Fish Face is my Legacy!

27 11 2012

I tried to amuse children with fish face. I didn't realize they'd remember it!

I tried to amuse children with fish face. I didn’t realize they’d remember it!

Here's Carol and I in Solwezi.  She's beautiful!

Here’s Carol and I in Solwezi. She’s beautiful!

Well, we try to be agents for positive sustainable development; in individuals and communities, but apparently ‘fish face’ is my legacy. Here’s the update you faithful readers are looking for.

Carol Katolica is doing well. Carol was the most intelligent clever young girl in my community. She was 13 when I moved to Kamabuta and she is 16 now and ‘doing grade 11’ as is the Zambian way to phrase it. As is known by many of my readers, her mother Ba Ruth died in early August 2012. Ba Ruth was the crux for me and the first Peace Corps Volunteer Kevin. Without Ruth’s company and help (and fluent English!) we wouldn’t have been as good of Volunteers as we were. Ba Ruth was a great and interesting woman who was definitely one of the elite few who made my service in Kamabuta as rewarding and memorable as it was. I was impressed with her spirit, and Carol has the exact same spirit. Ba Ruth was the clinic nurse and after one year with me they moved to another clinic nearby. I used to ride by on the bus and see my mother’s calligraphied name cards for “Ruth” and “Carol” displayed in their window. After Ba Ruth passed on, Carol moved to live with relatives in Solwezi, the capital of Northwestern Province. She is living with her aunt, uncle, and many cousins. She has girl cousins her age to live with-what great fun! During my visit I was impressed to meet Loveness and Foster Katolica!

Carol is spunky and confident although with a resigned feeling of sadness over her mother. Carol is in 11th grade at Solwezi Day High School. Day means it isn’t a boarding school- pupils go home every evening. She is enjoying classes like math and English, geography and religious education. She told me proudly that she chose home economics as her elective so she could learn more about cooking. Here I was baffled- she’s already a great cook! She can ‘kukumba’ (cook) a delicious pot of nshima which I fail to have enough muscle to stir. Note: it was the most delicious meal of nshima I had had in MONTHS.
Carol made me smile with nostalgia- she did her cooking while wearing a kitenge (traditional Zambian cloth) which I had given to her mother for Christmas is 2009. What a great memory she has!

Carol expressed to me that she wondered if her absentee father had a hand in causing her mother’s death. Juju magic and cursing still exists in Zambian culture. It is something I can’t ever fully swallow, but I respect it as part of Zambian culture and respect its existence because many people believe in it causing it to exist. It’s also not a sentiment I’m used to hearing from a young girl with such beautiful potential. She misses her mother but is resilient and smart and good natured. Thanks to you readers, Kevin, and I, she has the finances to continue high school. She will write graduating exit exams in November 2013.

Carol has a bedroom for herself (I hope she inherited Ba Ruth’s closetful of gorgeous tailored dresses!) and has improved her English very much since I first met her. Throughout the evening I rarely spoke local language! This makes me proud, a feeling I share with her aunt and uncle, and I feel confident that she can achieve her dream of being a news anchor for Zambia’s ZNBC- Zambia’s National Broadcasting Company. I feel accomplished as a Volunteer and simply as a person for encouraging another woman to follow her career goals. That’s a greater legacy than ‘fish face’.


Sophia Mariposa

16 10 2012

A new-found joy of expat life is sometimes when people allow you to become someone new. No longer am I a office program assistant, the following is the account of how I became a medically competant German with Spanish heritage. This is yesterday’s minibus conversation verbatim:

Driver: MATILDA! HOW ARE YOU? (He’s yelling)
ME: Fine, how are you? (I was in a good mood and just rolled with it)
Driver: I”M FINE!
ME: my name isn’t matilda
(Now I just decided to say yes to everything he said and see where it got me)
Me: Yes. Please look forward while you’re driving.
Me: Yes.
Me: Yes.
Other passengers: You- Driver! Stop talking and drive!
Me: Yes it is.
Me: thank goodness it’s not the Titanic!

