Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Victoria Falls

We had a great trip to Livingstone, Zambia last weekend. It didn't start off so well, we hitched to get to Lusaka. Jed's face alternated between ghost-white and greenish for two hours. And then our 7 hour bus ride turned into 10 because of a fuel filter that needed to be replaced and a two-hour dirt-road detour. But when we got there we relaxed! We saw Victoria Falls, one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. Outside the wet season, it's over 1.25 miles wide. It's the dry (hot) season now though, so most of the Zambia side was dry. We walked almost all the way to Livingstone island, across lots of rocks that are normally underwater.

On Saturday afternoon, we went on a river safari above the falls, viewing animals in the national park nearby Livingstone. It was SO relaxing. We had a few drinks and relaxed on the boat.

The hippos were a highlight...

Just before sunset we got off on a small island, snacked on appetizers, and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

Do we look relaxed?

On Sunday we went for a helicopter ride and got a fantastic view of the falls. Here's the view in front of me...

And to the side...

The mighty Zambezi River. During the dry season, the falls are about 3 times this wide. Even now it's absolutely stunning!

I know you all miss Jed. He's been so busy checking scores when we get to the Internet cafe that he hasn't had time to blog, but he's promised to blog in the next few days. We're back in the office this week. We think we FINALLY found a house for Emily and Alisha to stay in. Yay! The car has broken down again. But we're well and in good spirits. Tomorrow is the presidential election in Zambia, so the office is closed, but we'll be working from the orphanage and hopefully we'll rest some too. Sunday we're going to the other Zambia service center for a few days, and we're all looking forward to that.

We miss you all SO much! Feel free to drop a line when you can.
Love,
Brooke

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Church choir in Zambia

Jed and I went to Lawrence’s church on Sunday and gave our testimony about how we came to Africa. The church had an amazing choir. Here’s a little taste…



Rain

It hasn’t rained in Kabwe since May. So you can imagine my disbelief last night at 12:30am when the drops start to fall and we’re sitting in a broken down truck on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, expecting our ride to show up soon (finally!).

Maybe I should start from the beginning. Jed and I got up at 6:30 Tuesday morning to pack our bags and move from the lodge where we’ve been staying for almost three weeks into a house about 12km outside Kabwe situated on a farm that’s been converted to an orphanage. Here’s a picture of the house:

From Zambia


(More about the orphanage another time.) We dropped everything off at the house on our way out of town and drove to Lusaka. Our plan was to pick up Alisha and Emily at the airport, but since they didn’t get in until 8pm, we were going to hang out in the city for a day and do some shopping for the new house that Hands will be renting in Kabwe.

We had a great day. We went to the Lusaka Museum first, which was actually quite a letdown—not worth the two stars the guidebook gave it. But still, we learned a few things. Zambia’s story of independence (in 1964) is an interesting one, and it was nice to learn a little bit about the political history on the eve of presidential elections next Thursday.

Then we stayed downtown for lunch at Subway, which was a real highlight for Jed, since he hasn’t had Subway in over 15 months! I held out for pizza, which turned into Jed’s second lunch, since they happened to be buy one get one free day. Then we shopped for fridges and kitchen supplies and bedding. (After two hours bargain-hunting for a fridge, we had the realization that we couldn’t get it back to Kabwe, since they have to be transported standing upright. Geesh.)

We had a really great dinner at an Irish pub, where we ate delicious Chinese food, and talked about all the people we miss and what everybody is up to, and then we left for the airport. The girls made it safe and sound…

From Zambia

A few hours later (around 10:30pm), we were only 50km from Kabwe chatting happily with Alisha and Emily in the car, when we heard a loud POP! Jed tried to blow it off, but a few minutes later there was steam coming out from the hood. Turns out, a fan belt broke and ripped a huge hole in the radiator hose. Awesome! We thought about hitching, but that’s tough with four people and lots of luggage. So we waited for Lawrence to find a generous friend with a car willing to come pick us up 50km away. And let me tell you, our two-hour wait was quite the interesting cultural experience. I guess we just got lucky, because the car stalled about 20 feet in front of a crack house. We watched middle-age men truckin’ back and forth to the shebeen (bar) all night, which was, in typical fashion, blaring Celine Dion and Boyz II Men deep into the dark African night. Just as we were expecting Lawrence to get to us, the rain starting drip, drip, dripping…and then pouring cats and dogs (and elephants and lions).

