Lara - Walking the
Zambia - Lara is
The Road to Chama
Lara was a Peace Corps Volunteer on assignment in Zambia, Africa.
She served from January 2000 through April 2002. Lara was
near Chama, Eastern Province, Zambia. She's now back in Chicago
working as an editor for the Chicago Tribune.
Sep. 30th 2005
Lara is taking a 30-day leave
of absence to accept a
Crisis Corps position assisting with relief efforts for
new pictures from Victoria Falls!
The countdown is on! Not to the start of 2002 but to our much-anticipated COS date.
(That's "close of service" in non-acronymese.) This Zambia Peace Corps adventure
officially ends for me on April 9, but I'll be saying goodbye to my Zambian friends
and leaving the village sometime in mid- or late-March. After some final paperwork
and medical checkups (still lookin' for strange parasites and such) in Lusaka, I'll go with a small group of volunteers to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Then we'll haul our tired bodies onto a ferry to the island of Zanzibar for some rest, relaxation and fresh seafood! From there, who knows, but I hope to be back to the States by summertime to embark on some sort of cross-country roadtrip before I settle back into the working world once again.
All of this evokes a sea of mixed feelings of course. I'm excited to move back to the land of smooth roads, reliable plumbing, constant electricity and overpriced Starbucks. But even the thought of saying goodbye to my village and the people I've become closest to there (mostly a bunch of 7-year-olds!) is just heartbreaking. They say coming home is the toughest part of Peace Corps and I'm beginning to understand why.
Anyway... Though I only have a few months left in my village, those days will still be better enjoyed if I receive an occasional letter from you. Please don't stop writing. BUT... because our mail is so notoriously slow, use my Chipata address instead. (Lara Weber, P.O. Box 510203, Chipata, ZAMBIA) Most mail from the U.S. gets to Chipata within two weeks, but in the event that it arrives after I'm gone there will still be volunteers around to forward the mail to wherever I am.
I hope you are all enjoying a wonderful holiday season. As many of you know, I snuck home for the holidays this year. It's been a whirlwind three weeks of good times with family and friends from Virginia to Chicago. I wish I'd had time to see/talk with everyone, but there's never enough time. (I've also been a little overwhelmed by the seemingly constant use of cell phones in American society these days ... does EVERYONE have one now???) Me, I've gotten used to the telecommunications-free twilight zone of Zambia so forgive me if I haven't called. Still, I think of you all constantly.
Happy New Year!
-Lara (aka: Rala, Roller, Lola, Flora, Nora...)
Well, it looks like the
retaliation has begun. We heard about it tonight, while
a bunch of us were gathered to celebrate an Irish volunteer's 28th
birthday here in Chipata.
Sept. 11 had been the topic of conversation all evening,
as Cindie and Dom had just arrived and were sharing stories of what
they saw, heard, felt on
that day and the days since. Most of the shock has subsided
now, and more of a melancholy has set in about what is in store for
the next few months, years,
whatever. Patriotism is still strong -- one volunteer
even sewed a US flag to his baseball hat (and yes, Dad, I have the
one you gave me hanging in
my house) -- but questions about what purpose bombing
Afghanistan will serve also are starting to gain more volume. What's
the point of dropping food
aid if you're about to bomb them? Give them a good
last meal? It seems a bit twisted from this vantage point, but maybe
we just don't
feel the emotional impact in a place like Zambia, so removed from
the realness of it all. We
only hear bits and pieces here ... top headlines on
VOA and BBC. Our views are shaped more by the conversations we have
people around us, the emails we receive from home and the few
managed to leaf through. Cindie and Dom brought a video of some NBC
special report that was
interesting to watch... it was the first time most of
us had seen any video of the destruction and aftermath. But the
over-production of the show
reminded us all that we were probably better off not
being bombarded with nonstop coverage. It's nice to be able to turn it
They say they'll continue bombing
through the night. That means we'll be on our
way to Chama tomorrow before we can catch up on any developments. Back
to listening to the
shortwave in the village, in a place that couldn't be farther
removed from a place like New York City. At least this time Cindie
and Dom will be there with
me, and Sam will be just down the road. Unlike Sept.
