My Hut

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Here it is! After collecting and/or buying all the necessary resources in September (river sand, cement, lime, twine, paint, paintbrushes, buckets, a wheelbarrow, some shovels, hoes, and trowels), we began working on my hut’s little facelift.

First, we traveled via ox-cart about 5k further into the bush from my hut to collect river sand. Once we got to the site, we used shovels and hoes to break up and scoop the river sand from the ground and filled up the ox-cart with a good sized mound. We transported the sand back home and unloaded it right onto my lawn, where it stayed put for about a week before we started working on the hut. My neighbor, Morgan, host brother, Benson, and his friend, Chico, all came at 6:00 on a very early Saturday morning, and we enjoyed some jasmine green tea (they never had it before and liked the way it tasted) before plastering began.

The task of plastering the walls of the hut involved the mound of river sand, two pockets of cement, a copious amount of water, and a bunch of farming tools, including the wheelbarrow, shovels, trowels, and buckets. The river sand and cement were first mixed together with water in the wheelbarrow and transferred to the buckets. It was super exhausting, especially as the mixture thickened by the minute. Once the mixture was ready, we used the trowels and began applying it to the walls, smoothing it out here and there. Plastering took us the entire morning, taking a lunch break from 1200-1300, but we finished well before supper.

After waiting a couple of days for the plaster to dry, the lime coating task began. Preparing the lime mixture was much easier than the plastering mixture; we just added water to the lime powder, using the recommended ratio and mixed it until it was ready to use. Paintbrushes in hand, my host brother, Jordan, and I spent two days applying the lime coat; it was a longer task than I projected it to be.

The lime coat dried almost instantly, but because of work and my Malaria and Bednet Check Training, painting the hut was put on hold for a few days, but on the following week, on a Saturday morning, I prepared the paint and began the paint job, using twine and sticks to partition the break between lime coat and yellow paint. Painting took three days, since I was doing it all by myself, but the hard work paid off because I absolutely love the end result.

Next on the home improvement front: interior painting of the hut and fixing up, plastering, lime coating, and painting my kinzanza (outdoor kitchen). Here’s me cooking rice and duck eggs in the current kinzanza!

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5 Things I’ll Miss this Holiday Season

1. Running the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot with my sister

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We started this brother-sister tradition back in 2010, getting up super early, grabbing Starbucks, and heading downtown, only to be corralled like cattle into groups based on our running times. Every year, I’d wave goodbye first and start off with the other 10k runners, and we’d rendezvous at the finish line, after she finished her 5k race. As if the race itself wasn’t enough, we would rush to stuff our free goodie bags with as many bananas, protein bars, and water bottles as we could. Mom always likes it when we come home with free stuff. Before heading home, we’d take our obligatory brother-sister photo in our official Turkey Trot shirts. Always such a fun time and great way to start off Thanksgiving Day. It made us feel less guilty when we stuffed our faces later on at dinner. 4 years in a row so far, now with a 2-year break in between, but we’ll come back strong in 2017, I’m sure!

2. Watching the Thanksgiving Holiday Parade while eating pho

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One of the best things about running the Turkey Trot so early in the morning is that by the time we get back home, Mom is always putting her finishing touches on pho. For those who don’t know or haven’t had it, pho is a traditional Vietnamese dish; rice noodles in a beef or chicken broth with a whole bunch of yummy stuff in it, basically. Once showering from the race was complete, Mom would prepare us a big, steaming hot bowl of pho, and we would sit down and enjoy it just in time to watch the Thanksgiving Holiday Parade. My guilty pleasure each year? Watching all the marching bands coming down the line and playing holiday music and reminiscing about my own band geek days.

3. Thanksgiving Dinner

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Turkey. Ham. Stuffing. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Deviled eggs. Green bean casserole. Chicken casserole. Buttered corn. Buttered peas. Buttered green beans. Butter, butter, butter. Pumpkin pie. Apple pie. Whipped cream. I could go on and on, folks.

4. Holiday get-togethers with friends

Get-togethers with the boys were a never a dull time, especially during the holidays. A handful of friends lived far from their families, and as a group we’d always gather so that everyone would get a chance to celebrate the holidays with loved ones. I’ll miss the potluck extravaganzas, boardgames, countless photos, and out-on-the-town shenanigans, but I’m more than positive they’ll still be there when I get back!

5. Christmas with the family

My favorite time of the year. Dinner on Christmas Eve is always a revisit of Thanksgiving dinner, but with a bajillion more items: hot pot (a piping hot fondue for raw seafood and vegetables), crab, oysters, fried rice, chow mein, jap chae, and a variety of che, Vietnamese tapioca-type desserts, just to name a few. Everyone in the family gets together and eats, drinks, sings karaoke, plays cards and games, and has a great time together until midnight. At midnight, everyone gathers around the tree opens presents together. We usually call it a night around 2:00am, only to do it all over again on Christmas Day, only this time, someone gets assigned to accompany Grandma to church in the morning. Oh, and if I’m super lucky, sometimes my two best friends make cameo appearances and join in all the holiday family fun.

October 2015

The second month of my 3-month community entry period proved to be very productive in more ways than one. And as each week passed, I felt more and more at home, settling into a groove with work, projects, and home life. It’s also really nice hearing my actual name on the bush paths of the villages I pass on foot or on bicycle, instead of “muzungu,” “chindeli,” or “Ba’China,” name-calling that I’ve been struggling with since I got here.

