Life

In a rush so I’ll keep it brief.  Still busy with community entry activities…running around to meet all of the important people and organizations in my area.  School has started so I’ve been attending workshops and observing grade 8 and 9 teachers.  Observe, collect, assess, report, and formulate is really the game right now and will be until I begin implementation in September. 

I’ve also been spending some time at Siachitema Rural Health Clinic.  Staffed by 1 clinic officer, 3 nurses, 2-3 lay counselors, and community volunteers; it is the place where 10,000 Zambians travel to seek basic medical care.  More complicated cases are transported to Choma Hospital via 4×4.

Yesterday I traveled to Kalomo with the clinic officer to pick up some mosquito nets that were donated by USAID (aka-you) and will be distributed next week sometime. This week I will spend an entire day observing the ART distribution clinic (aka HIV Meds).  Last week I observed the clinic officer I&D puss from an abscess in the side of a head (bacterial infection).  If things go well I might even be able to observe surgery at Choma Hospital.

Overall I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the operation of the clinic and am excited to report that all of the staff are excited at the possibility of working together.  Our partnership would probably be in the area of HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria educational outreach, but anything could come up.

This coming week I’ll also be traveling to Kalomo to meet the District Educational Board Secretary, aka Ministry of Education bigwig for the district.  Barring more ran storms I will also start making my rounds to visit all 7 of the schools in my zone.

Overall, life is good.  Sometimes I get a little bored with community entry since I’m more of an observer, but its the nature of the beast and definitely necessary.

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Zambia Zambia Zambia

I’d like to take this opportunity to bring everyone up to speed on my life as a PCV in Zambia. After 11 weeks of PST my volunteer intake was sworn in on April 21st, 2011. The ceremony took place at the US ambassador’s house in Lusaka; unfortunately he was on official business in Zambia’s Northern Province and was unable to attend. Instead the Charge’ d’affaires (2nd in charge of the embassy) was on hand to preside over the ceremony and administer the oath. The only hiccup came during the certificate presentation when one of my fellow PCV’s face-planted into the ground after tripping over a microphone wire. Anyways, the house was beautiful and we were served cookies, muffins, coffee, tea, and cinnamon rolls for breakfast. The plates and napkins were stamped with the official seal of the U.S. Department of State and some Foreign Service Officers helped us register for our absentee ballots. All in all it was a great time, especially the game of HORSE that a few of us played while waiting for the ceremony to start.

 After the ceremony our respective PCVL’s (each province has a 3rd year extension volunteer who is the provincial leader, in short) took us shopping at Manda Hill Mall. Since we will be shopping again tomorrow we were only supposed to buy things that aren’t available in our provinces. My cart was full with: 1 dartboard, 2 fitted sheets, 50lb weight & barbell set, badminton rackets & shuttlecocks, 1 vegetable/fruit dicer, 1 mirror, IPod speakers, hangers, 1 baseball bat & ball, 12kg kettle bell, exercise/yoga mat, and 2 non-stick frying pans.

Later that night we went out as a group and, well, I’ll leave it at that.

The next morning we woke up between 6 and 7am looking “bright eyed and bushy tailed” (I’m sure) as one of our PCMO’s likes to say. We ate breakfast, packed the cruisers, said goodbyes, double checked our rooms, and took to the road (all the while listening to Sarah McLachlan). With 20 girls and 7 guys I’m sure there were some tears, but I successfully suffocated my emotions. It’ll be almost four months until we see each other again at IST, but that time will fly by as we are busy accomplishing our community entry assignments.

Now I find myself hanging out at the PC Southern provincial house with plenty of time to watch some movies, browse the internet, and get the lay of the land since Choma will be my BOMA. BOMA stands for British Occupational Management Area, obviously an acronym that is a product of the past. Now it really means nothing more than a more densely populated area (compared to the villages) with banks, businesses, restaurants, a main road, and in Choma’s case, a golf course! Each volunteer has a BOMA and it’s where they stock up on items that aren’t found in the village. I just so happen to be a short 35k bike ride from Choma which is also where our provincial house is located. Each province that Peace Corps is in has a house where volunteers can spend up to 4 days per month. The house is well stocked with movies, books, food, wireless internet (when working), a toilet!!!, a shower!!!, couches, and a stove.

