Monday, February 3, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day to All

Dear All,

Hope you had a great holiday season!  It seems like 2014 is already flying by!  WOW, Valentine’s Day already!

As you know I moved to Choma the 1st of December, into this really cute place.  I have alot of vegetables, grapes and the following trees in my yard: Banana, lemon, guava and mango.  I have cooked the corn in my yard as well as some of the vegetables and eaten the grapes and everything else.  It has really been wonderful trying out new vegetables and potato leaves.  I have running water, but it cuts off about 4 times a day for about 3 hours each time. 

The electricity is pretty stable only goes off about once per day, but is only out for about one hour.  One down side to Choma is that alot of people are moving to the area, which increases thief.  They have designated Choma to be the Southern Provincial Capital.  Kristie is a great watchdog, however she was poisoned in December.  Thieves do that here so that they can get in and rob you.  Kristie was really sick for about 3 weeks, but has survived.  The Vets here really astonish me!  The Vet MD in Choma came to my house every day to give Kristie injections to make her well, she was getting 2 a day for a while and then went to antibiotics by month.  It was hard to see her suffer like that.  You don’t find committed vets making daily house calls like that in the US!  She is all better and healthy now.  I wanted to get her spayed in January, but waited for a while until she was completely well.  So now she is in Mazabuka with the Vet MD and will have her surgery Monday the 3rd.  Again, the vet surprised me.  I was having trouble finding a way to get her there.  Mazabuka is a 2 hours drive from Choma.  Like from LA to San Diego or VA Beach to Hatteras.   The vet found a farmer to bring her to Mazabuka from Choma today and the Vet MD would bring her back on Tuesday!  It cannot get any better than that!  Plus, the Vet MD in Lusaka has gone way out of her way to help me make arrangements for Kristie to come back to the US!  Even going so far as to talk to someone at the KLM Airline office.  She also pointed me to someone who had a large crate for Kristie.  I purchased that and got it home.  Kristie did not go into it the first 2 days, but after that I cannot get her out of it!  She Loves it!  She also loves eating lying down.

Over December I took vacation and went to Mozambique with another PC Response volunteer.  We had a small oceanfront chalet on the Indian Ocean.  You may have seen some pictures on facebook.  I did scuba dive, and horseback ride on the beach and up in the mountains, rested, read and just relaxed.  It really was wonderful!


I have been working on my small project grant with the Health Center’s and the community, installing the lock gated fences around the rubbish pits at the health centers.  It is rainy season here now and alot of the roads to the health centers are flooded.  I took this video of us riding in the truck from one of the health centers (hope I am able to post it).  You can see how flooded it gets, it is like you are riding though rivers. 

But the fences are really needed around the rubbish pits.  Ministry of Health requires it, however none of the centers have one.  I was looking at all the rubbish (needles, medicine bottles, and syringes) outside of the pit while we were putting up one of the center’s poles and the Environmental Health Technician (EHT) told me what happens.  He stated that the kids go into the pits, pull out used syringes, and take them home to their mother’s.  The mother’s put an herb in the syringe and inject it into the children’s rectum, which causes diarrhea.  They believe that the diarrhea gets rid of worms.  Can you imagine all the disease as well as HIV that can be spread this way!  This is just one story I have heard, so the project is really needed.

Along with this project, I am still doing the infection prevention data collections, and SMGL data collection and mentoring at the rural health centers. 

However, I have been given my Close of Service (COS) date!  April 17th is my COS date and I will be returning to the US!


I will go back to LA with Kristie.  The end of April I will be going down to San Diego for 4 days; I have a panel presentation at Scripps 5th Annual Integrative Conference.

 I am still working with Mari Kelley’s Foundation in Uganda!  I was planning on going to Uganda in March to check on the purchase of the cows and the project.  But right now I am not sure I am going, however if I do not go in March I will go later in the year.  So if you feel you want to donate...Please do.  If you know someone that would like to donate please pass on the information! Remember, it is Tax Deductible.


Cheryl, Jane and I are planning a Greek Island Cruise in June.  We will fly into Istanbul, Turkey 2 days before the cruise.  We will pick the cruise up in Turkey, cruise the Islands and then return in Rome, Italy where we will stay for a night prior to flying back to the US.  I am so looking forward to that!  We have room for one more if you are interested in going, let me know.

I think these next 2 2/1 months are going to fly by.  February 14th is a full moon, so Betsey and I are planning to go to Victoria Falls that weekend to see the glow of the moon on the falls!  It is magical!

I think that is all for now!  I wish each one of you Love from my Heart to yours....Happy Valentine’s Day!

Stay Safe and Be Happy!
Love & Light,

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Dear All,

Merry Christmas and Have a Wonderful Safe New Year!  Hope everyone enjoyed a magnificent Thanksgiving with friends and family!  I am so grateful for all of you and what you have shared in my life!

I can not believe that I have already been in Zambia 7 months and certainly can not believe that it is already Christmas! 
I have been fortunate to go to Victoria Falls, Chobe Safari in Botswana, Devil’s Pool and I walked with the Lion’s in Livingston.  I am sure that you have seen the pictures on facebook.  It was great fun walking with the lion’s, there was one Lion named “Terry,” and I thought that was hilarious!

