Saturday, November 24, 2012

More pictures from training (Back in March/ April)

Shortly after arriving in Zambia, I went to stay with a host family, where I lived for the remainder of our 11 week training program.  This is my BaMayo (my host mother) Ba Liah Kotongo, looking absolutely regal.

Here is BaMayo with my BaTaata (my host father), Ba Peter Katongo.  Adorable, yes?

I planted a Moringa tree with BaTaata as a rememberance.  He was really excited about it.  Even me!

The night before I left my training site, my neighbor friend came by with his spectacular homemade banjo.  It is made from pots and wood and other local materials.  He plays it very well.  Myself and the neighborhood kiddos were really enjoying the traditional songs he was playing.  The kids knew the songs so we clapped and sang along.  I even got to dance with Ba Winnie Frieda ( in the back in the red dress).  The whole night was a blast.  I miss my training family sana (very much).

Here is me after the concert, with BaMayo, Ba Shikulu with his banjo, and some of my very favorite children in the whole world.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Kasanka National Park



 Earlier this month I went to visit Kasanka National Park with some friends in Central Province, Zambia.  It is a beautiful park with lots of great wildlife.  We saw Crocodiles from the truck on a game drive.

We had a fantastic guide, Ba Bastiaan, who was very knowledgeable and had a great eye for spotting birds and wildlife.  This is one of the many Warthogs we saw just across the river from where we were all sitting and talking one afternoon.

My favorite part of the trip though, was seeing these magnificent Elephants.  They walked by shortly after we saw the Warthogs
They were absolutely amazing.  The guide advised us to remain quiet and still, and the Elephants continued to come closer.

This Elephant in particular was enormous and it was a thrill to watch him at such close range.

The real draw of this trip was over 4 million Straw Coloured Fruit Bats.  Every November, over 8 million of them descend on a small area in Kasanka National Park, the largest mammal migration in the world.  We saw less then 5 million because we came early during the migration.  I assure you that over 4 million huge bats (amongst the largest bats in Africa) filling the sky is an awesome and impressive sight.  I was not missing the other 4 million bats.  This of course is just one small section of sky.  The bats were flying over in endless waves in every direction.  If you ever get a chance to go to Kasanka I would absolutely recommend it at anytime of year, but especially during bat season!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Bush Fire


In August and September, many people in Zambian villages are setting the bush on fire.  People in my village have given me various reasons for why they do this, including to kill snakes and rats, and to help them to find bush game to hunt.  Many of the fires are also started by people burning their fields to prepare them, and then the fires spread to the bush.  I think some people are just lighting the bush fires out of cultural habit, and because they enjoy doing it.  It looks like every hectare of bush has been burned in Kashitu, the village where I live.  Usually the grass and understory burn, but mature trees survive.

This is fire burning all around my field which I am preparing for growing maize, peanuts and soya.  My field is not burning because I dug fire line around it.  We are teaching farmers that they can improve the health of their soil by doing conservation farming, and part of that is not burning agricultural fields.

My fireline was good, and fire did not burn across it. A bit of fire blew over and I had to beat it out with some branches. You can see the line of black in the far end of the field.


Just after the fire moved through, the ground is still hot and smoking.  My sister Ba Guilleni is walking around barefoot with her axe, looking like an awesome wildland firefighter.

I just have to laugh at this, thinking of all the precautions I've seen the burly U.S. Forest Service firefighters in Oregon required to take for any fire, no matter how small.

It wasn't just Ba Guilleni out after the fire.  All the kiddos were out playing and digging and pretending to work.  Here, Ba Changwe is digging in the front with a hoe.  Behind her, Ba Flow and Ba Cholla are beating out a stump that was still burning.


It is hard to get candid pictures of the kids playing or working.  As soon as they see the camera they want to pose.

I think this is a great picture of the kids tough, barefoot feet on the burnt ground. 

After nightfall, the kids were still playing and working by the fire.  Ba Lawrence, Ba Changwe and Ba Flow had just been beating this fire out as it was coming very close to their house.

Saturday, April 28, 2012



Myself and 33 other environment volunteers have just completed 11 weeks of training in Zambia, and have sworn in as Peace Corps volunteers.  During the majority of those 11 weeks, each volunteer stayed with a host family.  This picture is of my host parents Peter and Liah, my nieces Anita and Winnie Frieda, my sister, and my nephews Freddy and Kiko.  They were amazing.  I was very lucky to have such a great host family.  I will miss them in my new village.

This picture was from another day when some of my young neighbors were over to visit.  Zambian villagers are absolutely amazing.  Most are incredibly kind, hospitable, and friendly.  The children (iwes) here are at least as impressive.  They are sweet and happy and fun.  These children in particular, are just perfect.

I thought this was a great photo of Ba Freddy with one of his home-made footballs.

This is another picture of mostly the same kids.  They would all run to greet me everyday, every time I would come and go from my home-stay.  Although some of the kids may not look ecstatic, they are actually all very smiley and gentle.  They were smiling just before and after this picture, but it is sometimes hard to communicate to children in the village, the concept of all getting together and smiling at the same time.  These kiddos are very bright, but the language and cultural barrier makes it challenging.

This was a funny and unfortunate misunderstanding.  My host family knows that I enjoy looking at birds.  So they caught me one.  I don't know how exactly, that was lost in translation, but this poor little sunbird is alive and apparently well.  When they fist showed me the bird, I showed what I thought was the appropriate amount of gratitude, and then asked them to let it go.  They said I had to hold it first though, and I obliged and snapped this picture.  I also took a funny shot of holding this bird up in front of the sunbird page in my field guide.  This is one of many amazing birds there are to see in Zambia, and I hope to post pictures of some others once I start using my other camera for birding.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Amazing Galveston and Humble, TX Birds

If you ever have a chance to go birding on the Texas coast, I would absolutely recommend it.

This is one of the handful of Little Blue Herons I saw with in Galveston.

This is a little blue heron in it's white juvenile plumage.

We spotted two Yellow-crowned Night-Herons when a Tricolored heron walked in front of them.

Here is a picture of the two Night-Herons together.

We also saw White Ibis.

These are Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks walking next to a Canada Goose.

More Black-bellies..

The Tricolored Heron was one of my favorite birds of the whole trip. 
I don't even mind that I didn't get good pictures.

This Roseate Spoonbill was quite pale, but still amazing and beautiful.

We saw one later that was fantastically brighlty colored, but got no pictures.

We saw over 500 Black Skimmers resting on the beach.

Here are some landing..

Resting.. (and yawning?)


This is one of several Royal Terns we saw near the Skimmers.

Reddish Egrets are quite large and really just amazing.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pictures I could upload without cropping.

A cool frog at Tommy's house in VA.

Yellow headed blackbird amongst..?  (Oklahoma)

Harris's Sparrow.  (Oklahoma)

Scissor Tailed Flycatcher. 

Can you believe how gorgeous this bird is?
It is one of my favorite all time birds
 since seeing it in Oklahoma on my road trip to Oregon.

Violet Green Swallows.
(Malheur Lake N.W.R.,
near Burns, OR)

(Malhuer Lakes N.W.R.)

Clark's Grebe.
(Malhuer Lakes N.W.R.)

Pine Siskin.
(My Backyard at the Bunkhouse,
Ochoco National Forest, OR)

White Pelicans.
(Ochoco Resevoir,
Prineville, OR.)


And she or he is learning to fly.

(Ochoco National Forest, OR)