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).

Remember to join the ‘Zambia Project’ Facebook page and also follow @zambiaprojectuk if you use Twitter at all for more updates!

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