“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” –Mark Jenkins

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Day 14 - The last sunrise

Tracey rockin the
sunrise safari suit
I woke early and since it was our last day, I decided to get up and enjoy the sunrise with a brew. Tracey joined me despite it being only 615am. I was making the tea and she was outside getting a dawn nicotine fix when I turned to see her leaping about outside the window, silently, but frantically waving her arms around at me. I collapsed in hysterics. Seeing Tracey filled with that much excitement is both joyous and slightly worrying, so I grabbed the bins and went to see what she was peeing her PJs about... there was an elephant wading in the river outside the tent next door! We spent a good while contorting ourselves to try and see it better through the bushes before it wandered north up the river bank. Magic.
With little time left to pack, we sorted through all the paper work and the remaining cash for the last time and headed over to the main lodge to settle up, post staff tips and wait for our speedboat transfer to Vic Falls town.
Return journeys typically feel longer and harder to make, and this one was no different. The river journey wasn't the meandering affair we'd hoped, since two of our travelling companions were 20 minutes late, and the mini-bus transfer to the border had 3 hotel stops to make en route, collecting a total of 18 people before heading to the Zim/Zam border. Two passengers had no visa so there was a slight delay there, but it wasn't long before we were back Zambian side and driving through Livingstone high street for the last time.
It was sad to be back at the airport where it all started two weeks ago - we'd crammed a lot in, met some amazing people, been excited, happy, sad, tired, inspired, frustrated and overjoyed. It was been a huge experience and most definitely filled up the memory banks, not to mention the camera cards.
And for those of you keen to know.... Tracey finally used a loo on a aeroplane! (albeit stationary, on Jo'burg tarmac).
The two flights home were pretty uneventful (apart from a glass of red wine being sloshed all over Tracey's table and some stern words aimed at the guy who pulled Tracey's breakables bag down from the overhead storage). We watched a couple of films and tried to sleep, but thoughts sadly turned to work and the overflowing email inbox which no doubt awaits me... scared to turn my phone on... and I only have a day at the office before I'm back on a plane to Israel, dreaming of African skies.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Day 13 - Serious scat chat.

Beautiful male Kudu - shame he's in the shade
Grumpy warthog, not liking my lens
545am the in-tent phone went with our wake up call. Tracey had been up for hours keeping watch for hippos and so was pretty shattered before we started, but 615am Joshua arrived to escort us to the lodge for our 630am game drive with a truck load of Americans. This time we were led by a different guide, called Martin. Very knowledgeable but obviously had no idea we had been on the drive last night and proceeded to repeat the entire Baobab tree sermon again. Thankfully we were spared a repeat of the lesson on Aardvarks too, and instead were treated to some interesting lessons in animal toiletry; Herds of Impala like to all use the same spot and create a massive pile of poo pellets to scent mark their territory and to help them find their way home if they get lost. The hyena produces white poo, a bit like chalk, on account of all the bones they eat as scavengers and we learnt how to tell if Elephant dung has been left by a male or a female based on the positioning of the pond of pee in relation to the poo - on top is a female and in front is a male. Obvious really. What was not so obvious was the fact about the weaver birds that make their nests in the western side of trees. We had thought that the 15 or so nests in each tree were a flock of Weaver birds, each with their own nest. Turns out that all 15 nests are made by the same pair of breeding birds and only some are used. One for nesting, one for roosting, one for dining etc. and a number as decoys to fool predators. Talk about living life on the edge.
Numerous species were spotted on the drive; more waterbuck, impala, guinea fowl and warthogs, but also some impressively coloured birds; the Lilac-breasted roller, the white-fronted bee-eater, and my favourite of the day; the Giant kingfisher.
We returned for a leisurely breakfast before spending the rest of the day chilling on our balcony watching the wildlife and looking through photos. Someone came to clean our pool, another person came to restock our fridge and before we knew it, it was time for our last game drive of the trip.
Maribou Stork coming in to land
This time we went out with a highly experienced guide called Nofias from Hwange, and a Japanese couple with their two small girls, one of which squealed in Tracey's ear before falling asleep and the other was actually quite well behaved, that is until she saw a zebra and promptly squealed loudly, sending the zebra dashing over the road. Young children should not be allowed on safari. simple. It should be one of those adult-only treats, like prawn crackers and poppadoms were for me as a kid. I fear children these days will have nothing to save for, or look forward to, they have everything and are allowed to do everything. They are treated like miniature adults who don't have to work or clean up after themselves, but get to do all kinds of things I could only dream of as a kid. There, jealous rant over.
