“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, 17 August 2017

The long journey home

After our last leisurely breakfast, we left at 11am with the couple from Essex. Zita was at the airport when we got there, waiting to say goodbye - I somehow forgot that she worked at the Air Force, which is of course based at the airport. D'Oh.
Got some gifts at Livingstone airport with the remaining Kwacha as it is completely useless once we leave the country and cannot be changed into anything elsewhere.
Boarded plane and set off staring out the window. We were sat next to an American guy who is a manufacturing engineer for McCain Foods; it seems however hard I try, I cannot escape my job. Grrrrr.
Uneventful flight and a despondent trek through Johannesburg airport to the now familiar gate A9 heading for home. Sadly we were in the standard cramped cabin seats for the way back and Tracey's headphone socket was broken, so we slapped a fabric elastaplast on it and tried to tire ourselves out with a couple of movies. I ended  up watching "Moanna" followed by "Lion" - and shed tears during both of them - such a wimp! Or maybe I can blame it on the incredible and emotional journey we have just been on.  It has at times been so unbelievable we have been lost for words and at other times so frustrating that we've blurted out too many words. But there isn't a moment I would change, or an experience I would have missed. We've reinforced friendships made last year, and started a whole bunch of new ones. We have successfully taught 30 people to boodle - 12 of which turned up at the boodle club's first independent session on Tuesday. They elected a captain and vice captain and set themselves some goals which will help them on their journey towards generating an income. I wish them every success and cannot wait to hear about their progress.
We've "sown the seed" as one taxi driver put it, and someday we "must return to see how it has grown". My bank balance fears he may be right.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

A day of birding and buffalo

Up at 6am to go birding on the local sewerage ponds, followed by a short visit and breakfast picnic inside the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park, just outside Livingstone. We clocked up quite a few species and despite me not being able to tell the difference between a wood sandpiper and a ruff (even in the guide book!!!) we had a great morning.
The elusive Giant Kingfisher took a dive for fish right in front of our picnic area and of course my camera was still inside the truck at the time... I guess it was karma for the chance I completely cocked up earlier in the week. Just another excuse to return I guess.
We spent the afternoon walking the grounds, sleeping off lunch and packing up for the final time. We were back out on the river at 430pm and trailing a herd of Cape Buffalo as they munched their way across the river. So going to miss this place.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Finally a day of rest!

Open-billed stork
Stayed in bed til 10am reading and dozing; our first and only lie-in of the trip.
Had a lovely lunch and sat down on the jetty with our binoculars watching Elephants and Kudu on the far riverbank.
Went out on the river with 6 others and saw more Elephants, an Open-Billed stork and plenty of baboons. Think I have developed an addiction to chilli-sugared peanuts and dried mango – can’t seem to get enough of either of them.
Back for dinner… yet more gorgeous food – struggling to work out where they get hold of sprouts over here but they certainly have an incredible chef.
Had a few glasses of wine round the campfire with an English couple from Essex and went to bed, wondering how the first boodle club went today at Linda Farm. Will email Rachael tomorrow and find out.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Day trip to Botswana

