Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The fine art of mud hut living

Hey, it's Joe again (actually, this is his mom posting for him, since he doesn't have much access to internet)
I'm living in Chitunga in the Northwest Province (160 km from Solwezi, capital of NW province, and 200 km from Mwinilunga), but don't expect to find it on a map.
I gave a speech in Kaonde at the swear in ceremony in late September, and wore a vest made with Obama's picture on it. (Hope to get it posted on Facebook soon).
I moved to my village late September, and am a first generation PCV here. There are two PCVs about 20 km each direction from me. The people in the village are really nice, except a couple families are providing me way more food than I can eat! The bowl of nshima they give me is the size of my stomach! Usually I give the people eggs or cooking oil for the food they give me. Besides the main staple of food, nshima, which is a corn meal staple food served with various relishes of vegetables or chicken, there is a food here called Rape - yep, that's really the name - it's like green kale with onion and tomatoes. Right now there is lots of food, but I know there is a period of no harvest, called the Hungry period that will be coming up.
My mud hut has two rooms, and I just had the walls plastered with concrete to keep the termites from eating through the walls. Also, just had the floor concreted, and plan to get it waxed too. This will help with insects, will repel dirt and water, and just easier to clean. There is about 1/2 foot gap between the walls and the thatched roof, so anything that flies can get in. I plan to get some screen to put between the outside wall and the roof. I painted one wall off white and plan to paint the rest of the walls, so it doesn't look like a basement room. I'm thinking about painting one wall as a chalk board and buying some chalk to write on it. So far, I only have a dart board on my walls. I sleep under a mosquito net, and am getting a bed frame made soon. My bathroom is a little miniature hut with a hole in the ground. I have a cooking shelter where I usually start my brassier(sp?) fire - like a metal grill that I put charcoal on. Sometimes I bring it into my hut, but usually cook outside to keep from attracting bugs.
I had a meeting with 40 prospective fish farmers. My local counterpart, Dawson, helped translate the language. They had lots of questions. Soon, we plan to do some pond harvesting, where we will probably drag a net across a pond to get all the fish. I'm looking forward to this! I spend half of my day making visits to various farmers. And I spend about an hour preparing each of my meals. I have lots of free time for reading - the first week, I read 3 books. The first 3 months they want you to integrate yourself into the community, and not travel to Solwezi, the provincal capital. However, I will get to go to Solwezi November 22, because of Thanksgiving holiday. I hope that I have enough books to hold me over until then.
I was hitching a ride the other day, and these Chinese guys who worked in the Copper mine picked me up. I started speaking Mandarin Chinese with them. They were pretty freaked out to see an American speaking Mandarin. Although I am learning Kaonde, which is only spoken in a small part of Zambia NW province and part of the Congo, I figure I may never use the language again after PC. So now that I know there are all these Chinese mine workers around, I plan to study Mandarin while I'm here. Who would have guessed that I would have an opportunity to practice Mandrain in Zambia?! You may have seen on Facebook that I took my first helicopter ride recently. Someone doing surveying for a mining company gave me and the two other PCVs (Adam and Renee) a ride over the village where Renee lives. It was quite a cool experience as we rode just above tree level.
My address now is:
Joseph Harvell, PCV
Peace Corps
P.O. Box 110264
My mom sends a package every month, so if anyone has a letter or book they want to her to include, just let her know.
I miss all of you and send you my love.