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.

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?

I dreamed a dream of… America-land

Posted in Uncategorized by Joy on June 9, 2013

Since coming to Zambia I’ve had really random vivid dreams, I can only assume are my brain’s way of saying, Hey! Things are different! Missing!
In 1 I was listening to the news on the radio.
A few weeks ago I dreamed I had a TV, which was weird. I mean, I haven’t had a TV in years. By choice.
Then I dreamed I was at the mall. With Paris Hilton (who, btw, had an affinity for fried chicken & pizza. On a buffet. Go figure.) That was even more strange.
Paris Hilton? C’mon, brain. You can do better.

Warning: I’m Talking About Cats Here (or Consider that a Downgrade)

Posted in Uncategorized by Joy on June 1, 2013

Not long ago I was proud of Evil Cat’s hunting prowess (if a little disgusted by her decision to enjoy rat tare-tare on my yoga mat).
Tonight she bounded inside The Cottage with a live rat in her jaws, despite my protest. In the course of her lengthy pre-meal torture session, the rat escaped. After a half-hearted search for her lost prey, she opted for a nap. Fortunately, Lazy Cat killed the rodent (on my yoga mat-of course) before it took up residence.
Evil Cat is officially part of the problem.
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A Call for Quotes

Posted in Uncategorized by Joy on April 19, 2013

Been thinking about how I’ll make my hut my home & have decided to incorporate a wall of quotes to keep me inspired & help me maintain a positive attitude/re-focus when the going gets rough. Any suggestions y’all may have would be appreciated. What inspires you? What lifts you up when you’re feeling down? Why do you fight the good fight?

Scary Mezungu? Yep, that’s me

Posted in Uncategorized by Joy on April 3, 2013
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This morning I decided to take a walk to the dam near my soon-to-be home. I wasn’t sure exactly where it was, but the day was gorgeous and I had several hours to kill. So I set out down the path in the general direction given by my host (over “The Hill”). I walked through the village, greeting some folks busy at work near their homes, wandered through some grassy meadows, and came to a field of maize where the path was less clear. A man was tending cattle nearby, so I asked the way to the dam, and he proudly showed me the “African bridge” composed of the roots of two live trees growing over a small body of water and pointed me on my way. (This may officially be my favorite bridge on the planet.)

I walked along a winding path through fields of maize, groundnuts (peanuts), & sunflowers, interspersed with beautiful wildflowers, aiming as best I could for “The Hill” to which I’d been directed. When I met a couple of women resting in the shade of a mango tree along the path, I introduced myself (in Nyanja) and asked (in English) if the dam was ahead. They nodded their agreement. (Zambians are very, very agreeable.) Several minutes later, I came upon a house. Realizing I had been walking for much longer than necessary and was no longer headed toward “The Hill,” I stopped and introduced myself and asked the direction of the dam again, only to be told I needed to backtrack and take a right at the cemetery.  

So I wandered back down the path, picking wildflowers as I went. I took the right and found myself smack dab in the middle of the eternal resting place of at least a few dozen Zambians. A few had headstones of cement, but most graves were marked by long sticks over the body and a tub of some sort as the makeshift headstone. Realizing the path didn’t continue beyond the cemetery (and, frankly, feeling a little creeped out and totally out of bounds), I beat it out of there with relative quickness. I met an elderly woman when I rejoined the main path and exchanged pleasantries before we parted ways. 

Then I began trekking up what must have been “The Hill”. The path wound to the west and forked many times, but I felt sure I could find my way back. Very soon, I became aware that someone nearby was cutting down trees and began to notice the increasing ratio of stumps to live trees. One of the potential projects in my area is working to reduce deforestation near the dam, so I was confident I was getting close. 

I rounded a corner and saw two women bent near the path gathering freshly cut wood, each with a baby strapped to her back. Just as I was about to call out a greeting, one of the women looked up, caught sight of me, threw her load of wood to the ground, and started out with a healthy sprint in the other direction. What a frightful sight I must’ve been, walking along in my chitenje (wraparound/skirt), carrying a large bunch of wildflowers. 

“Muli bwanji?!?” (“How are you?!?”), I shouted, suppressing my laughter. The woman who hadn’t run away returned my greeting and called to her friend, laughing at her clumsy getaway attempt. I introduced myself & told the ladies I’d be replacing the current volunteer as the runaway slunk back. Her friend and I had a good chuckle before I turned back to head home. 

Even though I didn’t make it to the dam, I felt like I’d accomplished enough for the day.  Zambians seem to find nothing more entertaining than whatever it is the nearest mezungu (foreigner) is doing. Basically, they’ve been laughing at us since the moment we arrived (and, undoubtedly, won’t stop as long as we’re here). Turning the tables was a fantastic change of pace and all the morning’s work I needed. The dam can wait for another day. 

Reflections upon breaking my fast OR I missed food!

Posted in Uncategorized by Joy on February 29, 2012

"You have no idea" by Sam Brown of explodingdog.com

Don’t get me wrong. The fasting was good for me. It helped me focus and revitalized me. Dropping a pants size didn’t hurt, either.

But I would be a liar if I said the whole thing was dandy. No, I wasn’t particularly hungry. No, I never felt weak or sick. Yes, I was tired sometimes.

But the main thing is I. Missed. Food.

Specifically, I missed…

… Chewing
… Textures
… Salt
… Pepper
… Crunch
… Different favors with each bite
… Dinner-time interruptions from my ill-behaved, needy cat
… Reading recipes
… Cooking
… Utensils
… Cloth napkins in my lap
… Using my dining table for its intended purpose
… Spice
… Leafy greens
… Warm food
… Grains
… Being social
… Wine

I could probably go on, but that’s the list I made as I was eating my first meal. Yay for food!