The Kinky Green


Heavy Heart

Posted in Uncategorized by Joy on April 6, 2014

Last month I found out I’ve lost someone dear to me.

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Comfort was the bubbly, toddling daughter of my host sister in training. For the first three months I was in Zambia, she was the consistent bright spot in my day. I delighted with the Lungu family in witnessing her learning to walk and talk. Whenever I had a rough go of it, Comfort’s smiling face & musical laughter lifted my spirits. She was my first Zambian friend.

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Amai Lungu, my host mother & Comfort’s grandmother, called at the beginning of February to tell me Comfort was in the hospital. She had been burned by hot water. Everyone thought she would be okay. Two days later, I got the word she was gone from this world.

I can’t pretend to comprehend the immense anguish the Lungu family must be experiencing. I couldn’t get to their village to attend the funeral. The only thing for me to do was try to cope with the waves of sadness as they washed over me at the news of this sudden, tragic loss.

Comfort was a beautiful little girl. She was bright and happy and fat and well-loved. I will always be glad I got to share a small part of her short, short life.

Happy 2014!

Posted in Peace Corps Adventures by Joy on January 15, 2014

I don’t have anything profound or witty to say, but I do have some pictures to share & fairly decent internet speed at the moment. So… Photo post!

Attempting to fly fish at Lake Tanganyika, Zambia.

Attempting to fly fish at Lake Tanganyika, Zambia.

Enjoying Lake Tanganyika

Enjoying Lake Tanganyika

My awesome counterpart Lista gives a condom demonstration to teenagers who came out for our Voluntary HIV Counseling & Testing event

My awesome counterpart Lista gives a condom demonstration to teenagers who came out for our Voluntary HIV Counseling & Testing event

They made me eat a chicken foot wrapped in intestines... Yummm

They made me eat a chicken foot wrapped in intestines… Yummm

Zaweney, my village neice, sporting her new fancy dress

Zaweney, my village neice, sporting her new fancy dress

So many fruit bats roost on trees at Kasanka National Park that they snap huge limbs off

So many fruit bats roost on trees at Kasanka National Park that they snap huge limbs off

Morgan made a friend

Morgan made a friend

Bats! Lots & lots of bats.

Bats! Lots & lots of bats.

A bit too close for comfort

A bit too close for comfort

Carl found something special

Carl found something special

Around dusk, the bats leave their roost & go absolutely nuts

Around dusk, the bats leave their roost & go absolutely nuts

These boys at Lake Malawi hammed it up for the camera

These boys at Lake Malawi hammed it up for the camera

Nkhata Bay, Lake Malawi

Nkhata Bay, Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi

Martha demonstrates making bread dough

Martha demonstrates making bread dough

Baking bread, dutch oven-style

Baking bread, dutch oven-style

Winnfrida takes notes dutifully

Winnfrida takes notes dutifully

The people of Lake Tanganyika catch & dry small fish called kapenta, which are shipped all over Zambia

The people of Lake Tanganyika catch & dry small fish called kapenta, which are shipped all over Zambia

Crocodile Island, Lake Tanganyika

Crocodile Island, Lake Tanganyika

Canoe on Lake Tanganyika

Canoe on Lake Tanganyika

This Christmas, I’m Thinking Trees

Posted in Uncategorized by Joy on December 9, 2013

I had a whole post typed out last night when my phone died. Perhaps it’s for the best; it wasn’t at all coherent.

I was in town the other day & saw signs of Christmas everywhere. Well, mainly in the grocery stores. Employees donned Santa caps & festive shirts. Decorations adorned the aisles & shelves. Dancing Santa greeted me at the entrance, shaking his tail to the non-stop Christmas jams. (Lyrics about snowmen & sleighbells & chestnuts on an open fire just don’t seem right when it’s face-melting, deal-with-the-midday-swelter-by-napping-in-the-shade, where-the-heck-is-the-rainy-already hot.) A man tried to sell me a Charlie Brown tree on the street. I declined.

