Monday, January 30, 2012


Neighbors and friends - the street vendors
The skin on my finger tips exhibit tight, scrunched up lines, like crinkled potato chips, an outcome of all this rain. Webs are starting to develop in the skin between my fingers and toes. Several days of straight rain, not the soft, London sprinkles, but the hard, jovial – sometimes angry – type that sounds like people are dancing on the metal roof top in black, Mary Jane’s. When this kind arrives at night on the tails of silent lightening rods that approach the valley, like sneaky, field mice at dusk, light up the bluish grey skies, I remain sheltered in my room. I love these moments in Chipata, the noisy clattering of rain drops intermingled with the earthy smell of after-birth, which sets the mood for contemplations or a quiet evening reading. 
One motel guest complained about all the rain, which leaves large brown puddles of mud along the sides of roads. He explained that several days of rain, one day rhythmically ensconcing into another day, is unusual for Chipata, even for rainy season. If my calculations are correct, I believe there have only been three sunny days in the last three weeks.

On the bright side, all this water is good for the dams and for the maize, which surely love it, judging from the rate at which they’re growing. One large patch of maize on Lundazi Road grew three-fold over three weeks. Ndelema (mushrooms) have also popped up from out of the ground – miracle mushrooms I call them because of their size. White and tender in texture, like Japanese shiitakes, they fetch a mean price on the market – ZMK10,000 for a bundle. I was told they can be gathered from deep in the forest, where the soils smell dank and where the earthen worms like to feast on plant decay. When I expressed the desire to gather them myself – even commemorating the event by purchasing a shiny, green basket – I was warned about the snakes that lie in waiting for mushroom predators, waiting to strike. Apparently, the snakes like them, as well. Truth or lore?

On the 10th of January, I am happy to report that the HIV/AIDS testing was successfully done at Magazine Squatter Compound. My gratitude is extended to Baby and the Corridors of Hope III people for following through. I hope to make it a regular cycle in the upcoming years by writing to USAID for funding the training of more outreach testers and for the portable HIV/AIDS kits. Diane Sawyer reported that conducting HIV/AIDS testing is cumbersome for many rural areas because blood does not keep for hours and the blood samples have to be ridden in on horseback into the nearest testing site. With these portable tests, they are done on site and are completed in about 20 minutes. 

Unfortunately, the family planning workshop I also scheduled the day before with the Society of Family Health and Family Planning was a no-show without a word of warning. This outcome, unfortunately, has been consistent in my efforts to work with the public. And, often times, there is no written or verbal feedback from the social planners, who normally do this type of outreach work, about scheduling and planning. As such, I had to coordinate these programs myself. I waited at the Hope Campus Basic School, but no one from the SFHFP showed up. After an hour, I gave up and headed back to the office.

There have been other progress this month, albeit slowly, in relation to my placement at the Council. I managed to get a meeting with the Director of Planning to discuss the contents of the Integrated Development Plan, which will surely result in productive revisions to the document. As far as a response from the deputy directors, there have been none as of yet, but I continue to follow up with them. I anticipate this meeting on Wednesday with the Director, however, will be productive and help to move the Council one more step closer to acquiring an IDP for Chipata District.

Sleepy, lazy snail
Chipata has many different wildlife and not all languish at the South Luangwa Park in Mfue. In the Old Civic Center building, where I work, snails come out in droves. The rain seems to coax them out of their hiding places, wherever those nooks and crannies are. They sit on the underside of the leaves of flora plants, sometimes unfurling themselves out of their conch shells to glide from one branch to another. I found a green clump on a plant stalk on this day, when I decided to observe their movements, and realized it was snail dung. After observing one sleepy snail, I realized that they release dung from the middle of their soft undersides, through a tiny hole that’s barely visible to the naked eye. 

On this same day, a small group of Ngoni people made their way to the parking lot to the right of Barclays Bank. A passerby told me they were performing a dance normally performed at the N’cwala Ceremony, which takes place for three days beginning on the 28th of February. I will just miss them again this year, as I did last year. But, on this day, I was treated to their dance. I video taped them on a digital camera; I can’t upload it to this blog, but will eventually post all the videos on my Facebook page as soon as I learn how to do it. In the meantime, readers will have to settle for just the photos. 

Child dancer - N'cwala Dance

Female dancer

Ngoni Warriors
Fundraising reminder – please keep in mind that volunteering anywhere is rewarding, but doing so in the Global South is an experience irreplaceable by any other experience, despite the undulating emotions that are normally attached to living in another country. Please send in your donation to help me meet my goal of US$2,000. I realize that some of you have opted to send your donation by check, so that will not show on the list of contributors on the My Fundraising Page. If you haven’t received your receipt, please contact Tara Henderson, whose contact information is found on the CUSO-VSO site (please see link on this page). You may also contribute with a credit card, which can be done easily and safely through the My Fundraising link. Again, as always, zikomo to those who have already done so.   

1 comment:

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