a journal entry: 27 june – 2 july 2009

i was REALLY nervous about jacqueline having her baby in the village. if something were to go wrong, the nearest hospital with a doctor was 35 km away. and if that did happen, what could i do? would i be able to find someone to take her? could i even afford that? i had always wanted to see a baby being born, but could i handle if things went badly?

i was very thankful that my friend kim had come to stay with me at my house for a while. and everything with jacqueline went fine and a new healthy baby was born into our world!

27 june 2009

jacqueline and the new baby!

so yesterday morning jacqueline went into labor. then before dinner they took her to the clinic. i almost went but decided not to. i’m just glad that kim was at my house to take my mind off of things.

so this morning kim and i went to the clinic and found jacqueline and a beautiful baby girl. (yet to be named!) and even better is that jacqueline is doing well. so now i’ll be able to relax when i go home for vacation. i’m also really glad that she and the baby are healthy. she was really stressed and freaking out on thursday night. i kept asking bamary (my host mom) about all her child birth experiences (she had 14 children) and jacqueline kept saying to stop talking about it. but i kept telling her it was too late to do anything about it and i figured she needed to know what was coming!

1-2 july 2009

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a journal entry: 19-23 may 2009

the family arrived safe and sound and off to the village we went! we had a great few days staying at my house, although it was a bit challenging having so many people around when i’m so used to being on my own. but i managed to work through it!

i’ve also shared plenty of photos in my last post, so don’t miss those! and then we went on safari!!!!!!

19 may 2009: botswana!

WAY better day than yesterday! i’m on safari! in botswana! which is WAY nicer than zambia! zambia needs to get on its game. they could be making huge bank. HUGE if they quit planting maize and started game parks. anyway, i woke up in a better mood today. i have pushed what happened yesterday aside and have just enjoyed my day. cause i’m on SAFARI!

elephants, birds, hippos (one even charged at another boat!), kudu, impala, some eagles, crocs, warthogs, guinea fowl (although i don’t consider that a true ‘safari’ animal), giraffes, and i can’t even remember what else! SO many animals. no lions but its because i wanted to see them.

we started off on a river safari and then came to the lodge for lunch. then we went for the driving safari which was cooler. i got my own room and it faces the electric fence to keep the big game away. i’m going to enforce my village mentality. i’ll stay inside, they can stay outside. it’s pretty awesome when i was taking my shower (the best on this vacation!) and i heard elephants trumpeting! how cool is that!?!? AFRICA!!!!!!!!!

23 may 2009

wow. the fam is gone. it was kinda sad to leave and it was a quick goodbye since i left them to go and pay for an extra night at the travel agent. and then i had to convince the bush tracks guy to stay so i could go back with him to town. so it all happened in a huge big rush. but i managed to do it all. no i’m relaxing at jollyboy’s, drinking a beer and waiting for my bus at 1pm.

so what have we been doing for the last few days? nothing really. got back, had a place to stay at the sun. the president of zambia was there (only in africa!), then we chilled there for the rest of the vacation. i stayed in bed for most of the time. watched tv and enjoyed all of the pillows! i even took a bath! i got to watch a ton of terrible movies and even the new 90210, which was way better than i thought it would be.

we also went on a safari boat sunset thing. that was pretty cool although we didn’t see too much. then we went on a morning game drive in mosi-oa-tunya park. it was also pretty cool but they are doing major construction in the park, so no rhinos or elephants. the noise has scared them away. we did see 2 giraffes, buffalo and even wildebeests. and warthogs, monitor lizards, and birds.

we also saw a grave site from the old town. it was from the early 1900s, when workers were building the bridge. most of them died of black water fever (or malaria as they call it today). one guy died of a head injury from a falling rock. only in africa would you come across such a crazy site int he middle of a national park.

grandpa, grandma, mom and dad in front of victoria falls

then more eating and laying around. i seriously can’t event look at any more food without wanting to vomit. i’ve already had enough meat to last a life time.

