Wednesday, July 29, 2015

E. Coli...not just featured in Food, Inc.

Sometimes you get E. Coli and vomit for a few days. Yikes! Currently on the mend. Here are a few updates from the past few weeks :)

While I'm waiting on a few final pieces from the University of Zambia and the Ministry of Health, I've spent my time doing some preliminary research and working at Chikumbuso. My main research site is Chainama Hills Mental Hospital, the only public institution for the treatment of alcohol abuse in all of Zambia. But as you can imagine from the name, Chainama is also the only center for many other challenges--all forms of mental illness, in fact. In practice, this means that individuals suffering from schizophrenia, psychosis, violent episodes, Alzheimers, acute learning disabilities, and substance abuse all receive treatment in the same place. 

When I walk into work in the morning, I'm usually greeted by individuals singing and pacing (today it was a Taylor Swift rendition), young alcohol abusers sitting quietly in the corner, silent nods from those unable to speak, waves from those in wheelchairs, and lots of handshakes. Far above capacity, a single ward may host nearly double the number of prescribed patients, and simply glancing through the gate you can feel the unease of proximity (both to those with radically different diagnoses from oneself and also simply the physical closeness to other persons in a small space). Healthcare is completely free in discourse in Zambia, yet inadequate government funding often requires patients to pay some amount in practice; this is never enough to sustain the hospital beyond basic functions, and often even these primary needs remain unmet. Leaky pipes leave trails across the floors, many medications simply are not available at the pharmacy, and power flips on and off unpredictably. However, at Chainama I've found staff who are utterly committed to treating every patient as a full human being, and caring for each one even when resources are stretched quite thin.

The correlation of other challenges--medical and otherwise--for those with mental illnesses in Zambia is quite high. Substance abuse often precedes or follows mental challenges, along with poverty. HIV, tuberculosis, and other physical ailments intersect, as well as hopelessness and dejection. The stigma against those with mental illnesses in Zambia pushes these individuals to the margins of society, and opportunities to attend school or work are few and far between. In my time here, I will be working with youth to better understand the medical, social and psychological causes and effects of substance abuse. The Ministry of Health aims to use this as evidence in the policy formation process to structure compatible interventions, and though I know I will leave with lots of information regarding youth substance abuse, I hope that in the process I'll learn a great deal more about the bigger picture of mental illness and service provision in Zambia. I'll keep you updated! 

In our time off, Will and I host dinners, go for jogs, and try to explore around the country. Two weeks ago we took a trip to Livingstone (as pictured below). Many more adventures to come :) Thanks for reading! 
After hiking down to the bottom of the Falls!

Hanging out with Cute at Chikumbuso! If you followed several years ago, you can see how much she's grown in the past three years!

Riding an elephant

Elephants have HUGE tongues!

Peeling sugarcane
Running away from a Zebra who didn't wanna be friends 

Cookin in Lusaka!

Friday, July 17, 2015

And on the third summer, the blog rose again

Hello everyone! 

Well, the blog is back in action. Many of you asked for updates, and though I don't feel blogging is my forte, perhaps this old page may be resurrected for the time being. Here goes!
For those of you who don't know, this is my third summer here in Lusaka, Zambia. In the past few years I spent time training teachers and helping students prepare for government exams at 2 different organizations, Chikumbuso and Mercy Ministries. This time around, I'm working with the Zambian Ministry of Health on a community-based research partnership. For the past six months the Ministry (the equivalent of the Department of Health in the US) and I crafted a research project based on an area of interest to the country--youth alcohol abuse. Zambia claims international renown as one of the highest regions for alcohol abuse, yet qualitative understandings as to reasons for this this prevalence remain unstudied. Right now the Ministry of Health is in the process of generating new policies regarding alcohol, and they hope to utilize this research to inform the policy. Crossing my fingers! 

It's safe to say there were a few bureaucratic delays. As endemic in the US, government operations take quite a bit of time. However, by the end of the first week, we were able to submit the project for ethical review. In my spare time over here, I’m working with Chikumbuso to create a Community Health Workers Training for their community, Ng’ombe, and teaching at Mercy.

I feel unceasingly grateful for the opportunity to return to Zambia and see wonderful friends once again. AAAAND this time I’m not riding solo, my boyfriend Will is also here conducting research with the University of Zambia! Here are a few pictures from the time so far…I’ll try to keep this page updated!

