My First Day Working on the New Preschool

Today was the first day I got to work on the soon-to-be first preschool in Shamiyoyo, funded by Day by De. The steel structure is ready and we're awaiting roofing materials from our Zambian Day by De team in Lusaka. In the meantime, we need to dig latrines to a depth of 12-15 ft. With shovels and pick axes, we continued digging the second of three at 9:30 AM. Upon arrival, this latrine was about 6 inches deep.

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It was some of the most grueling manual labor I've ever done. Beneath the sandy top layer, the soil here is hard and gravelly. There are also tons of roots and small boulders that really impede progress. I have to say, at 50 years old, Charles put me to shame. He worked endlessly, drinking only about a cup of water the whole time out of a hollowed out orange-looking gourd. I took several breaks and downed almost 3 liters of water. We ended around 12:45 at about 2 feet deep. It'll take at least 5 more days of digging to get the hole ready before it's lined with bricks and a cement top is placed over it. Then we start all over again with the third.

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The women meanwhile were clearing bushes and trees off the land. These women are badasses. While Charles and I walked back to the village to get an axe and water, the women came across a 2 ft puff adder, a venomous viper and the deadliest snake on the continent, and killed it with sticks. When they told me, I was shocked, but they shrugged it off like they had just swatted a house fly.

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As I took photos to document progress, the women sang a song while continuing to work. I asked what it was about. I was told the lyrics meant:

‘We are building a school with Benja so that we develop our community so that we take our children to school. They'll be taught here at this school. What a beautiful school. Benja has come here to help us, and we are very happy.’

On the walk back to the village, Charles expressed his concern that aside from the pigs being low on feed, the people of Shamiyoyo are beginning to run low on food. The drought devastated this region and very few crops were harvested last growing season. By the law of supply and demand, staple crop prices, mainly maize, have skyrocketed locally. Most of Shamiyoyo cannot afford these price hikes, and they don't have motor vehicles to find cheaper prices closer to Lusaka. I've been buying extra food every time at the market to hand out but the situation may be worse than I thought. I'll be brainstorming solutions, but these are the real struggles of impoverished, isolated, agriculture-dependent Zambians like Shamiyoyo.

Afterwards, I did laundry for the second time in my life without a washer and dryer. Wana helped when he realized I didn't really know what I was doing. I felt like a little kid but I never really thought about it, having washer and dryer machines my whole life.

Later, I walked to the market with Wana. I’m on a mission to make a rat trap to stop them from eating my tomatoes and Wana's family's food. I suspended a toilet paper roll over a bucket of water and attached two pieces of tomato to the cardboard. I placed a small plank leading from the table to the edge of the bucket. My hope was that the rats would try to grab the tomato and fall into the bucket.

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It pains me to say that thirty minutes later, both pieces of tomato had been eaten and no rats were in the bucket. Wana laughed at my frustration as he had doubts about my trap the whole time. It honestly bothers me that I was outsmarted by an animal whose entire body is smaller than my brain. I feel like the Tom to their Jerry. I modified the trap by placing a piece of tomato in the water and a piece on the inside of the toilet paper roll. If this doesn't work, I'll be infuriated and move to the surefire Plan B - get the real Tom. Charles had a similar problem and bought two cats who have rid his house of rats.

Ben Kirby3 Comments