630am wake up call when a flask of hot tea arrived at our room, so we showered to wake ourselves up and headed out just as it was getting light.
Michael and Caroline were waiting by the van to see us off and make sure we had everything and Caroline commented on the "love letter" we had left... both of them laughing. With any luck I will have clean socks again by the time we get back.
Crispin, our driver, took us to the Kazangulu border port on the Zambian side, passing endless queues of trucks waiting sometimes up to 14 days to cross, one at a time into neighbouring Botswana or Namibia on flatbed ferries.
He handed a piece of paper over to a waiting boatman, who would take us over the river to meet another guide on the Botswana side. All being well, Crispin would return to collect us back in Zambia at 430pm.
I will admit, the border crossing was a little daunting, not only because it was the first time we were alone (and unsure what the plan was), but also because we were carrying large expensive cameras through the throngs of hawkers at the border wanting to sell us copper bracelets and soapstone animal ornaments. Thankfully there wasn't too much hanging about and before long we were clinging on for dear life, bouncing over the waves in our tiny tin boat heading for the opposite bank.
"Six", our wildlife guide, arrived soon after we did and after a quick dip in the foot and mouth bath and some more passport stamping, we were off to Chobe. To our amazement, we had the land-cruiser all to ourselves.
After sorting out park fees and more paperwork we headed into the Chobe National Park through the Sedudu gate and almost immediately stopped for a "dazzle" of Zebra and some Impala. We had heard there was a male lion down by the riverbank, so we sped off in the right direction hoping we wouldn't be too late as he was on the move. By the time we got there, a large number of trucks were curb-crawling him through the bush as he looked for somewhere shady to pass the heat of the day. Not the ideal time to be on safari we knew, but beggars can't be choosers. He was sadly too far in for us to get a glimpse, so we moved on, Six declaring we would find our own lion, and within half an hour we had. Two in fact. It was not a great sighting for me as our driver had unfortunately broken an ethical boundary to get it, so let's just say it was memorable.
We moved on again, stopping for a comfort break and a drink in a strange, unguarded picnic area not so many yards from shagging elephants; Three bull elephants had separated a young female from her breeding herd and taken her into the bush, where they basically gang-raped her before leaving her dazed and very confused to find her way back to her mother and aunties. Fascinating to learn about but pretty eye-watering to watch, especially as the bull was twice the size of the poor female.
We moved on again passing over 50
Giraffe grazing on the tops of the Acacia trees, heading out of the park and down to a boat jetty, where we climbed on board our own private river safari boat and headed out for lunch at a place called "The Raft". It was floating on the Namibian side of the river almost touching the bank, and we were met by the staff singing us a welcome song and helping us off the boat. They had the grill going with all sorts of meat being cooked and cold white wine ready and waiting. It was bliss, but the highlight for me was yet to come. We spent the afternoon out on a river safari back in the Chobe NP.
We saw a herd of buffalo chasing an Elephant across the river and Elephants running and swimming from a lion (slightly worryingly in our direction), and a Hammerkop being mobbed by two Lapwing.
There were Elephants, Buffalo and Hippos everywhere we looked... both in and out of the water.
Sadly, but thankfully before the wind burn got too bad, it was time to leave and find our way back to the Kasane border post. We had multi-entry visas, so getting back into Zambia should have been perfectly straightforward, however the only indication of the visa type in our passports were the letters "M/E" scribbled in biro by the airport immigration staff.  Without sufficient US Dollars on us to buy more visas we fretted a little. Noticing the time, we also started to fret a little more... we were 30 minutes early and would have to suffer the hawkers again whilst we waited for Crispin to collect us.
The tin boat for the return journey was over the far bank when we got there, so a colleague kindly offered to take us back across the stretch of no-mans land to the waiting hawkers. Clutching cameras and binoculars and ready to brave it out, we stepped up to get off the boat and were asked who we were waiting for.... after our reply of "Waterberry", the shout went up, and was relayed round the port until seconds later Crispin appeared from behind a boat smiling reassuringly at us. Phew.  He even had cold beers in the cool box inside the vehicle. What a team Waterberry are. Thank you thank you thank you.
An awesome day; we saw some amazing sights, had moments of adrenaline, moments of wonder, sheer joy and happiness and, apart from the bone-shaker drive back along the dirt track to our lodge, I couldn't fault the day. Definitely money very well spent and just goes to prove, you don't need Attenborough-style big five action to enjoy the wildlife here.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Local village walk

Arrival at the first village
We left with Shadreck at 9am on the boat, heading up river through a series of rapids to get to the village, passing locals in their dugout canoes checking their fishing nets.
A guy called Gift was our guide. He lives in the first of the three villages we visited which seemed to us to also be the poorest. A collection of mud houses which need to be remade every 8/9 years on account of the termites that eat their way through the wooden uprights holding it together.

Stick walls are filled with mud and clay
The village had collective cattle and pig pens and a lady who grew (and sometimes sold) potted plants. We were discussing the cattle and the wealth they represent when Gift told us that they would only sell them if they needed to send a child to school, or they needed to pay a dowry (to buy one of the men a wife). The bride's family set the price and it may be 4 or 5 cows for the girl depending on her status and purity.  Gift then turned to Tracey and I and asked how much a bride would cost in England - when we told him they were free he immediately declared that he wanted to move to England.   Songiso wants to marry Katherine at the farm, but he cannot get together the 17,000 Kwacha needed for her dowry (about £1,700); What a way to start married life... with a man who is completely broke on account of the dowry!
Stilted food store in second village
The second village was clearly richer, having both a bar and a food store on stilts.
The third village was where the brand new school and church are located. Tracey and I were blown away by the sheer size of the school - compared to everything else we had seen in Zambia, it was a giant. Brightly painted and inviting, it is built on land purchased by Waterberry and funded by the guests and local projects, sales of craft items in the gift shop and of course overseas donations.
We were back from the village tour shortly before lunch and so spent some time on the terrace watching the monkeys and me re-boodling my camera case as I had to pick it apart to use the yarn to teach with last week.

