Saturday, August 29, 2009

July 27, 2009

Hello everyone,

I've closed a chapter of my life- my Peace Corps service ended on
Friday July 24. It's a crazy thing to be done; I wanted to be a
Peace Corps Volunteer for so long, and I've loved my time here in
Zambia. It's something that I'll always carry with me, and I'd like
to thank all of you for your thoughts, prayers, mail, Clif bars, and
moral support. It's hard to know how to begin to describe the
experience, but I'll be happy to talk about it and try to give you an
glimpse of village life in Zambia! I'm now an RPCV- a Returned Peace
Corps Volunteer- although technically I won't return until the 31.

Looking forward, I'm very happy to tell you all that I have a game
plan for my life! I have accepted a research assistantship at
Michigan Technological University; I'll be working towards an MSc in
Forestry, researching sustainable biofuels harvesting and
silviculture. I'm really excited about this opportunity, and am
busily planning my move to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

I'll be starting this fall, which means that I'll only be in Kingston
for about 3 weeks before I head West. If we don't cross paths, I'll
be back in New York for Christmas for sure, and possibly for
Thanksgiving also.

I don't have a phone yet, but I'll call some of you and e-mail others
once I've got one. E-mail remains an excellent way to get in touch
with me!

Mushale bwino bonse,
Stay well, all.

July 4, 2009

Hi everyone,

My time in Peace Corps is rapidly drawing to a close, and yet I find I'm continually learning more and more. Teaching has been a really amazing experience- frustrating and very rewarding. It's good practice for life in America, because I'm back on a concrete schedule. I get up each morning, cook my breakfast (I have a hotplate in my one working outlet... pretty snazzy), and have to head out the door to start the school day. I'm teaching one 11th grade biology class, which meets 4 days a week. There's about 55 girls in the class, although the number of girls who actually attend seems to vary day to day. I also have one 10th grade physics class, which only meets twice a week, with 30 girls in it. The 11th graders are a really great group... the 10th graders still seem a little unsure what to make of being in high school, and having an American as their teacher.

Teaching can be challenging, because the resources are very limited. I was issued a box of chalk and 4 pens. No eraser, so I've learned that you can use pretty much anything as a chalkboard eraser. Crumpled scraps of paper work rather well; my bare hand suffices when I can't find scrap paper. I have the only textbook in the class. I was always confused about why the kids at the school in my village seemed to do nothing but copy down paragraphs of notes. Now I understand that, since they don't have textbooks, the notes they put in their notebooks are their ONLY record of information. So I too write paragraphs of notes on the board for my classes to copy down.

I'm also having some fun introducing practices from American schooling. The most significant cross-cultural introduction has been the role of Jeopardy games in review sessions. I've given my bio class two tests, and both times I held a review session before the test in which we played Jeopardy. I prefaced that with "If we were in America, you guys would have begged me to do this... so I'm going to teach you how to play Jeopardy!"

Other ways I've passed time include giving typing lessons (there are, thanks to some donor group, 4 working computers at the school). I've taught groups of students and some teachers. Part of the way through my series of lessons I discovered that the girls didn't know the names for their different fingers, so when I was saying "Use your pinky to hit Enter" they had NO CLUE what I was saying!! I've since corrected that by teaching them the names of all their fingers!

So that's Zambia. I've only got a few more days of teaching, and then I'll spend some time in Mansa finishing up reporting before going to Lusaka to start the Close of Service process.

I will be landing in the United States of AMERICA on July 31, 2009, which is less than 4 weeks from today. So far my schedule involves "eat salad", "get contact lenses", and "follow my mom around like a baby duckling". I still have no definite plans, so I'll be in Kingston for some few weeks; I'd love to see anyone who's around!

Happy Independence Day, everyone!


May 16, 2009

Dear friends,

This will be one of my last updates from this side of the ocean, because my time in Zambia is drawing to a close! I last sent out an e-mail in January, when I was looking at a few more months in my village. Now I’m looking back at the time when I was living there, and almost two months have gone by since I moved out of my happy little mud hut! It was a lot harder to leave than I thought it would be, which is one of the reasons why I haven’t written about it yet. I spent the month before I left counting down the days and then about a week before my last day I realized I actually didn’t want the days to go by, and I was perfectly content and would have been glad to go back and relive a lot of my village days.

Sadly, the days did continue to go by, and suddenly it was my last day in my village! I had a little party with the children in my area- when we started there were 12 of them, by the time the gathering was over there were 23 kids in my yard. We roasted corn and peanuts (maize and groundnuts!), and had some carrots from my garden. I think they really enjoyed it, and I did my best to treat them as adults; we all sat on stools and a reed mat rather than just sitting in the dirt. It was really strange to say goodbye to all those kids- I gave away the deck of cards we had played with, and all my tennis balls, and all the rest of the candy I’d been bribing them with. That was rather a madhouse, because kids I didn’t even recognize began appearing from all sides as soon as I was preparing to give way things. I ended up drawing a large semicircle in front of my house, and told them to stand on the other side. Then I called kids up one by one (therefore insuring that my favorite ones, the ones who were the best company and the biggest help, got first dibs) and had them pick a treat- a ball OR cards OR colored pencils OR a lollipop.

Then the next morning I sat in front of my house with all my belongings piled around me and Gretchen keeping me company. Ba Reuben and Ba Sincala, two of my favorite Zambians, came out of their ways to say goodbye, which was wonderful. Brows, in a wonderful display of wisdom and God’s providence, had headed up to Ba Reuben’s house on his own the day before, sparing me from having to bike over there with him in tow and say goodbye.

Then a Land Cruiser showed up, and with the immediate appearance of 14 children, we quickly loaded my stuff up and left.

Fortunately I didn’t go far; only 10 km down the road is my new place. I have a few rooms on the compound of the girls high school where I’ll be teaching at starting on Monday.

Right about now, you’re probably thinking “Wait, she left her village in March and she’s starting teaching on Monday? What’s she been doing?!!?” The answer is, I’ve been doing many fun things. I spent 3 weeks in Greece and Hungary with my sister; I spent 3 days in one of Zambia’s national parks; I spent a week helping at an orphanage, and I’ve spent the last week at my Close of Service Conference. This is the big workshop where Peace Corps tries to prepare us for returning to the US. Sessions covered things like “What to do when you freak out in the cheese aisle” and Networking; all in all, very useful. Peace Corps Zambia also goes above and beyond to make the Conference a memorable experience; it’s partially a reward for our service in extremely rural areas. So we stayed two nights at a beautiful lodge, with buffets of kudu and lechwe steak, dessert at every meal, game drives, and a cheese factory!

I also recently had the immense privilege of naming Ba Reuben and Ba Beatrice’s new baby boy. He was born at the end of April, and I went out to visit him and his parents and 7 big brothers and sisters about a week after his birth. Traditionally children aren’t named until their umbilical cords fall off, so he was okay without a name until I made it out to meet him. But now, he is Jonah Kang’ombe, and he’s adorable!

