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Oct 2009

Chitengas, Dancing and Goodbyes.

Posted by / in The Book Bus /

So I’m sitting here on the veranda at Grubby’s and looking at the patch where until Saturday the Bookbus tents were pitched, now there is just my tent standing, looking very lonely! The project has finally come to end for the 2009 season and it is a very sad feeling.

The last week at the schools has been fantastic. Sarah, a former volunteer back in England, had produced a collage poster made of photos for each school and sent them out here with one of the final volunteers, so we had that to deliver to everyday along with donations of some story books. The posters were instant hits and a great way to keep a visual record of the partnerships built between the teachers, pupils and ourselves over the course of the past 6 months. The children loved trying to spot themselves and the teachers were amazed with the actual poster, you can’t make anything like that here in Livingstone.

Without exception we have been asked to stay and keep coming with our supply of storybooks, art materials and yellow clad, ever willing volunteers. Making glitter covered crowns was the activity in vogue this week and when one group was seen doing so everyone else was demanding theirs!

Particularly moving was the thank you we got from the teachers at Libala. They summoned us to the headmistress’s office and proceeded to give us all a gift of a chitenga (traditional skirt fabric) decorated with the Zambian flag. We then all had to wear them whilst signing and dancing around the office. It was such an unexpected gesture and really touched us all.

At Cowboy Cliffs we were treated to a traditional dancing show put on by the kids. It was really cute and they may be only 4 or 5 but they really know how to move their bodies! They loved their poster and I gave the 3 teachers there a chitenga each because a few weeks ago they saw me cutting up some fabric to make a collage and they were so disappointed that it was making a picture instead of making them a skirt, I decided to surprise them and it worked!

We visited the orphanage twice this week and the children there are so disappointed that we won’t be going anymore, they have really come to love the time when the M’zungos arrive with the storybooks and glitter! We received a donation to buy the orphanage their own art supplies and on Friday we delivered the big crate to huge interest! The sisters running the home asked me to go and conduct a workshop for the mothers working there to show them how to best utilise the books and materials they now have access to. I did that this morning and it was so inspiring to see that they really want to continue the work we began.

So during the last week we made one more visit to the Royal Livingstone for cakes and cocktails and one more visit to the Zambian restaurant for a final helping of nshima! And we spent time packing all the books and materials into boxes so they can be stored until next year.

The last 6 months have been a real eye opening experience. Zambia is an amazing country, clean, safe and full of the friendliest people I have ever met. The schools are under equipped and the teachers over stretched but the children are enthusiastic and so keen to learn that all the small frustrations related to running a project in Africa are forgotten within seconds. Learning to live by Zambian time (basically everything is late or delayed!!) was a challenge at first but now my body clock is fully adjusted and I’m on Zambian time too! I have immensely enjoyed my time with the Bookbus and I believe that everyone who has had anything to do with the project would agree with me that it is a fantastic and rewarding program which should continue benefiting the children of Zambia for many years to come.

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Oct 2009

Nshima and The Final Countdown!!

Posted by / in The Book Bus /

It is getting hotter and hotter here in Livingstone and bottles of frozen water have to be taken to school every day in an attempt to keep ourselves cool and the first thing we do when returning from teaching is jump in the pool. We did have a couple of thunder storms, which brought the first rains I have seen in over 5 months! That little rain has brought many of the plants into bloom, with the flamboyant tree blossoming into brilliant red and even the dry brown bush land has begun to sprout green plants all over.

Last week on Monday it was World Teachers day and the schools were closed with all teachers taking place in a march within town. There were lots of speeches and awards, with the prizes appearing to be mattresses! Strange but true!

Working with the schools and the pupils is as rewarding as ever and many old favourite books are being using along with new ones. “Stickman” has become an instant hit, with the obligatory making of stickmen afterwards. Paddington Bear has also made his first appearance in Zambia! Finding Peru on the atlas and explaining marmalade are two resulting factors! Working with Atlases has become very popular and it’s very interesting to find out what the children know about the rest of the world. They are mostly surprised to discover that we don’t have bush in England or any kind of wild animals like elephants, lions, crocodiles or zebras! When asked by one group of children what the most exciting animal is in the UK, I struggled! Cows, pigs and sheep just don’t sound that amazing!!

