TIA - This Is Africa
I'm finally back! Only 20 hours of flight and 24 total hours from NYC to Lusaka. Coincidentally, I met a man named Gordon at JFK airport who is also a Virginia Tech graduate who happened to have both my flights, to Dubai and then Lusaka. It was comforting to know someone else would be rushing through Dubai airport to make the Lusaka flight with an 85 minute layover if our flight arrived on time. It was 15 minutes late but Efficiency is apparently Dubai airport's middle name. The same, however, cannot be said for the Lusaka airport. The 20 person queue at the Lusaka airport visa line took 2 hours. Knowing Chileshe, Fred, and Kekiwe were waiting outside made me feel awful and frustrated. But I have to remind myself: TIA. This is Africa. And I'm on Zambia time now.
It was worth the wait and once outside, I was warmly greeted by our Zambian team. It feels so great to be reunited with them. We went to the store to get my 30 days worth of non-perishable food and then made our way to Chileshe's house near the airport. His family made a wonderful dinner of grilled chicken wings, nshima, sweet potato leaf relish, potato salad, cole slaw, and rice. Afterward, we discussed Day by De projects and then I went to bed while Chileshe drove the others home.
We woke and left today at 6 AM to begin the (in theory) 7-hour drive to Shamiyoyo. Fred and I rode while a new friend, Enock, drove. Enock is a very friendly 33 year old Zambian who has a contagious smile. The long, massively potholed drive was pleasantly broken up by the roadside safari wildlife through the Kafue National Park. We zipped past elephants, zebras, warthogs, monkeys, wildebeast, eland, puku, and several other impala-type species. Appropriately, Enock's music playlist shuffled to the opening theme of The Lion King (I'm super jealous of those who get to see the live action version in theaters this week. I'll settle for the Kafue drive and a bag of Simba brand potato chips). I downloaded the 1994 original and will be showing it to some of the Shamiyoyo children as the first movie they will ever see. I'll let you know how it goes.
On the way, we stopped at Situtu School, a poor rural school with 200 students, a high proportion of which are orphans. They are seeking financial assistance for a water pump, piping, and water tower for a basic irrigation system for their school garden, teacher housing (many teachers walk from kilometers away or pay up to 50 kwacha per day (roughly 13 kwacha = $1 USD), a large portion of their ~165 kwacha daily salary to commute via hitchhiking), and to finish the primary school expansion. While Day by De may or may not partner with Situtu, these same issues are commonplace at schools throughout Zambia.
After touring the school grounds, we continued on down the road to the Kaoma District Education Board Secretary (DEBS) office. It is standard procedure in Zambia to inform the local DEBS office of Day by De projects when they involve school construction or associated garden or farming projects. The DEBS office was receptive and grateful. We will keep the DEBS office informed of our progress.
Next, we stopped at the Kaoma Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock (MFL) to discuss the Shamiyoyo pig farm project and a currently imposed ban on sales of live pigs to certain provinces where pig foot and mouth disease are now prevalent. This ban severely limits the market for pigs from the Shamiyoyo farm. We will continue working with the MFL to find a solution to this complication. All protocols observed.
Just after dark, at 7 PM, we arrived in Shamiyoyo. I reunited with my friend Wana who I've stayed in close contact with since last June. We toured the pig farm that now impressively has 55 pigs, up from the original 7 and 55 more than when I was here last June.
I set up camp, and then we sat around the fire with a group of mostly Shamiyoyo children. Everyone told us their names which all have meanings in their native languages. We laughed together at many of the translations without making fun. Among the more memorable translations were Itchy Flower, Messy Needle, and Peter Throw It to Me. Wana's aunt surprised us with a late dinner of nshima and rape leaf relish and then it was time for bed. It was a long but worthwhile journey so far and I'm excited to show you more.
So Narendra De runs a Facebook group called #3wins where we try to let the group know of three good things that happened in the last week to focus on positivity and show each other support. As a nod to his group, I'll add a #3wins to each blog post and try not to repeat what's already been said.
#3wins: 1) Simply returning and reuniting with our Zambian team and my Shamiyoyo friends is an obvious win (especially if you saw the absurdly bad condition of the roads to Shamiyoyo). Fred told me that I am home and thanks to the Zambians' hospitality, I genuinely feel that Zambia is a second home. 2) I was reminded, with no humidity and no clouds, just how breathtakingly gorgeous each and every sunset and sunrise is here. And same goes for the stars at night. It'll never get old. 3) My phone got no reception until now at 5:00 AM when I was awakened by no fewer than 10 roosters. I know my family is worried about me and it would have bothered me to be out of contact for 30 days after telling them I'd talk to them tomorrow. Shoutout to Victor W. for the Google Fi recommendation.