africa

Pamela at Lake Nyasa in Africa

Lake Nyasa - for the Grateful Web
- for the Grateful Web

I hope you are all doing well and had an enjoyable summer!  It is getting near spring here, evident by the pink flowers of the blooming peach trees.  Yet the weather in the Highlands is still very cold!  Some days, when it is cloudy or windy the temperature doesn't get much above 65, and when the sun is out it will get maybe up in the 70s.  The crops and grasses are brown and have died down, but the pine, eucalyptus and other evergreen shrubs remain as a presence of green.

Time is beginning to slow down a bit here, probably because the excitement has worn off, although new things are happening every day.  As many of you know, I went to South Africa last month to have dental work done, and since returning I have been tremendously busy with projects.  I was very happy to see that the school carried on well with classroom renovation and constructing the fences and raised beds for the garden and tree nursery.  One day about 600 of the 690 students helped to haul rich soil up from the valley (about 1/2 mile from the school) in bags that they carried on their heads!  They looked like a line of worker ants.  For several days they also brought bags of composted manure from home.  We now have literally thousands of seedlings of 8 different types of trees (mostly for lumber and soil improvement; soon we will obtain fruit tree seedlings), and 38 varieties of 14 types of vegetables, including: tomatoes, onions, collards, kale, several types of beans, amaranth, eggplant, carrots, peas, watermelon, pumpkins, sweet corn, and cucumbers.  We have 10 varieties each of tomatoes and onions, and several varieties of other vegetables, and therefore are conducting a mini variety trial research project!  (Like I didn't get enough of that in grad school!)  The seeds were obtained from local markets and two NGOs, ECHO, a Christian hunger relief organization based in Florida, and the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center based in Taiwan and has an African Division office in Arusha.  Both of these organizations are interested in obtaining feed back the plants' performance, so I plan to make evaluation sheets that the students to help them analyze plant growth, then we will write reports.  In addition to developing critical thinking skills, hopefully the students are also learning the basics of vegetable gardening and tree care, so that the health and income of their families will be improved.  I am happy to see that the students are very excited about this project, as are other teachers.  I have no doubt that this project will carry on well without me!

Another project to help achieve the goal of improving the health and income of families began last week with a "travel study", when 4 women and I went to observe the farm belonging to the mother of one of our district officials, who has artistically integrated the components of a large vegetable garden, numerous fruit trees, and various types of livestock.  The farm is near the village of Ludewa, which is 35 km from Lake Nyasa, and within the Livingstone Mountains.  We were not able to see the lake because of mountains, but it was still very beautiful!  Hopefully the women came home with new ideas, but I'm sure just seeing some place new changed their lives in some way.  I am now meeting with them to plan seminars that they will give in each sub village about what they learned and observed, and this will hopefully get people talking about ways they can diversify their farms.  The beekeeping and chicken projects are both in progress; 2 village craftsmen are currently making beehives and soon we will have 85 to sell to villagers at a reduced cost, with the help of PC grant money.  The District Beekeeping Extension Officer came to the village to give a seminar, after which the villagers formed a bee group.  If they keep in touch with the Extension Officer, he will be able to help them find markets for their honey and wax.  People are also really enthusiastic about the chicken project, and this coming week we will be organizing a chicken group who will decide and coordinate the method of distributing vaccinations.  I will then give a series of seminars on the needs of modern breed chickens, after which 20 roosters (Rhode Island Reds) will be brought to the village and distributed to people who have built bandas.  In the following months, more vaccinations and more roosters will be brought. 

On a personal level, I have been struggling somewhat with homesickness and what PC terms "cultural fatigue".  But I am not going through this alone; all of the volunteers in my training group seem to be experiencing the same feelings right now.  At least we have each other and plans of many adventures for next year..

Pamela's Xmas in Africa

- for the Grateful Web
Dar- for the Grateful Web

I hope the Holiday Season is looking to be a happy one, and the transition into winter is welcoming!  The change in seasons here is as abrupt as elsewhere in Africa, from last month bone dry and blazing forest, field and brush fires all around, adding smoke to the already dusty air and to now flash flood downpour every afternoon, usually clearing off to a cool crisp evening and a fresh sky of sparkling stars.  Gardens are flourishing again, and field planting has begun. 

I'm continuing work with the beekeeping and chicken projects, the school garden and tree nursery, and conducting health seminars.  Together with several very enthusiastic students, we've started an after school youth group to focus on issues such as animal husbandry, sustainable farming practices, life skills, and environmental education.  I just recently painted a mural of the world map at the school, and next year hope to do more educational murals, perhaps incorporating creative assistance from the students.  Next year my focus will also be on building fuel-efficient stoves and completing the school and community library, which will be funded by a $2,100 grant recently received from the US Embassy. 

Life in the village has been good, but I definitely have been needing to get away for a while!  I just came from Dar, where I began the process of purchasing the books for the library, but I also went to see the doctor, and for some R&R on the beach!  I had a couple extra days to spend on Zanzibar, where the volunteers hosted a full moon beach party!  It was a great time - we ate incredible amounts of seafood - octopus spaghetti, lobster, and a fish barbeque.  I wish you all could have been there!  I wish every one of you could come visit to experience swimming in the waves of the turquoise blue Indian Ocean.  If you were to come visit, you could also experience listening to the Muslim call to prayer on the roof of a hotel in downtown Dar es Salaam at sunset, and eating Indian and Ethiopian food!  But I realize how unfeasible this is for most of you, so I hope I can share with you my experience s as much as possible.

