Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A New Year and a Fresh Start

Welcoming in 2012           
           The morning breeze snaking its way in through the open windows of my room beckoned to me, coaxing me out of sleep. The clock on my cell phone read 8h29, a late start compared to my usual waking routine of 7h00. Today felt different to me, not in the way I unfolded my form from my bed, but in my senses.

            Breakfast was the same - English – consisting of two fried eggs, a sausage link, and canned, baked beans. I brought with me the dark, Frisco coffee because the brand the motel serves isn’t quite strong enough to suit my palate. I lingered over breakfast, reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, a novel about life in Afghanistan, written by Khaled Hosseini, the same author who penned The Kite Runner. Over Christmas weekend, I had borrowed other books from Alan’s and Frances’s collection, from whom many volunteers in and around Chipata also borrow. Reading gives us something to do on many slow days. I have to return the others that I have already completed.

            When Judith, the cleaning lady, greeted me with a jovial, “happy new year”, I realized that today was the birth of 2012, a future I had been anticipating since the beginning of December. I greeted her back before discussing the minor detail of cleaning my bathroom. I like to help her with the cleaning because it gives me something to do and pleasantly passes the hours away. Sweeping, wiping my work desk, washing my dishes, and doing the laundry . . . weekends are usually uneventful, lazy days, perfect for tending to my chores. I usually hand wash my clothing every other weekend. I’ve devised a way to soak them overnight in my water tub and then rub them clean after breakfast the following morning. I do this to protect my fingers from being rubbed raw and so I don’t have to work my arm muscles so hard. The best part is dumping out the brown water, knowing that the red sandy dust and grime have loosened from the fiber of my clothing. Seeing the brown water go down the drain makes me feel like I’ve cleaned out the clutter from my life and victorious, knowing that I’ve tackled and won the battle with the dirt embedded in my clothes.

            Since the start of the rainy season, laundry has become something of a guessing game. I’ve had to start reading the skies for signs of rain showers. Today, dark stains marked the bottom of the clouds, which signify that rain is hovering, ominously, waiting expectantly for the brush with the right temperatures to dissolve the mingling of hydrogen and oxygen gases, which patiently keep the rains at bay. The handy man said that it will start at 12h00 today, so I keep my watchful eye on the sky, ready to bolt out the door to retrieve my drying laundry at the first drop of rain. 

           In comparison to this season, summer was great for hanging clothes. The savannah heat meant that I could work outside in temperatures that would dry my clothes in a mere hour, and on most days, on the hottest of days, in even less time. Dragon flies and grasshoppers keep me company as I bent and hung each item on the line. I loved the predictability of it.

            Nowadays, the unpredictability of rainy season puts me a little on edge as I never know when the sky will open. Sometimes, the cool breeze preceding the rainfall is the only clue. Today, the humidity that keeps licking at my face, my forearms, and neck mislead me into believing that my laundry will be safe. I still don’t know.

            Christmas came and went for me this year. There wasn’t the usual anticipation of a hearty meal that I had the last two years as Christmas approached, although I did have the option of joining other volunteers to celebrate the holidays with a Christmas lunch. One of the volunteers from Katete, Lynie, who is temporarily staying at Michelle’s house, cooked up a huge meal. I learned later that she made various Filipino dishes; their celebration was attended by other volunteers in town and the vicinity. I ate cream lasagna at Protea Hotel, instead. That’s my plan again today – to treat myself to an expensive lunch with, of course, sweet red wine, and then come home and allow my body to absorb the delectable fatty cheese and cream.

            Two Friday’s ago, I finally finished the rough draft of the integrated development plan. This past week I spent hours polishing it, going home early on some days to circumvent the distraction at the office, and stay on schedule. Today will be the day of completion before submitting it on Tuesday to the powers that be. I am thinking about trying to do the comprehensive planning training in January. My effort to conduct it last month was politely deflected purely by the Council’s ignoring my requests for a lunch budget. I think that once the planners go through the training, they’ll start to piece together the different elements of urban life and see the value of integrating tasks, such as business development trainings, to those wanting to start a business here and planning for economic clusters and corridors. In the training manual, I’ve also included guidelines for planning ecologically, which I have observed isn’t really done carefully in Chipata. One planner explained that urban forestry isn’t incorporated into the normative process of parceling land, selling, and developing. There seems to be reluctance, too, from the planning leadership to shift the planning guidelines towards an integrated plan. In fact, this IDP is one of the reasons, if not the reason, planners were brought here in the first place. Although everything happens more slowly in Chipata, I’m starting to think that there is the conventional manner of avoidance accepted and tolerated by locals and I wonder how much of it has to do with other social complexities that Zambians are privy to, but I’m not. I plan to do a departure presentation and leave the next volunteer with a description of goals accomplished and areas where planning may continue to progress in Chipata. The presentation, I hope, will allow the Council planners to see the value of building on work that has already been done and the value of seeing how important concepts, such as inclusiveness and integration, are to improving planning in Chipata District.  

          One of the jobs I'm quite proud of is the completion of the monitoring of the water kiosks in Magazine squatter compound, where I have been planning and attempting to map with GPS coordinates for the last few weeks. Hopefully, the town clerk and I can agree to do land valuing there and give legal title to the residents.

16h00 Same Day
          I just returned from a two hour hike up the same mountain on which I usually trek on days I need to think. The air was nice today - after bouts with grey clouds, the day gave way to a beautiful sunny later afternoon. Next time, I'll upload photographs of the view from the top. In the meantime, I thought I would add some of the views and faces of Chipata.
Children of Magazine Squatter Compound
Kalongwezi Neighborhood facing the gorgeous Chipata mountains

Itinerant food trader
Another view of Chipata Mountains in Kalongwezi extension
My colleague, Namakau Maambo, one of the social planners, extraordinaire!
Another fundraising appeal
        Just a reminder to you reading my blog pages - I am still fundraising for my placement. I believe I am closer to my goal of US$2,000, so if you haven’t done so yet, please contribute today with US$10.00 or more either through the mail or through the “My Fundraising” page link to the right of my blog. Your contribution allows CUSO International to keep sending volunteers overseas to support capacities in needy countries.


Monique Mata said...

Great post, Camille! I love when you give more insight about your personal life there. Love the metaphor about the dirty laundry water!

MataInTheCity said...

Vividly written. I'm loving this colorful adventure of yours! Love and miss you!!!