Since August when I posted last, I went back to the US for 10 days in October.  I just went to Virginia to visit with family and 2 of my PCV friends from Uganda, Linda and Shelley!  We had some Tiki Time at Terry's.  I really had a great time, but it went too fast.

The ZCAHRD/BU Office moved to Choma while I was in the US.  They moved because Choma has become the provincial capital for the Southern province and all the major offices are moving there.  So I commuted the month of November until they found me a place to live in Choma.  Since everyone was moving to Choma, housing is hard to find.  But I have a nice place with a small yard for Kristie and it has a fence around it.  Which is good, because when I was in the US Kristie became a woman and went into heat!  I am currently looking for a vet to get her spaded, but have not found one in Choma.  One was recommended in Mazabuka, however that is 2 hours away and I need to get her there.  So I am still looking.  I would like to do that in January when I will be here for her recovery.
I was just approved to go to Mozambique for Christmas.  I will leave on Dec. 23rd and fly back Dec. 30th.  Mozambique PCV’s were just on Standfast for the elections, so no other PCV from another country was allow to enter until the violence calmed down.  Standfast is part of the emergency disaster plan, which means a volunteer in that country can not leave their site to go anywhere except their village.  So we just got word that the volunteers are now off standfast and we can enter the country.  Since we are still PCV’s, the Country Director of whatever country we go to is responsible for us while we are in their county.  So another response volunteer and myself have a little chalet on the Indian Ocean, it will be a relaxing and a quite Christmas!
I really don’t get that much down time here except for my weekends.  Before I left Kalomo I was able to go 2 weekends to the Haven Orphanage, (children from 1 month old up to 7 years old).  Most of the children are 1 to 3 years of age.  I showed them the movie, “Finding Nemo.”  

It was great fun to see their faces during the movie.  I don’t think that they understood the words at all, but the different colors and fishes were fascinating to them. 
I hope in Choma I can also get involved with teaching HIV, STD and Reproductive Health to the primary school across from our office.
Otherwise, most of the time I am in the field (different villages) visiting rural health centers.
My Small Project Grant of $5,000 was approved by the US gov and I will be putting up fences and gates with a lock around the rubbish pits at the health center.  You may not realize it because we are so fortunate to have garbage collection once or twice a week and incinerator’s at the hospitals.  But Health Centers here have a horrible waste management problem.  The majority of rural health centers dig a pit next to the health center and throw all the waste and garbage into the pit.  They burn it every so often, but dogs, other animals and children go into the pits and pull things out.  Yes, this includes some needles and bloody gauze.  Some center will throw needles down the pit latrine’s, as well as placenta’s from mother’s after birth.  The Ministry of Health requires every center to have an incinerator and a gated fenced rubbish pit, but none have them.  So that $5000 will only fence 15 out of the 35 centers…but at least it is something.  I really wanted to build incinerators, however they are much too expensive for any of the small grants.
Alittle about language expression that the Zambian’s say verses how we say things are interesting.  Like, “I don’t know how you think about that,” instead of saying “what do you think?”  Or “is it not so” when you are asking, “really.”  They also say, “Are we together,” when they are asking you if you understand.  Or how about “isn’t it,” when they mean “Yes.”    Everyday there is another saying that is really different.    They say, “Me, I am really suffering,” whenever they are talking about anything that might be confusing to them, studying, writing a paper or any work.  I got stuck in the rain the other day and that was the first thing they said to me, “You are really suffering.”  I had to think to myself, wow that is not suffering at all!  But everything is suffering to them.  When I ride my bike to work they say, “You are suffering, riding your bike in the heat.”
Zambians are just like the Ugandans when it comes to manners.  The men will walk right in front of the line, or just but in front of you no matter who you are; you can be carrying on a conversation with a Zambian and if another Zambian comes up they start talking to them and you have not even finished.  It is not unusual to see a man and a women walking down the street and the man is not carrying anything; however, the women has a baby on her back, pots and groceries on her head and both hands are filled with heavy supplies.  Again, I am so thankful for the male courtesy in the US!  
You can ask them a question and they totally ignore you, especially when they clearly hear you.
Gender Based balance is suppose to be a government millennium goal, but it has a long way to go.  I was so upset the other day when we went to this one health center and they brought a 26 year old women to the center that was unconscious because she had been beaten by the husband.  She was one of 3 wife’s and she had 1 child.  What happened was that the husband had just taken wife number 3 and she wanted a blanket to put over her.  The husband gave her a blanket that was the other wife’s blanket.  The other wife said that the third wife could not have the blanket because she had bought it out of her own money and was going to use it.  The husband got mad and beat her unconscious.  All because she wanted her own blanket!  We ended up taking her to the hospital that was 45 kms away.  Gender based violence is still really bad here.   
It still amazes me how dilapidated the health center’s are, however the government always say’s that there is no money to improve them.  They really rely on donors to fund everything.  Remember the Mother’s shelters that I talked about in August.  They are small structures with dirt floors and open windows that the mother’s to be sleep in while waiting for delivery.  They are really not fit for mother’s to sleep in them.   

The health center staff is suppose to get the community to build the mother’s shelters for there facility, the Zambian Ministry of Health says that they do not have the money to build the shelters.  So again it falls back on donors.  Right now Merck for Mother’s is doing an assessment and estimates of all the mother shelters to see what they can build to get them decent.   Like Uganda, Zambia depends on donors to provide funding, buildings, drugs, research and a lot of other things for them.  Things will never be sustainable as long as the mind set here is to receive everything from the donors.  I guess it is just like us in the US with welfare.