Another thing that all children find hard to believe is that we don’t eat ‘nshima’ in Europe. Nshima is the staple diet here and is eaten by most families twice a day. It is made from sweet corn flour which is then blended with water and heated to make a very thick mixture, which is, to me, like a cross between mashed potato and rice. Alone it is quite tasteless but it’s the relishes served with it that make the meal. Sweet potato leaves, pumpkin leaves or spinach are favourites. Last week I thought it was time the group tried the nshima they were always hearing about, so we went to a local Zambian restaurant, not one geared to tourists, and all had nshima, with either chicken, beef or bream. Eating with your hands is the custom here and some managed the whole meal so but others cheated and reverted to forks but everyone enjoyed the Zambian culinary experience!

We are now about to enter the final week of school visits, which is going to be very sad, the children and teachers already know it’s nearing the end and without exception they ask us to stay. Many of the pupils say it is the highlight of their week, which is always nice to hear and I’m sure when the project resumes next year it will be greeted with even more enthusiasm. Last week we visited the local pediatric ward to see if the project could be extended there for next year and unfortunately the majority are too young and too sick to benefit from our program but it was interested to get a tour of the hospital and the ward, which was only opened earlier this year and therefore surprisingly modern but the equipment is still lacking, with the intensive care rooms being empty except for beds. We were made very welcome and I have promised the sisters a box a books for the ward before we leave.

Free time activities this week have been plentiful, with most of the group taking a cycle tour of Livingstone with our very own cowboy cliff, the owner of Friday’s preschool. The tour takes you around parts of town where other tourists just don’t go and is a real eye-opener in terms of real Zambian life. We also went on a sunset boat ride on the Zambezi and spotted giraffes, hippos and a whole herd of elephants which had been bathing in mud to keep themselves cool, clever things!! Maybe we should try that before going to school each day! Then on the way back we saw a huge bull elephant standing alone on the beach at the edge of the water and he gave us a spectacular show of giving himself a sand shower, a very memorable sight.

For the past two weeks we have had a visitor on board the bus, in the form of its founder, Tom Maschler. Tom has been joining us at school each morning to get a real picture of how the project is running on the ground and now he has returned home with a clear vision of how the Bookbus is benefitting the children of Livingstone, Zambia.

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Sep 2009

Rising Temperatures and Beating Drums!

Posted by / in The Book Bus /

The temperatures are soaring in Livingstone with the thermometer often reaching the 40 degrees mark. So there is much shade chasing happening at the schools! The schools are now back in full swing after the holidays. It took a week or two to get settled, with the pupils having to first clean the classrooms, tend to the gardens and do all the caretaking duties and the teachers having to organise lesson plans.

The grade 7 pupils are now studying hard for their end of year exams taking place in October, so we are teaching more of the lower grades. To be able to continue their education they have to pass exams in all 7 subjects, but it is not just a case of being intelligent, many pupils can’t afford the fees necessary to attend grade 8, so their education stops after grade 7. This is especially true of the pupils at the community schools, where many will find themselves looking for work aged just 14 or 15.

We have been welcomed back from our trip to Solwezi with open arms and many of the teachers are eager to know how life is up in the North western province, because most haven’t visited this area of their own country and they weren’t aware that there are still thousands of refugees calling Zambia their home. So I’ve had many interesting conversations about my experiences and the reasons behind the continuing necessity of the camps.

With the arrival of many new volunteers we have the luxury of new books and new ideas for the sessions at school. “You Choose” has become a huge favourite and can be used with all age groups. It is a great book for inspiring conversations and reasoning. “The Hungry Caterpillar” continues to be a favourite and leads to the production of many colourful butterflies. The older boys love the football magazines, and combined with an atlas and a globe they are a great basis for a session.

