Thursday, 24 June 2010

A Scene "Gazed Upon by Angels in Their Flight"

It’s been about a week since my last blog and everyone is firmly settled into their placements. They’ve had over a week worth of day’s at their sites, coaching sports, leading school PE sessions and taking education classes about HIV and AIDs.

A lot has happened since my last update. For starters, I’ve just got back from the first of three trips to Livingstone, home to one of the world’s seven wonders, the Victoria Falls.

Hayley unfortunately was unable to come on the trip because she was required to lead Netball workshops in Chipata, around 7 hours away from Lusaka. Me being soley responsible for 11 other individuals sounds a little daunting, but it was fine (I say that, but you’re probably better off asking one of the guys for an unbiased opinion), if maybe a little stressful at times.

I managed to arrange transporting with my good friend Wiseman, whom I met last year on the trip. He charged us 3.2million Kwacha for a return trip, that’s about £450 between 12 people, which is pretty reasonable (Livingstone is an 8 hour bus journey).

He’s a good friend, such a good friend, that when I found out he had a new born baby (only 4 days old at the time), he decided he was going to name him after me. Therefore, Wiseman’s new child is named Andrew, which to be honest, is just going to look out of place on the register at his school – but Wise didn’t seem to care!

Everyone in Zambia likes to know the meanings of songs and various words so he was quite happy when I said Andrew was a Greek name meaning a leader of men – however I had to use myself as a living example of how meanings don’t always transfer into reality. When he told me his plans, it was probably one of the happiest moments of my life – I say this full in the knowledge of the risk of sounding soppy. He’s promised to bring him round to the Wallace house shortly so I can meet him, so I’ll have a picture for the next blog.

The rest of the trip was good, I had taken part in all the real touristy activities when I was on the project last year, so spent most of the time relaxing at Jollyboys, officially one of the world’s best backpackers. I did however go back to the waterfalls, it was Wiseman’s first time in Livingstone so I wanted him to see it – he got really excited by it. The picture below is the two of us with his friends that travelled with us.

We walked around the falls, got very wet from the spray and then walked down to boiling point – which is the bottom of the falls.

I got this picture of the bridge people bungee jump off – much to Wiseman’s disbelief. Two of Zambian’s biggest fears? Heights and water…

Lots of people went and did safari and white water rafting as well – but I was more than happy taking pictures of this monkey I found.

I spent the rest of the day lounging around the backpackers soaking up the Zambian sunshine. Pretty sure I’ll be bored of the place by the end of the 3rd trip! However, when the 3rd group do arrive, the water levels in Livingstone and at the falls will be lower, which will mean me and Hayley will be able to try out Devil’s Pool – a little area right next to the edge of the top of the falls you can swim in.

I do sometimes find it hard to experience the very tourist orenitated Livingstone in between experience the depths of deprivation in areas of Lusaka, but you can’t really go to Zambia and not see the falls – it’s almost a crime.

Since the last blog, I’ve also seen my friend Vince who took me along to the new Lusaka Youth Development Olympic complex near the compound of Chipata. The complex was created with the pure intention of training children in Lusaka in Olympic sports whilst also educating them in the process. The complex is astounding and has facilities we’d be proud of in 1st world countries.

I joined in with one of Vince’s basketball sessions and just proved how epically unfit I was getting knackered within the space of 10 minutes. This is one of the things Greg pointed out to me when he first saw me again 3 weeks ago – “Andrew, you’ve put on weight” (dumbo is the word for a little portly in Nanja) , this was then repeated by pretty much the population of Lusaka – but 4 months of nshima and basketball sessions should put me in good stead.

Often when you’re visiting a placement, the peer leaders who work for the two NGOs will very kindly invite you round to their place for lunch. I’m already a big fan of nshima so I’m always keen to take them up on the offer. However, as I’m sure my parents will back up, my last attempts to make nshima last time didn’t go too well as it just looked like soggy porridge (I suppose porridge is always soggy really). So I’m practicing my nshima technique and will have another bash for folk when I’m back. I’ve splashed out on a Zambian cook book too so people should be excited for caterpillas and rats when I’m back (jokes, it will be nshima and sweet potatoes with peanut butter).

A sneaky wee snap of me stirring the nshima for the day.

I’m actually really enjoying the food out here. I thought I’d miss food from home, but the chicken here is just so good it’s not an issue at all – although I might have changed my mind after 3 months.

Today as a thank you to Greg, Kelch and Paul (who all work at EduSport) I took them for lunch at a marketplace restaurant near the office. It was 6,000Kwacha (around 80p each) for nshima, the best chicken I’ve ever tasted with cabbage and gravy. It was amazing. Afterwards, they bought Boel (fellow Stirling Media student) and I fruit and sugar canes to complete a true Zambian lunch. I wasn’t such a fan of the sugar cane and having to tear it open with my teeth. I felt like, and apparently, looked like a panda wrestling with it before attempting to eat it.

My Dad found an interesting article in the Guardian about the company Alive and Kicking – situated in Zambia – and forwarded it to me. They make footballs, employing disabled people to help offer them a source of income when it can be very hard. Sport in Action and EduSport both buy all their footballs from the company – so here’s a little picture of one of their balls to finish with.