We had a conversation in the truck the other day going to one of the health centers about free education, free health care and medication in Zambia.  The conversation started with the Obama health care.  The Zambian‘s could not believe that we have to pay for health care in the US, not only pay premiums for health insurance, but also pay when we are sick, have x-rays, scans or when we are hospitalized.  That we pay for college and University education.  We pay taxes.  Zambians do not pay for any of that.  They are getting aid and money, equipment, jobs, drugs and supplies from all the other countries i.e. Britain, US, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Australia, Italy etc.  What is amazing to me is that they expect it too!  It seems they run the county on everyone else’s aid and money.  With the dependence on other countries and the corruption in Zambia, no wonder they are still a third world country.  The people are victims of their environment, and all we can do is pray and help where we can.
There is still so much to do here as far as international development and I quess I have not grown tired of it yet.  I just hope I can do some small amount and make a little difference in someone’s life.

Kristie is doing well and filling out like a little women that she is!  I have started working on ways to get her back to the US.  Just don’t know if she is going to VA with me first or to CA.
I think that is all for now!  I want to wish each of you a Happy, Holy, Joyous Christmas!
Stay Safe and Be Happy!
Love & Light,

Friday, August 23, 2013

Life in Kalomo

Dear All,

Kalomo Market
Well, I have been here for 4 months now.  I talked with you about Kalomo, so I thought I would tell you alittle bit about Zambia.  It is a landlocked country in south-central Africa and is about one-tenth larger than Texas.  It is surrounded by Angola, Zaire, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia.   When I went to Botswana, there is a place when crossing the river I was able to see all 4 countries, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia.  It was really change.   The government is republic and the President is Michael Chilufya Sata since 2011.  Next election is 2016.  They have about 15,000,000 people with a growth rate of 2.89%.  There birth rate is 43.1/1000 and the infant mortality rate is 70.6/1000.  There live expectancy is 53 years of age.  The capital is the largest city and is Lusaka with 1.75 million.  You can imagine the size of Texas and that large of a infant morality rate.
The money here is in monetary units of Kwacha.  Exchange rate is about 5.3 Kwacha to 1 USD.
The official language is English, however they have over 71 different languages here.  In the Southern Province where I am, they speak Tonga.  Today, the country is made up almost entirely of Bantu-speaking peoples.
In 1889 Cecil Rhodes, a Empire builder obtained mining concessions from King Lewanika of the Barotse and then sent settlers to the area.   He also established the British South Africa Company which the region was ruled.  Until 1924, when the British government took over the administration.
The african population ethnicity is 99.5% which includes tribes of Bemba, Tonga, Chewa, Lozi, Nsenga, Tumbuka, Ngoni, Lala, Kaonde, Lunda, and other African groups, other 0.5% includes Europeans, Asians, and Americans according to the 2000 census.
The religions are Christian 50%–75%, Islam and Hindu 24%–49%, indigenous beliefs 1%.  Very different from Uganda where 45% were Catholic. 
There literacy rate is 81%, but again like Uganda the expectations for passing grades is only 50%, which is low standards for schools.
They have a growth rate of 6.6%.  Inflation is 8.7% and in 2006 they had an unemployment rate of 14%.  There agriculture is corn, sorghum, rice, peanuts, sunflower seed, vegetables, flowers, tobacco, cotton, sugarcane, cassava, coffee; cattle, goats, pigs, poultry, milk, eggs, and hides.  They have natural resources of copper, which in the Northern Province is abundant and they call it the Copperbelt.  I hear the area is growing fast in the north.  They also have cobalt, zinc, lead, coal emeralds (have not fount any yet), gold, silver, uranium, and hydropower.  So you can see that they would do copper mining and processing, construction, foodstuff, beverages, textiles, and fertilizer for their industries.   However, in 1975 the world copper market collapsed and since Zambia had been the third largest miner of copper in the world after the US and the Soviet Union, Zambia was devastated. Again in 1999 there was another depression of economy from copper prices because copper provided 80% of Zambia’s export earnings.
There major trading partners are South Africa, China, Switzerland, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kuwait, South Korea.
The Health system is still so far behind the US.  It is sad to see.  People walk for many Kms just to get to a health center that has no xray, labs, dressings, and medications etc.
Zambia has cell phones, where you buy airtime each time you use it, just like Uganda.  Same with the internet bundles.  You can buy 1 GB up to 3 GB each month. 
The rivers include Zambezi and Luapula rivers, and Lake Tanganyika.  When I was thinking about where to go in Zambia for Christmas, I thought about Lake Tanganyika.  It is suppose to be beautiful.  However, you are unable to get into the water due to contamination.  Which is ashame! 
The airport is in Lusaka, but they just opened another airport in Livingston.  President Bush and Clinton both came at different times to Zambia last month to donate money to the health centers and flew into the Livingston airport.  This is also where all the tourist for Victoria Falls come in. 
They are also having a big UN Convention in Livingston the end of August, so Zambia has put alot of money into improvements in Livingston and Victoria Falls.
Well, I think that is enough about Zambia.  I don’t know if you saw my facebook pictures, but I did make it down to Livingston one weekend and went to Victoria Falls and Chobe Safari in Botswana.  I had a great time!  It was good to get away for a weekend.