We have returned each week to the “Lubasi” home and have been welcomed with open arms. I have now included it on Friday afternoon as part of our schedule. It is so fulfilling to go back and see the delight and the recognition in the children’s faces and it is fun reading and playing with them for the afternoon. I printed out all the photos we had taken during our 2 week stint at the orphanage then I turned them into a big collage showing all the children. When we took it to the home they loved it and spent ages trying to find themselves. It now adorns the wall and is a permanent reminder of the work we did together.

The water tumbling over the falls is getting less and less. It is like someone has turned off the tap, as if it is a different place to when I arrived in May but spectacular nonetheless. It means that the walk to Devils pool has become the favourite activity, possibly combined with high tea and sunset at the Royal Livingstone! We also went to see a new dance show at the Boehm on the river. It was called Dancing around Zambia and was absolutely excellent. It showed the different traditional dances from different tribes around Zambia. The music was provided by just three drummers but was amazing and the rhythm of the performers something to be admired. There is also a new drumming workshop twice weekly at the theatre and lots of the volunteers have got the African drumming bug, so maybe they will be putting on their own shows soon!!!

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Sep 2009

Spending time with the “Lubasi” family!

Posted by / in The Book Bus /

Returning to Livingstone was an epic undertaking with a 22 hour public bus marathon relay being my mode of transport! Needless to say I was relieved to arrive at 3am and step off into familiar streets but there was much to be done with new volunteers arriving the very next day!

As the school holidays were continuing for the last 2 weeks of August, before I went to Meheba I contacted a children’s home in the Maramba district of Livingstone and arranged for the Bookbus to spend 2 weeks there. The “Lubasi”(The Losi word for family) home is a community project run entirely from donations. At present there are 45 children ranging from 3 to 18 years. Many are orphans but some have families that can’t take care of them or they have been mistreated. On the first Monday we went to introduce ourselves to the children, the nuns that help run the home, the “mothers” and “aunties” who take care of the kids and the directors of the board. They are seemed enthusiastic to welcome the project and Tuesday we began!

All the children are good mannered, polite, sensitive and pleasant to be with and they are being taught many important skills to help them in their later lives. They have their own vegetable garden, do their own laundry and have weekly rotas of chores. The older children help the younger ones and there is real sense of caring and of family. The first few days we were unable to take the bus as it was in the garage so we had to use taxis but when we finally arrived in the bus, it caused much excitement amongst everyone.

We divided the children into small groups according to age and they all spent a one hour session with the volunteers each morning and the rest of the time there were plenty of activities to keep them occupied , like games, colouring, craft sessions or just sitting on the bus reading. We kept the groups the same with the same teachers to give a sense of continuity. All the children, no matter what age, were included and they were all so keen to learn. Spending 2 weeks with the same children it has been amazing to watch their transformation from shy and wary of the group of strangers through accepting us, right up to really enjoying our company and looking forward to each morning when we arrived. We have certainly become attached to the children who call Lubasi their home.

Sister Brigitta, who is in charge at the home, told me that they sometimes get visitors who stay for an hour or two but in all the time since the home has opened their has never been a group of people who had spent so much time with the children. She was delighted in their response to our books and our project and she was so thankful for the time we had given them and how we had shared our skills with not only the children, but also the “mothers” who want to continue working with the children in the way we have. It is a fantastic feeling to know that we have made such an impact.

Today has been our last day and it was incredibly sad to leave, we were treated to songs and given dozens of handmade thank you cards. We donated them boxes of books and I have promised to return regularly until I leave Livingstone, something which I will love to do. There were many tears and sad faces all round. This has been 2 of the most moving weeks of the project so far and I hope the Bookbus can return next year.
The website for the home

Now we are based back in Livingstone, we can do our “Touristy” activities again! Before I left for Meheba the water at the falls was still very high but now it is possible to walk across the river to Livingstone island, Devils pool and basically to stand right on the edge of the falls, not for people who are scared of heights! The views are spectacular and the walk, although slightly scary and hard work is certainly worth it. Four of us managed the trip with only one shoe being lost to the falls and only one unscheduled dip in the river!! Two went swimming in Devils pool and both said it was one of the best things they have ever done. Walking back we were told by our guide we had to apply “pressure” because we could see elephants heading in our direction, but we still had time to admire the stunning sunset even under pressure!!