Don’t get me wrong; I want trees. I want the people in my community to realize that planting trees now can mean the difference between their children & grandchildren having food & not. Having workable land & not. Having the rains they need to feed their crops and not. And I want them to act on that knowledge.

The knowledge that it’s all about trees.

Cooking, bathing, building, staying warm, staying dry… when you’re not removed from the basics of sustaining life by the conveniences of modern life, it’s impossible not to know that these things all require trees.

Soil fertiity, soil erosion, the water cycle, successful harvests, pollination, a balanced diet, thriving wildlife, sustainable ecosystems… These things are all require trees, too. But the links are somewhat less obvious.

What is obvious is that the trees are disappearing. The soil is disappearing. The rains are no longer reliable. The land is less fertile. Fruits & other food for forage is less available. Bees have fewer places to nest. Animals have fewer places to make their homes.

Trees. So important.

Because of the way the land system is set up, most folks in Zambia don’t exactly own their land. In a society of folks who are more or less renters, it’s hard to impress the importance of planting trees that may not yield a benefit for years to come.

I keep going back to my years as a renter. If I had planted 1 fruit tree at every place I rented since I struck out, about 8 of them would be producing fruit now. More than 8 families would have had access to free fruit this year. Sure it wouldn’t be me eating that fruit, but what if some like-minded tree-loving fool thought to plant an orange or fig or apple or pear tree at my future abode a few years back?

Knowledge is Power (Or We Can’t Live with Our Heads in the Sand)

Posted in Peace Corps Adventures by Joy on November 9, 2013

Earlier this week something totally awesome happened. 149 people in my community came out to get tested for HIV.

Sub-saharan Africa has some of the highest HIV infection rates in the world, & my area has some of the highest infection rates in Zambia. Countless NGOs work daily to sensitize people about the disease, debunk myths & false beliefs, educate about prevention, & provide testing, counseling, & treatment. Peace Corps Zambia receives funding from PEPFAR (a Bush program focused on HIV), & as such all volunteers here do some HIV/AIDS work.

I am extremely lucky to have an active Neighborhood Health Committee in my area & an exceptionally motivated counterpart named Lista. A couple of months ago, Lista joined me for PEPFAR training. Then she came back to Kagunda & started putting what she’d learned into action. Everywhere she goes, she’s sharing & educating. From church meetings to her savings club to the girls’ group. Man, I love this woman.

For this week’s event, Lista & I worked closely together to get an NGO called Corridors of Hope to come out to our monthly Under-5 Clinic & provide HIV testing & counseling. At Lista’s suggestion, we asked the head teacher of our local school to inform students of the event so they could relay the message to their parents and, for those 16 & above, come out to get tested.

Shortly after the folks from Corridors of Hope arrived on Tuesday, students from the school started trickling onto the clinic grounds. Wave after wave came, clad in their blue uniforms. The head teacher had done our request one better: he let everyone old enough to get tested out of school early for the day & sent them directly to the clinic.

Lista gathered them all around & talked to them about how HIV is transmitted & how to prevent it. She demonstrated proper condom usage & kept the youths actively engaged while they awaited their turns for testing.

Almost all of the women who attended the Under-5 Clinic got tested, even though it meant waiting longer on an already long day, at least one child in tow. One of the village headmen came out to be tested with his wife. The head teacher came out for his own test. People returning from a funeral in another village stopped on their way home.

I couldn’t have been more proud.

In a country where polygamy is accepted practice, infidelity is incredibly common, condom usage is stigmatized, sex work is spurred by poverty, early marriages find young girls in relationships with much older men… well, it’s just so important to know your status. To know what HIV & AIDS are & what you can do to protect yourself & your loved ones. To be able to have open discourse about these very real threats and, yes, about what it means to live with them.