 I really have not gone anywhere else since then.  I do plan to travel to Virginia for about 10 days to see family and other PCV’s.  I am also planning a trip for Christmas to Mozambique for about 7 days.
Kristie is doing well and gaining weight!  I found dog food in Livingston, about 150 kms away.  So another PC Response Volunteer brings me an 8 lb bag every time she travels up this way.  Kristie got all her shots and I am planning to bring her back to the US with me.  Pray that I will be able to get her out of the country!

As far as work goes, there is alot of travel on reallllllly bad roads!  Health Centers are very rural, without power, running water and alot of them have no phone access. 
It really makes it difficult for pregnant women. 
Kitchen for the Mother's Shelter
One thing that they have over here are what they call Mother’s Shelter’s.  That is a small building with a roof that mother’s who are close to delivering come so they will be near the health center for the birth.  Since they live so far away.  They come with everything they need for a couple of days or a month.  They also come with their families, mother’s, grandmother’s, aunts etc.  So you may have many people at a shelter that only sleeps about 8.  Some of the shelter’s do not even have doors, some no roof’s.  The MoH rely’s on donors to help build shelter’s, for that matter alot of other things as well.
I wrote a story of one mother’s complicated delivery for the ZCAHRD newsletter.   Makes you really thank God you are in America!
At one of the Rural Health Center (RHC) many mother’s come from a large catchment area to deliver.  The population is 5,868, and 1,314 of them are women of child bearing age.  They have 317 expected pregnancies, 305 expected delivers and 290 expected live births in 2013.  In June 2013 there were 36 deliveries, 28 with a skilled midwife.   Not all births are with someone skilled.  The center has only solar power in the labor room, no phone access available and no referral transport system; which makes it difficult during the time of delivery during an emergency.  During the cold months there is no heater, the health facility is very cold at night for delivering mothers.  One mother came to deliver twins.   She delivered her first twin and the baby was a normal delivery; the second twin was not coming.   She started to bleed heavily an hour after delivering her first twin.   Her blood pressure started to drop to 65/40 and the midwife was losing her.  The second babies heartbeat stopped and hour after the first delivery. 
It was during raining season so the streams were flooded and no vehicle could pass though.  Having no phone access, the watchman had to go 40 kms in order to make the call for the ambulance.  The ambulance could not get past the flooded stream.   The midwife put the mother, in labor and bleeding in an Ox cart in order to get her to the stream.

Can be either a Donkey or an Ox Cart
Imagine what it must have been like in labor, on an ox cart, with no fetal heart rate of your second twin, during the pouring rain in order to get to the stream.   Once she got over the flooded stream one of the community members took her in his vehicle to the hospital.  When she arrived, she was taken to theater immediately and the stillborn second twin was delivered via C-section.    The Surgeon at the hospital said, “This woman is not supposed to be alive.”   It really is a miracle how these people withstand all the trauma and complications that they have to go though, just for treatment, food, and water.
I am still working with Mari Kelley’s Foundation in Uganda!  So if you feel you want to donate...Please do.  If you know someone that would like to donate please pass on the information!  Remember it is Tax Deductible.

Well, for now, stay Safe and Be Happy!
Love & Light,

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Made it to Kalomo! Happy Father's Day!

Dear Everyone,

Happy Father's Day to all the Father's out there....Especially to my Brothers who are very special Father's and Men!

I made it to Kalomo fine, PC actually drove me down which was great!  Kalomo is a small town, not as built up as Lusaka.  The closest town with a partial grocery store is in Choma about 65 km away.  But Kalomo has a market place so I will get veggies!  My house is large!  Very different from my one bedroom, no power and no water in Uganda.  I have running water, hot water heater and electricity!  The house is surrounded by a concrete wall with glass at the top and metal gates in the front.  PC will hire guards for me if I want them.  I have a large yard with alot of trees, and a large veranda.  The  house has a dining room, living room, kitchen, walk in panty, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathtubs, 3 toilets and 3 sinks.  So with no furniture in the house, it looks really large!  To settle in, Peace Corps Zambia gave me a refrigerator, stove, bed, mattress, pillow, sheets, a small sofa and a bike/helmet.  So I really am pretty set.  I don’t need anything more to live here.  The house needed alot of work, so the plumber, carpenter and electrcian have all been over many times to fix things.  But all in all, I am Blessed.

The second weekend that I was here, there was a white lab about 1 1/2 yrs old outside my gate.  She followed me all over town, everywhere I went she went.  When I got back to my house and opened the gate, she ran in.  I told her to get out and she was so cute.  She started crying and went down on her front paws and started moving very slowly to the gate.  Then she cried when I closed the gate.  So the next time I went out she was right there waiting for me.  I asked everyone that I came across, who’s dog was she.  No one knew.  My landlord said that she did not live in my house before, which is what I orginially thought.  My neighbor however said that she lived there before and the people just left her.  So that Sunday night I let her stay inside the gate and she followed me to work the next day.  My coworkers said to go to the Vet and the Police and see if they knew who she belonged to.  So when I went to the Vet they did not know the dog.  They told me that if the dog was bothering me, they would put her to sleep and she would not feel a thing.  I was surprised that they would just kill her that easy.  She was such a sweet, good puppy and told them that that was not an option.  So I told them that I would take her and for them to give her her vaccinations.  I named her Kristie.  Then I went to the police and filed a police report about Kristie, so if the owners came back and wanted her they would know where she was.  But, I don’t think that will ever happen, I am sure that they are long gone and left her abandon.

