Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Time flies

It has been too long since I last updated everyone, is anyone actually there?  Even if you aren’t…here is the last 2 weeks in 5 a nutshell:

1.  Paella party.  Elise and I one morning at brunch read paella on the menu.  Immediately after this we hatched a plan to make the perfect paella (enough ‘P’s for you?)  Minding our Ps and Qs we planned an undertaking to make paella for some unassuming but willing guests, because cooking for someone is always more fun than not, neh?  A post work trip to Pick n’ Pay and a run around later we found ourselves in the kitchen cooking an enormous amount of rice, frying up onions, and chopping peppers.  A few washed shrimp and braised calamari later we were stewing and simmering it all together in a pot.  Our guests had arrived on time, but early for our miscalculated timing.  We chatted, sipped wine, and ooed and ahhed over the smells and color that exploded from the vat of paella.  Finally it was time to eat…scoop after scoop left the bowl on people’s plates but the contents didn’t seem to reduce.  Rice has a funny way of expanding as it cooks and seeming endless…
The colorful platters were decorated with red and green bell peppers, tomato, onions, a saffron tint, and bits of chorizo, calamari, and (albeit a bit overcooked) shrimp.  I couldn’t stop eating-even as the rice expanded in my stomach- it was so wonderful. There is something about watching your food develop.  Understanding what goes into it, what amount of time, what preparation means and how you can really plan your time around cooking.  All in all it was a success; empty plates and full stomachs.

2. Camps Bay. You come to Cape Town and you hear of Camps Bay and you hear of Camps Bay and you hear of Camps Bay and then you, finally, make it to Camps Bay.  It is a stunning beach.  White sand, Blue sea, and a row of quaint shops and a healthy breeze to make all your cares and worries fly…well, somewhere.  I darted off to the beach with 2 good friends for an afternoon of surfing in the frigid Atlantic Sea.  While they surfed I hunkered down in between a few rocks with my book (The Hunger Games, gotta check it out!)and my daydreams I relished between the sunlight and pages of my book.  What a life to be able to read and be on a beach in the afternoon and be playing soccer in the mountains at dusk- the magic of Cape Town.

3. Dr. G, Dr. Cynthia G.  This past week I met a woman who is not only now a mentor but one who managed to give me a crash course in monitoring and evaluation theory in a week- cra cra.  GRS plowed through data, discussion, and systems figuring out what it is we interested and capable of measuring within our programmes.  I learned a wealth of knowledge regarding programme design, other professions that are out there, who my co-workers are, and who I am as an employee in a new field.  What a job, where I basically get to learn every single day…learn more than I teach even.  Incredible!!!  We spoke about HIV, about youth, about psychology, about coaches and mentors, about sex, and all of the miraculous qualities that make GRS so incredibly passionate and well, make it what it is.

4. Rockin’ the Daises.  Music, lots and lots of live music.  Summer is fast approaching in the southern hemisphere and that means it is time for outdoor festivals, dancing, day drinking, and braiis!  Love the summer.  Every year around this time, festivals in Southern Africa kick off.  Last year around this time I was in Malawi for the Lake of Stars  festival and this year I attended Rockin’ the Daisies.  Such a unique festival featuring South African artists and promoting green living- there was a massive camp ground that bordered the appearance of a squatter community.  Dancing day and night, a resivour for swimming, and a scene out of a movie.  An hour North of Cape Town nestled in a valley between rolling hills and hectares of vineyards, farmland, and cattle is a farm with spectacular views and with a double identity.  Farm for the entire year, but one weekend, it gets to turn itself into a dancing, singing, and festive scene. 

Many artists passed through… one in particular caught my eye.  His name is Yoav and I am in love with him.  He’s geeky, sings beautifully, and has a calming presence.  Check out his stuff if you can!  Similarly there were bands ranging form folk to hard rock to electronic.  Toby2shoes, who is becoming one of my favorite DJs was out and about on Friday night!  All in all it was wonderful to escape the city, hang with friends, and listen to some live music.
5. Empty Nest.  Work is moving right along. Daily I learn more (and more about what I don’t know) and I am amazed by just how cool my job is!  Soon I am off to Durban and KZN and then back to Zambia for a bit to evaluate a programme that we are working on.  Excited to be heading back to a familiar place, to see good friend, and Kamba!

Until next time…no World Cup victory this year..sorry Spring Boks L 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Goings on about town.

September is drawing to a close and time seems to be speeding up as it often does when- well, when you are having fun!  Feeling settled and acclimatizing to my new Atlantic Ocean scenery the possibilities seem as wide as the sliver of ocean that I can see as I peer between 2 tall apartment buildings.  So this is what it is like to live in the city…
1. The Promenade.  Out the gate, to the left, and 20 steps to the coastal walkway that parallels the rocky coast of the Atlantic.  The promenade, as it is know, winds its way through Sea Point, Green Point, all the way to the Waterfront.  People of all shapes and sizes, dogs, boot camp, families, couples, and a slew of characters dart along at all speeds. Waddles, sprints, hops, jogs, and saunters dabble down the bricked path as waves crash and sea spray coats your skin.  The sunsets are stunning and I often find that I am called to the walkway as the sky changes and melts into the sea. 
2. Heritage Day.  One of the perks of living abroad is the opportunity to celebrate new holidays.  One of the bummers of living abroad is not getting to celebrate those holidays that you are used to at home.  One of the perks of living abroad is meeting an amazing group of ex-pats that want to celebrate the holidays of your homeland with you.  Saturday September 24th was Heritage Day or as it has now been coined National Braii Day.  A braii for those of you who don’t know is a barbeque.  On Friday, the GRS office shared our heritage in honor of this communal “hang out, eat a lot, drink and be merry, play in the sun day!”  Such a nonsequitor to learn about people’s lives and families in a professional setting; refreshing.