Baobab tree at sunset
We got back to the lodge in the dark after a gorgeous sundowner beer with the Baobabs and a run of about 8 giraffe in 3 different groups - two of them we saw only as silhouettes, which was fortunate as they were mating at the time, and after watching the baboons "at it" earlier and stifling giggles like kids ourselves, I was relieved we didn't have time to hang around.
When we got back to our tent, I needed to wash. So I decided to try out the shower that was installed inside the tent, (it was too dark for me to brave the outside one). There's something both liberating and a little weird about standing naked, in near darkness, under a hot rain-forest shower in a very large open plan tent, with no shower curtain surrounding you, or even a shower tray to stand in. The tent was erected on a raised platform of wooden planks, with the shower head fixed to one wall, so you just stood under it and the water flowed down between the slats. Lovely and hot though, with a cracking range of smellies to choose from.
We knew the staff were planning something for Tracey's birthday at dinner, but I was expecting maybe a cake or even just a candle or two on the dessert, but the staff had gone to great lengths (and inconvenience) to
sharing birthday cake with the staff
set us up a private dining table right down on the end of the boat jetty with our own waiter, Nkanyusi ("Tokyo"), The poor guy had to traipse backwards and forwards all evening down the long walkway to our table to serve us an amazing 3 course dinner with free-flowing wine and topped off with a chocolate cake, complete with candles and an African "happy birthday" sung by a couple of the team. So generous and such a lovely way to end our trip. We giggled, we ate, we drank and we reflected. Then Tracey cut the cake into about 40 pieces and we took it back to the restaurant where the Manager, Andrew, called all the staff out into the dining area for a piece each; sharing a cracking end to a cracking trip.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Day 12 - Transfer to Zimbabwe

personal speedboat and captain!
Sad to go and even sadder to realise it was the last leg of our trip, we packed our bags, had another river-front breakfast and waited till it was time to leave.
Our transfer to the Vic Falls River lodge in Zimbabwe took 3 drivers, 2 passport checks and a speed boat! Yes, a luxury speedboat all to ourselves - we couldn't believe it. We had assumed we would be driving there, crossing the bridge over the gorge and north along the river - so you can imagine our shock when shortly after leaving the town of Vic falls, our driver pulled down a tiny track and let us out at a jetty. We were met by the captain, "Polite", and our bags were loaded onto a snazzy-looking, leather-seated speedboat and we headed upstream to the lodge. Awesome. We felt like royalty.
inside our tent at Vic Falls River Lodge!
chilling on the balcony of our tent overlooking the Zambezi
On arrival at the lodge, we were met by "Cuda", an over-excited new starter that spoke English with an American drawl and oddly repeated himself a number of times - we guessed it to be nerves. After a quick tour of the main lodge house, we were shown to our tent which has two showers, a free-standing bath and a plunge pool on the balcony! so we chilled there a while before returning to the open dining area for yet another luxury lunch. I'm down to only a single pair of trousers now... not through a lack of washing, but an over-abundance of good food, beer and wine. We retired to the bar area to blog a little and watch the warthogs snuffling in the grass on the bank, before deciding that our own balcony had a nicer ambience as well as a troop of baboons, monkeys and a family of about 20 mongoose running around.
Monster Baobab tree with grazing giraffe
Polite took us on a game drive at dusk, by sheer luck just the two of us, and we saw baboons, vervet monkeys, kudu, waterbuck, impala, maribou stork, warthogs, 4 giraffe, zebra, kingfishers, hammerkop and guinea fowl. No cats sadly, or hyena, but apparently they are rare here. Poached too much in previous years and so numbers are still low in the area. We were given interesting facts about Aardvark and their dens and taught the many uses of the awesome Baobab trees which stand like ancient guards over the bush - one of which they believe is almost 1,000 years old.
Polite picked a beautiful spot on the river for our Zambezi sundowners, watching the kingfishers and wishing we could stay longer. We now know that we had accidentally chosen the very best time of year to visit the river as the water is quite low and so you can see the dozens of small islands and dead trees that litter the riverbed. It was a lot to take in and one after the after the scenes kept appearing before us like something from a Rudyard Kipling book.
As soon as we arrived back at the lodge, we were told there were Elephants outside lodge number 5, so we jumped back in the truck and headed over there in the dark to spot Eles by torchlight - sadly they'd already gone when we got there, so we freshened up for dinner and Joshua escorted us back to our lodge for bed by 9pm. shattered, but happy.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Day 11 - Monday

breakfast at Waterberry
Our morning tea tray did not arrive to wake us this morning. (perhaps the staff thought we needed a lie in after our campfire wine-fest last night!) so I ventured over to the main house in my nightie and trousers to get us a couple of mugs, only to find a very apologetic Wilson who assured me he would be over in a few minutes with the tray.
