Sorry haven’t been keeping blog up to date, my excuse is that Internet has been hard to get and i have been helping coordinate accom. / transport and other fun stuff! But finished now so just want to give an idea of what we got up to in Zambia.
Myself and Fiona arrived in Lusaka on Sat 5th july, Ann and John had been out a week before us so they met us at the airport along with Fr. Jim, which was great as I was able to offload an extra laptop with him which I had been carrying from Ireland for a friend of Camara. The weather, although Zambia’s winter was like our best summer, we went to our guesthouse which was fine, and then walked to an atm to get out money, withdrawing 1 million kw seems strange, which is worth about 200euro. It was a national holiday on mon/tues which worked out ok as rest of team were arriving Mon evening and some of us were going to travel to Mongu on tues. Myself and fiona went to bus station to get tickets for Mongu, its fairly chaotic but I think we managed to get tickets for the local price!
The rest of the team, Hazel, James, Mary, Mark, Michael, Sarah and Theresa arrived on Mon and Br Hayes took us to the airport to pick them up and we went to a convent where we were staying. We then got a lift into Manda Hill a shopping mall, its very handy but kind of disappointing as its very westernised with subways, Shoprite (like Tesco) and of course an Irish pub! The local beer is Mosi and is very easy to drink..
The next day myself, Fiona, Mary n Sarah headed on the 8 hr bus to Mongu, stopping at some very luxurious! roadside toilets along the way, sometimes being a fella is a blessing! the journey was through a national park and we spotted some elephants.
In Mongu we stayed with the Holy cross sisters one of whom is Mary’s aunt so it was great for them to meet, by coincidence it was also where Fiona’s mother had spent a year teaching in the 70’s. we were teaching a small group of 12 advanced people mostly in their 20’s. Our class room was a shed outside the Br’s house where the PCs had been set-up, it was very basic but perfect. We got to see a snake which the gardener has just killed in the garden. Br Kevin had gotten pcs being thrown out by Aras on Uachtairain and had already been doing 6 weeks courses with the young people who were trying to get jobs, so our class were well advanced, although they did have to learn about Edubuntu. Mary being a veteran from Africa 2007 started off brilliantly with basics and writer on Wednesday, On Thurs. I started with calc, I was kinda nervous not being a teacher and especially after Br kevin explained he was a maths teacher and had focused on spreadsheets in his classes. I started showing the class what i thought were fairly advanced tools such as autofilter, until Geoffrey whispered to me that I was going too slow that they knew all this! i thought i was going to crash and burn! Anyways i scraped through and we actually covered in depth a lot of stuff such as absolute refs and linking sheets, it was great but tiring.. the class had good laugh at my accent and how i pronounce data, luckily i’m well used to my accent being slagged. Fiona did impress on the Friday, and for a non- teacher, / non-techie she did a great job and as the name suggests the class were very impressed with the package as they had never used it before. Sarah hadn’t been feeling well and should have stayed in bed all week but battled on to come in Thurs/Fri which was tough as the room was very stuffy. We then finished of with some draw and wikipedia. We then had a small presentation of the certificates and one of the students, kephas gave a small speech thanking us which nearly had the girls in tears!! we got some good photos thanked Br Kevin for all his help and headed off.
It was a great start, students time keeping was a bit of an issue, but we just highlighted the importance of being on time and it improved. It was difficult when people were at very different levels so we tried changing so that faster students could help along those having trouble. We also highlighted to students that by using the help menus in they could easily continue their learning after we had gone. Mongu was fairly remote, definitely not a tourist trap! there was really only one restaurant/take away which we lived in for the week, chicken n chips non-stop! We met with principal of a teacher training college which might be suitable for computers next year so Camara may be back.
On sat we got bus back to Lusaka, after experience of toilets the girls were limiting their intake of fluids..
Sat nite we chilled out wit a few Mosi in our hostel, our group has been split in 3 so we all had different stories to share, some had been teaching in a compound next to a shanty town and had done brilliant work.