3. Table Mountain.  This past Saturday a few GRS colleges, my roommate, and I decided that we would climb Table Mountain.  A step and rapid ascent and descent on a beautiful sunny day; felt like summer.  On such a beautiful day there were bound to be numbers of people making there way up the hour and a half stair stepper.  Determination, heat, views, and a ‘don’t stop moving’ attitude willed us up the mountain as we dabbled in the quintessential trail chats.  What is it about the air on the trail (pure) and the meditation of putting one foot in front of the other that lends you to meaningful and significant conversation? I am convinced that this is at least a portion of the reason that I am in love with nature- because it brings me closer to people.  Irony.  An hour and a half or so up, and you stand victoriously overlooking Cape Town.  An hour down and you are suddenly submerged by the land that you had seemingly conquered.  What a city…

4. HAART and the TAC.  Cape Town is infinite in culture.  With book fairs, boat shows, semester at sea in town, and film festivals there is so much to do that I feel spoiled.  On Tuesday night I went to go and see a film that highlighted the Truth Action Campaign and the fight for and initiation of Highly-Active Antiretroviral Therapy Treatment in South Africa.  For many years in South Africa there was ambiguity, uncertainty, and denial about the roots of HIV, it’s connection to AIDS, and the means to prevent it from spreading as well as how to best support people living with HIV.  I watched recent image after image of South African politicians and citizens look Science in the face and say “No!”  “No” to the existence of the virus, “No” to the fact that it lead to AIDS, “No” to the fact that as many as 600,000 people were suffering from HIV and none of them with treatment.  A humbling and contemporary story; contemporary and astonishing.  I think that we forget that denial, ignorance, and the need to educate and the need to provide wholesome information escapes us because we are in 2011…but ignorance is ever living, ever present, and something I definitely obtain-even in my own field of work.

5. Bike!

I may have found a bike.  Now onto the scoooooooter, yippee!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

tied over.

My endeavor to post once a week has been a bit sloppy at best, please forgive me.  To tie everyone, including myself, over till I manage to sit down and reflect on the past few days...eeks, weeks.  Here are some photo highlights and links that provide a bit of a window into what's been happening before breakfast.

1.  View from the roof of my apartment...taken by roommate extraordinaire Charlie Shoemaker (you all should check out his website too:

2.  Grassroot Soccer, the AMAZING organization that I work for, is being featured in Sports Illustrated!!  Check out this article (pg. 3)



3.  If you happen to be in Albuquerque this week (Friday September 23rd) there will be some Zambian Kings that you could meet.  Small Small small World.

Anthropology Department Welcomes African Kings from Zambia

September 20, 2011 | By Karen Wentworth
The UNM com­mu­nity is invited to meet three African Kings from Zam­bia on Wednes­day, Sept. 28, at 3 p.m. in Hibben 105. His Majesty Nza­mane will speak on “The Expe­ri­ence of the Ngoni,” His Majesty Mukini will speak on “The Expe­ri­ence of the Toka Leva” and His Majesty Mwamba will speak on “The Expe­ri­ence of the Bemba.” This Tribal Cul­tural Exchange Mis­sion is to uncover and con­nect the tribal sim­i­lar­i­ties of both Native Amer­ica and Zambia.
Tribal Cul­tural Exchange fos­ters learn­ing, preser­va­tion of cul­tural tra­di­tions and pro­mot­ing eco­nomic devel­op­ment by work­ing with tribal groups and edu­ca­tors to cre­ate a healthy, advanced and edu­ca­tion­ally enriched com­mu­nity in iso­lated vil­lages, thereby, allow­ing for a break­through in future com­mu­nity and eco­nomic devel­op­ment. The edu­ca­tional goal is to cre­ate stu­dent exchange pro­grams with the Uni­ver­sity of New Mexico.”
Fac­ulty and stu­dents are invited to meet ear­lier from 2:15–2:45 with The African Kings in rm. 238 in Anthro­pol­ogy Build­ing 11.
For more infor­ma­tion, con­tact the Anthro­pol­ogy Depart­ment at (505) 277‑4524.

Maybe this man will be there...

4.   New friends and a Saturday in the sun.

5.  Go Springboks!  South Africa plays in their 3rd World Cup Rugby Match today...bring that trophy home!

Miss you all!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Snaps for (meaning I agree) and from (meaning I or someone took a photo) weekend moments in Cape Town (and surrounding areas).

1.  Birthday.  24.  Ah, I am really 24.  I think that this means something significant.  Most likely it will take me much of the next year to figure out what that means.  Signing contracts, getting health insurance, making friends, having a business card…

The luckiest girl in the worlds, I was able to celebrate my 24th birthday in Cape Town, the day I arrived, with some of the coolest people I will ever meet!!

2.  Llandudno.  The beach that everyone dreams of, silky sand, crystal for water, and houses that make your jaw hurt.  Beauty on the beach, in winter.  We took a mid-day brunch to the beach to celebrate Sara’s final days in Cape Town.  It was a warm day with a brisk breeze.  One of those days that makes you feel like you are on a movie set it is so perfect.  Tossing a disk, eating Nutella, and laughing with friends colored the day and paralleled the radiance of the sun.

3.  Flowers and Flamingos.  As spring has sprung so have the flowers found in Namaqualand (say it 10 times fast) and in the West Coast National Park.  South Africa is peppered with pristine wilderness and the WCNP, as it is called in these parts, is a vast and memorable piece of wilderness.  Settled along the western coast of the country (Atlantic Ocean side…brrrrr) there is a small peninsula that is covered in rolling hills of colored wild flowers and a diverse animal population that left me and some friends questioning whether animals were real or figments of our imagination.  It is so diverse that the least likely animal was found in the “lagoon” that settles calmly in between the peninsula and the mainland.  Can you guess? I guess I already gave it away…a pink flamingo.  One solo flyer sifting through the salt and teal water amidst burst of wild color. 