I was also able to talk with my replacement, a guy named Grayson who’s been in his new village for almost 3 weeks now. It’s a very strange thing to bike up to “my house” and find that someone else lives there now!! He’s very fresh and excited (and CLEAN!) and I’m glad to have passed on my place to someone who seems like he’ll do well there.

So my list of fabulous memories made here in Zambia is continuing to grow. I expect my time at this school to be a really interesting experience. Most of my fellow Volunteers are wrapping up their last months by finishing up remaining projects; I’m starting something brand new! Monday morning at 8 AM, I’m supposed to be teaching a lesson on digestion…

Important dates: My last day of service as a Peace Corps Volunteer will be July 24. I expect to be flying back to New York on August 7!!! I don’t know for sure what I’ll be doing with myself, but the plan certainly begins with about two weeks with my family and whoever else is around. If you’ll be in the Kingston area and want to get together, send me an e-mail!

Mushale bwino bonse,
Stay well all,

January 15, 2009

Dear friends,

My vacation is over and I'm heading back to my village today- Ba Reuben has called me a few times, so I know there are more baby rabbits waiting for me. I'm hoping some of them are the offspring of the females I've loaned out- he's new to the cell phone thing and thus our conversations can be somewhat unclear (though he speaks nice and loud!)

My trip to Namibia was phenomenal. Namibia is significantly more developed than Zambia, something I attribute to the fact that the country only gained independence in 1990 or 91, and to its diamond mines. Regardless, it was a pretty crazy transition at the border crossing- the muddy patch in front of Zambia's unpainted office buildings, and Namibia's paved parking lot with lines on it, the chaotic crowd at Zambia's counter (and they stamped my passport as having exited 24 December 2014, and then corrected it in pen) versus the air-conditioning and people standing in line at the counter in Namibia.

I traveled with another girl from my province- together we rode the bus to Windhoek, 21 hours from Livingstone in Zambia. From Windhoek we went to the desert park, an expanse of red dunes that was so beautiful it looked fake. I think the Microsoft Windows desktop background of a giant red sand dune was taken in the Namib desert. We climbed some dunes and saw ostriches!!!

Then we hitchhiked to the coast, catching a lift with a very friendly German couple who dropped us at our guest house. It was great to see the Atlantic Ocean from the other side, and we went sandboarding (like snow boarding, but on sand dunes!). Then back to Windhoek for a few days of seeing some historic old buildings. My personal favorite was a beautiful marble church, situated at the intersection Fidel Castro and Robert Mugabe streets!! I also enjoyed the surreal treat of Kentucky Fried Chicken with a chocolate milkshake.

After returning to Livingstone, I visited a Peace Corps friend for a few days at her site in the Southern Province (between Livingstone and Lusaka). It was really interesting to compare her village life to mine- she lives amongst the Tonga people, and they approach life very differently than the Bembas do. The Tongas have a reputation for being very hardworking, and it shows. Most of my villagers don't have any kind of housing for their goats, and the Tongas have constructed huge corrals, raised houses, and paddocks. They also keep a lot of cattle, and I got to milk a cow!!

I've spent a few days in Mansa regaining my bearings, and now I return to the village. I've only got a few months left there, because I'm leaving my village at the beginning of April. Peace Corps has changed when new volunteers arrived and thus I'm being ousted from my site at that time; I'll spend the last few months of my service teaching at a local high school.

So I'm going to start wrapping things up in my village. I'm hoping to do some work at the school, and teach all my rabbit-keeping farmers to apply the manure to their fields and gardens. I also managed to obtain cuttings to propogate an improved cassava variety, one that grows faster and larger, so I'm going to work with the Ministry of Agriculture to facilitate some lessons on growing the improved cassava. I think it'll be a good few months!

Hope you are all doing well, and those of you in the Northeast are enjoying the delightfully snowy winter.


December 24, 2008

Hello everyone! Merry Christmas from Livingstone, Zambia, home of Victoria Falls!

This is a very overdue e-mail- I was waiting to send it because I was hoping to be able to write that all the wells are completed... sadly that is not the news I have to report. But there are 2 wells completed and being used by very very happy people, and 2 others that I expect will be finished within the next month. The fifth well, unfortunately, doesn't look like it will happen. My plan is to give the materials to a different village for them to use next year. So five wells will be completed, just not in 2008!
I went to town for Thanksgiving, not knowing the status of one well- they had been digging, but had already hit impenetrable rocks in two places. I returned and stopped at the headwoman's house. I asked "Did you find water?" They said "Yes!" I asked "Okay. When are we going to build up to protect it?" They said "We did already!!!" We walked over to the well site and it was all done- and then they pointed out that in the cement lid that covers the top, they had written "Peace Corps Volunteer Nan Davis" in the cement.
I was standing there, completely overwhelmed with gratitutude for these people and my life here, when the headwoman showed up, with a huge grin on her face, and she gave me a big hug. Hugging is NOT part of this culture, so that was a huge demonstration of how thrilled we both were that this project had been completed, and she no longer has to walk 4 miles to get water.
So thank you, for your support, and for your patience! The presence of the wells is immensely appreciated by the people in the villages that benefit. The well in Ba Reuben's village is actually being used by women from the next village over as well, because they're willing to walk a bit further than usual to access a protected water source!
I'll write a bit more about what else has been going on in my life, in a few days. Today, I'm off to Namibia!
John 1:14 "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

September 29, 2008

Dear friends,

I wanted to give you a brief update about my magnificent safari adventure. I returned yesterday from my visit to Zambia's Eastern province, home of South Luangwa National Park. Gretchen and I spent two days there and they were some of the best days I have spent in Zambia.

We left Chipata, the provincial capital (a beautiful, hilly city that reminded me somehow of Spokane), and sat on the side of a dirt road for 5 hours trying to get a hitch to Mfuwe, a small town outside of the park. Finally our ride arrived, in the form of a white man who formerly owned the camp we were heading to- marvelously auspicious, good conversation and a free ride right to the door of the campground.

Which was good, because you're not allowed to walk around that area after dark due to the number of ELEPHANTS and HIPPOS that roam the campground!!!!

I pitched my tent on a wooden platform in a tree, about 15 feet off the ground. It was a very surreal experience, waking up in that tree and seeing vervet monkeys jumping around in the branches all around me. As I was brushing my teeth, 3 elephants and a baby walked through the campground.

We went on a daytime safari drive, a twilight- night drive (equipped with a large spotlight) and a four-hour walking safari (accompanied by a our guide, and another man with a rifle!). There were animals all over the place- family groups of elephants, giraffes eating out of the tops of trees, zebras rolling in the dust to cool off, herds of various antelope species, tons of hippos floating around in small pools of water, and a family of lions including three small cubs ("small" meaning "about the size of a year-old golden retriever").

One of my favorite parts was the hippos- I had never realized just how huge those things are. They are absolutely gigantic. They come out on land at night, and look very silly running, and very at home floating in the water during the day. We saw one munching its way through a patch of floating algae, and another during the walk that had a large grey heron standing on its back. There was giant momma hippo, with a baby following closely at her tail, swimming across the pool with a big heron riding on her back!! The heron seemed to enjoy the transport, and later it caught a fish and stood on the hippo's back eating it.