Today was destined to be a slobbing out day, to explore the lodge gardens and photograph the birds. That is, if we could stop laughing at them... the Hoopoes were hilarious.... they move in groups making loud cackling noises at the same time as swinging themselves back and forth on their perches. Like rocking birds.
Tracey laughing at the Hoopoes
After breakfast, we followed the nature walk past the tree house and swing, round the ponds and along a glade path filled with butterflies of all colours. When we returned for lunch, there was a hippo on the opposite bank of the river, fully out of the water and soaking up the sun. Tracey was mesmerised and so we ordered a wine each and sat on the deck facing the far bank. A family of elephants came down to drink and various birds came and went, but the hippo remained; splayed out in the sand, hardly moving. For two and half hours Tracey sat glued to her binoculars and became extremely adept at drinking without looking as Wilson continued to top up our glasses and the hippo continued to sleep.
the lively thatch
At one point I heard a gasp to my left and looked to see Tracey sat next to me, clutching her binoculars, and covered in a large chunk of straw that had fallen from the thatched roof above - the laughing took awhile to subside, by which point various members of staff were surrounding us asking if she was ok and not able to get a word out of her. The manager was called and soon came running, having been told there had been a "catastrophe" - we laughed harder. Africans really are very caring. Desperate to get us out of harms way they tried to get us to move elsewhere in case more fell from the roof.... but the hippo still had not moved. We needed to answer the question.... do hippos belly-flop when they get in the water? All other seats had obscured viewing, so we inched forward to the front of the decking and continued our vigil in front of the river. The staff found this hilarious, but simply topped up our wine and let us be. People came to look at the roof and eventually ladders appeared as well as a thatcher to make some repairs. They think the monkeys pull the thatching to get at the insects and bugs, but as yet we had not seen a single monkey at Waterberry.
Our sunset cruise boat left the jetty at 430pm and the closer it got, the more excited we became that the hippo might remain in position for us to go over there in the boat and get some photos, but it was not to be - about 4pm she stood up, ambled down to the water and slid in without a single splash - as gracefully as ever. Well, as gracefully as a giant water cow can anyway.
The boat cruise was as good as the last. But the highlight has to go to the river otter we saw as the light began to fade. It swam across some yards in front when we were on our way back, and then spent a good few minutes popping up in various places amongst the rocks to watch us, watching it. Lovely little creature and a great memory for me - my first African otter.
Otter in near darkness - love my Nikon D4!
When we got back, we discovered that the hospitality team had set us up a private dining table on our veranda to celebrate Tracey's 50th, complete with rose petals and paper-bag lanterns - I'm sure they think we're a couple! We had our own waiter, called Matthew, who speaks 50 African languages, taught us to fold little men with napkins and kept the wine flowing throughout the evening. The food was sublime and although the evening got a little chilly towards the end, we ended our time at Waterberry with yet another cracking day.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Day 10 - Walking in Dr. Livingstone's footsteps

Stunning breakfast by the river at Waterberry lodge. Really don't want to leave this place, the people are so special and caring as well as humble, funny and incredibly kind. We left at 930am with our dedicated driver for the day, Bonface, and headed off to the Royal Livingstone hotel for a tour of Livi island and the falls. As we walked through the hotel reception and out onto the lawn, we were feeling a little uncomfortable - it's a five star hotel with lots of rich business types swanning around, all dressed in their finery, and mingling like a royal garden party. We, on the other hand, were not. The hotel was nowhere near as charming as our Waterberry, but the view out over the Zambezi river was spectacular. Bonface took us down to the boat jetty, where we once again signed our indemnities and listened to a brief safety talk from one of the boatmen. Lifejackets on, and seated at the back of a small motorboat, we zoomed over the river on a 5 minute ride to the island where two more guides were waiting for us with a strange banana-based local drink.
ready for a dip in the Angel's pool
Sir David Livingstone discovered the falls over 150 years ago and has a plaque in honour of the discovery with his famous words; "Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight" inscribed around the outside. It's easy to see how he came to this conclusion - it's quite literally break-taking. After a short walk through the forest that covers the island we both stood clutching each other at the lip of the falls, marvelling at the double rainbows that span the spray. We felt fear, we felt exhilaration, but most of all... we felt insignificant and humble; Gaia certainly excelled herself when she forged Batoka gorge and created the most powerful waterfall in the world.
We stripped down to our pants and vests and gingerly stepped down into the water on the edge of the drop; a spot called Angel's pool. It was a little chilly, but refreshing.
After our quick dip, more photos were taken and towels provided, before we were shown to a tent for our second luxury breakfast of the day. We sat next to a couple of guys from Portsmouth who work for a teaching charity in Lusaka. They were on a tourist weekend to the falls and equally as affected by the experience as we were.