11 when I had no one to talk to. We'll be back in Chipata on Thursday,
then off to the game park on
Friday for a few days. I just wanted to shoot off
a quick email before we were out of touch. I hope this isn't the
beginning of more
back-and-forth attacks. Is there fear of retaliatory terrorism?
If nothing else, I've learned in the last month how important
"staying in touch"
really is. Don't worry about me... I'm probably in one of
the safest places in the world. We'll be dancing in my village, eating
nshima and drinking tea wine
with Irene and Agogo! But you... stay safe and stay
Love to all,
Pictures from Africa! 2
Full Rolls of 'Em!
Happy Birthday Lara!
We love you and miss you very much!
Mom, Dad and Maj
Pictures from Zambia!
Letter from Lara today!
I just got into Chipata today
for our quarterly meeting which will be tomorrow.
How are you? Is spring weather thawing things out there? When do
cherry blossoms arrive? The rainy season is finally showing signs of
down here, though just when we think it might not rain again another
downpour arrives and all the rivers flood once again.
I had a great month up at site.
It was good to get to spend some real time in
my village again. For the last few months I've felt like a drop-in
more a traveler than a resident. Being up in Chama again was a
of an adjustment at first. After being away for so long, the slow
village life was a little tough to catch. My long absence also meant
return came with a lot of the initial headaches I had when I was first
a year ago. Kids hanging out at my house too much, people asking me
everything under the sun, etc. Overall, though, it was nice. After a
of days, my neighbors were convinced I was really sticking around and
started leaving me in peace. I wrote a LOT of letters (hopefully
started arriving!), read a lot of books, wrote plenty in my journal
visited with tons of villagers. Work was hectic while I was back, but
doing good stuff. Projects are moving past the starting phase now so
starting to see some results of my efforts. Small results, mind you.
is slow. But even the littlest things make you feel like you're
something worthwhile here.
The rains this year have been
somewhat disastrous for Chama (and much of Zambia).
Too much water has ruined most of the crops and everyone is
they will "starve" in a few months. I don't think it will be
I suspect that some of that language is held over from the socialist
when food/farm subsidies were a given. Despite nearly 10 years of
economy, too many people still don't plan ahead very well and just
the government (and foreign donors) will bail them out when things go
Having said all that, it still is a bad year here. And the harvest is
to be pitifully small. And people won't have as much food as usual.
The rains also have made
getting around even more of a nightmare than ever! Bridges
aren't built very solidly and it seems that all of the ones in
Province have washed out at some point in the past few months!
Getting from Lundazi to Chipata
now requires an hour-long detour around a washed
out bridge. In Chama, I can get to my village fairly easily. The
is more like one long 5-km trench, but at least I don't have to ford
rivers. Sam does. The first is a somewhat big (during the rains)
river just on his way out of the boma. Matt came up to visit me in
last week with his bike and so we decided to ride out to see Sam in
The first river required us to lift our bikes up over our
and wade across a river about hip-deep and maybe 30 or 40 meters
Water was moving pretty fast and it felt like an adventure getting
(Not nearly as bad as a few weeks earlier, though, when Sam crossed
the water was OVER HIS HEAD!) Then after about 10 km of muddy but
flat riding, we encountered a long series of swollen streams. We were
to shift down low and pedal fast fast fast through most of them, but
was one more that was also about hip-deep and for that one we had to
our bikes across again. We were absolutely drenched when we got to
(well, OK, my falling over in the last river crossing didn't help
It was way fun, though... you know, if you're going to get muddy
all you might as well just roll in the stuff right??
of other good stuff that I'm sure I've already written you in letters
I won't elaborate on here. But... I am here in Chipata for a few days
me a call if you can! Matt and I and a bunch of other volunteers are
over at the Komocho Inn (the house is being overrun by new
about to be posted!) so I won't be here late at night, but you
be able to catch me sometime. Today is Thursday. I'll be here until
morning. Then I'll be gone one day and back again Sunday late
through Tuesday early morning when I'm heading down to Lusaka.
me anytime in Chipata and if I'm not here give someone a time when
call again and hopefully I'll get the message.
Everything is very good here.
Hard to believe I've been at site a YEAR
Time is flying.
Anyway, I hope I'll talk to you
This was in the
Chicago Tribune today!
