Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Game Over

On July 5th the clinic was officially opened by the Ministry of Health. I was starting to get a bit nervous about them never showing up but, I think they figured if they opened it they wouldn't have to deal with me loitering outside their office every week. They also brought a delivery bed and a full drug kit that treats 1000 people for 30 days and promised to bring one every month with kits to the other clinics.

The village gave me a huge goodbye celebration with 2 goats and 4 chickens and plenty of monkoyo (maize brew). Nearly the whole village was there. They picked me up on a chair and thanked me for the work done in the village and of course gave me Gods blessings and told me they would pray for me (yes this is a serious christian country). "Zambia" literally translates to "god" in the local language.

On July 25th I was picked up in my village by a peace corps land cruiser. Hard to think that my days of shooting birds with slingshots, digging fish ponds, chopping down trees and cycling ridiculous distances are over, but it sure appears that way. Leaving the village was more difficult to do than leaving the states. I have that feeling that the chances of me coming all the way back to Kangaya are slim, but the chances of me forgetting any of my memories and friends will be impossible. Its hard to even think about being back in the states and having a real job and thinking about... whats next... I guess I've got a month in a half in Mongolia to think about that.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Things are taking a turn for the better. The clinic project is 100% complete. It was inspected two weeks ago by the Ministry of Health building inspector and after adding a couple additional support poles and wheel chair access it passed the inspection. I'm still not sure why it needs wheelchair access since I've never seen a wheelchair in Mwinilunga and maybe two in all of Zambia, but I guess its planning ahead. An opening has been arranged with the Ministry of Health and the District Commissioner, but we haven't agreed on a final date. Currently medicine is being shared from the main clinic 15 km down the road. The village presented me with a goat and a chicken to thank me for the work on the clinic. I wish I could share the goat and nshima with everybody who helped make the project possible!

Fish farming has also been going surprisingly well and seven ponds have been dug in two months. This past week I brought out over 2000 bream fingerlings to be stocked in the ponds.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Work Progress

Much to my dismay my dam broke when I was gone over Christmas. The rains turned out to be too heavy and maybe I didn't stress the importance of a spillway enough. They said it woke the surrounding villages in the middle of the night when it broke. This has proven to be a major setback and nobody is excited about fixing the dam now because most people are busy in their fields with maize and beans.
The clinic is nearly completed... I spent last week painting the walls and the Ministry of Health came out to inspect the building and to discuss the use of the clinic and how medicine will get to the clinic. The District Commissioner is also planning on coming out for the opening as well as the head Chief Chibwika. I'm carrying the final load of equipment- benches, chairs, tables, shelves, cupboards, etc. in the next few days and the official opening should be sometime in April.
I have recently returned from a trip to Luapula province to visit friends and camp at a waterfall. It could have been better without the rain, but the falls were impressive and we swam even though we were freezing and sleeping on the dirt.
Next month I'm headed to Mozambique (Tofo) for Easter vacation to do some fishing... Cant wait!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Fish farming has started- sort of

After two months of working side by side with my following of 14 year olds the dam which we had been working on was finished. I figured people would come and help during the process, but usually they simply stood around looking skeptical and laughing at the white man yielding a hoe and burning in the sun. Luckily, in part because of my Peace Corps boss in Lusaka and the district Dept. of Fisheries, I received some help to jumpstart fish farming. We transported 10 villagers in a Land Cruiser about 45km down the road so they could chat and see the ponds of a village that has benefitted greatly from aquaculture development. This exchange visit proved to be somewhat succesful and generated some enthusiasm in the eyes of my village. So in addition to my army of adolescent followers, I now have about 5 full grown men helping to improve the dam and increase its size. Not exactly the numbers I was hoping for, but all I need is a few people to lead by example (since it didn't work so great with me).

The day before leaving for Christmas vacation the work was completed. The morning I left the dam was nearly two meters tall in the middle and looking fairly strong (just a few stress fractures...). Who knows what the last month of rain has done or whether the dam has broken and washed away the village and my hut. I should find out in a couple days when I return.

Clinic work has also been going quite well and I've put in orders for bedframes, windows, and doors with a carpenter in Mwinilunga. Hopefully I'll be able to find some cement and paint as well. I'm looking into getting a VCT (voluntary counseling and testing) for the official opening- sometime in the next month or two. Yes, things work very slowly. Many thanks to everybody who has helped contribute to the clinic project. The difference it will make in the village will be invaluable. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Clinic Progress

Friday, November 02, 2007

Clinic Update

After a month long foray to Mongolia I have been in the village for a month working hard to get the outpost clinic completed before the rains arrive. The work has been going a bit slower than anticipated, but in Zambia that seems to be the case everywhere. The villagers have been working hard, however, and carrying bucket loads of sand from over a kilometer away to use for mortar and flooring. One of the bricklayers smashed his toe when a brick fell on it so we are a bit shorthanded as well (luckily there is no workers comp in Africa).
I was out last week helping cut planks by hand with a 10 ft saw that we then carried and hour back to the building site. The trusses are being constructed this weekend and hopefully by the time I return to the village after Thanksgiving the roof will be on. My next step is to begin negotiations with carpenters in other villages to make doors, shutter windows, tables, chairs and bedframes. It has been difficult getting things built because we lack a carpenter in the village. So the aforementioned items will be made 15km away and hopefully carried in on an oxcart.
Sorry for the delay in the update- and thanks for the continued support!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Zambian Independence Day

Independence day was the 24th of the month and the school organized a huge celebration for the village to attend. I arrived at 9 am just in time to see some drama skits the schoolkids had made up. The next event was a drinking competition (which I competed in) where contestants drank a mysteriously colored liquid out of broken liquor bottles in front of several hundred people. I came in a close second and nearly vomited after slamming the litre of the dull yellow sugar water. The next activity was a nshima and goat eating competition which seemed a bit ironic in a malnourished country, but it was a huge hit. And years of malnourishment, a lack of food and large families make these people very accomplished speed eaters. A heaping bowl of nshima and goat was eaten under 2 minutes. And no, I did not compete.
The diesel generator was fired up and a dance competition took place in the blazing heat (100+ deg.) where 15 yr old kids were dancing to congolese rhumba. Although Zambia is a somewhat conservative country the dancing speaks otherwise. 14 yr old guys and girls grinding on each other, gyrating their hips in ways that are just a touch suggestive in front of hundreds of people. I guess not so different than middle school dances back in the states though. After the modern dance finished and a 12 year old kid was crowned the winner the traditional dancers took the field. Wrapped head to toe in maize sacks and masks they danced for well over a half hour as the crowd went crazy. Even the 65 year old chief went out and danced with them.
The PTA invited me to eat goat for lunch, which I reluctantly accepted. I ate what I determined to be kidney and intestines. Slurping down an intestine like a spaghetti noodle is not my idea of an Independence day lunch. But eating meat is a big deal so I obliged to eat the goat with a smile on my face. Whatever happened to hotdogs and hamburgers?
After lunch the drinking started and people were feeding me booze like it was my 21st birthday. Except that the booze was honey beer and maize beer (Kosolo and Monkoyo). Everybody was drinking beer, getting wasted in the blazing sun and listening to gospel music.... yes not everything makes sense here.
I was invited to play football and ran on the field barefoot and with a churning gut. I stumbled around until halftime when my feet were bloody from the thorns and my head was pounding from the sun. I went directly home for some rest and immediately broke out into hives from some type of allergic reaction. Probably some combination of everything I had ingested during the day. After two benadryl I passed out in my hammock by 7 pm. Meanwhile, others partied until the late hours. I guess I'm losing my edge...