Another high point was the lion family- the cubs were very active when we saw them in the evening, and looked like puppies playing together and rolling on top of each other.

There were also a lot of surreal vistas- open plains with groups of baboons, herds of buffalo in the distance, groups of impala grazing. At one point I saw two warthogs wandering around, feeding by digging up turves of grass, surrounded by baboons who were picking food out of the turves after the warthogs dug them up!

It's great to know that I have now actually seen all these animals in situ in Africa. Conservation is a slow and arduous process, but thousands of elephants, and I, appreciate its effects at Luangwa!

Stay well,


September 19, 2008

Dear friends,

This is long overdue, and I apologize. I hope to make up for it but making this letter worth the wait! Last I wrote, it was June, and I was finishing up the work on the survey in which I participated.

And now it's September! I've had a great few months at my site. Ba Reuben was visiting relatives until August, and thus I dealt with the challenge of village life sans my closest friend there. I was happy to realize I'm now proficient enough in Bemba to have all the conversations I needed, even prompting some of the headmen to tell Ba Reuben upon his return that he was no longer necessary! It's great to have him back though; I laugh a lot more. And can do larger lessons, with my trusty and trustworthy interpreter by my side.

I did a few "Life Skills" lessons with girls at my local basic school. We played an abstinence-focused game that was the epitome of the anti-drug epithet "Just say no!"- a bunch of us standing in lines facing each other saying "Yes!" and "No!" ("Ee! And "Awe!", actually) in varying degrees of assertiveness and giggling. For weeks afterwards, girls would pass my house and call to me "Ba Nana! Awe!" And yes, I'm still Ba Nana in the village. Except for one little boy who keeps calling me Ba Banana.

July also provided me some opportunities to explore more Zambian culture. I attended the Mutomboko Traditional Ceremony, graced this year by the chief chief, who unexpectedly arrived from the Congo in a helicopter! I also went to a traditional female initiation ceremony. That was an incomprehensible but enjoyable experience- an all-night dancing and teaching extravaganza. One helpful tip I learned, around 4 AM, was "Your in-laws are like the gall bladder of a chicken, which makes the meat taste bad if you don't remove it fast. They can make your marriage very bad if you don't deal with them correctly."

One of the most amazing experiences in my last few months had been the progress on my rabbit project. In July, I gave female rabbits to my first two farmers- a 14 year old boy, and a 32 year old man. Those two are now almost old enough to breed. This past week I gave 2 more females to farmers from another village- an 18 year old boy, and a 40ish single mom. She and her youngest daughter walked to my house in their nicest clothes, with a very clean plastic basket in which they proudly carried their rabbit home. I check on those 4 rabbits pretty frequently, and they're all being cared for well! Success!

And Jane Eyre just had 8 more children- currently still at the squirmy grub stage, but eventually will resemble mammals! The first 2 people have already identified the recipients of female offspring from their rabbits- so my next step is coaching them as they teach those farmers, in the hope of encouraging sustainability. Each recipient has to give one female rabbit to a new farmer, and teach and monitor its care and keeping.

You may have heard that the President of Zambia passed away. So far it's been very calm here. Possibly this was in part due to 21 day National Mourning period in which bars were closed down if they played secular music loudly… There will be an election at the end of October- one more exciting thing in my busy month of well-digging!

Regarding the wells project- the rock, sand, and brick work is progressing very well. Some villages are working more steadily than others, but the slow ones responded rapidly to my threats to give their wells to other villages. I'm very pleased with what's happening, and we will be buying all the material in a few weeks. The goal is to have the wells dug by the end of October, and the project all wrapped up by mid-November, which is about when rainy season gets into full swing. The headmen were really excited about a well-digger contract I typed up for them explaining the work and the expectations for the hired diggers (and I'll be really excited if they use it and no one comes to my house to ask me for extra money!)

I've been enjoying the pace of village life, as slow as it is some times. In all honestly, most of my busy days are still pretty slow, and yet at the end of most days I can't quite remember what I did in the morning. I've been a bit lax in my letter writing skills, primarily because I've been doing a lot of sewing instead of writing. I'm working on a quilt- just piecing together the top, but doing it all by hand using a pattern I drew myself. Ironing it was quite an adventure. I knew my neighbor had an iron because I'd seen her using it, but had no idea what the words for iron or ironing were. Thus, I had a very stuttering conversation, starting with "Bana Mwewa, do you have a… umm… a…" and then I pantomimed ironing, and said some things about making clothes look good, and work you do before you go to church. Somehow she figured out what I was trying to explain, and brought out her iron, which I am fairly certain Laura Ingalls Wilder must have donated to an aid organization when she cleaned out her sod house one spring. It is entirely metal, with a lid that flips up so you can put live coals inside.

So I ironed my hand-sewn quilt top with fire. I was very nervous the whole time, given that it opened up a whole new realm of possibility for burning what I was ironing. Thankfully nothing burned, and it did actually work until the coals died down and ash started flying out whenever I moved the iron around!

I'm currently in Mansa. I've spent the last few days teaching at an informal workshop for other volunteers, about farming and gardening. It was entirely our own initiative, and seemed really helpful for the health volunteers who don't have degrees from ESF! And then next week, a spontaneous safari adventure, to South Luangwa National Park in eastern Zambia. I'm very excited, since I haven't yet seen any of those big animals Africa is famous for. Now's dry season so it's the best season for animal viewing- they'll all be clustered around the remaining drinking water. Then, back to the village to monitor wells, and rabbits, and teach a series of lessons at 3 local schools about hunger and food security. October will be a very busy month, but that's the way I like it (though it does cut into my reading time… ).

Happy back to school, for many of you! As always thank you for your thoughts, prayers, and mail.

Mushale bwino bonse- stay well, all!


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

June 25, 2008
Wells project- Fully funded!

Dear everyone,

I recieved official word yesterday from Peace Corps that my wells project has been fully funded. Thank you extravagantly for your contributions. If you didn't get a chance to donate and now are wishing you hadn't missed your chance to help African villagers... you haven't! There are many more volunteer projects on the Peace Corps website, and those volunteers and communities will be just as thrilled as I was to recieve your help.

Thank you.

I'm heading back to my village this weekend, for more crazy adventures that will eventually result in more e-mail updates for all of you!


June 16 2008
Waterfalls and Willy Wonka

Hello everyone!

I apologize for how much time has passed since my last update. Things are going very well here, and I hope you're all enjoying the onset of summer.Thank you IMMENSELY for supporting my wells project. Work on the project (step 1 being carrying and crushing rocks.. by hand) has begun, and we're waiting for the last of the money to be donated and then for those dollars to be converted to Kwacha. I am incredibly grateful for your investment in the lives of my villagers.

So what has happened since I last wrote? Jane Eyre has 4 babies, adorably little animals that I have trouble imagining as dinner- but after a couple weeks in the village I'll probably start doing that cartoon viewing-animals-as-cuts-of-meat thing! When I get home I hope to send them out in the first wave in my grand scheme of rabbit multiplication.