So then the next challenge was dog food!  There is no dog food, dog collar, dog leash or dog anything here in Kalomo.  You don’t find anything for dogs except in the capital and not in alot of stores.  I did make it to Choma (64 km away) one day and they had a 1.75 lbs bag which was very expensive,  But I picked up 2 bags, which will not last her very long.  One of the other Response Volunteers is coming down this way from Luska tomorrow and she is bring me an 8 lb bag.   So I will have some dog food.  In the meantime, I have taken a bucket to the resturant and they are putting scraps in it, so I have something to give her.   Hopefully, she will eat the dog food when I do get it.
As for work, I am still just learning what they want me to do.  I have met the BU Intern that works at ZCAHRD, but she will leave the end of June and  we will get another.  The rest of the ZCAHRD staff is Zambian.  We work from 8 to 5 Monday to Friday.  This group of workers actually work.  Most of the time we are out in the field going to one of the health centers.  At the centers we do mentoring, data collection on delieveries, complications, concerns, issues, check for Infection Control issues, look at referral of Mothers to the hospital and go over feedback forms.    Some of these centers take 3 hours to get to because they are far away and they have bad roads.  One center told me a story of a mother that went into labor during the raining season, she was a high risk pregancy and needed to get to the hospital.  She had no phone network access to call the ambulance (the ambulance would have taken 3 hours to get there from the hospital).  Also, it was raining season, so the ambulance could only go so far.  Bewildered, I said..then how did you get her to the hospital?  She said in a matter of fact tone...well we walked a ways and then got on an Ox cart and went down to the river about 40 kms.  Then I could call the ambulance, and we waited in the rain until they got there.  Now can you imagine being in Labor and having to go though that!  It really is amazing what the mothers endure here. 

Anyway, a couple of the things I am suppose to do along with the above is to help establish roles/scope and smooth fuctioning of the 24/7 District triage nurse for the emergency text component of the mUbumi project.  As well as, assist with synchronizing SMGL Emergency Referral System data collection with mHealth/mUbumi SMS data collection and activities in the District.  So I am not quite sure how I am going to do that when the centers don’t have network access to even activate the emergency referral system.  So I am open to ideas!

CDC has purchased a computer and a printer for me to do my work and ZCAHRD provides the transportation.  That is a good thing, because most of the places we taxi or buses go there.  But that is good for me!

The people here are really friendly, and have alot of the same cultural mannerisms as Ugandans.  For example, one of the educational sessions that a Zambian was giving to another Zambian took 2 hours...but it would have been done in 15 minutes in the US.

I am still working with Mari Kelley’s Cow’s in Uganda!  So if you feel you want to donate...Please do.  If you know someone that would like to donate please pass on the information!  Remember it is Tax Deductible.

I will go down to Livingstone to visit one of the PCRV working with John Snow Institute the last weekend of June and stay until July 2.  July 1 and 2 are Zambian holidays.  We are planning to go to Victoria Falls and a 1 day Safari!  Should be fun and I will have pictures for you in my next blog.

For now, stay Safe and Be Happy!
Love & Light,
Mari “Lushomo”

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Arrival in Zambia

Dear Everyone,

Wow!  I can not believe it has been 6 months since my last entry!  I really feel blessed that I got to see so many of my friends in VA and CA when I went back to the states!
I wanted to fill you in on what I have done, where I am and what I am about to do!
In December I flew home from the Ayurveda Yoga Retreat Center in India to Virginia Beach, VA and arrived on December 16th.  So Christmas was fantastic with family.  Angel flew in from LA.  My family had an incredible 60th Birthday Party for me and so I got to see alot of friends!  My brother Kevin and Sister-in-Law flew up from Flordia to be with us for the birthday party right after Christmas.  Many people traveled along way to come and for this I am truely grateful.  My 78 year old cousin, Rosa even drove up from North Carolina!  I really was so happy and appreciative of what everyone did for me for the party and for my return from 2 years in Uganda!  It was a phenomenal homecoming!  My family really did an outstanding job with the party.  I had 60 intuition red roses, food, drink and friends!s  Steve put together this power point from when I was a baby all though the years up until now!  It was really alot of fun!

It snowed in Virginia Beach the first a I was able to experience the beauty of snow again.  I went up to Washington in January to visit Shelley and Linda and the Peace Corps Office.  They both came back from Uganda before me, so it was great seeing them again.  I then flew back to LA in February.
As soon as I finally unpacked from Uganda, I started looking for Peace Corps Response positions, I also applied to Doctors without Borders.  On March 7th I was notified that I was accepted into Peace Corps Response as a Maternal and Child Health Specialist (Zambia) with Zambia Center for Applied Health Research and Development (ZCAHRD) and Boston University for a 12 month assignment.  I will be working on the “Saving Mothers Giving Life” project. 

