This blog started as a way of keeping friends up-to-date with Zambian life but it now also helps generate money for the poor here in Chikuni. If you like what you read please click on an ad to help the people of Chikuni.

Friday, 26 November 2010

It’s the little things

Not much has happened since Lusaka in one way but in another, there has been a lot of quite progress and achievement. I’ve finally settled into the run of the place. I feel a lot less home sick and more at ease here. I wish I could explain to you what it’s like here and I guess this post is trying to address that but let’s face it, I’m never going to be able to achieve that goal. It’s the 25C heat at 8 am, the flies that hitch a ride on my brighter t-shirts in the morning, the beautiful sunset almost every evening and the 100 other things that make this place and this time special and different from everything I have ever known. This post is a mismatch of little thoughts, insights and things that I hope will make us laugh and show just some of the differences. They could all be their own separate posts but between you, me and rest of the internet, I really can’t be arsed!

Tea, Father?

You probably know I’m a fan of the Fr. Ted TV series. Good old Mrs. Doyle was always ready with the teapot and a stark determination that everyone must drink. Well, being white here, much to my amusement/consternation I am continuously being referred to as ‘Father’. “No”, I tell people with a smile, I’m not a priest, just a volunteer. I’m tempted to get a T-shirt printed and delivered (I even know that the design would be, a boy chasing a girl with “Not A Priest” on the back) but I find it funny that people automatically assume. And people are just as persistent as Mrs. Doyle. Indeed, John Pedro, my flatmate was made to stand up in mass one Sunday when he first arrived and the priest made it publicly know that he was not a priest! Which is quite ironic given that they’ve done nothing but try and talk him into the priesthood since!

I miss flirting

Now, you know me, I’ve never ever, ever been called a flirt. And sure, to be honest, I wouldn’t even know how to flirt! Honest! :) But, if I did, then I would be missing it right now. The majority of female contact these days involves nuns and even I have some level of moral conduct so I’m at a bit of a loss. People are very friendly here. And yes, there is a potential female friend but damn, it never dawned on me that I would be missing that. And what’s worse is that I stay on a teaching training college campus. There must be parties and potential around here somewhere. I think I need to start getting out more in the evenings! :) Do you hear those violins too?

All creatures great and small

I came to the realisation last night that I’ve been here awhile now. This happened as I walked past a big spider in the hallway and didn’t even flinch. Indeed, I walk past spiders, cockroaches, frogs, stick inserts and geckos without even batting an eyelid. To prove the point, last week, I found a scorpion sitting in the corner of my wall with nothing but the mosquito net between us. It can’t have been more than 50 cm from my head but I just rolled over and went to sleep. I haven’t seen it since. I’ve been told that now, as the rain session starts, the snakes will start to appear and two cobra’s have already been found around the parish. I go running in the morning, always scanning the ground for movement and ready to jump over/aside whatever it is I might find. But it’s not just the creepy creatures that’s different. There are loads of species here that I have never seen before and that all adds to the differences of the place.

Buon Appetito

Food here is much better than I had feared. The local staple diet is shema, a dish common in many countries around this region. It’s made with ground maize and flour, cooked and shapped into hand sized ovals. It is pretty tasteless but I enjoy eating it when I get the chance. It’s usually served with a little meat or fish and some vegetables (I’ve had either rape or pumpkin leaves so far). It’s so dense that a little goes a long way and everyone here grows maize. I’ve had goat intestines with shema and my other housemate has promised to get me the fabled goat testicles, yummy! Sadly I just missed out on centipedes in Lusaka as the resturaunt had run out that night. What a shame I tell you. At home and for lunch with the priests, I eat lots of rice and pasta at the moment, usually with chicken. Lunch on Friday is always fish (it’s a Catholic thing long since forgotten in Ireland/UK). But the fruit is great here. We are just coming into mango season and mangos have everywhere in Chikuni. After that the guava will be in season. We have also enjoyed watermelon lately and at K10000 (€1.80) for the entire thing, I think you’ll agree it’s good value. There are also peaches and a new fruit, Mexican apples, which I am hoping to cultivate over the coming year.

Capturing the moment

My camera and I are rarely parted as you know and here is no different. However the use is totally different. Here, I feel shy about taking photos and so I take far fewer. Everyone sees the white priest and so there is no stolen moments. I have also long biased towards black and white photography. Here, it feels like a betrayal to shot black and white. The place is so full of colour that it seems a shame to limit it to grayscale. That was until recently when I saw a really great book produced by an Italian photographer. All the photos in the book were black and white and he had some truly stunning portraits of people. So I’m going to try and break my usual stealth approach and be a bit bolder. Or at least try… especially because I miss not taking photographs.

Getting from A to err, A?

I gained my independence at the tender age of 19 in the guise of my sisters crappy old Nissan Micra (sorry Mairead, I was very glad of it but it was!) which she loaned to me while she unwittingly went to Australia to meet her future husband. In London I no longer had a car but I still had my freedom. Here, oh boy, is a totally different story. One of the stipulations of the volunteer program is that I am not allowed to drive. I’ll be the first to say that I knew and accepted this when I agreed to take part. Despite it being an excellent idea in terms of my personal safety and for the reputation of the programme, it sucks. In fact it sucks big time! I am utterly dependant on other people to either drive me somewhere (where I can get a public transport connection) or know somebody who is going out. I am here to be of service to the community first and foremost but, phew, it’s tough! If I want to go and do some proper shopping or see my student friend then I have to go to Monze. It’s 7KM of compacted dirt track to the main road and then another 15KM to Monze. There are taxi’s around but on my current budget of about $3/day they are a luxury. But on the bright side, not being able to go anywhere is giving me lots of time to do what I came here for, to think about my life so far and what I want next. And eventually I’ll get the bike here fixed. I swear!

You guys

People have been great. I’ve had lots of lovely emails and even a couple of postcards (they take 20+ days to reach me!) from all the people I have left behind. You are all in my thoughts and in my prayers from time to time. You rock! I opened the good bye card from Tideway last night and it was lovely to read all the comments. And if Chris Bryan is reading this, thanks for the extra one from Caroline, I laughed so hard my eyes watered! It’s funny to imagine all your lives continuing in different ways, even unexpectedly bumping into each other from time to time. I still miss you, just maybe not as much as during that first month. I know a few of you are going through tough times right now but I’m there in spirit! Another friend showed me recently, you never know how a seemingly negative event can prove to have a very positive outcome. Olga, I’m really glad everything worked out! By the way, if anyone has sent me a text on the new number, then I’m afraid it hasn’t reached me. Sorry!

So I’ve left out a hundred other things but there you go, I’m a bastard like that! :)

Til next time,
A much happier David

1 comment:

  1. I just found out what Chris wrote and laughed pretty damn hard too!!

    Speaking of bugs ... we can just imagine that girly squeal still echo'ing the halls when you came across the first few thousand spiders. The rest of the wildlife is now moving in to see what all the fuss what about!!