Chipolopolo [Repost]

The excitement of Zambia’s championship in the Africa Cup of Nations is still resonating with me, and surely others as well. My friend Mary, who is an extension volunteer, wrote an excellent blog post last week about the excitement &  I want to share her well-worded account of the tournament. View Mary’s original post here

by Mary E. Fuller

Last night, Zambia’s national soccer team, Chipolopolo beat all the predictions and odds when they beat Ivory Coast to win the Africa Cup of Nations (AfCoN). Chipolopolo means “copper bullets” and proved to be an apt moniker as they took out the elephants of Ivory Coast.

To say that very few people outside of Zambia expected them to win is an understatement. Ivory Coast had been the favorite throughout the tournament, and for good reason. Several of their players play in Europe, including some in the English Premier League. None of Zambia’s players do. Zambia had to fight their way through two of the tournament’s toughest teams (Ghana and Senegal) to even reach the final. Zambia was the last hope of Southern Africa, up against the traditional West Africa powers. Zambia shocked the soccer world when they beat Ghana 1 -0 to reach the final. But no one really expected them to be able to pull off another huge win.

The win was especially poignant since the tournament was co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. In 1993, while en route to World Cup qualifying match, a plane carrying the Zambian squad crashed into the ocean, just off the coast of Libreville (Gabon). Twenty-five people were killed, including every member of the team, except for the team captain who was not on board. All of Zambia’s earlier matches were played in Equatorial Guinea, so if they wanted to play in Gabon and honor their countrymen, they would have to make the finals. So they did.

Zambia was definite the underdog in this match. But apparently, no one told them. They played hard, had several good chances and gave up a few as well. Ivory Coast’s star, Didier Drogbra missed a penalty kick in the second half. So the game, tied at 0 – 0, went to overtime. Two periods of fifteen minutes were played, and after 120 minutes of soccer, there was still no score. The first five penalty kicks ended with both teams making all five. Then it was time for sudden death. Finally, an Ivory Coast player missed, but the joy was short-lived as the next Zambian player missed as well. But then, the next Ivory Coast player missed his kick and Zambia made theirs, securing them as the champions.

The spirit of Zambia came alive, as everyone in the country let out a collective cheer for their team.

There are some definite Disneyesque aspects of this story: the scrappy underdogs from Southern Africa, honoring their fallen comrades with their nation’s first ever Africa Cup of Nations trophy. To say that the entire country is proud is another understatement. The game ended just before 1 AM local time, but I don’t think anyone was in bed. If they were, they were soon awakened by the cheers coming from every corner of the country.

It was an incredible experience just to be a small part of the celebrations and to see the national pride that the team has inspired over the last few weeks. As I tweeted yesterday, Zambia is now the best in Africa at democracy and football. Not too shabby, Zambia, not too shabby.

For the official story from the AP, check here:

Camp GLOW 2011 (Eastern Province)

I might be back in America, but good things are still happening in Zambia thanks to dedicated Peace Corps Volunteers & the people they work with. Those of you who follow me regularly know that last year I participated in something called Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World.) It’s happening again in two separate weeks – so it can be bigger & include more girls – with a different set of volunteers & new schools with new girls representing them. I think this year has the potential to be better than last, we learned some things & passed it on to those who are facilitating the camp this year & I have full confidence in the team who will be empowering this group of girls!

To refresh your memory on Camp GLOW, allow me to direct you to my archived posts:

Girls Leading Our World
Originally posted July, 3 2010 as fundraising was coming in to prepare for the Camp


Originally posted August 15, 2010, a brief recap of camp activities.

Camp GLOW Photos (link to my facebook album)

This year, again, funds are needed in order for the facility to be booked, supplies to be purchased & all other necessary financial means are met in order to make the camp possible. Please consider donating to this cause, every dollar helps (and it goes a long way in Zambian kwacha.) I personally feel the impact of this one week camp individually impacts each and every girl for the rest of their lives.