Newly finished Tukongote Community Primary School
All our washing came back late afternoon in pristine condition, with the exception of about 8 pairs of socks. All our new and borrowed hiking socks; the one item I had completely run out of was socks, and so I wandered over to the reception desk to ask if they could check the laundry… nothing there, since we were about to head out onto the river again, we left Kelly going from room to room asking each of the guests if they had received our socks by mistake and promising she would track them down. She was very surprised as they have a pretty good system for laundry and it’s quite rare to lose a guests washing.

Definitely Tracey's shot of the day! Dust bath baby.
Today's river cruise was just a good as the last... eles, crocs, hippos, kingfishers and a race up river chasing sunset for a chance to see river otters again.

When we returned, the missing socks had become a complete mystery to the staff, as they had now checked every guest at both the lodge and the River Farmhouse down the road and still no sign.

They provide snacks on board the boat and so by the time Tracey and I had stuffed ourselves with peanuts, mini pasties and crisps, followed by a 3 course dinner, beer and wine, we could only waddle to the campfire and plonk ourselves down for a while. Stuffed and with trousers no longer able to do up, Tracey suddenly asked me if I had checked the inside pocket of the case when I emptied the laundry out? No I hadn't. So many people had been out looking for our socks and it turns out they had not even made it into the laundry basket in the first place. I felt awful. Reception was shut already and so a very apologetic note was called for, which I left wedged underneath an ornamental crocodile.  We couldn't stay up late as we were leaving for Botswana early in the morning to spend the day at the Chobe National Park.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Saturday - First day at Waterberry

Skipped breakfast this morning - figured we will be eating a ridiculous amount for the remainder of the day when we get to Waterberry, so we packed up our things, cleaned the room and donated our mosquito nets to the ladies at Sunbird along with some small gift necklaces. We said our goodbyes to the remaining few volunteers as most were off on safari in neighbouring Botswana for the weekend.

Rabeccah came to say goodbye and update us how things were progressing at the school we worked at last year. Tracey had arranged for a painter to go in and paint both the inside and outside of the whole place, and a local carpenter has been commissioned to make some new desks for some of the classrooms.  Any remaining budget will be spent purchasing new books for the children. She will go back to take some photos for Tracey when the work is all done which should be in plenty of time for the school year to start in September.

Scorpion we removed from the bathroom
Our Waterberry driver, Webster, arrived at lunchtime to collect us and we set off for hobbitland and the luxury of proper toilet roll, clean sheets and hot running water. Kelly greeted us on arrival and remembered us from last year which was fantastic. She is running the local community school project that we will visit tomorrow and deliver the final suitcase full of supplies - mainly sets of books, craft resources and glue sticks.

Coincidentally we are staying this year in the thatched chalet called "Sunbird"; after dumping an entire suitcase of washing in the laundry bag, we grabbed a glass of Chardonnay each, had some lunch and chilled out on our terrace - within minutes, a brown-hooded Kingfisher landed on the branch on front of us not more than 5 yards from where we sat - love love love this place and so pleased to be back. Webby and Matthews are still here, along with Shadreck, Bonface, Tessa, Michael and Caroline.

Webby took us out on the boat for the sunset cruise and as soon as we crossed the river and rounded the island we were treated to a huge breeding herd of elephants on the far bank followed by impala, kudu and baboons. We saw crocodiles, a fish eagle, and loads of vervet monkeys, Senegal Coucal, water dekop (thick knee), giant, pied and brown hooded kingfishers, a goliath heron, hammerkop, hippos, white-backed vulture, squacco heron, yellow-wattled lapwing, banded mongoose and Egyptian goose with chicks!!!!! the list goes on. The mighty Zambezi certainly lives up to its' name.

When we got back and switched on the wifi, we received a lovely whatsapp from Judy at the farm - Songiso had finally broken down in tears after we left - something Judy had never seen him do. They missed us already and wanted us to know how much they had all enjoyed the party.

After a gorgeous 3 course dinner, we sat alone round the campfire reflecting on the farm and the experience - relieved to be back at Waterberry, but sad also to have left Linda behind.

Friday, 11 August 2017

It's party time on the farm!!! - hardest day ever.

Linda Farm family with their donated nets and clothing
We braced ourselves for what we knew would be a hard and emotional day today, and set off for Shoprite, feeling more positive and excited about our final day and the planned afternoon party – the first hurdle loomed immediately when we discovered that Zambian rules don't allow the purchase of alcohol until 10am – so armed with fizzy pop, crisps, snacks and paper cups, we decided what will be will be - slapped on the smiles and jumped back in the taxi. The few beers we planned to celebrate with would have to come from elsewhere at some point during the day.
Songiso with the new laptop
Tracey and Judy spent the morning sorting through the donated clothes and mosquito nets to give to the families who live on the farm, and I took Songiso through the various apps we had installed on the donated laptop. Children's puzzles, books and music, as well as some Makaton signing hands singalong DVDs which would help the children to be able to communicate with the deaf residents.
Songiso almost broke down he was so humbled by the generosity of our British colleagues. At the moment, they have no computer at all and so they must walk 45 minutes into town and pay for soft drinks to enable them to use 30 minutes of free cafe wifi to send emails from their phones and communicate with the various farm suppliers and customers. This laptop will make their life so much easier and free up both time and money for the management team, not to mention allow them to produce monthly reports on Excel instead of paper which they can then email directly to the government instead of relying on the postal service.

