Monday, June 27, 2011

Goats Are Evil

I was planning to write a piece describing my daily routine or the semblance of a routine that I keep, but I decided this post would be much more entertaining and cathartic for me. I want to relate to you in great detail my intense dislike…no, pure hatred (I hate the word “hate,” but in this case, it is the only appropriate word)…for GOATS.

Oddly, when I first moved to Zambia, the idea of living in a village with goats seemed rather quaint. I mean, who doesn’t think baby goats are adorable? They hop, skip and jump their teeny bodies through the air with pure joy, climbing anything and everything. Like I said, adorable. I once held love for these little buds of evil. During my first week in Zambia at my first site visit, my heart almost burst for love over a newborn goat. I cuddled it, cooed over it. Our group gave it so much attention and love that it settled down on the doorstep to sleep like a loyal dog.

Oh, but how time changes feelings…inconstant love. If I believed in Satan, I would be truly convinced that goats are devil’s spawn. What has brought on the sunset of my adoration? Ah, well, I actually live in a village with goats now. It’s no daydream or fantasy or distant future. It is here and now. As I write, I’m serenaded with a constant cacophony of goat song…mixed with a few pig honks and the “bah” of a sheep. Always, always, they are there, in my yard, peaking in my door, drinking my dishwater and generally wreaking havoc in my world.

My first day in the village, I walked back to my chimbudzi to relieve my aching bladder. I dropped trow, took a squat and let loose a powerful stream. I admired the size of my budzi hole…as I didn’t need to work hard at perfecting my aim. Then, I heard it. A faint mewling…where was it coming from? I could hear the louder call of a bigger goat outside the budzi door. A mother calling its baby, clearly distressed. In mid-stream, it dawned on me that my budzi hole was big enough for a baby goat to make the wrong step and fall, splash!, into the hole. Oh god, I was pissing on a baby goat…and oh god, what would I do if the call to nature was a bit more urgent? I’d just have to hold it until the goat died, which could take days! weeks! How long do baby goats live without food and water? These were my split second morbid thoughts. I walked directly back to my front stoop where my Zambian sister, Martha, sat waiting for me and urgently explained the situation. Her eyes got large and then, she laughed out loud…which brought on a fit of giggles from me. But, still, how would I use the toilet? Funny or not, this was a problem. After darkness fell, and Martha was back on my stoop. A friend, Axon, came to rescue the stranded child. His rescue tool was a long pole outfitted at the end with a sling. Using a flashlight and after a half hour of work, he wrangled the baby goat up and out of the hole. I saw that baby yesterday, butting its head aimlessly against the brick wall of a house. It fell down; I laughed.

Next point. There’s this one goat. I don’t know what it looks like or even if it exists during the daytime. I know it only at night when I’m sleeping, as it haunts my dreams with its ghostly, demonic voice. What I’m saying is that it wanders the village in the wee hours of morning crying incessantly. For what, who knows? Normally, this wouldn’t bother me. I’ve become a pro at blocking out regular unwanted animal noises, roosters, sheep, dogs and normal goats. But, this goat is not normal. When it cries, it sounds as if it is exorcising demons from deep within the it coughs, burps and farts, in symphony, as the demons are removing themselves. All of this, just outside my window at 11PM, 2AM and 4AM…or some other equally offensive schedule every night. I’m convinced this ghost only appears to harass me and hides during the day…vampire goat from hell.

Then, the last couple of nights, I didn’t hear the demon/vampire/ghost goat. I slept like a log. Cool weather, quiet. Perfect. Alas, my reprise from restless sleep did not last. Last night was the coldest it’s been since my arrival in country. Down into the mid-50s. I bundled up deep in my bed but unfortunately I wasn’t the only one looking for shelter. The goats, too, were searching for warmth. I awoke multiple times in the night to their scratching and snuffling as they huddled against the warm house. And, then, around 2:30AM, my front door began to rattle. Startled out of a dream, I thought, “Holy shit, someone’s trying to break into my house!” That’s when I heard the distinctive goat “Bah!” “Oh goddamn, the goat's breaking down my front door!” Or, just rubbing up against it...for the second time that night, I rose from my bed and chased the goats from my house. When I woke this morning to light the coals of my mbaula for coffee, I found piles of goat shit in my nsaka…everywhere, forcing me to sweep before I’d had a chance to rub the sleep from my eyes. I found the door cover for my chimbudzi ripped down and more turds inside. Honestly, the goats left me presents everywhere in my yard…it’s like they had a party and forgot to ask my permission or clean up after themselves. Not cool.

And, so, concludes my 3 point essay on why I fiercely hate the goats. I did have some pictures to include in the post but long story, I don't have them. Sorry. I'll try to make the next post more colorful, picture-wise, that is. Sending out love to all those not of the goat species (or rat species, but that's a topic for another time).

Law #10: Goats are evil.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Zambian Home

Greetings to all from the Eastern Province of Zambia! I was posted to my site on May 11 after swearing in at the Ambassador's house on May 6. I will post pictures from swear-in on Facebook within the month, but I left my larger camera at home.

So, home. I'm sure you're curious to know where I now call home. The picture to the left is my yard...big mango tree right there up front. I'll be rolling in mangos in November. I live in the middle of Kasosa Village, Chiparamba Sub-District, Chipata District, Eastern Province. Look up a map via Google, find the cities of Chipata and Mfuwe. I am about 25-30 km from Chipata toward Mfuwe. My village is about 5-10 km off the paved road. My preferred form of transport is bike, because it gives me freedom; it's free; and it helps to keep me in shape. 35 km up and down big hills to town is a good 2 hour workout. The ride home is a breeze, though, even with pounds of fresh, local produce loaded in my saddle bags.
My house is constructed of mud bricks with a concrete floor and thatch roof. It's divided into two small rooms. The entry room is a combo kitchen, office and living room. The back room is my bedroom/storage area. From the front door, a little brick walkway leads to my nsaka where I do most of my cooking.
The nsaka is the Zambian village form of an entertainment room. I sit over my mbaula (the little metal thing in the center of the nsaka), coals blazing and cook all manner of tasty foods. Mexican flavored soya and banana/sweet potato curry...for example. Around the back of my house, I've got a bafa, bathing hut, and a chimbudzi, outhouse.
Bafa to the right, chimbudzi to the left. The bafa was constructed with live poles, so it's starting to stretch green towards the sky...a quaint way to bath. My chimbuzi isn't much more than a baby sized house with a hole in the dirt floor. So far, I've rescued a baby goat from the hole (well, a villager physically did the resue work) and been rudely greeted in the evening by a bat flying into my face. The hole is now covered to prevent anymore unfortunate animal activity in the poop dungeon.

So, that is just a brief introduction to my new home and where I'm staying right now. I've got so many more pictures to share but right now, this is the best I can do. I have another blog post planned to introduce everyone to my daily routine. Something to look forward to...

And, since you haven't seen me in so long, here's a picture of me helping with the maize harvest.

Law #9: The heart needs a home...even a mud brick home in Zambia.