Stuffed and still sat in soggy pants, we took the boat back to the hotel where Bonface was waiting with our dry clothes and we set off for Marumba local market in Livingstone town. Another eye-opener… all locals dry their fish in Zambia to ensure it keeps for longer, as most homes are without fridges. Soap is made in long slabs and people buy a slice, sized according to their budget. Coffee and sugar is sold the same way and measured from a large bag. Small bags of coffee, sufficient for just 2 cups are stacked on racks for people to buy. Coloured powder is used for polishing the floors of their homes and there are endless stalls of second hand westerners clothes and shoes. We bought Chitenga material to take home before we left and I was once again glad for having a blocked nose… the clouds of flies around the fish stalls were unbearable.
The plan was to go to Olga’s for lunch, but since we were both still too stuffed from our double breakfast to eat any more, we sat in the garden with beer and let Bonface have our pizza as a take out for his dinner. He was beaming.
The afternoon was spent at an elephant centre learning all about the gentle giants on an hour long safari further out in the park. All the Eles were either orphaned or found. I was riding Sekouti (meaning chief). He is 8 years old and was found on an island in the middle of the river as a tiny baby. They believe his family reached the safety of the far bank when crossing the river and assumed he had drowned. Tracey was riding Marula, he was orphaned as a result of a culling many years ago and the people responsible didn’t feel able to kill such a tiny baby, so they bottled-reared him instead and he ended up at the centre. The 10 elephants resident at the centre will unfortunately never be able to roam free given their sad start in life, but one of them was once kidnapped by a passing wild bachelor group when she was in oestrous, but she returned some 8 months later on her own - much to the relief of the handlers.
When we eventually got back to Waterberry, we chilled with beer before dinner on the decking and then red wine round the campfire chatting with our guide Webster. Our waiter, Wilson, did a cracking job of topping up our glasses til long into the evening. What an unforgettable day.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Day 9 - Linda Farm

inside the high-fivers house
Got up and showered... sad to be our last day and despondent that the Kit Yamoyos had not arrived, we had breakfast, packed our things and took down our mossie nets. Since they were only a fiver each, we decided to kill time taking them to the family of children down the road; the "high-fivers", who would make much better use of them than we would. Mother took us into the new baby's room and showed us where she sleeps.. it was bad. The net they had strung over the baby was old and worn. Not to mention filthy and tied together with bits of old rope and string where they had repaired it many times. There was space only for the baby underneath, so we held out our nets for them which would each cover an entire bed, and keep at least 6 of the children safe.
Manager explaining the goals
of Linda Farm
We returned to the lodge feeling more than a bit pathetic. Our efforts this week seem so inadequate and although worthwhile, they really don't even scratch the surface of what these people need. We sat on our porch and shared the last bottle of Mosi from our fridge and were feeling a bit sorry for ourselves when Wivan came running, saying that Kennedy was here.... the first 100 kits had arrived! From down in the dumps wallowing in guilt, to up on a high within a heartbeat, we dashed out to the front of the lodge, where Lazarus and Kennedy were waiting. Kennedy had arranged for Lazarus to take us to a local project called Linda Farm. If we left immediately we could get over there, do a demonstration to the community and be back before our collection at noon. Tracey and I were in the van within seconds. We studied one of the kits to be sure we knew how they worked and on the way to Linda Farm we read the instruction leaflet inside.
Linda farm is a self-sustained community of 82 people (young and old, able and disabled) who produce crops, breed chickens, goats and soon-to-be pigs for sale to market.
Rabeccah had called the manager moments before we arrived to ask him to assemble the community and gave a brief introduction to the purpose of our visit so that he was prepared. So whilst the villagers gathered, he took us on a short tour of the farm. They water the fields with buckets pulled from a crocodile-infested river running along one edge of their land, but were in the process of fixing a large water pump when we arrived which will massively reduce the risk to life when working the fields and save a huge amount of time. They were also building an "ablutions block" with toilets and showers which they hope to finished in a few months time.
new chicks, just arrived at Linda Farm
They keep goats to pay for schooling, they buy 2-day old chicks for 6 kwacha each and in 6 weeks, turn them into fully grown chickens which they sell for 45 kwacha each. There is an area set aside as allotments, for teenage girls who have finished school, to help teach them to be more independent and able to grow produce of their own, as well as a compost area made from recycled plastic drinks bottles.
Once the people were assembled on chairs under a tree, we gave a demo to the community of how to use the kits before answering all their questions, sometimes directly and others with the manager translating. They seemed incredibly pleased and some of the kids were even brave enough to try a sip of the orange-flavoured re-hydration drink when I passed it around.