Elidah and her lunchtime beer break
Donations all handed over and fields fully watered, the residents set up for the party…. Biltong and Songiso wired in some electrics for the speakers and we cleared the classroom of books and moved the desks around the outside to clear a dance-floor area…. Africans do love to dance.

We had a few tops left over which we decided to give to old Bernard, so when we saw him on his way from the farm home for lunch we handed over the bag and said our goodbyes. If we ever come back, he wants a suit so he can go smartly to church... "Mr Bernard they will call me". He wandered down the lane and waited until he reached the gates before opening the bag and finding out what was inside... a man full of respect; he could not see the shirts, nor know what colour or style they were, but he carefully examined each one with his hands - you kill me Bernard - I wish you every health and wealth this beautiful land can provide for you.

Judy and Elidah "twicking" the beer back to the farm
Judy and Elidah took us on a walk at lunchtime back to Mama Joyce's house (their local beer supplier) and after sinking a couple in her garden, the ladies loaded 2 crates full of Castle onto their heads and "twicked" back to the farm. Twicking is not a verb we have in the UK, mainly because no-one carries heavy loads on their heads, yet these women were walking, running and even Judy was dancing, whilst 18 large bottles of beer balanced untouched on a rolled up chitenge on her head. Zambian alcohol purchasing laws turned out to be a blessing in disguise; I wouldn't have missed it for the world... discussing the differences between twicking and twerking, we giggled all the way back as more and more people shouted from their gardens wishing us a great party.

Boodling class of 2017 with all their work
The ladies were all dressed up in their finest outfits, you can get a handmade tailored dress or suit, in a material of your choice, made within a day, for about £15 here and these women clearly love the bright African colours - some had even put on special wigs for the occasion.
As the women arrived with their competition entries, the judging table began to fill, until soon more tables were needed - there were hats, boots, doormats, and hanging baskets, table mats, purses, a pencil case complete with zip, rucksacks and even a water bottle holder. Tracey and I were blown away. We laid everything out and just as the judging was about to start and Tracey and I were thinking how impossible it was going to be, Rachael (from the glass workshop) turned up and agreed to be the one to make an independent final call in each category.
We had prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd for Best Hat, Mat, Bag, Basket and Plastic Item, as well as a prize for most inventive item, fastest learner and perseverance, and of course we did not forget Biltong, without whom we would have not been able to continue teaching this week.
Rabeccah came from the Sunbird to watch the prizes being given and left soon afterwards which is when the celebrations began in the classroom next door...

Nothing like a party in England where the dance-floor remains empty until enough alcohol has been consumed that Dad-dancing becomes a must... oh no, the music started and the feet started at exactly the same time. The admirable thing about Africans is that they have no inhibitions, no sense of self-loathing or negative body-image - they laugh, they smile, they dance and sing and they do it as if it were the last time they would ever get to enjoy it. They don't fret that their precious outfits will get dirty or damaged, they move freely and joyously to every beat and Arina made sure there were lots of beats. Traditional Zambian music rang out from that classroom for a good few hours and soon it was our time to go.

Leaving was hard, seriously hard - tears fell, handshakes turned to hugs and hugs turned to squeezes. Going to miss these people for so many reasons; not only have they inspired us, taught us and humbled us, but they are doing such good work and seem eager to continue. The new boodling club starts on Tuesday and will meet twice a week. Rachel will help them to source supplies at sensible prices and with any luck they will soon be making an income from it. They have picked it up so quickly and I am immensely proud of each and every one of them. If their competition entries are anything to go by, this community and it's new club, will be breaking even by the end of the month.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Last day of boodling club