The WCNP is modest but bursts with pockets of beauty.  Pulling over every 5 minutes to soak in the kaleidoscope of flowers that follow the pattern of the sun, exposing their liveliness as the day progressed, and pausing to admire the dirty zebra, the pink flamingo, and a slew of birds and antelope we made our way around the lagoon to the beach and fishing town of Langeraan.  Mainly Afrikaans is spoken in these parts, so street names, shop names, and even saying “hello” and “thank you” had my mouth in knots and me tripping over words.  Continuing inland the color of the flowers was replaced by altitude and oranges.
 4.  Cedarbergs and Oranges.
The Cedarbergs are a jugged mountain range that is a 2 hour jaunt north of Cape Town on the N7.  So close and so vastly different, the magnificence of the ocean is replaced by jugged rock and deep valleys that house a citrus supply that had my skin turning orange due to lack of self discipline.  Oranges and lemons are found dotting the road and I don’t think that a farm has ever looked more inviting.  Neatly dressed orange trees in rows dominate the valley which then juts into mountains (my favorite!)

We rolled into Cirtusberg (aptly named) and happened upon an tourist information sign.  With local recommendation we ventured down a road to some “baths.”  Having no idea what we were in for, we were greeted by a teenage boy who promptly sold us the largest bag of oranges for 5 Rand (about 75-80 cents).  Amazing!!!!  Tart and juicy, these oranges could have fed me for a lifetime.  Then we kept going and found ourselves in camping paradise. Natural hot springs, hiking, and camping amnesties all found in one spot.  Watching the sun set, fighting with fire, and soaking in a hot bath were the events of the evening…and the morning brought a hike to look out onto the orange conquered valley.  Take that Sunny-D.

5.  New home and mini-buses.
Now that I am 24 and some form of adult, the venture for housing is a constant thought and concern.  I seem to be getting very lucky and learning a lot the more places I rent and the more people that I live with. Eventually I assume that this luck will run out, but for now I will take it while I have it. And as luck would have it, my criteria were price, furnished, and hopefully a washing machine.  Guess what I got?  All that and SO MUCH MORE.  I got poker chips, sea gulls, Jewish grandmothers, promenade and beach access, a television (haven’t lived with one of these in a while), and instant hot water.  Basically I live in a quiet apartment building in Sea Point (you’ll just have to look that one up).  I can walk to the beach, hear sea gulls in the morning, ride a min-bus to work, and have a grocery store super close by.  I love it. It has a bit of a grungy feel, a bit of a grown up feel, and a bit of a lost somewhere in time feel.  Home.

Brief notes and thoughts about mini-buses.  I adore public transportation, while often my experience in Zambia and South Africa shows that mini-bus drivers can be the worst, they are also the most protective of their vehicles because, well, it is their livelihood.  As a social phenomenon they teach you vast amounts about the world you are entering. 

A brief history:  hoped into a mini-bus with 3 women, strangers as I later found out, ranting and raving about men and how they are useless and the do’s and do not’s for when it comes to men. Mind you there were men on this mini-bus… I had watched this mini-bus approach from a block away.  It had stopped at the corner where a couple attempted to get onto the bus.  An apparent struggle ensued.  Now these buses are not formal; no official stops, no set time schedule, no rules, except for the fee paid (R5).  Next thing I see is the driver, a burly woman (also not something that you often see), who looked Romanian with missing front teeth and an quintessential wrestlers gate, pop out of the car yelling only in the way that an Italian grandmother who had raised boys would know how to, and kicking this couple off the bus.  Does this really happen?  I debated whether or not it was a good idea to get on the bus and decided that if she was willing to kick people out of her bus that she didn’t like than that was DEFINITELY the bus that I wanted to be on.  And man was it incredible, sad, humbling, and eye-opening.  These 3 women gabbed and gabbed, compared notes on men, showed each other stabbing scars, vowed to defend each other and Women, laughed, expressed condolences, and all of this within the 12 minutes that it takes to get from where I got on to where I got off.  Intensity of life when relationships are run in starts and stops and robots (street lights) are your only options for break-time.  The lives of these women were encapsulated within the mini-bus and that simple form of transit enabled a group therapy which we all needed.

I hoped off feeling dazed and confused but oddly satisfied; unexpected adventure on an unassuming afternoon.    

In other news

…the Springboks (The Republic of South Africa’s Rugby Team) beat Wales yesterday 17-16 in their first showing in the Rugby World Cup. 

…I saw 2 whales (not sure what kind) in the Atlantic Ocean yesterday as I was walking to watch the match.

…and I found out that there is a Swiss and Austrian Social Club, hmmm.

Monday, September 12, 2011


One month exactly; eleven to go?  Where does time escape to?  Two months ago I touched down in the US of A for the first time in 11 months.  One month ago I touched down in Cape Town, South Africa, my new home.  Mountains, wine, water, sun, rain, left-sided drivers, apartments, Jewish neighborhoods, and Grassroot Soccer await me in.  For those of you who are just tuning into the run around that has been my life, welcome.  For the next year I will be based out of Cape Town, South Africa.  Yes, the Spanish major is STILL in Southern Africa…hmmmm.  I just couldn’t say no to the opportunity to continue my love affair with Grassroot Soccer, and get paid to do it.

Life in a word is stunning.  

