ZamTwitter, Month 22

Random news from my 22nd month of Peace Corps service, in 140 characters or less.

February 7 – Just half-wobbled, half-sprinted out to my latrine and dropped trou a split-second before I exploded. My village must think I’m so weird.

February 11 – We’re in a rainy season drought: every afternoon the sky darkens and a few drops fall, then it gets sunny again. The farmers are not amused.

Following a fish farmer out to her ponds

Following a fish farmer out to her ponds

February 13 – Ughh. An extremely unpleasant side effect of a midnight thunderstorm blowing in is the huge gusts of wind which spray sand all over my bed.

February 17 – Spent nine hours today getting to and sitting during a meeting in which I spoke for all of five minutes. Sounds about right.

February 18 – I’ll never get used to the supreme disorientation of staggering half-asleep onto the first bus barreling through my village before dawn.

A common view -- on the bus, waiting to leave

A common view — on the bus, waiting to leave

February 20 – There are 27 people on this 75-seat bus. And two of them are babies. Why can’t all 11-hour bus rides be like this?

February 22 – At the new Pre-Service Training in Chongwe and just shepherded 20 new trainees through the market. Can’t believe two years has already passed.

Nothing quite blends beauty and chaos like a Zambian bus station

The outside of a rural Zambian market on a calm day

February 25 – I’m eating and watching a dubbed Indian soap as five Zambian trainers analyze tonight’s plot of Samira nervously meeting her future in-laws.

February 28 – Peace Corps in the 21st century: in addition to sessions on Zambian culture and aquaculture, trainees also learn about cellular data plans.

March 4 – Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you haven’t. Walking to the doctor holding a vial of my poop, I realize the cap isn’t screwed tight.


March 5 – Just traded two packs of Juicy Fruit and a can of expired Altoids for two bottles of water and a Fanta. Love Zambia’s barter economy.

March 6 – Nothing says cultural exchange quite like a Phillipine-made film in Tagalog dubbed in English playing in Zambia. Gonna miss the buses here.

March 9 – Netted and restocked 1,500 fish today from Sebastian’s farm, but the big news in Nshinda is that Hobbes has new kittens. Five of them.

DSC03647 (1750x1124)

These are not these kittens. These are old kittens. This just proves that I’ve taken a lot of pictures of kittens.



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

ZamTwitter, Month 17

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

September 12 – Minutes from my meeting today:
-biked 42 kilometers there and back
-waited 2 hours for it start
-listened to people arguing for 6 hours

September 14 – Visited a couple of new fish farmers today. When I asked if we could survey the fish in the pond, they brought out a casting net.


Using a casting net to sample fish species and size in an old pond

September 15 – I’ve gone from getting fresh vegetables brought to my doorstep to biking 3km for limp pieces of lettuce. What a difference a month makes.

September 16 – Busy day at the farm. Sebastian’s working on the new house, supervising the pond-diggers, and getting yelled at by a woman demanding money.

September 17 – Random guy shows up at my door with some gemstones. Google says they’re amethyst. Pretty, but probably not gonna turn me into a millionaire.


Gemstones found in a shallow quarry about 15 kilometers away from my village

September 19 – I’m a fan of The Five Love Languages, but Gary Chapman should tell my cat that dead rats by my bed isn’t how I prefer to receive affection.

September 24 – After 20 months, it finally happened: a last-second desperation grab was all that kept me from dropping my phone down the chimbusu.

September 26 – In Makasa watching Chris and Lucas spend the pre-dawn hour netting fingerlings using the prettiest chitenge net you’ll ever find.


Appropriate technology: using local textiles to fashion makeshift seine nets

September 28 – We’re doing peer support scenarios at the PSDN training in Kasama. Never thought listening (and being listened to) could be so cathartic.

September 30 – How does a great hitch turn into an unforgettable one? When after a free 350km ride, your loquacious driver buys you ice-cold beers.

October 3 – Boarding the bus back to site today I felt awash in this incredible sense of serenity. 4.5 scorching hours later I felt awash in sweat.

