Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Since my last supersized email, not too much has happened. I’m in town for my final TB bloodwork appointment. That’s pretty exciting. I scheduled the appointment to coincide with St. Patrick’s day and volunteered to let the nurse take me to O’Hagans, the irish pub popular with ex-pats such as myself. Should be fun!

It’s not like I haven’t been eating my fair share of fish and chips lately. It’s Potato season and we’ve harvested 4 ponds this month with a 5th scheduled for next week. The harvests all ended up being on Fridays which would have been great if this was a catholic area. It isn’t. It’s considerably worse than that. Jehovah’s witnesses run this place. I don’t think they have rules against eating meat on Fridays during Lent. They have rules about everything else though. A lot of them make no sense to me- thou shall not vote in an election (but you can complain about politics as much as you want), Thou shall not sing the national anthem, believing in witchcraft is ok, and though shall relentlessly annoy the white man who lives amongst you. They’ll talk to me in Bemba. I know what they’re saying, or the gist of it really. “God this, Jehovah that. Here’s some magazines, will you throw them away for me?” I tell them in bemba that I don’t understand what they’re saying while looking through my dog’s hair for ticks hoping for a juicy one to pop with my fingernails right in front of them. Sometimes they’ll start in English but I am quick to reply with a “No comprende.”

I guess I should announce the winner(s) of this most recent contest. The best letters were sent by Evan & Jenny and co-winner Theresa. That’s for the non-Becky category. Guess who won the Becky only category…yep Ed McMahon. I may have already won! Evan and Jenny won because of Evan’s account of a camping trip and running into some rednecks. (Don’t worry Evan, I won’t tell everyone about how they made you squeal like a pig) and wonderful pictures of these rednecks. They also told me they’re engaged and offered me the choice of being a bridesmaid or a groomsman at the wedding. I’m opting for organist. I hope jenny likes walking down the aisle to “Mary Had a Little Lamb” with a salsa tempo and the beat turned the whole way up. Theresa wins for inviting me to her wedding and recounting the day’s events since I couldn’t be there. So they win the title of Best Friends of Late ‘08/ early ’09! Everyone else who entered- thank you. Those who didn’t- I hate you.

I am down to my final five months as a Peace Corps volunteer. I think I’ve figured out my exit strategy. I’m done in mid august and I plan on traveling til mid oct before returning to Zambia to help with training and/or hang out with friends before going home for thanksgiving where I will commence complaining about 1) how cold it is, 2) how gluttonous Americans are and 3) the commercialization of Christmas and our extreme levels of consumerism. I’ll also be eating hotdogs by the handful smothered in canned chili and nacho cheese.

My proposed itinerary is to spend mid august til early sept making my way through Botswana and Namibia to Capetown. Fly to Madagascar if they aren’t in a civil war by that point, then spend a few days in/around Nairobi and Serengeti, then make my way to Ethiopia and if I have time go to Djibouti. I hear diving in the red sea is awesome. I’m taking applications for Travel buddies so if anyone has some time in September, let me know.

I haven’t done any traveling lately except for a few days at Mutinondo about 160km north of serenje. Rachel and I went up for 3 days of hiking, swimming, inner tubing and hiding from rain. Good times were had. Easter is coming up so we’re trying to figure out our plans. Hopefully it involves fishing.

That’s all for now.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


It's been a long, long time and a lot has happened since the last email. I don't even know where to start. I guess I should try to find some kind of chronological order with all the events that have happened.... I'll eventually do something else to get my name in the history textbooks that America's youth one day won't read.

In more exciting (I don't know if exciting is the word I'm looking for…maybe honest? Factual?) news, I got a kitten. His name is Lupato which is the Bemba word for "hatred." It's the closest I could find to a literal translation for loathing, but they're pretty synonymous. It goes well with my dog whose name translates to fear. Fear and Loathing in Kapeshi Village…

Lupato is orange and I like to pull all his extra skin forward to make him look like a lion. He likes to too and shows it by pretending to actually be a lion taking down its prey- me who he frequently confuses for an impala. He's less of a cat, more of a cute fuzzy package for annoyance and hypodermic needles. He still hasn't learned his place in the hierarchy (maybe he's confused because of me making him look like a lion?). He's always on the table trying to eat the food that he thinks I've cooked for him or tries to eat Mwenso's food. I've given Mwenso full permission to bite off his head.

I started dating a health volunteer named Rachel. She lives in my province, about 150km away so I get to see her occasionally. She's cool.

