“I see my path, but I don't know where it leads. Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel it.” - Rosalia de Castro. I'm a 28 year old Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia working with rural fish farmers.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Workshops, Fish Harvests and Celebrating Two Years

Well once again time seems to be flying by. Sorry to those that like to read my “bush reports” since I haven’t been keeping up with my entries. Honestly I’ve been really busy with work and Peace Corps related activities. The month of April consisted of holding a 3 day HIV/AIDs training for 30 Headmen in the Chief Madzimawe Chiefdom. Kristina (my good PC neighbor) and I organized and facilitated the workshop and had New Start (NGO) come out and conduct Volunteer Counseling and Testing (VCT) for over 40 people in the community to get tested for HIV. In my opinion it was a successful workshop as we discussed at length how they as leaders of their communities can help prevent the spread of HIV. I hope it helps make a bit of a difference. I’m happy to say though that this was my last big workshop in PC. I love doing these workshops, but they require lots of planning and many headaches when things don’t go as planned. Then I went to Kapatamoyo and watched my farmer, Mr. Chulu harvest his first pond. I must say how proud I am. He’s the first farmer I’ve worked with from start to finish and it was great to see him succeed and harvest the first RAP standard pond in eastern province. He harvested 16.5 kg of fish from his 10x15meter pond. This is considered a great harvest. He sold the fish for 15,000 kwacha per kg. He was really happy as was I.

At the end of April, I attended my Close of Service (COS) conference. Basically its three days of PC putting us up at a really nice resort, Chaminuka and reviewing our service, discussing admin items to finish up our service and time for reflecting upon what we’ve done. It was an extremely emotional few days. The last night we held a candle ceremony and had a chance to thank other volunteers or members of staff that have helped us during our service. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place. It really hit me that my service was coming to an end and how big of deal this really was. It was a really great couple of days and fun to party with the people I care most about. Chaminuka is about 45 minutes out of Lusaka where we went to a “cheese” cave and drank limitless wine, went on game drives in the game park, took boat rides and drank really good beer, wine and spirits. Fun times. It was really great of PC to put us up in such a nice place.

We came back on May 2nd and I’ve basically been hanging in the village, visiting fish farmers and trying to enjoy these last few months. Its hard to believe its been almost two years since I left the states. In the next blog I want to reflect more on my service but for now I just wanted to catch everyone up on the past two months. Last Saturday I went to the harvest of another group of my farmers. They harvested 13kg, not too bad. Its been really fulfilling to see the “fruits of my labor.” Its also hitting me on how difficult its going to be to leave here. I’ve developed some really close relationships with people and my family here is like my own in the states. Its definitely bitter sweet and saying good-bye is going to be one of the hardest things I have to do.

Well I’ve had a lot of time to think about the next phase of my life. Plans are always changing, but for now I’ll be heading to Cape Town on August 15th with my best friend Cait and then heading to Cairo, Egypt on August 27th and arriving back in the states on September 19th. Then I think for the first month I’ll be hanging out and catching up with friends and family and be in Robin’s wedding….which I can’t wait!!!! Hope all is well with everyone at home. I miss you guys and can’t wait to see you again!!!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

More Namibia Pics

View of Swakopmund from the Pier at sunset

The "White Lady of Brandberg" rock painting that dates more than 2000 years old.

The Spitzkopffe. This place was unbelievable. The first photo is where we camped.

Sossusvlei. The red dunes of the Namib Desert. This place was so beautiful.

Interesting road signs and the most amazing rainbow I've ever seen. It touched the ground on both sides. I've never seen anything like it before. This was in Solitaire. It gets its name for a reason.

Dead Vlei. Theres a small area in Sossusvlei that is the most eerie place i've ever been. Everything is dead. Its in a valley between two big sand dunes.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Need for SPEED!!!

Me Sand Boarding in the Namib Desert. GO JULIE GO!!!!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

GO Cait GO!!!