 Inside the walled compound we also have a basketball court (currently missing a backboard & hoop), two hammocks, a garden, a braai, and plenty of room to frolic as we please. I know what you’re thinking, “I thought you joined the Peace Corps, why in the world would you have that”. First let me tell you that the provincial house system is not something that is common in PC; in fact, I only know of a few countries where it exists. The system, started here, was deemed necessary because of the rural and isolated nature of Peace Corps service in Zambia. Zambia is called the “real Africa” because outside of Lusaka and Livingstone not much has changed aside from the development of the BOMAs; likewise, it’s no surprise to me that I’ve heard Zambia called the “real Peace Corps” on more than a few occasions. Second, the house will be a place we can relax a little bit when the going gets too tough and a spot for us to get more complicated work done. Lastly, it’s not as though we can come and go as we please. PC gives us a set amount of days which are monitored so that abuse doesn’t take place. We also aren’t allowed to be at the house during community entry, which means that once we are posted at our sites we won’t be allowed to stay until late August.

Right now it’s Easter weekend and all of the shops are closed so we won’t be able to buy our bed, furniture, and other essentials until the beginning of next week. This means that I’ll be staying at the house until Wednesday, which is when we’ll load the cruiser up with all of my crap and drop me off at my place.

Now that I’ve gotten you up to speed on my whereabouts and activities I’ll be sure to write some posts that are more content-oriented aside from my schedule (i.e. my work, HIV/AIDS, food, culture, history, gender issues, etc.)

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Life in a Christian Nation- Zambia

I must begin this entry by apologizing for having not made any significant updates since I arrived in Zambia. Peace Corps trainees (PCT’s) have few freedoms during PST and unfortunately, those few freedoms don’t involve frequent access to the internet.  Pre-service training (PST) is kind of like boot camp, except Peace Corps style.  Instead of waking up at 6 am to do pushups and pull-ups, we wake up at 7 am to learn about Zambian culture and its impact on development.

I’ll try to go about this in the most organized way possible, but my plane landed at Lusaka International Airport over 6 weeks ago so I’ve got a lot to say and might not have time to say it all.

Staging

3 days of Peace Corps 101 in Philly….I think I touched on this in my last post so I won’t go into too much detail.  In short we had: Philly cheese steaks, yellow fever shots, the liberty bell, and all day “welcome to Peace Corps and you better be committed” sessions.  Things got a little interesting when we had to pack our bags on an hour’s notice and board an 8 p.m. bus headed for JFK because a snow storm was threatening our schedule morning departure.  We arrived around 10 p.m. and spent a few hours having drinks at the hotel restaurant.  The next day we woke up and boarded our plane which was headed to Lusaka via Jo’burg

Days 1-5ish

Upon arrival in Zambia we were greeted by the PC Zambia leadership (country director, APCD, etc.) and were brought to ISTT, a hostel on the outskirts of Lusaka which houses many international workers.  While at ISTT we ran into some Japanese JICA volunteers (Japanese equivalent to the PC) who are helping to diversify Zambia’s energy portfolio, or something along those lines.

Our days at ISTT didn’t involve anything too interesting as we had just arrived and had to get logistical and administrative issues worked out before the fun could begin.  However, we did have more than enough time after our daily sessions ended at 1700 to become well acquainted with one another.

At some point during this time we also had a ring-in ceremony on the lawn of PC HQ in Lusaka.  The Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, was on hand to deliver a speech and share with us a little bit of his experience as a PCV in Tanzania many years ago.   Secretary Carson reports directly to Secretary Clinton, so he’s kind of a big deal.   The American Ambassador and Zambian Deputy Minister of Education were also in attendance and each spoke on the importance of the role that PCV’s play in Zambia.