If you search for them online, you’ll easily find their website. There’s a link to famous people that endorse and use their footballs across the world. There’s a picture of Obama alongside no other than Robert Green – no doubt that will not be there in a couple of weeks! Unless they’re trying to prove their products aren’t goalkeeper friendly.

Friday, 11 June 2010

A Mzungo Back In Zambia

So it’s 4pm on a Wednesday afternoon. I’m sitting in the living room of the Wallace house, the house in which the Wallace students of Group 1 are currently residing. The Wallace group is a group of Universities from across Britain. They are: Stirling (from which myself and fellow team leader Hayley attend), Northumbria, Cardiff, Loughborough, Bath and Durham. Other the next four months, 2 other groups will live in the Wallace house, situated in Lusaka, capital of Zambia.

The Wallace Group are currently enrolled in a project called IDEALS (International Development through Excellence and Leadership in Sport), a UK sport institutive which operates in a number of countries across the world.

The project which myself and Hayley were selected team leaders for is The Zambia Project, now in its 6th term. Last year I was involved as a media student with the objective of promoting the project through various media. I was in Group 2 of the 3 that were out here in 2009. This year, along with Hayley, I’m co-ordinating and supporting all 3 groups (each of which will spend 6 weeks here in Lusaka), spending a total of 123 days in the world’s 8th poorest country.

Hayley and I were certainly thrown straight back into Zambia Culture. There is currently a group of St Andrews students doing similar work to the Wallace group in Lusaka. On our first night back, they invited us to their house for ‘Zambia Night’, a good chance for all students to get a real taste of Zambian culture. The peer-leaders that take sessions throughout the year make traditional Zambian food for the students to try. It was another chance for me to taste caterpillar, which doesn’t actually taste too bad, but the texture of thousands of legs on your tongue was not missed.

The Zambia project is a rare project in the fact that both parties involved benefit hugely. PE students from the Wallace group of students can apply to come to Zambia for 6 weeks and coach under privileged children in deprived areas of the world. From UKSport’s point of view, they are developing the leadership skills of today’s future and tomorrow’s present. They come and undertake placements arranged by two of Zambia’s leading Non-Government Organisations, EduSport and Sport In Action. These organisations benefit from the money invested by the Wallace Group and the coaching skills and knowledge of British students. It’s a win win situation. The NGOs use sport as vehicle for social development.

Although poor economically, the country is rich in culture and personality. It certainly hasn’t taken me long to get well back into the swing of things although has been a bit of a culture shock for the students staying in Africa for the first time. One thing is for sure, the whole of Africa seems to have caught World Cup fever and there’s a real sense of unity brought together by nations pride for the first time the world’s biggest sporting event to be held on African soil.

Sport In Action go further than sports coaching, their coaching sessions try and educate, inspire and empower young people through participation. They go even futher than that too. One of their latest ideas involves taking a massive screen out to rural communities (like, mud huts and no electricity rural, much much more rural than Sible Hedingham) of Zambia and showing games from the World Cup for all. I’ve decided that I’m going to travel with the screen to one of the communities and watch a game out there before returning to the Wallace House.

The students under went their induction to the two NGOs they will be coaching for. The induction included presentations about staying safe in Zambia and also a trip on the back of a massive truck to all the placements they will be working: Kalingalinga, Fountain of Hope, Chipata and Chawarma. They start their placements tomorrow. I will be travelling to Chawama with two of the students just to make sure they get there OK – especially considering how hard travelling in Zambia can be.

The bus system could almost be a whole blog post in itself, but if I describe it now for you, hopefully it will paint a clearer picture of how Zambians do things. Basically, there are very few bus stops. There is no bus timetable and there is no set fee for trips. If you need a bus, you set off in the direction you need to be going, wait for a man out the side of a bus (which is basically a big van) to shout the final destination of their trip, and hail it down if that’s where your going. Before you get in, you need to negiotate a fee.

Getting a fair fee can be hard because they assume as a white person, you are going to be very wealthy and will try and charge you extra for a journey. So once you have let them know you’re not going to pay more than 3,000K (the equalivant of 40p, which is a lot for a bus ride in Zambia) and won’t be taken for a ride (that’s an unintendly good pun), you can get on. But even then it’s not that simple. Buses will take up to 14 people and you may have to squeeze in very closely to a lot of local people who will all give you strange looks because the mzungos (white people) in Zambia they know will all travel in un-neccessiarly large 4x4s.

Once you’re in, you might have to wait a while because buses usually won’t go any further until they’ve taken maximum profits possibly by filling up the bus as much as possible. Finally, once everyone is in and the bus is moving again, the conductor will take your money off you and may not return any possible change until he’s got some money off another passenger. There’s also only one door, so if someone right at the back needs to get off somewhere, everyone will have to get off and back on again to let them out. It can be a nightmare. But also good fun if you’ve got some banter going with some of the drivers.

It’s also been great to see everyone again. We’re in the same house we were in last year, so its been great seeing Grace (the maid) and Hendrix (the security/ground maintenance man) again. They’ve welcomed myself and Hayley back with welcome arms. The house is great, we’ve even got cable TV for the World Cup.

These first 5 days in Zambia seem to have been very very long, but 123 days will go very very quickly I’m sure. This has been a very long first re-entry so thanks for reading it all, or as they say in nanja (one of 74 Zambian dialects) ‘zeecombo quambeely’ (thank you very much).

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