Monday, August 20, 2007

August Photos

Photos taken in Toronto, Amsterdam, Lusaka and Livingstone

Friday, August 17, 2007

Some random first reactions

Hope everyone is doing well. So far Africa is dry and hot and a little overwhelming. I guess I didn't spend too much thinking about food and language and living conditions before arriving. So the whole food thing is about eating a lump of ground maize (or sometimes sorghum!) called schima with your hands and some kind of meat or vege dish wich is called the relish. It actually tastes pretty good and I do enjoy the whole hand to mouth thing, but it can easily be eaten for every meal and get a little tiring... Dave,Thulasy, KaHay, Heather and myself about to chow down on some schima and relish.

Language is another concern I didn’t spend too much time contemplating before arriving - there are over 70 languages in Zambia, 7 of which are fairly mainstream. I will be in the Copperbelt region where the folks speak Bemba - so I will be learning that, but I have learnt a bit of Nyanja - which is spoken in the capital and now I am in the Southern province where folks speak Tonga and Lozi. It's tough to get ahead! Most folks that I have met speak English very well - so it wont be a significant road block until I get into more rural areas. And finally the living situation, I just have to get my head around the fact that I will be semi camping for the next 12 months! I will not have my living sorted out for another few weeks, but I expect to be in fairly basic accommodation, with an outhouse, perhaps some electricity and running water in the form of a communal tap somewhere in the yard. A far cry from my house in Fort Mac - but nothing I can't get used to. I just had a sponge bath and felt almost immediately afterwards that I was dusty again. I get the feeling that it's impossible to ever feel really clean or at least the feeling is very fleeting.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

First days in Zambia

So I've made it to Zambia. I am just starting week 2 of my year in sounds like a long time stretching out in front of me. So far everything is great. There are signs of extreme poverty as well as signs of economic growth and I can't quite shake the feeling of standing out like a sore thumb wherever I go. But the network of EWB volunteers is really solid and I am still not on my own (it will be another couple of weeks). My first week was spent in the capital Lusaka learning about EWB's history in South Africa, doing scavenger hunts in the markets (visiting a witch doctor for a 'pretend' ailment), learning some basic Nyanja (Muli Bwanji = how are you?), wipping it up on some 200cc dirt bikes and bonding with the EWB crew.

Dave teaching at the hostel in Lusaka. I am in red with my orange water bottle on the table.

Practicing our motorcycle riding skills attracted quite a crowd. I was able to give them a bit of a show when I fell off (forgot the clutch when I tried to stop!)

I think I've got it...

I am now in the Southern Province with 3 other EWB volunteers. Thulasy and I are here to learn about the Sorghum project from the CARE staff and EWB's last volunteer Josephine, who has been living here for the last 12 months. Danny is also here to learn about the Sorghum project, because it relates quite closely to the work he is doing with casava back in Malawi. We are scheduled to spend just over a week going out into the field and talking value chains and market analysis and then I am headed up to the Copperbelt region, where I will be settling in for the remainder of my stay in Zambia. The Sorghum project is now starting into year 3, the first two years consisted of introducing sorghum growing to two cooperatives in the Southern province, and helping establish a market for the grain. This year both Thulasy and I will be working with CARE staff on expanding the project further in the Southern province and into the Copperbelt province. Thulasy will be based either in Livingstone or just outside and I will be based in Ndola.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Departure and Training

After 4 weeks of training in Toronto the time has come to board the plane. Thulasy, Kim, Heather and I are all flying tonight from Pearson Int. to Amsterdam, then on to Nairobi and finally to Lusaka via Harare, Zimbabwe. We are scheduled to reach our final destination just before noon on August 3rd. Even though I am not ecstatic about the idea of spending the next 30hrs in a plane and/or airport I am really excited to be finally on my way. The last month has been a whirlwind of readings, discussions and assignments on agriculture, rural livelhoods, Engineers without Borders, health and safety, integration, gender sensitivity, power and priviledge, participatory approaches, development organisations... etc. I have learnt a lot and really enjoyed hanging out in TO and getting to know the EWB crowd and the 8 other volunteers that are off to either Western or Southern Africa in the next few days. Here is a photo of some of the group on one of our days off (camping at Emily Prov. Park)I am not in the photo but that's my orange water bottle in the foreground!

Once the four of us reach Lusaka we are scheduled to do some in country training which includes but is not limited to some motorcycle lessons! Yoohoo! Then Kim and Heather are going to head to Malawi with Dave our trusty Southern Africa director and Thulasy and I are off to spend some quality time with Josephine who has been working with CARE on the Sorghum project for the past year. Josephine has been stationed in Livingstone, close to Victoria falls - so expect some falls photos in my next post.