 6:45 staff mtg, started at 6:50- big improvement!

• Talked with student teacher about beating-she does not do it & doesn’t agree with it- good to hear at least one teacher say this

• Observed gr. 8 all day- lots of beating-lots of teaching in tonga- not much learning

• Played volleyball in afternoon- made me very happy! I want to play everyday, but they want me to be the girls soccer coach instead

• Visited SDA preschool- teacher doing good job, but only 2 children b/c others stopped coming when they were asked to pay school fees- she just wants materials/donations from me


• Can’t believe I’ve been here almost a month! Crazy!

• Observed gr. 9 all day- they are much better than gr. 8- speaking better englsih, better behavior, participation, friendliness, and interest in me, etc.- I even spoke up and taught a bit today! I really enjoyed them!

• Coached soccer in p.m. w/ student teacher- girls at a skill level of about a U-7 league in U.S.- all chasing the ball around the field in a big herd and flailing their bodies all over the place- we have a lot of work to do!

• I want to make a weekly schedule for teaching/learning aid workshops


• No school- African holiday

• Made to-do list and laid on reed mat all morning working- made Gr. 8 & 9 time tables (class schedules) to post in their classrooms ( b/c teachers are avoiding responsibility to do it & is now 3rd week of school and pupils still have no idea of their schedule)

• Made sign up sheet for teaching/learning aid workshops, made roster& position diagrams for soccer, organized notebooks and observation notes

• Fetched water by myself for first time (no one walking with me)

• Made pancakes-yum!


• Observed gr. 9, talked to kids a lot and also helped explain/teach English lesson

• Made list for girls soccer team- 54 girls signed up!

• Went to Pentecost preschool to observe & bring teacher some ideas & notes- set plan to get together and work on making daily schedule and teaching materials- very excited to work on this with her!

• Soccer practice horrible- student teacher took over & put all girls on field, then took 25 min to organize them


• Woke up a bit late, then decided I didn’t feel like going to school

• Couldn’t really make up my mind about where/what I should do community wise, so I just stayed home

• Worked on some stuff for Pent. Preschool & made Zambia map

• Scrambled pancakes for breakfast, mashed potatoes for lunch, oatmeal for dinner- I’m bored with my food!

• Went to school in p.m. for soccer- did 1st half of practice on my own, then let student teacher do 2nd half- played volleyball w/ girls after!


• While waiting for church I experimented with baking, trying to make an oven by putting coals on top of pot lid- used short bread recipe- oven didn’t work- I scrambled the dough & made some crumbly good stuff- tried again in p.m. and added some oats- made granola! Yay! Will use as cereal in a.m.!

• Church- outside in sun, hot, boring- don’t even listen-all in tonga

• Too lazy to do wash today

• Got water 2 times by myself- but still struggle lifting it to my head

• Relaxed and read my book


• Supposed to meet at school at 7:00 to depart for sports games- I show up and no one is there- 1 student teacher around, working on lesson plans- at 7:45 he says lets go to his house ( where 2 other teachers live)- we hang out there until 8:45 when some others finally arrive to school- don’t leave the school to head to sports games until at least 9:30, stop to eat breakfast, get to fields at 10:30- no one from other school there- teachers finally come and games start around 12:00- end at 17:30- which means I ride bike home in dusk/dark

• Found out that the girls only play a 40 min soccer game, while the boys get a full 90 min, b/c

• “girls can’t handle 90 min”


• Nurses from clinic came to do health education program with gr. 1, 7, & 9- did check-ups (eyes & teeth) for little ones & HIV/AIDS talk & pamphlets for older ones

• After break no teachers showed up for gr. 9 (4 periods in a row)- so I sat with them and talked about sex, HIV/AIDS, relationships, gender roles & issues, America, etc. – was good bonding time- I want to continue having sessions on HIV/AIDS w/ them


• Supposed to be a community meeting this a.m. to go over the PC contract and sign it- NOBODY showed up- Head Teacher left to town and said if anyone showed up I could go ahead and have the mtg. without him lol

• Sat and wasted time in staff room- more teachers skipping classes- so not much to observe

• Had headache in p.m. and didn’t feel like training for soccer, so played volleyball instead