I had hoped for 50 people to get tested. To see 3 times that number step up & decide knowing was better than living with their heads in the sand? It blew me away.

The best part? Not 1 positive test in the bunch.

Rocks Rule (My Life) (Or: Why I Don’t Practice What I Preach)

Posted in Peace Corps Adventures by Joy on October 14, 2013
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Sometimes being lazy is really hard work.

When I first saw The Cottage, I was thrilled I had space for a kitchen garden right by my house. My water source is just outside my front door (at least for now–more on that another time), and I felt incredibly lucky that I’d be able to have my garden so close to home. Most people have gardens out in the bush in dambo areas (low-lying places with available water), which means they can spend anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour+ a day just walking to/from the garden. Whooeee!

I know me… I’d be super excited about my garden initially. But then a combination of laziness/early programs/intense heat/travel/who-knows-what-all would get me off schedule & suddenly it’d be out of sight, out of mind. Neglected garden is no garden at all.

So close to The Cottage is good! It’s brilliant!

But there are some hurdles to overcome. In Zambian villages, many people have goats, chickens, pigs, cows, ducks, etc. A much, much smaller number of those folks have any of these animals penned. So, first order of business was getting a fence built, which took nearly 2 months.
Next up: double-digging my garden beds. Double digging is a method we’re supposed to be teaching folks that is supposed to creat permanent beds, improve the soil, & give the little plant babies a nice deep patch of earth to stretch out nice & deep. This is taking… considerably longer. Annnd may or may not be actually happening.

You see, I live on a big, rocky hill. And the soil around my house has been swept clean (of grass & debris as well as that lovely substance we call topsoil) & the clay-heavy dirt compacted for years upon years. So digging isn’t just a straightforward matter of insert hoe, remove dirt (which, let’s face it, would be problematic enough). No, as the Zambians tell me: Eeeeh. PLENTY of rocks there.

I spent countless hours removing rocks from the surface & first 6-12″ of soil during my first 3 months, knowing I’d want to plant soon after returning from training in September. With the Iwes’ help, I pulled out loads & loads of stones of all shapes & sizes. I have stone-lined flower beds, rock-lined garden beds, a stone-covered shower drain. I’ve given rocks away, started seeking stone-based projects, & taken to chucking them at goats, ducks & chickens careless enough to wander near (though the latter more scatters than diminishes the stockpile). Still I’m with a boatload of rocks.

What’s more? I’m only 1 1/2 beds into double-digging the 5 I have planned. Today, it was 102.2 in the shade by 10 am. My garden ain’t shady, y’all.

Every time I go out, I promise I will dig for an hour. Every time, the sun & rocks & hard, hard soil conspire with my oh-so-dull hoe & oh-so-limited willpower, and I’m back inside within 40 minutes. Promising tomorrow will be different. Knowing it won’t.

The kicker is I’ve kind of given up on double digging. There is only so much room these little plants need, I tell myself as I hit another layer of rock.

Sunday, Bloody Hot Sunday (Or: Got Your Letter, Mom… Here’s an Update!)

Posted in Peace Corps Adventures by Joy on October 13, 2013
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It’s 10:10 on a Sunday morning. I’m hanging out in my hammock in the semi-cool of my hut (aka, The Cottage). Evil cat woke me at 5:30. her habit of late, demanding entry through the mosi net to cuddle with/growl at me. By 6:30, I was up & out, getting water for the garden. Determined to be slightly more productive today than yesterday. Even on my lazy days in the village, there are chores I just can’t avoid. Drawing water, watering the garden, doing dishes, lighting the brasier & cooking something. Yesterday, the heat snuck up on me, & those plus some letter writing were about all I managed. So I vowed to at least tackle the compost today before the sun blazed so hot I had to seek refuge.
The iwes (kids) helped me make a potting mixture & fill up some plastic “pots” (really just black tubes/bags), & we planted some red mahogany (used for poles in building), guava, lemon, & msangu (a nitrogen-fixing tree we promote for intercropping in fields). I thanked the iwes with a pitcher of crystal light & some doublemint gum. They spent the next 1/2 hour running screaming around the village before passing out from the exhaustion of their false sugar high.
These days most folks in the village are up & out to their gardens by 6 or so. They’ll come home around 9 or 10 for a morning meal. Some go back out to the garden until they can’t handle it anymore. Everyone is as still as possible, napping on reed mats or grain sacks in the shade, for several hours during the hottest part of the day. To me, it’s all too hot to manage as much as they do.