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a journal entry: 11 may 2009

my parents and grandparents are about to come for a visit! most people would be super excited, and i was! but i was also really nervous about how they might react to zambia and me.

livingstone. waiting. no movies (it’s closed on monday). no internet (in the entire town). the ice cream tasted like cream. now my phone keeps doing weird things. something about ‘out of memory.’ kind of how i feel!

well the parents are coming tomorrow! i’m kinda freaking out! kim thought i was crazy for dreading it but josh agreed. i’m dreading it because i’m afraid to find out how much i’ve changed. we have all changed together and i haven’t seen them in a while. i’ve already realized that i’m crazy when chris [josh’s brother] came. i can only imagine what they are going to think. i guess only time will tell.

i finally had to buy new sandals. my blue ones had holes worn through the balls of my feet, then the toe part broke so i tied it back together with a pony tail. i thought it was pretty ingenious. but i finally just got sick of them today and bought a new pair at pep for 4,900 kwacha.

i didn’t want to have to buy a new pair because i have 2 at my house and mom is bringing me more. but then i realized that mom is coming and i’ll never hear the end of it if she finds me with shoes like that when they get off the plane. so i broke down and just bought a new pair. i took the blue ones off and threw them away. right outside the shop.

it poured rain in choma on saturday. no one knows if this is the end of rainy season or the beginning of another. the rain flooded the yard and it was raining so hard that the roof was leaking. it was bizarre. even more so because it’s mid-may. last year it only rained once, in early march i think, we were still in training. so this is really weird, not just for me, for everyone. as long as it doesn’t rain anymore!!

i can’t believe the movie theatre is closed on mondays. of all the luck!

in photos: may and june 2009

may and june in the village were AMAZING!!!!!! i was back in my own house after having to move because i was sick. PLUS my parents and grandparents came for a visit!

below is a video that my mom took when we were visiting binashy, the best old lady in the entire village! i used to hang out with her and her old lady friends. they had their own group and i would go for their meetings. which was just them gossiping, me trying to understand the fast tonga that they were speaking and me telling them how to bake cupcakes. even from this short video, you’ll discover how amazing binashy is!

when the family arrived, we rented a camping truck so we could drive to my village and we would all have a place to stay! and right after we picked up the truck, we saw elephants! i had never seen elephants in my entire time in zambia – so the trip was out to a good start for sure! they were just on the side of the road! we were just driving into livingstone to go eat dinner! honestly, it was mesmerizing to see elephants like i would see deer in south dakota.
they were just on the side of the road! we were just driving into livingstone to go eat dinner! honestly, it was mesmerizing to see elephants like i would see deer in south dakota.
this is my all time favorite picture of jeannie. my mom took this one.
and then i took this one because it sums up my family’s visit in one great photo. my host family staring at my bio family to see if they might act different or interesting or do something funny.
zambia has a cold season! for a few weeks, tops. but staying warmed up in the house in the evenings was a necessity. maybe not the safest way to keep warm, but i managed to stay alive.
cooking inside! safety first, i moved my brazier off the plastic mat.
i remember one of the older girls coming over for help with math homework. which turned into everyone coming over to do their homework.

(a) Teacher/School Personnel

it’s tough to have to share my thoughts about teenage pregnancy. but this happens in the world, especially in the village.

this is a blog post that i originally wrote and posted on 28 april 2009. it follows my journal entry i posted a few days ago.

I feel like I need to share the good, the bad, and the ugly about my service in Zambia. You can decide what category this fits in. And remember, this is MY OPINION!

I’m currently working at a CHANGES2 workshop in Choma. They are an NGO (non-governmental organization) that works with the MOE (Ministry of Education). We are in the middle of the second installment of training community school teachers in child pedagogy. Basically, we are teaching community school teachers how to teach. CHANGES2 is an amazing NGO and they do great work with the MOE. If it wasn’t for CHANGES2, I don’t know what the state of the MOE would be. They are great to work with, and they will be missed. (Their funding finishes in August.)

One of the sessions involved with this workshop is about the re-entry policy for pregnant girls. The MOE has a policy that says if a girl gets pregnant during her schooling, after she has the baby, she can come back to finish school. It’s a great policy and the MOE is trying, but unfortunately, the girls hardly ever actually go back to school. The MOE even has an entire pamphlet dedicated to informing school teachers, parents, and students about this policy. And that’s where I found it.

Now, I should backtrack for a small bit and fill you in on a bit of life in Zambia. It’s no big deal for girls to get pregnant when they are teenagers. It happens all the time. My mother in the village is turning 41 years old this year. Her oldest daughter is turning 25 this year. You do the math. That is how it is here, especially in the village. There is a multitude of reasons as to why this is. Girls don’t have high self-esteem, they don’t have any concept of self-worth, they are submissive, they want to please everyone, they want to be like their friends, etc etc. Another big problem that goes along with teenage pregnancy here is male teachers taking advantage of school girls, most often the grade 9 girls and above. They entice the girls with promises to pay for school fees, new clothes, and so on. The girl may end up pregnant and the male will deny the child. That leaves the girl alone and with only her family to take care of her, if they don’t disown her in the process.

I’ve been thinking a lot about teenage pregnancy ever since I found out that Jacqueline, my own 14 year old sister here in Zambia, is pregnant. She is going to have a baby any day. A child is about to become a mother.

