Saturday, June 18, 2016

Overview of my past two years in Peace Corps (video)...

     This video I made is an overview of my Peace Corps service in Zambia. Since I've been home I have people say I've made a difference in so many people's lives. The way how I feel is there was more I wish I had done. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Meet Phil; my cab driver...

     Erick Donaldson's 'Cherry Oh Baby' was blasting on the stereo when I got in the car. I turned the volume down, ask Phil how he is doing and to drop me at Peace Corps house. 

     Cherry O Baby continues playing on repeat until we reached my destination. It's my favorite song and he puts it on every time I get into his car.

     Phil has been driving the streets of Solwezi since 2012. He actually owns his car which he uses to drive people to and from places. Many cab drivers work for the owners of the cars they drive. Phil has a second car, but the engine went kaput, so now he's looking for a replacement engine so he can sell the car.

     Three years ago Phil moved to Solwezi in Northwestern  Province from Eastern Province where he is originally from. He is of the Nsenga tribe. He moved here to make more money, because the mining boom has attracted people not only from all over Zambia, but from other African countries and continents. It is a melting pot in these parts. 

     Phil has five children. The oldest is 22 and the youngest is four. His wife stays at home to care for them, so driving his car for money is his main income. His oldest is in college. It is very expensive to put a child through college here in Zambia. There aren't loans available like we have in the States or government support. Phil literally works day and night seven days a week answering his cell phone from potential clients.

     I think you've gotten the idea there are not any cab companies, at least I've never heard of one here in Zambia. The cabs are independently owned automobiles, like used Toyota imports from Japan. 

     I rode with Phil today to get this interview with him. He wasn't himself, but he was eager to answer the questions I had for him. He had been waiting for this interview for a few days now. We rode around on the rutted dirt roads of Solwezi asking him questions, repeating myself slowly a second or third time--his English is so-so--and me asking him to spell words I'm not familiar with, like his tribal name.

When I exit Shoprite I am faced with several cab drivers competing
for customers. This is where I met Phil. Phil stands here with
the others much of the day for business. When the other drivers
see me, they get Phil. I am his client, and they respect that.

     Today he only had two drives, or clients. He needs 15 to make the day worth it. It is slow. It has been slow for a while now, because of the depreciation of the kwacha and the closing of some of the mines thanks to the lack of need of copper in the world. Food prices have literally doubled. I and others have been resorting to walking as opposed to taking a cab the past few months to save money, so the cab drivers are feeling the pinch.

     One of the questions I asked Phil was, "Do you like it here in Solwezi?"

     He said, "No, it's too dusty, land."

     I also asked what does he want for his future. He thought I meant what did he want to be when he was a kid. 

     "A laywer." he said. 

     I stopped at that answer and thought a bit. I felt a sort of sadness. He did finish grade twelve. I now wonder why he didn't continue on with school. That is a question I decided not ask him; to protect myself from his answer.

     The fun thing about Phil is when he drives me somewhere new I ask him how much and he ridiculously inflates the price probably hoping I just got paid and am in a giving mood. So, we go onto negotiating a fair price. We laugh, I lightly punch his shoulder and he gives that 'I give-in' grin. 

Roads of Solwezi. Dusty in dry season,
muddy and rutted in rain season.

     I again asked him the question about what he wants in his life. Without hesitation, "I want my kids more educated than I was." he said. He answered looking past me off in the distance. Typical for a Zambian to do this. Looking directly in a Zambian's eyes is rude. But, I knew he was looking for the strength to answer this question. A question maybe no one has ever bothered to ask.

     Phil struggles with controlling his diabetes. He drives around drinking Coke Zero and with a half loaf of brown bread. I've known about his diabetes for a while now and had given him chia seeds to help regulate his blood sugar. Today he isn't himself. and I know why. He is only forty-six, a year younger than me, struggling more than others to make ends meet. 

     Phil is a person worth getting to know. He is a person just like you and me working hard to get through life. We appreciate each other's friendship and he asks me if I will keep in touch. "Of course." I say. I will put the effort into saying 'hi' through a text once in a while. 

     I am privileged to know so many people here. They are a part of my life in Zambia; my home of two years. To leave them in only a few weeks will be very difficult. Saying the goodbyes...I can't think about it right now. I will worry about them. I will worry about Phil.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Teaching Boyd...Reading Glasses Distribution...Animal Husbandry Workshop...

 Teaching Boyd

     I had been approached by a child's mother a couple months back asking if I can tutor her son, Boyd. I readily agreed knowing how well-mannered and willing to learn her son is. 
     I meet with Boyd after school at my hut everyday. Just like I did with my own sons, I'd ask Boyd how school was and if he has any homework. He would tell me what he learned that day.

