Wednesday, November 30, 2011

This turkey did NOT come with a pop-up thermometer

Its never easy to describe how different life is over here to you guys. Other volunteers talk about becoming desensitized to the crazy stuff we go through daily. Its true, and it can be difficult to relate to the normalcy of life back home.
Luckily, those familiar things like holidays bring back all the hominess and traditions and snap this crazy world back into focus.

So, here is my first Thanksgiving in Africa Adventure...

First, there was no thought of turkey for dinner. They are large, muscely, expensive, and rare, so that was out. The solution: 4 large fish sold from a man's bike handlebars, one duck that a random villager appeared with, and one chicken.
The chicken was SMF and I's responsibility. So how do you get a Thanksgiving chicken in Africa?? Here's my step-by-step guide.

1. Pick a direction and start walking
2. Tell anyone you see you are looking for a chicken, in Chichewa, of course, which roughly translates to "Tikufuna nkhukhu. Mukuziwa ali kuti?"
3. Eventually villagers will start pouring out of their houses to follow and watch the action.
4. The man who earlier had a school of fish tied to his bike will approach, gesticulate wildly, and indicate that he has a chicken to sell for double the price you are willing to pay.
5. You follow him to his house a kilometer away.
6. He makes you take your shoes off, sit on his mat, meet his entire extended family.
7. He will bring you a bowl with no less than 12 mangoes to eat and knife that looks like a piece of shrapnel from WWII.
8. You will hack at the mango while you watch most of the extended family chase a chicken around and around the yard and into the house.
9. They will tie its legs and start waving it in your face.
10. You patiently explain that you want a "lady" not a "gentleman" chicken while pointing at your chest area to get the point across.
11. More chicken chasing and mango mutilation
12. Argue over price until finally pulling out all your money to prove that's all you have.
13. Walk away proudly with the chicken and 11 mangoes tucked underarm
14. Chop off chicken head (I had nothing to do with steps 14-19)
15. Throw in boiling water
16. Pluck
17. Disembowel
18. Season
19. Cook
20. Enjoy!!

Hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Here's to a lifetime of exciting memories and wonderful friends and family to share them with!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

It's all in the Game, Game Count that is

All semblance of a social life, real meals, productivity or hygiene activities have all come to a screeching halt. I always was a sucker for crime dramas, and, with the recent introduction of HBO's "The Wire," I've had to re-prioritize my life a little. Locking myself away to shamefully finish all five seasons as fast as possible has proven to be a little difficult in the absence of electricity, but, not to be deterred, I've figured out I can get in about three episodes a day if I haul my computer up to the hospital, make sure its fully charged before hauling it back home, and, if I bring lunch to work, I can furtively close my door at lunch time and get it one more episode.

I have a problem, but I'm going to blame it on my lack of westernized culture and my need to feel connected back home. West Baltimore is practically identical to Decatur, Georgia; right?

Thankfully, I was forced out of my reclusive/obsessive patterns to go to a Game Count. I thought it sounded like a great idea.... Go walking through a Game reserve,(think safari park) and assist the park by counting any animals you may see. This is how it was sold to me. Sounds nice right?
Further probing uncovered that Peace Corps volunteers are led by a lone gunmen/forest ranger as they bushwhack their way across double digit kilometer distances, to try to get really close to animals that are a lot bigger and more territorial than we are. In retrospect, I'm fairly certain we were being used as bait; who else besides Peace Corps volunteers are stupid enough to not only do this, but get put on a waiting list to do this. In fact, if you have more seniority you get to go and count/chase after the more dangerous animals.
So, possibly not such a great idea, but, since moving to Africa, my sense of adventure and need for adrenaline has spiked considerably.
In reality the Game Count was a lot of walking in high heat and humidity, occasionally a glimpse of an antelope-like thingy running away, and a giant splinter in my foot.
To liven up the atmosphere I asked to hold the clipboard; at least then I could pretend I was a lady scientist on a very important scientific exploration. When that fantasy staled, I went back to what I'm most fond of and became a renegade cop who has chasing drug dealers into the heart of the jungle.
It got even better when we happened on a group of "poachers," and surrounded them commando style crawling on the ground, ready to attack, until we realized it was just another group of Peace Corps & Gunman. Good thing I wasn't holding the gun; my crime drama training tells me to shoot first and ask questions later, but that would have been quite a lot of paperwork for poor Peace Corps.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A break from reality

Out of the village and into luxury for my birthday. Hot showers, food not over a campfire, wine, cool temperatures... it was perfection

Monkey on Dog!

The monkey has upgraded his ride

Sunday, November 13, 2011

More hot topics

Its so hot. How hot is it you ask? Its so hot that it makes me want to use very, very bad words to describe it but I can't because
A. I'm a United States Peace Corps Volunteer and I have a sterling reputation to uphold
B. My parents read this blog
C. I live with lots of Seventh Day Adventists, and for better or for worse they are rubbing off on me a little.
Suffice to say its hot, and this is coming from someone who spent 27 years in Atlanta, Georgia, the first decade without air conditioning, and much of the second decade too cheap to turn it on.
The hardest part is that there is no relief, nowhere to hide. There are no cars to get into and blast the AC, or work AC to mooch off. Its just oppressively hot ALL THE TIME.
Thankfully, I don't even live in the hottest part of the country, where many volunteers are stationed. From what I understand, they're all sitting under trees with squirt bottles and slowly sweating the summer away in misery and self pity.
I'm not quite that bad. I can actually function in the heat. Its just the nighttime that's hard. No electricity means no fans, which means NO air moving at all at night. My new tactic is a giant bucket of water and lots of towels. I can dunk the towels and then put them all over my sweltering body until they dry and then dunk them again. Its effective but it doesn't make for quality sleep.
One small benefit of the heat is that I'm up and moving much earlier these days, and I like to think I'm much more productive as a result. My normal wake-up time is around 4:45am. So by 7pm its lights out and time for sleep.

I hear the rains are coming soon. Thank goodness because I feel about as wilted as my poor garden looks.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Caliente! Chaude! Kuthente! HOT! HOT! HOT!

Until it cools down this blog is dedicated to all things HOT!

Making a house a home

Here is a sampling of my new furniture. You'll probably have to zoom in a bit to see my ingenuity. The blue bucket on the table is positioned over a bucket fitted into a counter... and presto! A sink! Even a new cabinet for me so the roaches, ants, rats, and villagers can't get to my food!
I'm moving up in the world!