Saturday, November 26, 2011


I read in Jeremy Gould's Left Behind: Rural Zambia in the Third Republic that dry season is the period of scarcity. It sure is the case with ground nuts. I've been craving them, but haven't found any sellers on the streets. And, although this is the time green masukus are harvested, they all seem to have been sold out. Apparently, others enjoy them as much as I do, as succulent and sweet as they are.

I’m spending another Saturday morning and afternoon at SPAR, where I am tending to my private life, preparing for life after CUSO-VSO. I came back just yesterday from Lilongwe, where I bought tiny and hopefully meaningful presents for the children I know back home.
I’ve been neglectful of my blog to date due to my busy schedule. At least, I can say that the month has been a productive one for me. I finally finished the sectoral local plan for the Magazine squatter compound; it covers the many needs of the unplanned settlement and would serve as a model for legalizing and upgrading the other five unplanned settlements in Chipata District. The monitoring of the local area plan for the same compound has also taken up a lot of my time. In Chipata, if one wants to get something done, every request and every plan has to be written on paper, otherwise they are forgotten. More importantly, without the formal written request, it is difficult to be open about proposals and intentions to the public and even more difficult for relevant personnel to keep track of the numerous projects occurring around the district. 

Likewise, October was a busy month for Chipata Municipal Council. Even though the federal elections are over, Chipata District had to conduct local elections, which took place during the first week of October and then the Council body had to orient the new Councilors to the responsibilities of their job. I attended the second half of the orientation, which was held in the second week, but couldn’t handle the heat in the conference room at Chipata Motel. It was truly stultifying; I could hardly breathe in there. Needless to say, I left early.

The overture of the orientation session was very British in conduct and appearance. The Town Clerk wore a whig, which was very commemorative of Zambia’s colonial link with England. I had never attended a British-style political event, so I found it to be very interesting.

November is turning out to be as frantically busy as October, as we in the district and the government all wind our way down to the end of the year and prepare for the Christmas holidays. During this month, I made the decision to complete the first draft of the integrated development plan for Chipata District on 31 December, 2011, so I have been taking pertinent images of the district to help readers of the IDP visualize the urban problems and the reasons for including the inserted elements as being integral and central to improving the appearance of Chipata District and its simultaneous elements. 

In addition to writing the rather large IDP document, I added mapping to my list of to do’s this month. The features and housing settlements are not included in any of the boundary maps of the squatter compounds. Because it’s necessary to demonstrate that these areas have indeed become residential areas and to further illustrate the value of upgrading the Compound in terms of the health and sanitation conditions, and the overall appearance for future funders, mapping features and boundaries are important. So, over the last three days, I have been at Magazine recording GPS coordinates. Enoc, my colleague, very kindly explained to me how to use the device. Luckily, the visuals on the device are better now and more readable compared to before. 

I must say, though, the heat has almost deterred me from heading out to the compound. Every day since the start of this GPS project I had to fight the urge to stay in the office and not brave the scorching sun. Every day after the day’s mapping session, I go home to my motel room to finish the day’s work because the temperature in my room is cooler than that in the office in the middle of the afternoon. However, my room is also where I can be shut away from the buzz of activity in the old civic center building. Working in the quiet solitude of my room, I am certain to meet my year targets and can advance the planning pilot into the next volunteer year without any distractions.

At the motel, after unlocking the door, I stumble into the foyer, eager to escape the reach of the sun’s rays and lay spread eagle on my bed, feeling like a beached whale. Fortunately, I don’t look like a beached whale, as the high temperatures occlude me from consuming huge mouthfuls of the comfort food, nshima. I suppose you could say that the heat is a blessing to my waist line.

As I’ve mentioned my dramatic reactions to the heat several times in this blog, you might have already guessed that we have entered the driest season in Zambia. Even with the occasional –very occasional during the dry season – rainy day, the heat is hard to put up with. I take cool baths now; the soothing cold water is welcomed by the heat rashes on my skin. On the hottest days, I want to scream out, "I'm dying here!!!!". But, then the rains come,which bring cooler temperatures, and make me long for the Indian summers of New England. But, with rainy season being just around the corner, I won’t be craving for long.

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