Why I am a doctor who still rides on public transportation, I’m not sure. Letting myself be amused by these otherwise harrassing interactions allows me to still enjoy life here. I’m sure about this. The difficult trick is to stay amused and not angry or frustrated. This I am also sure about.

The New World Order

9 10 2012

The New World Order
A minibus driver used this phrase with me today, as he was trying to understand what I was doing in Zambia. I was explaining my previous PC work with agriculture and minimizing fertilizer use, when another woman piped up saying I was the one teaching compost making and organic farming at the prison. (She in fact said I was teaching prisoners to make composite which isn’t actually wrong. I love Zambian women!) Oh, he said, I must be part of an organization promoting ‘the new world order’ ie promoting getting away from destructive inputs like fertilizer.
I decided I liked it.
I would love to say my whole mission was to promote a New World Order. This NWO wouldn’t be all new; many many things are good about the world now. I mean good things such as mulberries and bootleg movies. What I would promote would be mostly surrounding the same agriculture- eating and growing seasonally, appreciating what you’ve got to eat, and growing organically. Delicious. I would also promote more of the camaraderie and togetherness of living with many people of different countries and backgrounds. I have talked to Americans, Palestinians, Canadians, Zambians, Lebanese, South African and Chinese people in the last three days. Lusaka isn’t terribly cosmopolitan, but lots of different nationalities nonetheless. As a good friend said recently, it’s a great idea to have one’s children be citizens of the world. I like that, and heartily agree.
My NWO would of course be free of infectious diseases and crime and all those things every Miss America pageant contestant says she wants. 
Another important factor in the NWO: every location mentioned in the Carmen San Diego theme song by Rockapella will be a revered landmark and travel destination. “She put the ‘mis’ in misdemeanor when she stole the beans from Lima; from Berlin to Botswana, from Milan to Ohio, tell me where in the world is Carmen San Diego? ” At least they’ll be revered in my personal world order.
I continue to like Zambia and Zambians on the whole, and life here is never dull. Exciting things each day. As my kind Chinese drivers told me today as they gave me a lift home today, we’re all together in working for the development of Zambia. For sure, definitely.

Blog. Continued.

6 09 2012

The blog continues my faithful readers!
Best thing I’ve seen in Zambia this week- a man offering to pierce my ears and sell me earrings at the bus station. That just takes the cake, nothing can beat the entertainment of that one. So Zambia has plenty of street vendors, most of whom are useful. I can buy minutes for my phone while at a stop light, cheap vegetables on each corner, or bootleg dvds. But this guy was hilarious, he’s walking around a busy bus station with the piercing gun and a bunch of earrings for sale on a portable rack. How many people actually take him up on that opportunity?! Before meeting this guy, I thought purchasing a puppy at the stoplight was the best thing on the informal street market. I laughed a lot.
Let me update you on my life and what you can expect on this new phase of “Working for Justice”. I’m still doing the same- working for heady goals/ sustainable development/justice, but now I get paid. I officially finished my Peace Corps service on 11th July 2012. Now I’m called a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer- RPCV. This doesn’t sound right in my case, I haven’t returned to my home country, but it’s the worldwide acronym for persons who’ve successfully finished their tour of service. I’m proud of that. I’m especially proud/affirmed/embarrassed by all the great things which people said about me and my work during the closing ceremony.
So after a great visit home, I’m working on a short contract for Peace Corps staff. I’m enjoying double holidays off, half days on Fridays and my own desk as staff. I’m also really missing daily biking to get to work, open schedules and open air as life was as a Volunteer. It’s never really actually greener on the other side. Well both have perks. I’m enjoying the adult responsibilities of professional dress and nerdily excited about having my own phone (and extension number!) and a drawer full of post-it notes. I have already multiple possible offers for further work in Zambia after this contract ends. I’m excited for this phase of independent work and seeing where I can take myself towards my goals.
Patrick and I have our own apartment (flat) not far from where I work. I feel the same excitement about having my own place now as an adult. Less than two weeks living there and I’ve already prepared a garden in my backyardlet and a few beds in the front. This was the selling point for me- all the space for planting. We’re planning to get a roommate as the flat has two bedrooms. The more the merrier to share costs!
The biggest reason to continue to follow my blog is Carol. Carol Katolika is a smart teenage girl from my village in Northwestern Province. She impressed me (and my family during their visit) with her drive and intelligence. Her mother Ba Ruth was very important to me as a person who I could run to and speak English. The job of learning a new language is tiring! Ba Ruth was the community nurse and was transferred to another nearby clinic around the same time I was leaving. Ba Ruth died in early August. I and the first Volunteer to be posted to Kamabuta want to continue to support Carol through making sure she has the finances to finish school. Carol is finishing grade 11 in December and is attending Solwezi High School in Solwezi, Zambia. She is living with an aunt and uncle from her mother’s side. Please keep reading here for updates on Carol and how she’s doing.
She is traveling just this week to her old boarding school to request transfer papers. She’ll be starting at Solwezi high school on Monday. The school year in Zambia follows the calendar year and is broken up into three terms. This is the third and final term. She’ll write exams in December. Stay tuned, and I’ll post pictures as soon as I can.

