It all started around a Sunday lunch table in La Turbie….. ‘You must come’, ‘It would be great if we all go’……
By the time I heard ‘The insects are really only the size of dinner plates’ I was both terrified and intrigued. This is how I found myself on a plane to Lusaka via Dubai on Friday August 11th this year.
Very exciting in Dubai, a quick overnight in transit, tapas, happy hour at midnight and a fabulous hotel with lots of freebies.
We arrived in hot and dusty Lusaka on Saturday afternoon and joined up with the rest of the team. Saturday evening and Sunday three of us spent at Chaminuka Game Reserve.
We saw the most amazing wild animals close-up, admired the art work, had a bit of cheetah interaction and a lovely brunch.
The cheetah interaction consisted of me plus a group, a couple of gorgeous cheetahs and their guides. We were able to stroke the beautiful animals and walk them on their leads. This was designed especially for the tourists but I was assured the cheetahs were not drugged and had indeed been brought up used to this. My colleagues had already had the experience on a previous trip and turned down the trip, not wanting to be licked by their sandpaper tongues again!
Then on to Chongwe, the nearest town to Shiyala Village. This is the location of the school which was built and completed this year, thanks to the Mothers of Africa charity with which I work. Our lodge was set back from the main town, with a nice garden, 24 hour guard and a large gate….not much water though! But, we had gospel singing at 7am each morning as the delegates of a conference being held there got together to start their day. Certainly an uplifting and upbeat way to start!!
Chongwe town consists of a main road and lots of shacks as shops. It is home to the Chiefteness of Zambia and her Royal Conference Hall. There are people and cars everywhere, dusty roads and brightly coloured outfits, chitenges and babies strapped to their mothers, women selling giant cabbages and all sorts of fruit, veg and insects to eat, as well as small children sweeping the road with sticks tied together. Chongwe is vibrant and alive and everyone says ‘Hello, how are you today? I’m fine’.
Lying awake most of that first night, intently focusing on a loud scraping sound that seemed like It could be one of those ‘insects the size of dinner plates’ I finally found a rather large cricket sharing my pillow. That was it I thought, it cannot get any worse. I can survive the cultural challenges!
Monday morning, a burst of hot water and the quickest shower ever! Oh dear I think I used the whole supply as no one else had any that day!
A bumpy taxi ride to our school, 25 excited but wary faces in class, and an amazing eagerness to learn. Holiday school begins!! It is actually the dry winter season and not summer at all, though temperatures are almost the same as in France. Geography, English school games, vocabulary, mindfulness and movement, reading and writing workshops….
A great interactive plan which became very flexible as the days unfolded, with intermittent bursting into song and dance African style by the children.
Very formal presentations of toys, sports equipment, gifts, lunch prepared in a large pot over hot stones and eaten with our hands. An amazingly dedicated team of teachers and workers on the second phase of the school. Friendly, open, natural, beautiful Zambian people.
An evening at the local market encouraging my colleagues to taste the crunchy caterpillars and locusts. Not an experience I felt I needed myself.
No phone or internet connections was a highlight and meant we actually talked to each other. The one night we were invited to a private house to use the wi-fi the contrast was quite shocking and extremely anti-social.
Evenings spent with Zambian beer, crisps and banana sandwiches as dinner took 3 hours to arrive so we gave up. Discovering cider on Thursday was so refreshing and a real treat.
Suddenly the week came to an end. Friday, the last day, hugs and tears. We did not want to leave and the children wanted us to stay. Lots of photos, selfies and memories.
Back to the city of Lusaka, traffic, loud, high buildings and a restaurant with wine!
Life changing, motivating, a great experience!!
Susanne Batstone - 22 August 2018