The content of this blog is the creator's own thoughts and does not represent the views or opinions of the Peace Corps or the United States Government. I would also like to apologize for all my spelling and grammatical errors... there will be a lot.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Traveling in Zambia

Transportation in Zambia one word… adventure! Now adventure is defined as…


An unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.

I think that covers it.

There are a few main ways of travel in Peace Corps. As volunteers your money is not infinite. You tend to swap comfort for a cheap ride. So here I will present my travel guide.

Big Buses:

These babies are Zambia’s version of the greyhound system. They are made more for the bwana (rich) and tourists. They run on large pre-set routes across the country, and are pretty fast, plus you get awesome Nigerian movies to watch! A nice aspect is that they leave semi-on time and just go straight to your destination. Unfortunately this is pretty expensive on a PC budget.

Mini Buses:

You have not traveled in Africa until you’ve been on a mini bus. You see them everywhere, painted blue, with fun names on the front and back like “God is good” “Jesus is hot” or “Life Beyond” (I honestly have no idea who comes up with the names). Riding in one is an experience not for the claustrophobic, they are a bit like clown cars I have yet to see a mini bus deny a person. Be prepared to have at least a chicken or a baby on your lap, possibly a full grown person. You also might need to barter a good price; sometimes the conductor might just change it on you. Mini buses are not recommended for major trips, they stop constantly to pick up more people. I have taken one 30km and it has taken hours. They also will not leave until totally full so you can end up waiting hours to go. They are however cheap and great for traveling in Lusaka.


Taxi’s supposed to be selected cars with coloring and such but often turn out to just be some dude with a car. They are really good for getting to somewhere specific at a specific time. Unlike most transport in Africa they leave as soon as you ask them, and will take you where ever. Unfortunately you often have no idea what is a fair price until you have been ripped off once or twice. So just get ready to spend your money, especially if your driver wants to set a “booking fee” which is a “off road fee”.


They number 1 way to travel. Hitch hiking in Africa is a pretty set system, very few people have cars so they ones that do like to make some extra cash picking people up. It’s a pretty straight forward process, stand on the side of the road in the direction you want to go, wave your arm when you see a car coming, and if they stop set a price before hand chowpwa. Hitching is pure luck, sometimes you get a ride right away sometimes your stranded for days, it’s all part of the adventure. The reason it’s so preferred is that it’s the cheapest way to move about; you also get to go as soon as you get a ride instead of waiting for hours to move. You just have got to have an open mind and be prepared for a little surprise along the way. Sometimes your drivers are awesome I have met some of the coolest people on hitches, and sometimes they are creepers… fake husbands are super useful in that scenario. You also never know what kind of ride you are going to get, my most memorable so far have been… and ox cart, a shake-shake truck, in a pick-up with couches, and on top of a pile of maize. Welcome to Africa.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

So You're Coming To PC Zambia with RED?

Wow time has flown! The new RED intake group appears to be coming soon (total shout out to Stephanie Pena for the package thank you!); I applied to be a trainer this PST so we’ll see. Anyway I’ve gotten a few incoming Reds requesting advice on what to pack (especially for the ladies) so I figured I’d present some sort of guide.


  • - Don’t Stress you can buy EVERYTHING in Lusaka just remember it will be expensive and of lower quality.
  • - You don’t need that much clothes. And remember you can wash your clothes. Don’t plan for 2 years. Plan for like 2 weeks to a month. You can’t go shopping in training but once posted you’ll find tons of clothes shops. Just think in terms of work, village time, and traveling.
  • - Bring Money, or at least have some money in your bank. Although honestly PC pays you more than enough.
  • - In PC Zambia we have provincial houses, where you have access to wireless internet and electricity most are like nice hostels with beds and showers. Your also given 4 house nights a month at said houses (after PST and CE), I use it all the time for the blog, for pictures, for VRT reporting.

1. Things I’m REALLY Glad I Brought


Laptop: Despite my hesitance at first, I found bringing my laptop one of the best idea ever. Though the idea of bring a laptop to a mud hut seems insane, with PC house it makes sense.

Camera: I brought 2 cameras (one SLR and one crappy digital with video), I have loved having them both. I use them all the time and love being able to document this experience.

Kindle: Oh my god. The kindle is the most wonderful electronic invention known to man. I really did not want a kindle, I thought the idea of making books electronic was going too far. But I have to admit, having 30 books to read at a time and the month long battery life has been so wonderful. On the worst days, I always have a book to read (which for me is a basic need).