Hanging out with a cheetah! 

Dinner with our good friend Danny in his home in Kalingalinga

Lunar Moonbow over Victoria Falls!

There are power shortages all across Southern Africa because of we eat cookies by flashlight (special thank you to Will's mom Rhonda for the delicious treats!)

So happy and excited to spend time at Mercy and reconnect with all of the kids and teachers! 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Coming home

Talk about culture shock. It’s almost harder to adjust to being back than it was to learn to live in Zambia! Not kidding. It's really really frustrating!! But more than that, I already miss the people a crazy amount. I miss Ruthie calling me Auntie Molly, I miss walking into class to an excited group of students chiming “Good morning Madam!” I miss praying with the widows, I miss laughing with my friends during lunch. How can I ever describe my experience in Zambia? It’s heartbreaking and confusing and an incredible gift to have your heart on multiple continents, that’s one thing I know.

Another thing I know is the work I did was very small. But I’m incredibly thankful. I think many of the relationships I built in Zambia were just beginning, and it’s so, so, so hard to leave knowing how much more room there is for growth. There is so much more to these people than I was able to learn in my short time in there, and I’m truly grateful that they allowed me to be a part of their lives!

“Africa time” drove me crazy at first, really crazy. Everything takes a long time, meeting times are simply suggestions, and rapidity is not an end. But it was an incredible lesson in remembering my own unimportance; to relax about “my” time and value any time I was able to have with anyone. And I think the Africans have something figured out we Americans haven’t quite grasped—building relationships takes time. You HAVE to slow down to build meaningful relationships. This work is valuable. Relationships are the building blocks of eternal things. And there are little ways to do this wherever we are, like trying to shut off the phone while talking to someone, valuing their time and their words above your own, and staying patient. I’ve seen the contrast—it seems that often in the US we seek surface-level relationships that are convenient for us, require minimum commitment and vulnerability, and maximize benefit for ourselves. When that’s what we’re seeking, it’s not about celebrating the other. It’s about serving the self. We often don’t even realize how empty it is until we open up our lives to others. When you’re sharing life with people, you share burdens and victories. It was my privilege to do this with friends in Africa.  I don’t want to waste any time or miss the opportunity to treasure the amazing people around me, be it at home or abroad.

It really is different now that extreme poverty isn’t an idea, but it’s the issue faced by real people, strong people, that I know by name and face. I’m sad, so so sad. Truthfully, the need in Zambia is overwhelming and very present. There are things I still don’t know how to write about, like visiting the prison when I was so upset my peanut butter sandwich wanted to come right back up, or seeing a dirt-covered child lying in a ditch in the compound. I feel like there’s a huge part of me that’s still in Zambia, still desperately wanting to stay with the people, and that’s really hard to explain to people here.

There is a weird juxtaposition of technological progression and desperate poverty in Lusaka. The crazy thing is, this juxtaposition exists in the US too. Lusaka may have a mall and Airtel, but there’s also a significant amount of the population living on far less than a dollar a day. Poverty exists in the US too…we can access resources, communicate, and transport with ease, yet the US has incredibly high rates of depression, loneliness, suicide and broken families. God made the African people beautiful and wonderful, as well as the American people. How blessed am I that I’ve had the opportunity to serve both! I have hope; I’ve seen hope. Ask me!!

There are still so many things I don’t understand, but Africa is a part of me now. I’m blessed because of this trip; blessed that my world is a bit bigger, and blessed that my new world is full of incredible people I don’t deserve. I’m not sure where my place may be, but I’m thankful. And I’m excited to find out what the future holds, whether it’s just a next step or the whole path. I’m nervous about being home, so please be patient with me when I accidentally go to the wrong side of the car, or start dozing at noon, or get angry or sad. I cannot wait to see you all! But the question everyone asked as I prepared to leave was, “when will you be back?” And I hope the answer is, very soon.
          My sponsor child Deborah, who has been pictured here several times, lives in a one-room house in the compound. Her walk to school is at least an hour, through flea-ridden markets and disease-filled neighborhoods. Her sister Anna loves to carry her stuffed animal on her hip like moms carry babies in Zambia, and Deborah loves to laugh and loves second grade. She is an amazing, amazing person. And I have the honor of sponsoring her! These kids are my friends; they are people I know who are struggling to survive. I can’t even tell you how much joy it would bring for me to know that more are being cared for by people I care for! Being away from these kids is really hard. But my being here is totally worth it if it means just one more kid can eat and receive life-saving medical care.