Veronica finishing off Tracey's hat
They were some serious hangovers sat around the breakfast table this morning…. The American lad actually looked green and in quite some pain. Smug mode doesn’t come close.
It seems Vinny enjoyed his day more than he let on as Irish Andy and another guy Paul decided to come with us to the farm today. Both are incredibly tall lads who are on the construction project and placed at a nearby site, building a new school.
We watered the newly dug maize field whilst the boys continued digging the holes to drop the seeds into. With everyone’s help, the field was completely finished and all seeds sown by lunchtime, so instead of waiting around during the 2 hour lunch break, the boys headed off into town whilst Tracey and I prepared for the last boodling class of the trip. Veronica had told me she wanted to make a cloche hat today, so I set about making her a sample one to copy in a baby size.   No sooner had I finished it when she walked through the door having already made one, in an adult size, which she promptly gave to Tracey! Grrrrrrr.
Starving by 11am we opened our packed lunch boxes to see a few cold chips and a hard-boiled egg each for lunch. Not great, but it was something.
Boodling club was packed again and on account of the competition and mention of prizes tomorrow, the ladies were being very secretive and not bringing their competition entries with them in case the others copied their ideas… they cut more materials, asked for help and advice about making bag handles and increasing or decreasing stitches. I cannot wait to see what happens tomorrow when we get to see all their finished work.
Rachael came along today from the soap and glass workshop. She is keen to help make sure the club continues when we’re gone and wanted to meet some of the ladies and learn the basic stitches herself. Biltong had finished carving and varnishing another 5 hooks, so I caved in and taught some more of the children.
new students learning on the last day
When our taxi arrived at 4pm, the ladies were still massively engrossed in cutting and boodling desperately trying to get everything finished for tomorrow. So much so that Tracey comically went into “teacher” mode, and started shooing women out of the room. We almost had to man-handle them to get them to move in the end.
Went into town to get the rest of the supplies needed for tomorrow, but yet again fell at the first hurdle – so we ended up in Kubu having a beer instead. The party shopping will just have to be done in the morning on the way in. I don’t think I will ever truly appreciate African ways.
We made it back for dinner of cold veg mixed with pasta and mince (which we think was soya pieces again) and found most of the volunteers still hungover and shattered after their half day of working. Quite amusing really – Tracey and I were talking last night about how we couldn’t manage such late nights with booze and loud music again these days and it turns out nor can the youngsters!

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Stressful day all round

playing draughts with bottle tops
Today did not start well. Tracey’s shoulder pain kept her awake all night and after a cold shower I discovered I have been rewarded for failing to tuck my trousers into my socks with my first African tick. Attached to my knee it was almost black, and very quickly dead. Will keep an eye on the entry point as I hear tick bite fever is pretty nasty – but has an incubation time of 2 weeks.
Metalwork student
One of the other volunteers, a New Zealander named Vinny, came with us to the farm today, and since Songiso now considers us “residents”, we showed him around ourselves whilst we waited for Rachael to turn up. Rachael and her husband Mani run a workshop in Livingstone called Pure Skills, where they make soap and repurpose glass wine bottles into lamps and candle holders. Mani teaches welding and metalwork to the locals and together they employ half a dozen or so people. Since there is no glass recycling in Zambia many people drop their glass empties off at the workshop and if they are too thin to be turned into ornaments, as most of the cheaper beer bottles are, then they send them for crushing and turning into building blocks!
We came back to the farm shortly before lunch and managed 40 minutes of swinging a hoe with Bernard and digging holes for planting more maize with Moffati and the others. Had a chat with Bernard about his religion (Seventh Day Adventist church) and Vinny and I were smiling to ourselves when he launched into song in the fields. The blind Christian whose old lone voice sang quietly across the rows was really quite moving.
re-purposing glass bottle
Tracey’s shoulder meant she couldn’t work the fields today, so she spent the time cutting mutton cloth for boodling in the afternoon.  Unfortunately for Tracey it was impossible to hide the pain she was in and so Cecilia took it upon herself to apply a little Zambian physiotherapy … almost yanking her arm from its’ socket before raising it agonisingly over her heard. Tracey left the room and Cecilia was in apologetic pieces. Today really wasn’t going well.
making soap
On a brighter note, we taught two new youngsters today – Irene and Agnes. Little Agnes has been begging me to teach her for 2 days now and had resorted to teaching herself with some old brown string and a lollipop stick – I felt her determination needed rewarding and handed over one of Biltong’s precious hooks and sat down with her to teach. She picked it up relatively quickly and we began to rethink the ruling that we would only teach the adults. The problem was that as soon as the other children had seen me teach Little Agnes, they all wanted a hook, some materials and me to teach them – we just didn’t have sufficient resources.
After our day at the farm we headed into town to shop and change some money, which was a complete disaster and both Tracey and I were getting quite stressed. We managed to get only 10 of the mossie nets we needed for the farm and only 4 pairs of scissors – we will have to get the rest elsewhere tomorrow – although where from is anyone’s guess. For all the good things here, there are a mountain of frustrations that us Westerners just can’t comprehend. Tracey typically has twice as much patience as me, but even that was not enough today… thankfully when one of us is not coping the other steps up to cover. We got through the day and headed home for much needed beer.
Dinner was a less than satisfying plate of rice and scrambled egg with coleslaw, over which we had a chat about Malaria with the new volunteers, one of whom stated he would rather have malaria than go a night without beer on account of his anti-malaria tablets – really. I mean really???? Sometimes I am seriously embarrassed to be a Muzungu.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Love it when a plan comes together...

