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John Surette '03

John Surette '03
Letter from Zambia

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John Surette has served in the Peace Corps in Zambia for two years. This excerpt from an October 2005 e-mail message describes a two-man construction project in the village of Ndobola in Luapula Province; another part of the letter tells of a 172-kilometer bike ride John made to attend a meeting. Now located in Choma in Zambia's Southern Province, John serves as a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader.

A letter to friends from John Surette in Zambia

From: Peace Corps Volunteer House - Mansa
Date: 10/4/2005 5:54:17 AM
Subject: Hello

Hello Everyone,

Well this e-mail is going to take the place of a letter since I have been slacking on the writing. Everything on this side of the pond is going well as I trust it is on your side. Work has been busy with the rainy season approaching. I have currently been holding meetings to try and get my farmers up to speed with such farming practices as composting and conservation farming before the onset of the rains. So needless to say I have been busy doing a lot of biking in the hot sun. The rains will be nice since the hot season is getting rather hot. The temperature around 13 hrs is approx 95 degrees and that is on my porch in the shade, so I imagine that the temp in the sun is at least 10-15 degrees hotter. At least with the rains the weather will cool down some.

Aside from work I have been busy in the village working around the house. I recently decided to construct a chicken house, since I want to keep chickens. The reason for keeping chickens is two fold. First I would like to have the availability of eggs and chicken meat, and secondly it is a good way to demonstrate to my farmers proper chicken husbandry. Since the house is constructed out of mud bricks and a thatched roof I had to start off by digging soil for bricks. Over the course of 3 days I dug a pit for soil. The hole in the ground measured approx 2 meters deep X 1 meter wide X 3 meters long. This might not sound impressive, but to do this by hand with a hoe is rather difficult.

After the soil was dug we then needed to mix it with water and start making bricks. Over the course of two days we made 440 bricks, which dried in approximately 3 days. When the bricks were dry we were able to start constructing the house. It took us another 3 days to build the house which is about 2.5 meters X 4 meters long. When the brick work was done we then put up the rafters and thatched the roof, thus finishing the house. This project was done in conjunction with one of my good friends in the village, John.

When I return to the village I hope to cement the floor and then get the chickens. I will obtain the chickens from one of my farmers, since he owes me some money. I plan to start of with 1 cock and 4 hens. So the chicken house is pretty much done, which is good because we finished it before the rains arrived. Keep in mind that the amount of time for construction was not full days, but rather working around my meetings with my farmers. So those 2 weeks during construction were rather exhausting and busy.

Well on the 23rd of Sept we held our quarterly meeting in Mansa. The Wednesday prior to the meeting I decided to try and cycle in from my district, again. This time I took a different road, which actually was 20 km shorter, however the road is dirt and not tarmac like the one I tried in June. So I left Kawambwa (my district capitol) at 2430 hours, and 172 kilometers later I arrived in Mansa at 1045 AM. The total biking time was 8 hrs and 5 mins, and I was rather exhausted and excited when I got to Mansa. The ride was beautiful, and since I have never traveled this way before the un-chartered territory was impressive. The first 70 km were through forested hills on the plateau, and then I descended down a mountain pass into a vast valley, which was than followed by long gradual uphills through various drainage basins.

So as with all of our quarterly meetings we normally have a big party later that night with a theme. This provincial theme was S&M, which was rather interesting to say the least. The party wasn't too out of hand which is good, and the costumes were creative. We all had a good time, and it was good to see everyone as usual. That night we had a Beer Cricket (Peace Corps Zambia drinking game) tournament, which I and my partner won.

So on the 10th of Oct I will be traveling to Lusaka for my interview for 3rd year extension. I am hoping that all goes well as I desperately want this position. The position which I am applying for is that of a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader. [Editor's note: the position is now his.] I will be based in one of the provincial capitals of Zambia and act as a liaison between PC office in Lusaka and the PCV's. The job will also involve site visits and site preps, as well as many other aspects. I am really excited about this opportunity as it will allow me to give back to the Peace Corps Zambia community.

So that is pretty much it from this side of the pond. I am taking plenty of pictures on my new digital camera, and will be sending them back with Natasha after her visit in December. I wish everyone the best of luck in his/her endeavors and that this letter finds you in the best of health and spirits. Take care and I look forward to hearing from you all. Sorry that I have been slacking on the letters but I will try and do better in the future.

Love Always,