Archive for October, 2007

17
Oct
07

Vegetable Market

I guess Tuesdays are vegetable market day. Held under a huge awning and spilling out on the church grounds a few kilometers down the road from my apartment, it’s packed with adults (selling) and kids (offering to carry your baskets) trying to make a few thousand kwatcha, it takes a bit of tenacity to get your fruits and veggies and be on your way.

veg mkt 1

Here’s Becca considering some onions:

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Our purchases. I think it was about $20 for all this:

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15
Oct
07

The Road from Katundulu

What a full week. I emerged from Katundulu, a small farming bush village, on Saturday morning, having spend a couple nights there, and several nights in Livingstone. I have loads of pictures that I’m still processing, and even more experiences. I’ll try to recap as best I can.

Score (Sports Coaches Outreach) exists to “change the community through sport.” It is an org that I connected with when I got here, and I’ll be creating a couple of newsletters and publicity documents of who they work with and the impact that they are making . They have partnered with Kwenuha Women’s Assn in Livingstone. It is an interesting partnership (sports and commercial sex workers?), and based on what I learned from the participants, and although it’s in its beginning stages, it is headed in the right direction.

KWA is a faith-based org who’s participants are (former) commercial sex workers; its goal is rehabilitation. I had the opportunity to interview several of the girls who participate and take advantage of its programs, talk with KWA’s founder, as well as speak with a few volunteers.

Fascinating experience. Both in learning about these girls, and in pushing myself as a “journalist;” for Score’s purpose, that is my role here. You don’t know how difficult it is to ask someone if they are still getting paid for sex, or if they know their HIV/AIDS status (everyone is very afraid, and the fear prevents them from being tested), or if they know who the father(s) of their children is (are), until you look into the eyes of someone your own age and want to maintain their dignity and be respectful.

Here is a picture of Katie, a former CSW, and her youngest, Tina after a soccer-coaching workshop:

Katie and Tina

Girls from each “center” — Livingstone is a big place and KWA has several centers or hubs that the girls attend — were invited to participate in a coaches training, in order to train others and develop leaders.

Among the girls I talked to, I found several things in common, none of which are surprises: each are the oldest children in their families and have multiple younger siblings, both their parents died at a young age and they became the “head of house” (in one case, at age 12), and the step between innocence and CSW was an “invitation” from a friend who convinced them it was the only way to financially support themselves.

I did have a few hours of down-time in Livingstone, and as it is a tourist hotspot, I found myself on the back of an African elephant, enjoying an evening walking through a national park:

elephant ride

A guide sat in front of me and a very tall German man sat behind me. He kept making funny noises — and the loudest drinker I’ve ever encountered. Probably didn’t help that his face was a few inches from my ears. If he wasn’t gulping the water, he wass clicking with his mouth, then making quiet and quick sucking and blowing noises, catching and releasing air into and out of his cheeks. Then he would hum quietly for a minute. Or “oogh” or “ugh” as the elephant quietly lumbered forward. Occasionally he knocked my head with his camera. I found this greatly amusing, and had to keep from laughing on several occasions.

Score is also partners with Response Network, a self-help org that puts on workshops in bush villages in order to empower its residents toward self-sufficiency and maintaining a thriving community. Some workshops include skills development, like organic farming, tailoring, carpentry, or workshops that teach how to start a community school, HIV/AIDS support groups, starting sports clubs, etc.

Score has lots of partners. They also put on a 3-day workshop called Kicking AIDS Out, which is a detailed course about empowering residents of villages to have conversations and educate their community about HIV/AIDS through sports.

Headed into the bush to explore these two orgs, I took a bus from Livingstone to Kalomo on Thursday (about 1.5 hrs) to meet up with my contacts from Score to ride to Katundulu. It took us several hours of errand running in this one-horse town before we could leave. One issue: photocopies. The first three photocopiers in town we tried were busted. The third one, we were told that the Indian guy in the next store put a hex on it, which was the cause of all the non-functional machines in town.