Biltong and his sons
Evans (our regular taxi driver) had sent his friend Sam to collect us this morning, who was later than usual and given that we had to stop at the hardware shop on the way to the farm, to get varnish, a paintbrush and some nails, we were less than chuffed at being caught by the train crossing as well. Back and forth it went in front of us for an age, apparently trying to change tracks, but before long we were out in the serenity of the fields again, watering the newly planted maize, whilst Biltong set about sanding and varnishing the boodle hooks for us.
Boodle sticks hand-carved by Biltong
Tracey spent the lunchtime cutting and preparing carrier bags, whilst I made a sample bootie-type slipper for the ladies to copy. Elidah’s Mum turned up today for the first time too, a lovely lady called Virginia. With only a few days to go, the classroom was almost full; women were standing for lack of seats. We even had to shoo them out at 4pm to lock up as they were so engrossed; chatting, boodling and helping each other out when they each got stuck. A joy to watch and although exhausted, Tracey and I couldn’t help but leave smiling and elated. It was working, we were passing on skills and they were passing them on to each other.   We left the women walking up the street together, still twisting yarn around their hooks as they went.  Inspiring someone else to do something creative, free and enjoyable is a truly fantastic feeling.
Cecilia's half-completed bag
After an incredibly fast post-work beer and a change into relatively clean clothes, we were back out again to Zita’s house to teach her to boodle as well.  She had prepared some fish and rape with ground nuts for us to eat. She was hoping to make Nshima with us, but we had failed to tell the Sunbird that we wouldn’t be home for dinner, so after a one hour visit, we had to head home.
Zita lives in a single-storey block of rented rooms – each with its’ own bathroom. She has a small two-ring electric cooker on a trolley next to her bed, and buys her food fresh everyday as she has no fridge and nowhere to store it. Her entire home is smaller than our bedroom at home.
Martha's finished bag
Back at the Sunbird, we had char-coaled meat for dinner (neither Tracey nor I could be sure what kind) with potato and salad, followed by a couple of cups of tea and a big sort out of the donations we have for Linda Farm.  In order to distribute the donations fairly amongst the Ladies at Linda, we have agreed with Songiso to give them away as prizes for various achievements throughout the two weeks we have been there teaching them to boodle. This minimises jealousy and accounts for us potentially not having enough to give everyone something. So we have planned a small party for Friday afternoon to celebrate the new skills the ladies have learnt. They are all incredibly excited and the mention of prizes has spurred them all on even further to finish their bags.
We saw Marsha today outside the gates of Sunbird, or rather he saw us; he was on his way to fill up his water carriers – he is the oldest child of the “high fivers” that we met last year, who still live down the end of our road. He must see hundreds of volunteers where he lives and yet he recognised us and came to say hello - he remembered us and the donated pencil cases and mosquito nets we provided for him and his family. He has two grade 12 exams tomorrow, one for Civil Education and another for Commerce. He is doing well and we agreed to pop in and see them on Friday before we leave. Our social calendar this week is filling up fast.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Farmer's Day (Full Moon)

Sara and the boys
Newbies were clearly playing some kind of drinking game last night, and judging by the noise, it was a roaring success. No sleep again.
Also no staff in the morning today, as it is a public holiday; so no packed lunch was ready, no breakfast was out and it looked like Tracey and I were the only two awake, let alone going to work… Public holiday or not, we had a field of thirsty seedlings to water.
Outside waiting for our 8am taxi and three smartly dressed little lads were patiently waiting for one of the volunteers, Sara, to appear who had promised to take them out.  Sara was in bed. Turns out she meant 6pm not 6am – poor lads had been waiting a good while. Feeling awful, Sara got out of bed and took them for breakfast instead of dinner.
in our Chitenges - from Zita
Got to Linda Farm and began watering, Tracey finished the onions whilst I was still half way through the Okra, so she moved to sweeping leaves and chicken shit from outside the chicken house with two bits of cardboard…Songiso being the only one allowed to use their precious rake.
Being a public holiday, Boodling club started at 11am as the eager ladies started to arrive. Judy had almost completed her bag, as had Vebo. Shocked and very proud of them – they were beaming. Judy had made hers from old T’shirts belonging to each member of her family.
Biltong started whittling some new boodle hooks with a piece of broken glass and some sticks. He has asked for some sandpaper and varnish which we hope to bring him tomorrow.
Taught circular bag bases to Friday’s newbies and Tracey gave a cutting demonstration to show how to get the most out of every T shirt without wasting a shred.  Some women had gone to Marumba market at the weekend and purchased second hand T shirts for 5 Kwacha each (about 50p) – they are all so keen to finish their bags before we leave on Friday.
Biltong carving with broken glass
We went via Shoprite on the way home for much needed beer and snacks – grabbed some sandpaper, but they were out of varnish – will try the hardware store on the way to work in the morning.
Janet's cheeky son
We woofed down another plate of soya pieces in sauce with rice and chilli cabbage whilst another load of new volunteers were busy getting to know each other at the dining table. No energy left for socialising – absolutely exhausted. Let’s hope they keep the noise down tonight; with any luck they will all have realised that a 630am start means a sensible bed time in this African heat.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Dinner at Olga's