At Waterberry lodge
Time was running out, so we said our goodbyes, and jumped back in the van to return to the Sunbird. Lazarus would have to replay the demo to Kennedy and Rabeccah on Monday when they return to work in preparation for when the remaining kits arrive next week. Our only hope now is that Colalife can persuade Shoprite to put them on their shelves, because the first question we were asked was.... "when these donated packs run out, where can we get more and how much will they cost?". I left a copy of Colalife's film ("The Cola Road") with Kennedy and will introduce the two companies via email when I get home. With any luck they can continue to supply their projects directly with each other.
Sunset river cruise with Shadreck
We made it back to the Sunbird just in time to meet Shadreck from Waterberry Lodge who arrived with an air conditioned min van and a cooler full of mosi beer - just the celebration we needed and what an end to an amazing week in Zambia. We drove 40 minutes to the lodge through the national park and were greeted by Kelly on arrival. Simply stunning place, right on the river. A gorgeous chicken salad was waiting for us and a couple more cold beers. We spent the afternoon unpacking and getting settled in before heading out on the boat for a sunset river cruise, complete with white wine and nibbles. We saw warthogs, osprey, zebra, baboons, pied kingfisher, hippos, impala, crocodile and a baby crocodile, brown-hooded kingfisher, jacana, skimmers and Ibis in a massive line across the sunset!
The evening was topped off with a gourmet 3 course dinner, an Amarula by the campfire a few glasses of red on our veranda listening to the hippos grunting to each other. Magic.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Day 8 - Crocodile Park

all the teachers
After the excitement of yesterday and with our school trip being a later start today, we were later for breakfast than normal, so there was toast and a bowl of cold cooked plantain left to eat. Wivan had also forgotten to make us a packed lunch, so there was a bit of last minute rush when the taxi arrived to take us to the Crocodile park 20 minutes or so away.  Thankfully our driver, Obey, was more than patient and waited while we loaded the car with the new football and pump, the building blocks and gifts for the school staff before Wivan came running with our food. We needn't have worried, as the school bus was running on African time and the kids didn't arrive until almost 10am.
The Crocodile park itself was not like a tourist attraction that you might find in the UK - no refreshments on sale, no tea, coffee or even somewhere to buy water - so our plan to buy ice creams for the kids was also out, but the kids were excited, as was Cosi when we gave him the FIFA ball.
We also needn't have worried about our packed lunch as Cosi had kindly made us delicious meat pies which were a bit like Cornish pasties but made with chapatis instead.
After the formal tour of the park, learning about all the different snakes and getting to hold a baby crocodile, the kids dashed over to the play park and took turns flying off the roundabout and seeing how many kids at a time they could get on the tyre swings.
By 1 O'clock, a few of the smaller children had fallen asleep on the lawn and so we called Obey to come get us and said our goodbyes, handing out our gifts to the staff.
Obey kindly let us stop off in town on the way home for a few bottles of beer and we spent the afternoon outside our room writing notes, chatting and blogging - an emotional afternoon of reflection.
Being Friday night, a lot of the other volunteers were going out for the evening and started with pre-drinks in the main lounge. We weren't really in the mood for socialising. Our last night at the project and although we hadn't yet been into town at night, we didn't feel like we were missing much. We had been out with our local friends a couple of times, and a night with other "Muzungos" at the Backpackers hostel eating burgers and talking about home didn't seem to compare somehow. We also still hadn't heard back from the Pharmanova courier about our delivery of Kit Yamoyo's which should have arrived by now. Lusaka is a 4-5 hour drive, but Rabeccah confirmed they would make a call in the morning to see what had happened to them and let us know before we left.
It was Lucy's last night too. A 24 year old from Aylesbury, who has dreams of becoming a sky dive instructor in Colorado. She has been travelling for 4 months now and is keen to get home to see her dog, Monty. Strange what people miss most. I am already missing proper loo roll, earl grey tea and a normal bath towel (currently using one of those micro-fibre travelling towels - the first and last time such an item makes it onto my packing list).

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Day 7 - The roller coaster of emotions

Cosi's wishlist for the school
Woke early to a reply email from Simon Berry at Colalife.... super excited... he had contacted the manufacturer in Lusaka, a company called Pharmanova. They have now been instructed to make the kits for us and ship them directly to us at the project in Livingstone!!! all they needed to know was how many and where to send them. OMG.... we were beside ourselves; 500 life-saving kit yamoyos would be on their way at last! We dashed out to tell Rabeccah and Kennedy before setting off on our walk to work.
Today's walk was fantastic - a fresh breeze and bursting with excitement, we lugged the 4 footballs, and bag of goodies down to school with Tasha and Megan. I will never forget the kids faces as we approached and they clocked the balls we were carrying; we could barely get through the gate as kids surrounded us, clambering for the balls, squealing, laughing and jumping up and down.