By Lara Weber
CHIPATA, Zambia �
"If you are a person who has felt discriminated against, cross
"If you are a person who has ever made a racist remark, cross the
It was part of a training exercise at a "diversity"
conference I helped organize last week in Lusaka, Zambia, for Peace
Corps volunteers and staff from across Southern Africa.
I�ve been a volunteer here for just over a year.
At the conference about 40 of us stood silently on the edge of a long
line drawn in the grass. If you related to the statement being read,
you literally crossed the line and in doing so exposed yourself to the
judgement of your colleagues.
It wasn�t an easy exercise, painful even for some who found
themselves admitting to thoughts and behavior they felt ashamed of, or
had never expressed publicly. "Whoa, did I really just confess to
everyone that I question my belief in God?"
It was one of those touchy-feely kinds of conferences that some
companies are getting into and that you might expect to find in Peace
It hasn�t always been so.
As Peace Corps celebrates its 40th anniversary this month (MARCH), you
might say it is crossing the line into a world with new challenges and
new ideas about work, management and the meaning of
"development." Volunteers from all walks of American life
now fill the ranks at posts in 78 countries, including China, Russia
and a number of former Eastern Bloc countries. American volunteers
working hand-in-hand with Communist (or formerly Communist) countries?
Unthinkable just 10
"If you are a person who believes Peace Corps volunteers are
all idealistic 22-year-olds, cross the line."
Peace Corps was founded in 1961, with President John F. Kennedy�s
often-quoted challenge, "Ask not what your country can do for
you, but what you can do for your country."
The first volunteers were an adventurous lot, sent out to live in
remote areas of Africa and Central America. They underwent a short
stint of language, technical and cultural training in the U.S., and
then they were pretty much on their own for two years. Support was
minimal in the hosting countries, and many volunteers had little
contact with other Americans until their return from service.
They certainly didn�t receive "diversity" training in the
�60s. Volunteers were mostly white recent college grads inspired by a
desire to see the world and do some good along the way at a time when
Vietnam, racial tensions and the Cold War dominated the social
conscience at home.
But times have changed, and the nature of Peace Corps work has changed
too. Projects that once focused on well-building and latrine-digging
have expanded and are just as likely now to include small-business
management, information technology and HIV/AIDS work. Lawyers, ad
executives, accountants and insurance adjusters are as at home in
today�s Peace Corps as the civil engineers, teachers and health
workers who epitomized the early volunteer groups.
Still, the essence of Peace Corps is found in that image you might
have of the rag-tag volunteer living in a mud hut, eating exotic foods
and bicycling for miles to reach the nearest town. For most of the
volunteers here with me in Zambia, that is exactly how we live.
Out in the bush, certain things haven�t changed a whole lot in
the last 40 years. Babies are born, people die and families struggle
to survive on the little they have. As volunteers, we assimilate as
best we can, learning local languages, farming with our neighbors and
drawing water from wells. It is a sometimes-slow process that can be
frustrating, exhilarating, maddening and thoroughly rewarding all at
We do much of the same work volunteers have always done, but with new
twists. AIDS is killing Africa now. Statistics tell part of that
story, but I see the human side. Every week my work is disrupted by at
least one funeral in the village. Some weeks there is a funeral nearly
It hit me the hardest just before Christmas when a 30-year-old man
from my village died after a mysterious illness. His funeral was huge
and throughout the day people pointed to the man�s young wife who was
sick also. Within a week, she died too and everyone returned to the
same house for her funeral. Was it AIDS? "Oh something like
TB," is the response I usually get. That�s the way people
acknowledge an AIDS death here. And so it goes. Week after week.
"If you are a person who has put yourself at risk of HIV
transmission, cross the line."
I focus much of my work on AIDS education partly because I am in a
program called "Community Action for Health." But volunteers
working in agro-forestry, fish-farming and small-business programs
also incorporate AIDS education into their work. Never before in Peace
Corps has a single disease taken on so much importance.
Following our diversity conference, Peace Corps Zambia hosted an
HIV/AIDS conference, also for volunteers, staff and host-country
nationals from the Southern Africa region.