I’m also planning on sending a package of crafting materials to Zambia in July so it arrives in Zambia in time for the camp. The quality of some supplies isn’t very good there & America has cool creative crafting things If you would like to donates some things for me to include with that package I would be happy to add them to the box, just email me & we can arrange something. For an idea of things I plan to send: glue sticks, glue bottles, construction paper, markers, scissors, stickers, embroidery thread & any fun crafting things girls like (last year foam letters & shapes were a hit, so perhaps glitter, sequins & feathers – and anything else you can come up with)

Project Details
Location: ZAMBIA
Volunteer Coordinator: Hansen W. of WA (many of my friends are participating)
Project Number: 611-067
Community Contribution: $2000 (33% of total budget)
Original Request: $4000

Project Profile on the Donation page

In August 2001, twenty female students and ten community counterparts will meet to partake in a five day training camp focusing on promoting gender awareness and female empowerment. The participating girls and teachers will travel from various rural communities throughout Eastern Province.

The goal of the camp is to provide the knowledge and tools necessary for participants to address gender obstacles within their communities. In Zambia, these obstacles include high rates of early marriage and pregnancy, unsafe and often forced sexual experiences, elevated school drop-out rates, discouragement of female leadership, and a general subjugation of females within the community.

This camp will provide the opportunity for girls to share experiences with one another and arm themselves with skill such as self-esteem, resisting peer pressure, identifying sexual assault, goal setting, awareness of rights, leadership and communication skills. Peace Corps Volunteers will act as facilitators and educators throughout Camp GLOW.

After participating in the camp, female students and their teacher counterparts will return to their respective communities to share their knowledge and start local GLOW clubs, encouraging the integration of gender equality and awareness into all school curriculum and various community activities, followed up by the PCV in the participating community.

The ultimate goal of Camp GLOW is to encourage the next generation of Zambian female leaders by connecting them with the role models, knowledge, skills and peer support networks necessary to make sustainable advances in gender equality in Zambia.

As always, thank you for your support of the work Peace Corps Volunteers are doing in Zambia & across the globe in prayer, emotionally & financially as you are able to.

In case my donation link doesn’t work, the URL for this specific project is available on the Peace Corps Website, which you can copy & paste the following link to your address bar:

Cape Town

As a last and final trip, I went to Cape Town on my way out of Africa. It was just the vacation I needed before coming home. I don’t have the energy to type an exciting blog post, but would like to put up a few more posts now that I am home before finishing blogging. Today’s post is a compilation of borrowed excerpts from emails I’ve sent out talking about my trip:

My flights went smoothly, there was fog in J’burg so my flight to Cape Town was delayed, which worked out as it gave me spare time to get through customs, security, & get to my gate in time. When I got in, I went to the grocery store for a simple meal, got settled in at my hostel and spent the evening journaling, resting, and enjoying some long awaited alone time. I was exhausted from only 4hrs of sleep my last night in Zambia & all the traveling.

Saturday, after having recharged my batteries, I did a self-guided walking tour of the main City Bowl with a book I borrowed from a friend in PC/Z which was absolutely delightful, I walked around for about 4 hours stopping at a cafe for lunch and stepping into a few museums along the way. My friend Bridget (a RED volunteer in her 2nd year of service in Zambia) had told me to meet her at the Cape Royale & share her suite with her, so I canceled two nights of my hostel booking & enjoyed luxurious hotel living for two days. We had a lovely dinner together that night at the waterfront when she and her parents got back from their tour that day. I enjoyed a delicious warthog kebab in a mushroom sauce.

Sunday, I went with the group they had been travelling with to wine country. It was an unofficial tour, but we had a driver & the tour guide they had been with for the past week wrote up the itinerary for us. We went to Stellenbosch & Franschhoek, did 3 vineyard wine tastings (5 wines each place.) We had a tapas lunch during the second tasting, walked around the village centers of each town & ended the day with an exquisite French dinner in Franschhoek. The members of the group picked Bridget & my brains about life in Zambia & working with Peace Corps. I wasnt even home yet & already doing goal three J They did have thought provoking questions and it was a lovely day, I’m so glad I was able to this with some people I knew.