October 5 – Third visit with a new fish farmer. Was surprised and pleased to find that, per my advice, he actually made a compost crib.


One of Sebastian's cribs exposed as the water level in his ponds continues to drop

October 8 – Allison is visiting Sebastian’s farm with one of her fish farmers. We end up sitting and complaining for 3 hours. Typical Zambian meeting.

ZamTwitter, Month 16

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

August 11 – I’m in Lusaka as a volunteer trainer for the RAP ’14 In-Service Training. Hard to believe it’s already been a year since my own IST.

August 14 – The volunteers are at Immigration getting their work permits this morning. This means we trainers have four hours to shop for chitenges.


August 15 – Our minibus stalls. When we start off again, the driver swerves back and forth to try to slosh what little gas remains into the fuel line.

August 17 – Embarking on my third 16-hour bus ride in the last two weeks. I’ll never complain about waiting half an hour at the DMV again.

August 18 – Six cats are currently squatting in my hut. This means half-eaten mice, constant meowing, and puddles of kitten pee everywhere.


August 20 – Bought buns (for me) and dried fish (for Calvin and Hobbes) in the boma today. The women were all abuzz about my resealable Ziplock bags.

August 22 – Tagged along as Emi put on a moringa cooking demonstration for a nearby women’s group and ended up teaching them how to fry cassava fries.

August 26 – Watching accidental brush fires is great evening entertainment until the flames get a little too close to your dried grass-thatched roof.

August 29 – Helping Emi move out of her site after two years in Kafutuma. I didn’t think it was possible to accumulate so many things in a 3-room hut.


September 2 – Flat tires and broken jacks don’t seem to mix well — what was a 3-hour ride turned into a 6-hour ordeal. Hitching: always an adventure.

September 6 – Just traded an old pair of sunglasses I salvaged from the trash for two ice-cold bottles of water. Gotta love Zambia’s street economy.

September 8 – Of all the fun goodies my parents brought with them from America, the clear early favorite is the compressible nylon hammock.


ZamTwitter, Month 15

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

July 10 – Killed two mosquitoes while in bed tonight. Am way too proud of myself. Floor, meet Matt’s new standards for achievement.

July 12 – While in the market today, a drunk guy who had been pestering me suddenly darted forward and kissed me. On the lips. Not my finest hour.

July 13 – Stopped in Kashikishi to buy cisense, tiny fish caught by the thousands daily in Lake Mweru, and got mobbed by feisty fish sellers.


July 15 – Accompanying Ba Cleopher, my boss and the head of RAP, on site visits is giving me ideas for more home improvements I can do in my house.

July 17 – Hobbes is back after a month away and promptly had kittens in my closet. Calvin is not pleased that my attention is no longer fully on him.

July 19 – I’m cleaning house and renovating. Built three new shelves, swept out ten pounds of dust, and made a tiny rock garden.


July 22 – Just saw a spider big enough to make a tarantula jump and shriek. I have never been more glad for the mosquito net I sleep under each night.

July 25 – Kiva’s persistent email reminder campaign pays off. Just reloaned credit that’s been in my account for a year to a cattle farmer in Uganda.

July 27 – My parents are officially in Zambia. Mom’s already taken a hundred pictures, and Dad’s already spent too much on fish-themed wood carvings.


July 29 – Mom’s a big hit with the kids in my village. They’re playing card games, having photoshoots, and are fascinated with her skin.

July 31 – Emi’s hanging out with us in Nshinda and is doing a fabulous job of taking pictures, answering questions, and corralling incorrigible kids.


August 2 – We’re in Chobe National Park in Botswana and lions were just spotted outside our camp. The guides’ advice: zip up your tents all the way.

August 3 – Visiting Victoria Falls for the first time. Had to grab a picture with the parents.


August 6 – The crack in the floor of my latrine is getting larger. Sebastian assures me it’s no problem, but he’s not the one who has to squat over it.

August 9 – I’ve spent thirty hours in the last five days riding in buses. I’m pretty sure my rear end is permanently molded in the shape of a seat.