Conferences, workshops, in-service trainings, quarterly reports and
fancy handbooks. Peace Corps has spiffed up its rag-tag image in the
last 40 years, and I�m startled how often Peace Corps reminds me of a
particular large media company in Chicago where I used to work. Have
the ideals of corporate America become so dominant that they�ve even
been embraced by Peace Corps?
In some countries, though not in Zambia, volunteers have cell phones
with text-message capabilities. They produce web pages and teach
computer skills to students. Technology is changing the Peace Corps
experience, just as it is affecting the rest of the world. Those early
volunteers who depended solely on unreliable postal systems must scoff
at our easy access to email and international calls. I�m sure we�re
not as tough as they were.
Yet despite all the differences � modern technology, increased
support, the looming AIDS pandemic and a much more diverse pool of
volunteers � the essence of the Peace Corps experience has barely
changed in 40 years.
I wake up every morning in my mud hut to the sound of roosters
cock-a-doodle-dooing me out of my dreams. I wrap a brightly patterned
sarong around my waist and slip outside to light my charcoal stove.
Within a few minutes, the little girl next door spots me and runs
over, yelling "Mwauka uli!" the morning greeting for the
Senga tribe. I share my breakfast with her and then she braids my
Another day in the village begins.
"If you are a person who always wanted to join Peace Corps,
cross the line."
Letter from Lara
I'm in Chipata today with Julie, John, Celeste and Jamie. We're
heading up to Chama tomorrow morning. All is
going well, aside from the occasional little
snafu, but you know how that goes.
Had a little minor scare with my liver and gall
bladder the other day, but it's all OK now.
NOTHING IS WRONG WITH ME!!! Here's the deal... our last morning
in Vic Falls I developed a really bad sharp pain in my side, just
behind the bottom of my rib cage, right where my liver
and gall bladder are (though I didn't know that
at the time). Hurt like hell whenever I breathed, laughed,
coughed or sneezed. No fun. But not like I was going to die or anything,
and the pain subsided by the next morning when we were back in Lusaka
and ready to leave for Chipata. Nevertheless, I told Dr. Nobutu about
it in case it was more serious. She got a bit worried
and said I wasn't allowed to leave Lusaka until
I had an ultrasound and blood/urine tests done.
Well... that sort of screwed up our travel plans. Ended up I stayed in
Lusaka for a few days while they all went on to the
game park alone. Went fine. They are now
seasoned Zambia travelers and had a fantastic time in South
Luangwa. Meanwhile all my tests came back completely normal with
nothing at all wrong. We're guessing it was some odd
muscle strain that caused the pain. No other
explanation, and the pain is gone now.
Add it to my list of strange maladies in Africa, I suppose. Anyway,
we are Chama-bound tomorrow. Hopefully the roads
will be OK.
We'll be passing back through Chipata next week sometime if you
want to email. Not sure when I'll physically be
All is great. It's so awesome to see these guys... hard to believe
they're actually here with me in Zambia!!
Everyone says hi.
Oh, and no problems here related to the mess in Congo, in case
anyone was worried.
I love you!
Pictures from Africa
Jan. 3rd 2001
Pictures from Africa
Letter from Lara
it occurs to me that I won't mail this letter until I get to Lusaka
next week (for a speedier delivery to the U.S.) so I can write some
There's another funeral today and it's church day so the
village should be quiet most of the day.
Big events since I finished the first part of this letter: 1, I
had a big snake at my front door the other night, 2, I am now an
experienced farmer and 3, people in my village have a really tough
time grasping the concept of "Crazy Eights" (the card game).
The snake. I
guess after nearly a year of no significant snake encounters I'd grown
lax in my fear.
In the evenings I putter around my house with the front door
open, and I'm not afraid to walk to my latrine in the dark.
Well, well, well.
Friday night around 7pm I had a kettle of water boiling on the
brazier just outside the front door while I cleaned house.
The cats hang out on the front step so I usually know quickly
if something like a giant scorpion is trotting into the house
When I heard the water boil, I walked out without a candle or
flashlight to take it off the heat.
As I lifted the kettle up, I sensed something slithering
past my hand and down the front steps.
In the moonlight I could see this BIG FAT snake stop for a
moment just in front of the steps!
I ran inside to get a flashlight, yelling "Njoka!!!"
(snake) at the same time so my neighbors would come save me!