Monday morning I said goodbye to Bridget & her parents & went to Table Mountain. It’s a 4 hour hike up the mountain…I took the cable cars, it was my time to be a tourist. There was plenty of walking to do once you’re up the mountain & had I not been alone I probably would have wandered around longer, but about an hour or so on top was enough for me. Beautiful views of the cape & the city from up there! I walked around the city a bit that afternoon; I was especially drawn to the park called the Company’s Garden which surrounds Government Ave…which, beautiful architecture surrounded by nature, it’s my personal paradise. I made myself an appointment & treated myself to a manicure/pedicure – my feet really needed it & it was a relaxing end to my day.

Tuesday I went to Robben Island, but they were having a go-slow so even though my ferry booking was supposed to leave at 11, it didn’t go until almost 2. So I decided to explore the waterfront area in the morning & had plenty of time to do shopping, got some clothes to get me ready for America life, including a very cute dress that I am wearing to my cousins wedding this weekend. Im glad I took advantage of that opportunity because it was the end of summer there so summer clothes were on clearance, while here none of that stuff is really on sale yet.

Wednesday I booked a Cape Pennisula tour, it was an all day thing. It was a rainy morning, which was a bit of a shame, but our guide wisely re-routed our destination points & we went on a 40 min (round trip) boat trip to see a colony of seals. Then off to the penguin colony at boulder rock, where we walked around and watched them play on the beach & they were all along the walkways which was cool to get so close to them. Then we went into the nature reserve where we visited the historic lighthouse at Cape Point, got on bikes and biked the 5k to the Cape of Good Hope. I was reluctant to bike at first because it was cold and windy, but I am so glad I did. It was mostly downhill & I nearly forgot how much I love experiencing Africa from the seat of a bicycle, we biked right by some antelope & ostriches.

I really managed to cram quite a lot into 6 days. My last day I had to check out at 10am & my airport transfer was at 3:30pm, so I went to one more museum, had a coffee on Long Street & just hung out reading a book in the park I fell in love with. Turns out I really like city parks – I barely read, just people watch mostly.

My flights home were as smooth as trans-atlantic travel could possibly go. I LOVED Emirate airlines. They were so professional. There were over 200 movies & countless TV shows to watch. I barely slept I was so busy getting caught up on the entertainment world. What a luxurious end to my time in Africa, now I’m home, shivering away praying that spring starts to prove its here really soon!


Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. Not “retired” or “former.” RPCVs are still very much a part of their Peace Corps Service, it’s the journey continued, now back in the U.S. Next week – I will be an RPCV.

The third goal of the Peace Corps promotes helping Americans understand the people and cultures of other countries. It is one of the three goals that support the mission of the Peace Corps to promote world peace and friendship. So when I come home, this is what I will be doing: talking about my time in Zambia in both formal and informal settings. Feel free to ask me questions about anything, work that I did, life in the village, speaking an African dialect, and about even places I’ve visited on my vacation time while here. But don’t be surprised if sometimes I don’t have an answer to some of your questions. For example:

“How much of an impact do you think you have made?”

I think the “impact” made over the course of my two years spent in Chadiza is all relative. If you ask me, I would definitely tell you that the individuals I interacted with regularly have made more of an impact on me and who I am than anything I could ever offer or teach them. But when asking most RPCVs the same question, wouldn’t they also reflect and answer similarly?

Things that have been made evident in my time in Kumadzi have come in the form of small examples, but the real impact, is something I will never get to see myself. Ideas I have planted, skills I have transferred, and ambition I have encouraged will come to fruition far beyond my time in Chadiza. In fact, these things and ideas may merge with the other volunteers who serve in my community and become something even greater. My only hope is that they are not forgotten; I don’t care about any form of credit given to me, I only hope that lives can be improved and positive change will be made based on ideas shared and conversations brainstorming how best they can

