Mud race, sport events, student – dorm parents tensions

The school events are chasing each other at the moment. Last Friday we had a “Mud race”. It was a fun event with a big obstacle course and lots of very wet mud. A lot of the students and even some teachers participated. The red sand blocked the drain of the showers in the boy’s dorm. Many of the runners had a list of sponsors and I think it was a great way to raise funds for the school.

The day after (Saturday) there was a swimming event, where students from several local schools competed in different swimming disciplines. The Amano students did impressively well, winning almost everything. It’s even more impressive knowing that the pool they have for training is tiny: half a lane on its long side and maybe three lanes wide.

Today (Tuesday) is International Women’s Day. The school decided to make this a holiday. It seems to be an important day throughout Zambia as there were many programs on Television about women’s education and equal opportunities programs. The official government message seemed to be a call for Zambian women to enter the natural sciences and heavy industry.

We had a nice barbequue with the dorm students. The boys were practicing football for most of the day. It was good to have this day of relaxation. Tensions had been high in the dorm recently between the students and the dorm parents. Some students have seemingly been disrespectful towards the dorm parents which they took very serious.

I have learned that showing the right respect is very important in Zambian culture, even more important than honesty. This particular situation is difficult for us two volunteers in the boy’s dorm as we are standing in the middle between the dorm parents and the students. We have to be equally careful about our behaviour towards the dorm parents and the students.

And the school events continue: A football qualification game is coming up this weekend and then next after that a week long excursion to a camp (Ndubaluba) for some of the secondary students, where they will do fun sports and a bit of survival training.

Forgetfulness

This post is a bit more personal, but it’s so typical of me and part of my life that I had to write it down. Those of you who know me will realise instantly what I am writing about: For the first time since I came here to Zambia I left the stove on.

I forgot to turn it off after heating some tea for the students. It was on the lowest level, but it was mevertheless a serious blow to my self confidence. Previous exhibits of my forgetfulness were: I forgot to attend a meeting at the right time, forgot to get the milk and bread for breakfast out of the freezer, forgot to bring this and that to the dorm.

This kind of forgetfulness didn’t matter much in my previous job. As I would jump from task to task I didn’t have to keep track of much apart from time and remembering to speak to the right people. All the requirements were pretty fluid (to say the least), but it was usually a single straightforward problem to solve.

Here I am now working in a school dormitory and there are a lot of annoyingly simple things to do at exactly the right time and in exactly the right fashion. It’s something I don’t cope with well. The first thing I did when I came here was to write a clear time schedule for the everyday volunteer work and stick it to the bedroom door. I add little notes to this when I learn something new. It doesn’t help much. When I was a student myself I would drive my parents nuts by forgetting to bring home any bag that they would give me in addition to my primary school bag, which I also lost on at least one or two occasions. Things haven’t changed much since then. Whatever I do takes my full attention and time keeping and other tasks disappear not to return even after finishing the task at hand, unless there’s something in my environment to remind me.

So I am by all measures a bad candidate for working in the environment that I am in now. It is full of unwritten rules and things to remember. But I like to think that with my being here I help to make this place more humane and friendly, even if it’s just by making mistakes and getting laughed at (which thankfully doesn’t happen too often). Even if it is stressfull sometimes I get more than enough free time to read and draw, which makes up for anything else.

Ndola, Nsobe Camp, Dawn Trust

A few days after the Liebenzell missionary retreat at Musenga a group of us volunteer workers went to Ndola where the Brunner family live. We stayed there for just 3 days and I didn’t have my camera with me. We saw a lot of things.

One day we went to the Nsobe Game Camp. A small camp compared tos some of the big Safari camp. It is a 2000 hectar fenced area where Antelopes and Giraffes and Zebras, which we didn’t see, live. There were also some caged animals to be seen: a crocodile, some snakes and birds. After we’d been through the hut with the snakes we saw some keys lying on the ground outside. The keeper had left them there. We could have easily opened the door to the Black Mamba with them. We returned them to him and he got a small tree snake out of its cage and showed it to us. When we left he just put it in his trouser pocket.

The next day we visited the Dawn Trust project, which is supported the German Liebenzell mission. It’s a small project targeted at one slum settlement near Ndola. First we saw their experimental farm, where they teach local farmers how to grow their crops efficiently without destroying the soil through burning and the use of pesticides. They claim to be able to get two or three times the yield of conventional farming depending on how well they nurture the soil, which they call “Farming God’s Way.”

We also saw their youth project, where the local youth come together to do their homework and practice sports. They have the only decent library of school books and other books in the city and certainly the only that kids have access to. Their sports teams are also doing well, competing against local schools.

Later on that same day we visited Hedwig Mueller, who has been working in that area for a long time. She helped set up a small HIV testing facility and clinic, where they have had a lot of success with natural medicine from plants that they grow themselves: Meringo Tree (which is very nutritious and strengthens the Immune system), Amaranthia Tea (for Malaria treatment) and the Musungusungu Tree (Sausage fruit tree), which helps with skin diseases.

The next day a few of us went to see a carpenter’s and singpainter’s shop. He had just finished new signs for the Dawn Trust Farming project. Seeing the half painted signs was interesting and made me think that I’d like to try my hand at that sometime.

midterm holidays, German missionary kids

I haven’t written anything for more than two weeks now. First I was away from the school on holidays, then I injured my right hand. My middle finger got caught in a closing door. The bandaged middle finger causes frequent laughter.

During the midterm holidays four of us volunteers from the school had the job of looking after the kids of German missionaries who got together for a short retreat. The kids hated the fact that they had had to tag along to this event with their parents to be looked after by German volunteers who they don’t really know. So they showed off their disinterest and were hard to motivate to anything. I love them.

When it was my turn to do a bible study with them I did a bit of acting and also got them to act out the story and it was all not too serious and fun. I got the chance to tell them a few historical details about the Romans as well. I think they enjoyed it. We also played a lot of games.

I heard some good stories from the missionaries. The technical and communication problems they face, but also the positive discoveries they make are highly interesting. It’s a pity I can’t write some of them down, but I don’t want to give second hand accounts. I will write something about what I have seen myself when we went to see the work of the Liebenzell missionaries in Ndola.