Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Off to Jo-Burg

After a night there I was on a first-class plane ride to Johannesburg, South Africa. I was seated next to a man who works for the national Zambian electricity provider, the name of which escapes me presently… “Zesco” maybe….  Anyway, we had a great chat about the potentials of small-scale energy creation in rural Zambia and the options for moving to a more sustainable option and away from diesel powered generators. But like all things, it comes down to price. That is a bit of a tangent but I hope to discuss this with him more in the future, so I will keep you posted.

When landing in Jo-burg, I was taken to the hospital and told surgery was in a couple of hours. Apparently, it was pretty straight forward and Dr. Von Willich even gave me a nice 2.5-inch souvenir from South Africa. After a day of lying in bed with more tubes in my veins and trying to learn the subtle points of Cricket from my 70 year old roommate, I was discharged and have been recovering at a guest in Pretoria, South Africa for the past week or so.

I apologize that this first entry has really nothing to do with the fish farming program that sent me to Africa in the first place, but there you go. It is where I’m at currently and will try my best to keep you posted about the progress over the next couple of years.

All the best and take care of yourself!

An Unexpected Event

As I was beginning to find my groove and settle in, I awoke one night around with an intense stabbing pain in my lower right abdomen. After enduring the fiery pain every moment of standing, sitting, laying, bending, basically any movement at all, I decided to send the 24-hour medical a text message, as my site rarely has a strong enough cellular network for a voice call. In the morning around Dr. Harry, the Congolese Peace Corps doctor for Zambia, called back and told me to come to Lusaka straight away. “No problem”, I said, “be there in two days.” After packing a couple of shirts, some skivvies, and an extra pair of trousers, I was on the road desperately looking for a hitch. With a bit of extreme luck, I found a ride going all the way to Solwezi, the Northwestern provincial capital. So after 6-hours of being covered with red dust from the dirt roads and making idle conversation with the other two men heading to Solwezi for new tires, I made it to the Peace Corps office and checked in for the night. The next day around I boarded a bus heading to the capital Lusaka and the careful watch of Dr. Harry, US Peace Corps. With the pain returning and a slight bit of nausea, I hobbled on and found a window seat with a sliding window that worked. After the 12-hour ride, we arrived in the capital and I found a taxi that took me to the main Peace Corps office. After a short examination by Dr. Harry and a short chat with PCVs in for various viruses and foot fungi, I was at a clinic having an IV placed by a nurse who was reluctant to leave her game of computer solitaire that seemed to be ongoing since her time of employment.

My New Site - Chilemba

After a 2-month training period, consisting of 4-hour morning language sessions followed by 3-4-hour technical sessions, we were sent to the bush and told to make it happen. As part of the Peace Corps agreement and in exchange for the work the Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) are completing, the village is asked to construct a thatch-roofed mud-brick hut, a “kinzanza” or outdoor kitchen, a bathing shelter for moonlit bucket baths, and a “chimbusu” or pit latrine. Every PCV has a different site with unique people and circumstances, making for great conversation at get togethers, but all volunteers are expected to have those things.

When I arrived at site, about 2 months ago, my hut was near completion, but not yet ready. So they moved me into the village school. In wasn’t too bad, but after a month of sleeping on a concrete floor, being startled awake by clanging of the rusted tire rim hung from a tree to substitute a bell, and enduring the constant stares and overexcited screams of 45 children, I was ready to have my own place. When I saw the work not really making any progress and fearing the Peace Corps would place me in another site due to the rather low motivation of many villagers, I began to push (as hard as one can in a developing country) headmen and people that have been helpful and considerate since arrival. Some of the work included a cement floor, liming the walls to begin the war against termites, and installing some kind of ceiling board to prevent breathing in thatch dust while you sleep that can cause allergic reactions.

Mr. Allen Chilemu, a teacher who was kind enough to prepare meals and baths while I was at the school, began some vigilant yet tactful negotiations with village headmen. We finally came up with a scheme to get the floor installed. I still am not sure of the details but it is not my place to understand all of the subtleties of village agreements. Then I set to work finding lime and some kind of plastic to line the ceiling. Fortunately, the road near my village is being paved with tar and gravel, so lime was available if you can find a willing comrade and you’re not afraid to put a couple of your ethics aside. I won’t go into details, but it was a good introduction into the workings of Africa. As for plastic sheets, I used empty lime sacks and after washing them in the river and cutting them to somewhat equal sizes, I began nailing them to the inside of my ceiling. So after a month and a few days living in the school, I was in my own hut cooking my own food and preparing my own bath water.


Greetings from Mother Africa! I hope everyone reading is well and in good spirits. I’m not sure if everyone knows the background to this blog, so we’ll start from the top. My name is Nick Bisley from Gresham, WI USA. I am currently serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in a northwestern province of rural Zambia. The official title of my position is “Rural Aquaculture Extension Agent”. There are about 30 of us from this year’s intake and we work directly with the Zambian Department of Fisheries in an effort to encourage and extend rural fish farming in villages while acting as eyes and ears in the bush for the understaffed agency.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hi Everybody

Please send me emails, text messages, and letters. My email access is sporadic, but I will answer as soon as I can.