1) Once upon a time, there lived a couple in a small village. Let’s call them Jerry and Ana (as usual, not their real names). Jerry’s job took him to far-away places. Ana stayed at home. Thru hard-work and perseverance they were able to build a house. Unfortunately, whenever Jerry was away, he was not faithful to Ana. Unknown to him, he had become HIV+. He came home and infected Ana. Ana become pregnant. The baby was born infected , as well. By the time, their disease had escalated to AIDS, the entire village knew.
The villagers were scared. They wanted this family out. Jerry and Ana knew no other home. They couldn’t leave. The villagers took matters in their own hands. One night, they came and torched the house that Jerry and Ana built. The couple escaped with their baby. They never came back to the village. This is not one of my stories from Zambia. This actually happened in a small village in Southern Philippines, a few years ago, as recounted to me by a fellow Filipino volunteer when we met for training last September.
Cruelty borne out of ignorance happens anywhere. It should stop.
2) The power outages are happening more frequently here in Kalomo. Last night, the lights went out at 7 pm and didn’t come back until the morning. There’s not much to do here even when the power is on, much less when it’s pitch darkness. At around 8 pm, I was sitting by my window staring at the moon. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I found myself singing….”Somewhere out there, beneath the pale moonlight, someone’s waiting for you…” in a trembling voice. I would have finished the song too if the dogs didn’t start barking.
3) The rains have come. Unfortunately, the downpours usually happen in the morning and early evening. It becomes really cold. I brought only one jacket so there are days when I wear it at night and then to work in the morning. I also brought one suit for just-in-case occasions so I’ve taken to wearing the suit jacket with my denims and rubber shoes on some days. What’s difficult is walking through the mud to/from work. One of these days, I’m going to fall flat on my butt (law of karma: there was this girl in the office back in the Philippines who used that excuse one day to explain why she had to go back home and couldn’t report back to work and I didn’t believe her).
4) And oh let me tell you about the locusts (I think that’s what they’re called. The lady who cleans tells me they come out during rainy weather and they can be made into some kind of local dish, I wonder if this is similar to the camaru we have back home. As I write, they’re swarming around the room . But they seem to have a pretty short life-span because I have dead ones all over my floor. I can also hear rats scurrying on the ceiling right now. From the sound, I'm guessing they're as big as toddlers. God bless all the little critters. But I still want to poison all of them with the strongest insecticide or repellants available and kick their furry filthy little carcasses as far away from me as possible.
5) I continue to be an object of fascination for the children here. When I walk to and from work, they run towards me shouting, “Hello. How are you”. I think it’s sweet so I don’t mind. What’s mildly disconcerting is that they gather outside the gate of the Drive Inn Guest House every Saturday morning to watch me do my laundry. It’s difficult to be friendly when your knuckles are red from scrubbing dried mud from your pants. If I charge money to let people watch me shower, maybe I can afford to spend more time on Internet surfing.
6) After 20+ years in the IT Industry, I can finally call myself an IT Specialist. I’ve been running computer tutorials, creating databases and doing minor hardware troubleshooting. Who knew?
7) In my 5 weeks here in Kalomo, these are among the things I’ve accomplished so far: a) revised the District Strategic Plan ; stakeholder consultations are now ongoing; b) helped draft the District Workplace Policy on HIV, AIDS and other Life-Threatening Diseases – I’m really proud of this, I think it’s a really good document; c) participated in workshops for gender-equality in the workplace, the output of which will eventually be used for another workplace policy; d) participated in monitoring meetings for the Constituency Development Funds where we spent a good amount of time talking about the health of the goats that were purchased in one village; and e) celebrated World Toilet Day today, November 19. We had a parade, a program and everything. World Toilet Day promotes proper hygiene and sanitation, especially in the rural villages.
8) This Monday, I’m conducting a workshop on resource mobilization, the first of a series, where I did the lesson plan and training materials all by myself about a subject I had previously no knowledge about. On Friday , we’re visiting Lusaka, the big city, to meet with some people whom the Council hopes to convince to invest in Kalomo so that new jobs can be created, etc. I will look for opportunities to apply what I’m learning here back home in da Pilipins
9) The big challenge has been trying to adjust to the way that things are done here and my role as a volunteer. Sometimes, things are just soooooo slow, that I just want to take over and do everything myself. But I keep reminding myself that this would defeat the purpose of my being here. At the end of the day, you want the people with whom you work to own the process and develop the skills to be able to sustain the projects on their own. It should do me good to learn to be less of a control freak.
10) The period from late November to the approach of Christmas usually is a bad time for me – too many death anniversaries and all the baggage that goes with the upcoming holidays. The rainy season and all the excess time for introspection isn’t going to help me here. On the other hand, I’m keeping busy and doing new things so – let’s see.
11) The week-end after next, I’m planning a big trip to the other end of Zambia (14 hours travel time) to meet up with some volunteer friends . And there’s the trip to Livingstone (home of Victoria Falls, supposedly one of the wonders of the natural world) which is only two hours away from Kalomo
12) Zambia being a predominantly Christian nation, I think I've found an effective way to bargain when I suspect I'm not being given the local rate. I look the vendor in the eye and say - "Are you sure you're giving me the right price? Are you sure?? God is watching us. If you're cheating me, he will punish you!" Works all the time.
13) November 17 marks Wyatt Ammon’s 4th death anniversary. His story was among those that inspired me when I was considering volunteering. May his soul rest in peace and may God continue to give comfort to his family, Amen.
There. Those are thirttene items that could have been full-blown blog entries. If you don’t hear from me for awhile, its because I’ve run out of ideas. Or maybe the locusts flew me away cause I’m so thin already (haha, not really, not yet anyway).
P.S. The section on Italy in Eat, Pray, Love is so the wrong thing to read when you have limited food options.