Monday, 27 July 2009

A Merzonger In Zambia - Days 5-11

The last 7 days have been crazy busy and I have so much to report back on!

Sunday can only be described as a real insight into Zambian lifestyle and popular culture. Following on from the last entry, after we experienced the harrastment and gulf in deprevation from the Culture and then City Markets, we were treated to a real Zambian meal by Vince who is working with Sport In Action.

He served up shima (the solidifed porridge which makes any Zambian's staple diet) along with various other dishes which all defied appearances and were very very tasty. My personal favourite could best be described as sweet potato mixed with peanut butter! Tasted beautiful.

Monday was the first of two induction days for us. The days were hosted by the two NGOs the sport students will be going on placements for, and I will be raising their profiles across Zambia. Presentations were given (5 days too late) into health and saftey and a brief description of culture. A test at the end illustrated how well the students really knew Zambia.

Considering the prevelence of HIV and Aids in Zambia, it was perhaps a shock to learn that 46% of school children have an indepth knowledge of the danger of unprotected sex. However, importantly, it is the blief of EduSport and Sport In Action (who work in partnership) - that this is 64% not enough.

In the afternoon, the students split into the two groups that they would be working in. I went with the EduSport students and engaged in Zambian games for most the afternoon with the current Zambian peer leaders working for EduSport. This is something I will not be reporting back to the newspapers I am sending blogs to, but basically, the peer leaders are so amazing, I fail to see how valued the Wallace Group's involvement can help them develop - when really it should be the other way round. The peer leaders work with school children playing different games and sports as voluteers and the children absolutly love them - and hang on every word. Most of the other students feel the same - but we've been assured that our input cannot be valued highly enough in terms of the joy the kids get - and seeing things from a different perspective.

One thing that really strikes me is the wisdom and deep knowledge that all those involved with the NGOs possess. They really have a great unity which binds their beliefs together for a better future. They look beyond the surface of life and examine how we can all become better people which is really inspiring. I have so much respect for every single one of them who hardly have anything themselves to give so much back to the children for nothing but good karma and morale satification in return.

The induction was completed on Tuesday when we all jumped onto a truck and visited all the sites the students would be coaching at. Travelling through the streets of Lusaka offered a real insight into the varities Lusaka has to offer as well as exposing the poverty and prevelence. Travelling through the slums was truely shocking.

I met two young ladies from a local Catholic Radio Station who present a kids programme. They have offered me the chance to visit them and the station despite the fact I wasn't able to avoid the topic of religion and my own beliefs.

I also met Sera who stole my camera for the remainer of the trip and took photos. It was probably just as well as in some places of Lusaka, locals can get very agiatred by Muzungos (which is actually how you spell Merzonger - me being the idiot I am) taskng photos as they believe you are exploiting their situations for photo opportunities back home.

Although English is the offical language of Zambia, there are 73 dialects across the 7 provinces of Zambia and English is in actual fact every Zambian's second language. Many of them speak very good English but in most cases the language barrier is often very complicated to cross.

It seems strange that many Zambians have modern technologies such as TVs, CD players and even Ipods yet the infastructure is so poor. In the slums you can see TV aerials out the top of tiny buildings and in the really really remote rural parts of Zambia which are full of subsistence farmers, mud huts advertise Zain (the major mobile phone company) top up cards for sale.

The truck visit and ride was really enjoyable and it was really good to meet and get to know who carries out EduSport and Sport in Action's philosphies.

On Wednesday I got to meet Patrick who will be the man I will be working with to help improve EduSport's profile. For EduSport for the next few weeks I'll be improving their website, helping them with their partner's (Go Sisters, aimed at equal opportunities and empowerment for ladies) newsletter and advertising and promoting an upcoming football tournement they have arrange which aims to increase knowledge of HIV/AIDS.

In the afternoon I went out to Kalingalinga where Kelch lives. Kelch is one of the main guys at EduSport and we had met at the induction weekend in Durham. He's a really really good guy and I think he's probably the coolest guy I've met. His hunger for knowledge and that that he already possesses is astonishing. He's the wisest guy in the world and the slightly sickening thing is that he's only 15. Everyone in Zambia looks and more importantly acts, a whole lot older.

Hayley and Rachael are doing their placements at schools in Kalinglinga and I went along to take some pictures of the area and help out with some of their sessions. I joined in with the current U16 Zambian champion football team from Lusaka's training and looked so out my depth at times it was unreal. Admittedly I'm not very good at football by any means, but I'm 3 years older and have played a lot of football over the years - these guys were a different class. Most play in barefeet and their first touch is unbelievablely good. They proved that you don't need quality equipment to be all you can. I also joined in the girl's netball session and thoroughly enjoyed it! This was the only day of placement before the start of the next week as on Thursday we set off for a long team building weekend in Livingstone.

We left Lusaka fairly early in the morning and after an 8 hour trip arrived in Livingstone, named after the Scottish Doctor David Livingstone who was the first western man to discover the Victoria falls whilst looking for the source of the river Nile. The trip went quite quickly really and were in the much more tourist orinetated Livingstone to check into Jollyboys, the world's best bagpackers (apparently). It was really nice and had a very much western set up. Food was good and beer was cheap! Because we had made the trip in good time we were there in time to see the sun set over Victoria Falls (one of the 7 wonders of the world and Livingstone's major selling point). We all got some amazing photos. Despite decling sales world wide, Cooper is still Zambia's main export and source of income, however, the Victoria falls offers a huge incentive for tourists across the world and is set up well to make the most of this.