Days 5ish-9ish

Three words- first site visit (FSV).  Talk about getting thrown into the deep end….The training class, or the in-take as I might refer to us as, was divided into groups of 3 or 4 and shipped off to different parts of Zambia to visit current RED (Rural Education Development) PCV’s.  Jessica, Rosa, and I visited a veteran named Emily in Eastern province who is getting ready to COS in April.  Over the course of those 4 days we followed Emily around as she worked in her community and learned first-hand what life is like as a PCV in Zambia.  The time flew by and before we knew it the PC Land Cruiser that had dropped us off was back to transport us to ISTT.

Days 9ish-11ish

Once back at ISTT we had two days to pack our bags and prepare for our homestay and the start of the “real” training.  This is also when our assigned languages were announced and I learned that I would be learning Tonga and serving in the Southern Province.

Day’s 11ish-present

This period has been the bulk of our training.  Monday through Friday we are in session from 0700/0800 to 1700 with breaks for lunch and tea.  Language classes are from 0800-1200 and technical (teaching and development) sessions last from 1330 until 1700.  Occasionally we are visited by the medical staff or HIV/AIDS team to learn about the issues that we will encounter during service.

Saturdays begin with a 4-hour language session that lasts until noon.  Most Saturday sessions are a review of what we learned during the week. Once out of language we are free to do what we want.  Usually, we meet up as a group to have some drinks at the stoop or play some ultimate Frisbee on the pitch.

Sundays are free.  Some people start off early and go to church with their families; others sleep in until 9 a.m.  Personally I’ve given up trying to sleep through the rooster crows that last from 0400 to 0800 and jump out of bed at my normal Monday-Friday time.

TODAY

I’m in Lusaka to shop for my second site visit (SSV) which is a 10-day trip to what will be my home for two years once I swear-in on April 21st.  As you may, or may not know, I’ll be headed South after swear-in to live in a village that is roughly 40-50 minutes west of Choma on a dirt road.

A day in Lusaka means that we get to stock up on 10-days’ worth of western style food and absorb as much pop culture as we can in 4-5 hours.  It also means that I might get to have a beer that isn’t Castle, Mosi, or MGD.

TOMORROW

At 0600 we board PC Land Cruisers and head for our permanent sites. Upon arrival we’ll be greeted by our village neighbors, headmen, and head teacher.  All of these people will be strangers, except for my head teacher.

On Tuesday & Wednesday of this week we had all day “Supervisor” workshops and met our head teachers.  We spent both days going over the framework of the RED project to make sure that they understood our role as a PCV.  Mr. Banda, my head teacher, seemed to have a good understanding of what my job will entail (to be addressed in a later post).  I’m definitely one of the lucky ones in that my interests align well with the needs of my community.

The trip is sure to be a wonderful experience and when I return I’ll be sure to make a post with plenty of details and pictures.

I know this blog has for the most part been an overview of my day-to-day schedule and promise to sit down and talk about the more interesting aspects & issues of Zambia.

MALARIA

I take a medication called DOXY every morning, which in theory will prevent malaria if I’m stung by a carrier.  Unfortunately, DOXY (or any other anti-malarial) is not 100% effective, but if someone does contract malaria while on an AM the symptoms will be much less severe than had the person not been taking an AM.

I’ll make a rough & uneducated guess that 50-60 percent of PCV’s in Zambia get Malaria at one point or another during their service.  Luckily the Peace Corps provides us with all the necessary resources to ensure that it is taken care of immediately.  Once we start taking our Coartem (malaria medication) it will usually take 1-2 weeks for the symptoms to pass, less if you’ve been consistently taking your AM.  During that time we’re allowed to camp out at the PC provincial houses, which according to current PCV’s are a little slice of heaven.

There is a provincial house in every province and each one serves as our local HQ.  Each month we get 4 “house days” that we are allowed to spend in town.  The houses are meant to be an occasional break from village life.  Each is well stocked with books, DVD’s, and Wi-Fi connections.

FOOD

Zambian cuisine has been a pleasant surprise.  I was a little worried about this situation before I’ve arrived, but have found that I’ll be able to eat healthier here than I would be able to in the States.