I haven't been in my village since mid-May. I've been working with a group from Michigan State doing a food security survey throughout Luapula province. My role, along with a PhD student and a Zambian staff member from Lusaka, is supervising the teams of surveyors. The actual interviewing is done by people fluent in Bemba, and we're checking to make sure they're asking all the right questions and recording the responses correctly.

It's been a good change from my village routine. During the training process I was actually working 9 hour days, heightening my respect for those of you in full-time employment that doesn't involve 2 hour hunts through market places trying to find healthy village chickens for dinner! Now we're travelling throughout the province visiting the teams in situ. I'm getting to see some beautiful places in Luapula- waterfalls, gigantic lakes, vistas of palm trees with the Luapula River and the Congo in the background. ANd we had a spontaneous tour of the Kawambwa Tea Estate processing plant. That was a delightfully Willy Wonka-esque esperience. The conveyor belt wasn't working and instead there was a man shovelling tea from a wheeled cart into the waiting arms of a giant drying machine (fueled by a few hundred hectares of eucalyptus being grown in plantations for firewood... my forester self couldn't NOT ask that question!)

Saturday my touring ends and I will be happy to go back to the slower pace and different challenge of village life. Tomorrow marks 1 year since I arrived in Zambia- crazy, huh? It's been a great year. And PLEASE, update me on your latest adventures! I love hearing news from the home front.

Stay well all,

April 26, 2008
My wells project

Dear friends and family,

I've mentioned in e-mails a few times that I was learning about wells. The result of my investigations in town, and a series of meetings with village leaders and residents of my catchment area, was an application to the Peace Corps Partnership Program. This program links people in the SU with members of the communities in which Peace Corps volunteers live. We submitted a proposal to dig and protect 5 wells, one in each of 5 villages in my catchment area. We hope to have the wells completed by this November!

Clean water sources are perhaps the single largest problem in my area- people (myself included!) get water from scoopholes in marshy areas, and they're anything but clean. As a result many people, especially children, suffer from water-borne diseases that haven't been an issue in the US since the days of the Oregon Trail, such as dysentery. People are really excited to think they could have protected water sources, which could drastically improve their quality of life.

We need your help. I'd like to ask all of you to consider joining us in this Partnership Program. Village residents are providing much of the labor, includingcarrying sand, carrying and crushing stones, molding and firing mud bricks. What we lack is the money to purchase materials and to hire experienced well-diggers (men with shovels and a lot of guts!). Each well needs, for example, 6 packets of cement, costing $20 each. I can think of a lot of ways I spent $20 without even thinking about it, and without any lasting benefit to myself or anyone else.
Your $20 would make an immense and lasting improvement to the lives of many people for years to come.

The total amount we're looking for is $2384. This will cover cement and other materials, transport of those materials, and digging. There's no overhead or administrative costs because that's my job, as the Peace Corps volunteer! Donations can be made online at

Please contact me if you have any questions. My parents also have a copy of the proposal and can answer questions, probably faster than I can!


March 13, 2008
Four words

Snake in my house.

Yes, that's right. Snake, in my house. SNAKE IN MY HOUSE!

Sorry, I'm still a little surprised by the fact that this happened. I was sitting in my house yesterday morning, reading, and heard a rustling noise. I looked up and saw, climbing up one of the poles of my roof, a large snake.

So I raced outside (realizing later that I basically ran under the snake to get out the door) and was very very thankful that there were about 5 guys outside my house visiting Ba Titus. Usually mid-morning there's no one around, and I really don't know what I would have done had that been the case!

I announced "There's a snake in my house!" (in English) and Ba Titus said "Where?" and we went to the door and I pointed up. His immediate response was "Go back! Go back!" which I was happy to do. The men gathered around the doorway and then two boys were dispatched to go somewhere very quickly. I missed the Bemba word explaining where they were going, and I'm thinking "Are they getting a ladder? Does that make any sense at all?" and I asked and they were off to get a slingshot. Because in a Zambian village, grown men use slingshots to solve problems :-D I love it.

While we were waiting around for the slingshot I heard Ba Titus say "Yatampa ukuya!" (It's starting to go!) and immediately people sprang into action getting very very large sticks. Ba Titus disappeared into the house and there were a few minutes of crashing noises, shouting, and then silence. I half-expected the snake to come slithering out with a grin on its face, but fortunately Ba Titus came out instead, dragging a snake with him.

The thing was six feet long! Which is taller than me. It was a uniform beige color, with a white belly. The Bemba name translates into "Common cobra", and sources tell me it's very poisonous. I expected I would be sad and opposed to the killing of a large snake, but it turns out that when said large snake is in my house, I was content to see it disposed of. I took several pictures and then they got rid of it. They got rid of it by putting it down my toilet…. Which is a little unnerving because I can see it at night with my headlamp!

The craziest part of the experience is that I don't know when the snake entered my house. I like to think it hadn't been there all night, or for hours and hours, but I really don't know how, where, or when it entered.

So to further organize this update, we'll go with 4 words. Word 1 is Snake.

Word 2 is Rabbits! I have 3 rabbits, two females and a male. Their names are Jane Eyre, Dagny Taggart, and John Galt. Can you tell I spend a lot of my time reading?!?! I realized after I got them home to my house (after a very harrowing hour and a half on a bicycle, riding down dirt roads while trying to avoid bumps) that I don't know for sure how old they are, so I don't know if they're old enough to breed. I plan to determine this by seeing if they appear pregnant in another week or two. The first few days I had them at home, both Dagny and John managed to get out of their hutches. Dagny climbed up onto the roof, and John went for a meander outside of the garden. Fortunately both times people noticed them before Brows did, and they were safely re-installed into their hutches.
I'm really excited to have taken the first step on my rabbit multiplication project. Now the rabbits just need to start multiplying, and I will begin teaching the numerous people who have expressed interest in keeping rabbits. While I'm in town Ba Reuben's 14-year-old son is taking care of them for me, so I suppose Richard is my first rabbit-keeping-protégé.

Word 3 is Bread. I spent a day teaching a women's group how to bake bread village-style (baking is done in a pot with coals in a brazier and placed on the lid). We made 3 loaves, two with wheat and cassava flour mixed, and one with just wheat and cinnamon sugar added (because I love that!). All three loaves came out well and it was a very successful day. The women seemed really engaged in the whole process and when some of them came late, the ones who'd been there the whole time explained to them all the steps they'd missed.

Word 4 is Changwa. This is one of my favorite aspects of Zambian culture, and I've been meaning to write about it for a while now and keep forgetting. When your in-law drops something, if you touch the ground before he or she does and say Changwa, then that object is yours. The in-law can redeem it back from you at a price you set. Most of the time I see this being done in a joking manner; it's rarely serious but always entertaining, and everyone laughs a lot as the bartering takes place. For example, a man dropped a scrap of paper in front of Ba Titus one day and he said "Changwa". I couldn't figure out why he wanted a small scrap of paper, but then when Titus had the paper in his hand he said "Okay, now give me your watch to get the paper back" and they all burst out laughing. I'm planning to institute this practice once I have in-laws, a nice random bit of Zambian village life to bring back.

