Saturday, 16 July 2011

2011 - The year of giant origami!

Written May 2011

So after a 3 week break in UK I find myself back in Livingstone, Zambia with 5 days to prepare for the 2011 Book Bus season. The truck is back from Malawi and after a good wash and a new alternator it’s almost ready to roll, there is only the mammoth task of unpacking all the books/supplies left from last season as well as the huge stack of boxes we picked up from a container in Malawi. When I open the truck I had forgotten how many boxes there were, no floor space to be seen and only me and the new, but very obliging, guard at the grotto, Chris to plough through them. Unpacking new supplies is always exciting and 3 days of starting at 6am to avoid the unseasonably oppressive heat were very well spent. We have also had some enormous thunderstorms and torrential downpours which are also rare for this time of year.

On Friday Edward, our driver, and I put up the new tents that had finally been released from customs in Lusaka airport and they were promptly christened with a thunderstorm that afternoon. I was expecting no rains once the volunteers arrived but that was not to be, we had rain over the arrival weekend, and I’m sure that I annoyed everyone with my constant, “it shouldn’t rain at this time of year” comments! It feels great to be back leading the Bookbus and introducing people to “Real Zambian life.” It has been nice going around the schools and telling them that the project is back on and seeing the positive reactions! Coming back to Livingstone really feels like coming home now and it is so friendly and welcoming, something which is even more evident after a few days in London!!

So week one of project we are visiting Lubasi home again! I was surprised to find a number of new children when I visited to arrange the program. I leant that they are Congolese children of people caught attempting cross the border illegally. The parents were detained in jail and the children were brought to Lubasi. They range in age from 2 to 9 and speak French, Swahili and other Congolese languages but they are all intelligent and quickly pick up some English and Nyanja – the Zambian language most commonly used! Unfortunately nobody seems to know what will happen to these children or their parents and after a few days one little girl is missing from class and the others tell us she has “gone back”.

We divide the children into 3 age groups and do an hour long session with each group! The children are so happy to see the truck again and each day they await us more eagerly! Our first group is a real mix of ages and experience but we get on fantastically and have great times together at school and in our free time! After a week you can see the attachement of the volunteers and the children in their small groups. We even visit on Saturday afternoon to play football and just “hang” out with the girls. They are delighted to see us even with the Book bus and it’s cargo of entrancing supplies.

Some of the funniest moments that I can ever remember happen in this week, including some amazing games of “the saucepan game” which have altered the images of Nelson Mandela and Spiderman irreparably in the minds of those involved, confused Captain Hook/Cook, introduced us to some bizarre Pianist that I still don’t remember the name of, made “Gollum” a one handed gesture and proved that nobody actually knew who Hans Zimmer actually was!! (this will only make sense to those who were actually there – sorry but I had to include it for historic value!!)

Origami has been the hit of the week at Lubasi, with penguins, flowers, birds, frogs and ball being made after reading books of these themes! Only when the kids decided that they wanted a lily did things get complicated, so one free session it took 3 of us “adults” to finally make a lily! But so impressed were we with our efforts that that night after dinner we got out the big sugar paper and had a “Giant” origami evening! I must say it has to be one of the most surreal nights in Book bus history and I think the other people on the campsite thought we were bonkers! But we are known as the “Librarians” by everyone thanks to Grubby, so I think we are known for doing “strange” things that wouldn’t usually be found on a campsite in the heart of Africa!!