Recently, the area's department of agriculture extension officer passed away unexpectedly. Not the one I don't like, but his boss. The one I don't like is still alive and drunk. Shortly after I left the village to begin my vacation, I received a text message that my best friend, George, and his wife had a baby girl. They'd asked me to name it, so I suggested Theresa after a really good, dear friend of mine- Theresa Heinz Kerry. (That's not entirely true. It's Theresa Donohue and since I couldn't be there for her wedding, this is my form of a gift to her. But the Theresa Heinz Kerry thing is a good segue because I've heard she's from Mozambique.)

I went to Mozambique on a pretty sweet 5 country vacation. It started with a trip to beautiful, exotic Serenje where we had a Christmas "gathering of close friends" and a gardening workshop. My travel buddy, Emily and I headed to Lusaka for my medical tests (liver's still ok…I think) and hitched out to Chipata in Eastern province for the night. It's a nice enough place. Very big though. They had a supermarket and more than 3 choices for dinner. Worse yet- more than 2 streets. I was way out of my league and it only got worse from there (There's a mall in South Africa. A HUGE one).

The next day we hitched to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi and stayed at the Peace Corps house there and marveled at the selection in the grocery store. Mozzarella cheese that tastes like mozzarella?! I'd have been happy with anything that doesn't taste like feet. We headed out the next morning with the intention of hitching to Cape Maclear at the southern end of Lake Malawi. We got a lift to the bus station from someone dropping off his friend and on the way, she convinced us to take the bus with her. It was cheap and easy and was the only ride we paid for until our trip into South Africa. It wasn't a bad ride and the lady's 5 week old son made it more bearable. We also saw something that restored my faith in humanity, just a bit. A young boy needed to pee but was in the back of the bus sitting on the flood between my feet. The driver slowed but then decided he wasn't worth stopping for so someone passed back a bottle for him to pee in. A complete stranger held the bottle for him while he took care of the rest. I think you'd be hard pressed to find that kind of help on a bus in the states. Unfortunately, as the bottle was dropped from the window, it splashed through an open window spraying the guy 2 seats to my left. But on the brighter side- it wasn't me.

We got to the lake. Beautiful. Nice food, nice people, great weather. Emily and I got scuba certified. It was amazing. For a hint of what we saw, check out the cichlid tanks at any pet store or at the aquarium. Picture being completely surrounded by all those fish, toss in another twenty species of all sizes and colors and then multiply that by a thousand. That's about 1% of how awesome it was. We saw mating behaviors, moms protecting babies in their mouths (I've seen that a thousand times, but never while I was in the water. I hid behind a rock, she spit them out, I came around the rock, she collected them, then I left her alone). We saw 2 ½ ft long catfish in between rocks waiting for an unfortunate fish to wander by. We saw Cornish Jacks but I've always called them knifefish. They sense their prey with an electrical field. Pretty awesome. We also saw the coveted Obama chitenge. That wasn't while diving, but on a young girl. We each bought one It has his face between 2 maps of Africa and says a phrase in Swahili. I'm assuming it says vote for Obama and not death to Obama.

We had a nice Christmas dinner with a few other PCVs from Zambia and were serenaded by the orphan choir. The next day, a band of "children" came to sing at our campground. The "children" were all about 15, 16 years old. Their hits included "I love you Jesus" (I love you Jesus/I love you Jesus/I love you Jesus), We are the Children (We are the children/ We are the children of the children/ Let us play here) and my favorite, which is apparently a hit with every child in Zambia, "How are you?" (How are you? [I am fine!] X 4/ Muli Bwanji [Ndili bwino] X4) which showed their great diversity and song writing abilities. In a Shakira or Jose Feliciano-like fashion, they sang in 2 languages.

We hitched away from the lake and got a ride the last 3 hours in a Hummer H3. Normailly I would never ride in that. But, well traffic was slow, it was hot and the roads demanded something of that caliber. And he was going the same place we were. Before we saw it, we heard it coming around the bend and we both honestly thought it was a semi. We got another sweet ride in a Land Rover with a family who just finished a month long safari. They were returning to Jo'burg and dropped us at our destination on the beach. They were only going to take us 65km to a junction, because we were all squeezed in pretty tight, but they decided to take pity on us and rearranged and drove us another 300km or so. And we watched a movie on their DVD player. At the 65km turn, their GPS unit said "Turn right here…continue straight 1048km." There was a collective family groan.

We got to the beatch, met up with some other PCV friends, cooked a great dinner of squid and prawn pasta and rang in the New Year with a subpar band and lots of South Africans in their late 20s, early 30's who displayed above average amounts of buttcrack. You could see them adjusting their shorts to show just the proper amount. By the way, these were all guys. It would have been slightly, ever so slightly, better if they were girls. Oh well, we got a good laugh.