I have managed to settle in relatively smoothly.  Found an apartment in the predominately Jewish neighborhood of Sea Point.  I’ve sampled the happenings around Cape Town with some all-you-can-eat sushi endeavors and the wonders of The Engen (yes capital ‘T’), a 24-hour gas station that has anything and everything you could ever want.  The Engen was also 2 blocks from the place I was staying for my first 2 weeks in Cape Town…danger, good thing I moved over the mountain and away towards the ocean.  My apartment sits on a quiet block.  Exit the building and you have a ½ a block walk to the promenade, a pathway that parallels the coast line of the Atlantic Ocean. I smell ocean when I walk out my door and hear sea gulls at all hours of the morning (a change from the roosters from last year). 

The weekends have been filled with recovering from jet leg, the beach, visiting the wine lands, venturing up the western cape, and settling into my new home.  I hope to fill this blog with stories, hilarity, thoughts, moments, recipes and the adventures of my all too blessed life. 

Five impossible things a week.  Happy reading.  [photo of me on top of table mountain]

Friday, July 8, 2011


At the end of every day as I walk out of the office cross the 10 foot walkway to my back door I hear the words “Tizaonana Milo” (see you later, tomorrow). Tomorrow it will simply be “Tizaonana.” Tomorrow I am leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again…la la la. But it isn’t all la de da. It is a profound goodbye. One that I never anticipated to be as humbling and appreciative as it is. I knew coming to Zambia would be an “experience” but as I have toiled with the drama, the landscape, the work, the language, and keeping my feet clean I have found more than any experience has given me...I’ve found a piece of my life, part of me. It is difficult to put into words and I will never pretend to do it justice but I will try by saying a few final thank yous to encompass the vastness of my appreciation for this place, people, and all that this adventure has been.

Thank you to the house that welcomed us in with all of its quirks. From the jenga-like floor to the standard house inhabitants (mice, cockroaches, maggots, wall spiders, geckos, etc.) I have loved your charm, your sounds, the projector screen and most of all the fact that you were never ever more than 10 steps from the office.

Thank you to the yard that evolved from dirt to grass and a garden in a short year. To the avocado, mango, lemon, papaya, and banana tress…without you, I am not sure how I would have eaten. Thank you to the hammock that provided hours of countless thought, solace, and appreciation for then web of nature that exists right behind my home. Thank you for the countless braais and events that brought many people together and provided space for shenanigans.

To Kamba. Dog, I love love love you and if I could I would cart you all the way back to the states. I love waking up to you and am so glad that you did not kill yourself in the first few months here. Be good, try not to bark so much at night, and keep working on your tricks.

To Ping…well, you’ve grown on me and I hope that one of the new interns has a deep appreciation and love for cats. Be well, keep killing mice, and please learn to run away from Kamba.

Thank you to the office. While half of my time was spent outside the walls, the walls provided rounds of laughter, space for conversation, and a desk in a back room that I could call my own.

Thank you to the incredible team of individuals who I’ve worked AND played with. I don’t think I have ever met a more impassioned group of people. To each of you, thank you for teaching me what caring means, for always asking difficult questions, for laughing and dancing often, and for including me in your lives…it has been a rare privilege to be welcomed into your homes and your lives. Thank you!

To the coaches, thank you for humoring my Nyanja, for including me in energizers, for listening to what I had to say, for 3a.m. phone calls, for setting up tents, for eating the meat pies, and for committing to your communities and to kids. Your impact is astounding and why it was worth while to wake up.

To the interns (Marissa, Mike, and Max). Gosh, what to say. North, South, East, AND West. We did it guys…the perfect balance, the perfect crew. I think that this place has left it’s mark on us but YOU ALL have left your marks on me. Thank you for the support, conversation, meals, movies, enthusiasm, and willingness to try new things. I will miss you all terribly- but I’ll see you all soon J

I love my ZAMFAM (Marissa, Spiak, Zales, Tommy, Max, Lena). You all are amazing! You inspire me to work harder and I definitely would not understand or appreciate this place as much if it hadn’t been for all of you. Your advice, love of life, and work ethic is contagious. Can’t wait to run into you all again.

To my friends, you ALL should know who you are. Memories are insane and incredible and bring swells of laughter and tears when I think about all the adventures, conversations, and fun that we’ve had. I cannot wait to see where each of your lives take you…I know they are going amazing places. Thanks for including me in your lives, you have made a lasting impression and I don’t think that I would have survived the wildlife, the vacations, or crossing the street with out you. So much love…miss you all!

To the Tuesday vegetable market, my favorite space in all of Lusaka. Thank you for the color, the energy, and the fresh food. I hope that all the mama’s stay safe, the guard boys out of trouble, and that the land continues to produce, and the people continue to purchase. I found peace and inspiration each time I stepped through the threshold so, thank you.

Vegas, Alpha, R&G events, and Polo…thank you for teaching me to dance. I now believe that muzungus can dance too!

To Wednesday afternoon and weekend frisbee...go big or go home. I've never felt so alive in my life! Hours of conversation, intense games, and quirky cuts and throws pepper my memories of the Polo fields, the American school, and in it's final days the horse arena under the lights. Cannot wait to see you all soon...keep playing, t-rex points, and Mr. Jones....go long!

To all those who helped to support me whether through funding, prayers, thoughts, notes, or simply by talking about Grassroot Soccer. I need you all to know that my life is changed because of you and I cannot thank you enough!

To Grassroot Soccer, for not only giving me the opportunity to come here and to continue! My life will never be the same because of this.

For those of you who do not know…I will be back in the US for about a month. After that month I will be moving to Cape Town, South Africa to continue working for Grassroot Soccer in our Global Office. I will be helping out with the monitoring and evaluation side of all of our programs and a little bit of curriculum development. I am thrilled, excited, nervous, and all around blessed.