It’s also interesting to hear something about yourself second-hand. Kelli, my replacement, when attending the Supervisor’s Workshop with Mr. John Mbewe, the new Head teacher, overheard a story about me “giving the school a roof.” I never gave the school a roof or any kind of physical structure. I provided the materials when we painted the world map, but that was the only large financial donation I ever made. Yet, when Mr. Mbewe arrived at the school this past term it was shortly after the crisis we had faced of not having a roof over one of the classroom blocks. This must have been a story relayed by current members of the teaching staff. The materials were provided by the council and our member of parliament, the labor was provided by our PTA, and the teachers themselves did as much as they could to mobilize support to get the project done as swift as possible. The only action I made was out of desperation and unhappiness with the slow pace things were happening. I went to some government offices, recruited some help, raised a bit of a storm, and declared how little value was being placed on the education of the pupils of my full basic school which had just become one of our district’s zonal centers. Somehow, my voice was heard & the swift response made, was translated to some of my teachers as me providing the school a roof.

I have a certain amount of pride that I uphold for the people I work with and the things they do to try and improve their work each and every day. The impact I have made may never show, but hopefully they will remember conversations shared and carry out ideas we have formulated together. I somewhat dread this and many “unanswerable” questions upon my return home. While I can’t hold it against anyone for asking these questions…don’t be surprised if I can’t find the words or articulate my thoughts about some things you may ask.

Leaving the Village & Being Replaced

A few weeks ago I met Kelli, my replacement. I’ve been using the word “replacement” for a while now, but its more real now that I have a name and a face to put to her. We met when she came for “second site visit” a time in training where you are more than halfway & they have assigned you to the location you will be for the next two years & you get to go see it for a week.

I had about a day and a half to get to know her, show her around, make introductions and tell stories of my time in Kumadzi with her. I left her for 4 days to experience being in the village on her own and contemplate what her life there will be like for the next two years & picture how she will fit in her new home.

In brief interactions with her, I feel she will be a nice match for my community. My family and teachers were happy with their time with her as well. That didn’t stop them from trying to talk me into staying as well.

Leaving the village was really hard. I can’t even articulate the slew of emotions I went through building up to it and still can’t five days after having left the village. I spent about a week going different places to say goodbye to the people, places and things I have fallen in love with here. Eating tons of nsima, giving remembrance gifts, reminiscing over laughs shared. I packed my things a few days before the cruiser came to pick me up & gave a good portion of it to my family. My last day in the village I had one final dance party with my kids, one last meal with my family, and got attacked by ants one last time.

The morning the cruiser came to get me two volunteer neighbors from my district came to sit with me on my porch in my final hours in Kumadzi & did the last ride on the bumpy road into Chipata with me. I didn’t cry, I think if one of the women in my family had shed some tears, that would have set me off, but Zambians don’t show emotion like that. It will come. Right now it still feels like I’m going on a month long vacation, but the sadness of all the goodbyes shared will sink in eventually.

A quote that has been passed around the volunteer community, in this time of leaving and saying numerous goodbyes:
“The last time of anything has the poignancy of death itself…oh the last time how clearly you see everything as though a magnifying light had been turned on it. And you grieve because you hadn’t held it tighter when you had it every day.”

Within Arm’s Reach

A phenomena that exists across Africa (and probably other regions of the world) that I am really going to miss, is being able to buy just about anything on the side of the road from the comfort of your vehicle. I decided to write this post as I have been really trying to think about the things I take for granted about my life here. I need to think back through the lens I had when I was fresh to this place and the things that once shocked me that I should take pictures of to remind me of life when I am back in the states as well as assist me in sharing my stories of time spent here.

On the side of the road, you are pretty much guaranteed to find fruit & vegetables (tomatoes, onions & whatever is in season,) bags of charcoal and a few other things – randomly loacted in front of villages, family compounds, or turn-offs to other rural roads. If its a turn off where there are a few stands, usually you will be swarmed by women running up with their baskets promising to give you the best bargain if you buy from them. If its an item like charcoal, they will leave the bags at the road in front of their compound (collection of huts owned by one family) and if you choose to pull over you just hoot your horn to have the seller come to negotiate the price.