“There are an estimated 600,000 births and 2,600 maternal and 20,400 newborn deaths every year in Zambia. The probability that a 15-year old girl will eventually die from a materna cause is 100 times     greater than that of a heigh income country such as the US or Norway.”  Source WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA ansd the World Bank, 2012. Trends in Maternal Mortality 1990 to 2010.  

Peace Corps said that our departure date would be the first of May.  I deployed on May 10th.  So that was great news for me, because I had scheduled a vacation with my friends Cheryl Birch, Mary Roach and Dana How to go to Kauai!  In April I left for Kauai and hooked up with one of my dear friends from Healing Touch International, Savitri Kumaran who lives on the island. 
It was so good to see Savitri again and she was great!  She took us all over the island and showed us some sacred sites and sacred places.  We also went to Polihale National Park, which is sacred to the Hawaiians, they feel that the souls depart the earth their between the mountains.  Cheryl and I hiked over lava rocks in the misty rain just to get a look at the two mountains.  That was a hike we will not forget!  But it was good to experience and a great challenge.  We also went snokling, kayaking, beaching/pooling, hot tub, and shopping.  Karen, Cheryl and I did a Helicopter ride!  We really had a great time!  So much fun and pictures are on my dropbox, if you want to see them just send me your email and I will share the link.

Then right before I left for Zambia, Angel took me to Palm Springs Desert and we stay at a place that had hot springs and mineral water baths.  That really makes your skin feel so nice!  She also took me on a
Aerotrain up the mountain that was great!  Then we stayed one night at the Morongo Casino...yes I played and lost then won.  So I basically broke even and had a great time doing it!

Then on May 10th, I left for Zambia.  My flight was really good, but long.  I flew from LA to Atlanta, then from Atlanta to JoBurg, South Africa, then from SA to Lusaka, Zambia.  We arrive at around 8:30 pm Zambian time.  Yes, Peace Corps was at the airport to meet me and took me though immigration.  It was not like Uganda, if you remember I was left at the airport by Peace Corps and they had to come back for me.
My stay here so far has been fantastic!  We are in the guest house that has hot showers, AC and heat, refrigerators, flat screen TV’s in the rooms and a beautiful bathroom.  The room also comes with breakfast.  Peace Corps Zambia has been great.  We were sworn in on May 13th, 2013. 
We have had a good administrative week.  I will be living in Kalomo and the language there is Tonga.  So that is what I studied this week.  We also went shopping for all our settling in stuff.  During language my instructor for Tonga language gave me a Zambia name.  It is Lushomo, which means Faith/Hope. 

Next week on Monday, I will meet the Boston University people that I will be working with, I can not wait!  Then we will have Sexual Harassment  training and that will end our, which is orientation Tuesday afternoon.  I leave for my site to Kalomo, Zambia on Wednesday morning. I heard that it was about 4 or 5 hours from Lusaka (the capital).  So we will see!  I will keep you posted when I find out more information about my job/position with ZCHARD/BU!  I will also let you know when I have an address!
Until then, Stay Safe and Be Happy!

Love & Light,
Mari “Lushomo”

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 and India

Dear Everyone,                                                          

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving with alot of family and friends!
Well I left for India on the 18th of November.  Got to Mumbia and they would not let me into the country.  I did not have a Visa and they were not let me buy one there.  I was told that you could buy one in country, just like Tanzania, Zanzibar, South Africa, and Uganda.  So I did not think that was unusual.  Thailand does not even require one!  Plus, when I check in at the airport they let me go right on though, so I really thought that you could buy one in India.  Boy, was I wrong!  After a 9 hour flight, they sent me back to Bangkok!  When you are deported they send you to the airport that you just left, plus you pay for your flight.  Not only that but you have to use the same airline because the other airlines will not take you....they do not know why you are being deported!  So that was an experience!

I arrived back in Bangkok and applied for an India Visa, and waited for 7days.  They said it would be 6 to 8 days.  Well, my reservation at the Retreat center in India said they were going to cancel my reservation on the 28th if I was not there.  So it looked like I was not going to be able to go on my long awaited retreat!  But while I was waiting in Bangkok, I did a 4 day, 3 night meditation retreat at the International Meditation Center (IMC).  It was really intense,  there was no talking, no phones, no computers, you wore all white all the time, you also did not eat anything after lunch and you were up at 5 am and in bed by 10 pm.  I realized that I needed more that just meditation.  Like other diversions, i.e. yoga, walks, lectures etc.  The IMC did not have any of that. But that was good to just focus on what you were there for!  Anyway,  I was not sure what I was going to do if my VISA did not come before the 28th.  I was thinking about other types of retreats are in Chiang Mai, which I checked out.  But lo in below!  I checked the web and my VISA was ready on the 27th, so I booked a flight out that night at 9 pm.  I flew all night and after 3 connections (Bangkok to Mumbai, Mumbai to Chennai, Chennai to Coimbatore) I got to India at 7:30 am and at the retreat center at 10 am on November 28th!  Just in time so my reservation was not cancelled!

