letter from Africa
I know that it has been a long time since my last letter but I figure it's better late than never. I have been in Zambia for one year now and I’m starting to get a good grasp of the culture, the lifestyle and just being a volunteer. Life here moves along at a different pace than that of back home. The lack of water or electricity is something you adapt to quite quickly and in fact come to not miss.
Some of the projects that I been working on have been successful while others have not. Fish farming, my primary assignment, has had its up and downs. I have had a hand full of people that are interested and actively digging fish ponds, but right now Central Province is experiencing a serious lack of water. My family’s well ran dry about a month ago. We have been getting water from the local steam about 1k away. I consider myself fortunate because I know of some volunteers that are going about 5k for their water. Since there has been lack of water I have been concentrating on my secondary projects. One of which is HIV education. I ride my bike around and teach at various Under Five clinics. An Under Five clinic is where my local clinic travels to outlaying areas and they measure babies once a month to see if they are developing correctly. There give HIV talks that include such things as symptoms and care of HIV and condom demonstrations.
One of my future projects that I am organizing is a boy’s camp called camp E.L.I.T.E. One of the concerns in Zambia is gender inequality towards women. There are numerous camps and programs for woman's empowerment but nothing on educating young men or boys on what gender equality means for them. The point of this camp is to take two boys and one mentor from the communities of the participating volunteers and educate them on gender equality, HIV, malaria and general good life skills. The boys and the mentors will then take the knowledge back and start clubs within the communities. If you would like to contribute to this camp please do! You can donate through this link https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/6cTIa?psid=0f63b55520a046efa0342bd69a6c4742 or give money directly to my parents Kurt and Loretta Riener and they will make sure it gets put into the camp fund. Any donations are greatly appreciated!
A question that has been asked of me lately is how I travel. When I am in my village I travel by bike. I been averaging about 70-100k a week depending on my activities. My bike riding skills have increased dramatically since I have been here. When it comes to traveling around the country, I hitchhike, which means what it sounds like. I stand along the road and wave my arm up and down (that is the sign for hitchhiking in Africa) and see who will pull over and give me ride. Generally I get pick up pretty fast. I have met some interesting and great people this way. The type of people who pick you up are not whom you think either. I have been picked up by a Supreme Court judge to the farmer down the road.
Some of the questions that I get asked about America are entertaining. Most people here have a hard time believing that I grew up in a small farm town very much the same as the one I live in here. Their perception of America comes from the limited exposure of news and movies they have seen. Because of this people assume that I own 10 cars, a massive house and tiny dogs. Part of my job is to exchange culture and to share knowledge about growing up in America. In fact this last 4th of July a couple of my fellow Peace Corps volunteers came out to my site and we celebrated America's Independence Day by having a BBQ (I miss American beef!) drinking beer and shooting off fireworks. My host family loved it!
As always I love to hear from people either through mail or e-mail. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. My address is Jerry Riener PCV, Box 850010, Serenje, ZAMBIA
Tokamanana shilenapo, which is Bemba for "till next time we see each other" "go well".
J.D. (Jerry) Riener shows an African youngster how to “Tebow.”
J.D. Riener at Victoria Falls.
Fish farming in Zambia. J.D. is in the orange shirt.
At the village where J.D. Riener is currently living in Zambia. Photos provided by J.D. Riener.