Hope you're all well. Happy Easter, everyone.

February 17, 2008
Mice, Ants, and Chickens

Dear friends,

Happy President's Day, everyone! I'm in town for a few days meeting with various officials, learning about wells and rabbits and of course doing the obligatory brownie and bread baking.

Life at site has been fairly quiet. Mr. Bushy Tail, the mouse that I found climbing up my mosquito net one night, has passed on to the Great Mud Hut in the Sky. I was discussing his rambunctious nighttime forays into my house with Ba Reuben and Reuben had an instant solution- he directed his brother-in-law to make two snares from the nylon mesh of a sack, and then installed them in two likely places in my house! This meant I spent a few nights with a hammer and a frying pan strategically placed in my house (along with my ever present stick-for-poking-things) hoping I would catch the mouse but really really not wanting to have to kill him. He kept coming in and avoiding the snares, preferring instead to wander amongst my Tupperware while I shined my headlamp around trying to find him. Usually I noticed him by the large fluffball that was his tail, sticking out from between the plastic tubs and cans of tuna. Eventually his curiousity sent him to my poisoned peanut butter, and while I miss his little paws and Mickey Mouse ears, it's delightful to get to sleep all night!

I've been attacked by ants an unfortunate number of times in the last month. Africa, being Africa, has a wide variety of different sizes and shapes of ants, the majority of which seem to enjoy biting me. Usually I notice them marching in long columns across my path and leap over them (Brows also elegantly leaps across streams of ants, or takes lengthy detours into the bush to avoid them). Once in a while, though, I'm distracted and my first sign that I'm near a bunch of ants eager to sink their teeth/pincers/mandibles/whatever pointy things ants have is that they have already starting gnawing on me. While hitching a ride into town last week I found an ant biting my leg, and as I pulled it off and tried to drop it out the car window it latched on to my finger tip. Only in Africa!

Gretchen and I were fortunate enough to hitch a ride in with some hydrologists doing a survey for UNICEF. This meant we got to sit in a rather nice pickup truck as they drove around trying to remember where they'd stopped the previous day so they could collect water samples. I realized that I'm getting to know my catchment area pretty well- I see familiar trees and know the bends in the road and the children of different villages, where before I was just faced with a blur of mud huts and overhanging branches.

I've started working with some lead farmers to improve the way they're keeping chickens. At this point I'm still trying to gauge how serious they will be but I think a few simple changes could increase the number of chickens they have and the number of chicks that survive- which would mean more food for the families! My chicken program isn't anything too complicated- the main points are "Give your chickens water to drink" and "Don't let the young chicks wander out into the bush where you KNOW they'll get eaten by snakes and hawks." We'll see how it goes.

I was able to satisfy my forestry-geek side by planting a woodlot of Leucaena leucocephala with members of the Tree Nursery. I'm really excited that that actually came to pass, and I'm hoping other people will come to see the benefit of planting trees for firewood and other uses instead of going further and further each year to get firewood.

Another fun afternoon was spent celebrating Sumner's First Birthday with Ba Reuben and his family. I brought over the ingredients for banana bread and made it with the entire family watching- the kids were a little surprised by the way all the ingredients mixed together and then after hours on a fire, became cake! It was a lot of fun and tasted pretty good. The whole family seemed to enjoy the celebration. The banana bread went fast- when we'd all finished I looked up and noticed that Beattie, the 2 year old, still had a fistful she hadn't eaten yet. Shortly thereafter her sisters noticed also and the last I saw of Sumner's birthday cake, it was clutched in Beattie's fist as she raced across the yard trying to protect her remaining morsels.

I hope you're all enjoying yourselves and having fun adventures and wonderfully quiet moments. As always, thank you for your thoughts, prayers, and mail!


January 17, 2008
The night bus doesn't seem so bad...

...when compared to the night ferry!

Good morning from Lusaka! I'm here for just a day, seeing the medical officers and my program director (who I'm currently THRILLED with because he somehow obtained cashew seeds for my tree nursery). Gretchen and I came down on the night bus. Only in Africa do you find fleas and cockroaches on the bus, although at least they're quiet. My last night in my hut I was visited by a mouse with a bush tail- I can't remember the bemba name but it looks like a baby squirrel, or like a mouse with a squirrel's tail. I didn't mind him when he was climbing around on my shelving unit... I was a bit more perturbed when it crawled up my mosquito net right next to my face! Plus he made a very high squeaking noise the whole time!

The night ferry was a ridiculous mode of transportation. There's a few overnight ferries that run between Zanzibar and Dar-es-Salaam. To get an extra day in Nungwi, the most beautiful beach I've ever seen, we opted to take the night ferry back. Sadly, in our inexperience we chose the night ferry that's also a shipping boat, and got to sit on a loading dock for four hours before boarding the shipper and sleeping on park benches. An inauspicious end to an amazingly wonderful vacation. Fresh seafood, awe-inspiringly white beaches and turquoise ocean- delightful. Anyone want to come visit? I'll take you to Zanzibar!

Anyway, I spent about a week back in my village before having to come back out. During that week, I was immensely excited to see no less than 5 fields in which members of my tree nursery had planted a nitrogen fixing tree we grew in the nursery. The tree is native to Zambia- munganunshi in Bemba, (Fadherbia albida in Latin). Most of the other agroforestry species the nursery has grown members have planted near their houses. That works to make the random new tree more visible to others, but there's less of a benefit to improving the soil somewhere where there's no farming being done. Thus, I was incredibly thrilled to see that people had taken the next step and planted trees IN THEIR FIELDS.

So when I return I'll do more visiting of people's fields (stuff is growing, and my suburban heart is very excited by the way seeds turn into plants that turn into food) and hopefully buy some rabbits. Some of my neighbors started building me a rabbit hutch last week!

Sorry this isn't very newsy... I didn't sleep much on the bus. But at least there's electricity here!!

December 24, 2007
Hello from Stone Town!

Merry Christmas everyone! I'm writing this from Zanzibar, which I've had QUITE a huge adventure in so far, and it's just getting better. It's Christmas Eve and I went swimming in the Indian Ocean this afternoon- which we found by hitchiking up the road saying "We'd like to go to the ocean" and getting dropped off at a random door, where a man walked us down an amazing shrubbery-shrouded set of switchbacks down to... the ocean. With no other white people in site, just a handful of Zanzibarian men. The ocean is WARM here, and wonderful.

And the highlight of my trip so far has been getting detained at customs getting off the train in Dar-es-Salaam, with part of our group outside a large metal gate and the rest of us trapped inside. While one person tried to negotiate and/or bribe our way out, one of those outside was speaking to me in Pig Latin through the grate giving suggestions. It was hilarious, and so oddly African. As was discovering that the touristy grocery store we found here in Stone Town is better stocked than ShopRite in either Mansa OR Lusaka.