Solio: I think this was a good investment; I use it mostly to charge my I-pod. It does take awhile to charge though and requires direct sunlight. If you have it brings it though.

Ipod with Ipod speakers: When you can dance you heart off to your favorite music in you hut. You’ll understand.

The secret behind a lot of these items is that, most likely in your village SOMEONE has a solar panel, especially if you work in the schools. Your teachers are wealthy, and most have electricity.


PROFESSIONAL CLOTHING IF YOU’RE IN RED! I cannot stress this enough. In the RED program you are working with teachers all day every day. And Zambia professionals will always dress better then you. The Men wear 3 piece suits with perfectly shined shoes, and the women are constantly in the latest fashions from South Africa complete with beautiful done hair and high heels.

Camping Gear:

Alright, you’re gonna get told to get a tent. You can get go get a $20 one from target. Get like a 40 degree sleeping bag, nothing meant for cold weather. I WOULD recommend a utility knife you’ll use it. If you’re a hardcore camper and plan on doing more, you can get a better one. But don’t stress.

Other Things:

Bring Journals, it’s a nice thing to have to vent or just write what happened today.For the women. Diva cup all the way. But if you’re not into that, Peace Corps provides tampons, but not pads. And ladies and gentleman bring things for those long lonely nights, because there will be many and there isn’t any adult shops that’s all I’m saying.

2. Things That I Totally Didn’t Need to Bring:

Stamps, envelopes, chalk, can opener, lighters, so much “village clothes”, etc. Long story short, you can get everything in Lusaka. And I mean everything.

3. Things I Wish I Brought:

Sauces/candy/luxury snacks : I know this sounds silly but you’ll see when you get here. You can’t get those things here; I’d recommend packets from fast food places. And individually wrapped candy.

Pens: The pens here suck, they really really suck.

Cold Season Things: Cold season is cold! You don’t need a lot but it would be worth it to bring some close toe shoes and a hoodie.

Smart Cell phone from America: If you have one just go get it unlocked and bring it here. The phones here are expensive and tend to break.

Games: Card games are really popular here, you’re going to have a lot of free time and with no distractions. It’s a great way to get to know people.

Movies on Hard-drive: People are constantly giving you movies from their computer, or asking to swipe music/movies. Its fun and worth to burn a few of your favorite.

I know this seems overwhelming but, don’t stress. Its going to be fun, and crazy adventure. Can’t wait to see you all in January!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Charcoal Incident…

Once a month I embark on a magical journey to buy charcoal in my village (sometimes sooner if my Iwes have used all my charcoal to draw on my floor). Now buying anything in the village is an adventure, we have a shop – but they are open on “when we feel like it” bases. There are also various villagers with stands on the side of the road which are used to sell everything from soap to shake-shake (beer), but the products, the times and where the items are located changes constantly. So normally when purchasing anything in the village you simply have to go on word of mouth.

“Ba Musonda balewete almalasha lelo?” {Does Mr. Musonda have charcoal today?}

“Nshishibe, Nalemona” {I don’t know, I will look.}

And that’s how it started; normally I would simply walk around the village like a crazy person randomly asking anyone that passes

“Mukwete amalasha?” {Do you have charcoal?}

“Kwisa amalasha?” {Where is charcoal?!”

But that day I took a more relaxed approach, I just asked one person to look for me. After we exchanged pleasantries and she asked to borrow my cat she went on her way. A bit later she eventually sent a child to tell me that the neighbor had some and would bring it over now. 4 hours later a man appeared slowly and carefully cycling with the heavy load on the back of the bike. Normally charcoal is 9pin to 15 pin, depending on size. Bastard charged me 17, but what choice did I have? So I hosted the huge bag equal to my height into my insaka gave away my money and figured that I would be done now for the month. I was wrong…

Not 30mins later Another man with charcoal on his bike came and told me he was sent by a neighbor, I laughed at the silliness and sent the poor man who most likely bike 12k to my house away feeling a bit guilty. But then a hour later ANOTHER man came with charcoal to my house, this was heavily intoxicated and had a hard time understanding that I already had charcoal and didn’t need more. Or conversation was more wild gesturing then talking as he couldn’t understand my Bemba and I couldn’t understand his slurred English. After a good half hour of this he eventually got the point but said he would only go is he could use my bathroom, for the sake of preserving my peaceful afternoon I let him go. While he was in the bathroom, TWO new men on bikes with charcoal showed up…

Welcome to Africa.