Vera and Memory looking through
donated pencil cases
There were only 11 children in school today, so we rigged up a volleyball line across the yard and opened the bag of balls, as well as the gates for some of the street kids to join us. We knew the balls were only cheap plastic ones and not destined to last long, but the first one was punctured within about 3 minutes... the second, maybe half an hour later... this didn't bode well. They have a lethal, spiny cactus in the front yard which is about 3 feet wide and seriously sharp - it would never be allowed to remain at a UK school, but here, no-one seemed to think it needed removing at all. The third ball lasted a fair amount longer, and despite being retrieved from the roof of the bamboo classroom multiple times, and even having to throw little Maxwell up onto the main roof to fetch it more than once, it lasted until after morning break.  Seeing how much the children adored playing ball, Tracey and I agreed to go into town and purchase them a proper leather football in the afternoon. There is a last-day-of-term school outing tomorrow to the local crocodile park, so we wouldn't be back at school again, but we knew they would all appreciate a new ball when they returned in September.
We swapped phone numbers with Cosi and Vera so we could arrange meeting up at the park tomorrow and said our goodbyes before heading home for lunch.
volleyball in the school yard
After lunch we were just checking our email for news of the Kit Yamoyos, when Zeta, our local drinking buddy, called. They missed us and wanted to meet up again - brilliant news. Then we read the email from Simon Berry... even better news; the first hundred kits had been made and would be driven by courier from Lusaka in the morning - should arrive Friday night!!!!!! We might actually get to see them before we leave on Saturday morning. We ran to tell Rabeccah and Kennedy again and they said they would find a suitable project for us to take them to on Saturday morning. Cannot wait.
walking back from school
We took a taxi into town again to get the new ball, but found Shoprite closed as the staff had gone on strike! not good. So we headed back up the hill to Bhukans again and found exactly what we were looking for... an official FIFA South Africa 2010 leather football and good quality pump. Perfect. Grinning from ear to ear we grabbed a couple of packs of coloured building blocks and a thank you gift for Cosi and jumped in another cab back to Sunbird. Zeta and Edith would be waiting.
We got cleaned up and put on our only remaining clean clothes, packed our old T shirts into a bag to take with us and headed down to the Zambezi Sports Club for well-deserved Mosi's. Zeta and Edith came ambling across the sandy football pitch half hour or so later and an easy, entertaining, but emotional, afternoon followed.
A couple of Mosi's at the club, followed by a couple more at the Falls Garden Lodge (where Tracey managed to offload her aging mobile phone on the barmaid who was chuffed as nuts with it!).
Zeta lives with her Uncle, who is away with work and badly missed, and her Uncle's wife, who stays in her room and does not talk. It doesn't sound like she enjoys it there much and is saving to get her own place, so it was with tears and sadness that she and Edith walked us home and we said our goodbyes. Such lovely, kind, generous people. We wish them both all the luck in the world in their struggle to better themselves here.
After a somewhat sombre dinner at the Sunbird, we retired to our pump house porch to contemplate our experience. We were mulling over our roller-coaster day when a young Dutch girl wandered over and asked if she could join us. We got out a chair from our room and sat listening to her story. At only 16, she was here alone. She had come through homesickness and was loving her time here, despite already feinting and taking out part of her front tooth when she fell face-first to the ground! A very brave girl. So many people, each doing their bit, and each with a different reason for it. There are some seriously inspiring people on this planet. I wish we had gotten her name.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Day 6 - The search for Kit Yamoyos continues

report day at school
Our shower was hot this morning which helped to ease my cold and kick start another stupidly busy day. I had banana sandwiches for breakfast and Tracey went with what looked like a scone... pretty good for her considering she struggles to eat at the time we get up (630am!).
baby classes colouring numbers on paper plates
Bags loaded with supplies, we set off on our long, but lovely, fresh walk to work with the other two girls, arriving about 9am, where we found all the teachers outside in the sun at a table loaded with school books and exam papers... it was report day. Parents came and went, sitting a while with Cosi to discuss each childs progress. As such, there were no formal lessons today, which eased the pressure on Tracey and I and we took the children into "our" classrooms and got stuck in. Tracey had her older class designing and colouring paper plates while I led the baby class in some counting games for most of the morning. Bridget, from the project, stopped by mid morning during break to see how we were getting on which was nice, except that her arrival caused Tracey to lose her concentration during a game the kids were teaching us and so had to suffer a painful forfeit or two, (similar to a chinese burn, but with two fingers whacked across your forearm) which they took great delight in repeating everytime we cocked up, which was of course quite often given that neither of us could work out the rules.