We headed south to Tofo where we met Astra and Lou. Tofo is a beautiful place. The highlight of the stop there was snorkeling with the whalesharks. Theses sharks are massive and can reach 45 ft long. The longest that we saw was maybe half that, 2/3 max. Still huge and beautiful. The choppy seas and outboard motor exhaust resulted in about 70% of the passengers leaning over the side, experiencing breakfast for the second time. Our next stop was in Maputo. We arrived on my birthday and wandered looking for a place that I deemed worthy of my presence. In our wanderings, we found a memorial to president Robert Mugabe. The plaza it was in (just like Zimbabwe!) had seen better days. (By the way, Zim just released the $100 trillion note.) We found a nice place to eat located beside a small amusement park that had also seen better days. The Merry-Go-Round wasn't very merry, they had 3 other rides that were petrified in a snapshot of better times, but the bumper cars worked! I picked out my target early and was relentless. That whiplash is something fierce. I don't know the kid's name, but let's jus say blue shirt kid will never walk right again.

Until this point, we'd paid a total of $12 for transportation. It's not safe to hitch in South Africa, so they say. So we took a bus. The bus broke down 30 km into the ride. The ticket cost twice what we'd paid for the previous 2 weeks of travel total. We got on a back up bus, crosses into SA, got our rental car and departed for Kruger National Park. When I picture Africa pre-invasion, I picture Kruger. Animals everywhere. We saw more impala than I care to remember, many kinds of antelope, zebra, giraffe, elephants, hippos, birds of every color, a cheetah resting in the shade and rhinos (both black and white, we think). My favorites were the lions. It wasn't just the lions that were special, but the entire scene, what they were doing and what was happening around them. The day before we arrived, some lions took down a giraffe as it crossed the paved road where it couldn't get any footing. From the car, we saw 9 lions feasting, digesting, or waiting their turn to gnaw on the carcass. Their activity was dependent on their hierarchy rank. The bigger ones having already eaten were resting, the smaller ones were waiting. There, lying in the shade with the fattest belly of them all was Lupato. Guess he really is high in the hierarchy…We went back in the morning and saw that the carcass had decreased in size but increased in vulture presence. There was one lioness there, more for protection than for feeding. Vultures and Maribou storks waited their turn. Some vultures tore at entrails right beside the car. One thing about Kruger- it's hot. It was 7am and already probably around 90F. We had no AC, only open windows and the stench of death. (We made Lou shower that night, so it was considerably better the next day). After a while, a couple of hyenas showed up. They are ridiculous, goofy animals, bounding around grinning stupidly. They're very timid and ran away if the lion so much as looked at them of if the vultures took flight. The hyenas reminded me of the hyperactive stinky kid at recess. You were in 5th grade, he was in maybe 3rd and always wanted to play 4 square or dodge ball with the big kids. "Hey! Hey guys! Can I play? No? Oh Ok That's fine. I'll play next round! Is that ok? Guys? Hey?" but he never got the hint. That was you, wasn't it?

Country number 5 was Swaziland. We went on a nice hike amongst the friendlier of Africa's beasts. We saw baby zebras, wildebeests, warthogs, and more antelope. We spent a couple hours at the hot springs at the lodge and drank liters upon liters of water to replenish what we'd lost that week.

St. Lucia came next. It's a beautiful beach town on the northern coast of SA. Lots of places to eat and pretty things to see. We drove to a park and explored the dunes. Seeing zebras atop a dune overlooking the ocean is pretty awesome.

We headed down the coast to Durban and checked out the beach there. Then to really put our systems (mine and Emily's) into a shock, we went to a mall. A HUGE mall. SA is very cheap compared to Zambia. Food prices were maybe 40% of what we pay. For dinner, we ate at a restaurant that had a half price Tuesday special. Emily and I split a bowl of seafood paella and a sushi platter. Delicious. After dinner she and I boarded the bus to Jo'burg leaving Lou and Astra to finish their travels. Early the next morning, we arrived in Jo'burg and hung out in a nice neighborhood then caught a movie before heading to the airport. Up til now, the trip was smooth. Too smooth. Something had to go wrong. It was inevitable. There was no desk for the Zambian Airways check in. We asked around. "Check at counter 72." At 72 they said "Check 1." At 1 they say "Check 36." "Check 72…already did? Check 7" "Did you go to 17?" Finally 17 tells us to go to a completely different area, an un-numbered window. "Not this window, the next one." The next window tells us "Zambian Airways is no more. They went out of business. Go to the sales office." Sales closet might have been more appropriate. No one was there, no one answered the phones. Not even at the travel agency we bought the tickets from. With 6 hours left on my tourist visa, we bought tickets on South African Airways. $200 later we board the plane home.

But I'm back now. So that's good. My dog was skinny and covered in ticks, kitten fat on lizards and grasshoppers, and my field choked with weeds. Back to normalcy…ahhhh….