Tizaonana Zambia…not Milo (tomorrow) but maybe sometime soon.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hello. Hello.

April is a month of preparation in the GRS office. Which, oddly enough, means that for most of this month I will not be living at the GRS office nor in the field but rather at Barclays Sports Complex. I live here. It is a complex that we often use for trainings because of the field, the inside space, the staff, and the bar. The road to Barclays is a minefield. Crater after crater jostles me awake each morning so by the time I reach here I am ready to face 25+ energetic peer-educators. Each week we have a new group. Names to learn, personalities to collaborate, and time to be kept.
We’ve been saying “Hello” the past 2 weeks to a slew of potential peer educators. Thirty-five names to learn each of the weeks and 35 sets of facilitations skills to sift through. Admissions is a rough process. Each morning we start the day with tons of energy and nervousness. By the end of the day we are a family, teasing eachother and perfecting the balance between work and play.
GRS trains coaches (peer educators) in what we call ToCs (Training of Coaches), six days of intensive information. We teach them the entire 10 session curriculum, explain to them what their role is as a coach, and cover all manner of facilitation skills. Not to mention the fact that we have to train them in how to do home-visits, referrals, and explain how our office supports their activity.Just to briefly list and elaborate on what exactly it is that our coaches do; they implement a 10 hour curriculum (sometimes they do it 2 times a week, other times every day), they conduct home-visits to each one of their 40 participants homes in order to encourage parents to sign a consent form allowing their child to be tested for HIV, they attend and assist graduations making sure that their kids are shuffled through the testing process with a caring adult figure at hand, they also deliver results to parents, conducting a second home-visit that ensures that the testing information gets back into the hands of the guardian. If they are a coach-counselor then they accompany any HIV positive youth to their appointments at a pediatric clinic. In summary, they care more than any individuals that I have ever met!

Coaches (peer educators) are the roots of this organization and finding charismatic, adaptable, and caring coaches is a task that I am learning takes time, experience, and thoughtfulness. So after two weeks of six day trainings I had a few days in the office to re-group, say hello to faces that I haven’t seen in a bit, and prepare for three weeks of three day trainings for our current coaches.

Currently I am in the midst of DC (Development of Coaches) number one. A different vibe of confidence comes from these coaches and I really feel pushed to be on my toes and to challenge the norm of GRS. They push the envelope, which includes pushing me.

With a new crew of stellar individuals we, GRS, say hello to a new year of ambition, trails, and successes.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Thanksgiving and tranquility.

.Alice Bauman

A few weeks ago on a lazy Sunday we decided to take a drive. It is not often that you are able to jet out of the city in a 4x4 and explore the roads. Spiak, Jamie, Max, and myself encountered a village, an endless road, and a priceless sunset. It was one of those haphazardous encounters that epitomized the beauty of the sun and left you feeling grateful for its provision and for friends; romanticized in a way. Photos are a sad attempt at justice because it would take the wind blowing through your hair and chickens running across the street to complete the ambiance surrounding the 3x5.

Driving briefly outside of the city suddenly you are in the bush. There is a field and trees and brush and no sign of the life that you know is sunken behind the fascade. A sense of freedom is paired with the perspective of distance and I have to say it is a comforting feeling. I miss the ability to see for great distances, to get up high and marvel at all that you can’t see on a normal basis. Lusaka, although at a decent altitude, lacks vertical dimension. A few hills and skyscrapers are an attempt at relief. Although I would trek warily up the skyscrapers, they are old and barbaric looking- reminiscent of an uncreative time.

The weather is changing. Fall is here, making the light all the more powerful and my spirits a bit melancholy. I have woken up on multiple mornings thinking that it is time to get up for school, time to walk on a campus, time to study. Maybe this means I am craving a classroom? (food for thought). More than anything I find that the shift to crisp morning air and an encouraging sun has given clarity to so many things in my life.

A clear thankfulness for friends has cleansed my impatience and centered me on small joys. The brief emails received, a hug, a longing memory, they all compile into a sentiment of being the luckiest girl in the world. So to all you reading, thank you for that. Similarly the purity of the season has allowed me to reach a new level of curiosity towards Zambia. As time passes I feel that we become stagnant and complacent and for whatever reason I feel jolted back into wonderment.

I wonder about what I have missed and what I will not have chance to learn about Zambia. When you live somewhere you often forget to sink your teeth into things and ask questions because habits are the way they are. But often that is how you gauge what you know- by asking questions. This year has taught me that. To ask questions of what you already know and pursue deeper understanding. I’ve tried to initiate curiosity in all pieces of my life…what do I want to do next, what do I think about this, that, and the other. Perhaps it is a sign of maturity and growth but really what I appreciate most about this self-realization is the fact that I am on a path and I have no idea what each moment will bring to that path…what the next brick I lay down will be, not even I know.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

In training.

Reverting back to months ago, 8 to be exact, I was in training to become a Grassroot Soccer intern. But how on earth do you train to be an intern? One day your job is entering data onto a computer, the next day it is wandering around schools searching for Head Masters to stamp a letter, and yet another day involves picking up 200 + footballs. All of those odd tasks have lead to a comprehensive and quirky knowledge of what it is exactly that GRS does and what we don't do. Often I find that coming up with the "What we DON'T do" list is more accommodating when trying to describe my position and the organization to people. We don't coach soccer or even play soccer, we don't provide scholarships, we are NOT satanists, etc. We are a team of passionate and hilarious human beings, who are motivated to engage and inspire youth, through knowledge and relationships, to prevent themselves from acquiring HIV. And that long winded sentence is exactly what the culture and mission that we are attempting to inspire in our new trainees.