When we got back to the hostel we had a few beers and a very nice chicken vindaloo before getting an early night for an early start the next day. On the Friday, most of us had signed up for White Water Rafting down the River Zambezi, which is where the falls pour into. The names of some of the rapids was highly offputting an not for the faint hearted. Amongst some of the names there was the 3 ugly sisters, the mother and the Terminator 1 and 2. Our group was all in one raft with our guide who we nicknamed T-Pain - we then duly starting singing "I'm on a Boat at" the top of our voices for an Air3 folk reading. It was great banter and had a really high team morale despite capsizing on one of the rapids and myself and Amanda having to be rescued by another boat after we were taking miles away from our own raft. It is quite scary when it happens, especially if you get stuck underneath the raft! After the trip, we were taken back and offered complimentary lunch and drinks during the ride back to the lodge. Good times all round! Theres nothing quite liking driving through rural Africa with a bottle of Mosi (Zambia's finest beer).

After the whole experience we had booked ourselves up for the Booze Cruise - which is as bad as it sounds I'm afraid. We had all paid a certain amount of money to drink and eat all we wanted during a lovely boat trip down the Zambezi. University students and alchol is never a good combination and there were a few casulties. I was fortunate to survive the experience and live to tell some fine tales from a thoroughly enjoyable day! During the rafting previously, I had talked up a good deal with some of the guides for a pair of their work shorts which were really snazzy green Rivwer Zambezi swim trunks. We could either buy from the company for $35 US Dollars or $20 from them - needless to stay they dropped off at Jolly Boys are the booze cruise to make a canny profit! There was however some elements from the day I do forget I'll be honest.

Getting up the next day for an all day Safari in Botswana was a struggle, especially considering the early start but so worth it. It was an hours drive to the ferry which took us to the location of Alexander McCall Smith's novels "The Lady's Dectective Agency". We then got some handome looking stamps on our passports and continued through to a lodge and some a spot of light breakfast which was all very elegant. We were then introduced to our driver and guide for the day Jacko (obviously debately "nicknamed" 'Wacko Jacko'). He certainly was wacky. We saw a whole group of Elephants who were taking a wash in one of the rivers and although they look fairly chilled out, can be quite agressive when their terrority is invaded. We got very close to the group and some started to get a bit touchy when Jacko, rather than defusing the potentionally dangerous situation by driving away, descided to just turn off the engine which was really scared a couple of the girls but with the benefit of hindsight was very very funny really. It pretty much summed up African's relaxed chilled back approach perfectly.

During the Safari we also saw Gifarres, Hippos, Rhinos, Warthogs and Buffalos before we were taken on another boat down the river to have lunch and go Crocodile, Elephant and Hippo spotting. We were successful and got fairly close to a hippo which is the world's most dangerous animal in terms of how many humans they have eaten. It was a really good day and we concluded the days activies with dinner at the Pub and Grill back in Livingstone. I had Steak and Shima which was really nice before heading to bed to prepare for another early start.

The first half of Sunday was possible the craziest most daring 7/8 hours of my life. Some of us had signed up for the breakfast meal deal. We were taken up to the Livingstone Royal which is a 5 star hotel in Livingstone and from there were taken by power boat to the very height and pinnacle of the Victoria Falls. We were given a brief history of the falls before just casually walking across the top of it where a slight slip could have made things very interesting! We were then allowed to be taken to the very very edge of the falls and to look down at the monsterous sight. It was an incredible sight and experience that photos could never capture. We were then treated to a beautiful breakfast over the falls. We had coffee and muffins before a delicious eggs benedict. After we were taken back to the hotel and almost back on the bus, we were surrounding by a huge herd of Zebras and Gifarres which were just casually walking around the place in a fairly noncholent manner which was almost better than the safari!

As if standing on the edge of the Victoria falls wasn't daring enough, I had then signed up to do a bunjee jump over the Livingstone bridge which connects Zambia and Zimbawe. It was craziness and I didn't want to do it - but deep down knew that it was 100% safe and also knew that this was a once in a life time opportunity and something I wanted to say I had done. I went with Kerry our staff member and without her probably wouldn't have done it. We had planned to do a tandem jump so it wouldn't be quite as daunting (if that's possible when looking down a 1100 metre fall) however I was too heavy and had to do it by myself. I managed to pluck up the courage and actually felt fine until I jumped and actually looked down - it was the single most scariest moment of my life because it goes against everything in human nature! I was so glad when it was over and don't think I would ever go it again but am glad to say I've done it and have the photo evidence which I'll get posted tomorrow hopefully.

After the jump, we handed back to Lusaka where a new suprise awaited us - but that's for the next blog I feel! Overall - even if the placements ended tomorrow - the stories I have from Zambia are near endless and this has been the most incredible time of my life which I'm loving every second of. Until next time!

1 comment:

  1. Andy, this sounds fantastic - can't wait to see the photos. Bye the way this is Jan (Lizzie my sister in the USA and I share an email)