Monday, July 18, 2011
We slept in (sort of), for the first time on our trip. We did not rise until after 8:00 AM. Dad was the last one up. The ladies were already cooking a nice breakfast of scrambled eggs, cereal, coffee, Orange Juice, fresh milk and cheese. Blair usually doesn’t have dairy products, as no refrigeration is available. She does have powdered milk, plus some ultra-pasteurized milk. This keeps okay until opened. There is also sometimes the rare treat of Velveeta, shipped from America. Heaven knows what its nutritional value is, but it doesn’t spoil.
Dishwashing had preceded the breakfast prep. The only part of cleanup performed last night was to fill the nshima pot with water. Otherwise, the residue would have been like concrete.
After breakfast, more dish-washing, and the borrowed pots and pans were sorted out for return to their owners. Blair and I vaccinated the cats and de-wormed them. Despite her assurance that she had seen only one tick in her entire stay in Zambia, we removed four from the face of Puss Puss. Then we changed out of our sweats/pajamas as the day was growing warm by now, 9:00 AM.
A group of village dignitaries stopped by to met us: Mr. Mabwe (Betty’s father) who is headmaster of the school, another teacher, the headman of another village, and the local representative of the tribal chief. We visited with them briefly.
Then Blair put on a little fashion show, displaying all the crazy chitenge patterns she has bought, and the garments she has had made from some of them. We saw patterns ranging from electric fans and living room furniture to Barack Obama.
By this time, it was after twelve and we were late for our arrival to tour the schoolrooms while class was still in session. Most kids were wearing uniforms, or their best clothes if not uniformed. All were clean, neat and orderly (at least before we got there). These kids understand that their education is a privilege.
Blair does a lot of work at the school. She has a Chongololo Environmental Club, and a girls club that is an offshoot of the Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) program which the Peace Corps sponsors all over the world. She is also helping to start their new (and meager) library. Thus, the kids all know her (plus, she is the Musungu).
In each classroom, we were trotted up to the front and put on display for introduction. Then we handed out “silly bands” (rubber bands that are worn as bracelets, but assume the silhouette of an animal, plant, princess, spaceship, dinosaur, etc. when dropped on a table). Despite Blair’s repeated admonitions that handing out trinkets was a bad idea, Libby had finally convinced her to relent. She really wanted to give the kids something. Of course, with just one to a customer (though it wasn’t much of a gift), there was a potential for disorder. With the older kids, we just went down the line, handing them out.
With the younger kids, Libby got mobbed. It looked like a scene from a movie as the children clamored around her. Blair finally had to rescue her (after letting her learn her lesson). Blair would like to give away more than she does, but she does not want to be viewed as the source of handouts.
Mr. Mabwe buttonholed me to show me his office. In addition to praising Blair, he also hit me up for a carpet to make it look nicer for visitors. The concrete floor is presently covered with a big sheet of what appeared to be contact paper in a tile pattern. I was non-committal, replying that “I will talk to Blair and see what may be done.” Blair was pretty annoyed when she found out, though not entirely surprised.
Part of the serious deforestation problem in Zambia is that so many people do all of their cooking on little charcoal braziers. Charcoal is made by cooking the wood, burning it with very little oxygen. It takes a lot of wood just to supply the rural folk. The rural charcoal cookers also sell it in the towns. You see many bicyclists with 120 pounds of charcoal over the back like a saddle.
Maize (corn) is the staple food. People have a gazillion maize cobs which are mostly just discarded. They will certainly burn once dried, but they burn so hot and fast that they are not useful for cooking.
In another district, a Peace Corps Volunteer has been very successful in getting most of the folks to make and use charcoal with maize cobs as the raw material. The cobs are cooked/burned in a kiln with very low air flow. Then they are pounded into powder, which is mixed with a binder made from cassava flour or something similar. This mixture is then pounded into a tuna-can-sized mold to compact it. When it dries, you have handy charcoal briquettes.
The original plan calls for a kiln made from an oil drum, a commodity which apparently is plentiful in that district. They are not plentiful in Mkushi district. If you did have an oil drum, you’d be using it to brew beer, not poking holes in it to make a kiln.
So, the prototype has been made with mud bricks, plastered with mud, much like the homes. The project is in its early stages, but Blair has high hopes for it. The little kiln is on the school grounds in Mambilima.
After our tour of the school, we returned to the Mabwe home. Betty needed a ride in to Lusaka, so she would be travelling with us. They had us try a raw vegetable that tasted like a raw potato and looked like a finger-sized grub. It is some sort of local yam (umumbu). It is quite white, and Mr. Mabwe kept saying that he wanted us to try something white. Though his English is quite good, I am not sure whether I understood him correctly, or perhaps this is some sort of Musungu joke.
We loaded up, jamming Betty in with Libby and Charles in the front seat. The Land Cruiser was now cozy indeed, being a “five-passenger vehicle” with seven occupants. Next stop would be the home of Blair’s good friend, Ba Lewis.