Currently GRS mobilizes approximately 60 peer educators across the city who implement our curriculum, conduct home-visits, council, deliver HIV testing results, and support their participants in intangible ways. They are the meat, the life-force, the blood of the organization and the reason that I LOVE what I do. This week and last week a new initiative has begun. Training new coaches. A daunting saga that has played out in a rather introspective way-

Each morning at 8:00 a group of 30+ Zambians are running around a field in "kid mode," the mode that I channel daily with bare feet and finger food, that activates your inner youth and allows you to dance like a crazy person and relish in the innocence of play and the freedom of no wrong answers or silly questions. We energize our attitudes in "kid mode" and engage difficult issues in "adult mode" all the while teaching the entire 10 session curriculum and inspiring compassionate facilitation tactics such as safe space, conversation, and praise...

Laughter is heard. Nyanja (local language) is abundant. And by 5:00pm so much stimulation from observing, contributing, answering questions, cleaning, and keeping time has drained all the "kid mode" out of my being, and "adult mode" is advising sleep.

Watching these potentially future coaches experience the curriculum for the first time. To watch connections between the activities and messages being made is like looking in a mirror. I remember 8 months ago playing "HIV attacks," a game that teaches about the biology of HIV. Forming a circle we all name a disease. Mine is Malaria. One person volunteers to enter the middle of the circle, they are our token Human. The human gets attacked by the diseases circling him or her. The diseases toss themselves around in the form of a football (soccer ball). The human is hit 12 times and is now extremely sick. But, the body is smart and has a fighting system, the Immune System. Body soldiers that fight diseases that try to attack the human. Another individual enters the middle of the circle and is marked the Immune System, they then are allowed to move freely and block the soccer ball from hitting the Human. The ball only touches the Human 2 times.

Alas, there is HIV. What does HIV do? Well, it attacks the Immune System. So another person, labeled HIV, now attacks the Immune System, holding their arms behind their back and immobilizing them. The Human is hit 10 times. No hope for the Human, but wait, there are ARVs (anti-retrovirals) which inhibit HIV. The person representing the ARVs, attaches themself to HIV, hindering them. The Human is only hit 5 times.

What is the message? I'll let the lightbulb in your head do the work.

That is my day, day in training, day in a month of training. The lifeline to GRS.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Final days.

Returning to Lusaka it was time to see the heart. The chaos, the trash, poverty, plastic bags, basically where the 3 million (per 2010 census) Lusaktonians (made that one up) are during the day. We found them…buying material and shoes, shouting and selling all of the nick-naks and any piece that they could get their hands on.

We explored the shops at city market, walking by a movie store, a copy shop, and some women selling cow hearts. A conglomeration of anything and everything posed at the west end of town. Walking the streets of town, something I don’t do often, allows you to see a side of Zambia often missed. Lusaka is a sprawling city and town center is not the meat and pride of the city. Perhaps it once was but currently it is a piece of a greater puzzle, but to sift through the pieces time and a guide are helpful in order to appreciate the final product. We walked through the streets. Observed business men and women heading to meetings, observed lines of people waiting to get their voter registration cards, and encountered the mass exodus across the bridge that steadily occurs from 8:00 till 17:00 daily.

Hitting a few hot spots within the city, Sugar Bush and Zam Bikes, my parents got a better feel for the entrepreneurial opportunities of the city. Early mornings and afternoons were spent reading and relaxing on the porch.

Nshima. Finally my parents were able to try a bit of nshima. Zambian food made by a Zambian, Moomba. An evening meal with a family of Zambians that allowed us to try vegetables, ground nuts, chicken, ocra, beans, and gravy with nshima. A well rounded meal…

Following me to work, my parents were able to enter Matero, the city within the city. The compound of horrible roads but beautiful schools, manily because of the kids who attend them, sometimes. We drove around and visited coaches that were finishing up an intervention explaining the biology of HIV. How it attacks your immune system, what the immune system does, etc.

Rounding off the vacation was an evening at the Marine House. Happy hour drinks for St. Patrick’s Day lead us there. A piece of America in the midst of Zambia.

The following day mom and dad left. Headed back to NM and to life there. I went back to work. An extremely unproductive and odd day for me…the weekend has been spent regrouping. Finally there, I think.

Till next time.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Increasing wildlife knowledge courtesy of Master Leanord.

Early risers. Off to the border crossing, what a scandal that is, not for us but for the truckers that wait weeks for the two ferries to cart them across the river. Lines of trucks formed miniature communities of people- stoves burning, chairs popped up- perhaps the first trailer park? I don’t mean that negatively, the community was unassuming and raw. My heart goes out to those weary drivers waiting for a boat to cross them over. Ever think of building a bridge? Hmmm, a brief insight into the politics and stalemates marking Africa’s infrastructure.

Being up close and personal with nature in the Chobe National Park impacted me inCross the border was a safari vehicle, Leanord, and what turned out to be an astonishing interaction with natural beauty. Our camping safari consisted of 3 days and 2 evening. Camping out in the bush at a luxiourious camp, set-up for you upon arrival, complete with think mattress-like mats, pillows, comforters, a cook, wine, marshmellows, a shower, a bathroom- pure convenience. To complete the safari package, 2 river cruises, and 4 safari drives.

Our first day we spotted hippos, baboons, spider monkeys, water monitor lizards, a slew of birds and insects, crocodiles, elephants, giraffe, lions (male, female, juvenile), cubs, cape buffalo, impala, kudu, etc. the list goes on and on and there is no way that I could ever recount bit by bit the moments of this trip. What I can say is that I saw much more than I ever expected- see pictures below.Being up close and personal with nature in Chobe National Park impacted me in multiple ways…you see the lion king and you visit the zoo, but you never imagine that animals mingle, co-exist, and never-ever look themselves in the mirror. To not know what you look like, can you imagine? Most likely there is a certain freedom found within this ignorance.