By the time they ran over and I was back outside, the thing was
We looked all around my house in case it was lurking in the
shadows somewhere, but it probably slithered off into the fields or my
I didn't see it well, but I could see that it was about 2 1/2
feet long and thick. Yuk!
If my water hadn't boiled when it did, I wonder if it would
have come in for a personal visit?
Next morning I got bit by a tsetse fly and worried for a while
that I would die of sleeping sickness.
(I won't, I'm fine) Ah, critters.
Yesterday I was in the field behind my house by 6:00A.M.,
digging ridges in the earth with a big ol' hoe.
Man, that is hard work!
As Irene instructed me on proper hoeing technique, we joked
that I was in 1st grade farming.
It took a while, but I finally caught on.
With most of Irene's family helping, we prepared about 45 long
ridges for my crops.
I planted about five rows of popcorn and the rest soybeans.
When I harvest the soybeans, around June, I'll be able to give
cooking demonstrations to the women so they can make soy milk, soy
powder (for nshima), soy sausage even!
The popcorn, of course, is for my sanity.
I decided to teach Edwin (and everyone else) how to play some
I figured "Crazy Eights" is an easy one to start
Well, never assume!
When they play cards here, they only distinguish between red
and black, not by suit.
So everyone had to learn hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades.
That took forever.
Then there's the concept of matching either
Well, that was another hour.
Then there's the whole idea of "8" being a wild card.
The idea wasn't sinking in until I started calling it a
I think they finally caught on, but everyone agreed it was a
very difficult game.
OK- I guess I won't introduce rummy for a while.
they play checkers here like it's a speed contest and can anticipate
moves faster than I can find my pieces on the board.
other news, I've been Ok lately with ODI and YEBO so I might keep them
As long as I don't hold them too much (or wash my hands when I
do) I seem to do better.
I'll give them a flea bath today and that might help a little
request can you send me crossword puzzles from the Post? (the daily
And can you look on the internet for tips on growing Garlic?
It's difficult to grow and it takes a long time, but I have a
bunch planted in my garden and I want to do it right.
that's all for now.
I'm going to seal this up so I can mail it when I get to
Hopefully I will talk to you on the phone before then.
Dec. 8th 2000
Letter from Lara
Mom and Dad,
I just got two aerograms in the mail from you and realized that while
I've been writing lots of letters "home" lately, they
haven't been to you.
I've been trying to catch up with everyone who sent packages
with you first.
a Friday afternoon and I'm sitting in my hammock writing as Irene's
little girl Sebecca and her best friend Stella basically just hang
around to be at my house.
They bring me ripe mangoes to eat and then ask to color with
crayons or read some of the books you brought.
Those books are a HUGE hit, by the way!
I let the kids read a few at a time as long as they stay on my
porch and return them to me in good condition.
They are so good though that I hardly have to worry.
Overall the rains have cooled things down considerably, but it
still can get unbearably muggy in the few hours before a big
thunderstorm rolls in.
in a lazy state of bliss right now.
Sebecca and Stella are combing and braiding my hair.
Sebecca is in her usual ratty dirty dress, but sporting two new
front teeth (ah, so grown up now!) and Stella is wearing a little
black velvet fancy party dress with puffy sleeves and a white lace
She looks ready for a formal Christmas dance, except for the
dirty bare feet and mango juice dripping down her chin.
all the adults are either in the boma selling maize in the market or
at a funeral down the road for a little boy who died last night. There
have been a lot of funerals lately.
sad, yes, but it's also frustrating because all work gets put on hold
while people mourn.
I don't mean to sound insensitive, but it gets difficult to
imagine any progress when meeting and project work is constantly
postponed by funerals.
It's a tough reality.
Sam and I were commenting yesterday on how much of our work had
been put off this week by various funerals.
were talking last night after we had a FANTASTIC dinner with Father
Rodolfo and Brother Romano at the Catholic Church.
Brother Romano is a 78 yr. old, semi-senile Italian who is also
a great cook and a sweet funny old man.
Last night he served us a feast of homemade pasta, garden
spinach, fennel, chicken, salad and soup.
For dessert he had baked a big mango pound cake and served it
with homemade chocolate sauce drizzled on top.