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Aug 2009

Bye-bye Meheba Bye-bye!

Posted by / in The Book Bus /

So the Bookbus project 2009 in Meheba has drawn to a close. The final two weeks have been packed with reading, activities, library sessions and more moving stories. The acceptance of the project and the group of M’zungos in yellow t-shirts has steadily grown throughout the time we were there. Everywhere we went we were greeted with genuine smiles and lots of waving and shouting, at first just from the kids but by the end from parents and absolutely anyone we encountered!

Even though it has been school holidays for the past 2 weeks we have always found plenty of children to teach right from grade 3 up to grade 9, so the sessions have been very varied. With the older children we have concentrated more on library sessions and discussing or writing about what they have just read. With the younger ones we have been reading and then doing a wide variety of craft activities like painting or drawing. As usual we have been trying to encourage individuality and imagination whenever possible. There is a general state of shock when they are asked to do anything without first drawing it in normal pencil. One of the most popular activities has been reading Elmer the Elephant and then making Elmer hats..I must confess to making one, which was them promptly commandeered and worn all day by a teacher!! I can now officially announce that glitter is just as popular here as in Livingstone, maybe even more so, with the children scouring the floor after sessions to find any remaining sparkles to decorate their faces and hair!

At Basic school D we were treated to a show of traditional dancing, singing and poems from the children. To see many of the children crying when we were leaving for the last time was heart breaking. And at Community school G, the teacher I mentioned in the last blog, Pacific, wrote us some songs then performed by himself and the kids. One was called Bye-bye, Meheba, Bye-bye and it brought many of the volunteers close to tears, it even contained all our names and was definitely one of the most moving moments of the time spent in the camp. As we were leaving G, a young boy called Olivier shouted “It’s goodbye now madam, but I know we will meet again.”

The UNHCF is starting a school feeding program whereby they hope to increase school attendance by providing all pupils with one basic meal a day. Each of the schools has to build a kitchen in order to be able to take part in the project, so for a couple of afternoons the Bookbus volunteers turned builder labourers at school D. We helped move tons of bricks(well it seemed like tons!!) and hoed a huge area of ground, and although we tried our best we were certainly outshone by the children gathered around who could hoe much faster and efficiently even with bare feet! But despite our lack of hoeing skills, it was great to be part of something like this and as well as causing much amusement, our support was greatly appreciated.

In our spare time we have taken to congregating on an anthill near basic school C to watch the late afternoon football games and the sunset, usually surrounded by ever growing groups of children, who love to teach us words in their languages and then laugh at our attempts to pronounce them!! It is also a fantastic place to star gaze. Laying on your back looking into the sky, miles from any light pollution and in complete silence is a special experience, especially when you spot shooting stars. We also had an attack by some red solider ants which the guards dealt with by lighting the hugest bush fire with just one match, pretty spectacular, but only to be attempted if you are Zambian and you know what you are doing!

Just as we were getting to know the people who call Meheba home we have to leave, which is difficult. But I strongly believe that the project has been a huge success and I’m sure that all the volunteers, the teachers and especially the hundreds of children we spent time with would agree and we all hope the Bookbus can return to Meheba next year.

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Aug 2009

T.I.A. This is Africa!!

Posted by / in The Book Bus /

So week 2 in Meheba refugee settlement and we are slowly becoming used to the long drop toilets and our open air showers! The weather is slowly getting warmer and warmer and it is now 18.45 until it is dark, but we still struggle to stay up later than 9pm!! Life at camp has become the norm now and we are getting to know the schools, pupils and teachers.

