02 Oct A few words from me…
Greetings from Zambia! I arrived safely and have been here for almost 4 weeks now.
After leaving London I spent a week in Johannesburg with my family and with the Jesuits there before flying to Lusaka. I spent two days in Lusaka before travelling to Chikuni on Monday evening. Chikuni is the site of our Mission (if you want you can find out more about the History of Chikuni) and is in the Southern Province of Zambia (somewhere near 16°25’39.26″S 27°32’46.34″E). I arrived in Chikuni on Monday evening, 7th September 2009.
The road from Lusaka to Chikuni is only a single lane (Zambia does not appear to have a motorway or roads that have more than one lane). In fact, the most technical they get is tarring the roads. The dirt road that joins our school with the tar road is 11km long. From there’s it’s about 30km to the nearest village (we have people living near us but their setup doesn’t seem to reach the standard of ‘village’) or 3 hours to Lusaka – where we have to do our shopping for the school and for our community.
So I arrived on Monday evening and my lessons started on Tuesday morning at 07h15. I teach Mathematics to two Grade 8 classes of 45 students each and one Grade 10 class of 40. I also take a class on ‘Church Identity’ (a sort of Moral/Ethics case study/comprehension) and the Confirmation Class and help with some of the Computer Studies. We’re in Week 4 at the moment. At the beginning of this week I returned to Lusaka to collect my Work Permit. A 2 and a half hour wait and misidentifying the file was deemed to be efficient relative to the performance of other Government departments. So, now I am legally working here for the next two years.
How is Chikuni you might ask? Well, my first impression was that this is very rural, that the food was (and still is) similar from meal to meal, and that given that the fridge and every cupboard is locked between meals – there would be no chance to snack or have a late meal. But since being here a few weeks I have seen how the students and the local villagers live – and comparatively, we live very well – almost too well perhaps. One of the major frustrations in the beginning was the loss of power… and the use of chalk (it’s dirty outside with the dust, and now we make it dirty inside with the chalk???). When I realised that we were going to host a Sports Day for the entire Southern Province (a good day – if chaotic) and there was no electricity for the entire day which had the effect that there would be no water for the entire day, and the temperature was 35° or 36°… and they still continued playing flat out (and we won most of the events (there was Basketball, Tennis, Football, Badminton, Volleyball, Table-tennis, and Chess)) in the heat and then having to walk much further to access the pumps that were working I realised that these kids have a far tougher existence and yet they were smiling the whole day. In South Africa I would imagine that at those temperatures and without water or first aid the event would have been cancelled. Life goes on 🙂 So now I’m getting used to marking and planning lessons and enjoying conversations with the students in the shade of Zambian trees.