break time in the yard
All too soon our time was up for the day and our fellow volunteers arrived to walk back with us to the Sunbird. I was bunged up from chest to head and struggled again with the hot walk uphill to the lodge, all the while conscious that if I feinted at any point, there was no cold water on hand, and none of us would be able to describe our location to the project workers by phone, so we took it nice and slowly... the Zambian amble.... and made it back for a lunch of typical local food... nshima and beef stew.
break time at school
Before we bought yet more supplies, we decided to talk to project managers Rabeccah and Kennedy to be certain we were ok to just spend money on the things we thought would be best. Thankfully they were both delighted with our ideas and reassured us we were ok to continue. So we headed into town again, this time on the hunt for children's story books, toys and paints to make a frieze with the roll of lining paper we'd brought from home.  Sadly we found no paints of any kind and so went with wax crayons and figured they could draw round their hands instead. We did find a really good Christian bookshop though and Tracey came over all excited, grabbing books from every shelf - not sure if it was that we had finally found something worth having or simply that she likes to shop! but we settled on a good selection of touch-and-feel picture books covering colours, numbers and animals. Perfect. We also picked up a set of 4 cheap plastic balls and some gift purses to give to the teachers when we leave.
school kitchen
After a painful (and expensive) second session in the phone shop we finally had a working internet SIM card and the ability to email Colalife about the Kit Yamoyo situation - Simon Berry, the founder, would advise us and fingers crossed we would be able to spend the money we have raised on the kits Zambia so desperately needs. Tired, hot and more than a little frustrated, we stopped in at our usual in-town cafe, the Kubu, for a couple of beers before taking a taxi home.
I say home, the Sunbird lodge; where volunteers queue after every mealtime at the sink to wash their own dinner plates and cutlery, one at a time, under a continuously running tap! This has to stop. There's only so long I can go biting my tongue. We had already purchased washing up liquid, a plug for the sink and new scourers to wash up with, in the hope they would get the message. How hard could it be to teach young westerners to wash up without wasting water?? turns out it's nigh-on impossible, but I'm not giving up.
We trudged back to our room after dinner and I cheered myself up scaring the shit out of Tracey again... this time though I chose the darkness of our front porch... the subject.... frogs! They only seem to come out at night and jump through the dead leaves in front of our room - turns out she's just as scared of them as she is of snakes!!!! Mwah hahahahaha. Sorry Trace. xx

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Day 5 - First day on the job

Our walk to school
After breakfast, 15 nervous volunteers gathered in the main house lounge area to finally find out where we were working and sign all the paperwork. Tracey and I were thankfully both placed together at a community school 3kms from the lodge. There are 3 types of school in Zambia; firstly there are expensive private schools and then there are government schools, which up until 10 years ago were free to resident Zambians. But then they decided to start charging, which caused many children to drop out of school as their families simply could not afford the fees, so people started to teach these children at home and in their back yards, these places grew and became known as community schools. Today, there are many thousands of these schools and some have managed to build their own small classrooms to teach in. They are basic, poor and ill-equipped with teaching resources. Ours is called the "Delight Christian Academy" and was started in 2005. It has almost 100 children in 4 classes of kids aged between 2 and 9. We walked to our placement with Bridgit, one of the projects staff, and two other volunteers, Megan and Tasha, who were heading in the same direction as us. Project staff walk all volunteers to their placements on day one to show us the way, but we must find our own way back - it took us 45 minutes and was downhill over sand, a railway line and rubbish dump pathways. My blocked nose meant I suffered less than the others, but it was truly shocking.
Jacqueline teaching the baby class
Tracey and I are the first volunteers to ever work at our placement so no-one really knew what to do or what to expect. We were introduced to the headteacher, Consiegne Hambone, whom we quickly named "Cosi" as we could not pronounce his name. He found this highly amusing but battled on, giving us a short tour of the school and introducing us to 4 of the teachers; Memory, Vera, Jennifer and Jacqueline. The 5th teacher, Gwenda, was out at a funeral, so her kids were in with Vera's. They were jammed in like sardines in a room no bigger than a garden shed with not enough chairs to go round. The baby class, where I stayed, did not even have tables, and the kids worked, played and ate mostly on the floor. The fourth classroom, where Tracey stayed, was outside in the yard and made from wooden poles lashed together, a tarp over the top and bamboo matting tied round the outside. Each classroom had a chalk board but not much else. The place was filthy and the playground had been built on top of a rubbish pile with old shoes and carrier bags half buried in sand that had been piled on top. The toilet was a hole in the ground with a broken loo plonked on top and a large plastic tub filled with water for hand washing.