Bus stations work a little differently, it is something that has come to grow on me and I sometimes believe it is a better system than any drive through in America. Continue reading


There is a mountain I like to climb when I want to have some privacy to sit and look at the beauty of the creation around me and contemplate life. I can see it from my house and it only takes about 30 minutes to walk there and climb to the top, so it is the perfect retreat. I used to visit it a lot when I was first getting adjusted to village life and needed to seek privacy. Now it serves more of a place for me to bring visitors to as it provides an exquisite, expansive view of the surrounding landscape. I don’t go there out of necessity anymore, but rather to just enjoy the splendor of my little piece of Africa. Its more of a glorified rock pile than a mountain, but the word “phiri” means hill or mountain in chewa. It is named Chamadzi, meaning big water, and it looks over my village Kumadzi, meaning on water.

The women in my family always tease me for my love of climbing as well as all my volunteer visitors who also jump at the opportunity to accompany me. I think they are convinced that all Americans love exploring and climbing. I tried explaining to them that it’s not the case, its just that Peace Corps Volunteers, in some regards, are cut from the same cloth – the nature of our work requires a certain sense of adventure. During one of these conversations I inquired if any of them had ever been up to Chamadzi (or any of our area mountains.) I correctly assumed that they had not. It is common for boys and men to climb these hills, but women rarely take the time or interest. I offered to bring them a while ago and they laughed at me, assuming I was just making a joke, but I could tell a few of them were interested in what it is that brings me back so frequently.

It hasn’t rained in over two weeks now, which is very peculiar for February, one of the rainiest months of the year. When I was doing wash on Monday morning I called one of the women over and suggested we go to Chamadzi since there has been no rain and I know the women aren’t busy most afternoons. She eagerly accepted my invitation and promised to tell the other women. Shortly after I came back from school the same day she came to my house and said she had organized a group of them & asked if they could borrow shorts.

Within a few minutes I was walking across the fields leading 5 women who had ditched their children, (leaving them with 2 women who remained at home and the older children) one stubborn iwe (Josephine, my favorite,) and one of the family dogs trailing behind me. Their girlish banter was exhilarating. We stopped at the base so they could put on the shorts – I have to say this was the most hilarious aspect of the whole experience for me. Thighs are considered very private in most african cultures, so to see a woman in anything other than skirts and chitenge material is rare. They were excited to be free of the men and to be wearing my shorts & leggings.

Climbing only took a matter of minutes, but to get to the top you have to go through a small tunnel of grass, rocks, and dense trees. I had to convince two of them they could manage & that I was at the top already. Grudgingly, they obliged, and the look on each of their faces as they reached the top was priceless. I should mention that one of these women is 7 months pregnant and another gave birth to twins a month ago – african women are seriously rockstars!

I had brought lollipops and some bottles of water as a reward, so we just rested on top of the mountain for a while chatting and taking in the landscape. Something that surprised me was that once we were at the top, they didn’t really care to go to the other side to look at the village, what they could see of it from the side was enough. They thought it was cool that we could see the district boma (town) and the clinic & various other areas where schools were. Mostly I think they enjoyed the peace and quiet and the pleasure of each others company in such a beautiful place. Their fascination with how small animals, vehicles, and trees were as well as the layout of the fields was really fun for me to observe.

As we climbed back down they were exclaiming over how simple it was for them to climb. I was not expecting them to suggest that they would come back on their own, but it seems that they might. I think it was not only a retreat, but also empowering for them. Now that they know how to get to the top they were talking about coming to chat and dance and just get away from the village every now and then. On the way home they collected firewood which made the trip worthwhile for more than one reason. I of course took photos of this adventure and plan to post them next week. It was an exhilarating cultural exchange, one I will not soon forget.

If for any reason you plan to send me any more letters, I would advise that you post them by March 1st. I don’t know the exact date I will be leaving my village yet, but it will likely be the first week of April so I won’t be receiving them for a while if you send them any later than the beginning of March. Thanks for all the mail love I have received over the course of my service, it brings joy to my life!


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