         A child here could very easily die of strep throat, and an estimated 40% of Zambians are stunted. I know these kids; I can tell you about their homes, their lives, their siblings, I can show you pictures of them, I can tell you stories about them. I’ve seen what it’s like to live in the compounds. And I know how much EVERY SINGLE CHILD is a treasure! Honestly, there's so much need and so much for which I'd love to advocate. But if there's anything I can attest to, it's the life-changing difference of an education, healthcare, and nourishment. If you’ve enjoyed following this blog and would like to make a difference in the life of a child who may not be able to eat, receive medical care, attend school or know how loved they are, please consider sponsorship. Though this difference could never be quantified, it’s like skipping going out to dinner once a month to save a life. What a gift that we can do that! Sponsorship through Chikumbuso also supports the widows’ work and grandmother outreach, and makes it possible for people living in poverty to survive and thrive.

        Mother Teresa said, “be faithful in the small things, for there your strength lies.” I know the work I did in Zambia was in the category of “small things,” and I want to keep doing these “small things” in building relationships and living in service when here in the US. Sponsorship, by being faithful in things that seem small here, can literally save and transform a life there. Yes through the resources, but also through the relationship. The things in our lives that truly are small—like sacrificing a dinner out—can mean the transformation of the life of another. And we’re the ones receiving a gift in giving. Follow this link!

        If you would like to support Mercy Ministries, in their work with HIV/AIDs widows, the incredible but barely funded school, the feeding program, or the teachers, please just contact me at The children at Mercy changed my life, and many are struggling to simply afford the notebooks made out of loose paper bound in newspaper; many have shoes that are barely attached, or none at all. They are incredibly intelligent and wise; full of joy and gracious; strong and loving. I can send you, though I can’t post them online, pictures of the kids you’re loving. Mercy is Zambian-run, and I spent a great deal of my time there. I even have videos of the kids! You can get to know them a little! Just email me.

I’d love to answer any questions you have about postings here, life in Zambia, or how you can help in other ways. Please email me! Thank you so much for sticking with me throughout this process, and for reading!

My girl Debobrah!

This is her absolutely beautiful sister Anna...I love her already

As far as I know, Deborah was the first child in this group to receive sponsorship and one of the very few to be able to attend school. Let's make it possible for more to feel cared for!

Poaching is such a big problem that rhinos are guarded 24/7 by rangers with AKA-47s...

...and this guy was like, sit here and I'll take some pictures, don't worry I'm watching your back! I'm pretty sure on the list of ten things to never do, turning your back to a rhino is somewhere near the top. Whoops.

Did you know that crocodiles are so fat they sometimes break their own toes when they stand up? It's true.

Victoria Falls...honored and amazed and not at all surprised that it's one of the seven wonders.

But Deborah, and all the kids at Mercy and Chikumbuso, are as wonderful and awe-inspiring as the falls could ever be. What amazing gifts.

Monday, August 5, 2013

These hands touched the Zambezi

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Zambia is....amazingchallengingconfusingstressfulbeautifulwonderfultransformational. I really don't have words to describe the people here, how much I'm learning from them, and how much I love them. And being here and seeing the many things I see has forced me to question a great deal in the area of giving. To be honest, the need here is overwhelming, and the pain and suffering is very very real, more real than I often want to allow myself to believe. I've gone through a wide range of emotions and thoughts; everything from feeling tortured as I crawl under the covers in my heated home knowing that others are not as warm in the frigid Zambian nights, to desperately trying to cling to all the "stuff" that makes me comfortable and forget the big challenges here. I found that I really needed a framework for understanding how to live now that my own little world is a little bigger.

I don't have it figured out. I realized that it kind of sounds like I've got some magic explanation to share after that last paragraph, which I don't. But because I've gone down many thought paths that are not healthy, helpful, or good, hopefully I have a tiny bit of insight I can share about giving in the context of the love of God.