Sunday, Bloody Hot Sunday (Or: Got Your Letter, Mom… Here’s an Update!)

Posted in Peace Corps Adventures by Joy on October 13, 2013
Tags:

It’s 10:10 on a Sunday morning. I’m hanging out in my hammock in the semi-cool of my hut (aka, The Cottage). Evil cat woke me at 5:30. her habit of late, demanding entry through the mosi net to cuddle with/growl at me. By 6:30, I was up & out, getting water for the garden. Determined to be slightly more productive today than yesterday. Even on my lazy days in the village, there are chores I just can’t avoid. Drawing water, watering the garden, doing dishes, lighting the brasier & cooking something. Yesterday, the heat snuck up on me, & those plus some letter writing were about all I managed. So I vowed to at least tackle the compost today before the sun blazed so hot I had to seek refuge.
The iwes (kids) helped me make a potting mixture & fill up some plastic “pots” (really just black tubes/bags), & we planted some red mahogany (used for poles in building), guava, lemon, & msangu (a nitrogen-fixing tree we promote for intercropping in fields). I thanked the iwes with a pitcher of crystal light & some doublemint gum. They spent the next 1/2 hour running screaming around the village before passing out from the exhaustion of their false sugar high.
These days most folks in the village are up & out to their gardens by 6 or so. They’ll come home around 9 or 10 for a morning meal. Some go back out to the garden until they can’t handle it anymore. Everyone is as still as possible, napping on reed mats or grain sacks in the shade, for several hours during the hottest part of the day. To me, it’s all too hot to manage as much as they do.

6 Months In (Or Africa Does Things to You)

Posted in Peace Corps Adventures by Joy on August 13, 2013

6 months in Zambia today! I wish I had something profound to share. Alas, palibe (it’s not there). Rather you get a glimpse of how Africa has changed me.
*When our taxi ran out of fuel, we sat patiently waiting by the road for an hour w/o complaint.
*I took a sip of cold Castle (local beer I snubbed on arrival) & thought it tasted GOOD.
*I can carry a big ol’ bag of stuff on my head for an hour’s walk, palibe bvuto (no problem).
*It’s not yet 9pm & I’m already tucked into bed, ready for sleep. :-)

Hog Heaven (or My feet are only rivaled by my face in filth-factor)

Posted in Peace Corps Adventures by Joy on July 16, 2013
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Village life has reached a level of normalcy that makes reporting on ye olde blog seem excessive at times. Apologies to anyone who’s missed having updates.
I’m currently hanging out in my hammock(!) after a morning hauling water, manure, soil, & sand to the garden. Digging beds & planting a few seeds. I’m exhausted & filthy & happy as a hog in it. :-)
Tomorrow I’m starting my tree nursery with the miracle Moringa seeds I have on hand. Can’t wait to get those puppies ready for the community.
xo

VCT-Day-a-Palooza or Knowledge is Power

Posted in Peace Corps Adventures by Joy on July 2, 2013

This weekend I joined 6 other PCVs in my district for a voluntary HIV/AIDS testing & counseling event that included a football (soccer) tournament for both men & women. Joe, the PCV who organized, Started a women’s football league (basically unheard of here) & pulled the various organizations involved together to create an awesome day. 200 people got tested & now know their status, which is an amazing contribution to the battle against this wide-spread disease in this country. So cool.

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