Lastly, Zambia plays Uganda this Saturday at our stadium. We’re defending our Africa Cup Champions status from January. Go Chipolopolo!

Copper bullets always shoot down Black Stars

8 06 2012

It’s Chipolopolo fever in Zambia!  Just a quick blurb about events in Zambia.  

Tomorrow is the ZAMBIA vs GHANA match at the newly built Ndola stadium!  GHANA’s Black Stars are a great team, but we beat them in January’s Africa Cup, but they did well in the SA World Cup in 2010. This is Zambia’s second 2014 qualifier, last week’s Sudanese heat didn’t treat us well and we lost 2-0.  

All the shops have support signs, as I write I can hear pro-Zambia music playing next door, and guys are selling jerseys/paraphrenelia on every street corner.  These guys have taken to carrying REALLY LOUD horns, worse than vuvuzelas, which scare me to death each time they honk.  It blows out my eardrums and I want to use some choice words… CRAZY. The team has had some lucrative advert deals this year since winning the Africa Cup.  Not sure which extra-bubbly soap to use for your clothes? Renard the coach can help by endorsing a soap called Boom- it keeps his famous white shirt white.  At which bank should you open an account? The goalkeeper Mweene suggests Barclays.

So the match is tomorrow afternoon at the new (Chinese donated) stadium right outside Ndola.  It has a huge capacity, around 45,000 and supposedly will be sold out.  Hopefully everyone drives safely from other towns!  You can’t buy tickets at the stadium, they’re all presold at certain places/supermarkets.

It’s exciting times, and fun to cheer for the national team and support them.  It’s all part of Peace Corps cultural integration goals! 


Ba Teacher, ya Permaculture! Baya!

15 05 2012

The Teacher of Permaculture! She has gone!

This title is probably my most perfect blog title, it was so easy to decided on. Each morning I go to the prison starts the same. The loudest and most vocal prisoner on top of the termite mound announces my arrival. The teacher of permaculture has come! But it’s more like “THE TEACHER OF PERMACULTURE PERMACULTURE! SHE HAS COME! SHE HAS COME!” It’s an ingenious plan- place the most trusted prisoners on top of the termite mounds within the garden as extra lookouts over their fellow prisoners. The garden is almost 5ha (5 football fields long) and only staffed with two officers each morning. These termite mounds are handy built in towers, and the guys announce news for the officer’s information. In between important breaking news, this guys rambles on in an unbreaking chain of nonsense and humorous statements. “TIME IS MONEY, TIME IS MONEY, ALRIGHT, AND FOR SURE!” (The reason behind this guy’s constant energy is both a practical fact and sad.) Maybe you’d call that a live African twitter feed. But I wouldn’t really know, I’ve never used twitter.

