Harvest

I got stuck in Zambia. Well I do like it here. But with half the world being on Boris ‘The Animal’ Johnson’s ‘Red List’ (Stand in the corner you bad bad country) it’s kind of difficult to find someone to take you back to the UK. My usual carriers, Kenyan Airways and Ethiopian Airlines have given up even flying there. Not worth it I guess. I had to buy a whole new flight with Qatar Airways, but then they cancelled at the last minute so I get another 2 weeks here. Then … who knows… maybe they’ll cancel again. Anyone got a yacht that they’re prepared to lend me? Meet me in Dar-es-Salaam and I’ll buy you a drink. I’m a good sailor though I do confess to once turning over a sailing catamaran. Not the easiest thing in the world to turn upside down but I did. So that’s out of the way and I’m probably ok for sailing karma now.

Continue reading “Harvest”

We did it

We’ve finished our Yoga Hall, and now we can get on with teaching Yoga to people in this area of Eastern Province, Zambia.

Raise your glasses, ladies and gentlemen, a toast to the people who donated money, yoga trousers and blocks (the Northern Ireland contingent come in for a whole Jereboam of champagne to themselves for constantly stepping in to support me). A toast to the ladies and gents of this rural community for embracing the project so wholeheartedly. And I give you a toast to the guest of honour, Swami Nishchalananda, who supported me without reservation, gave me the freedom and time to go and oversee the build, and most importantly, gave inspiration.

Continue reading “We did it”

A Yoga Hall for Christmas

So after the last post, donations came in up to £500 in total, also enough blocks and trousers for 2 boxes to be sent out. The donations covered cement and sand for making the blocks we built with, and some of the build costs. Thanks so much to everyone who donated.

I went to one of the sellers of roof timbers… huge piles at the side of the road, and Jason and I selected the straightest we could find. I started to realise that I am now quite old, and my idea that I’d just skip about putting up A-frames was… er… quite optimistic. But suddenly there are old friends turning up and taking the project to heart, and their friends joining in, so the main part of the roof was up in 2 days. I had to buy the wood, so now I’m pretty broke, but hopefully we’ll find some more money from somewhere for roofing sheets, then the last big expense of cement and a truckload of river sand for the floor.

If you would like to help us with that, all donations are very gratefully received, through the donation page here.

The nice touches can come later, plaster the inside, outside too maybe. Paint it, build a store for mats & blocks. But as soon as that floor is dry, we go. Yoga starts. Many people have expressed interest, and I have gone from being that strange phenomenon of a Muzungu (European) on the compound, to someone that people laughingly tease ‘Tony, when are you going to start learning our language properly!’

So come on you adventurers, start planning your trip; we have a good thing starting here.

Happy Christmas and may your New Year bring joy and growth.

Love from us all

We all need a Foundation

Thanks so much to everyone who has connected with our Yoga in Zambia project and given us practical help. You gave us £305 pounds, which has bought enough cement for the foundations and about 400 concrete blocks to build with. That’s a great start, and it’s £305 less for me to have to find. Also you gave us 29 yoga blocks of various sizes, and 13 pairs of yoga pants for the ladies to wear. So here’s what we’ve done so far.

We had a delay because Jason wasn’t confident about building a structure with pillars. The perfect solution (although costing another £250) was to get a builder friend of his to do the build, with Jason as apprentice/labourer, so Jason learns a new skill which is always useful out there where there are very few jobs.

pouring concrete for the foundations

Alice had to walk to the borehole for water.. half km there, half km back with a bucket full on her head…

So the two guys are working away mixing and pouring concrete, but the Heroine has got to be Alice, for getting the water for the mix. Now we just have taps we can turn on to get water but at Alice’s place, like all houses in this part of the world, you have to get water from your well. And when it’s the end of the dry season, waiting for the rains to start, the wells often run dry. So Alice had to walk half a kilometre to a borehole at the nearby lodge, then the half-kilometre back with a container of water on her head. Time after time. For two days!! Poor lass she was exhausted, but all she can say is how wonderful that they are getting a Yoga Hall. Alice, you are a star.