On the workfront, I continued to meet as many community members as I could in each of my six catchment area zones, attending meetings and doing community presentations. Working at the health centre three days a week in the mornings gets me up and starting my day early. Tuesdays are usually the busiest day of the week for us, with Under 5 Clinic. For the past handful of months, even before I came, there was an issue with vaccinations for the children; our health centre’s solar panels couldn’t support and operate a fridge to house the vaccinations and since our District Health Office (DHO) is 15k (roughly 9 miles) away, transporting the vaccinations every Tuesday turned out to be a challenge for both the health centre and the DHO. In short, imagine every under 5 child in a catchment area of over 5,400 people, including newborns coming in at 19 newborns per week (that’s almost 80 brand-spanking new babies), not receiving any immunizations. Huge problem, huh? I really wanted to do something about this issue, thinking of the children and families affected. With a lot of trips on bicycle back and forth to meet with the DHO in late September and early October, the health centre leadership, staff, and I were able to work out a temporary solution, and immunizations were administered to over 200 children in just three Tuesdays in October; the last Tuesday we saw 94 children! Such an exhausting day! In additions to immunizations, we also weigh the children and update paperwork, including Birth Cards, which show growth of the children over a span of 5 years (similar to our First 5 program back in the states). Wednesdays are Family Planning Clinic days, where I do health education sessions on family planning methods (in Zambia, options include condoms, contraceptive pills, 2-month or 3-month injections, and 5-year implants) and condom demonstrations (with both male and female condoms). And Thursdays with Antenatal Clinic, I support the health centre staff with teaching mothers (and fathers, at times) about Safe Motherhood, The First 1,000 Days, birth planning, and proper child nutrition and healthy food preparation. When the staff are tending to the mothers’ check-ups, I ready their medication, including Fansidar, a Malarial prophylaxis and do weight checks and blood pressure checks.

In addition to work at the health centre, I implemented and finished my first big project with community members here in the catchment: Malaria and Bednet Check Training. (Read all about it here). Very excited to see the results from the training when the Malaria Champions turn in their work this week. Another project that started in October began with meeting with two Neighborhood Health Committees (NHCs) in Chalimbana and Yamakwakwa zones and goal-setting for the new year. Both NHCs want to become an official registered organization with the district, as well as opening up bank accounts with the district bank, which means a lot of training and work is coming down the pipelines for us. With the Yamakwakwa Women’s Club, a registered community organization, thanks to the previous Peace Corps Volunteer before me (shout-out to Amy!), our first project together will be opening up a bank account for the club, so that the women can apply for assistance with the Ministry of Community Development to help them with their club activities. And last, with new community counterparts, the establishment of two new Youth Clubs in Chalimbana and Mutoma are in the works; their goal is to learn about and implement income-generating activities, a skill that will help them with current group activities, as well as their own livelihood in the future.

Also, work with the schools continued strong in October. Kamabuta Youth Club met every week in October, despite Grade 7’s having their end of term examinations. Our sessions this month focused on PACA (Participatory Analysis for Community Action) and HIV/AIDS. My computer literacy lessons with the Grade 8’s at Kifuwe Basic School continued with teaching the students about word processing and spreadsheets. Just having theoretical lessons and not having enough computers for practical learning is turning out to be very problematic, but Mr. Shimishi, Grade 8’s computer teacher, and I are doing the best with what we’ve got. I think it’s time to think outside the box to come up with solutions that will allow the students some more realistic computer learning. Grassroots Soccer for both the boys and girls in Lubilo are currently on hold, due to a death in one of my counterpart’s family. I’m hoping they’ll pick up again in the new year.

In other news, at home, I finally finished plastering, lime coating, and painting the exterior of my hut! It took all of September to secure the supplies and resources, and a total of two weeks in October to finish everything. I’m SUPER happy how everything turned out. It’s great to finally come home to something inviting and comforting. It really does help, especially after the long, exhausting, hot season days. Pictures to come soon!

And last, but not least, all 5 Peace Corps Volunteers in our district finally got together for the first time for our first BOMA Night (nights where all of us travel into the district town to hang out, cook, eat, play board games, watch movies, and relax together) on the last day of the month, just in time to celebrate Halloween! Super fun and a great way to end a productive and memorable month. One more month of Community Entry to go, and it’s time for a long-awaited reunion with my fellow cohort and friends in December for training in the capital, Lusaka!

Malaria 140k Bike Tour

Last week, all 5 Peace Corps Volunteers in the Mufumbwe District of Zambia’s Northwestern Province (Aubrey, Chad, Kat, MarMar, and yours truly) finished a Malaria Bike Tour, stretching 140k from one side of the district to the other. Along the way, stops were made at schools where a Malaria Day was held, complete with health education stations, teaching youth and community members about Malaria transmission, prevention, testing, and treatment. And of course, songs, dancing, games, and activities were littered throughout each Malaria Day. A total of 5 stops were made, reaching 5 schools, and over 500 youth and community members.

It was such an exhausting, yet truly rewarding program. Not only were we able to reach over 500 youth and community members, we were able to showcase and increase visibility for the Peace Corps program throughout our district; something that I think is vital for work in our individual catchment areas and for the overall mission of Peace Corps. On another note, all 5 of us were able to bond as a group and create new friendships and memories with each other, which is always a wonderful thing.

I highly recommend both current and future Peace Corps Volunteers to get together with other volunteers and plan and implement a Bike Tour in their own district. The health topic can be Malaria, just like we’ve done here in Mufumbwe, or some other health topic pertinent to your province, district, and/or community. We plan on doing another Bike Tour in the future with more stops and a new health topic in the future, ourselves. Good luck and have fun! Oh, and here are some photos!

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Side Selfie

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Cover Photo

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Dillan Kitungu

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NWP Kaondes 2015

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