The one community school we are able to visit is in block G which is at the far end of the camp. It is a 30 minute drive down a narrow terracotta earth track fringed on both sides by tall elephant grass only broken by the occasional mud brick and grass dwelling, where we always are greeted by kids running, waving and shouting. Block G is mostly home to Rwandans and People from Burundi. There is no basic school here and the community school only caters up to grade 5, so anyone wanting to continue their education must be prepared for a long daily walk to block D. The first day we visited was actually a public holiday but we were met by hoards of children, teachers and parents all interested in what we were doing. We had some fantastic lesson time with the grades 4 and 5 and then we adjourned to the field to entertain all and sundry! Have you ever tried making a big circle with 200+ kids? Its no mean feat, but it was a super morning, thoroughly enjoyed by all! The children here are some of the best readers that I have encountered so far in Zambia, and that despite their young age and lack of resources. I believe most of this can be put down to the enthusiasm and commitment of the teachers. Community schools are run by volunteers who themselves don’t have to be qualified teachers. One teacher in G, Pacific, is just 19 years old. He speaks over a dozen languages and although not yet a fully qualified teacher, he is loved by all his students and is a real inspiration to them and us! He originally comes from Rwanda, is an orphan and has lived most of his life in Meheba. He hopes one day to be able to attend college, but of course finance is ,as always, the issue.

At Basic school D we are also warmly welcomed by the teachers and pupils. We have decided to visit this school twice a week, one day for the grades 4,5 & 6 and one for grades 7, 8 & 9. We have found here that it is beneficial to work with the older students as well because they can relate stories about their lives and how it is to be a refugee, something which the younger ones are unable to do. I feel that living and working amongst the refugees t is important to listen to their stories and understand why there is still a need for these camps. In this way the volunteers get some kind of empathy with the students and can better understand the environment that they are immersed in.

At Basic school C this week we arrived to find the school closed because all the teachers were attending a funeral. However there was still a huge turnout of children of all ages, so the day was full of lessons. We have been reading the classic Hungry Caterpillar and making flying butterflies, reading Max and the Rainbow Rainhat and making super hats and with the older children we have been encouraging informal library sessions which are proving very popular. During the sessions at C this week we received a visit from the UNHCR convoy, they were very interested in our program and what we were doing with the small groups on our mats! Overall the project got a big thumbs up!

In the afternoons we have taken a walk down to the river, where many locals do their laundry and bathing. There were lots of young boys with cars made out of wire and bottles, but despite the primitive nature of the materials available the cars have steering and suspension and seem to keep the kids amused for hours! Some of us also took a bike ride to the market, were people sell the surplus fruit and vegetables that they grow. What is available varies greatly but it is good to support people who are trying to support their families in very difficult circumstances. Top tip – Deep fried sweet potato and doughnut-like “fritters” are a must during any trip to the market.
The weekend and the group voted for another night in a guesthouse in Solwezi! I think it’s the hot showers, proper toilets, chance to charge anything electrical and specifically the promise of a cold beer or two which are the deciding factors! However, this Sunday there was a day long power cut across the city so that is why this blog is posted a week late…but one thing we must all remember…TIA…this IS Africa, so just go with the flow!!

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Aug 2009

Life at Meheba!

Posted by / in The Book Bus /

So the Bookbus has started in Meheba!! After some missed flights, lost bags and multiple trips to the airport we got on the road to the North Western Province! After an overnight stop in Chingola and a last shopping stop at the colourful and exciting markets of Solwezi, we arrived at the gates of Meheba. The guard seemed quite confused, saying “but this is a refugee camp, why would you want to enter here?” We assured him that we did and continued on our way down a wide, potholed dirt track for 30 minutes until we reached block C where we were to set up camp.

First job was to locate the ‘long drop’ facilities and the water pump and then we set to work putting up our tents, watched with much amusement by a large audience of locals, within an hour of our arrival we were already attracting attention with our strange ‘western’ ways! The welcome we received from everybody has been fantastic and very genuine!