Lawrence’s driver-friend Sydney had a taste for really loud Bemba-language, Christian music, which was fine by us since nobody was really in the mood for chatting at this point. I was squished in the tiny back seat between Lawrence on one side and Emily and Alisha on the other. After a few minutes, Lawrence started giggling and turned to me and said, “You know, this song…it’s saying that even when your problems seem many, God is still in control.” Hehe. He has quite a sense of humor, doesn’t He? J

It’s the next day, and Jed’s off in the steamy heat trying to help another generous friend of Lawrence’s tow the truck to a mechanic. Poor guy gets stuck with all the fun stuff like killing bugs and fixing the toilet and towing the truck in the 100 degree heat. And with hardly a complaint! (If I didn’t already know I married a great guy, some old man on the street prodded me very sternly last week to appreciate what a good catch Jed was, as Jed was buying bananas for a couple of hungry 10-year-old boys.)

I’ve said a little bit about Zambian food, but I finally took a picture. This is nshima (corn meal porridge), tomato relish (gravy), fish (this day I took a piece without the head, but I can officially eat fish with the head still on without feeling nauseous now), and rape (like spinach). We’re getting really good at eating with our hands! The method is important. You scoop up a little nshima, squash it into a nice ball in your palm, then use it (and your thumb) to scoop up some veggies and relish. No problem!

From Zambia

Love,
Brooke

P.S. I had some great day dreams in the middle of the night last night in the car…I could spend hours daydreaming about memories of playing with Melissa Walli from as far back as first grade. I remember eating carrot sticks at Melissa’s and playing on the scaffolding outside their house, which is eternally under construction in my memory. (Melissa’s mom kept carrot sticks in water in a Tupperware, and for some reason I thought that was really cool.) We also played “school” a lot, maybe because they had an awesome blackboard in their basement. I had never had a brother at that point (although I dreamed about having a baby brother some day, did you know that?), and Melissa’s brothers were like crazy people from another planet to me, always busy, always getting hurt. Anyway…shout out to Melissa. Happy birthday! I miss you!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sights in Zambia

I promised some pictures, so here are a few. The rest are on Picasa now; you can link to them here.

From Zambia
Melody (top middle), is the instructor for sewing training, a program of Hands in Zambia which trained ten widows for 6-months in tailoring. The practical training involved sewing school uniforms some of the community school children. Hands at Work in Zambia supports 2200 children in community schools, which are started to support the kids who are can't afford to pay school fees at government schools or are too far away to get to the government schools. (They are supported completely by volunteer teachers!)


From Zambia
The sewing machines that the widows' train on.


From Zambia
Proof. We brought the alarm clock to the office yesterday to see the temp. You are seeing it clearly...99 degrees IN the office! It's no wonder we're sweating like crazy!


From Zambia
Looking for a house to rent, with the real estate agent, Daos (a friend who's been incredibly generous to help us out), and Lawrence, coordinator of Hands at Work Kabwe service center. We've been spending lots of time looking for a house lately...we had no idea it would be so tough. In fact, we're on our way to see another one in just a few minutes. And Alicia and Emily come Tuesday. Yikes!


From Zambia
Jed checking out progress on construction of a new classroom at Bwafwano Community School in Makululu.


From Zambia
Some of the children who break our hearts. What keeps us going are the community volunteers who, despite the fact that they have nothing themselves, give so generously by visiting and spending time with their sick and dying neighbors, and their vulnerable children. We've also been so encouraged by regular emails and text messages from Hands at Work in South Africa...our friends from abroad who are also giving so generously to try to help these kids. Thanks for your support!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rain spiders and nshima

Well, I didn't come to the Internet cafe prepared (meaning with pictures), but it's probably for the best since photos of us sitting at the computer would be boring anyway! While it's a bit difficult to dedicate so much time to office work and we'd rather be in the field, it certainly seems like that is where we can have the biggest immediate impact. In the past couple of days, we helped the service centre guys prepare proposals for ten different projects they want to do this year. Yesterday was a big deadline day, so we're glad to have that behind us. Now, we're focused on finding a house for Alisha and Emily, who we'll be picking up in Lusaka on Tuesday.

What else can I share? No rain yet, but yesterday we saw three rain spiders, and I'm taking that as a good sign. (After my initial shock of course...they're like 3 inches long and really flat, like they've been squished, but they're really fast! You'll be happy to know that they can't outrun Jed and his shoe though.)