A very lazy morning, sat outside in the sun in our PJs writing our journals and looking through the photos we had taken all week and generally feeling quite good about things, when all of a sudden the dongle lost connectivity and a message saying we had consumed all our data appeared! There was no way we could have used it all over night, so our lazy morning was cut short with a mad dash to get up, showered and into town before the phone shop shut. Turns out the data was not consumed at all, but the phone network had momentarily gone down… happens a lot out here of course, so the guy in the shop looked at us like a couple of nutcases. Panic over, we agreed on a beer at Kubu to use their wifi and upload some blog.
Over a chips and saveloy lunch we discussed with other volunteers what we might spend the afternoon doing and many of them were heading over to the Falls. Especially the newbies of course. We decided against it in the end having seen them before both on foot and in a microlight, and opted instead for a drink at The Waterfront. We had heard about it and it had good reviews, but was apparently a little pricey… a whopping £1.50 for a bottle of beer instead of the usual 90p. We took a taxi and found a spot overlooking the hotel riverboat which was being loading up to go out for a sundowner dinner cruise. It was indeed a nice place, with a roaring clay oven ready to make pizzas, and lush green gardens complete with resident Kingfisher and Vervet monkeys. Sadly lacking in a lawn area with sunloungers (which is what we were hoping for), but a pleasant place all the same. The white wine however was atrocious and the one glass we had, gave both of us a headache so we switched to a cup of tea (yes you read that right) and then made for home again.
We didn’t have long to get changed and re
ady for our night out taking the girls for dinner at Olga’s.
“Olga's represents the final stage of an educational project for vulnerable youth of Livingstone… All Olga’s profits from the restaurant and the Guest House go to the Youth Community Training Center (YCTC), a certified school built by the diocese of Livingstone and CeLIM (an Italian NGO). The school provides qualified and certified training in electric power, tailoring, plumbing, catering, I.T., and construction techniques to vulnerable youth.”
Thankfully we had booked a table ahead of time as it was pretty rammed with a queue quickly forming outside the door. Edith, Tango and Zita looked stunning… all in dresses and heels and their best jackets on. Edith especially had made such an effort for the occasion it was hard not to feel proud of her determination not to let herself down. Given that we had all met last year in a bar and spent much of the time drinking, it was a shock when each of them ordered soft drinks. Tracey and I stuck to bottled mineral water and we each ordered a different pizza to try. None of them had been to the restaurant before and after a slightly nervous start, Edith was clearly relieved to see the table of male muzungu’s next to us eating their pizza with their hands. We all tucked in and chatted easily throughout the evening. It was nice to be able to share western food with true Zambians and give us all a night to remember.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Lazy Saturday

I woke at our usual time of 630am and left Tracey sleeping to go to the dining room and get a couple of teas. Our first lie in and after the hectic week we’d had, we agreed a slap up breakfast in town was in order. So after a quick visit to the bank for more Kwacha, the MTN shop for more airtime for the phone and data for the dongle we retreated to our usual spot at the Kubu CafĂ© and waited for Victor to fetch us Quesadillas, chips and more tea.
Abdullah arrived in town alone and so we invited him to join us for a drink and sat chatting about his work and his reasons for coming to Zambia to volunteer. Turns out he’s an ERP software engineer for a dental company in Saudi and supplies services and materials to Dentsply Maillefer – one of my customers at work, such a small world really.
After a lazy breakfast we left Abdullah and wandered the supermarket, gathering prices for all the things we could potentially buy with the remainder of the donated money… mosquito nets, scissors, sandpaper and such. We also bought some new elastic for the girls in the compound to play French-elastic with, as their manky old bit of string was well past its’ usable date.
Armed with rolls of mutton cloth for Monday’s boodling session, we took a severely dodgy taxi back to the Sunbird. So dodgy in fact that we weren’t sure it would make it, particularly after the driver started it with a fork and spoon wedged in the ignition!
Tango and Zita at the Sports Club
We met Zita, Edith, John and Tango at the sports club about 230pm – Zita had bought us traditional Zambian chitenge (long patterned fabric which they wear as wrap around skirts) and some beaded bracelets, to say thank you to us for all our support. Another humbling moment as these girls really don’t have much to give.
After a few beers we moved on to our local, the Falls Garden bar – and spent the remainder of the evening there chatting with the locals, Wayne, George and Anastazia. Still can’t get my head round the lack of toilet doors at these bars… I went to pee on one occasion and found Tango sitting on the loo texting on her phone, so I took the second loo next to her and we chatted using the enormous mirror in front of us – a very strange experience, and not one I felt wholly comfortable in – not only because I felt it would be rude to hover rather than sit, but because I couldn’t do my usual arm-wafting to stop the mosquitoes landing on my arse.