I've learned that, at least for me, the initial tendency is to give out of comparison. The train of thought is: "I have so much and they have so little so I need to give to them." This comparative analysis is counterproductive in several ways. One, it becomes one-directional. In this thought process we can never receive, we are above, we are in power. How horrifying! Giving is about relationships, which involve humility and recognition of the fact that we don’t, in fact, know everything. And a unilateral approach forgets that everyone is gifted, that we too are in need, and in the middle of the learning process. It also leads to separation: “me” and “them” as opposed to “we.” It ends with minimization of others: “they have so little.” Out of this place we are actually disrespecting and devaluing others, instead of the opposite.

Two, it urges giving out of guilt and shame. This is clearly not what God intended and there are no passages in the Bible that follow this train of thought. Since this logic begins with “I have so much,” we start out as guilty; in the negative. We feel bad about what we have, and feel we must deny it to wipe away our guilt. This is all wrong. In this people give to justify themselves instead of out of genuine love for the well-being of others. It leads to a lack of thankfulness and a self-focused form of giving.

Three, it removes humanity from giving, which in turn may result in resentful giving. A simple knowledge of the proportional differences teaches you nothing about the human person behind the “quantity,” or the immense value God has for that person. Thus knowing intellectually that you have more than others in a certain area does nothing with your heart. It will be easy to feel angry about giving; why bother sacrificing when you do not care about the person for whom you sacrifice? It can actually lead to the exact opposite: clinging to “stuff,” giving leftovers, or giving nothing at all.

In this system of analysis, it’s easy to get caught up in solely financial “haves” and “have-nots.” If this happens, we may begin to think poor cannot participate in the gift of giving to others because our focus is on only the material. Jesus CLEARLY goes against this—when a widow gave less than 2 pennies as an offering, he said she gave more than all the wealthy givers, and the poor are blessed and gifted in his “economy.” The poor DO participate in giving when it's no longer motivated by or limited to comparative financial analysis. I cannot tell you how much my homeless friend Safya or my widowed friend Joyce have given to me. God’s gifts are diverse, and not limited to financial resources. Sometimes the greatest gift we can offer is a listening ear (or maybe two).

God made us, He actually structured us and formed us, to give. It sounds crazy and counterintuitive, but it’s a gift that we can give! It's healthy and good. He gives (in so, so many ways) because He cares, and He gives so we can also give. God celebrates who we are, which is not dependent on what we do or do not have, or know, or possess, or achieve. Thus our motivation should NOT stem from looking at what others have, but who they are. Which is a person loved by God. And if they are, we too should love, celebrate, and value that person. Which means desiring their good.

I believe our attitude when meeting someone in need, be it materially, emotionally, spiritually, physically, etc. is to start by seeing them as a human being loved by Christ. If we know that, we want to give for their own benefit, because they are valuable, and to give for their own good because they are equally loved. Desiring good because they are loved by God entirely changes out motivation to give, as well as the executed giving itself. We are no longer resentful or guilty, we are no longer giving to serve ourselves, and we are no longer on differing levels. It removes the power dynamic and inserts a celebration of the fellow human and the God who made them beautiful. This means that our willingness to give is not dependent on, or proportional to, what we have. The attitude is not to look at how much less they may have, but how equally they are loved and valued.

I don’t offer up an equation for how to give, because I’m really not sure there is one. Those points at which we struggle to know what is right can lead us closer to God, and since God gives creatively, it would be a shame to reduce it to an empirical analysis. I’m literally writing this as someone who really, really struggles to love and to give healthily and in a holy way. But if I’m learning anything, it’s that where our love is lacking and broken, God can supply and heal. And I must remember that I’m needy too.  

And one final thing: it’s important to remember that our value doesn't stem from what we possess either. So it’s not worth clinging to the “stuff.” Our aim should be for our love to grow.

John 13:34-35:  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Jeremiah 31:3 “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.’”

Ephesians 3:16-21: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Waving hello...

...and making silly faces! Aren't these kids the most amazing???/

Deborah joking around with my glasses!

What the what.


Yup, brussel sprouts

The avocados here are water-bottle sized. The teachers at Mercy will use them as paper weights, then cut them up and add a touch of so good!!

Honestly, the craziest and most beautiful plants grow here!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

An education in education

This is crazy long, but there are pictures!!