Just a heads up, there's a 2 for 1 deal for tickets to Namibia in case you wanted to visit. They celebrate October in the traditional way of their german forefathers- Oktoberfest. Just a heads up.

Ok now I'm done. I'm not proofreading this. So deal with it. Hope you're good.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


It's been a while since I wrote last. I think it was just after the death of President Mwanawasa. Zambian elections were held on 30 October. As Peace Corps volunteers, we're forbidden to express opinions on politics. I don't think we're forbidden to express opinion on our forbiddance to express opinions so I'll say I don't like it. One goal of PC is cultural exchange, for Zambians to see what Americans are like, and most Americans have opinions on politics. Instead we just appear apathetic, which I am not. Anyway, Rupiah Banda won. Upon hearing the news, I was overtaken by a wave of extreme indifference!.........

Work is coming along nicely. My field is ready for rain and seeds. I'll be planting the same stuff as last year, just more of it. It was considerably easier work this year because I'd maintained the land and weeded it. Well, half of it…the other half hadn't been maintained and had stumps, weeds and lava flows to deal with.

My farmers are doing well. They're helping each other with surveying, measuring, even building their ponds which makes my job easier but now I'm getting overwhelmed with too many farmers. I like it though, it keeps me busy.

My best farmer out here, George, harvested a couple weeks ago. He got about 10kg which isn't great, isn't horrible. I bought 2kg from him but instead of money, he asked me to buy him baby clothes next time I went to town. Well, I'm a smart man and three days later concluded that his wife is expecting. So the last time I was in town, one of the other volunteers helped me pick out baby clothes. But she thinks there's going to be a little half white baby in Kapeshi village. No idea how she came to that conclusion…ok, I do know how, but after knowing me for 16 months, no idea why she'd believe that.

Mwenso is doing well. He's a dad now too. He disappeared one night around 6 and never returned. I looked for him, called him, he didn't show. A man was selling bush meat and I started to worry, but a passerby said he was at Mr. Beselo's house. Mr. Beselo has a female dog. An ugly bitch with an underbite (I can say that, she's a female dog!). I think Mwenso could do better but maybe she has a nice personality (which I don't think so because she always growls at me). So I went to get him and he was lying down right beside his little pup. Mom was maybe 12 feet away. I called Mwenso and he came running but turned around about halfway because his pup started whimpering. It was really cute. Mwenso was torn between me and his new family. I won because I feed him. Yet another deadbeat dad…Oh! He also does a new trick. I put food on his nose and he balances it until I say ok and he flicks is up and catches it. A few days ago he held it for 45 seconds!

Emily Richardson came to visit me all the way from the states. Well, she came to visit her sister Julia who is a volunteer in the next province north, but they came to visit me at my site which was great fun.

I went to Lusaka in late September for my medical checkup. My liver's still there so that's cool. After that I helped the newest batch of volunteers do their shopping for the next 2 years, but none of them took my advise and bought 2 years' worth of fresh veggies. They'll be sorry…Since I was leaving 2 days later for a fishing trip it was decided I needed a mullet. I'd been training for this moment for the past 7 months or so and I was ready. It went well with my mustache I'd worked on and the cut-off jean shorts. I met my fishing buddies for dinner and afterward we crashed a party with a Miami Vice theme. Three of the four of us had cutoff shorts though I don't think it was ever discussed, just a natural thing to do. We looked ridiculous and put the party host to shame with our awesomeness.

The next morning we hitched south for our attack on the Zambezi. The last few km of the trip a crazy drunk lady offered us a ride. I ended up driving which was a good idea. We set up camp, cooked a delicious dinner of steak in a mushroom and garlic cream sauce and baked potatoes. We spent the next morning holding fishing poles beside the river. We decided it was better to take baby steps. Once we got the appearance of fishermen down, we decided to start catching things. That was the evening's plans. So we caught some baitfish- 4 small catfish. The plan for the next morning was to cast our lines with baitfish on the end. We understood the importance of crawling before walking. You don't just show up on the 'Bezi and say "I'ma catch me some tigerfish!" But just after we decided to start catching them, one of my group got a call from the bosslady…Busted for being AWOL. So we packed up, hitched back to Lusaka. He had his meeting while I had a pizza. His punishment? Not allowed to leave his district until forever…Foreverrr…FOORRRRREEEVVVVVEEEERRRR…

We had our yearly (sometimes) Lala tribal festival here in Lala land. Being some of the laziest people ever (the name lala means to sleep) last year the festival never happened. This year wasn't great. Just a lot of drunks trying to buy my white female friends from me to take as wives. I have SO many goats now!