We have about 400 blocks that have been made by hand, using a mould. These blocks had to be watered twice every day to stop them drying out too quickly, which would mean they get brittle and fall apart. So now it’s full speed ahead with the building of the walls. I hope to be there to build the roof with my carpentry skills; that’s in the laps of the gods and Kenya Airways right now!

Water in reserve for the next lot of blocks. Onwards and Upwards

Thanks again to everyone. Your effort and generosity will be part of this structure, as surely as the mortar between the blocks.

Yoga in Africa is a very free affair. We have different denominations of Christian Faith people, also Muslim Faith people, practicing alongside each other. Yoga allows us to find freedom in our movement, which is fantastic when you’ve been cultivating your field with your back bent over all day. It also allows us to develop a freedom inside, a space, a spaciousness, where reverence can arise, maybe just for Life itself, or to enhance the reverence of one’s religious worship.

STOP PRESS!! Another donation while I’m about to publish. Another £100 from the Yoga Fellowship of Northern Ireland, who have already given one generous donation. Wow! God bless you my dear friends. Be excited for us. We are! Love from us all…..

Start of a new Project

Let’s formalise this ‘Yoga in Zambia’ thing into a new category on this blog. It’s a new project, and it ties in with the original purpose of this blog; to get an education at the deaf school for Ketty. Now not-so-young Ketty! She’s 11 years old now, wow, how the time has flown since a six year old and a sixty-something year old first formed their bond of friendship and started on this fundraising mission.

In the last few posts on this blog, you’ll see more about the Yoga group, of which Ketty is a part. Last year we started Yoga Asana (physical postures and movements) big time… classes between 5 and 25. Ketty has taken to Yoga so much; she’s the driving force behind our evening meditations (19.00 every evening UK time for 15 mins ‘through the ether’ as we can’t be together in person. If anyone who is reading this wants to join us you are so welcome. Ketty I believe will be a great Yoga teacher for deaf and hearing people, both.

You can see the movie I made when I got back in the spring of 2020 on
https://mandalayogaashram.blog/2020/05/19/mandala-yoga-ashram-gets-a-branch-in-africa/

We have dug the foundations, we are making the concrete blocks ourselves, then we will lay them. It’s a labour of love. Please help us buy materials.

Now things have moved apace and with this Covid stuff, well Zambia closed down, tourists stopped passing through on their way to the game parks, and the Lodge stopped paying wages. Gradually everyone went back to their own work, caring for home and family and working the fields for the coming growing season.

The downside was, we lost the use of our lovely big Yoga Hall, so unless people practice on the ground outside (they have done it in their enthusiasm, but now the rainy season comes), we have to arrange something else. There is no other way than to build our own Yoga Hall!

I know I know, the problem of poverty is a huge one but hey, you have to start somewhere. If you are moved to help me, then please donate whatever you can.

Tony

Building is straightforward… you just do it!! Alice has enough land on her bit of the compound to build there, next to her house. We’ll have an open pillared structure with a roof to keep off the rain of course, like the example above. I design with the help of an architect friend.

We need Help. no other way to say it! I know I know, the problem of poverty is a huge one (see my previous posts) but hey, you have to start somewhere. This is me making a start, and if you are moved to help me, then please donate whatever you can. Every little helps. Mostly we need money for materials, and paying our block makers (see picture above). We have the expertise to build ourselves and with my carpentry skills I’ve designed, and can build, the roof trusses. I just need to get out there this winter.

To donate to this project, please go to the DONATE page on this site

Contact me on ulingana2016@gmail.com or using the dialog box below

Here’s a short movie I made for the Mandala Ashram (where I live) website. They support me, especially my mentor Swami Nishchalananda… he’s 100 per cent behind this project.

Thanks so much, love from Us.

What next, after Black Lives Matter?