This e-mail is going to be quick, since we need to find our hotel (Hotel Kibunda, 40 bucks a night with a view of the OCEAN from the room!!) before it gets dark and the maze of little alleyways in Stone Town becomes unnavigable. The point is that I am pretty sure my phone number for the next 10 days is 255783186529 so anyone who wants to wish me a Merry Christmas feel free- I'm 7 hours ahead of the east coast. I'll write a full, detailed update of my adventures on this amazing tropical island in a few days.


and God bless us, every one!


November 15, 2007
Flat tires and crowds of muzungus

Dear everyone,

"Muli shani" (How are you) from Lusaka! I'm almost done with a week-long In Service Training. All the volunteers from my program converged on an unsuspecting government hostel last Sunday, and we've become a group of about 94 Peace Corps volunteers bringing a steady stream of people in line for breakfast each morning (with 'real' coffee!) and taxi cabs shuttling us around the city every evening. I'm thoroughly enjoying myself- it's so exciting to see all the people that were in my training class, as well as meet new people from the previous year's intake. We've done some cool activities, such as an afternoon spent learning to "bud" orange trees (meaning, take the roots of a small lemon seedling, and cut all the leaves off, and cut the bud off an orange twig, and stick it onto the lemon stem and if you've done it right, the bud will grow into a branch that bears oranges). This was especially helpful to me because my tree nursery group has around 200 lemon seedlings they would like to turn into oranges, so I can hopefully share my new knowledge with them!

I also bought a grape plant, which I'm hoping 1)not to forget to take back with me and 2)not to kill until I can propagate it, and some carrots and celery seeds to plant in my soon-to-exist garden. I'm excited for the rains to come so I can replant the live-fence around my garden, and start growing vegetables and agroforestry trees and shrubs to show my villagers what you can do without chemical fertilizers from town. I'm also planning to buy rabbits in January and start trying my hand at keeping small "livestock" (aka small "cuddly fuzzy animals I will pretend to intend to eat")

The trip from Luapula down to Lusaka was a bit eventful. 8 of us somehow managed to finagle a ride from Luapula to Lusaka (9 hours) in a Peace Corps land cruiser. This is a much preferred mode of transportation than an unreliable Zambian bus company, but not when the Cruiser gets a flat tire 20 minutes into the trip. Fortunately this just left us waiting on the side of the road for a few hours while our driver had a friend bring him his tools. A nice chance to view the scenery, the start of the flat wetland plains that are the southern part of Luapula province.

Highlights of my previous few weeks at my site- It's caterpillar season! And I ate one! Caterpillars are a much welcomed delicacy to the people of Luapula, because it's a change in their diet, and women collect giant pots full of caterpillars and then take them to town to sell. I had a few days to work up the nerve to grasp the concept of eating a (dead, cooked) caterpillar, but I was still shocked when Ba Beatrice plunked a bowl of bugs in front of me and Ba Reuben, in a typical turn of phrase, turned to me and said "I think you can try one, Ba Nana". So, I ate a caterpillar.

It tasted like a bug. Kind of salty and squishy. I'm just glad I wasn't offered one of the ones with little thorn-like claws all over it. Now when people hold up caterpillars and ask "Mwalalya?" (Do you eat?) I can say "Nalilya cimoFYE!" (I ate JUST ONE) and leave it at that!

I also saw the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Realistically it looked the same as the side of the Luapula River I was standing on, but it was still very exciting to realize I was staring at THE CONGO. Far more exciting than standing in western New York and thinking "Oh look, there's Canada!"

I repeated my chickens-on-a-bicycle extravaganza, because I held a second meeting with all the headmen from my catchment area. I realized that despite their promises of arranging community meetings so I could talk to people and find out what they wanted to learn, only two had gotten back to me after my first meeting. So, I summoned them again, and while a delicious meal was concocted we talked about how I can't do anything without their support. I then scheduled introductory meetings in the villages I hadn't been in yet, and proceeded to spend the week and a half leading up to my departure for Lusaka with a meeting every afternoon. I'll return to Mwanasasa and continue my 'busy schedule' (because, of course, a busy day is one in which I do something. Like, one thing.) over the course of the next few weeks. My plan is to push myself pretty hard for the next month, so my villagers forgive me for running off to Zanzibar for Christmas!

Some rather important information about packages- thank you VERY much to people who have sent me boxes of wonderful Americanness. I am not bringing this up as a plea for more goodies; Rather I want to remind anyone that DOES send me anything NOT TO PUT IN THE CUSTOM DECLARATION ANYTHING ATTRACTIVE! I have had packages opened; Gretchen had something stolen from one of hers. So whatever you're putting in a box, make it sound really boring. And worth less than 10 dollars.

I hope you're all well, and that your Thanksgivings are fabulous.
Mwashale bwino (Stay well)
October 18, 2007
Learning about HIV/AIDS makes me sleepy

Hello everyone!
I'm spending the week in Mansa attending a workshop/training about HIV/AIDS. I brought a counterpart from one of the villages in my catchment area; in total there are about 50 people attending the workshop. Most of the PCVs from Luapula are here, and many of us brought counterparts. Sessions are being held in both English and Bemba. Most of the counterparts speak English well but obviously Bemba better, so there's usual a translator. I enjoy that because then I can try to understand the Bemba being used and then "check my answers".

So what have I done since my last e-mail? I visited several people's fields, and had some great conversations about people's plans for the current planting season. I got the Tree Nursery group to think of goals for their households and for the group as a whole. Realistically, most of their personal "goals" were really more of lists of what they plan to plant, but I wrote them down anyway. I figure next year I'll pull out those lists and really encourage them to plant new things or use different combinations, something to get them to see the truth in the adage "If you keep on doing what you've always done, you'll keep on getting what you've always gotten".

The Tree Nursery group also build me a PHENOMENAL fence behind my house. My hoe is currently being made, and once I've got that I can start preparing beds for my own garden. My neighbor 'offered' to help (really he informed me that he'd be helping me whenever I start working rather than asking if I wanted help) but I am strongly tempted to do it myself. It'll be hard but at the same time, it'd be a good way to show that women can do that kind of manual labor. I haven't decided all of what I'm going to plant yet, but it will definitely include peppers, watermelons, tomatoes, onions, and some leafy green vegetables.

Proof of what my gender is capable of was the same logic I used when I climbed to the top of Ba Reuben's new roof as he was thatching it one day. I'm told women never participate in the roof-building process, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to see the roof up close. Plus there was a GORGEOUS view of the hills and woodlands from the top of the roof (and the surprised looks on passer-by's faces was also quite entertaining!)

I had community meetings in two of my villages, Kalokoto and Kakuka. Both of these villages are located across the Mansa River, which at the moment is running very low so it's crossable. The first day Ba Reuben, Brows, and I crossed on a 'bridge' and rocks. "Bridge" here is a loosely used term referring to five crooked sticks laid next to each other. The meeting went very well; the people who were there asked me to come back and teach them some new farming techniques before this year's planting begins, so I'll be doing that next week!