Sam and I bring whatever treats we have (coffee, Starbucks
mints and Newsweek magazines) but we definitely get the better end of
the challenges of simply living here in Chama, Sam and I decided we
have it pretty good.
We live with great people, work is going well and Chama is just
remote enough that we don't have a lot of the greed problems so many
other volunteers experience.
now am just lamenting the fact that next week Irene and Njovu and
their family (most of them) will move out to their cottage for the
rest of the rainy season.
I'm going to miss Irene so much.
She's become my best friend in the village for one, and she's
also a tremendous help to me in just about everything I do here!
On top of it al, her presence keeps Agogo at bay and I am not
looking forward to the return of Agogo all day-all night.
I'm hoping Agogo has learned to give me a little more space,
but that's probably wishful thinking. (Editor's Note: Agogo is a
next-door neighbor who is in her early sixties, very aggressive and
will not stay out of your face. She will not take "no" for
an answer and will hound you to death until she gets her way.)
probably doesn't matter much anyway, though, since I will hardly be in
Chama until February!
Next week I leave for 10 days of Christmas travels to Lusaka
and Vic Falls. Then most of January I will be with Julie, Jamie and
I hate to admit it because I don't want it to sound as if I
don't like the village, but life here is a lot easier when I know that
every few weeks I get to go at least to Lundazi, if not Malawi or
I'm in my village I know exactly how many days until either I'm going
somewhere or someone is coming to visit.
I think it is the same for most volunteers.
We also always know exactly how long we've been at site without
seeing another volunteer.
I guess it's all kind of a game we play to cope.
Not that any of us is having a bad time, its just info we
few hours later> Well,
the afternoon rains have arrived so I'm hunkered down inside my house
enjoying the storm.
I've left my bike outside so the rain will wash off some of the
mud that gets caked all over it whenever I ride to the boma.
The mud factor is a huge one now, and I suppose you could let
it drive you crazy. I've decided to just surrender to it and accept
the fact that if I go anywhere I will get muddy.
I assume my clothes won't get truly clean until at least April.
It's actually pretty fun bike riding through the mud - until
you hit a particularly deep spot and you fall over.
That's only happened to me a couple of times so far!
At least I can get to and from Chama during the rains.
To get to Sam's, you have to cross a stream that is typically
waist-deep after a day of rain.
There is no bridge.
You just lift your bike up on your shoulder and trudge across.
No telling what is rushing through that water too!
Me, I have it OK with just a lake in front of my house and only
a couple small leaks in the roof.
I'm getting two wheelbarrows full of bricks to build a path to
Generally though, I enjoy the rain because it sends everyone to
his or her houses and gives me some privacy.
Of course Sebecca and Stella are still here, eating mangoes on
the porch and cracking themselves up.
But they're just like part of the lawn furniture anymore, and
their giggles keep me smiling.
my new kittens, Odi and Yebo, are not making me smile as much.
They're still adorable, but it turns out I am horribly allergic
I felt allergic (sniffly, sneezy, etc.) the first week I had
them, but that's also when my malaria started so I wasn't sure which
part was allergy.
Plus I thought maybe after a few weeks my body would adapt.
No such luck.
I'm in agony in my own house now and can't get to sleep without
taking a Benadryl.
Problem is they are too cute and I've grown too attached.
But this is misery, so after Christmas- or after etal's visit-
I'll get a neighbor family to adopt them.
Of course then the mice will return, but at least I'll be able
I got my new wardrobe hutch from the carpenter.
It's huge and beautiful!
I can't begin to describe how great it felt to finally
unpack my clothes, after nearly a year of living out of a backpack.
It's so nice to have shelves and a lockable cabinet and something that
sort of resembles a closet!
Next I'm ordering a kitchen counter/cabinet for the sitting
room so that I can put everything else away and prepare food without
also considering adding a room to my house and extending the porch
around the back of the house.
My current bedroom would become something like an office/work
area and the new room would
become the bedroom with a backdoor onto a back porch that would
be a little more private.
haven't mentioned this to anyone in my village yet, but I think I'll
try to do it by next spring, if they can work during the rainy season.
The structure is easy, but the roofing is tougher.