Sunday we were to go to Mazabuka where Br. hayes is based, we were due to get a lift, but it broke down, so we ended up rushing to bus station to get a bus at 16.00 we all made in time, but then sat in bus until 18.15 until last seat in bus was sold!! you can’t be in a rush to get somewhere if bus had been full at 16.00 it would have left then or you could be waiting for hours… journey was kinda funny as they play music at ear splitting levels! We made to Mazabuka and back to the Brs house where a lovely meal was waiting. The meat-eaters in our group were under pressure! with 3 veggies… its actually handy as our cook for the week Victor could prepare a vegetarian option. On Sun night in the school beside we went over to catch the end of a dance competition that schools from all over Zambia were competing in, we got some gr8 videos which we’ll put on the website. We were teaching in 2 schools, in Mazabuka girls school we had morning and afternoon classes with about 30 teachers in each, teachers coming from schools all around. We started at 8 on Monday, i gave a short introduction to the team and camara, we worked until 5 so they were long days but I think we got a good amount covered, we had 3 principals and a few vice principals in our clasees which showed good examples to all the teachers. Br.Hayes was great at organising anything we needed, so that we could focus on the teaching, we were staying in a house for trainee brothers which was very handy. We had the oasis country club, within walking distance which provided the entertainment during the week. Kirsty arrived during the week with a big stick! to make sure we were all pulling our weight… actually she helped our team the next morning giving someone a lie in and having been in Mazabuka the year before was able to tell us where the local night club was! On Thurs myself and Kirsty headed to Chikuni our next stop to check the computer labs / accomm. The 10k dirt road before chikuni is an experience… Both Charles lwanga teacher training college and Chikuni girls school had excellent IT facilities, though electricity was due to a big issue, also the no.s of teachers due to come to girls school and 50 in the morning and 70 in the evening would stretch us. Kirsty got bus back to Lusaka to continue her whistle stop journey to Lesotho. I arrived back in Mazabuka for presentation of certs, Br hayes highlighted to all the teachers that we were taking our holidays and paying our own way in order to teach them. Mary gave her Camara t-shirt to peggy a local IT instructor who had been helping us, I gave Br Hayes a few usb memory sticks some of which he gave to David and Shadrick two young brothers who have become the local IT experts working with Br hayes. Br hayes had arranged that we’d have Friday off and we all headed with him to St Edmunds to see the lab where Shadrig is teaching school kids. We then went to Chinga Changa a small school mostly for orphans, where the kids sang songs for us including ireland’s call! We then walked over to the village where most of the kids come from to see a water pump that the brothers had installed with donations from Ireland. We were met by crowds of little kids and it was a great experience and we got some good photos it was an eye opener to see how little everyone has yet how happy they were. After lunch we went to small safari farm where we saw zebra and some massive antelope such as Kudo and Elan. That night Peggy met us to take us to the local nightclub, needless to say it was very different to clubs at home and as a gang of white people we attracted a lot interest, but it was good craic. On Saturday we had been invited by Grace Tembo a principal of a school in Kafue, to visit the massive hydroelectric dam in Kafue which powers most of Zambia, we had a great day we even visited a local market where we saw a pig which had just been killed, butchered, if i didn’t like rashers so much it would put you off them for life!
On Sunday we headed to Chikuni where we stayed in Mayfair guesthouse which had a small bar! and suited us fine, there we met Fr Dana who was our main partner he explained that he’d been talking to the electricity company and we would probably have no power up until 11am each day! So we made sure that all our laptops were charged… On Monday myself, Fiona, Hazel and James headed to Charles Lwanga college where we were teaching an advanced and a basic group of lecturers. The rest of the team were all needed in Chikuni girls school where they were expecting 50 teachers in the mornings and 70 in the afternoons! As expected there was no electricity until 11.30 which was ok for the 1st day as we could do computer theory. In Charles lwanga we were lucky as we had the same group all day so we were able to try and do the theory for say spreadsheets in the mornings and then the practical once the power came on. They also had a projector so we tried recording videos of a few calc lessons, which was good until the volunteer was recorded cursing when the power went off! We were able to save copies of the videos onto the computers which should allow the teachers to refer back to lessons after we have gone. In Chikuni girls school due to the electricity we had to move the morning group to the afternoon so unfortunately we were only able to get 2 hours with each group per day, so we weren’t able to cover enough to award certificates. Given the difficult circumstances I think we did the best we could and everyone got a good introduction to computers. The problems with the electricity gave us a few laughs having to eat dinner with a miners torch on your head, or the toast would have to be made at 6am while power was on so it was kinda cold! by time we were having breakfast. We managed to get Charles Lawanga’s bus to take us to our Livingstone our last stop, the last hour of the journey had potholes which would literally swallow the minibus!
Our final week was in Livingstone where we were teaching in David Livingstone teacher training college and DL high school. Livingstone is the tourist capital with Victoria Falls as the main attraction. We stayed in the jollyboys backpackers in a 12 bed dorm which was interesting given that we had a few snorers in the group! On our first night we went to a local/touristy bar and stupidly sat close to the stage, so needless to say when a tribal dance started a few of the team were dragged to make a show of themselves. It just highlighted that camera phones should be banned from nights out… The next day we all went to the falls where I was mugged by a pack of baboons! It was actually just one very big… Baboon and I did put up a bit of a fight but in the end he was sitting in the bushes munching on my subway smiling out at me… The falls were amazing to see with the mist and rainbows everywhere, some of us also got microlight flights over the falls which give you a great view. On Sunday we all went for a booze cruise on the Zambezi where we got to see Hippos/Crocs and Elephants. After a few hours of free food and booze we got back to shore and had a session on tribal drums around a camp fire, i don’t think we had much rhythm but we were definitely loud! Our final week teaching went well, the classes were not too big so we were able to cover a lot of stuff. We all went for the last supper on the Thurs night and had a gr8 night, I think everyone was tired but really happy with the work we had done and the experience we had. Anyone thinking of going to Zambia in ’09 I’d really recommend it, the Zambian people are great and i think the Camara way of helping people to help themselves is the best there is.