This week at the office we had a traditional Zambian meal--rape (spinach), tomatoes, and onions with mashed groundnuts, served over nshima (cornmeal porridge, the staple). It was delicious!

Today we delivered school uniforms to one of the community schools nearby...the output of a sewing project with ten widows in Kabwe. It was fun to be part of that. The kids in the area generally get a big kick out of us ("Helloooooooo!"), maybe because of our white skin, but also just because they're looking for something to entertain them. They're so much like kids we know--they love to laugh and goof around--except their clothes are in shreds and they're constantly hungry.

One thing we LOVE about Zambia is that it's much safer than South Africa. We can walk the three blocks home from the Internet cafe at dusk and not worry too much. I feel like I don't have to keep my guard up quite so high, that I can breathe easy, even walking around town.

Alrighty, that's all for now I guess. I promise to bring pictures the next time we come to the Internet cafe. (By the way, this is the fastest Internet we've had since we moved to Africa. It's incredible!)

Love,
Brooke

Monday, October 13, 2008

The work in Zambia

What can we tell you about Zambia? It’s HOT! This is the hottest, driest time of year. Our first few days here I didn’t think I would make it…it must have been in the high 90s at least. It’s been cooler since then, probably in the low to mid 90s since the…much improved. Ha! We’ve been working in the Hands at Work Kabwe Service Centre office for a week now.

The Service Centre office

There are three great guys that work in the office named Lawrence, Luckson, and Joseph. They support six home-based care (HBC) organizations and twelve community schools in the Kabwe area. (That’s 2190 children and 474 patients.) They do the finances and the reporting for everyone; they deal with donors, apply for more funding, host teams that come to volunteer from overseas…they’ve very busy guys. In fact, as a type this, it’s Saturday morning and the guys are working hard to get in a few more proposals this week. They’re incredibly dedicated, and they do it for the love of the Lord and for the children, as they only receive very modest incentives. Incredible!

On Monday this week, the HBC coordinators all came to the service centre office to meet us, and since then we’ve been going to visit one organization each morning. They gather their volunteers together, and we pray together. Then they describe what they do and the projects they’re working on, and then we break up into two groups. I sit with one group and talk to them about M&E. (How do you record your home visits? Can I see the forms?) Jed discusses income-generating activities with the other half. (What kind of IGAs are you doing? What kinds of challenges have you had?) We both talk about the role of Hands at Work and ask about the needs of their organizations—they are many, but include gloves, soap, Tylenol, bicycles to get to the volunteers to the patients and to get critical patients to the hospital. We’ve seen two of the community schools as well. They’re desperate for funding to provide the children with a meal a day—often the only meal the children get—and books, as they only have about one of each book to every ten children. The HBC volunteers and the school teachers work at least three days a week, and none of them receive any pay for what they do.

Volunteers from Mapalo ("blessings") HBC

We’re preparing to receive two young ladies who will be working here in Kabwe for 9 months. Emily and Alisha are from the U.S. and Canada, and they’ve been doing orientation in South Africa since beginning of August. We’re excited for them to come on the 21st, but first we need to find them a place to stay!

I love being here, but when I slow down in the evenings, I realize that I miss two homes now—one in the U.S. and one in South Africa. I hope you all are well. Thanks for your emails and your prayers.

Much love,
Brooke

Students at Katando Community School


Jed makes friends where he goes


Blowing bubbles together

Friday, October 10, 2008

Email from Brooke

This is an email from Brooke. I'm not sure why she didn't post it to the blog. Maybe because of their poor internet access, but I thought you all might like to read it.
Here is a picture from way back in June...somehow it still seems relevant!
We made it to Kabwe. Jed just posted to the blog, but I wanted to make sure you knew we made it okay and we're settling in. We got here Thursday morning, but George gave us and the guys in the office strict orders not to start work until Monday. We've been a little bored, but ultimately it's been a huge blessing. We'd been going pretty nonstop in SA for a while, and it's been great to have some down time.On Monday we will start "orientation" by meeting the coordinators for the six home-based care organisations Hands works with in this area,and we'll make a plan to visit all of them next week. On Monday afternoon we'll visit Makhululu community school as well. Then it's back to the office--three proposals to write by 15 October, mostly around major expansion plans for Hands in this area, getting the office in good working order (new office space, better internet,training, a vehicle, drivers' licenses for the three guys who workhere, etc.), so the office can support the community organisations better. Kabwe is a town...lots of traffic downtown...people everywhere. The grocery store is PACKED full of people all buying only a couple of things (presumably because they don't have fridges). About 1% of the population is white or Indian..we stick out like sore thumbs.Everybody speaks English though, which is great!That's all for now. We miss you all very much!