     In the village, Boyd is considered a 'school boy', which means he takes school seriously and is able to speak English, unlike, I'd say, most of the children. There are many obstacles children face, such as high student/teacher ratio (it is common to have over 50 students per class), needing to stay home to help with chores, or parents unable to afford school fees, uniforms, or shoes. 

     Boyd is 11 years old and in sixth grade. He is a joy to work with, in fact we are friends. I mentioned to him I wanted to go to the river to collect sand for my mud-brick-patio-turned-mud. Boyd told me he knows of a site where there is gravel on the side of the road, so we went together with sacks, bike, and shovel and collected gravel together.

Boyd working on my laptop at my host family's house.

One day I asked who his favorite teacher is. 

He said, "You are."

He wants to be a teacher someday.

Reading Glasses Distribution

     School is important for village kids. As mentioned in the previous post there are several obstacles children face making it through school. 

     Another obstacle is being able to read a text book. 

     A strapping young man visited my hut one day asking for assistance. He had trouble reading his books for school due to poor eyesight and inability to obtain reading glasses.

     I had heard of missionaries doing eyeglasses drives back in the States and bringing them back to Zambia for distribution. I felt maybe if I ask people back home if they were interested in collecting and donating I could have a Peace Corps Volunteer bring them back after his or her visit back home.

     This idea worked. Some of my friends back home spread the message the need of reading glasses in my village. They would be distributed to students who have reading difficulties. I partnered with the village clinic and screened students (8th and 9th graders) and found ten out of 50 students in need.

Testing students which magnification is suitable. 

     The clinic received over 80 glasses; mostly readers and a few pairs of prescriptions. Justin was the first to receive his glasses. He is now attending secondary school and is in grade ten. He is most thankful for his new glasses. I am thankful for him to helping me, the clinic, and the school become aware of the need for reading glasses for students. 

     Speaking with the head teacher of the school I worked with mentioned he had lost students because of their inability to read their books.

Justin wearing his new glasses.

Students wearing their new glasses with head teacher among them smiling proudly.

If you are interested in donating to the Reading Glasses Project please see the side-bar for the address or you can email me for more information. Glasses are also distributed to others in the community in need of glasses. 

Majila Falls Animal Husbandry Workshop

     My journey began with a four-hour bus ride with my counterpart, Jameson Kahokola to Mwinilunga, aka Lunda Land and Land of Pineapples. We were to attend a three-day workshop on animal husbandry held at a farm run by a former Peace Corps Volunteer and missionary, literally in the middle of nowhere.

     My host father, Elack Shikamo, joined us later to attend as the interpreter. Volunteers invited brought along farmers from their villages interested in using animals in farming.

     Once we arrived in Mwinilunga we spent the night at a lodge and left early in the morning for a two-hour canter truck ride to the farm. A canter truck is a large flatbed. Twenty of us rode in the open air along with our bags and supplies on a rutted dirt road. Not comfortable, but, we are used to it.

      We arrived at the farm. A picturesque farm you read about in storybooks. There are turkeys, cows, goats, sheep, chickens, donkeys, rabbits, ducks, pigs, and a dog named Vicegrip who greeted us by pushing his nose into our crotches.

     Volunteers staked camp in a barn shelter while the counterparts bunked in one of the houses. The main house, where Paul (the man who runs the farm) was used as a dining hall and a sitting room with a library and television. It was a comfortable venue for all of us and nice to be on an actual working farm with animals that are taken care of very well.

Volunteers' camp.

     We were expected to meet at the main house at 6:30 for our first session before breakfast. We were all split into three groups and each day we were taught a different part of farming, including, goat milking, cow milking, and visiting the poultry houses. 

     I brought along Jameson who I consider the star farmer of my village. He is interested in milk goats as a business. I trust that he is serious about venturing into this new line of farming and becoming successful. My host father, Elick, has already started a goat farm on his own and came to learn more about the intricacies of this focus.

From left to right: Jameson, me, and Eliack

     Throughout the day we learned everything from nutrition to forestry. The Volunteers helped facilitate many of the sessions. I facilitated the forestry session and made sure everyone understood the importance of trees and how they can be used for income generation.

     We engaged in conversation during meals after the long days of walking around the farm stepping in dung and smelling smells that were difficult to breath in at first, but were used to them after a while. We bathed in the nearby river. I mixed sand in with my soap to get off the dirt caked on my body. 

     I sat a a table with tribal cousins, Lundas and Kaondes. The endearing thing about tribal cousins is they tease each other. I loved sitting in on their discussions listening to them laugh and watching having fun. These farmers really enjoyed themselves. All of us got to know one another quite well. 