Memory's class in the yard
I watched the teacher conduct her lesson for ten minutes or so before she turned to me and said the most terryfying two words in the world....
"You. Teach."
I turned to see 18 tiny black faces looking up at me from the floor of that gloomy room and my mind went blank. "Heads, shoulders, knees and toes" was all I could come up with. So we played dancing and singing games til break time and when their food bags were opened, it quickly became apparent who were the poorest in the class. Some had cold chips, sausage and fried eggs, while others had 2 biscuits and a piece of bread or a ball of sticky rice. I followed the teacher's actions, opening the kids food parcels and drinking bottles for them and was confused that none were touching anything... then of course I was reminded where I was when all 18 kids closed their eyes and placed their hands together in prayer. As soon as the words were finished, the kids each took parts of their lunch and passed them to each other - it was amazing to watch; their automatic reaction to being presented with food, was to share it with each other. These kids were 2 and 3 years old. To share is not to lose here. To share is the norm. It's instinctive for these children.
Outside in the yard at school
We worked until 1145am when parents started to arrive to collect their children. Being the last week of term, they only go to school for the morning. So when Tasha and Megan arrived, we set off for the 45 minute walk back to the Sunbird for lunch, scaring the shit out of Tracey when she decided to walk through the grass verge where the snakes live!
The African midday sun was hot, the walk was uphill and my thick cold was making breathing hard, but we chatted together about the two different projects and how we might be better prepared for tomorrow. Whatever we decided to do, it was clear we would need supplies from town. So after lunch we shared a cab with a couple of other volunteers and went on the hunt for teaching resources and an internet SIM card. Both of which would need some local currency, so we aimed first for a bank. Fairly straightforward, if a little time-consuming, but we got some kwacha and headed down to the supermarket to pick up paper plates for drawing on, string and pegs for hanging them up with, teabags, sinus spray and the Zambian equivalent of Yop!
African sand-covered minging feet
Tired, hot and frustrated at the continued lack of available supplies (no posters paints sold anywhere, no paintbrushes and still no kit yamoyo's), we met up with the girls again and headed to the Backpackers bar for a Mosi beer or two.
Forgetting how quick the sun sets in Africa, we left it a little close to the mark to get back to the Sunbird before darkness fell, but we made it. After a dinner of leftover lunch, we spent the evening prepping the paper plates with numbers for the kids to colour in and sorting out the donated colouring crayons we had brought with us. Tomorrow would be better. We at least had a plan.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Day 4 - Orientation

Woke with a blocked nose and not happy about it, nor was Tracey as my snoring had kept her awake all night. She also has a nosebleed but since we are 986m above sea level, we assume this is nothing to worry about.
Breakfast was a strange type of runny porridge stuff made from mealie maize. Our orientation didn't start until 1030am, so we wandered the lodge with our cameras which didn't take too long as the place isn't actually that big - a main house with multi-bed rooms and some outbuildings with additional rooms and a washing area. We have taken to washing our undies in the shower and turning our two-person private room into an African laundry. I'm fearful of hanging wet clothes outside to dry as Caryn once told me that there are insects that like to lay their eggs in damp fabric, so everything must be ironed. Ironing is really quite frightening.
Orientation was held in the main house dining room and we were two of about fifteen new starters. Rabeccah and Kennedy took us through the rules and regulations of the house and project, as well as giving us advice and knowledge on Zambian culture; how to greet people, the Zambian handshake and various customs. After a lunch of sandwiches and roast potatoes we were taken in groups to Livingstone town, (which feels about the size of Haywards Heath) for town orientation which involved showing us where to change money, get phone SIM cards and shop for supplies in the right places. The project company, "Dream Livingstone" really do think of everything and try to ensure all volunteers are well prepared for the shock which is to come.
Unfortunately for us, our orientation day fell on Farmer's day which is a public holiday in Zambia, so no phone SIM and with only the supermarket bank kiosk open, there was a queue of about an hour to change money... we of course gave up after 15 minutes and decided to get a small amount from the ATM to see us through the day, and wait for the others at a local cafe/bar called Kubu, with a couple of Zambian "Mosi" beers. We could come back tomorrow afternoon to get our dollars changed when the banks were open.
We also discovered that the supermarket, "Shoprite" had no Kit Yamoyo's on the shelves - so all in all not a particularly successful start... a bad cold, nosebleeds, no internet card, no local currency (Kwacha) and no life-saving rehydration kits!
When we finally returned to the Sunbird lodge we were shattered, filthy and stupidly hot. So I slept for 90mins; feeling seriously rough and struggling to breathe and Tracey sat writing her journal notes. Dinner was chicken with beans and rice, so we ate, sat, chatted and went to bed at 10:20pm with a massive flat spider in the bathroom!