Love,Brooke

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Update in Kabwe

We made it to Zambia Wednesday night. We struggled a little bit getting our visas, but once we got enough US$ to pay for our visas they let us through. Every American that goes to Zambia gets a 3 year visa. It doesn't matter if you are only staying for 6 weeks you still need to buy the 3 year visa $135 each. So if you are planning to come to Zambia make sure you have enough US$ to get through. Otherwise you have to have a nice man escort you to a cash machine, then to the bank to exchange your Zambian Kwacha for dollars, then escort you back to the place where you can finally buy your visa. It really was much easier than it just sounded. The only real trouble I had was trying to figure out how much Kwacha I needed to take out to get $135 when the exchange rate is 3800 Kwacha=$1. Try doing that math after riding in a van for 4 hours followed by 5 hours in the airport then 2 hours on the plane!

This post is coming off a little rantish? I am not sure why. We really enjoy Zambia. The people are fantastic. We have spent the last couple of days just walking around Kabwe. It used to be a mining town, but now you can tell there hasn't been much investement in infrastructure since the price of copper plunged in the '70's and the people running the mines left. They are however trying to get the mines started again with the price of copper shooting up. I think it might be a while before everything is fully operational again though.

We bought a new sim card for our cell phone here, so our new number is +260977924769. If you are calling from a landline replace the plus with the code you use to dial out of your country. I think for the US it is (011), or if you are calling from a cell just put the plus in and it takes care of that for you. Cell service is a little unreliable though, so it might take a few tries to finally get through. We have been trying to send text messages to South Africa from here, and I think only like 1-of-10 go through, but you still get charged either way. Oh well. This is all I have for now. We will try to get to the Internet cafe once a week, and we will see Monday what the office Internet is like, but we've heard it isn't great. So goodbye for now. I'll post again next time I get a chance.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sitting in an Airport Drinking a Coke

We left this morning around 9 am and will fly into Lusaka, Zambia around 8:30 pm. We were sitting in the airport today and I had one of those, "Where am I right now moments." A few other where am I now moments include:
  • The first time we went to the mall in Nelspruit. Honestly you could take that mall and drop it into any US city and it would fit right in.
  • The first time we went to a movie at the mall. Again 12 screens, about as close to a "western" mall as you can get. The only issue I had was they don't ever put butter (or a buttery substance) on the popcorn. You don't even have the option. I know I just scared half of the readers away from ever coming to South Africa with that last line.
  • Time spent in Durban (Amanzimtoti) over Christmas break last year. We stayed at a magnificent bed and breakfast, met up with some other peace corps friends. The only reason it didn't feel quite right is because it was my first Christmas ever without snow.
  • When we went to the water park in Badplaas. This had to be one of the best times I have had while in South Africa. We went with five other volunteers from Hands and our PC friend Abby from a town nearby.
  • The time we were sitting in the O.R. Tambo airport waiting for our plane to arrive, sipping diet Coke (ok Coke Light) and having a salad and a sandwich at the restaurant.
So a, "where am I moment (WAIM)," is just a time when you forget you are serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa. I can think of a few other WAIM's, but I think this list is good enough for now. I just never imagined when I was told I would be serving in Peace Corps in Africa I would ever be sitting in an airport waiting for a flight to Zambia to spend 6 weeks with a partner NGO. It feels totally normal though. We have been placed with such a fantastic organization that believes our skills are needed in helping to build capacity at another NGO so they are sending us.

Our list of tasks to accomplish during our short 6 weeks there has grown longer everyday for the last month, but after sitting down with George (our CEO) yesterday he really put us at ease to just get done whatever we can get done. "The list we gave you is a mile long, and when you get there they might have a totally different list of things they want you to get done. Just do the best you can and learn as much as possible." It was great to hear, and I know we will do just that.

Our mailing address while in Zambia:
Box NGU - 15
Kabwe
Central Province, Zambia