It will probably cost about 40,000 kwacha (about $12 dollars
The wardrobe hutch was 105,000 kw.
hey, did I mention there is another PCV here from Topeka?? His name is
Frank Lynn and he's around sixty years old and lives near Linda's site
In Topeka he was a nurse (OR and then Psych) at the VA
Now he's retired and doing the PC thing.
I might get to meet him in Lusaka just before Christmas.
I know there are a million more things to tell you about, but I'll
have to save them for the next letter, as this one is already long
few random things though.
Can you send me one of those umbrellas that close-up really
Plus just a couple of rolls of black and white 35mm film 400
ASA (or whatever you find).
Oh, and my second Timex Ironman watch died the other day.
Can you send me watch batteries?
I'll mention the batteries to Julie and Celeste also.
Right now I have no idea what time it is.
that marine adhesive Goop is awesome!
I have more than enough, but just wanted to let you know how
great it is.
on writing those aerograms and sending packages.
I had an awesome time during your visit.
Maybe you'll get to come again in early 2002?
hello to everyone.
I miss you!
I've tried calling a few times today,
but I can't seem to get a line out of
I trust you returned safely to the
States after I talked to you in London
all is well.
Life is good here. Matt and I just got
back a few days ago from vacation in
Game Park in northern Malawi. It was Beautiful!!!!! Went horseback
riding two days, camped,
hiked. The weather was cool and the scenery was gorgeous.
For Xmas we're going to go to Vic Falls
instead of Zanzibar. I didn't want
take too much vacation time over xmas since Julie, Celeste and Jamie
will be here
in January and we decided that to make Zanzibar worthwhile we'd need
to have more time. (getting
there takes at least three days!) So I was all for
a chance to go rafting again!!! I'm going to use my xmas money that
And then I'll still be happy to go again when the crew gets here.
You know, all a part of my
plan to become a river rafting guide / Outside Magazine
writer when I get back home!
Any plans for Thanksgiving? We're going
to cook a guinea fowl at my site
all the trimmings! yum yum.
Hey, here's some news for you.
I had malaria!!! Yes, now pleassssssse don't be
alarmed!! I've been in constant contact with Gilly and Nobutu in
Lusaka. I took
my fansidar and am now fully recovered. I didn't have a bad case, but
it still wasn't much fun.
Had it just before going to Malawi so we had to delay
our travel plans a little and take it a bit easier once we were there.
At the malaria peak I had a
fever of 102 and some funky dreams. Bad headaches,
bodyaches, the works. Now I am fine. They say it was probably a
"break-through" malaria since I've been good about taking my
mefloquine. If I have
another bout of it then I might have to consider a different
anti-malarial but we'll deal with that if the situation arises. In
any case, I am FINE
NOW!!!!!!! (though I am casting an evil eye at every mosquito
Tell Maj I got the note from Courtney,
the new Zambia volunteer coming here
January. I wrote her back a long email I hope she has received.
All is well. I'm going back up to
Lundazi today (Sunday), then to Chama
I'll be back through Chipata around December 17th on my way to Vic
Falls and I'll try to call
you then so we can talk over the Christmas holiday.
Have a great Thanksgiving! Eat lots of
turkey for me and say hi to everyone!
I love you!
|This is a letter from my
parents (Major and Rose) to all Peace Corps Families
To All PC Families,
We just returned from Africa. We visited our
daughter, Lara, also known as Rala, in the Eastern Province. Her
village is close to Chama, which is more than 300km (200mi) north of
Chipata. Lundazi is about halfway, and is at the end of any paved
road. The worst paved/potholed road in your community is better than
the best paved roads in Zambia outside of large cities. Sam Rikkers is
the only other volunteer in Lara's area (about 30km away) and the next
closest volunteers are toward Lundazi, 80km south. This recap will
deal with logistics and general statistics that we had to cope with or
experienced. Rose and I were there from 1-15 Oct. It was the dry
season and very hot being 11 degrees south of the Equator. It did not
rain while we were there, but we did see one small cloud. The hottest
day was 105.6 F cooling down to about 92 F at night. Most days were
about 96 F. There was a lot of dust. There were no visible mosquitoes,
but when we tried to sleep outside the netting at night you would wake
up with one of the little buggers trying to take a blood sample near
your ear. You were inside the netting for the rest of the night. City
motel/hotels were clean, but bed covers had been used by Dr.
