Friday, May 27, 2011


Sunday (22 May) was such a lovely day that I felt inspired to broadcast it. My friend, Richard, asked me to accompany him and his “family” on a brief hike up Kanjala Hill to get a hillside view of Chipata town. The view was breathtaking. I could see clear across along the mountain chain across to the Malawi side of Chipata. Malawi is just twenty minutes away from Chipata; the easiest way to get there is by taking Malawi Road, which leads directly to Mchinji, another squatter community (I think), inside Malawi.

On the other side of the part of Kanjala Hill that we were standing on is the Lutembwe Dam, a central drinking water source for the town. Surrounding Lutembwe Dam are acres and acres of forests, which not surprisingly are being cut down to make way for residential development, which seems to grow at a rate as fast as Amherst.

The director of the planning department in Chipata still has not sat down with me to talk about the extent and magnitude of development of Chipata into a city. There is clearly a need to complete the visioning process, as the city continues to grow outward in a way that spells potential environmental problems for the town. The lack of response to my review of the current planning document – over one month, now – implies futuristic, responsible planning might not be a priority for the Council. Instead, planning goes on as usual, which normally consists of identifying land spaces for parceling into plots, which are later sold to interested homeowners.

I have a desire to get into Malawi, but for now I have to be content with discovering Chipata. I haven't seen much of it, yet. I don't have a bike – so, I am on foot. The most I have seen of it so far is the Lundazi Road area and the town center. At best, I have gotten a bird's eye view of the area. I keep saying I'll walk to Malawi, but probably not this week. Perhaps this weekend . . .

The day was just stunning. The temperature was perfectly breezy; the afternoon sun hot on my shoulders and Richard, I, and his adopted family engaging in easy, conversations that were both focused and scattered. Richard and I, of course, tended to dominate the air with our complaints about the lethargy of Zambia, while the members of his family talked amongst themselves. The road was unpaved, which made walking downhill a little tricky. But, in a peculiar way, I liked periodically losing my footing as the iron-red gravel rolled around loosely beneath the soles of my Keen sandals.

Richard had thought far ahead, loading the trunk of his car with fruits, candy, and water. After snacking on them atop Kanjala, we all stopped at the fancy Protea Hotel for lunch, where his family met up with the children's mother, an employee at the hotel. Protea, an international 5-Star hotel, boasts a pool, probably the only one in Chipata. They all went swimming except for a handful of us. I languished on one of the plastic recliner chairs at pool side. I saw two sister's flapping about in the water, whose joyous, teasing laughter reminded me of Phoebe Prince and her sister, Lauren.
I have finally polished off my quarterly report for the VSO program office in Lusaka. Once I filled in all the boxes, I realized I had done more work than I realized. Perhaps doing all that work in a matter of three months is the reason my emotions continue to wax and wane: on most days, I feel I am having the time of my life and am having the best experience, while on the occasional nadir, I feel Zambia is the worst international experience I have ever had. I hope to stabilize my roller coaster heart in the second quarter by focusing more on the small things that I am accomplishing and less on the large, more difficult projects that are planned. Oh, and staying away from the evening news might help, as the news has endless reports about corruption, with the elections so near.

During the last two weeks of May, I learned how to use the total station. Well, “learned to use” is a bit of an exaggeration. I learned how to align the total station to a 90 degree angle, measured by the perfect positioning of a tiny infrared light on the head of a metal beacon, and learned which buttons I would have to adjust in order to make sure that the elevation and balance of the machine matched that of the land. I haven't been taught how to read the important symbols, but at least for now Mr. Total Station is no longer a mystery to me, thanks to my colleague, Paul. I still prefer the thinking part of planning, but the quick lesson on the total station gave me a general overview of its utility, which are distance, spatial depth, and plane coordinates.

I have finally bought a basic Kodak camera. I am still trying to work out why the camera is not charging my inserted battery. The model is an M550. I followed the instructions, but nothing. The light doesn't even flash. Once the camera begins functioning, I promise to get those photos posted onto this blog. In the meantime, please visit “My Fundraising Page” to the left of today's blog.


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