We were in a group with a couple from Sweden, a young girl from Holland, and our guide, shall we call him, Master Leanord. Master Leanord was, is, and will always be a bush baby, a true believer and master of the African bush, especially Chobe. He knew the prides of lions by look and feel, understood the personalities and dynamic of each miniature ecosystem and character roving through the terrain. He would narrate the activities of the animals with such ease, as if he had written a script for the animals and they were just following cues. He had the eyes of a hawk or a lion or whatever animal he was looking for and it was obvious that observing years of animal movements and interactions had left him with a fantastic wealth of knowledge.

Did you know that elephant trunks have 4,500 muscles and that most elephants are either right or left trunk dominant? Did you know that a black and white saber can somehow magically disappear into the green and yellow stripped reeds? Did you know that the black tufts on the back of an impala’s heels give off a scent that allows the herd to relocate each other after being separated? Did you know…that is the epitome of Master Leanord.

The elephants and a honey badger visited us, separately, on the two nights that we were in camp. A true proximity. The safari of a lifetime.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Blast from the Past: Days in LSK

After a brief hiatus I am back. I apologize for the static as you have all been waiting for an update- some indication that I am still conducting myself in a respectable manner. Well I am pleased to say, I have been…here’s what has been up- or I guess for all you readers down, if we consider the geography of it all.

About 2 weeks ago my parents arrived from New Mexico- land of the green and red chile!!! A much anticipated visit they walked through the gate and my worlds collided in smiles, hugs, luggage, and stares. Welcoming them to Africa, to Zambia, to my life, to my job, and to traveling on the left side of the road was an ambush of language (Nyanja), customs (women’s day and chitenge), and many muzungu (white people) mouths to feed (nshima).

Our plan: 2 weeks of days in Lusaka, a trip to one of the 7 Wonders of the Natural World, safari, and ENCHILADAS.

Can you tell that I was really excited about the food?! I have to say 7 months sin green chile was almost unbearable. But I survived and now I’ve had a my fix for the next 7 months.

Upon arriving we checked my parents into the 252 B Twin Palm Intern House, introduced them to the majority of the office and ate. What did we eat? Chicken wings. The following day was spend shopping at the Tuesday vegetable market- full of color and chaos, shopping at the cultural village for symbols of time spent in Zambia. Bartering and bantering filled the morning. March 8th is International Women’s Day and a day off in Zambia. GRS decided to have a women’s group/coaches training event at a farm outside of Lusaka. We headed out there in the afternoon, to introduce my parents to the realities of my life: dancing, chitenge, nshima, heat, and a whole lot of talking.

Perhaps a bit of an overwhelming experience, my parents met the peer educators that I work with, my colleagues, and the women’s group that supplements and assists the GRS curriculum. It was a stunning day. Hot, sunny, and an initiation into who the members of GRS are, lots of faces.

In order to introduce my parents to all the faces in my life, we held a braii (aka bbq) for our parents. Max’s, my housemate, parents were here at the same time. Parent’s weekend!! Lots of food, drink, music, and conversations peppered the night and seasoned it with a family feel…

Next morning it was off to the bus station, onto the bus, and 5 hours down south to Livingstone. After a luxurious lunch we headed to the falls- or should I say the storm…literally smoke and mist thundering away. Seeing the “smoke” as we approached the falls and hearing it as we walked along the path…photos can testify to the shear volume of water but only memories will suffice for the sentiment of being pounded by water, soaked to the bone, having to scream to be heard, and a slight reversion back to a child playing in the rain.

Drinks and dinner at the Royal Livingstone that evening left us pampered, satisfied, and sleepy. In prime shape for Botswana and the adventures to come.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


A day of driving, running, spacing out, and all together a typical day in the life of a GRS intern. It needed to be documented. Places to see and people to meet. Nothing sensational but rarely an experience paralleled.

I awoke to the horrific sound of cat’s attacking each other in our living room. There is this notorious black and white cat, with insanely freaky blue eyes, that frequents our house. More appropriately he frequents our pantry and torments our cat. The sound is one of death and at 3 or 4 in the morning my brain is in no state to process nor function. Anyway…I darted to the living room smacked the table and the problem was solved.

So I have this routine of waking up and making coffee. We have a French press and it is the first thing I do every morning. Make coffee, feed dog, walk to 10 feet to the office.

Since the new year my position has placed me “out in the field.” I love saying this because it makes me feel like I am really bush-whacking it and like I am doing something important. Not that what I do isn’t important, all I am suggesting is the power of language and phrasing to mislead (nothing nobody didn’t know already). But what being in the field has done a few things. I now know almost all of our 60+ coaches names, can speak more Nyanja, and I am getting a sick tan. Ha!

Being in the field has taken me to new parts of Lusaka. Compounds where Muzungu’s hardly ever exist. There are days where being the celebrity of the neighborhood lifts my spirits and other days where I feel like I am the freak. Today I felt a satisfying mixture of the two. Venturing to Matero (about a 30-40 minute drive from the office) we visited Nelson Mandela School. A beautiful ground perched atop a hill. Rarely are you able to get some altitude in Lusaka so it is nice to see what is around you. We arrived early to visit our coaches so Hildah (my M&E partner in crime) and I walked down to the market to buy popcorn and ground nuts (peanuts). As we were purchasing popcorn this gentleman beelined right up to me…darting across the market to talk to the crazy lady buying popcorn. He proceeded to walk with us as we went to buy ground nuts and then all of a sudden chaos of criticism bolted at me from all ends. First, women aren’t supposed to buy ground nuts because of all the protein that they have. Only fit for a man, of course, because women don’t need protein cuz we don’t have semen. So that set me ablaze, then I was in shorts and all the mama’s selling their vegetables, ground nuts, etc. got mad at me for not being in chitenge (fabric that everyone wears). It was a strange dichotomy. I wasn’t angry, just exacerbated. I just always find myself asking…”aren’t there bigger problems than what I am wearing and who eats what?” But I think I ask those questions everywhere…not just in Zambia and not just in Matero.