The Ayurveda Yoga Retreat Center is more like a glorifed hospital with your own accommodations.  After your consultation with the Ayurveda MD, he puts you on a program for you, you get on this program with herbs, diet, herbal meds, oils etc.  So I started soon after I saw him on the 28th.  I had a oil massage, pounding with herbs, meditation, dinner and then went to bed.  The program is about like this; Starts at 6:30 am with Yoga, nature walk, breakfast, massage, lunch, power yoga, massage, meditation, dinner, bed.  You have free time when your masage is not scheduled and they have outings for you if you want to go.  Some of the activities include market, temple, cooking Ayurveda classes, Spiritual classes, etc.  But the diet is not so bad and it is not spicy!  However, the meds I am on taste terrible!  Anyway,  I am so glad that I am finally here.  So I should be really balanced, aligned and ready to get back into the swing of things when I get back to the states.
Also, while I was in Thailand I realized that I had Jiggers (also known as Chiggers) in my foot.  They are not the same as Chiggers in the states, plus I got one in my foot when I first got to Uganda.  So I knew what they were (it is a parasite in your foot that when it grows looks like a worm).  I must have picked them up before I left Uganda and now they are just larger, so my foot is swollen and itching.  I got some of them out while I was in Thailand, but still have not gotten them all.  The Ayurveda MD said that they handle the treatment differently and when he described it, I agree with him that I do not want him to do anything.  I will try to work on it myself, but if not when I get back to the states, they may need to be cut out.

Enough about that, I really need your help.....I hope that you have seen the facebook page for  Cheryl Birch, my friend has put up the facebook page and arranged a video to help me raise money for cow’s for Iceme Farmers in Northern Uganda.  I was working on this project for a year with the farmers and Heifer organization.  However, Heifer will now only work with you if you if you have a large project and I am looking to only buy 10 to 20 cows.  Cheryl worked with LA International Association of Near Death Studies to sponsor the project for us and set it up with  The site is a guaranteed secure and is fully PCI compliant. But if you don’t want to go online to give, you can always write a check to LA IANDS and mail it to Cheryl Birch at Cheryl Birch, USC/ICT, 12015 Waterfront Drive, Playa Vista, CA 90094.
Please pass on the facebook page to everyone that you know.  If you can not donate, then maybe someone that you know will be able to!  We will take any amount $1 to $1500 or more.  I am trying to raise enough money to buy 10 to 20 cows!

We less than one month before Christmas and I would love to inform the Farmers that a certain amount of cows will be purchased.  It will provide for them nutrition, income generating activities, jobs that HIV/AIDS people can handle, and, they pass the offspring to another family.  So the your gift continues to grow to other families and live on and on!   So please, let it be a great Christmas gift to the farmers in Iceme this year.
I would like to Thank you in advance for all the support you have given to me.  What is more happier than a Giving Thanksgiving and Christmas!  Remember

I will keep you posted on my happenings! 
Until then, stay safe!
Love & Light, 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Close of Service

Dear Everyone,

I can not believe how time has flown by, it has been 3 months since I posted!   I can not believe that I have been out of the US for 27 months!  I hope everyone had a great summer now that fall in upon us!
Since I wrote last, Peace Camp had just ended and I was finalizing all the book work.  It really was a big success and I was able to see the impact on some of the youth when they returned to their village.  In Iceme, Oyam District we have combined everyone from the Peace Camp 2011 & Peace Camp; 2012, Camp BUILD National and Regional, Camp GLOW National and Regional and formed a club.  They all got together and built some of the Recreation Project games, they built the walking slats, the spider and the 5 person team walking wood.  It took them 2 days initially and then another 2 days when the walking slats broke.  You can see a picture of it on this blog, but also on facebook.  You see how they had to balance themselves, like balancing in life (when you fall, you get up and keep going).  They had a great time and felt like they really accomplished something.  

I had to write a book for the County Director on Peace Camp 2012.  So that kept me busy and I did not really complete it until my COS date.  I finished it when I went to Kampala...but now it is done.   The money finally came right after camp ended, so we were able to pay everyone back...that was good.  But they really need to change that policy about opening a joint bank account with your partners.
Early September we had All Volunteer Conference.  This conference is put on by the PCV’s and sponsored by PC Uganda.  Well, normally it is a great conference where PCV’s share projects and ideas and really get motivated to go back into their communities and work and maybe implement some of the projects!  However, this year it really was not very good and the PCV’s were not showing up for the was a waste of time and effort and the tax payers money.  I was really disappointed at the young PCV’s, they really did not make good use of their time.  Plus, it was a 8 hour bus ride for me to get to Masaka. 
Also in September when I got back from Masaka, I had a workshop for Iceme Community on how to cook and the importance of the Moringa Tree.   Moringa Trees grow in Subtropical areas and they are all over Uganda.  Moringa leaves prevent 300 diseases.  It’s like growing a multivitamin at your doorstep.  They are able to eat every bit of the tree; the leaves, pods, flowers, and bark.  The Moringa tree can prevent malnutrition and it builds up the immune system.  It is really too bad that we do not have them in the US.  I have told the Ugandan’s that they are so lucky, that we have to buy a Moringa supplement in a Vitamin shop in the States.  So hopefully they will start using it because they really need to boost up there immune system.

I then traveled to Gulu.  The new US Ambassador for Uganda went to the North to meet people that work up there for the Embassy and he wanted to meet the Peace Corps Volunteers in the North.  I really liked him, I think he will be good for Uganda. He stated that if Uganda does not get the population under control it will be the death of the county.  He said that right now Uganda’s population is 36 million and at the rate of births in the county, by 2019 there will be 92 million.  I think that if this happens the people will starve and will not get healthcare.   The next day, I was able to get a ride in an Embassy car to go to Kampala for my COS medical....Boy was that a treat!  NO BUS!