As always, I had to say goodbye to some friends since the last email. At least 7 PCVs have left—either finished service, were medically separated or quit to go home and find out that the grass isn't really that much greener. I'm still considering extending my time here, but there are times I've decided that no way am I going to extend. My grandfather died in October and I really would have liked to have been there with him and the family. I've heard of several friends getting married, buying houses or starting real life, though I hate to say it, I'm a little jealous. But I consider the problems with our economy, port job market and our ridiculous dependency on well…everything- convenience, oil, electricity and suddenly my hut is more of a home.

I'm planning a nice little vacation to Lake Malawi for Christmas. Then down to the coast of Mozambique (where I hear its very nice to spend a week or two, according to Mr. Bob Dylan) for New Year's and to meet Lou and Astra and we'll travel through Swaziland into South Africa.......

It's an interesting time to be in Africa. Political changes in South Africa after their president resigned..... And then there's Kenya celebrating the US elections and of course we had our Zambian elections.

I'd have loved to be in Kenya for our elections. They took a great deal of interest in the outcome, just as I and many other volunteers did. We had a big party in Mkushi to watch the updates. Good times.

Well, I'm bored with this as you probably are too. But in closing I'm going to list my ideas for post PC life that I'd like your input on. Should I 1) Build a raft and raft the Mississippi Huck Finn style? 2) join a band of Somali pirates? (They're having a decent year, unlike the Pittsburgh Pirates last season) 3) Wonder aimlessly around the world until I find something to keep my attention? 4) NGO work (maybe in Ethiopia if that guy ever responds to my email)? 5) Find a real job stateside? 6) Teach English in Asia? 7) Spend another year in Zambia? Please say #2!

Take care and please keep in touch. I'd love to hear what's going on at home

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Wouldn't you vote for me? I would
Hello again. I hope that everyone is doing well. I sure am. I've had an interesting couple of weeks since the last time I wrote. I don't really remember when that was, or what I wrote about. I think it was just after the 4th of July and I'd just returned from a long weekend of camping at Mutinondo Wilderness. Then went in to Lusaka to see some friends ring out (PC slang for their closing ceremonies). After that, I went back to my site and did some stuff there. I finished wiring my light which is pretty sweet. I don't use it much; I prefer candlelight but I just think it's cool to have.

It's hard for me to remember what I did without my journal in front of me. Everything kinda runs together. It's already August. I just completed a year at site which I celebrated by not being at site. At the end of July, we got our newest batch of trainees in. It's an exciting time when we get newbies. My group was the newbie group for a long long time then we got two more sets in the matter of a couple months it seems. So now it's like I'm a junior in high school with the senior class graduating in April and my class in August.

I got to host 5 newbies for their first site visit or as some people refer to it as the demystification. It's to show what Peace Corps is really like. When they arrived I wanted to be seated in a throne with a big headdress on with a fire blazing in front of me and the local children kneeling with their hands on the ground in your typical praising position with another child fanning me with a banana leaf, maybe a pig head on a pike and some kind of sacrifice happening nearby, human or otherwise. But I never got around to it. So the 5 newbies enjoyed themselves. We saw a few ponds, went on some hikes, stumbled upon what I'd bet 5 newbie lives on were 2 mambas mating and the next day a third one that was enjoying the single life.

After they left I did more stuff around site for about a week before I set off for Livingstone. But ended up turning around and heading back to site after about 100km. I hung out at site for 3 days and took off for Lusaka where I had to get bloodwork done to see what kind of damage these TB pills are doing to my liver. I've been told my liever enzymes are doing well. I've always prided myself on my enzymatic awesomeness.

I spent all of next week in Chongwe assisting with training the newbies. Monday and Tuesday was all about fish farming—making flipcharts, A-frame levels, staking ponds and such. I really enjoyed it. Wednesday was their homestay day (ie a free day for me to spend watching movies and eating fried foods in Lusaka). Thursday I held a session about the benefits/drawbacks of volunteers having their own gardens (free veggies!/ Hoein' ain't easy). On Friday, I went back to Lusaka with the other trainers to get fingerlings for the training ponds. Saturday was slow to start with but picked up mid day when I got to go to the airport to pick up my friend Emily who came to visit her sister Julia who is a volunteer here in Zambia. We got a bite to eat and then it was back to Chongwe for the night. I left on Sunday to attend the viewing of our late president, Levy Patrick Mwanawasa who passed away on Tuesday morning after more than a month of life support. He had a stroke while in Egypt and never recovered. When I got to the showgrounds, the only place large enough to support so many people, the lines were ridiculously long and I gave up. People had been there for 1½ hours and didn't make any headway before turning around. So I went to a friend's barbeque instead. Not quite as culturally sensitive but it was enjoyable.

The death of the president has left many of us in a state of unknowing. No one seems to know who the next president might be. For the next three months the vice president will be acting president, but because he is appointed and not elected we will be having elections after 90 days.... It'll be an interesting time to be here in Zambia for sure. I just hope everything stays as peaceful as it is.