After returning to site today, I will be leaving again on the 20th to go to Lake Nyasa (Malawi) with my friend Gwen and her family who will be here to visit, then spending Christmas with other volunteers in the town of Mbeya, and continuing on with my friend Carolyn to take the train across Zambia to go to Victoria Falls for New Year's!  Woohoo! 

Will it really be 2004 already?  I have a feeling time will fly again next year.  It will begin with even more traveling.  After returning from Zambia, I have to go to South Africa AGAIN, this time to have gallbladder surgery.  It has been giving me problems, and the doctors decided it would be better to take it now, rather than wait for another attack when I'm way out in the bush far from medical care.  I will then return to Dar for the last few days of our Mid-Service Conference.  After possibly spending a few more days on the beach, I'll be at site for the month of February, and then will be back in Nebraska for most of the month of March for my sister's wedding!  YEAH!  I hope to see some of you then!

Pamela's stories from Africa

- for the Grateful Web

Hi everyone!  Hawajambo wote?

I returned to my village 6 days ago, and have been adjusting well despite a few struggles.  Being in the States ruined me in some ways!  I had a fabulous time there, enjoying all the luxuries that are so often taken for granted, such as daily hot showers, driving, a vast variety of food, comfortable chairs, clean stuff, wine and GOOD BEER.  And of course above all else, I immensely enjoyed spending time with family and friends.  Other volunteers that have gone back to the States warned me that everything would be so strange and that I might have a hard time relating to people.  However despite having felt a bit repulsed by our greed (which repulsed me before I left) I otherwise did not at all feel out of place.  With family and friends, I felt more connected to them than ever before.  Everything felt so comfortable and so much like HOME.  
 
The two weddings I was lucky to attend were very special times.  My friend Lori had a very simple yet elegant wedding set in an old mansion bed and breakfast, catered with Indian food and a scrumptious chocolate strawberry cake that she made herself!  My sister had the big traditional wedding, quite extravagant yet earthy, with gorgeous yellow and orange roses, a hummer limo, huge gourmet buffet at a country club and a raging dance party.  Good times all around, with so many friends and family in town!  Time of course flew by way to fast.
 
The Wednesday after my sister's wedding, I got on a plane again for Tanzania, reminding myself I have only 8 months left.  All my flight connections went smoothly, even having a 3 hour emergency landing in Goose Bay, Quebec to let off a sick person.  I spent Friday in Dar taking care of business related matters, and all day Saturday on the beach, where I ended up sleeping off most of my jet lag.  A great place to do it!  Sunday I took a bus to Mafinga, and Monday returned to the village.
 
I returned to find my house and everything in it intact, except there was dirt everywhere that had fallen from the ceiling or blown in, my clothes cabinet and all my clothes inside and my bed and bedsheets were infected with mildew, weeds had overtaken my garden, one of my (thought to be) hens turned into a rooster, and my cat was missing!  She later turned up; I discovered she had kittens in the forest behind the house because she apparently was scared of my guard who slept there every night.  On Thursday she finally brought them (4 of them!) to live with us.  I love having kittens!  Other things to be happy about (after cleaning and washing everything)  is returning to the awesome natural beauty I am surrounded by, the peaceful solitude, being out on my bike again, and my very welcoming village friends. 
 
I brought back almost as much stuff as I brough to America - all gifts - but to America I brought baskets, wood carvings, batiks, and fabrics, whereas to Tanzania I brought M&Ms, sweaters and sweatshirts (thanks Mom and Dad and Vic!), potholders, calendars, candles, jewelry, and bubbles.  They LOVE everything I brought for them, especially the jewelry and bubbles.  Even the adults have never seen bubbles before and get quite a kick out of them!
 
My last 8 months here I'm sure will go fast, because I have plenty to keep me busy!  This month I'll continue teaching English at the school, organize a second beekeeping seminar, begin making fuel-efficient stoves, and track down another place to buy modern breed roosters.  The Rhode Island Reds I brought a few months ago are not getting it on with the local hens!  (Any advice in this area would be much appreciated!  My uncle suggested country music, but I haven't tried this yet.)  The first week of May will be Girls' Empowerment Camp, same as last year but this year at an Italian convent (= good food!).  Then mid-May I'll head to Dar to pick up my friend Jamie from Alaska.  She'll be here for almost a whole month and we're doing everything there is to do here - safari, village, Zanzibar, and most exciting, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro! 
 
I want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who donated money for my students.  I now have enough to take (maybe 30!) primary students on safari, buy several books for the new library, and pay secondary school fees for at least 3 maybe 4 students.  I'm still in the process of organizing everything now, but as soon as I can I'll be sending you pictures of the students and hopefully letters from them.  *** If you haven't donated but would still like to, it's not too late.  You can still send checks addressed to me (my mom has power of attourney) at my parents' address.  They'll deposit them in my account there, I'll withdraw the funds from an ATM in Dar, then deposit them in the account I am setting up here.  Wanafunzi wanawashukuru sana!  The students thank you very much!