That's the theme to this vacation. So i'm in Namibia right now with Cait, my very best friend who stays in Southern province. We are having the most fun. This vacation ranks as top 3 in my lifetime for sure. i know i say that after every vacation, but seriously this trip has been amazing. We've done a little of everything. We came to Swakopmund, namibia which is right on the coast of the alantic ocean and spent three days on the beach and eating amazing food. i burnt the back of my legs so bad..ooops! It was a much needed rest after is took us 49 hours to get to namibia from zambia. our bus broke down just inside the namibian border where we spent 9 hours at a shell gas station while they tried to fix the bus. Long story short the bus continued to break down and Cait and i had no other option but to bail ship. We decided to hitch. That was the best decision we ever made. We got two really great hitches and made it to our destination on time. After our relaxation time on the beach, we headed up to Damaraland. This is seriously an amazing place. Its extremely bush and isolated, but the beauty far outways the annoyance of transport on the rough sand/gravel roads. We saw a petrified forrest with trees over 260 million years old. We spent a day at the Brandberg mountain, where we hiked around and saw some ancient rock paintings that date more than 2000 years old. Then we spent the next day at the Spitzkopffe. Words and photos cannot describe the beauty of this place. It was an outdoorsmans paradise. We spent the day, climbing over boulders bigger than houses and climbed to this place called Bushman's Paradise. After an extremely steep climb up about 300 meters on pure rock, we were able to climb rock to rock exploring this amazing place. This is also where we camped. The sites are so isolated and we had a campsite that was completely surounded by the most amazing red rock formations that i've ever seen. It was the coolest camping i've ever done. We freaked ourselves out a bit by the fact that leopards roam these rocks at night. It was so amazing. We sat up on a set of rocks and watched the sun set while listening to music on our ipod. Then we headed to the very touristy Sossuvlei in the Namib desert. This is the most accessible of the famous red sand dunes in Namibia. It was gorgeous. It was my first time to hike sand dunes. i felt like i was in egypt. We decided to run down the side of one of them. i was scared, but so glad we did it. We've just been surrounded by so much beauty here. This country is unlike any place I've ever been. then today we decided to go sand boarding. If you're an adrenaline junky this is the thing to do. We were "sliding" down dunes at speeds up to 75km an hour. It was so scary, yet so much fun. It took hours to get all the sand out of my body. We went down about 5 times. Tonight we get to go to the beach house to watch our complimentary dvd. Can't wait. People here are great. However, Swakopmund is strange....it feels so much like germany. Everyone here speaks german, and everyone knows we are american even before we speak. Funny stuff. So tonights our last night and we'll be livin it up. This vacation has been so amazing. i can't wait to continue traveling. there's so many cool things to see in this world. Cait is great...we've been having so much fun and get along great. She's trying to convince me to move to colorado when i get home. She almost has me convinced. We'll see. i still have 4 months!!!! Ahhhhh!!! Well, when i get back this week, someone from the US Embassy is coming out to my site to see how volunteers are working with Zambian people. Its an honor that i was chosen, unfortunately I'll just be arriving back the night before. i'll be doing a fish transport with one of my farmers when they come. Then the following week i'll be doing more fish transports and the week after that, Kristina and I are conducting a three day HIV/AIDs workshop for Chief Madzimawe and 30 of his headman. Should be really great. Times wrapping up and i'm busier than ever. Life is great and i wouldn't want to be anywhere else right now. Oh and the title of this blog is a little inside joke on this vacation.... ;)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Work Work Work

Another brief update. I’m finding it difficult to keep up with my blog these days. I’ve been in the village since I came back from America. I went to Lusaka for work and I’ve been super busy ever since. The last three weeks I’ve been teaching eight students at Chankhanga Basic school about HIV/AIDs and to train them to be Peer Educators. Its been quite a challenge but rewarding overall. By being a Peer Educator these students will lead sessions in their Anti-AIDs clubs and other activities at the school informing their fellow peers about the basics of HIV/AIDs along with information about transmission of the virus, prevention which includes abstinence, being faithful to one partner and using condoms. They are also learning about VCT and the impact HIV/AIDs has on development in Zambia. I’m basically teaching these eight students how to be good facilitators, communicators and leaders.

Also fish farming has started up again. The farmers are gearing up and have continued to dig their ponds. Right now I’m not sure how many fish ponds I have, but the number seems to be growing everyday. The Department of Fisheries told me last week, that I’ve gotten more ponds constructed then they all have put together. That made me feel great. I just completed another fish training this past week for 22 people. It went really well and the interest is overwhelming. Looks like the volunteer who replaces my site will be quite busy. Oh and I found out today that my old site at Kapatamoyo is also getting a male volunteer. They won’t be living where I was, but they will be working in that area since fish farming is taking off there. So I feel great that both sites that I’ve worked at are getting volunteers.

