Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Listy Blog of Demands :D

Greetings all! I have, as per overwhelming request, been giving much thought as to how you, too, can do your part to contribute to global development. Here’s what I’ve come up with: A) Join Peace Corps, or B) send your friendly neighborhood Volunteer a little something. Like a letter. Or a package. I’d LOVE to hear from anyone and everyone about what’s new in their lives and what’s new in the big wide world. Shockingly, Mwanachama (just across the dambo, down the hill, and across the stream) is a bit out of the loop on things. Can’t seem to understand why…

Anyway, I understand packages are more expensive, but if you’re really feeling ambitious or bwana (rich, as the locals say), here’s a brief and by no means exclusive rundown of the things I would be wet-my-pants excited to receive:

-granola bars (any and all kinds, shapes and sizes)
-any form of pre-packaged protein, actually, ie: beef jerky, tuna, trail mix, ect.
-you know, really just pre-packaged anything would be awesome. If it says instant and/or just add water, toss it in.
-see above for beverages as well, esp. instant coffee :)
-starbursts and skittles
-Tim’s Cascade Potato chips in Sea salt and vinegar!
-Pictures. Of anything. Except naked girls. Mostly just you and your life.
-Candles! Yummy smelling ones, cintronella ones, ones that burn. Or incense, too.
-Pens. Incidentally, Zam-pens don’t last as long as the nice American pens that are made in China. Don’t ask me know I found this out
-Magazines, about anything. Ditto to the naked girl comment above, however. I love reading fashion mags like Glamour, Marie Claire, ect, but would also love current events stuff too. Capital Press, Country Living, Martha, and what not. DO NOT under any circumstances send me a food magazine if you consider our friendship valuable…
-crossword puzzle and sudoku books. They keep me sane and I’m running out…
-anything clever or fun that could keep me entertained for a while. It wouldn’t take much, honestly. You send over a box of assorted bottle caps and I’d have a full weekend of entertainment.
-New music, if you know what kind of music I’m into. I’d welcome anything, and I love getting new stuff. Plus if you send it over on a flash drive (the best way), you guarantee yourself a real letter from Africa back w/ your drive…just sayin’. It’s a sound business proposition
-hand sanitizer and Pepto-tabs to keep the ever insidious Africa-gut at bay. I believe in stock-piling.

If you can figure out a way to send the following, I will personally appeal directly to the Pope himself for your Canonization into sainthood:

-Ben and Jerry’s Imagine Whirled Peace Ice Cream
-Mike’s Hard Lime-ade and Fat Tire beer
-Fresh sea food, esp crab
-Top Burger French fries
-my Mom, Dad and sister
-shortwave radio (probable, but I really don’t expect anyone to send one…lol)
-a Ferris Wheel
-any type of firearm to eliminate the rooster that sleeps in the tree above my roof. Please note here that I have not asked for an alarm clock. Also note that “dawn” to a Zambian rooster is 4:00 am
-BBQ, either the device or the product
-Eric Bana, sans shirt

…I leave the details up to you.

Really, I’d love hearing from all of you (even if there are strangers out there :) ), but just knowing that you’re out there reading and pulling for me is enough. I appreciate it and it makes me feel good to have such a huge team rooting for me on the homefront. Makes the hard days easier and the good days better. Special shout-out to Tanya and Jonie, thanks for keeping Mom sane so far. Love you guys…

Provincial meetings in the first week of June! Just a couple of days before my birthday so I can make a real cake and celebrate with all of my new friends in Luapula province. Then IST (in-service training) in Lusaka beginning of August and then I can come back to Mwanachama and begin real work! My village is fantastic and I fall more in love with it and the people in it every day. So much to look forward to…

Hope everyone is enjoying some fabulous Spring weather and enjoy Memorial Day!


Thursday, May 6, 2010

50 Gazillion First Dates

Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say “a lifetime of first dates.” That’s the level of awkwardness that my world has reached; every moment is a unconfortable, self-concious, and wary as a first date.

But let me back up. I swore in as an offical Peace Corps Volunteer almost two weeks ago now. Hard to believe, really. Time has taken on a different quality here, like being trapped in a giant jar of honey. It really is a totally different world. Life in America feels like a different world, a different time, a past dream that I woke up from just last week. I’ll try to refrain from being too existential, but being in the village gives one ample time to ponder these sorts of things. Anyway, I have moved to my new home in the village of Mwanachama by the Chofoshi stream. It’s idyllic. I was welcomed to Africa on my first nights alone by a swarm of impashi (fire ants, the ones that can kill babies in the night) all over my hut. Chaos reigned at midnight as I watched my floor crawl with insects and realize that I would have to burn my hut down to be able to sleep in it. So, knowing not a single soul, literally, I run to the nearest hut I can find and bang on the door, in mildly hysteric and broken Bemba explain that my house is overrun with impashi. Welcome to Africa, Ashley. I spent my first night on a stranger’s cement floor, sans mosquito net, with a single blanket and pillow. Never a dull moment, I suppose.

Despite this ominous beginning, I have settled into village life nicely over the past week. Once you realize that you actually can survive alone, the going gets easier. I have already had a surprisingly productive meeting with all of the area’s headmen and women, and am looking forward to getting started working. We’re not supposed to work in community entry, which has led to me wandering around my village aimlessly, spouting “Muli shani?” at every stranger I meet. Hence, the awkward First Date Syndrome. Virtually no one speaks English, and my Bemba (despite my Intermmediate-Mid score on my LPI, which I am convinced is a mistake) is child-like at best. This leads to clumsy introductions and inquiries of health and destination, and, enouraged that I can make small talk, they go off in a flood of garbled syllables that could be Martian for all I know. I smile and nod. Conversely, someone will stutter out a phrase in English and I, hopeful at hearing my native (and only) tounge, ask another question like “Where is the nearest place I can buy tomatoes?” and recive a smile and an “Okaay.”So then we sit in silence together for any indeterminate length of time until the uncomfortable farewell. Language barrier, HA! More like a vast vaccum of liguistic confusion and misunderstanding.

But really, things are quite fantastic. I miss meat. And ice cream. And good beer. And people that I love, like I had anticipated. Overall, however, you would have to drag me kicking and screaming back to Americaland. :D The weather is nice, everyone in the village is harvesting and I’m reading a lot of books and meeting people. Fitting into village life quite nicely, I think. Always on display, but it’s something that you get used to eventually.

Hope all is well back home…

Xo ash