Edith and her hungover husband John
Back for dinner and a good chat with the other volunteers, another new girl had arrived, Francesca, also from Italy, and because this month’s orientation is on Monday, we understand another 25 people will be arriving tomorrow. Going to be pretty busy in the dining room this coming week.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Boogie nights bedding stomp

Tracey and Songiso checking the chicks
The new chicks arrived today – and after a comical stamping down of the bedding by Tracey and Agnes, we set to work.
First we had to get each chick to drink a tiny amount of sugar solution to give them a thirst for drinking, so that once in their new home, they would readily drink the water that contained the anti-stress solution. So one by one we grabbed each chick and dunked it’s tiny beak into the bowl and then, keeping count, dropped them onto the straw and cardboard bedding.
A brazier coal fire had been lit and was placed on top of a concrete block inside with the chickens to raise the temperature of the room. Songiso would come back to check on it and make another fire in an hour or so. The fire will need to be kept live for a good while… these first 2 weeks of the chicks life is critical on the farm. It’s a big investment for them and has the potential to earn them a good return. So must all help to ensure that they have the best chance of success.
First feed
We left the chicks to go and water the newly planted field of Maize, and found Judy and Agnes dancing in the field between rows. Bernard was breaking up the last corner of ploughed soil with a hoe and by about 1130am we were all done. Judy wanted to get started immediately learning to do a circle so she could catch up with the others, she is determined to finish her bag before we leave. She kept disappearing to raid the huts looking for more old T shirts and rags – at this rate half the compounds men will be shirtless before we leave – although they don’t seem to mind and seem almost as excited for their women as the women are.
Judy stayed all throughout lunch time and all afternoon – as more and more women arrived – it was bedlam but really good fun.  Tracey was on the cutting mat getting every last inch of material from the sleeves and chests of the T’shirts the ladies had brought along; joining strips and making yet more boodle in a variety of colours.
Veba’s work was coming along nicely, but unfortunately for her she had added too many stitches in the last few rings of the base of her bag and it was looking more like a crinkled flower than a flat circle. So she took the sensible decision to unpick a substantial portion of it and try again. As my boss would say…. “things are always quicker second time around”.
We had another 4 newbies arrive quite late… so with only an hour to go we had to start teaching again right from the beginning. Our last 2 hooks had been “borrowed” at some point and not returned, so Judy had to go borrow a couple back from other girls in the compound who were not able to make it today. The classroom was manic – all the ladies were at various points in learning and Tracey and I were switching back and forth helping them progress each at their own rate. The afternoon went by in a blur.
Realising we were only a week in and had run out of hooks, we asked Biltong if he would try whittling some more from the recently cut down trees so that we could continue teaching next week if any more newbies turned up. He left with my demonstration hook as an example and seemed confident enough to give it a go.
Songiso is thinking of trying to set up a boodling club for the local community with the supplies we have provided. Fingers crossed we can find a willing local volunteer to run it for them.
It’s Farmers day on Monday, a public holiday, so we thought we had the day off, but Songiso asked the women “who wants to come in and boodle in the afternoon?” and a room full of hands went up. Guess we don’t get a day off after all.
Destroying another T'shirt with Judy
A quick visit to Shoprite on the way back for beers and snacks and, shattered, we headed home for well-earned sundowners.
Two new volunteers had arrived today… Cosima (Italian) and Abdullah (Saudi Arabian). Unfortunately Cosima’s luggage had not arrived with him, so he was missing his anti-malaria tablets, I offered him some of mine, but unfortunately they are not the same ones he takes, which isn’t as bad as it sounds because apparently Livingstone has been declared Malaria free for 3 years now. I certainly won’t be chancing it.
More newbies to teach