Update on the best letter contest—Keighty is winning in the non-Becky division, with Kimmy in second place. And in the Becky division, Becky is winning.

That's all for now. No crazy costume parties recently.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Happy 4th of July! I hope your cookouts were delicious and fireworks were explosive. Or vice versa.

I have lots of interesting things to write about, hopefully you'll find them as interesting as I do. It's nothing too exciting. That doesn't mean you should stop reading though)

At the beginning of June we had our provincial meetings/party. To kick off the meetings, we had an Iron-chef competition. The secret ingredients were soya pieces (meat protein replacement, much better than tofu), bananas, and avocados. My team won. We made an appetizer, two mains, and a desert. I don't want to use the word "best" to describe my orange chicken flavored soya pieces, but I really don't think there's another suitable word. After our meetings, we had our party and we always have themes for our parties. This one was Cowboys and Indians. We can get pretty creative with our costumes. Once again, for lack of a better word, mine was the best. I'm not going to go into details but I will say that my costume was homage to Brokeback Mountain. It included a strategically placed dummy. My boss found it funny, but it made for an awkward first introduction for the bosslady from another program. The next day it was off to Lusaka.

We had our Mid term evaluations which is Peace Corps for Medical Exams, program meetings, and partying. Maybe a 20-20-60 breakdown, but it means that we're about halfway done. The meetings were to reflect/report on our accomplishments, what we plan for the next year, and for me to fall asleep in the middle of a meeting with the top people in Zambia's Department of Fisheries. Not my fault though. 1) The meeting was boring and 2) I'd just gorged myself on a huge cheeseburger and fries.

The medical exams went all right, though I tested positive for exposure to tuberculosis. So that means that now I have to take pills everyday for 9 months and go to Lusaka every 4-5 weeks for bloodwork. And if I drink any alcohol, even a single drop as I'm told, my liver will explode. Hey, could be worse. Instead of having a social-life threatening disease, it could be life threatening. I could have Ebola Virus. I bet then you'd write. I know we're supposed to maintain "medical confidentiality" and telling 150+ friends and acquaintances isn't exactly confidentiality, but it's not like I'm admitting to you that I got crabs AND the clap from that hooker at Alpha Bar (…and she wasn't even that hot).

After Lusaka I went to site for a week and back to Serenje to arrange for transportation for a fish transfer to my farmers. Coincidentally, we were having our going away party for the 5 volunteers leaving soon. The theme for this one was gameshows (specifically 70's). We had a very competitive Family Feud with questions pertaining to life in Zambia. (Thirty Zambians were surveyed and asked which is the best alcohol that comes in a plastic sachet? And the survey says Double Punch. Hands down). My costume got a lot of laughs from lots of folks. Plaid trousers pulled up high, red polo shirt with a tie, combover, and mustache. When the game started, the tie was removed and the trousers came off (I had red shorts on underneath), my hair was put into a top-pony tail, a W on my chest and a No $ sign on my back. I was one-half of a double whammy with Kathy completing the duo. No whammy, no whammy, no whammy STOP!

I'd mentioned to one of my fellow volunteers that I wanted to put a lightswitch attached to nothing on my wall. Because I'll be hosting the new trainees, he bought me one to trick them with. I put it on my wall but then got the motivation/inspiration to wire a light in my hut. So I did. Now there's a usable lightswitch attached to a bicycle headlight and a battery pack. The wires are too short to be useful, but I just bought some new wires and I'll do it properly. Next, maybe running water.

The fish transfer went surprisingly smoothly. My farmers are doing well. Work has stalled for a few, never started for a couple, but the ones who are working are doing splendidly!

Because of the holiday this weekend, a friend and I decided to go camping. We went to a beautiful place called Mutinondo Wilderness. We went horseback riding, canoing, mountain biking (more for transportation to the campsite than for pleasure, but it was still fun), hiking, found some rock art (accidentally while lost), and read our books on some rocks in the middle of the river. Great weekend. I even found some lion tracks about a km from the site.

Every Peace Corps Volunteer has their primary project. Mine is fish farming. We are also expected to have our secondary projects. Good volunteers have their tertiary or quaternary projects. Mine have included the chicken vaccine and the library, but the most important side project was narrowing down my Grateful Dead playlist from something like 180 songs to my favorite 30. Literally I'd been working on this for months. I was also deleting duplicate songs from my MP3 player. Tragedy struck when I got to Right Said Fred "I'm Too Sexy." When deciding which version to delete (yep, I had 2 copies—I guess that's a tragedy in itself), there was an error which deleted ALL of my playlists and ALL of my pictures. And it won't let me add new music or make new playlists. Now, for the life of me, I can't find "Luckenbach, Texas" by The Highwaymen and I really wanna hear it). So if anyone has an old MP3 player loaded up with stuff you know I'd like (most anything) just sitting around collecting dust because you just got a new Ipod that holds 80 million songs (because 60 million just isn't enough), plays videos and a programmable laser light show, I'd be happy to find a loving home for ol' dusty. (Mine still works; I love it but like when a girlfriend gets an ugly haircut it's not quite what it used to be and I love it a little less. Just kidding, just kidding).

