The last few weeks have been very busy. We hosted a workshop on Good Governance, which was very interesting. I enjoyed a chance to talk with some Zambians about their roles in the governments and how they view democracy. I made myself scarce during a lot of the workshop since it is in Peace Corps’ by-laws that as volunteers we remain apolitical. This edict is especially being enforced right now because of the impending election (date still TBA). But it was a fun chance to teach a little bit about elections and government in America.
We also had our bi-yearly provincial meeting at the end of June. Due to the death of Zambia’s second president, Frederick Chiluba, our meetings had to be changed around a little bit. We were supposed to have an open house for members of the Serenje community to come and learn more about Peace Corps and our work around the country on Monday, which was then declared a national holiday and day of mourning. So it was moved and the meetings were extended for an extra day. It was a little weird to be in Central Province for my fifth provincials – I kept referencing people and event that no one else knew about. I’m starting to feel a little old, but the new group of volunteers seems like a quality group. Unfortunately my nearest neighbor decided that she was not satisfied with life in Zambia and decided to terminate her contract and go back to America. Now my nearest neighbor is about 40km away. Hopefully this site will be replaced, as it has a lot of potential for great programs, especially with being so close to the park.
Over the 4th of July, I tried to be as American as possible, by hanging out with friends, playing sports, drinking lots of cold beer, and watching a big fireworks show. The Mkushi Country Club hosted an event called M-Fest and people from all over the country came to celebrate. It wasn’t really a 4th of July celebration, but it was a happy coincidence that the Zambian holidays of Unity Day and Heroes Day overlap with America’s Independence Day. A small group of PCVs went and enjoyed two days of fun. We camped, which was a bad idea during cold season – one night I had on jeans, flannel pjs, 2 shirts, a long sleeve t-shirt, a jacket, two pairs of socks, a stocking hat, and a pair of gloves. And I was still freezing!! And even though we played and watched cricket and squash instead of baseball and American football, it was still a really great weekend.
For now, I am back at the park and working on a variety of projects. Mostly I am trying to focus on some of the tourism activities. I went on an adventure to a village called Yorum Mwanje that had previous expressed interest in hosting visitors that were interested in learning more about Zambian culture and life. I was told it was a 50+ kilometer trip – which would mean 25km there, and 25km back. Turns out, however, it is actually a 50+km ride there, and then another 50+ back! So after not biking for over two weeks, I put in nearly 120 kilometers in one day. Eight hours of biking, you can imagine how sore and tired I was after we finally made it home. The worst part was that I biked all that for no reason, since the person I intended to see had gone to Luapula to buy fish. It was a good chance to see more of the area, and had I known it would be that far, I would have been a little more prepared. But now I can say that I biked more than 100 km in one day, and I have no desire to do it again any time soon (or any biking for that matter!).
Right now at the park we are hosting an “Art Contest for Conservation” where students from the schools in the GMA will (hopefully) submit drawings for a competition to select some artwork for the 2012 Kasanka Trust Limited calendar. I have been busy visiting some of the schools, which has been fun. It has been interesting meeting with the teachers. The community schools just ask for materials and money, while the government schools are more than willing to participate. We’ll judge the entries in August and hopefully have the calendar put together before bat season (November). We’ll also keep all the drawings and post them around the park. It’s a fun project, and I’m pretty excited about the possibilities.
I will also be returning to Iowa for a month starting August 16th(ish). As part of my contract, Peace Corps pays for my plane ticket and allows me to take a month of vacation. We’re planning an open house in Corning over Labor Day weekend, I’ll send out more details when everything is finalized. I look forward to seeing as many people as possible while I’m back!