As of yesterday I can say that I’m truly Zambian. Kristina and I rode our bikes 20km to a carpenters house to pick up furniture Kristina was having made. She had three benches made and they were about 1.5meters in length. We tied them onto the backs of our little Trek bikes (seriously we looked ridiculous) and rode the 20km back to her village. The journey took longer than expected and I got super burnt. Everyone was staring and pointing…quite surprised that two muzungu’s could manage such a load. I almost took out a kid on the side of the road forgetting our wide my load was. Once we got going it wasn’t back…but stopping and starting was a bit of a problem. I only dropped the bike twice.

It’s that time of year again….another set of volunteers are coming into country. Kristina will be hosting 6 new volunteers at her site next week. I’ll be helping out and should be a really good time. We are having a big party the night of the 28th to celebrate Kristina’s birthday and the arrival of the new volunteers. We invited so many people….our Indian friends, Zambian friends and other volunteers.

So it seems like I have programs everyday and time is just flying. I’m trying to spend a lot of time in the village and being with my family and friends there. I really do enjoy it and I’m sad that my time is coming to an end. I have much to look forward to though. For Easter, Caitlin and I will be traveling to Namibia to check out the ocean and beautiful sand dunes. I really can’t wait….I’ve always wanted to go there. Well that about wraps things up for now. The rains are super intense and my tribe is having their annual ceremony this weekend.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Its been a while

Hello everyone. I'm finally back online. I know its been months. So whats been happening? So many things. I finished an HIV/AIDs training in my area for five villages at the end of November. 65 people went for VCT (Volunteer Counseling and Testing). 11 people were positive, most of them female. Its so important for people to know their status, but it was a very difficult day for me to watch people that i've come to love find out that they have been infected with HIV. I never realized how much that would affect me. Then in early december i participated in a five day PEPFAR workshop to learm more about HIV/AIDs and training it to others. It was a great week and we really got to know our Zambian counterparts much better. Then for the holidays I headed home....yes I went back to America!! I apologize to those that didn't know I was coming home. It was a surprise for my mom and younger sister Lori and thats why I wasn't spreading the news. I was mostly in Columbus at my sisters house and spent a few days back in the Fort. Then i went to Chicago for the last four days and had an absolute blast!!! Thank you to everyone that made it out to see me while I was home. It was so wonderful to see everyone again. I miss you guys!

Well its good to be back and once again I'm getting into the groove of things here. I have so many programs going on so these last seven months are going to fly by. Can you believe that....only seven more months to go. Unbelievable. Where has the time gone.

So I'm currently in Lusaka planning a huge HIV/AIDs event for May/June. We are in the beginning stages of planning it and I'll give all the details once its approved. I wanted to end my service in a big way and I think this program is going to take the cake. I'm still working on fish farming, but since its the rainy season, all my farmers are busy working in their fields and gardens. So I've decided to continue my work on HIV/AIDs since its such a problem here. In just three weeks my tribe will be having their annual N'Chawala ceremony. You may remember the photos from last year. I think I'll be getting several visitors once again.

Also I want to start mentioning that I'm working on a project with my local secondary school to build two dormitories for the weekly boarders. These students have to stay at the school durning the week due to the long distances from their homes. This is a big project and its going to require funding from anyone interested in helping out. My dad is currently campaigning for me in the states. I'm looking to raise between 15,000 and 20,000 USD. I know its alot, but having a safe, comfortable place for these students to sleep would mean all the world to them. They are currently living in shacks not even fit for animals. Its absolutely horrible. If you are interested in helping out with this project, please contact me via email or post a comment on my blog and I'll get in touch with you. Around 160 students will be affected by this project and 100% of your money will go towards this project. Its about $170 per student to build these two dorms. However, anything you contribute would be greatly appreciated. I'll be posting a blog about the entire project in the near future.

So happy belated New Year to everyone. I hope things go well for everyone in 2008. Its going to be a big year for me. Hope everyone also enjoyed the holidays with your family and friends!!!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Words of Encouragement

If we do not offer ourselves to the unknown, our senses will dull. Our world becomes small and we lose our sense of wonder. Our eyes will not lift to the horizon; our ears will not hear the sounds around us. We pass our days in routine that is both comfortable and limiting. We soon wake up to find we have lost our dreams in order to protect our days. Fear of the unknown and the lure of comfortable space will conspire to keep you from taking the chances you should take.

But if we take a chance, you will never regret the choice. To be sure, there will be moments of doubt when you stand alone on an empty road in the pouring rain, or when you are ill with fever in a rented bed. But as the pains of the moment will come; so will they ever fade away. In the end you will be so much richer, so much stronger, so much happier and so much the better person for having taken risk and hardship. There will be nothing to compare to the insight you have gained.

- Kent Nerburn