The Kinky Green


Second Site Visit, In Full Swing

Posted in Peace Corps Adventures by Joy on March 31, 2013
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For the last few days I’ve been visiting Makambwe Village in Eastern Province, with Bailey & Buck (the other folks in my language group). We’re guests of Caleb, who’s 1 year into his LIFE service. Courtney, who is with the RAP (fisheries) program & lives in a village nearby, has been with us a lot, too. We’ve had an awesome time meeting different folks in the village, like the headman; the woman who makes these huge, awesome clay pots (and, on Sundays, the bootleg liquor they drink in the village); an awesome, progressive farmer who’s using a lot of great green techniques in his fields; three village elders who talked with us about funerals, traditions, & beliefs in this part of Zambia; and approximately 1 jillion iwes (pronounced EEE-ways. Literally, “you,” but it’s the general term thrown at children. And animals, for that matter.).

The first night here, we joined the folks in the village for dancing. The younger ladies form a circle around some dudes with drums and shake their bums & hips in unison while singing awesome songs like “My husband went to town & bought me a chitenje (wrapper). It wasn’t very nice. He should’ve gotten the wax one.” And “My uncle bought a bicycle. I saw him using it in town to carry prostitutes. I’m going to spill the beans.” It’s pretty rad. The women make the songs up about different things that happen in their lives. Kind of an awesome way to get back at someone who pisses you off – immortalize your grievance in song. The dudes stand around the circle and pretty much ogle the women while they’re showing off their mad hip-shaking choreography. They pulled us into the circle, of course. And everyone in the crowd laughed their heads off at us for our total lack of Zambian dance abilities. But Zambians laugh their heads off at most things mezungus (foreigners) do, so most Peace Corps folks are like, eh, screw it. Might as well have some fun, right?

When we went out to look at the fields, we wandered into a grove of banana trees that were hiding a fish pond. These amazing little bright yellow & black birds had built the coolest nests at the ends of the branches hanging over the water. They are nearly heart-shaped (though upside-down) and almost totally enclosed, except an entrance underneath, where predators can’t reach. We snagged a couple (sorry, birds) to look at them more closely. They must weave them out of green grass & then let it dry. They even finish the entrance ends with a different kind of weave. Amazing.

Buck slaughtered a chicken for the first time. Caleb’s method is to hold the chicken upside down for a few minutes so the blood rushes to its head & then slit its throat & let it bleed out. I pretty much have no desire to slaughter one. I might stop eating chicken altogether in Zambia. Haven’t decided on that one yet. I want to keep chickens if I can, though only for eggs.

Yesterday we rode our bikes out to hike up a little mountain. From the top, we could see everything for miles. It was a clear gorgeous afternoon, & we took the opportunity to explore the area. We rode through several villages, meeting tons of folks, scaring iwes, shaking hands like we were some kind of celebrities, and getting heckled a fair amount. We rode through the bush, over a few awesome bridges constructed from logs thrown over some supports, and finally along a couple of roads. We made it back just as the sun was setting, threw together a quick dinner & passed out early. One of the best days in Zambia yet.

This morning, we were treated to a ride in an oxcart. We all had a chance to drive, too. Pretty simple endeavor. The rules are: hit the cow on the right if you want to go left, or the cow on the left if you want to go right. Stand up and click your tongue to speed up. Whistle to slow down. Have the cow boy walk in front to lead the cattle when you meet another vehicle. And, above all, don’t fall off. We met a car full of Zambians who thought it was hilarious to see an oxcart full of mezungus with a lady driving. The driver stopped, got out, and chased us down to take our picture.

Tonight is our last night with Caleb & Courtney. We’ll be heading to our respective sites in the morning for a few nights. I know I’ll be meeting a bunch of people including the headman, getting a feel for the village layout & surroundings, & hanging out with my host’s family. I’m excited & a little nervous to go out “alone” for the first time, but it’s going to be amazing.

Meeting the chief

Posted in Peace Corps Adventures by Joy on March 25, 2013
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Today we met Chief Chamuka, 1 of 283 traditional chiefs in Zambia (3/4 male). Traditional leaders “elected” based on family lineage, custom, leadership ability & other factors, they are also recognized by gov’t with their own division & chain of command. They manage land rights, settle non-criminal disputes, work toward development, etc. You bring gifts when you visit a chief. We brought a live chicken & mealie meal, but anything from cooking oil to cash works. When he enters… (see comments)

“I bought a lot. Give me something extra.”

