The Kinky Green


Meeting the Chief (or the story of Henry’s demise)

Posted in Peace Corps Adventures by Joy on June 1, 2013
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Wednesday I got up early, early & walked about 5 miles with my host brother, village headman, & vice-head. We arrived at the chief’s palace a little before 8 & waited.
He emerged from his younger wife’s home in a sharp black suit with white pinstripes, told us to sit, & welcomed me. My hosts gave him a gift, as is custom, & he gave me a rooster & told me to “be free.”
As we walked home, I plotted the rooster’s fate. Inevitably: dinner.
The name was an accident, but Henry sure was delicious.

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I’m not even sure how to ask that in English…

Posted in Peace Corps Adventures by Joy on April 17, 2013
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We had a practice language exam today (I passed!), part of which consisted of my language teacher pointing to the mud hut behind me & telling me to ask him 6 or 7 questions about it, pretending I’m interested in renting. My mind started spinning through my years of rental history & coming up short. Somehow things like, Are pets allowed? Utilities included? Washer/dryer in unit? Parking off-street? 24-hr maintence? Fitness center? Pool? & such didn’t seem appropriate in this particular setting…

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. 

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.

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.

Semi-lost in the Bush After Dark

Posted in Peace Corps Adventures by Joy on February 27, 2013
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I kept telling people I was afraid of getting lost in the bush. Amai helpfully said, “You can’t get lost here.” She was right, of course. All the roads & paths lead back to one another, somehow. Or they dead-end at someone’s hut who can point you on your way.
My lift home tonight blew a tire on “the bad road,” so I got a ride from a driver who kept trying to make turns where he shouldn’t, despite my directions. Turned out fine, though. We dead-ended at someone’s hut who was happy to point the way.
http://www.google.com