Zampop, n.

Zampop, zam-pahp. n. The most popular genre of music in Zambia, narrowly beating out Celine Dion, Dolly Parton, and church hymns. Zampop consists primarily of autotuned melodies sung by male recording artists laid over synthetic hip-hop/R&B beats, resulting in tracks which sound so much like Akon that Akon himself wouldn’t be able to be certain that they weren’t his own. Related etymology: K-pop, J-pop. Similar musical sounds: Jason Derulo, older Usher. Percentage of time blasted through tinny speakers on long bus rides: all of it.

Zambian Colloquial Dictionary (ZCD), 2014.

Dancing at a wedding to...Zampop

Dancing at a traditional Zambian wedding to…Akon


Iron Chef: Peace Corps challenge

TV shows like Food Network’s Iron Chef America crack me up. “Cook a seven-course meal in which every dish must contain Arctic char! Including dessert!” This was the actual premise of a cooking show I watched once. Ridiculous. Especially considering that Arctic char is culinarily indistinguishable from rainbow trout, just harder to find and pricier because it has to be wild-caught and flown in from northern Canada. Man, what I wouldn’t give to fly fish for Arctic char in Canada right now. Or to fly fish for any kind of trout, anywhere.


My friend Bryce fishing in a remote offtrail lake in Sequoia National Park in September 2012

But I digress. The idea of turning cooking into a challenge got me to thinking — I bet y’all in America would love to try cooking like a Peace Corps volunteer.* I bet you’re just hopping up and down in anticipation of this fancy new cooking challenge!

*A Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia, of course, because I have no idea how volunteers cook in other countries.

Here’s all you have to do to:

-Go to spin class for two hours and work up a nice sweat

-Come home and crank up the thermostat in your kitchen to a balmy 92 degrees

-Unscrew all of your lightbulbs


Although if you want to be precise, feel free to go out and get a solar lamp like this one

-Unplug your refrigerator, microwave, and blender

-Toss out all of your food except the ingredients that have never been refrigerated or frozen

-Toss out the stuff that is now spoiling in the heat, too

-Tape up the faucet in the sink and haul a bucket over to your neighbor’s ornamental koi pond to get water


I can store up to 100 liters of water in my hut using a variety of buckets and jugs

-Don’t feed your cat for a week beforehand, then let her loose in your kitchen

-Pay the neighbor kid ten bucks to stand outside your house with a stick, banging on both a pot and your window at regular intervals

-Collect two dozen mosquitoes and release them in your kitchen

-Hire an electrician to hotwire your stove (if you’re handy, feel free to do this yourself!) so that all of the burners only have two settings, “Off” and “Hotter than the depths of hell”


Or you can make yourself a brazier

Contestants will be judged on palatability, creativity, and ability to still form solid bowel movements the next day. Points will be added for the use of any ingredient that you had to catch, kill, pick, harvest, or steal yourself. Points will be deducted for anything deep-fried and/or doused in salt. More points will be deducted for any part of your body that you accidentally burn while in the process of preparing your meal.

Time limit: you’ve got allll day

ZamTwitter, Month 18

Random news from my eighteenth month of Peace Corps service, in 140 characters or less.

October 10 – Laying in bed with a sheen of sweat insulating every inch of skin that touches my clammy sheets. So we meet again, hot season.

October 12 – Note to self: in future do not read book about horrific Ebola outbreak in Africa while living in Africa during an Ebola epidemic.

October 15 – Ryeon and I are hosting a counterpart exchange to swap ideas and learn new farming techniques — in Nshinda today and Lubunda tomorrow.

The look on Ba Kapula's face while collecting pineapples from Sebastian's farm was a dead ringer for Sebastian's when he was given cocoa yams from Ba Kapula's farm the next day -- both had the barely suppressed glee of a little boy who thinks he's pulled a fast one over his mother

The look on Ba Kapula’s face while collecting pineapples from Sebastian’s farm was a dead ringer for Sebastian’s when he was given cocoa yams from Ba Kapula’s farm the next day — both had the barely suppressed glee of a little boy who thinks he’s pulled a fast one over his mother

October 18 – With the change of seasons it’s already light at 5:30am. My village now gets a clear view of Matt trying to sneak out when I travel from site.

October 20 – Starting our journey to Namibia today with an 11-hr bus ride, followed by a 7-hr bus ride tomorrow, then a 21-hr bus ride on Wednesday. Ugh.

Traversing most of southern Africa

Traversing most of southern Africa

October 23 – Arrived in Windhoek after 43 hours in buses. The first thing we notice is how clean everything is. Dorothy, we’re not in Zambia anymore.

October 26 – Just when you think you’ve seen it all during your self-driven game drive, an elephant crosses the road ten feet in front of your Corolla.

Warning: elephants in windshield are closer than they appear

Warning: elephants in windshield are closer than they appear

October 27 – Driving from the hot desert of Etosha National Park to breezy seaside Swakopmund is like driving from Death Valley to the California coast.

October 30 – Swakopmund is the Monterey Bay of Africa — it’s sunny with cool salt air, has cute shops and great seafood, and there’s an aquarium.

November 1 – During a road trip that included cheetah and whale sightings, fresh oysters, and pounds of jerky, my favorite part was playing in the sand.

Hiking the irreverently named Big Daddy, one of the highest dunes in the world

Hiking the irreverently named Big Daddy, one of the highest dunes in the world

November 6 – With 6 months left in my service and only 4 days per month to use my computer, I have about 100 hours to research life options after Peace Corps. If the power doesn’t go out. Shit’s getting real.

November 9 – My bus ride back to site this afternoon was exactly the length of Taylor Swift’s new album 1989 played 5.7 times in a row.

November 10 – In the spirit of William Carlos Williams

The Rainy Season

so much depends

a freshly turned

under a darkening

beside the expectant


I just returned from a two-week road trip through Namibia. It’s a pretty amazing place. Where else in the world can you go to Oktoberfest with a crowd of transplanted lederhosen-wearing Germans, drive a few hours and go on a self-guided game drive where you nearly get your Toyota Corolla trampled by an elephant, drive another few hours and eat oysters and sip champagne while watching whales, then drive a few hours more and spot wild cheetahs while on your way to climbing the highest sand dune on the planet? Seven other volunteers and I logged over 2,519 kilometers in two subcompact cars, spent 87 hours in buses, slogged several miles through sand, and I didn’t do laundry once. Sorry, guys.