That is why I was really infuriated when I read something in this MOE re-entry pamphlet.

In the back of this pamphlet, is the forms that the school needs to keep for record purposes. On one of the forms, it starts with space for the school information, then goes on to the girl information, then the family information, then the ‘male involved’ information. It asked for the name, then it asked for the occupation of ‘male involved.’ (A) TEACHER/SCHOOL PERSONNEL. I couldn’t believe that ‘teacher’ was the first option. It illustrates how often this is occuring. And how acceptable this is in Zambian society.

I have thought a lot about how to combat teenage pregnancy in Zambia. But how do you teach a girl self-worth? How do you teach self-esteem? Especially when they aren’t getting those same lessons from home? What about the boys? What about the community as a whole?

I don’t know the answers.

There is one thing that I have realized and know to be true. I can’t bring development or big change to Zambia. The only thing that I can do is show Zambians other options. I can be a positive influence to the school girls I know and the Zambians that I am friends with in the village but it is up to them to change things.

looking back, i don’t know if the questions i was asking would have helped the situation. i don’t know if these questions were even accurate or correct or the appropriate questions to be asking? reading this 10 years later, they seem like pretty surface level questions.

i think i was missing a big part of the issue, i was assuming that these girls actually had a choice in what was happening to their bodies. and that might not have been the case. as i discuss, teachers were often using school fees and new clothes as incentives to sex. you can have all the confidence in the world, but if you are a girl living in abject poverty in the middle of a zambian village, you will probably choose sex for school fees because there wouldn’t be another way to earn money. yes, technically you have a choice, but you don’t actually have a choice.

it’s a tough world out there for sure. and i still don’t have all the answers. i don’t even have some of the answers. jacqueline did finish grade 9, but only because i was able to help with bottles and baby formula from america. not every girl out there has that luxury. it’s important that we help each other in any way that we can!

because the world will get better, even if it’s just 1 girl at a time.

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a journal entry: 28 april 2009

as an education peace corps volunteer, i would support local non-governmental and government funding organizations with trainings and teacher support. it was really great experience seeing a larger side of development. and they usually paid our travel expenses too!

this journal entry is going to be followed up by a the blog post that i reference towards the end. but until then, enjoy a journal entry with a little bit of everything!

still at the changes2 workshop. it’s going alright but it seems to be dragging out a lot these last few days.

brittany is back from vacation. she had a crazy but fun time. when i saw her, she looked like she had relaxed, a LOT! so i’m feeling a lot more comfortable with the idea that she’ll be ok.

josh left to take chris back to the airport to go back to america-land. it was really nice having him here. it was a taste of america. and it made me REALLY excited for my parents to come! only 2 weeks! it’s really REALLY exciting!

so i realized yesterday that i totally forgot about the memorial service in my village. totally spaced it off. i didn’t even remember. kim and i were walking out of the gate on monday morning when i said to her ‘holy shit! was yesterday sunday the 26th?’ yeah. it was. i forgot about the memorial service. so hopefully, no one important was actually there. i doubt it.

so i blogged about the issue of teenage pregnancy and teachers being responsible. i found this in the re-entry policy book. i won’t rewrite my blog in here, but i was a bit nervous about posting it because it was a bit negative. my blog posts are usually positive and fun and light. this one is negative and i kinda ‘went off.’ but i seriously feel i should be posting about ALL my experiences and not just the good ones. but i did feel better about it and hopefully people back home will respond.

kim might change her flight to a few days earlier so we can fly back home together! all the way to minneapolis! i hope she can change it because that would be a TON of fun!!

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a journal entry: 11-13 april 2009

easter is almost here, and you’ll wanna stick around for the hilarious cultural fun we had in the village! a lot of things happen in these journal entries, and a few require a bit of background that i haven’t written about before.

i got ringworm! me, kim and brittany went to the mission in kalomo, stay overnight, drink good coffee and volunteer in the orphanage. and i suspect one of the very cute kids there gave me ringworm. i can’t be 100% certain, but i’m 98% sure that’s where it came from.

during my time as a peace corps volunteer, i became good penpals with josh’s mom, mrs. patty vetter. we all call her mrs. pv. and the amazingness of mrs. pv really shines in these journal entries!

and while i know that it isn’t 11-13 april, i wanted to share these journal entries with you since it is easter this weekend!

