Thursday, October 8, 2009

Nganda Yandi (My Home)

--October 4, 2009--

Well, folks, I made it! After a 12-hour Land Rover ride to Kasama, and from there an 80km journey through what has been dubbed "The Worst Road in Northern Province," I finally arrived at my village of Chandaweyaya (or Keyaya, depending on your preference for long words) on September 29.

My home, complete with brick-lined driveway!

Despite its seclusion it is really a busy place. There are about 5000 people in the Chandaweyaya catchment area, spread out over 11 smaller villages. We have a stop on the Kapiri -> Dar es Salaam railway, and a fairly substantial maize storehouse for all the surrounding area. The area lies on a couple of beautiful dambo valleys, which drain into the nearby Chambeshi River. Unfortunately the Chambeshi I'm told is "infested" with crocs and hippos. Also, the school is fairly large, and the head teachers all seem like genuinely friendly and competent fellows.
The front porch

Inside the living room (sorry 'bout the Stuff Piles)

The 'busu and the bathing shelter

My house itself is truly a testament to Zambian resourcefulness. Except for the cement on my floor and the plastic lining my roof (both extraneous luxuries provided by the Peace Corps), everything used to build the house came from the earth less than 100 yards away. Bricks are made from anthill clay and fired, mortared together with more anthill clay. The roof is supported by wooden beams, and is made of grass that was cut from the field across the street. The floor (until the cement came) was made of stamped earth, and veneered with still more anthill clay. Everything is tied together using strips of super-supple bark from a few species of trees in my yard. Even the paint used for my house: white, yellow, orange, grey, and black, is all distilled from nearby soil. Thes amazing thing is that it's a LEGITIMATELY nice house too! A sofa, coffee table, and a few posters on the wall should make it as comfortable as any apartment I've lived in at school. Everything's great - except for the cell phone reception. I have to climb the 30-foot antill outside my house to get even a bar of service, and I have to hike 2km to the school to get enough reception to talk.
Mt. Reception, the anthill outside my house where I can get a bit of service

The view from atop Mt. Reception

My Nsaka (basically an outdoor living room)

But the best part is that the villagers are all extremely friendly and extremely happy to have a volunteer. I'm the first Peace Corps volunteer (and probably the first white guy) ever to live in their community, so there's surely going to be some serious cultural exchange (like gift-giving for example: I found out the hard way that Zambians don't open gifts in public when I bought Cokes for myself and my counterpart and he promptly shoved both of them into his bag, returning the empty bottles with much gratitude the next day).
For the first few months my job is simply to ride around and get to know the area and the people. So that's all I've been up to so far. The community, however already has plans for me to lead an English study group and to teach a few grades at the local school (and play goalie on their championship caliber inter-village football team, a task I'm not sure I'm up for). In short, I think Chandaweyaya should be a pretty nice place to set up shop for the next two years!


  1. Lol, I like how you've dubbed that anthill "Mt. Reception." I'm curious to see more of the inside of the house.

  2. Your home looks REALLY SWEET!! Nice!!!
    Make sure you take lots of "before" pictures because in a couple of years it will look quite different.
    You are the first PCV there??!?!?!? What an honor!! You will do an amazing job. We are SO proud of you!!!
    Stay happy, Mark Loehrke

  3. your house looks really nice! reading about your experience thus far has me all giddy about going into PC after public health school--keep up the awesome work! :)

  4. Like you would have a problem becoming a football goalie because you don't naturally adapt to any sport you play, for example basically beating ryan jackson and i at golf after ~2 rounds.

  5. Love the pictures and your writings. Reading your blog makes my day!!