The second day Ba Titus (my neighbor, who came to serve as a translator), Brows, and I crossed the river in a dug-out canoe. The canoe is actually dug out… very cool to see. I haven't seen many trees that would have produced a canoe of that size, so it's either a pretty old canoe or they made it from a tree found way out in the bush. Brows even went into the canoe, although not particularly willingly. He's a small dog so he's easy to pick up and deposit into the canoe. At the second meeting people were a little less focused/organized. The people who were present expressed desires to learn more about animal husbandry, about sewing and baking, and knitting… I don't know how to knit, but I think I can help with the sewing and baking part

It's rained three times so far!!! Rain is a wonderful, refreshing sight. The area is starting to seem greener and greener, because there's fresh grass coming up and some of the trees are leafing out. The color green is such a relief to see after so many months of a dry brown world.

I'll leave you with an interesting story from the open-market here in town. Gretchen and I went yesterday to buy metal lock-boxes (the rats in my house have begun to show off their chewing-through-plastic skills!). We found two guys doing metal work, which seemed to mostly involve hammer oil drums into sheets and then various shapes. Quite auspiciously, they had one box for sale and were finishing a second one as we walked up. It was neat to be able to see them actually making the box, though pretty noisy! When they finished I began bargaining. We went from 250,000 for the two boxes to 180,000 which is about 45 dollars. There's a tradition in bartering here to ask for an "imbasela", or a bonus, especially if you make a large purchase. The imbasela can be pretty much anything. I've gotten extra tomatoes when buying tomatoes… Gretchen once got tomatoes after buying several chitenges!

So we asked for an imbasela, but the man couldn't find anything within his wares to offer us. He kept staring at us and staring at his pile of hammered metal objects, and we just stood there waiting for him to come up with a good present for us. After a while this started to seem ridiculous, and we were standing there laughing. After all, we were just declining free things and still asking "Give us a present!!" After declining an imbabula (charcoal brazier (What would we do with that? We've already got some!) and rubber ropes, which were poorly made, the man told us to wait and went running off into the market proper. This made us laugh even harder, because he was obviously taking on the challenge but realistically we were still waiting for him to give us something cool for free. He came back with a small metal pot, which was delightfully utilitarian. So boxes and bowl in hand we went back through the market, stopping to buy bananas and a watermelon and ignoring the cries of every idiot guy in the area. Boxes tied to bikes, and then back to grab lunch before the afternoon sessions began! All in a day's work for Peace Corps volunteers!

I'll be heading to Lusaka around November 11th for In Service Training, so expect to hear more stories from my village and the delights of public transport around then!

Thanks SO MUCH to everyone for mail, e-mail, and your thoughts and prayers. It would be hard to do this without your support, and I truly appreciate it.

September 29, 2007
Back in the land of chocolate for a bit

Dear friends and family,

Hello from Mansa! I'm back in town (or as my villagers say, towni) for a few days of meetings with all the volunteers in Luapula province. Which also means after a month in my village I'm back in the land of refrigerators, chocolate bars, and computers, if only for a few days!

I was dropped off at my site on August 23rd, the first to unload from a Land Cruiser piled with three mattresses, three people's backpacks, jugs for water, braziers for cooking, bedding and three people's concepts of what food we would need to survive.

I was met at my site by my closest neighbors, some from further away, and a horde of children. They were placated by a bunch of smiley-face stickers (thanks Diane!) and I began to look around my new home. I was shown the nearest water source (not the one I use, because unlike the women in my village I use my bike to carry 20 L of water instead of putting it on my head) and then was met at my house by two of the best aspects of my village life: Ba Reuben, with Brows.

Ba Reuben is the headman of one of the villages in my 11-village catchment area. It's hard to describe how amazing and immensely comforting his presence is- he speaks excellent English, and is very motivated to learn as much as he can, be it about Agroforestry, what happens in America if a woman gets pregnant before she's married, or how fish survive in places where the water freezes (all of which are conversations we've had). He has 7 children, ranging from 15 to 6 months (the baby is Sumner, and he's ADORABLE), and his wife is really sweet and great at teaching me new Bemba words. Ba Reuben is very willing to help me by translating, talking to people for me, and he performs the immense service of dog-sitting when I'm not around.

The dog is Brows. He's a handmedown from the volunteer I replaced, and he's FABULOUS. He gleefully chases goats and pigs out of my yard but is quickly learning not to chase chickens (I'm afraid he'll kill one, and if I have to pay for a chicken then I want to get to eat the thing!). I talk to him in English, and also play with him with enough enthusiasm that my villagers stare at me confusedly. He likes to wander around in the bush, sometimes accompanying me and sometimes I just assume that's where he's been when he disappears for a few hours. And I have to cook nshima and fish pieces for him every night, which is good motivation to cook myself something to.

So those are my two main companions- there are other people in my village who I enjoy spending time with and will definitely be working with as time goes by, and others who are just friendly neighbors with whom I chat awkwardly, or from whom I purchase delicious bananas for about 8 cents a bunch J

My house is small but very comfortable. I have two rooms, one which has my bed and clothing (still stored in backpacks to avoid the shock of finding a very large spider on anything; I've seen some sizeable ones) and the other of which has a table for food preparation, buckets of food and water, my bike, a chair, and an extra mattress. The mattress was also a handmedown, and it gets used regularly when Gretchen, my closest PC neighbor, comes for a sleepover. The house also has an indoor bathing shelter, which I find to be a delightful feature. I have a solar shower, and it's wonderful to be able to shower in my house with my ipod playing. In my yard are several mango trees, which have fruit developing!!!!!

I don't have an "average day" to describe for you, unfortunately. I've started waking up before 6, and some days I get up, make a fire, make hot water for instant coffee or even pancakes if I'm feeling really ambitious, and sit on my front porch and read all day.

Other days I'm out going to various meetings or hosting them, working with an incredibly motivated Tree Nursery group, or exploring. One of the best days so far involved a meeting with all the headmen in my catchment area. The day before I'd biked to town with Ba Reuben and Brows, to get the dog a rabies vaccination and to buy chickens. We biked back from town with him with the dog in a basket on his bike, and me with two chickens on a basket on the back of my bike. Oh, the Peace Corps!!!

By dusk I'm back at my house cooking, usually rice and soya pieces and veggies if I've gotten any, and then food for the dog as well. I'm in my house by 7:30 and curled up in bed listening to the ZNBC news broadcast on my radio at 8 every night, and then reading to the light of two candles stuck in glass Coke bottles.

I haven't really felt lonely, although at some times I'm very aware that I'm the only white person in a 20-km radius circle. People are for the most part very friendly and welcoming, they wave and greet me as I cycle past. The children are especially enthusiastic (which some days just means annoying), screaming "Hello! Hello! How are you!" and "Hello BaNana!"

Because my name here is BaNana- Nana is easier for Zambians to say than just Nan, and Ba is the term for respect… so I laugh every time someone greets me. They mostly don't understand that my name is the English word for inkonde, that fruit they're growing… quite entertaining.