Nsima, from the maize crop, is the staple food of Zambia and has been for quite some time.  It’s very similar to the mealy meal that I had in while in South Africa, except that it’s more cohesive to itself and is eaten with your hands.  With Nisma you also eat a relish, which is usually cabbage, rape, or pumpkin leaves.  On the side I’ll usually have chicken, fish, or eggs.  This is just a small look into the food of Zambia; I’ve had plenty of other dishes, but on average my meals are made up of aforementioned items.

THE PEOPLE

As with most Bantu cultures, Zambians are incredibly hospitable.   I wasn’t sure if they would be as welcoming as my Xhosa community in South Africa, but am happy to say that I’ve been greeted by nothing except open arms.  “Live Free” as Zambians say.  I’m also happy to report that the Unbuntu spirit is very much alive in this country.   If you’re not sure what I mean by Unbuntu I’d suggest that you hop onto google and do some research.

Right now I’m at Muanda Hills mall in Lusaka sitting at a computer which unfortunately has no microSD slot, so I can’t upload photos.  I’m about to head over to another mall so hopefully I can find a café that will me to access those files.

Once I have some more time to sit down and think (we go nonstop) I’ll be sure to post some blogs that address the more interesting aspects of Zambia, other than my daily schedule (i.e.culture, HIV/AIDS, village life, history, etc.).

Cheers,

Larry

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Staging

I’ve made it to philly in one piece and have had an opportunity to meet everyone in my volunteer group.

This morning we departed our hotel at 7am to receive the yellow fever vaccine at a federal clinic here in philly.  The shot wasn’t bad, however I was told to expect some more needles once I arrive in Zambia.

After the clinic we walked as a group to Independence Hall so that we could take a tour and see the Liberty Bell.  Both sights were interesting, but standing in the room where our founding fathers signed the DOI, Constitution, and BOR was the more humbling experience of the two.

4


I’d like to write more but am short on time.  I’ll try to upload some photos when I’m on the plane.

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Adios Arizona

In 6 hours I’ll be on a plane headed to Pre-service training in Philly. I’d write more, but I need some sleep.

Please watch this wonderful documentary, Jimi Sir, which chronicles the life of a PCV in Nepal.  Jimi Sir gave me the final push that I needed towards starting the application.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8969121514228517020#

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Just Chillin

I don’t have much to report as of right now.  I’ve just been getting ready to leave at the end of the month (i.e. shopping, paperwork, and phone calls) .   I did complete a 9-hour Red Cross class that covered CPR, AED, and first aid for infants, children, and adults.    These certifications will undoubtedly alleviate some of the stress that comes along with trying to save the world on a daily basis.   If anyone is thinking about taking these courses I would highly recommend the Red Cross, the best 70 bucks I’ve ever spent.

I have been a prodeal madman lately  (see peacecorpswiki for volunteer discounts).  So far the piece of gear that I’m most psych’d about is my Hennessey Hammock.  I tested it out at the park behind my house and all I can say is that I’ll never sleep in a tent again.

I’ll make sure to post a more detailed account of my pre-departure life to appease all of you nominee trolls lurking in the shadows.  I’m sure you’re all curious about life after the invite…It’s awesome, so keep working hard on your credentials before your file finds itself in the hands of a PO.

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T-minus one month+one day

Lately I’ve been busy working my way through a variety of tasks that need to be completed before I leave.   Filling out the visa and passport application paperwork was no fun and took about a day to finish (including trips to kinkos and the ASU passport office).  Then came the packing list, “holy crap” is all I have to say.  I’ve finally made a dent in my shopping list but still have a few needs/wants to purchase.    My big purchases so far have been: a Hennessey Hammock, 1-pair of Chacos, a Thermarest sleeping pad, a pair of North Face trail running shoes, a solar powered/crank powered SW radio, a Jansport daypack, and some clothing.  I still need to get a sleeping bag, a GPS, and a solar charger.  I received a Kindle and a digital camera for Christmas, two gifts that saved me a few hundred bucks for sure.

I also need to finish and submit my aspiration statement along with my updated resume. That’s the goal for tonight.

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