ZamTwitter, Month 14

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

June 11 – Hitching out from the Peace Corps Provincial meetings. When we reach Chris’s site, a flock of children magically appears to carry our bags.


June 13 – Attending a friend’s village wedding. Biggest difference: in America, weddings are for the bride; here, they’re for everyone else.

June 15 – Have a massive headache. Laying in bed but can’t fall asleep. Just another day as a Peace Corps volunteer.

June 19 – Swerved to avoid running over a chameleon this morning. How does a creature that moves so slowly manage to thwart natural selection??

June 21 – Stumbled across a village brewery today and learned how to distill alcohol. They thought it was hilarious when I declined to try it.


June 25 – Had a rough morning so I decided to go for a walk. Greeted farmers, teased women, bantered with kids, and returned home feeling at peace.

June 26 – I’ve been giving boys plastic bags in exchange for sweeping my yard. Just found out they’re trading them for condoms…to make footballs.

June 28 – Hobbes is AWOL but one of her former kittens has returned to replace her. He’s just as much of a diva — I’m calling him Calvin, obviously.

July 1 – Emi’s visiting Nshinda after being out of the district for over a month. We made spring rolls to commemorate our Asian-ness.


July 2 – Chatted with a small boy for 15 minutes. The entire conversation consisted of him asking, a bit optimistically, for everything in my house.

July 4 – Spent my 4th of July helping Sebastian net four ponds and harvest 600 fish. Just like my summers back home.

July 5 – Almost hit a snake with my bike. Scary: it was bright yellow and black, probably poisonous. Not so scary: it was about 12 inches long.

July 7 – Holiday weekend bike adventure: 104 km, 65 lbs of gear, way too much junk food, and a waterfall for swimming, bathing, and laundry.


July 9 – Spent 6 hours inspecting ponds with World Vision. Main conversation topics: the Germany-Brazil World Cup blowout and Sebastian’s two wives.

ZamTwitter, Month 13

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

May 12 – Packed into a cruiser with 8 other volunteers and 3 staff for the 9-hour ride up to Luapula. Still so much more comfortable than the bus.

May 15 – My cat returned home tonight after being AWOL for the past month. She instantly demanded food. Nice to see some things never change.

Hanging out at the ponds chatting with Sebastian and reading are just a few of my favorite things

Hanging out at the ponds chatting with Sebastian and reading are just a few of my favorite things

May 18 – Bought waffles at the side of the road. They don’t taste like waffles. Even Hobbes won’t touch them unless they’re covered in peanut butter.

May 20 – Our well’s back in action. I made a new icikopo (jug attached to rope for pulling water up) and now everyone else is using it except me.

May 23 – Laundry day. The water that my clothes have been soaking in for the past two days is brown — this is how I gauge if they’re clean.

Little Shatelle has much better style than this muzungu

Little Shatelle has much better style than this muzungu

May 24 – Just chatted with Sebastian about financing, loans, and interest rates. This rural Zambian knows more personal finance than most Americans.

May 26 – Visited new fish farmers, staked a pond, went for a swim, spotted two African spoonbills, scared a big monitor lizard. It’s been a good day.

May 28 – 21st consecutive day of non-solid poops. The really unhealthy part of this is that I no longer consider it to be very unhealthy.

May 30 – I’ve been taking afternoon swims in a fish pond nearly every day. It’s almost like having my own private swimming pool.

My new swimming pool

My new swimming pool until cold season hits

June 2 – I have a very carb-heavy diet here, but tonight still managed to mark a dubious first: I made both pasta AND rice for dinner.

June 5 – Visiting Michael, a volunteer in the next district. His site is gorgeous: rural solitude, extensive integrated polyculture, and a private waterfall.

June 8 – Arrived in Mansa after three days and 250 kilometers of biking. Have a sore knee and a bruised ego (we went REALLY slowly).

Ryeon and I on the last stretch, only 50 kilometers from Mansa

Ryeon and I on the last stretch, only 50 kilometers from Mansa