Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Montezuma's Revenge

well, as you probably can guess from the subject line i am no longer a member of the unbearably smug "i-haven't-been-sick-yet" club, but fortunately i'm not a member of the "oops-i-crapped-my-pants" club, as some in my group are...i was able to accelerate down the hallway towards the bathroom quick enough to avoid that particular fate. the medical officer's prognosis is that i got food poisoning from some milk i had in mansa; i'll spare you the details, but i woke up early on saturday morning and got brutally ill in the bathroom. i slept until sunday morning, waking up long enough to dash back to the bathroom, drink some oral rehydration solution and curse parmalat. i still have some lingering symptoms but am feelling better, i hope by the end of the week i'l be 100%.

my site visit to luapula province the previous week was an interesting experience, we stayed in a village where a current pcv is stationed. we participated in a soya cooking demonstration where i had to give a brief talk about the nutritional benefits of soy beans to a room full of zambian mothers; if the volume of laughter i elicited is any indicator, i was a wild success. the difficulty is that most zambians out in the villages have never heard a muzungu attempt to speak bemba, so they find it unbearably funny. the adults usually keep their laughter somewhat under control, but children absolutely dissolve when you break out a "muli shani" at them. it can be a bit disconcerting, but i've decided to use it to my advantage and simply assume that every time a zambian laughs at me it is only because of my speaking bemba, and not because of any ridiculous thing i'm doing.

we finally received our site placements, i will be in kawambwa district replacing a pcv who has left. i don't know much about the site since the pcv who was there hasn't written the site description yet. i do know that there is a river very near by along with a waterfall, that the house is "cute," is about 40 km from the boma (town, in this case Kawambwa), and that the entire district forestry office was recently transferred because of a bribery scandal. but, everyone i've talked to there loves luapula province, all the pcv's i met in mansa, the provincial capital where the pc house is located, were all extremely friendly and very good about mixing me up oral rehydration solution. so, it looks like it's going to be a good site.

we've spent the last couple of days at kasisi farm, a model conservation farm started and still run by jesuit priests about 100 years ago. farmers come from around zambia to learn more sustainable, efficient farming techniques, and the custodians are also involved in a lot of experimentation with different agricultural technologies. i've certainly learned a lot, the highlights probably being how to make cheese, chutney, pickled products, and jam (my group's apple jam didn't turn out quite as envisioned...the next day people were eating it off of toothpicks). we also toured a local beekeeper's operation that included an unscheduled dash through the woods after we'd conducted a too-close examination of one of the hives; i have a hard and fast rule here, namely that when the expert starts running, i also start running. so, when i saw the agricultural agent with us on the tour darting through the trees screaming and waving her hands around her head i also began darting (but not screaming) and nearly trampled the girl in front of me. several people got stung but i wasn't one of them, so i don't regret my actions.

my other running story involves us having to evacuate a classroom the week before last in mwekera when a fire got too close. zambians have a fairly laissez-faire attitude about burning, which they do for any number of reasons but mostly to clear land. they'll often set a fire and then leave it, checking back on it every couple of hours or so. case in point: there was a fairly large fire burning next to my homestay family's hut several weeks ago and i asked my bataata if he was clearing land for some gardening. he replied that no, he had been trying to kill some red ants near the well and couldn't quite control the blaze which was now burning the immediate area. in the case of us evacuating the classroom someone was burning trash a ways away and lost control of the fire; it eventually ended about 10 feet away from the classroom after several workers at the mwekera compound strategically doused certain areas and burned firebreaks in others. a girl named tess actually had her hut burnt when a field fire ran amuck, the walls of houses are mud brick but usually the roofs are thatch, which burns very well. fortunately they were able to rescue all of her stuff before it was damaged.

i hope you all are doing well, thank you for the emails and letters as each and every one is truly appreciated. i wish i could reply personally to you all but i really can't, but do please know that i appreciate the effort.

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