Posted in Peace Corps Adventures by Joy on March 22, 2013
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This week in Nyanja we learned to bargain at the market. They taught us handy phrases like,
“How much is this?”
“You made the price too high!”
“I’m a volunteer & have little money. Please lower the price.”
If/when we get our way, we’re supposed to ask for mbesela (something extra). While I love a good bargain, it’s just so different to think of shopping this way! I’m going to have to get up my nerve, or I’ll be overpaying for everything the next 2 years! You know all Americans are rich, right?

Murder: 1st Degree

Posted in Peace Corps Adventures by Joy on March 18, 2013
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I can’t deny premeditation. I knew days ago at the 1st telltale move that drew my attention: innocent lives would be lost. So when I opened the door to my chimbusi & saw them alone, unprotected, unaware of danger, I knew I had to act. Stepping back, I collected myself, knowing my course of action would set the stage for my entire time in Zambia. I was torn, of course. Innocents. But I fortified my nerve, stepped in, lifted the cover, & swept the 2 baby rats down the long hole. Now to deal with ma.
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Nsima is the only food

Posted in Peace Corps Adventures by Joy on March 16, 2013
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Zambia is not a food culture. When only 35% of folks always have enough food to & 45% of kids under 5 are chronically malnourished, you eat the food you get, happy your belly is full. Nsima goes a long way to filling it. It’s made of ground corn & flour (cassava, in places) & cooked to the consistency of very firm grits/polenta. You grab a bit with your right hand, roll it around, & use it to scoop up the “re lish” (anything else) being served. If you aren’t eating nsima, you aren’t eating.

Benjamin doesn’t know how good he has it

Posted in Peace Corps Adventures by Joy on March 10, 2013
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My host family’s cat doesn’t have a name, & no one touches it. The first day here, I asked ‘what do you call this one,’ & they told me chonah (cat), which I have taken to calling it. When I talk to or pet Chonah, my family is amused. They don’t abuse him, & he gets fed every day, usually some leftover rice or nsima. In Zambia, he is well loved.
Cats are here to keep the rats, mice, & snakes at bay. Dogs are merely guards. Explaining cats & dogs in America are part of the family wasn’t easy.

Toddler Talk

Posted in Peace Corps Adventures by Joy on March 8, 2013
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Tomorrow is our 1st language practice test. It has a lot of folks stressed. I was feeling it earlier this week, but then I reminded myself that I didn’t know 1 word of Nyanja 3 weeks ago. Now I can greet folks. Introduce myself, my family. Talk about food. Name garden tools, body parts & everyday items. Ask someone to do something. Basically, put me in a room with a toddler, & we can converse. Well, theoretically we can talk. Likely s/he’d just be crying because I’m a scary mezungu. Still, woo!

A Charles says the darndest things

Posted in Peace Corps Adventures by Joy on March 5, 2013
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Know why I love going to Nyanja lessons? You never know what will come out of A Charles’ mouth.

Often it’s a question about American culture.

The other day, he read out a cultural note from the lesson stating that people in Zambia do not discuss having STIs.

Then he dropped this gold:

“If I were to have gymnastics with some lady… If we were to fight quietly in a dark room…”

I’m sure there was more to the lesson, but I missed it in my fits of uncontrollable laughter.

Sunday, Fun Day

Posted in Peace Corps Adventures by Joy on March 3, 2013
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Sunday is our only full day “off” during training, & today was all mine. I slept late & lingered over The Economist with my coffee while enjoying a breezy morning.

A Tate & his brother played several rousing games of checkers, heavy on the smack-talk. Then they built & installed a bookshelf in my nyumba (hut). I gave my sister a manicure & even managed to get hot pink polish on her baby’s toes before she squirmed away.

It was all so laid back & normal, even a world away from what I’m used.

We’re Totally Clicking

Posted in Peace Corps Adventures by Joy on March 1, 2013

One of the questions I kept getting before I left was, “Africa? So you’ll learn a click language?” No clicking in Nyanja, or in Zambia, as far as I’ve heard.

But I had to laugh the other morning… One afternoon I was playing with the baby at my homestay, making different faces & noises. The next morning as I walked in for breakfast, she looked up at me with a huge grin & clicked her tongue. Now when she sees me, she clicks & I click back.

So, yes, I moved to Africa & taught a baby to click.