Every day I'm definitely receiving an education in Zambian education. Teachers here seldom explain conceptual or contextual elements of problems, there is little critical thinking, and a great deal of memorization; these are perhaps traces of the British system. Yet the curriculum in Zambia is much more holistic than that of the states; students can be tested on their national exams on everything from very practical health and wellness to religion to arts.  There is a wide spectrum of payment for teachers because there are so many types of schools; some are wealthier, but many teachers in community schools are paid between $20 and $40 a month, whereas others are just called "volunteers" because they are paid next to nothing. For these teachers students often bring items like soap, bread, and other necessities the teacher cannot afford, so it's easy to understand low retention rates of these "volunteers" in community schools. They may teach multiple grade levels in a one-room classroom. In Zambia, the grade number can be deceiving. Students attend whenever they can afford school (and school-related) fees, or whenever their families can afford for them to be out of the home. If a student is no longer able to pay the fees, they may drop out for weeks, months, even years at a time, and some are unable to return at all unless their financial situation improves. School-related fees are often the clincher for families, because students must purchase uniforms, supplies, pay for transportation (or housing or boarding close to the school), etc. Students must also pass examinations periodically to move to the next grade level, and if they do not pass they remain and begin the term again. Thus, in a 4th grade class, there can very easily be a vast age range, varying from 9-year-olds to post-14. This definitely makes the classroom an interesting and engaging place!

To be honest these people are an utterly undeserved gift. Kids who won't go to lunch because they say you're a good teacher (the more accurate assessment is that they are fantastic children who make teaching fun!), children who shout out in excitement during prayer that they're thankful you came, teachers who make huge progress in their own mathematical understanding and say they wish you'd come in January, and friends who give you margarine and white bread sandwiches during teaching breaks. At Mercy specifically I teach mathematics to grades 5, 6, and 7, Bible study, crafts (which is an adventure...I can draw stick people.....! :) ) and I work with the teachers on their mathematical comprehension. One adult wants to go re-take her 12th grade exam! She's awesome! Others are going to the university via correspondence, and some just want to learn. At Chikumbuso I work with groups of 7th and 9th graders who are preparing for their national exams, and I lead a short Bible study with children after school. The students are so engaged and willing to learn, and it was amazing to see the progress and excitement at the end of the lesson.

I've been reading a study on sexual harassment and abuse in Zambia, specifically focused on gender-based violence in schools. You can find the study here, and I would absolutely recommend reading it if you have the time. Male-dominating cultural values here often impose beliefs of stupidity and incapability upon girls and enable men to abuse females around them. Girls are propositioned, threatened, coerced, bribed, raped and touched by male teachers as well as classmates. Sometimes girl students believe, because this has been reinforced in a slew of societal norms, that they are less capable of academic success. They assume they can only succeed in school by allowing abusers to violate them in exchange for academic favors or assistance. Others are simply targeted because of their gender. Teachers will bribe students with better grades, or if the instructor is well off, they will pay for food, school fees, books, shoes, or school uniforms required to attend school, or other necessities to manipulate students into engaging in sexual relations with them. 66% of households living below the basic poverty line in Zambia, and so the struggle for necessities makes many students vulnerable. When girls refuse propositions, teachers often give them poor grades, embarrass, beat or neglect them in class, or speak falsely to the parents of the students. 

National exams in Zambia are a very big deal. It's expensive enough for students to attend school, so you can imagine the pressure they feel to do well. And often they won't have an opportunity to re-take because of financial constraints. This opens the door for teachers to bribe students with “leakages” (test answers) or one-on-one “tutoring sessions” in the teacher’s home in exchange for sex. The reality of this occurrence makes me all the more vigilant about working with the students at Chikumbuso who are preparing for their exams in hopes that they will not see a need for leakages and are confident enough to say no to propositions, and to pray for my students!

However, female students are not only at risk in school, they can also be preyed upon in transit. Students often walk very long distances to school, and so sometimes kids will try to hitch a ride along the roadside. It absolutely breaks my heart when I see girls standing by the road who could be picked up by any driver who stops. Students commonly walk anywhere from twenty minutes to over eighty one way to get to school—cars are a luxury. The blue minibus system here is unsafe and unreliable, and so even those not soliciting a ride run the risk of becoming victimized: U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women noted that Zambian “girls are reported to have sexual relationships with minibus and taxi drivers as a way of coping with transport costs.” To avoid the long transit, some students will stay at boarding schools that are often makeshift dormitories. These girls are extremely vulnerable to sexual abuse by men, including truck drivers who temporarily stop near the boarding houses looking for sex.

