Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Highlights of my first week in Kaniki

I’m not sure if ‘Highlights’ is really the right title. There have definitely been lots of great moments over the past week and some funny ones too, but also several challenging moments. However, ‘Low lights’ does not sound right either! I guess it wouldn’t be such an incredible, thought-provoking experience without such challenges. So here are some of my ‘highlights’ from my first week in Zambia:

The weather

·         I love being outside more! In fact, my windows are permanently open, albeit covered by mosquito nets, so it sounds like the jungle at night!

·         The warm weather means I don’t need a jumper. People don’t tend to hang about in the sun here so I don’t have to keep slapping on sun lotion or try and get a tan. Let’s be honest though, even if I did, I’d still look like I glow in the dark compared to the Africans!

·         When it rains here, it really pours. There is also lots of loud thunder and lightning! It doesn’t last long though, and then cools things down so this usually brings some welcome relief from the heat.

Driving, Zambia-style

·         Having never driven an automatic before, let alone a 4x4, driving here has been quite an experience! Zambians rather conveniently drive on the left hand side of the road like we Brits. Well, that’s the official line! In reality, they actually drive on whichever side has less bumps or potholes, only keeping to the left when there is oncoming traffic.

Our wheels

The team

·         Fortunately I get on incredibly well with Rosie, the other teacher from the UK who arrived two days before me. Although she’s a lot younger than me, we can chat for hours. We both brought our hair straighteners with us, although they’ve not had much use yet. We’ve also bonded over sharing chocolate and watching boxsets together in the evening.


·         We had a very warm welcome from other volunteers here in Kaniki. One of the Danish volunteers invited us for pancakes one evening, and another had us round for cooked breakfast another day. As many of you know, I do enjoy socialising over food!

Pancake party

The African way

·         Things take a LONG time here! Setting up a new classroom in the UK would usually take a few days. Here it seems to have taken us most of the week, including several occasions when we’ve been preparing resources well into the night! It’s taken a bit of getting used to…online resources are no longer just a click away! One good example is that the school stapler broke whilst we were putting up class displays. It was the only one so it required a trip to town. This meant that Rosie and I drove ourselves into Ndola for the first time in torrential rain. After a 3 hour round trip just to buy a stapler, we stretched the budget and bought two.

Rain water preventing us from getting out of the car on our trip to buy a stapler!

The community

·         Earlier this week we visited some of the Arise orphans who will be starting at our school. We went to see them in their homes in places called Kaniki Extension and Kamalasha. The children were much shyer than I’m sure they will be in the classroom and their homes ranged from mud huts to simple brick houses. Parents insisted that we sat on their makeshift chairs, even if there was not enough for everyone. Apparently it is disrespectful to refuse.

 Goodwin (Grade 1 student)

 Mabel (Grade 2 student - in my class!)

Mabel's house

·         The most sobering moment of the week came when we visited a lady called Charity. Her three sons are single orphans (meaning one parent, the breadwinner, has died) sponsored by Arise, although they attend a different school. Charity has been ill for seven years and recently returned from a month’s stay in hospital where the doctors told her there is nothing more that they can do for her. She has herpes and is almost certainly HIV positive (I also learned that the only question that you would be advised not to ask a Zambian is whether someone has HIV or not. There is still a lot of stigma surrounding it). Charity was extremely thin and frail, yet her legs and feet were hugely swollen. How do you encourage someone in that situation? I think it actually happens the other way round. We heard that on her return from hospital, rather than complaining about her ill health, she thanked God that he had looked after her sons whilst she had been away. Her sons, who have been looking after their mum since a young age, were lovely and polite, and a real credit to her.

Home ‘comforts’

·         Although insignificant in comparison, I am definitely not enjoying the insects in my new home. I’ve had to deal with a range of spiders, millipedes and cockroaches that have crept into our house uninvited. Apparently the sounds of the whack of my flip flop and our cries of annoyance can often be heard next door! After hearing that Rosie found a cockroach in her mosquito net, I am now sleeping with mine tucked in very tightly.

·         Our cold shower has been fixed so we can choose between cold and slightly warm, and afternoons or evenings are the optimum time when shower pressure is best. We’ve also had a couple of power cuts which has meant no water and resorting to a ‘wet wipe shower’. I have learned to leave my torch in a convenient place since our first power cut, when I had to light a candle in order to find it. I felt like someone in the Victorian era!

Well, a few bullet points has turned into a bit of an essay but I hope that this gives you a flavour of the events from my first week. It’s hard to believe I’ve only been here that long!

I do hope you’re all enjoying your insect-free homes

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