Rat and Jena in Zambia

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By Admin1 (admin) on Friday, September 14, 2001 - 9:09 am: Edit Post

Rat and Jena in Zambia

Rat and Jena in Zambia

Black Hole!!! (Aug 2)

August 21, 2001

by Ratty

August 2, 2001 - Greetings again from the other side! Life is still great and change is afoot: I'm writing on the eve of our commencement ceremony. The significance of this milestone may not be clear, so let me elaborate. Up to this point, we've had 8-10 hours daily of structured lessons, support and time with other Americans who are facing the same stresses, joys and cultural excitement that we are. In a few days, JP and I will be "posted" at our village in southern province to fend for ourselves. The only structure we'll have is the one we create, and we will be the only "mazoongoos" in a 50 km radius. Great! Both being of the personality type that enjoys free time and self-direction, we are quite done with the training schedule. We'll miss the others in our group though.

August 7: Holy cripes! 5 days just slipped by! I'm writing from a quaint little "rest house" in Livingstone, just north of Victoria Falls. Yesterday we visited said falls and all in our group support its place as one of the natural wonders of the world. Picture a river (the Zambezi, for which Zambia is named) about 4 times the width of the Willamette, plunging hundreds of feet into frothing pools of green goodness - it's absolutely beautiful! The force of the water is so great that a column of mist rises from the falls that can be seen (and heard!) from miles (kilometers) away. To top off the afternoon, we then visited nearby Mosi-o-tunya National Park where we saw elephants, giraffe, zebra, wart hogs, impala and 4 of the 5 white rhinos remaining in Zambia. Seeing the rhinos was exciting (one even charged at a tour van!) but sad, given that they are the only rhinos left in Zambia. These 5 were shipped in from South Africa in 1996, and each one has its own armed guard with it 24 hours a day (to prevent impotent men from de-horning the beasts). Not a terribly natural setting.

Catch-up: One of our group has "ET-ed" (Early Terminated) for a variety of reasons that I shan't bore you with. Suffice it to say that he is quite young, not ready to be in Africa, and I admire his (belated) knowledge of self in identifying this. Our commencement ceremony was great. Jena and I jointly delivered a speech in Tonga (nationally televised; not many newsworthy events that day...) Our group sang the Zambian national anthem and several mucky-mucks from the National Wildlife Service praised our presence. After a final, tearful farewell to our host parents, we all got drunk and rhumba'ed until the wee hours. Great fun under a full African moon. The prior evening was the last at our host family's hut; after exchanging gifts and heartfelt thanks, an incredibly unseasonal rain fell. The smell of moist African earth that night is one that I will always remember. (I've enclosed a bit in this letter for your sniffing pleasure.)

Other stray occurrences of note: A couple of weeks ago JP and I were crossing a small bridge over the Misaka stream when some local women pointed out a large black snake beneath the bridge. This fellow was at least 6 feet long and quite at home in the drink. What struck me about the event was not the snake (although spitting cobras, puff adders and black mambas were on my mind) but the locals' lack of fear. The general African sentiment usually seems to be "if it slithers, it is evil and dangerous." Yet this group of bamaamas seemed unfazed. Perhaps they know things we don't. (Did I say "perhaps"? They know LOTS of things we don't.)

August 8: Now in Kalomo, where the 4 Tonga-speaking PCVs will share a house in town. The set-up is as such: JP and I will live in a village 50 km (dirt road) plus 50 more (paved) from Kalomo, and the other 2 chaps will live in villages 50 and 80 kms (also dirt) from here. Perhaps once per month we will all cycle into town to receive mail, meet with our counterparts stationed in Kalomo and soak up a little civilization. Today we rented a P.O. box together (drum roll, see above for address). Our old Lusaka and Kitwe addresses should still work, but will be MUCH slower. (How is it that we now have 3 mailing addresses and still feel homeless?) So use the Kalomo address.

As you may have already guessed, our new living arrangement will really slow down correspondence, so forgive us if you write a question in September and don't receive a letter until December. A bit slower than email. Speaking of which, I recently had the opportunity to check my hotmail account (148 new porno and debt consolidation messages in just a few weeks! How did so many people I don't even know find out that I'm a lecher in debt?) I was pleased to see that most friends and family have given up hope on the "Ratomatic" email address. Now I trust that all of that pent-up writing energy will find a pencil and paper.

Quickly recall my description of a Zambian toilet (hole in the ground). By the end of our training, our group of 9 had managed to drop a mag light (you know, the metal ones police use?) and a $70 Swiss army knife into the abyss. The knife was heroically salvaged using a fishing rod and #2 spinning lure, but was subsequently stolen from the porch where it had been left to dry. I hope the thief used it to cut his sandwich before he cleaned it. I've heard stories of watches, rings and even kittens falling in, never to see the light of day again. (Why am I getting so morbid this late in a letter?)

Today we dropped off the other 2 Tongans, Jason and Paul. It's a rather weighty occasion meeting the neighbors with whom you'll share everything for the coming two years. Add to that the language and cultural differences and you have a rough idea of the stress level. Not to mention the fact that neither Paul's nor Jason's hut is habitable yet, so they are squatting in someone else's hut. And tomorrow is OUR day...we go boldly forth with open arms, the Tongan vocabulary of an infant, and 5 liters of cheap wine! Wahoo!

We love and miss you. Do something American for us, and we'll do something African for you! I'm sure your summer is as beautiful there as the "winter" is here!

.....Drink some good coffee and think of poor JP & RT...

(The letter closes with a plea for Ryan's parents to send a bicycle odometer ASAP. "We go long distances with no good landmarks and need to know what fraction of the trip is left to avoid biking in the dark.")


Letter from July 27th (08/18/2001) (Archived)


Three letters all at once... (09/04/2001) (Archived)


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