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Video Clip

I’ve been neglecting this blog!  The past two weeks have been filled with so many things that are impossible to explain in just a blog post. I wanted to post this video that my friend here in Zambia made. The video was taken when we went to Mpangwe village in the bush. Some is also at Chikumbuso. I thought it would be good to try to show what Zambia looks like from our perspective!

http://vimeo.com/25250131

More stories and pictures to come soon!

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Posted by on June 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

“You’re the teacher now”

I learned to crochet! One of the widows, Anastasia, took me under her wing and let me use some plastic for my first bag. I’m almost finished with it. It is a Carolina blue and black small purse. Next week I’m going to the market with a widow name Beauty to pick out plastic bags to make a bigger bag that should take me the rest of the time I’m here. From there I will learn how to cut the plastic, make it into yarn, and crochet the bag from start to finish! I’ll post pictures once I get under way!

Apparently I caught on to crocheting very quickly and several woman said “you’re the teacher now” when I showed them my progress. Even though I’m on a different continent, doing a different craft, with very different women, I feel the same connection as I do with the ladies at J.T. Stitchery’s knit group. Learning to do what they do has really made me feel at home at Chikumbuso.

I am trying to take lots of pictures, but it’s not always appropriate to be snapping pics. I’ll post them all when I get home because the internet is too slow!

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2011 in Life in Lusaka

 

The Library

I don’t remember anyone ever teaching me the concept of a library. Our family packed up and went over to KDL nearly every week and I took for granted what a pleasure that was.

Chikumbuso received a huge donation of books from a school in the States that outfitted their new library. It is the first and only library in the N’gombe compound.

We talked to the librarian a lot about her experience going to school in Lusaka. She told me that she didn’t know what a library was until she was in 11th grade. She is a college educated woman. When she continued on to university she went with friends to the Russian Library in Lusaka just to study but they weren’t able to read any of the books in the other language. Now she is in charge of checking in and out the books. She knows every kid at the school and greets them, “Hello my friend!”

USAID donated the tables in this picture but the library has no seating. Anna and I hope to organize a partnership with our elementary schools to get the money needed to buy chairs, floor mats, or bean bags. The kids are so excited about their new library but it could be a lot more accommodating.

We categorized all of the books by subject matter and grade level. We marked them on the inside cover so that they can stay orderly even after we are gone. It was very fun seeing some old favorites like “Good Night Moon” and the Henry and Mudge series.

And we finished! After several hours of sorting and shelving, everything is now in order! We look forward to helping improve the library and see the kids’ enjoyment.

Two boys came in and started looking at a book about America. I showed them where I live and go to school on the map. They thought it was very funny that Michigan looks like a mitten! I began explaining the Great Lakes by saying, “you know how the ocean is salty?” and they stopped me in my tracks by replying, “no.” I then started to realize the magnitude of the disconnect with the rest of the continent and the world. They hung out with me for nearly an hour talking about all of the things they have wondered about the States. We talked about horses, hiking, snow, movies, Miami, and a bunch of other miscellaneous things they had heard about.

Next week I am going to start working with the Girl Scout group, organization of sponsorships, and starting to teach English lessons to the widows who make the bags at Chikumbuso.

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2011 in Life in Lusaka

 

Singing Lessons

No longer is my voice restricted to Mom’s mini van with the radio cranked up. I have found it here in Africa.

Friday at Chikumbuso:  Anna and I began by organizing the display room before a group of visitors came to see the N’gombe compound and the work done at Chikumbuso. We then sat down with the widows to turn new and recycled plastic bags into the yarn they use to weave beautiful hand bags, bracelets, and wallets.

Women from the N'gombe compound earn a steady income by crocheting beautiful bags like this one.

When the visitors arrived and came inside the women all stood up and began to dance. They often sing songs in Chinyanja, the most prevalent language here besides English, as they weave. Soon Anna and I were pulled into the center of things. We began singing, clapping, and dancing as if it was the most natural thing. We had no idea what we were saying but the songs were repetitive and the syllables easy to pronounce. I have rarely felt as welcome in a place as I do with the women of N’gombe.

Sunday at Woodlands Baptist Church: Today we attended a church service with an American couple from Seattle. We were the only msumbus (white people) there and at the beginning of the service we were asked to stand and be greeted. The worship leader began with traditional songs in Chinyanja with some English intermixed. We felt very out of place at first but the congregation was full of life and it would be impossible to stay shy for long. The pastor began by reminding everyone that, “if you don’t have fun at church-it’s your own fault.” We stayed for the bible study afterward and were surprised by the practical issues being discussed. We talked about whether or not is right to incur debt, what it means to be prideful, and what things are truly “necessities” in life. The pastor reminded us that we came into the world with nothing and will leave with nothing so it is silly to get overly worked up about possessions. All in all, it was one of the best experiences I have had in a religious gathering. I enjoyed being among the Zambians away from the role of “volunteer” and just being together.

Lots of love to everyone back at home!

Ashley

“We choose to go, not because it is easy, but because it is hard. Because that goal will serve to measure and organize the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.” John F. Kennedy

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2011 in Life in Lusaka

 

Lusaka at last

Thanks for the comments and well wishes last time!

We arrived today at 6am local time. From the moment we stepped off the plane I was amazed by how vastly different the landscape was from anything I had ever seen before. After getting through customs and celebrating the arrival of our bags we headed to find out host and program director. While in London I had emailed her a description of what Anna and I look like. Once we got to the airport I realized how unnecessary that was. As a pair of teenage female American tourists-we were spotted instantly.

Linda drove us home and showed us where we will be staying. For part of our stay we will be house sitting and taking care of her two dogs. (Hope I can get rid of the dog smell before I see Bo again!) It’s a safe neighborhood and really close to President’s house. (No pictures allowed)

After we settled in a little bit we headed to Chikumbuso. We spent the morning learning Chinyanja phrases from the school kids, passing out clothing donations, making yarn out of recycled plastic bags and getting acquainted with the compound. Tomorrow we will be start developing a more efficient system for tracking sponsorships and organizing the records. Plus learning how to crochet!

I felt at home instantly in Lusaka. The people are so warm and excited to greet newcomers. I can’t wait for what the next 9 weeks have in store!

And now it’s time to nap after the 3 day travel excursion. Hooray!

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2011 in Life in Lusaka

 

Hello from London!

My travels began Tuesday afternoon with a quick flight over Lake Michigan from Grand Rapids to Chicago. Then it was time to fly over the Atlantic to London. My travel buddy, Anna, and I are currently scoping out good places to sleep at Heathrow. Jet lag is tough stuff!

We will arrive in Zambia after a 10 hour flight to Lusaka. I will try to post on this blog as much as I can and include pictures! We’ve heard that there is a barbecue planned for Thursday night to introduce us to some people our age. The main question in our minds: what kind of meat are we barbecuing??

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2011 in Travel