Girls who become pregnant as a result of these violations bear the stigma and discrimination, financial burden, and responsibility. Physically, these pregnancies often result in unsafe abortions, and if carried full term, also mean significant risks considering the very young age of the girls. CPP and HIV/AIDS are two other major physical risks. Further, sometimes families won't pay the fees for a pregnant student. This often leads to early marriage and drop out, along with the psychological effects such as anxiety, PTSD, suicide, depression and stress. One study found that pregnancy was the reason for 25% of dropouts in Zambia, with 36,256 girls leaving school because of pregnancy between 2004 and 2007.

As far as reporting and convicting is concerned, the “absence of clear policies and procedures for preventing and responding to abuse, attitudes among school authorities that minimize abuse or blame the girl student, inadequate or inappropriately lenient responses by school teachers and administrators, and insufficient support services for children who are subjected to abuse” are a few major barriers. Many girls are not aware of school policies or procedures to address abuse, “did not view what had happened to them as an offense, felt that nothing would be done about what had happened, feared that they would be disbelieved and blamed for the sexual abuse they had suffered, or worried that the perpetrator would retaliate against them. Many of those concerns were grounded in girls’ personal experiences or their observations of classmates’ and friends’ experiences.”

Thus there is a normalizing sexual abuse, and an attitude of blame toward the girls. Because it seems structurally and culturally there is a lack of alternatives, the school environment can be very unpleasant, discouraging, and hostile. Studying is difficult enough without the fear, baggage, or marks of abuse and this hopelessness and discrimination often leads to absenteeism, abandoning school, and, for those who stay, diminished academic performance, shame and beliefs of stupidity and worthlessness. One of the things that makes me sick is the teachers often tell these students that they love them in order to receive sexual favors. And girls just start to accept this treatment and start believing this is the extent of "love" and of their worth, because the people who claim to care very clearly don't support these assertions with their actions.

On the other end of the spectrum, the teachers at Mercy and Chikumbuso are truly astounding. These teachers make a distinct effort to love and value the students they serve, and to show them that they are cared for and treasured by God. It's a true honor to learn from these people, I look up to them so much! When I see so much pain and injustice it's easy to forget to be thankful for the good that IS happening. And there truly is a lot to be thankful for, and to pray for. Below are pictures of a few Chikumbuso once the kids start to get to know you they want to take a million pictures! Meet some of these cool kids!

As you can see, Deborah (in the orange shirt) loves to hop into photographs!

One of the kids snapped this one!

A main street in the city portion of Lusaka

These lil guys will be bananas someday!

Just, you know, for reference.

Friday, July 19, 2013

How do you like your impala?

List of questions I never thought I'd be asked:

1.) How do you like your impala?

End of list.

Okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration...I'm sure there are other things I could add. But I can now say that I've digested some of a small African antelope. Definitely not kidding when I say each day is a new experience!

When I come home from Mercy, my pants usually covered in chalk and red dirt, I can't help but think how incredibly grateful I am to be here and to be spending my days alongside so many wonderful friends. The kids are so welcoming and willing to learn, whether it's mathematics or crazy crafts. I love just listening to them, whether it's over a lunch of rice or nshima or during prayer time when they tell me what's worrying them and what they are excited about. And it's so much fun to get to know the other teachers; one of my best friends here in Zambia is a co-teacher at Mercy and during lunch today we spent almost an hour listening to music from all over (and learning a few sweet moves from the kids...I promise I'll never reach their level of awesomeness). 

Today I spent some time with some Zambian drummers who taught me a few songs and drum beats. These are two absolutely incredible guys; they've been doing AIDS education in Zambia for over 25 years, and they're in the planning stages of a new project focused on environmental sustainability and food security for a group of women suffering from HIV. Environmental issues are actually a hugely significant problem in Zambia; since almost all cooking is done over a fire deforestation is climbing at an acutely dangerous rate. I hope to visit the site of their new project this weekend, so I may have more to share with you then! Thank you for reading!