Livingstone (I presume). It cost $13/night for two in Chipata. Except
in true tourist areas and Lusaka, the best facilities were comparable
to a one or two star hotel in the U.S. We stayed in Hotel
Inter-Continental in Lusaka, considered the best, $92/night for three,
and it was close to a four star with an excellent diner restaurant on
the top floor overlooking the city. We stayed at the Waterfront Lodge
in Livingstone for $150/night for three. The Wildlife Camp Lodge at
the South Luangwa National Park was about $60/night for three plus
game drives, meals, bar for additional $240. The Lundazi Castle (a
true castle built by a German after WWII) was $13/night for the VIP
suite. While all this sounds very inexpensive by U.S. standards, you
always paid in Zambian Kwatchas. $10,000 Kwatchas were about $3.50
U.S. It was easy to lose perspective of this and think you were paying
a lot of money, and who wouldn't be shocked at a $100,000k hotel bill?
According to some sources, Zambia is the 3rd poorest country in the
world (there's got to be allot of countries tied for 1st and 2nd). In
the entire country we never felt threatened or unsafe. For a country
with so little, it is amazing how friendly, smiling and good humored
the people were. Outside of the cities, everyone lives day to day at
the subsistence level. It is not poverty, because virtually everyone
has reasonable shelter, food, water, security and some access to
medical services for serious conditions. They don't have electricity
or running water or sewage treatment facilities, but except for the
kids covered in dust and sometimes raggedy clothes, they are clean and
fairly neat. They have virtually no modern gadgets that we use. No one
owned a camera in Lara's or Sam's villages and no one had a car or
truck in the villages. The people are not lazy, everyone is up and
busy at 0600 in the morning, walking to their job, or field or school.
They are friendly, laugh and do not complain about their life,
condition or the government. We always felt safe. The biggest hassle
is the absence of quality transportation choices. If you got a taxis,
you needed to make sure they had enough gasoline to get were you
wanted to go otherwise you made a side trip to get 1 or 2 liters of
gas. We headed off in a car to the game park which was 130km from
Chipata and the driver spent 30 minutes rounding up gas for the trip.
We ended up having two flat tires along the way and there was no spare
that was usable. It really didn't matter because he didn't have a tire
lug nut wrench or any other tools! We finally got a different ride
40km from our destination and our abandoned taxis went on down the
road on the wheel rim. No one ever showed any disgust, frustration or
anger over problems like this that occurred on a regular basis. It was
all part of the adventure.
In summary we had an eventful, informative and
fulfilling experience while visiting Lara and Zambia.
We traveled to Lara's village (a scattering of
huts and small structures) and spent 4 days and 3 nights in her hut.
We met dozens of her neighbors, village leaders and the district
We went to two different game parks; South
Luangwa and a smaller one near Victoria Falls. We saw lions with their
cubs, leopards with cubs, elephants of all sizes, hippos, zebras,
giraffes, crocodiles, many type of antelope, warthogs, buffalo eagles
and lots more. We even saw elephants crossing the Zambezi river and
they went underwater.
We visited the Peace Corps House in Chipata
and met many other PCVs to include Emily and Scott who are assigned to
villages in the Chipata region. While in Lusaka we went to the PC
Compound and met with Brian (last name escapes me), the Peace Corps
Director for Zambia and other staffers for medical programs, Aids and
We traveled to Livingstone and saw Victoria
Falls. Went whitewater rafting on the Zambezi(below the falls and
damned near drowned -at least I had never been underwater that long
before without dive gear). We had great pizza and real diet Cokes, in
the can, in Livingstone. We also watched bungee jumpers leap off the
bridge near the falls between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Besides bottled water, the three sodas
available just about anywhere are Sprite, orange Fanta and hard Coke.
Once in awhile you find diet Pepsi and diet Coke. Castle, Mosi, and
Carlsberg beers are available in bottles.
Travel to, from, and in Zambia included
trains, planes and automobiles. More observations and insights to
follow, but one thing is for sure, our kids are making a difference
and are enduring without a lot of necessities we take for granted.
They deserve our admiration AND sympathy.
Rose and Major Weber
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