We are back in Meheba with a new group and a lovely new toilet to welcome us! It is now the school holidays so we have been doing fewer, longer sessions with the children and playing games outside. Duck duck goose gets very competitive. The new group are slightly OCD about preparing materials (some more than others 😉 ) and spend afternoons preparing templates, models, word games, pipe-cleaner glasses to spark up their reading activities.
Pippa has mastered the perfect pom-pom caterpillar to complement reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Andrea has been playing rhyming word games with pupils and even the little one get very excited by it when they get the gist.
In the first week attendance was a little patchy as children are expected to help harvesting or fetching during the holidays, and many leave Meheba to visit relatives in town. There are also initiation ceremonies going on which takes boys out of society for a few weeks (apparently circumcision is being advertised as a preventative for HIV by the UNHCR…). But children always turned up and numbers increased the second and third weeks. School F is our favourite school to visit and school holidays have not affected attendance, in fact more children turn up each week. Children come pouring out of their homes when they hear the truck, legging it to school to be ready for us. The volunteers were very taken with this school which is much poorer than the other basic schools. Many kids turn up in ratty pyjama bottoms or ripped nightdresses and babies are seen playing with condom ‘balloons’.
In an effort to curb the spread of HIV condoms have been hugely subsidised down to only 1p each, making them a perfect toy for a grouchy baby! A single tennis ball generates euphoria at this school.
In the afternoons we sometimes watched football matches on the playing field opposite our campsite. Each goal was accompanied by dozens of toddlers scooting onto the pitch screaming blue-murder. The kids here all know us as we sometimes go over to play frisby with them, and Becky gave some of the boys a karate lesson in the afternoon. Back in camp Pippa and Doc are engaged in a war over whether or not to feed the resident cats who have adopted us and sit loyally on top of our tents. We are also ’surveying’ the possible root of alcoholism in the camp, by trying out the notorious tujilijili. These are sachets of potent spirits (a double shot of 45%+) in brandy, gin or whisky ’flavours’. Our favourite is Rough Touch; a sketchy imitation of Baileys. One of these sachets is 1000 kwacha – only 15pence, and we find they liven up a smashing game of scrabble no end.
At the weekend we took a trip to nearby Lumwana mine 10 kms from Meheba. A friend who worked there supplied us with reflective gear and took us to see the copper mine and conveyor belt (apparently the longest in the world). The most interesting, and disturbing, part of the visit was witnessing the social structure of the mining community. Only 10 kms away from Meheba is a compound equipped with swimming pools, squash and tennis courts, a gym, bars and landscaped housing estates. The junior Zambian miners were paying over 80% tax on their earnings, on top of which they are as good as forced to take out a huge mortgage on temporary houses (the lifespan of a mine is only 30 years) put up for workers. We were disturbed by this revelation but it was an insight into the capitalist mentality behind this industry. Many miners boasted how much Lumwana has done for the nearby community, especially the schools, but its hard to see evidence of this in Meheba. Meheban teachers talked about Zambia’s ’wealth’ of natural resources with wearied cynacism.
The last week at in Meheba was fantastic with the biggest turn out of pupils and ever inventive lessons given by the volunteers. Diane was using a book about the body and had the students giggling by getting them to pin paper cut-out organs to the correct part of her body. After lessons we were treated to a little cultural dancing, very provocative if one is not used to the dancing style here! At G there was more singing, including a tear-inducing song with all our names in. ?Sally we’ll miss you! Remember to create a better life in UK!?
It was hard being parted from the cats and our friends, and our last journey proved to be a little stressful. The traffic police were out in force and, well, we hardly blended in with the truck and Doc in his Maasai outfit. Apparently they can fine you for having some mud on your number plate. Then when we finally arrived at our lodge in Ndola the owner apologised to us for the lack of hot showers. ’There is a problem with the power. If we turn on the hot water, the lights go off.’ Good times! I will miss Zambia!