I'd like to announce that Kimmy is currently winning the best letter contest in the "Non-Becky Category." Runners up include Laura and Carly. Becky is winning uncontested in the "Becky Only" category, having written every week for more than a year. And the Zambian postal services were kind enough to deliver all but two! I don't think they were as generous in delivering all my packages. (I just got my birthday package from the USDA Lab. It and some CDs from Dr. C have been sitting in the post office since February. They complain about PCVs not picking up packages, but they don't give us our notices.) A few people said that they were going to send me something (and I believe them) but they've yet to show up. So if you've sent something and not yet gotten a response from me thanking you, let me know and I'll inquire at the Post Office. Some mail genuinely takes a long time because it gets sidetracked and distracted, forgetting it's on a mission and takes a holiday in Indonesia for a couple weeks. It's been known to happen.

So please write. I'd love to hear from you. Even emails. I'm getting a phone with internet from a departing volunteer so I'll be able to check email in my hut (!). But it's always nice to get letters, especially those that contain pictures. And only mailed letters will be considered for the "Best Letter Contest." (Entries must be postmarked by October 31st and the winner will be announced after January 1st…but that doesn't mean you should stop writing…ever.)

Hope all is well at home. I miss you all.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

time to announce the winner (it ISN'T you)

April 26, 2008~
It's been a while since my last email. I don't even know when that was. Sometime in February I'd imagine. I think the last one was just me saying nothing interesting has happened in the past month since returning from Zanzibar…in case I didn't send this supposed email, I'll recap. Nothing happened. Not until March. Most of the month of February was spent working diligently with my farmers aside from a week long trip to Mike's site in the Copperbelt. It was a beautiful place, a couple km from Lake Kashiba, a sunken lake with a bottom more than 300 meters deep- on the sides (or so I've heard). After returning from Mike's, I started my preparations for Amanda's visit which were mostly cleaning, weeding, and slashing the yard which is essentially cutting the grass with a slightly sharpened 9 iron. On the morning of March 6, I picked up my sister, Amanda, at the airport in Lusaka and we went to Eureka Campground where we took a bushwalk through the brambles and weeds as tall as we are. Amanda saw her first wildlife there (besides drunken amaguys)- giraffes. We saw many others later, but isn't that a great introduction to Africa? Then we searched for monkeys for about an hour before giving up. As we returned to the chalet, we saw about 900 monkeys hanging out at the carpark. Mostly smoking cigarettes, drinking beer and listening to Skynyrd blasting from a lifted pickup. Wait…nope, that was last time. This time they were jumping around from branch to branch. The next day was a nice easy day at the zoo. Amanda got to enjoy her first mini bus experience then her first hitch hike with a nice grandmother who was late for church, but still wanted to show us around her neighborhood. We spent the night at my friend's house and departed the next morning to go North to Chimfunshi where there's a sanctuary for chimps who were captured and smuggled to enter the pet trade. There's one who was rescued from a life of alcoholism and cigarette smoking (no Skynrd, hence the need to be rescued) as a form of entertainment. We got to play with the chimps for a couple hours. They ranged in age from a year and a half to more than a year and a half and in size from small to freakin' huge. I got peed on. They're amazing climbers and are ridiculously strong. Each one had its own personality. Dominic, the youngest, was hyperactive and is in training to be the next Chuck Norris continuously practicing his roundhouse kicks. Gus was too cool for school. Alice was the mature one with a grandmotherish side to her and would play with Dominic until she got tired then retire to a branch too high for him to climb to. After leaving the sanctuary, which is also home to Congo African Grey parrots also rescued from the pet trade, we headed to Kapisha to find the "hot springs." It was an adventure. We didn't know where they were, and apparently neither did the locals. "It's close, just there." We'd go just there, and no hot springs. The next local would point to where we came from and say "It's just there" and well…no it's not. We ended up at an open pit mine that reminded me of the American southwest. So we gave up and ate some porkchops. All in all, I'd call it a success. We headed back to Lusaka where my boss picked us (Amanda, the district Dep of Fisheries officer, and me) and drove us out to my site so that he could do his site visit. We met with some of my top farmers, checked out a pond, talked about what I'm doing here and they departed leaving Amanda and me at my house. We hung out there for a couple of days. I took her to my hill, to the school where the children were playing soccer and netball in honor of World Youth Day. While the boys played, the girls sang and danced their way around the field. It was good fun and I think a good portrayal of children's life