I recently posted as guest author on the website of my mentor and guide on the Yoga path. I tell you this to save me rewriting a lot of the carefully crafted piece that I did there… you can read it if you’re interested here >>> https://swami-nishchalananda.com/2020/07/02/possibilities-for-social-justice/

Here’s a small extract from that piece… give you the flavour of where we’re going today.

Why did anyone ever think that Black Lives didn’t matter?

Now many people are saying enough is enough and this wonderful worldwide movement against racism has started up. May it continue. Why did anyone ever think Black Lives didn’t matter? Some people are on the bandwagon of course, but that’s ok. As long as we raise the profile of the fight. And it has been a fight in which many have died. If you have a brain, you know that discrimination by race lives in the world of sheep, automatons, robots, any entity that can be programmed. We can all be programmed actually, couldn’t function unless we had patterns of knowing how to do things.

However, the further possibility for us humans, is that we can use our minds to see how we can evolve, understand what is this life. It’s been my experience that on such a journey of enquiry we soon start to see that we are all part of the same life, the vital force behind all life, therefore to focus on differences is only of use in a football match etc where we’re having fun. Or admiration… like you might say…’ooh I wish I had curly hair like you’! Used in blind ignorance to create reasons for going to war with someone/a whole bunch of people, well… that just takes us backwards in the effort to make this planet of ours an enjoyable place to live.

Do you cross the street to get away from someone because they’ve got brown eyes, and you have blue eyes? Well racism is that irrational and sheeplike. And that’s actually an insult to sheep. How about socks? Do you have something against people who wear green socks?

Welcome to Stupidland.

Ok enough of that Rant!! What the above-mentioned article went on to say is that if we can mobilise so much of the innate Goodness in people to stand up against injustice, why not just… keep going… and look at the gross injustice that is distribution of wealth and resources on the planet. Which is kind of where I left off last time in this blog. I’d started thinking, what is the point of bringing the financial models we’ve used in the West, into a place where people live a relatively hand-to-mouth existence. Capitalism for god’s sake, teaching people how to screw their brothers and sisters until someone ends up at the top of the pile.

Let’s go back a step… when you go to someone else’s culture, the polite thing to do first is to understand that culture as much as you can (being from a different one). Don’t wade in and start deciding how you’re going to help them …. remember ‘voluntourism’ projects where the whites build a library for people way out in the bush who haven’t had the chance to learn to read. Ok that’s an extreme example but that stuff happens.

If you can read the culture a bit better, and that only comes with sensitivity, and time spent with people, they can guide us how to use skills that we might have, but they haven’t had the chance to learn.

If you can read the culture a bit better, and that only comes with sensitivity, and time spent with people, then they can guide us how to use skills that we might have, but they haven’t had the chance to learn. Let me give you an example: A friend of mine who is one of the Yoga teachers in the group we established in Katete District, said recently ‘Initiative is not taught here’. I have seen that schooling can be repetitive so you are just fed information with no training in how to make sense of it. But it was like that in the UK when I was at school… it really depends on the teacher.

But there’s a point here. Through seeing decision making processes happen, people who have lost that skill can regain it. I trained three of my good friends how to teach Yoga. It was hard because I had to learn how they were themselves learning what I tried to get across. Then slowly we ‘adapted to each other’s way of thinking’. Now they are awesome Yoga Teachers, African style.

What am I saying. Don’t try to teach people from a different Culture things that you think they should know. Spend the time, years if necessary, learning from them. Guess what, you may just find that your life has been enriched in the most wonderful way. And the projects to improve people’s living standards, if that’s what they want, will come from that learning process naturally, not forced.

Finally, back to the Main Subject of this blog…. Ketty. She’s been starved of her Schooling by this Covid business, but she’s been joining in the Yoga classes, really loving it. She has great ability to teach. It was funny watching her teach adults at the Lodge how to do Jigsaw puzzles (they’ve never seen in this part of the world), also she gets very businesslike when she’s teaching me Sign Language. So maybe she’ll become a teacher of Yoga for both deaf and hearing people. That would be something.

Ketty at the front of this group … they’re prepping for Ushtrasana, Camel pose

Lot’s of Love from us all.

Tony