Brows is an excellent companion, and Gretchen and I get together every weekend to talk in English and cook more complicated meals together. The best so far was avocado-soya bean burgers on freshly purchased white bread with lettuce and tomatoes!
Last night for dinner I had actual pizza, which was stunningly good.

My work is slowly beginning. Right now I'm learning about the farming systems people are currently using, and have found a few people who are very interested in learning about conservation farming and Agroforestry. I've also met with the teachers at the local school a few times and I'm looking forward to starting to work with them. My catchment area includes some great bike rides- there's only one main road that goes from one end to the other, and then keeps going to Gretchen's house!- and two of the villages are on the other side of the Mansa River. Getting there involves an old dugout canoe, or right now because the water is so low walking across rocks and rickety branches. I went with Ba Reuben one day to collect bamboo for him to put in his new roof, and we got to cross the river and then going out into the genuine African bush to find the dense thickets of bamboo.

This past week mobile VCT (Voluntary Counseling and Testing for HIV/AIDS) came to my area for the first time- this was very exciting, and I think at least 60 people were tested, as well as others coming to learn about what was going on. The group that comes, called New Start, had drumming and drama and a big shiny "motoka!" so it definitely draws a crowd.

Thanks SO MUCH to everyone who's sent me mail. I received a visit from one of the PC staff in Lusaka and he brought a big stack of mail for me- Jack and Ellen, I got your package, THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There's a longish delay between when things arrive in Mansa and when I get into town to collect them, which means there'll be a longer delay before I can write back but it is IMMENSELY FABULOUS to get letters (and packages J) from anyone and everyone.

Hope you're all well. I expect to be back in town in a few weeks, so feel free to e-mail me with questions or news from your lives (please!)

August 17, 2007
Ndi kaipeela mu Peace Corps

(I am a volunteer in the Peace Corps)

Hi everyone! I'm writing to you as a full-fledged, bonafide Peace Corps Volunteer- VEERY exciting place to be, it means we're finally through training and this morning swore in as PCVs. The Deputy Minister of Agriculture was there, as well as the US Ambassador to Zambia- and because the SADC Conference is being held in Lusaka, Zambia currently, we got to sit in traffic watching long motorcades with various leaders of African countries drive by on our way here- and thus probably saw some important world leaders whiz by!

I don't know when I'll load pictures of the ceremony up, but they do exist. Also, I was chosen to give a short speech in Bemba, which was really quite a fun challenge- I talked about the goals of the Linking Income Food and Environment program and used an amazing Bemba proverb: Imiti iikula empanga, which means "The trees that are growing will be the bush", which was taught to me by a blacksmith I met a few weeks ago. Hurrah for conservation and sustainability.

Highlights of the last few weeks- I got to celebrate my 21st birthday at a botanical garden/zoo called Munda Wanga, seeing some really amazing indigenous and other tree species, and in the afternoon chopping up fruits and vegetables with a machete and feeding them to monkeys.

We learned a ton about beekeeping and got to help process some fresh honey.. which of course also involved eating a ton of honey, and thoroughly enjoying it. I'd never seen that done before, or actually even seen honey still in the comb, and it will definitely be helpful in my work since I know there are several beekeeping groups already working in my village and catchment area.

Site visit to Luapula was wonderful (can't remember if I already wrote about all of this, sorry)- we were able to go to a traditional festival called the Mutomboko Festival, which celebrates the coming of the Lozi people into what is now Zambia, from the DRC. There were tons of people and it was a really exciting thing to be part of this large, crushing crowd observing a ceremony that their ancestors have been doing for so long. Also, while we were camping on the lawn of an orphanage in the process of being constructed, we found a chameleon :-)

This past week involved several comprehensive exams, in tech and language, so it's a huge relief to have that over, and to have training completed- now I'm doing what I have been planning for so long- I'm a Peace Corps volunteer!!

So in conclusion, I'm continuing to love Zambia, and it's really exciting to be on my way to Mansa, Luapula tomorrow! We'll spend a few days at the Provincial House buying supplies for our houses, and then it's off to the village to see what I can do.

Thanks so much to the people who have sent me mail, I really really appreciate it. Mom, I just got the first package, and the books made me laugh and reminisce and I'm excited to read them during the loooooong drive to Luapula tomorrow!

Love from Zambia,

July 22, 2007
Mwanasasa Village, and a NEW ADDRESS

Greetings from Luapula! I'm in my province now, in the provincial capital, or boma, Mansa. We're here for a week-long visit to a current Luapula volunteer. Last Thursday we were given our site assignments- I'm going to be a second-generation volunteer in Mwanasasa village in the Mansa district of Luapula- my site is about 25 kilometers from the boma, which means I'm very close to our Volunteer House in the boma. This house is phenomenal; it's hard to explain how exciting it is to see a place that feels like home- bedrooms with beds, real walls, DVDs and bookshelves and couches and a SHOWER- and fruit trees in the backyard- but the place is going to be an amazing solace and refuge when the village gets too overwhelming. We're allowed to spend a few days a month at the house, and also go there if we're sick or having meetings or similar situations.

And I'm very excited to watch a movie tonight, and sleep without rats coming into my room.

But anyway- about my site- I'm replacing a guy who did a lot of work with agroforestry and fuel-efficient stoves. This is very exciting because I am also very interested in agroforestry, and definitely feel more confident in that type of work than I do with strictly agriculture work. Also, my closest friend here, a girl named Gretchen who's an HIV/AIDS volunteer, is my closest neighbor, only about 25 k away. We requested to be near each other, and the Peace Corps and God definitely conspired to work that out for us! Apparently the community I'll be in is amazing, they were really excited to be doing the things that my predescessor was presenting, and I'm very excited to get there and pick up where he left off (he left in November).

Luapula is beautiful- the largest bridge in sub-Saharan Africa leads into it, over a wide swampy-area. This comes about 6 hours into an 8-9 hour drive from Lusaka to Mansa (10 people in a Land Cruiser... good times :-p) My wetland ecology class taught me that a swamp is a wetland with trees in it, so this is somewhat of a swamp- it's what I imagine the Everglades look like, broad and flat and grassy, with small mounds with trees growing on clusters. People were out on the water in dug-out canoes fishing, and then waving the fish at the side of the road hoping we'd stop to buy some.

We went through some very hilly regions, but where we are now is fairly flat- though I hear there are several beautiful waterfalls near my site, and I'm relatively close to the Luapula River also, which is the border between Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

A bit about the weather, because my aunt requested it: right now it's "winter"- the cold, dry season- cold being a relative term, while it did get nearish to freezing during some nights, for the most part it's still very warm, I'm comfortable in a t-shirt and a skirt during the day. There aren't a lot of clouds in the sky, but when there are clouds they seem very very near for some reason. We're still trying to figure that out. The rainy season will begin in November-ish, and be followed by the hot, dry season.

Nan Davis, PCV
Peace Corps Zambia
PO Box 710150
Mansa, ZambiaThat's for EVERYTHING- packages and letters.

Thanks SOO MUCH to those of you who've written me, I'm insanely excited every time I get mail.

Love to those of you to whom it would be appropriate to say that,