in the village. Our time in the village ended too early. Amanda didn't want to leave and was just getting the hang of how we do things. I don't know if she didn't want to leave because she liked it or because she knew that leaving would entail biking 18 km. We took the easy long path instead of the hard short path, which I actually enjoyed and decided I might change my route. We got a ride from a few crazy birders from Holland, caught a bus, caught another bus, and arrived in Southern Province in the town of Choma where we stayed at the PC house. The next morning we checked out the Choma museum and hitched a ride to Livingstone in a big rig carrying 35 tons of copper to South Africa. Then we caught our first glimpse of the massive Victoria Falls. You can see the mist of the falls kilometers away from the actual falls. It's impressive. I'm sure you're bored by now…even me. We went to Chobe in Botswana where we did a river cruise followed by a game drive, saw millions of impala, some giraffes, some lions, antelope of many varieties, hippos and the only elephant we saw in the park was dead in the water and being devoured by crocs. We took a microlite flight over the falls. A microlite is essentially a motorcycle with wings. It's an open seat with a rear mounted motor and prop and now I know what I'm doing with my readjustment allowance. They can be bought for $6,000 or less (so I've heard). The flight was amazing, giving viewpoints only seen from the sky, including a few elephants. We saw the falls from every angle on the Zim and Zam side and even at night, which on a full moon you can see a rainbow. We also went on a walk with lion cubs. Cubs which weigh twice as much as me but they were just like huge housecats which they advise you not to think as you're petting them. I think my favorite part of the trip was the adrenaline activities. I got a package deal which included a flying fox (essentially a zipline where you're attached from the back and you run down a runway into nothingness and zip ¾ of the way across the gorge at a relatively slow speed), a zipline (hooked from the front and zipping downwards at 120-140km/h) and my favorite the gorge swing (a 70m free fall attached to some cables which transitions you into a smooth swing back and forth 40m above the rolling river). We also spent a lot of time in the markets. I made as many friends as I could and by the time we left, all the shopkeepers knew my name. It was fun. We definitely had our favorites and they got most of our business. I even directed others to their stalls. After Vic Falls, we went to Chongwe to visit my host family for Easter. We stayed at Erin's Lodge in essentially a storage closet with 2 beds, but it was close to the Mwansa family. On Sunday morning we met them for church which was held outside in the hot sun and was long long and in Nyanja. I understood maybe 5 words but it was still interesting. After church we went to the market, got a chicken, then mom cooked it up and it was delicious. We spent that night in Lusaka near the PC office so that I could do email stuff, but never got around to it. Instead, we hit up another 2 markets for last minute souvenirs. The second morning in Lusaka was Amanda's last morning in Zambia. We headed to the airport, she flew out to London then home, I guess…haven't heard yet. (Update: she's home). I spent the next 2 days in Lusaka seeing movies, bowling and eating. Now I'm at the Serenje house waiting until I can eat lunch and head back to my site. My new project is a library that I'm starting at Serenje Basic School and with the help of Mr. Calloway's Sudlersville Middle School class and a fundraising project of selling copper bracelets, should be able to fund the construction of bookshelves, tables and chairs. If you have books, send 'em! (Especially ones you think I'd like to read before I put them on the shelves) **Now the part you've all been waiting for:** The package contest has come to a close. I've decided to split the prizes. Dr. Connaughton's awesome package of junkfood, books, spices, baseball cards, games, etc won him the grandprize. Theresa's package of roughly the same, but not quite as good got her first runner up, and Becky's weekly letters warranted a prize too. I sent it all home with Amanda so she can ship them out for me. Much cheaper from Philly than from Serenje. So expect something sometime in the next however-long-it-takes-her-to-get-around-to-it. Thank you to all who participated. It was greatly appreciated by me (and my vulturesque volunteer friends). I'm trying to write each of you a letter, but sometimes, as with Angie and Ike, I've lost your address. It's not that I'm unappreciative or, well, even that busy…just lazy, forgetful, distracted…hey, what's that….
Also if you want to see some pictures or go back and re-read any thing to point out hypocrisies, go to http://patrickhorley.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pictures from March

This is Pat's sister updating his blog for him. Enjoy the pictures of Chimfunshi Chimp Sanctuary in Zambia, Pat's village, and our trip to Victoria Falls and the surrounding areas in Zimbabwe and Botswana.


Bathing Shelter, Insaka (gazebo), Waking with George (a farmer and friend), Family, Cheering section at the school soccer game

Impala, Hippo, Giraffe, Chobe National Park, Botswana

Watching the Falls with the locals

Zipline, Flying Fox, Gorge Swing with Danielle