I made it back to the school in one piece and relatively calm. Popcorn in one hand, ground nuts in the other. As we walked through the school towards the classroom of grade 8s who are participating in our curriculum this cycle, I noticed many colorful paintings on the sides of the walls. On e of which was the reproductive system. We can never talk about sex, but we can place the anatomy on the siding of a school. Oh Zambia how I love you!

Introducing myself to the eager eyes of students is always an adventure. I’ve learned basic Nyanja and always practice on the students. This time I was applauded. I felt so proud of myself. I know my accent is terrible and I mess up every time, but the Grade 8s at Nelson Mandela School have eternally worked their ways into my heart for their sincerity and encouragement.

What a day. Up, down, emotionally and physically on the bumpy roads of Lusaka that we drive on and, realistically, survive daily.

I shall attempt to balance myself out, until tomorrow.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Compost and bottle caps, when recycling doesn’t exist- make art:

Trash exists everywhere. One of my first memories is of the smell…burning rubbish smogging the sky and my nasal passages. A week’s worth of burning plastic bags, organic material, paper, food, and all manner of other things was enough to convince me to reduce my waste. However, you find that as you live here longer, the smell is customary, and the sight of trash in astonishing places no longer surprises (as shameful as that is to admit). We are however fortunate. There is a private (that is right, any removal of trash is privatized…a lucrative business I would think but no one has jumped on just yet) rubbish collection service that passes by our wall on Tuesday mornings to remove the trash that we produce.

Recently through a deep-cleaning effort we disposed of years of paperwork, trash, and miscellaneous items with the hopes of starting off the new year in a spirit of tidiness, efficiency, and above all else clarity.

On the other half of the compound…our home, there is trash produced at a rapid rapid rate. Between the 5 of us (lena, mike spiak, marissa, max, and myself) we produce a lot of trash. We all love to cook, be creative with our meals, and often find that our over ambitious spirits lead us to over purchase on vegetables, leaving us with a vast supply of peels, rinds, egg shells, rotten tomatoes, and potatoes sprouting foreign objects. All these factors contributed to the birth of recyclable art and recyclable earth.

Project ideas sprung up. The first to be put into action was the digging of a hole. A hole that is now home to a hot bed (literally all the organic material produces heat as it rots) of compost, insects, and the occasional plastic bag. Turned over once or twice a week the rains and the numerous leaves that fall from the trees overhead consolidate into fertile earth that is making out mango, papaya, and avocado tree smile. Next step is to interwork that compost into a tomato, cabbage, and flower garden.

Project number two began a while ago with a collection of bottle caps. This is an ongoing affair with collection. Bottle caps drunk are cared for and will serve as a memento of the 2010-2011 intern class in Zambia. The idea is to hammer out the bottle caps and screw them into a wood table. They will assemble to form Africa. Mosi caps (the local Zambian brew) will facilitate the construction of ZAMBIA!!!

Project three was a spontaneous exercise in nostalgia. Growing up fall was always the time to seek out the most colorful leaves, place them between 2 pieces of wax paper, and iron them together…natural stained glass. I did much of the same process only I attempted to make shapes, in the form of animals, out of vegetation. A giraffe and an elephant were what transpired, and for a first attempt I am pleased.

Constantly finding amusements to work both sides of the brain and in some respects, the earth.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Food! Obrigada.

Until now I have neglected to entertain one of my favorite topics…food, a subject of which at the very least 45% of my brain power goes towards daily. A main activity and source of energy exertion during my holiday, and life in general, was deciding where to eat, when to eat, and finally, what to eat.

Since the coast was calling my name in every way shape and form it seemed only appropriate to immerse myself in all things seafood, with the daily exception of a cup of coffee. In Durban it was chicken wings the first night…I know this isn’t seafood, but chicken wings are one of my favorite foods and having not had them (being too lazy to make them) it was a welcomed appetizer to the 2 weeks of fish oil overdosing.

Next came the salmon pasta in Durban, kudu bunny chow, prawns on pizza in Coffee Bay, more GIANT prawns in Port St. John’s, smoked salmon pizza, chicken bunny chow, fish market fillet…now this I must explain.

Maputo, Mozambique is known for their fish market; a smelly venue that is lines with crabs, fish in shades of pink and red that range from ruby to translucent, and of course, prawns! We ventured out with our friend, Joel, to the fish market…making our way through the fading stalls we selected our fish and our prawns and set out to find the stand that would fry us up some peri-peri (their version of spicy-spicy) prawns and fish for us. We selected a small venue, coined with its plastic lawn furniture and a powder green paint job we took our seats and passed over our purchase of 3 and a half minutes prior. The dueƱa of the shop and her helpers struggled to figure out the English instructions we relayed to them. Submitting we figured that they know best. And they did! A feast, fit for more than the 3 of us was brought to our table and aptly devoured.

Mozambique continued to be a quest of eating. Prawns, fish, peri-peri chicken, cashews, mangos…delicious vacation. And finally we revisited our trusty Mugg & Bean (Lusaka is getting one soon, look out!) for some coffee and quiche.

Kilograms gained: who cares?!