Elijiah, Kel, David, and Jameson. A mix of Lundas and Kaondes.

Eliack on the donkey wagon.

     Eliack worked very hard translating from English to Kaonde and vice versa. It is a lot of work, especially doing this all day. I could tell when he got tired he would mix up languages, like speak Lunda instead of Kiikaonde. I admire Zambians' ability to speak multiple languages. There are 72 tribal languages in Zambia. I know several Zambians who can speak three or more languages, including English, and switch at the drop of a hat from one to another. 

     Our host, Paul, as mentioned before, was a Peace Corps Volunteer back in the 1980's and served in Guatemala. He has lived in Zambia for 16 years and built the farm from the bottom. He employs several people who are from surrounding villages, including a deaf mute who cares for the cows. Paul gives out milk and other food to people in need. Without this farm, I don't know how these people would survive. 

     Below is a link to a short video of Paul and Eliack.

     The products produced on the farm, such as cow and goat milk, eggs, meat, and yogurt that is made on the premises is sold in town. Paul has to make two visits to the United States to raise money through the churches to help fund running the farm. 

     The evening of our last day, certificates were handed out to the counterparts in recognition of their attendance. This is a heartwarming event seeing the proud faces as their names are called to receive their reward. Photos were taken afterward and a lot of hugging and handshaking followed.

     We were to meet at the bunk house at 6:30 the next morning to meet our transport to take us back to Mwinilunga. There was a small canter truck waiting; only enough room to take our bags. We had to wait four hours for the truck to come back to pick us up. So, we waited which is a common thing to expect to do in Zambia. 

     We reached Mwinilunga and said our goodbyes and went our separate ways to various parts of Northwestern Province. On our way home we stopped to pick up some pineapples to take back. Fresh picked pineapples, only 40 US cents! And they are the best pineapples I've ever had. 

     This is my second year attending this workshop. It is a wonderful opportunity for Volunteers and members of our villages to learn about what animals can offer us. Animals are not used widely in Northwestern Province. The two main tribes, Lundas and Kaondes, have recently transitioned from the hunter/gather way of living. Animals have only been meant to hunt; not to care for and live with. So, this is a fairly new concept for them to learn about and adapt to. 

     So now I will help guide Jameson and Eliack the best I can in their undertaking of keeping goats for food and for generating income. Not only will this benefit them, but their community, as well. As of today and the past, fresh milk is not available to members of the village, but I hope these two visionaries will be successful and change this. Protein is very important for children and adults alike. This kind of change is what will make a difference in so many lives. I am so pleased to be a part of this.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Update on Harrison...

     Harrison is still in the process of locating a chainsaw to purchase. It is difficult because there aren't chainsaw stores nearby. The nearest on is in Kitwe which is four hours by bus. Neither of us have had the time or money to head out there. But, connections in Solwezi are slowly leading us to locating one. Things move slow in Zambia; nothing is ever fast or easy.

     A website is live for Harrison's business, business cards are being distributed by myself and Peace Corps Volunteers to businesses, schools, clinics, and residents. His business has also been posted on a Facebook page called Expat Zambia which contains helpful posts about the goings on in Zambia. There have been several people interested in his chairs which you can view pictures of on the website.

The website is

   In addition, a small crew Harrison worked with in Mufumbwe will be resettling in Mumena to work with Harrison. Since there is the potential of an influx of work for his business, he will need as much help as possible. We just need to get the chainsaw.

     Things are moving along pretty well. If anything that will help broaden his business it will be his chairs. He makes folding chairs that are an uncommon item found in Zambia. Take a look at them on the website. He has had several orders in the past, in fact, Chief Mumena has two in his palace and Harrison is working on finishing an order of ten for a resident in Solwezi.

     Once his business grows steady, he plans to bring on youths to train. This is the end goal. It is Harrison's final wish to teach others his trade. And I believe this is going to happen. I won't be here when it expands to this point, but he will update me.

     The following URLs are short videos of Harrison demonstrating some of his work. The last video is separate. It is of me walking to the roadside in the village with my dog.


Preparing for end of service, polygamy, and my first village birth...

     I'll have been in Zambia for two years tomorrow. Last month my intake celebrated the end of our service at the Close of Service conference which was held at Lake Kariba Inn in Southern Province. We had discussions on how to prepare for going back to the States. Discussions included how to write resumes, how to liquidate our huts (you'd be surprised  how much has been acquired over two years), how to say 'goodbye' to the village members, and what we are to expect when we return home.