“Maybe I can fix it” I thought out loud. Before I knew it, I was covered in black toner and half my arm was lost inside a little desktop copier, fiddling with switches and pushing levers. Ten minutes later, it was still not working. I was REALLY irritated that I couldn’t get it to work. But I did diagnose the problem: a stuck dial and seriously dirty interior. Stupid hex. We ended up at the Indian guy’s store and used his (fully-functioning) copier.

So. Now comes the “one- to two-hour ride” to Katete to find the Response Ntwrk workshop so I could take some pics and get interviews, and then we were headed to Katundulu to set up camp on someone’s farm for the Kckng AIDS Out workshop. Five hours later, we were still driving. Along a glorified goat path, past huts, goats, tall grasses and trees, chickens, an occasional person walking, and NO Response Ntwrk workshop. What a saga. We kept getting directions from people (which is semi-unhelpful since they speak Taonga and little English). The common answer, in fact the only direction we ever got was “Yes. Straight, straight.” Not helpful. There are forks in the road. There are turns to be made. At one point, a couple people got in the jeep with us to take us there, but it still didn’t help:

directions

After giving up finding the workshop, we headed back to Katete, where we had picked one of these fellas up, and then got directions to Katundulu: “just follow the main road; straight, straight.” Yeah, right. Also, “You come to a main road, and use it.” We turn left? “No. Straight.” Use the main road but don’t use it. That’s helpful. Okay… How far? “It’s not far.” That’s the other thing — go straight, straight; it’s not far!

We set up tents at someone’s farm just in time to relax before the sun went down. My bath was in view of the goats grazing in the field behind one of the small rooms in the partially finished home they are constructing:

The water was warm and I felt surprisingly refreshed and clean after.

It was a large family (a man with three wives and 13 kids), and the youngest child was afraid of white people, and he cried most of the time we were there.

One of the kids, who was quite shy:

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I watched our dinner die at the hands of an eight-year-old with a dull blade, and a few hours later, it was nourishing my body. Guinea-fowl is beautiful and elegant from afar, but has quite an ugly and un-matched head for its body; actually it resembles the bagpipes. Regardless of its beauty or head size, it is quite tasty.

A few pictures from the fire after dinner:

fire 1

kids at fire

Kicking AIDS Out started its 3-day wkshp on Friday, and it was held at the local school. Hundreds of kids DO NOT attend class when three white people walk up the path. We began the workshop with 11 participants while dozens of kids stood in doorways and peeked through windows of the church at the bald white girl.

kids at the church

It seems to be a great workshop. The participants were invited to participate based on their interest and involvement with Score already, playing in sports games and demonstrating an interest in their communities. The workshop covers systems of the human body, a bit of an anat/phys review, and details on contracting HIV/AIDS, as well as what it is, what it does, how it’s spread, etc. There is a LOT of misinformation around, and this is vital for people who live so remotely to know. For example, it’s important that people know that having sex with a virgin or drinking bleach will not cure you of AIDS. Ultimately, they take the information and start conversations and educate the people in their own spheres of influence. Great program.

A shot of the participants at the end of the first day:

taking pulse

So… now to the ride out of the bush. I wrote several pages in my journal about this experience, but I’ll keep it succinct here.

A dusty journey in, usually means a dusty journey out. In by jeep, out by motorbike. Wrapped in a plastic bag I bought at the market a few days before, I strapped my camerabag and backpack onto the back of this dirt bike — on a shelf of rebar — stuffed a chitenge (wrap around skirt) into my helmet so it would fit, and hopped on the back shortly after sunrise.

A self portrait and pic of the road out (when deemed appropriate to hold on with only one hand):

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It was slow going, and a lot of uncertainty about directions (again with the “straight, straight; it’s not far”), some sand issues and slipping off the back once with the imbalancing effect of sand, and getting slapped in the legs and arms with bushes and brush. I held on the only way I could — white-knuckling the makeshift rebar shelf that sat behind me with my bare hands, and we guessed our way out of the bush. After some washboard roads, and finally finding the right way, we pulled up to the bus stop just minutes before my coach arrived, and I thanked my chauffuer and boarded for home.