11 april 2009

back in the village! regina took me back on thursday morning. my house was finished! well, most of the way. still waiting on one window, but the cement is done and i put up plastic yesterday. been painting a bit. i painted one wall in my bedroom, but i’m gonna run out so i just stuck to the one. maybe i’ll lime the others. i’m not sure if that would work or not. i want it to look nice for the family since they are the ones getting the house, not another volunteer.

my chalkboard project is also coming along. i’m gonna paint the black today i think. i hope i have enough paint. i only bough a liter. it was expensive. and i’m still trying to save money. i really need to try and start a budget. one that doesn’t include 8 million trips to livingstone. anyway, i digress.

my house is looking nice. and as it turns out, they did knock down a whole wall when they were putting in the windows. but they managed to put it all back together. so i was right! i knew that my house would fall apart!!! (i was just expecting to come back to a pile of rubble.)

the kids killed a small snake in my cikuta [kitchen] this morning. it’s getting to be that time of year again. cold season is here and the snakes are trying to warm up. as long as they aren’t in MY house, i’ll be ok.

i gave sitemba ringworm on his head. but luckily, they found the cream and his seems to be going away a lot faster than mine. but then again, i’m not really all that good about putting on the cream ALL the time.

easter

tomorrow i’ve having an easter egg hunt with the kids. i boiled 45 eggs with jacqueline yesterday. today, we are coloring them. tomorrow we will try to have an easter egg hunt. we’ll see how it goes. they all thought it was hilarious when i explained it to them!

saw a kid flying a kite made out of a plastic bag the other day on the way back to the village. just a few days after i talked to mom about it. i had never seen it here before, she was asking if i want her to bring kites, i laughed at her. then 3 days later, i see kids flying kites. crazy!

mrs. pv

i don’t think i talked about this yet, but mrs pv sent me a box! well, for me, kim, kapree and deb! it was packed full with food, candy, lotion, chapstick and the easter egg coloring kit (which gave me the idea to bring an american easter to my village). she is WAY too sweet. and like i told josh, she just wanted a daughter! so all of us girls decided we would gladly be her honorary peace corps daughters.

she also sent funfetti cupcakes with the frosting, sprinkles and even the paper cupcake holders!! i made them right away and we had them when we were all at the house for a meeting. i saved a bunch for josh and chris [josh’s brother] to have when i went down to livingstone the next day. unfortunately, the frosting melted ALL over the place, including my book bag. but they still tasted the same. needless to say, mrs pv is the nicest lady that i have ever become pen pals with!

13 april 2009

the easter egg hunt was really fun! i made the kids all stay in my house while me and jacqueline hid the eggs. i decided it was best to hide only ONE egg per kid, so we hid the eggs that they decorated like people the day before.

the kids were all so excited when they ran out of my house to go and hut. they all started running around like crazy people. sonia found the first one, then they all seemed to get the idea and they all found one at about the same time! except patricia, winnie and jeannie. so i helped them all find one.

i took pictures too. and because this was a typical american easter, joy was screaming and crying in ALL of the pictures!

then we all ate eggs. who knew 39,000 kwacha worth of eggs and a coloring kit from america could give such a good time! and since eric is home from school break, i got a family picture of everyone!

snakes

later that day, winnie came and told me, in tonga, that there was a snake at her house. it was in the roof! creepy! i watched them try and knock it out with rocks. then i got on my bike to go up to the mission and i came across a snake in the path eating a frog. or trying to. it was kinda funny to watch since the frog was trying to jump around to get away.

i drank a coke at ms kamuti’s shop and was bothered by some drunk guy. but ms betty [who works at the shop] told him to leave (which is something you don’t see everyday!).

biking home the long way, i stopped at david’s place and chated with him for a while. they (all the kids adopted by ms peyton [the woman who founded the school]) are having a memorial service for her at the end of the month. apparently, kaonde, the first president of zambia, is coming. and even the us ambassador to zambia. it’s going to be way bigger than i thought, so i should really try and get there!

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a letter: 2 april 2009

peace corps journaling kept me sane. i was journaling a lot. i was also writing TONS of letters. my mom and dad (and even a few friends) kept them for me. and they returned them when i came back to the us. i am reading them for the first time since writing them!

enjoy this letter from me to my mom and dad!

mom and dad!

so i’m back in my village, in MY house! i’m glad i’m back. and i haven’t died yet, so it’s good news all around.

my house is getting allergy-proofed. which is hilarious because it is made of grass and dirt. but i’m giving it a go.

i really just wanted to go home but i have a much better attitude about things now. and it has also helped that i haven’t been really sick. only one morning was rough when i woke up and couldn’t breathe all that well. but it had rained 2 whole days prior to that.

i’ve been working on finishing the planning and preparations for your trip. i think we are going to have a lot of fun and i’m really looking forward to you guys coming!

and work is looking up for me too.