Life at camp has taken a bit of getting used to. We have built a wash block out of bamboo matting, string and sticks, but before you can have a wash you have to pump your own water, and going to the toilet in the night is an epic adventure! The most difficult thing to adjust to is the fact that it is dark by 18.30 and there is nowhere to go so we have to make our own entertainment! So far we have had the Bookbus quiz, played copious rounds of taboo and tried our hands at scattergories, but by 21.00 everyone is in bed!

We have visited 3 schools so far and the reaction has been amazing. The camp is divided into Blocks and each block has a basic school and then there are the community schools. Each block is dominated by a different nationality and some of the stories we hear from the pupils and the teachers are heart wrenching. Many of the teachers are refugees themselves and have been here over 30 years, others were born on the way but most of the pupils have been born in camp. They don’t even know the countries they are nationals of. In the first 3 days we have done sessions with over 800 kids. Whether they are 7 or 17 they love spending time with our volunteers and the teachers are so interested in our materials and teaching methods. It has been an absolutely fantastic and eye opening experience during our first few days.

Saturday we took a trip to Solwezi and stayed in a guest house, which is why I am able to post this blog….no internet in Meheba!! Now it’s time to go back to our tents and the interesting life in Meheba!

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Jul 2009

The enchanted Galapagos Islands

Posted by / in South America /

Did you know?
The Galapagos penguin is the only tropical penguin in the world.

The Galapagos Penguins breed as many as three times a year, since they don’t have a specified breeding season. Because of this, they are able to choose when to breed, and they ultimately decide this depending on food supplies. Before they breed, the penguins molt, and they may do this twice a year. While the birds are molting, they usually stay out of the water. They are able to go to the sea for food rather than starve though since the water is so warm in their area. Since they molt right before breeding, they are sure that they will not starve during the molting process. Granted, that may mean that there is not enough food during the breeding season, but the survival of the adult penguins is more important than the younger ones since they are the ones that make sure the species does not go extinct.

Some other interesting Galapagos wildlife facts:

The endemic Flightless Cormorant is the largest of the world’s 29 cormorant species, and the only one to have lost its power of flight.

Marine iguanas are only found in the Galapagos region. These are the only marine-going reptiles found anywhere in the world.

There are thirteen species of Darwin’s finches endemic to the islands. As noted by the great naturalist, these birds are famous for their beaks

17% of Galapagos fish species are endemic to the Galapagos.

Why are they so famous?
Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands in September 1835, first landing on San Cristobal. He spent a total of 5 weeks in Galapagos.. His observations about life on the islands eventually led to his famed theory of evolution. His On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was published in 1859.

Most of the islands are the tips of enormous volcanoes formed by slabs of the Earth’s crust moving south east over a “hot spot”or stationary area where concentrated heat and magma are released.

What can I do to ensure the islands retain their uniqueness?
Why not volunteer on our project on the island of San Cristobal….from 2 weeks to 1 year..

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Jul 2009

Puppets and Pineapples!

