26 August 2012

My favorite place in Zambia...

 This is the bridge that connects Central Province to Luapula. It is the longest bridge in sub-Saharan Africa reaching over two kilometers to stretch across the Luapula floodplains. The floodplains are different every time you pass over them, but one things stays the same: you are in the middle of nowhere.

Makin' Cheese

 Milk is really cheap in Southern Province because the Tonga tribe traditionally own cattle. So what better to do with cheap milk than make cheese?! Plus, we buy our milk from the dairy coop so it's super fresh. So far we've done mozarella, paneer, and Gouda...although our first batch of gouda tasted more like parmesan--but in a country where good cheese is scarce, we'll take anything!
Curdling milk for some queso blanco (aka paneer)
Pressing our queso blanco the day before Cinco de Mayo

Queso Blanco

Stirring some milk

Water bath method

Putting the curds in cheese cloth to press it into....

GOUDA! yes please!

AT Workshops

While my primary position with Peace Corps is PCVL, I also spend a lot of my time working on my secondary project: Appropriate Technology. As logistics coordinator, I help coordinate the AT workshops as well as facilitate them. Here are some pictures of some of the workshops we've done so far. Enjoy!

Cutting an oil drum for a technology demo in Luapula Province

Participants uilding a fuel efficient stove in North Western Province

Participants making bug repellant lotions and soaps in Luapula Province

Getting my hands dirty with a maize cob charcoal demonstration in Luapula Province

Tony facilitating in Northern Province

A few of the participants at the Northern Province workshop

Some of the facilitators of the Northern workshop discussing logistics

Here's a brain buster: You must create a device using ONLY 2 pieces of paper, to stack as many maize cobs (with the maize) off the ground at least ten cm high. No tape, no scissors, only your brain and two peices of paper. We call it the "Maize Raise" and challenge our participants to start using their brains creatively.   

AT in the village

Appropriate Technology was started by MIT and brought to Zambia in 2009. I had the opportunity to attend the first AT workshop in 2010 in Central Province and brought along one of my counterparts Ignatius. The 5 day workshop is aimed to create designers and innovators. During the 5 days, we learn about different technologies and try to modify those technologies so they can be re-created in the village, where resources and money are scarce. Ignatius and I brought back what we had learned at the workshop and hosted one of our own in Fimpulu. Below are some pictures of things we worked on
Community members building free line-levels, soemthing they always thought they have to buy in town

A hand maize sheller created by the oldest workshop attendee

Pressing our fuel from the fields: we made charcoal (which is too expensive for some to afford) from maize cobs. Here there are pressing it into small briquettes.

Our students and inventions!

Lather Up!!

Sevren and I are constantly looking for new things to enhance the Appropriate Technologies (AT) Program. Sevren works closely with Southern Biofuels which grows Jatropha trees to use the seeds as clean energy source. But, there are many uses for jatropha and the oil that comes from the seeds, including using it to make soap. Here are a few snaps from our jatropha soap making experiment:
Jatropha oil pressed from the seeds

Caustic soda found at a local agriculture supply store

Add caustic soda to water using a plastic or glass bowl. Metal bowls will only add funky-ness to the chemical reaction happening

Add the jatropha oil and stir

Blending the mixture. The chemical reation should take your water oil and oil mixture and turn it into a solution with a mayonnaise consistency

Pour solution into a lined mold and wait. After two weeks it will have hardened and be ready to be cut into soap bars
We had to change our measurements around a bit, but it worked! The advantage to using jatropha oil is that it is a natural bug repellant. This helps us in two ways: cheap soap and a malaria combatant. BUT, going with the theme of Appropriate Technology, how can we make this cheaper and easy to make in the village? So we brought this idea to the Northern Province AT workshop where a team of designers made caustic soda by boiling down wood ash. Success!

The Art of Batiik

 It's been a while since I've last posted. And by "a while" I mean over a year... Anyways, I've been up to a lot of things since I left my village in Luapula Province after two years to become the Peace Corps Volunteer Leader (PCVL) in Southern Province. My main job as PCVL is to handle the US Government funds allocated to Southern Province. I'm also responsible for coordinating the programs in the Province, giving volunteer support to our volunteers in Southern, being the first point of contact for the Emergency Action Plan, and managing the Southern Province Resource Centre and office. Add onto that my secondary project as the Appropriate Technology logistics coordinator (which I'll talk more about on a later post). It's hard to find time to do things outside of the realm of Peace Corps, but recently I met a woman that does traditional batiiking. Batiik (pronounced "bah-teek") is a way of using wax to resist dies on fabric. Chimunya was taught how to batiik from her mother and now teaches other women the art. She agreed to take some time out of her busy schedule to give me a lesson:
Powdered Dies

Wooden stamps designed by Chimunya and hand-made by her father

These fabrics have been stamped with hot wax and will soon be dyed with other colors.

A tie & die  being worked on. This is after the wax stamping process has been done. When completely dyed, this will sit in the sun to dry.

After drying, the fabric is rinsed to removed excess dye.

Then comes the fun part: removing the wax! The fabric is dunked into the boiling water to remove the wax.

Ta-da! The finished product hanging in the sun to dry.
I've done some battiking sinced I learned, but found that it takes practice, practice, practice to get it right. I haven't used stamps but I've painted and used other methods of applying the wax. This is something that I will definitely continue once I get back to America.

19 February 2011

Art in Mansa

A friend of mine in Mansa, Victor Mwakalombe is one of the only local artists in the area. I had him paint a photo of Sevren's village for Christmas and gave him a bunch of my photos so he could practice. He found this one and wanted to paint it so I said "sure!" As you can see, he made me look better than the actual photo...I credit his amazing skills. If you want to check out his other work, you can find him on Facebook, although I think you need to 'friend' him to see his paintings. Check him out!