The month of November

It’s time for me to be writing again,

Sorry all for the delay, it’s been a little while since I had a chance to sit down and type up what’s going on in my life… well type up is a bit of a misnomer, since it’s more like extended texting. Anyway, where did we leave off? A series of idle thoughts I think, and more importantly, since then we’ve had thanksgiving. A momentous holiday, full of love, food, deliciousness, and of course, sugar induced comas.

The last I remember, I was trying to describe the feeling I had when standing on the edge of a precipice, looking at options for my future, a cold cliff face, with a million different paths leading down and away. I think I was building up my courage for a revitalized return to work. I think that was a good catch up blog, and it sums up a lot of my thoughts and feelings about this season, the difficulties, and most importantly the extremely real and deeply affecting realities of Peace Corps work.

So, since that’s covered, let’s try and catch up from there. November has been a whirlwind, wishing my mother happy birthday via an E-mail and a low quality 30 second youtube video that I was able to upload from my phone was an amazing highlight. Instead of being limited to a letter that would have taken a month or two to arrive, I was able to wish her a happy birthday early, add a personalized, candle lit serenade of happy birthday from my hut! Technology and cell service have allowed me to make this experience so much richer, Wonderful!

Then came our outreach schedule, finally back on track after months of disruptions and delays. We’d had a series of delays from the Measles out reach campaign which delayed our immunization and child grown monitoring outreach schedule for two months. Finally, the measles campaign was completed last month, and this month I was able to visit five of my eight catchments, missing three due to Thanksgiving and our Peace Corps Provincial Meetings. Even so, I caught up on some of my delegated projects, was able to do some monitoring, and got some great exercise (I realized my cardio is lacking). I found my projects in reasonable health, most having continued, albeit minimally. Only a few were defunct, and that was mostly due to deaths of project chairs, or loss of members due to seasonal migration (it is now officially rainy season, and people have moved to their fields, or out of the catchment to harvest mushrooms and caterpillars). On the harder side, the loss of project chairs and friends who I’d been working with was hard. There isn’t really a way to describe that feeling… I guess my last post on the subject covers a little of my fears, but doesn’t really do justice to how difficult it is to be told that – “no, unfortunately the project hasn’t continued”…”because the chairman died last week.” Oh.

Just last night, I received another notice. Another counterpart who I’d only briefly interacted with, but with whom I’d been linked passed away last week and the group came to my home to find contact information for the Embassy. I was impressed, the group was extremely motivated and serious. They wanted to continue their project, and in what seems typical zambian fashion accepted the reality of the chair’s passing recognizing the realities of tomorrow and not focusing on the pain of yesterday. It just puts your mind in a different place. It’s a painful and tough realization, and it seems the more people you reach out too, the more you find have passed away. The reality often hits home hard. It gets harder and easier each time. I don’t know how to describe it.

Despite that though, the month has been a great success. One of my favorite parts is teaching, helping people to understand, encouraging dialogue, and stumbling through my local language skills. The feeling of standing up in front of over 350+ women with their under five children (my biggest crowd was in Chofwe, my furthest zone. It was 164 mothers and their myriad of children), and giving health talks about family planning, nutrition, HIV/AIDS, and hygiene is always a rush. Of course stumbling through my Bemba, and giving said talks in local language is always even more fun, it gets the women to comment, to become involved, to start to have confidence and correct me, and more importantly, it keeps them listening to information that’s vital to them and their children.

The unstructured, open, flexible delivery of health information, and the open ended nature of the presentations and discussions, allowing for interchange, and hopefully real learning and understanding is fantastic. It’s something that I should turn over completely to my now trained counterparts in each zone, for the sake of sustainability. That said, it’s a validation, a chance to practice and work through my Bemba, and have longer group discussions that allow me to sharpen my local language skills, and more importantly allow me to hear more Bemba, and focus on understanding and responding to questions unaided. On a sustainability note, it’s also a matter of manpower. With my EHT counterpart working, and some community members assisting there might be two or three people trying to screen and organize the women, keep track of who’s child needs what immunization, what their weights are, who needs to be counseled on nutrition and child health, and keep the crowd under control. Not an easy task in the best of circumstances, add in that most of the mothers have 2 or more children under 5, the wailing of babies, and the assumed stresses of weather and you can imagine the difficulties.

Now asking one of those three people to stop assisting the organization of 165 women and their children and stand up and deliver a health talk…. Well, let’s just say that at this time it’s not really much of an option. That’s how I justify not having a Zambian counterpart deliver the health talks – I think its quite reasonable… you can tell because I’m continuing to justify it and write about why its ok here….

Haha. Well, so be it. That was November work wise – fun wise, I continued with a technical training skills program for clinic and school staff on how to use a computer (Thanks Jean Lippencott and Brad Wood!) and a typing course. I finally finished the digging portion of my rainwater harvesting cistern (it’ll hold 17,000+ liters of water collected from my roof during this rainy season), started making my garden beds, flipped my compost pile, planted garlic and pumpkins, and built a new shelf in my kitchen! I also enlisted some youths to draw health related diagrams and graphics from the Where There Is No Doctor books, (thanks to the Martinez Family for their donations!!) and will start using the diagrams in more of my presentations and informal trainings.

I played a little soccer with the school’s grade 7 class using the Oneworld Futbols donated by the Martinez family that I’d given to the Chisunka school and discovered that I seriously need a lot more cardio. Needless to say it was a good time, but the kids got a lot of laughs out of it.

Then it was time for Thanksgiving! Now that celebration, deserves a post of its own, so stay tuned!!






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