Posted by / in The Book Bus /

This is the last entry from Livingstone for a while, and this week we have been busy with the logistics of our big trip up north!! The books are being packed as are the art materials. Yes, even some glitter has found its way into the mix!! I wonder if it will have the same effect in the Zambian Copperbelt as it does in the Southern Province?
The children at the schools are really sad when they find out that it’s our last week for a while but when we tell them we are back in September they start to smile again. And they have 4 weeks of summer holidays whilst we are away but unlike home the children say they would rather be in school.
This week I’ve been looking for a project for the volunteers on the first 2 weeks back in Livingstone before the schools begin again. I was told about a children’s home right next to the colourful and vibrant Maramba market. The home houses 45 children of varying ages and after visiting several times I’m confident it will be a fantastic venue for our project.
At the schools we have been writing some letters to take to the children at the schools in the refugee settlement. All the Zambians I talk to are really interested in hearing about this part of their country and I’ve had many requests for photos and diaries, especially from teachers. A lot of the trip remains a mystery but what I have been reliably informed by almost everybody is that they grow great pineapples there!! We’ve also been doing puppet shows acted out from the books we are reading as well as from self written scripts! There have been some interesting stories!
On an exploratory bike ride of the surrounding area, Kate and I found a fantastic community school & village particularly founded for families with blind relatives. They have an enormous vegetable garden which they cultivate to sell to a large hotel chain. The settlement is right on the edge of Livingstone with no power or running water, but this new district of Mapensa is slowly becoming populated as the council sells off plots of land. I made a return visit to the school later in the week to see if our project would be able to visit them in September, driving back I came across another school with 400 pupils that has only 3 mud huts as classrooms!! I hope very much to be able to visit these 2 schools in some capacity after our trip to Solwesi.The pupils and teachers were so pleased to see us just arriving in a taxi without any books, I can’t imagine their reaction if the book managed to visit.
Also on the bike ride we made a stop at the local quarry where men and women make a living quarrying rocks by hand. It was a true insight into the running of a primary industry in a developing nation. We were even invited down into the quarry to have a go! I don’t think many M’zungos have ventured here and asked the people about their existence, so we were seen as special guests. Other Volunteers went to Chobe National park in Botswana for the weekend and some went adrenaline seeking on the Zambezi by Jetboat! We’ve been to the Royal Livingstone again and watched the sunset on a small beach right next to the river and a very rusty sign saying “Beware of Crocodiles”!!!

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Jul 2009

Pipe cleaner spectacles & cabbage trucks!!

Posted by / in The Book Bus /

Another cold week in Livingstone but the necessity to wear all our clothes at once in the mornings and evenings doesn’t stop us having a great time at the schools or in our free time. Apparently this is the coldest it has been for years! This week there have been 2 public holidays, Monday, Heroes day and Tuesday, Unity day, so it meant our timetable was slightly disrupted. The previous Monday we had asked the teachers at Linda school to tell the pupils that we would still be bringing the bus on the holiday Monday and that any kids who wanted to, could still come to school. In the UK I guess the attendance would be pretty low, who would give up a day off school to read?? But here over 50 children turned up! We ran a Bookbus library for the day, (operated by Kate and Sophie, complete with librarian spectacles made from pipe cleaners, and a list of library rules!) This was a HUGE success and something we want to think about replicating elsewhere. It attracted a lot of interest from passing locals, most of who wanted to borrow books too!! We got lots of hugs off the children when we packed up for the day and were ready to leave. Then a whole herd of them accompanied us into the market where we were buying vegetables for our dinner!
Tuesday we took the opportunity to attend a traditional Zambian ceremony. The Toka-Leya people celebrate Liwindi in order to pray for rains in the coming wet season. The festival was amazing, full of colours, sounds and sights. There were thousands of people and very very few M’zungos (the local friendly word for white people). There were different tribes from all over the country, each with their own costumes, style of dancing and unique instruments! One of the most memorable parts of the day was getting from the village to the remote area the ceremony was taking place, this involved an impromptu ride of the back of a truck full of cabbages and singing cooks!! True Zambian style transport! The same evening we witnessed the spectacular lunar rainbow at the falls. Overall a day full of unique African experiences!
At Cowboy Cliffs on Friday we made an enormous village collage using the children’s ideas and lots of fabric, tissue paper and messy glue! This week glitter didn’t make an appearance, after the glitter riots of last Friday! The finished article was extremely colourful and now adorns the reception classroom. In the other schools we are continuing to encourage the children to write their own stories in the weeks between our visits. At Libala we have had some excellent stories, complete with illustrations, the most imaginative being about a hippo going on a tour of Africa and eating people’s houses! The boy who wrote that told us it was the first time he had ever written a story, he was 15 years old.
The children turning up on their day off to read with us and the kids writing stories in their own time to show us, just highlights the fact that this project is really bringing something worthwhile to the schools in Livingstone and seeing the mats full of engaged children, every day, week after week, makes you realise how much they really want to learn.

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