i’m working with the gama cuulu club. it means ‘always speak the truth.’ which is an awesome name for an aids action club. the kids came up with it themselves. i’m just excited to actually be teaching the kids real information about hiv and aids.

girl guides is getting a slower start but the girls are really excited about it and i think next term we will really get going. last week i taught them the friendship circle and then gave them those early bird patches. they were pretty excited about it. i’m hoping that they will be reminded and want to come every week.

i took jacqueline to prenatal at the clinic last week. she is doing well and her hiv test came back negative – this time. so i was really relieved about that. i’m not sure if i’m supposed to be telling people that but i did ask her if i could see her results and she said it was ok.

i barge in on people getting tested at the clinic all the time. the ministry of health has made it mandatory testing for all women coming for prenatal. i go to prenatal every week so i see a lot of women being tested. i actually got tested myself a couple weeks earlier with a grade 9 girl who is pregnant.

but i still haven’t seen anyone give birth yet. i have, however, weighed babies! so when i see a birth, my peace corps experience will be complete!

yesterday the choma high school choir came and sang at church. it was really cool. plus it gave me something to do, other than read. but they made me stand up to be acknowledged, right after the headman, which was embarrassing.

i was just glad that they didn’t make me speak tonga. which in large crowds, i find it best to not let anyone know that i know some tonga and understand a lot more than people think. even my own family.

i planted a field of maize. popcorn actually. and let’s be honest, when i say ‘i’ i mean i gave my family a kg of popcorn and they planted it for me. it isn’t doing well because i refused to buy any sort of fertilizer. and i’m too lazy to make a compost pile. because there is a reason i’m not an agriculture volunteer! so my venture into farming was a bust.

but i did plant and manage to grow some very beautiful flowers.

well i think that’s it from me. hope things are going well for you all. don’t work too hard! and start thinking of where you want to go for my birthday celebration! miss you both TONS!

love,

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a journal entry: 17 march 2009

after a lot of medical tests and discussions, guess what? the peace corps nurses said i had allergies. imagine! but they also said that i could move back to my house in the village! i need to cement the walls and add more windows for ventilation. i also need to put up plastic between my bed and the thatch.

but i am so excited! i’m hurrying back to the village to move my stuff back into MY house! but i get home and find termites. extremely LOUD termites. who knew that you could hear termites? i didn’t, that is for sure.

it’s saint patrick’s day! i’m wearing green to celebrate! no green beer drinking will happen. but now that i think about it, i don’t think i’ve ever had green beer!

i went with jacqueline to pre-natal today. all in all, it was a good trip. and i explained to the nurses why i’m here as a peace corps volunteer. i still take for granted that everyone knows why i’m here.

mr. banda [principal of the school] wasn’t at the mission today to talk about my house so i’m just going ahead. i don’t think that bawelsey [host dad] likes the idea but i want to get started right away. i’ll fill in mr. banda later. and ms. kaumti [a teacher at school] said people thought i had left. especially when they saw us putting all my stuff in the truck. but i’m really proving them all wrong!

termites

i’m ok after melting down last night. i’m coming to terms with hearing termites. bats live with me, so i guess termites can too. this is africa. no matter how you look at things, the place is one big termite mound. so i’m letting the termites eat my house. and i’m ok with it. as long as they don’t eat my stuff! [the photo at the top of the page is the evidence of their existence.]

the kids and i had some fun with bubbles this afternoon. i decided to break out all the stuff i was saving since i could leave anytime because i’m sick. i’ve also been taking lots of pictures of the kids since i’m here on borrowed time. and i’m not sure how i feel about that. but it is nice to be back with the kids. they distract me from my real life and i really love them for that.

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a mud hut tour

my mud hut is amazing.

it’s a simple little mud hut. made with dirt bricks and a grass thatch roof. it isn’t small by any means, there’s a double bed inside and it has 2 rooms. but i am allergic to all of it.

the nearest electricity is at a farmer’s place 12 miles away.

i have to bike under the power lines to get to school. it’s a daily reminder of the power imbalance in our world. he paid the government for access. and the villagers living underneath those lines can’t afford that luxury. they can barely afford dinner.

i own a small solar panel to i charge my phone with. if there isn’t sun and my phone is dead, i go to the neighbor’s. he connects my phone charger to a car battery. and i’m back in business!

there is also no running water.

i get my water from an open well. it’s close, only 50 yards from my front door. it’s like jack and jill went up the hill! and the water is clean. but i do filter my drinking water. in rainy season, i add chlorine drops, just in case.

one time, i almost fell in. the lesson? dry your soapy hands, then fetch water.

want to see my mud hut instead of read about it? well, you are in luck. i did a little video tour of my house and my porch!

enjoy!

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