Unfortunately, it would’ve rather ridden the dirtbike the last 5.5 hours instead of seat #15 on this bus. I sat next to a very large woman who spilled into the seats on either side of her. So we sat closely. Positioned with her arms crossed across her rotund self gave her untamed, untrimmed pit-hairs ample freedom to crawl down my arms. Heat or no heat, my long-sleeve shirt was staying put. I wish I had a picture, and you are glad I don’t.

So, I think this is my longest post, and I feel like I just glossed over everything that happened this week.

06
Oct
07

Plans for the week

Tomorrow I take the 6 am bus to Livingstone, Zambia, which is right on the border of Zimbabwe and one side of Victoria Falls.

I’ll spend a couple days there with the Kwanuha Women’s Association, a faith-based organization that helps rehabilitate commercial sex workers and their families and also educates to eradicate HIV/AIDS in the area. I think I be taking some photos and doing some interviews, but I’ll know more for sure after next week is done.

Nearby is Kalomo, a small town just outside of Livingstone. I’ll hook up with another org, Response Network, and go into the bush (“real Africa”) to visit a village for a few days, where I think I will also be taking pictures and talking to people, but again, who knows until it’s all done.

Note these two places on the map in the Southern Province:

Map of Zambia

I’m hoping for a safe and uneventful trip, that my health continues to improve (sinus infection), and that all my equipment remains safe and functioning.

The plan is to be back at the end of next week, maybe Thursday.

05
Oct
07

Some pics

Becca with some friends from the Peace Centre (in the tailoring classroom):
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A refugee family from Burundi hanging out at the Peace Centre:
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Women listen to instruction in one of the classrooms at the Peace Centre. This particular class is, of all things, house painting:
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Bare Feet artists/instructors learning a dance for several upcoming performances, especially though, for the festival in November. A few recently performed for Bill Clinton:
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Bare Feet puts on workshops at Flame ministries (recently visited by Laura Bush). A role playing/acting game here:
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“Jump, jump!”:
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This little girl has incredibly enchanting eyes. The little boy here cried several times when I smiled at him:
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05
Oct
07

It’s just so dang hot

Friday, October 5. Lunchtime.

This morning I attended a planning meeting of Bare Feet, at their sponsoring organization’s offices, Project Concern International (PCI).

The meeting continued as I jumped into the front seat of the car of the unofficial taxi driver for Bare Feet. While the meeting was to begin at 9 am, I don’t think it really got off the ground until 10 or so, and good things were still happening at 12:45 pm when I left.

I have arrived home and unlocked the first door (bars) with my first key, then the second door with my second key. My three remaining skeleton keys open the closets. It is an empty apartment: our other roommate is gone for a few days in Malawi and Becca is at the Peace Centre working her unofficial, unpaid job as refugee advocate and universal expert on everything – both of which she is very good at.

I haven’t had a drop of water since breakfast, and it is hot, so I slip into the kitchen and reach for the fridge door. As I crack open the diet A&W and savor the refreshment, I look around to see what will be on the menu for lunch. I conclude that this will take some ingenuity and experimentation.

I don’t know if boiling water is the best idea on a hot day, but my options – or imagination – is limited. I find a small pot in one of the Zambian Post newspaper-lined cupboards, I heat the stove, and begin cutting vegetables: the greenest and firmest part of an old squishy green pepper, a small brown potato, a couple of green onions, a clove of garlic.

The hot wind lifts the lacey kitchen window treatment into my face as I wash the dirty dishes, and passes through this first floor apartment. The only sounds are that of a very unhappy child in a nearby apartment echoing off the building, traffic in the distance, and some exuberant crickets.