So this guy announces my coming and going each morning, and today was the last time. My year implementing the day to day activities has finished. I’m so proud of what the prison permaculture project has accomplished in one year and the sustainable state I left it in on my last day today. The guys said bye to me as they kept on working, watering, and planting as if nothing was changing. It just felt good- what a PC success! Actual confidence in the continuity or sustainability of a Volunteer’s projects is hard to achieve, but this one will make it. My organization’s involvement will minimize as the prison itself now will take over. They themselves initiated a system where the permaculture garden is financially self-systaining. I was impressed. It’ll be slow by slow as they’re currently averaging $15/week on vegetable sales. This will circle back to buy the seeds for replanting, and watering cans and tools. Half of this profit will also go towards incedentals that group of inmates need; soap, salt, and cooking oil. A system is in place for thourough record keeping and transparent purchasing which ought to prove to the prison authorities of the economic viability.

Ultimately, the pride and excitement expressed by the group of 8 prisoners who work each day in the garden is the fuel to sustain the project. They have learned and continue to practice valuable skills by which to earn a living after their release. Prisoners by nature have little representative power in the institution, yet the relevant officers and senior prison authority also understand the project’s benefits and are supportive. This further is a boon to the project continuation.

It is highly rewarding and at the same time challenging and frustrating to work in a Zambian prison, and I am glad for the opportunity. Today my departure was particularly memorable as the prisoner/lookout on the next mound was challenging the first’s oral dominance by singing. I thought it was fitting! As my situation actually keeps me in Copperbelt a while longer, I will return to check up on the project as often as I can. “BA TEACHER BA PERMACULTURE, BABWELA!” The teacher of permaculture has returned!

Things I’m Proud Of in my Zambian Life

20 04 2012

1. Eating so well in this country- I always have fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s often a painful dichotomy, with high levels of malnutrition and food insecurity, I manage to eat healthier than my American diet. My work is to grow various nutritious vegetables, so I better set a good example.
2. My clever and loving boyfriend, who always dresses well. Against my stubborn nature, he has made me a better person and vice versa.
3. Managing such a rewarding project at the local state prison. Not to be totally self-serving, but it has allowed me to learn a lot about successful project planning and management. I’ve also witnessed and learned a lot about bureaucratic institutions.
4. The Spinach Man. A huge smile shows up on the face of one prisoner who is growing spinach in his section of the organic garden. He’s a self-proclaimed Spinach Man. This project has given many prisoners new skills to help them be better farmers and earn a living and re-integrate into society. Learning this conservation farming techniques and being responsible for practicing them on their portion of the garden has given a group of them an enormous visible sense of pride and hope and sense of accountability.
5. Building good relationships with youths. I really enjoy being a good role model, and can offer a good listening ear and advice due to my ability to relate age-wise and equally because of my outside non-judgemental position. In both the village and my place near town, I’ve had great young people around me. All my favourite youths are males actually, but they have important lessons to learn to be the men Zambia needs. Girls need encouragement and attention equally as much for their own empowerment. But males I hope hear me when I stress the importance of faithfulness, and respecting and protecting your partner. (That wasn’t intended to rhyme…) I currently have two high school aged boys living near my whom I enjoy talking with while we do computer lessons. I’m proud of them for their hard work and grabbing the opportunity to learn how to type and use a computer while I’m around. This will only help their futures. (Eesh, I sound like a fortune cookie)
6. My nearly a year of recording my personal finances. I may not make much money nor may I spend it entirely wisely every day, but I have a good idea of how much I need to live on. Simplicity- I still remember the 5 SOP pillars!
7. Knowing 1001 ways to use a kitenge (traditional Zambian fabric).
8. Knowing and identifying many Zambian trees by their Latin names. Julbernardia paniculata is my favourite. Its bark looks like a beech tree in the northern hemisphere. Moringa oleifera is another favourite. No, it’s not indigenous to Africa, but very useful and interesting for readers who need something to research on Wikipedia.
9. Days where I don’t get violently angry at rude men who harass me. I am proud of days or single situations where I don’t want to hurt them, and I’m able to let it go. Yesterday I just laughed- while waiting on a street corner a car cruised and made a turn in front of me. The man in the passenger seat threw his arm out the window holding a fat wad of Zambian Kwacha and yelled “Madam, marry me!”. It was smooth, I considered it.
10. Being a Chaco-wearing Peace Corps Volunteer. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve been identified as a PCV by drivers while hitching because of my shoes. Pride comes in many forms- even a unique tan line.