Friday, 11 March 2011

Rainy Season in Zambia & Roll on April 30th!!

Life carries on much the same in Zambia during rainy season, the only differences are: the roads are much worse, people are even later for things than usual and they have a new excuse “the rains”,and the landscape is completely transformed. Everything bursts to life, the bush is every imaginable shade of green, and people are growing maize on every available spot of land. If you have only visited in the dry season when everything is brown and brittle you would be amazed at the difference. It is hard to believe it’s the same place, the road to the falls is unrecognisable and there is no chance of spotting game crossing the road, there is enough food and water everywhere so they aren’t forced to traipse down to the river.

Next week I will get to see plenty of this greenery on the 3000km round trip from Livingstone to Blantyre to collect the truck. The first 1500km will be by public bus – the joys of only stopping once on a 9 hour journey and then only for a matter of minutes, when the driver honks you have about 0.2 seconds to re-board or else!! If you are super- unlucky you get a driver who plays his favourite tape at full blast on repeat for the entire journey!!  It will be great to meet up with Douglas again and at least on the journey back we will have full control of toilet/snack stops!! I’ve promised to take Douglas to see the Victoria Falls this time, as when he was here in 2010 I was slightly uber-busy and he missed out!

The falls are always green because of the spray but at the moment all the rains mean that the water level is slowly rising. They are very spectacular at this time of year and not quite at their fullest so you can get quite close without getting soaked! The spray blows with the wind so sometimes you get a covering of fine waterdrops, but with temperatures in the 30’s everyday this is cooling and very pleasant.

Tourism at this time of year is very low, but in my opinion it’s a great time to visit. The rains are not debilitating. It generally rains for an hour or in the afternoon and before and after the skies are brilliant blue. It’s hot but not unbearably so as in October, the nights are warm and you can sit out, so not cool, like June and July. There are few other tourists so you can get good deals on hotels and on activities there are no crowds. The only downside is that it can be harder to spot game because of the greenery and the fact that they don’t have to travel to find scarce water. This saying I went to Chobe last month and saw some of the best game since I was in Africa. There was a whole herd of elephants in the water right by our boat and the youngsters were all playing, it was amazing sitting and watching them play-fight, just like human children!

Since I’ve been back in Livingstone I’ve visited most of our schools several times! It’s great to come back and be genuinely welcomed by the teachers and the pupils. I’ve spent quite a lot of time at the community project in Zweilopili. They have built new grass shelters and been able to put tarpaulin on the roof to keep the rains out, thanks to the generosity of some 2010 Book Bus volunteers. They have also constructed a toilet and are planning another classroom block. Mr Mwiya, who has recently retired as deputy head of Nakatindi, is an inspiration to everyone with his dedication of starting this project and funding much of it himself. At the moment he is trying hard to encourage girls who dropped out of school because of pregnancies to come and take free tuition classes so they can get back into education. (I've just noticed below - I've even started wearing yellow in my freetime!)

Going to Lubasi is always a highlight and I had a great afternoon the other week playing with the kids. They have completed the building of their chapel whilst I was away, so once a month now on Sundays they have their own service at the home. Last month they had a fundraising Zambian meal. The staff dressed up in costumes from different provinces, and prepared food from those areas. There were about 70 tourists and locals who all paid an entrance fee and the money is going towards the upkeep of the home. It was a fun afternoon with lots of singing and dancing and a chance to try the famous caterpillars that the Luvali people from the north western province enjoy eating! Its great to see that the home is using it’s initiate to raise money and not just relying on donors.

This season we will be including 2 new schools in the Book bus program both of which I have recently visited. One I discovered the first year I was here, but with the bus visiting would be difficult but now we have the truck I thought it was time to give it a go. It’s called Chileleko, which is Tonga for Blessings and the teachers and pupils are very excited about our impending visits. They still remembered me from my one  visit in July 2008!!

The other is Libuyu community school and again the bus couldn’t visit but now in 2011, here comes the truck! It’s always a challenge to begin at new schools because it takes time to get organised and to get teachers and pupils used to what we do, but it is rewarding when you can see the improvement in the kids week by week!

I can’t wait to get started…roll on April 30th!!