     Two years may seem like a long time to spend in a country, especially in a country so different from our own--and it is. We had to adjust to so many things, such as, going without many, many conveniences, witnessing poverty daily, and learning how to be a part of a community where we stand out like a sore thumb.

     There will be many things I will miss, especially the slow pace of life. I've gotten used to not paying attention to time and what day it is. Not caring if people don't show up for meetings. Going with  the flow. It will be hard to readjust to American life.

     So, here is to a beautiful country I have made my home. I will miss it. Next on my bucket list? Not sure. I will continue to go with the flow and see where I end up and what I want to do.

Sunset on Lake Kariba

     Polygamy is recognized and legal in Zambia. Some tribes are traditional polygamists for very interesting reasons which most of us are unaware of. 

     The Kaonde tribe rarely practices polygamy, but it does exist. There is a tribe specially known for this practice: the Tonga tribe who live in Southern Province.

     First off, all tribes are different from others; the way they build their houses, their community structures, and livelihoods such as farming, to name a few. 

    The Tonga have been farmers much longer than most Zambian tribes. They are experts in the field. They incorporate animals, such as oxen, donkeys, goats, pigs, and poultry. They grow many crops for consumption and to sell in market. And to be successful, they  need many hands to help keep the fields and animals at the their best. So, Tonga men traditionally marry two or more wives to help with the farms. Wives of the same man can live in seperate houses and be in charge of their own fields. The husband oversees the fields and takes care of his wives. Because of this mass production in farming, the husband can afford to take care of a large family. It is a way of life that works for them.

     The photo below is of Douglas who is from Southern Province; he is a Tonga. He left his family, including two wives, for a while in search of new farming opportunities in Zambia.

     My village encourages Tongas to transition here. Their expertise in farming field crops and wealth of knowledge in keeping animals will benefit the Kaonde people. Tongas have ideas to share, which villages in Northwestern Province need in order to help improve many aspects of their lives.

FYI: this is typical of how pictures are taken with Zambians, whether they are male or female they do the same with putting their arms around the other person. Rarely do they have their pictures taken, in fact, this may be his first photo ever taken of him. And, I am the first white person he has met.

     Last week I watched a baby born at the clinic. It was a healthy baby boy. No medication or episiotomy, I watched the head emerge while cringing and remembering the discomfort of delivering my own sons. This was the mother's first child. The family brings their own bedding for the birth and food for the mother. The mother was sent home the next day after a night's rest. I don't know what the baby's name is, but I got a pic and will have it printed to give to the family. 

   As you notice the baby's completion is white--this is normal. The next day the complexion darkens. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Curious what I listen to in Zambia?...

     I still love classic rock from home, but rarely listen to it here in Zambia. I now have new music to add to my repertoire. This music will follow me back to the States as it will remind me of the times spent here when dancing at night clubs, hearing the music playing at the bar by the roadside in my village, and my cab driver plays my favorite reggae songs by Eric Donaldson.

    I made up a sample playlist for you to listen to and get an idea of the popular songs played during my stay here in Zambia. Some is referred to as Zampop, which is played in bars. Reggae is popular in Zambia, and Nigerian bands are commonly played. 

     Unfortunately I am unable to locate traditional Kaonde music on the internet which is a favorite of my host father. I can hear him driving home blasting this music on his truck stereo with him singing along.

     These songs mean a lot to me. They remind me of certain situations. Every time I get into the cab of my favorite cab driver, he automatically plays, 'Cherry Oh Baby' for me on repeat for the entire ride. 

     Early in my service I barhopped with my friend Kenny and danced all night to many of the songs on this list. One song, Eminado, was played at a local bar in Mwinilunga where we were pulled out onto the dance floor with our chairs, sat down in a circle and held hands with the people next to us and did a kind of wave-like motion with our arms traveling around the circle. 

     I encourage you to listen to and watch the video, 'Am I Wrong'. This song is about village kids and the video is filmed in Southern Province in Zambia. This song leaves me feeling melancholy reminding me of the limited opportunities village kids have. 

     Please listen to some of these songs to get a taste of what I listen to here. Music makes people happy. I am happy listening to this music and I am sure I will listen to it years to come to bring back some of the feelings I had while serving in Peace Corps.


Aye...Davido (Nigerian)

Cherry Oh Baby...Eric Donaldson (Jamaican)

Am I Wrong...Nico and Vinz (African/Norwegian)

Eminado...Tiwa Savage Ft. Don Jazzy (Nigerian)

Chishala...Pentagon Ft B1 (Zambian)

AmaRulah...Roberto (Zambian)

Collabo...PSquare (Nigerian)

Taste of Money

Hangover song...Dj Vetkuk vs Mahoota (South African)