When I got back to Iceme, the camp groups built the mini recreation project.  It was alot of fun, but I was very tired.  Tien and Jackie, both PCV’s were also there to help the youth.  Tien traveled from Kampala with me and stayed at Iceme about 4 nights to help me buy the supplies in Lira and get them back to Iceme.  Getting the supplies was alot of work and an all day affair.  But we got what we needed and got the job finished.  The youth were so happy.

I then got together with the Head Master at the Iceme Primary School and the Awio Primary School to set up Outreach Healthcare lectures for the youth on HIV/AIDS, STD’s and Behavior Change.  Boy, there were over 800 children in each school, this was only in Primary 4, 5, 6 and 7 that I taught.  It was also interesting to see the difference in disciple and language in the schools.  One school the youth were more educated with English and spoke English and were very disciplined.  The other school spoke the native language and did not understand English too well and they were unruly.  They were both government schools.   But, all the youth loved hearing the information.  Not surprising, some of them it was the first time that they ever saw a condom and did not know about masturbation.  The ABC’s that they learned and went so well in the late 80’s and early 90’s at decreasing the rate of HIV has lost their gain.  The condoms are not distributed to the districts, so the youth can not get them, they are just not readily available.  Yes, if you go 48 kms to Lira or Gulu you can get them for a price at the Pharmacy.  So the condoms are too much trouble to get and it is expensive to get them.  It really is sad.  Also, they tell them to Abstain as the “A” but do not tell them an alternative i.e. masturbating.  So the youth really were happy for the information as well as debunking some of the myths that they had been told.  I really enjoyed teaching them!  They get so excited and are so happy to get the information, it really makes you feel good.

I then went to Gulu to meet one of the Peace Camp participants that wanted me to read his war story and put it into english format.  You see they talk very different when speaking english.  They never have learned proper english.  So that still is an ongoing project of mine.

I tried to get ahold of the Heifer Organization to see what was going on with the Heifer Project to bring more livestock into Iceme.  I did not get anything accomplished with them, but the Veterinarian in Iceme Subcounty is willing to work with the community and buy the pregnant cows, as well as teach the community how to care for them.  So when I got back to the US, a close friend of mine, Cheryl is setting up a webb page to raise funds for the project.  She arranged for a friend of hers to video me to put on the webb page.  I really felt that I did not do a good job (I think I was still jet lagged and really could not concentrate), but hopefully it can be edited so it is okay.   So I might have to go back to Iceme and check on the progress of the project in a year or two if we get funding!  I will let you know the webb page she sets up!

My PC Country Director traveled up North to visit some of the volunteers and see their sites.  If she had come 1 week later, she would have seen my site a wreck.  I would have been packing to leave.  She was able to visit me and do an exit interview and meet my supervisor.  After that visit, I only had about 4 days to finish up, pack and say my goodbyes to the community.  I left my community of Iceme on October 17th and went to Kampala to finish my close of service.   It was sad, but happy and I was excited to make it back to the States.  But, I feel that I am not finished with International Development!  I know that I will be traveling again.

I had planned to go to Egypt on the 22nd, however due to the bombings and the death of the US Ambassador in Lybia PCV’s were not allowed to go to Egypt.  But, since I was not a PCV any more, I was a RPCV so I could go on my own if I wanted.  I elected to go to LA to see how Angel was doing for about 6 days and then pick my trip back up in Thailand.  I had a great time with Angel and Nathan in LA and it was so good to see Angel again.  I can not wait to see the rest of my family in Virginia in December.

So then I left the US on the 30th of October and landed in Bangkok, Thailand on November 1st.  You can see some of the pictures of Bangkok on facebook.  While in Bangkok I got to see Lisa Moses Art Exhibit.  Then I went flew to Chiang Rai on the 6th to stay with Lisa and Danny.  There home is beautiful and we did alot of tourist things.  It was alot of fun. we went to the White Temple, the Black Temple the Hill Tribe Village and many other excursions!    While in Thailand I wanted to experience a mindfulness meditation, so I spent 3 nights at one of the local meditation centers.  It was very interesting, but I think that I like the meditation I am use to better.  But I met alot of great people here at the Foundation.  We had people from all over the world, Germany, Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Belguim, US and France.  I am sure that there are more, but this is all I can remember right now.  They have alot of volunteers here, I met one couple that had just finished there PC service from Ethiopia and they were staying here as a 2 week volunteer.  Also, I found out about alot of other places in the world that you can volunteer.  They give food and accommodations, but most of them you have to get there and pay for anything else.  I really enjoyed the different cultures of everyone.

I will go back to Danny and Lisa’s home for tonight and leave for India in the morning.  I plan to do a 26 day yoga/meditation retreat, it is a cleansing/relaxing time for me before I get back to the states.
So that brings you up to date.  I am not sure if I will have internet in India, but if so I will try to update you before I leave for the states in December.

Have a Great Happy Thanksgiving if I don’t blog you before then!  We have so much to be Thankful for!
Stay safe and Happy!
Love &  Light,