As I stir noodles into the pot, the aluminum pan teeters on a nearby burner and settles down. The heat has made my head percolate, and a single drip of sweat has made it to the tip of my nose.

I am glad to be living now full-time in an apartment, complete with my own bed. The bath was a little nicer at the hostel, in that the temperature of the water was a little more predictable. And consistent. And had a good pressure. If I want a warm shower, I need to remember to flip a switch by the front door about 30 minutes ahead of time to heat it.

There are so many things different than home here. It becomes a dangerous, and well, it’s simply a waste of time to compare here vs. there. Here, there is a way things are. A wonderful resourcefulness gets tapped constantly, and there is a contagious joy I find people have. Things like switches to turn on hot water, and low-pressure baths speak to nothing of who Zambians are or what their lives are like.

05
Oct
07

Never underestimate the power of a breeze

Thursday, October 4. Evening.

The best $60 I ever spent, left me wallet this afternoon, and in return for it, I carried home a box, in it a solid chrome industrial fan – a Cessna engine in a box. It was the only model Game (a Wal-Mart-ish type store) had – that and a ceiling fan.

I remember shopping at Meijer in Indiana as school began, and they sold hundreds of box fans and oscillating fans and desk fans and standing fans to students for their dorms. It’s the hottest time of the year in a notoriously hot place, and there are just a handful of fans and one – expensive – model. I am a white sucker, I think. Zambians everywhere walk around in the heat of the day dressed in chitenges (long wrap skirts) or pants, and often long sleeves. And many women are carrying their sleeping children in slings behind them – a portable, living furnace for the low back. White people obviously can’t handle the heat, and the natives don’t mind it – hence the $60 fan. Knowing that I’m being taken helps me to fork over the cash for some strange reason.

I normally wouldn’t spend $60 on a fan – even when I was employed, but it was only today that I felt the cold embrace of an air conditioned room, and it’s been far to warm to be anything close to comfortable, especially at night. Enter October in Zambia. The California summers have prepared me well, but even in California, it’s assumed behind every door is cool relief. Not so here. I hope to re-coup some of the cost and sell it when I leave.

I am carrying on an Oak Hills office – well, Stephenie Carr – tradition of keeping a log of quotes. It has proven quite fruitful, and I know in several months, I will truly appreciate my efforts. There are several that are unpublishable here, but I can share a few:

“You can never have too much mayonnaise.” Some fool said this at the braii on Sunday. This was my first recorded quote and I mainly wrote it down for Steph’s sake, who’s feeling about mayonnaise ranks as more of Satan’s puss than delicious condiment.

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“Katie why don’t you come with me because I have no money.” Becca had to get her radiator patched (which they soldered in the parking lot of the mechanic’s — no room in the garage — while Becca held a meeting in her car). Such demands! To further illustrate my point:

“Are you writing about me in your blog? Are you mentioning me by name? I should be mentioned at least once a day.”

Part of what I have loved about Becca is her sense of humor and resourcefulness, and ability to be honest with whomever she encounters. Becca has an unmatched spirit of hospitality; she has instantly made Lusaka, Zambia feel like home to me. She’s doing amazing, unceasing work with refugees, and her energy is overwhelming sometimes. I would not have had this opportunity if I didn’t take advantage of using her for her connections to different people and organizations. And she has made me feel like a welcomed guest while I am in fact taking advantage of her.

03
Oct
07

Hey rooster, zip it

Monday night, October 1

 rooster

I have always thought of myself as an animal lover.  But nothing has given me more pleasure and relief than fantasizing about drop-kicking the rooster outside my bedroom window.  The ENTIRE night, it’s apathetic crows interrupted the now-muted bullfrog symphony.  No amount of decibel-blocking earplugs could prevent it’s horribly annoying noises from entering my psyche.  I think it missed the workshop that taught roosters are important at DAWN and not before.  Dragged through a busy Tuesday…




Katie Albert

kalbfly@gmail.com

PO Box 6536
Folsom, CA 95763
October 2007
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