A first year completed

We went to pick up Ketty a week ago for the long summer holiday at the end of her first year at Magwero School for the Deaf. She was so happy to see us; myself she hadn’t seen since last February just after she’d started at the school.

I’m struck by how young she still is, but she has a confidence about her and she’s clearly a popular kid with her school mates. Amazing to see such a different culture; instead of the shouted ‘goodbyes’ of the kids when a typical boarding school breaks up, there’s mostly silence with a goodly amount of sign language as the kids say their farewells.

Ketty and I have resumed our easy friendship and she’s over pretty much every day to the NGO where I’m staying, and where her mother Alice works. Alice is a good friend of mine as are many of the others who work here, so it’s a real pleasure to see everyone again, work with them, share lunchtimes.

Ketty and her friend Eva have been helping me as I work in the garden, they’re more adept with the traditional hoe, used for cultivating the land, than I am. So they prepared one of the beds between them, also they help me water on the days when the rains don’t come.

I’m also working in maintenance here; there’s a lot of buildings and so a lot of upkeep. I’m teaching the guy who is maintenance head, Jason, some of my fine carpentry skills and Ketty likes nothing more than to get a hammer, and a bag of nails I bought for her, and …er…. nail things! If it moves, nail it.

So once again (I never tire of saying this) thanks so much to everyone who has helped us make this possible. Your donations are slowly giving us the security we need from year to year to pay those school fees but also the taxi fares for Alice to visit which is so important. She was with Alice every day since her birth until her first day at school a year ago, and I’m amazed at how resilient this little 8 year old girl is; to be on her own except for two visits each term from her mum. Also we are helping Alice to buy the stuff she needs for school, equipment, clothes, shoes and little treats for when she feels a bit homesick. Zikomo Qambiri! Thanks very much. Please feel happy at what you have helped us achieve, and continue to achieve.

Finally, we shot this video yesterday just on my camera phone. Ketty had seen some people at the catholic church playing guitar and singing, she was in a crazy mood anyway and put together this little performance for us …. watch the eyes! She’s a natural actress and mime artist and though she has no spoken language (because of her deafness being from birth), she has her own exuberant vocals going on most of the time.

The star of the show

Signing to Ketty from a lake near the ashram

Hi to everyone again, from my hilltop haven in Wales.

So I told you wrong in the last post. In fact Ketty started her education proper in her second term. The first was cramming sign language, which I guess continues. But she’s started on mathematics and introduction to science and other stuff. They give school reports… the comments remind me of my school reports from about a century ago, like ‘keep up the good work’. Ketty doesn’t need exhortations, she’s loving her school life and works for pleasure.

End of the second term. Ketty sends her love to all of us who have made this possible for her.

Do you remember what I said in the intro to the project, a couple of years ago, Ketty needs to communicate, cos she’s bright, intelligent and has so much to say. About how we could help her get to the school she needed, to fulfil that need to learn and communicate.

Well we’ve done it my friends!! How awesome that it’s turned from a dream into reality. Ketty came top in the class (out of 10 students) in that first term of general education. Woohoo!! Ok even if she’d come bottom, she’d still be great in my eyes, but she came top. Ketty you’re a star.

Second term end report

So I have my ticket booked and in just under three months, I’ll take the long road out to Eastern province once more. Ketty’s getting ready to go back to school on Monday, for her final term of the year; Alice has told her that soon after she returns home after this term, I will arrive. She’s as impatient to see me, as I to see her.

Thanks again everyone. Thanks so much to the people who have donated. Look what we’ve done. We can be proud. We still need donations to build up the fund…. enough said. God bless.

Thanks from Alice, her parents Mr & Mrs Ngwenya, and Ketty.

Love, Tony

 

Settled in at school

Seems ages since I posted. The fact is that I’m now living in a Welsh hilltop ashram and everyday life seems so far away. But we’re a busy place, established and run by a renowned Yoga Master, Swami Nishchalananda Saraswati, so there are courses and many people passing through. Many of them now know of Ketty and the community of friends in Eastern Zambia as I have a small poster up on our notice board, so the net of helpers spreads wider. Thanks again to all who have become involved in this lovely project.

Alice putting in hair extensions for Ketty to look cool at school

So to Ketty. My previous post was after we’d been to see her for the very first time at school. Her mum, Alice, sends me messages nearly every day via whatsapp (I gave her my old smartphone and use some of my contribution money to pay for airtime as she gets so little money from the NGO where she works. Like… none! right now).

are you leaving?

Anyway Ketty loves school. We left her, at the end of that previous post, hardly looking at us as we drove off, sad at us leaving, as we were at leaving her. Then she returned home for her first holiday… signing so fast that Alice couldn’t keep up. Her teacher says she’s little miss popular (of course); when she saw some of the young kids in the dorm didn’t have soft toys to cuddle as they went to sleep, she organised a rota to make sure everyone had one for a few nights a week, including in the rota her own little ‘Storm’, the husky dog I’d bought for her to soften her transition to boarding school.

signing ‘I love you’ to me during the school hols

I tell you, she’s special!!

So then back to school for her second term, and so happy to go back. Not that she’s had a bad time at home, her grandparents were so happy to see her as well as Alice and her friends in the compound. She was looking for me, even though we’d explained I was away until summer (our winter)… she was looking in the room at Tikondane, that NGO where I used to stay, just to check if I was hiding.

So my friends, I have to keep the dynamic going, year after year I will ask anyone who wants to share this delightful adventure to help me pay for the coming years of schooling. Just if you get pleasure from following this story and just if you get pleasure from knowing that you change the life not just of Ketty, but of her whole family. Why?

Because Ketty is also their pride and joy; when she’s happy and fulfilled, it brings sunshine into the lives of her family (Zambian families are very close and ‘organic’).

Alice, and her mum and dad, ask me to send their gratitude to all of you who have contributed.

I’m soon booking my trip out in December to take fees for Ketty’s second year of schooling. The first year was to learn sign language. Next year she will be starting an education proper, in that sign language, with both deaf and hearing teachers.

 

Love to all, Tony

Ketty’s first month at Magwero school for the deaf.

Ketty at Magwero
Ketty at Magwero

We managed to keep away for a month! After we dropped Ketty off for her first taste of school (https://ulingana.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/a-very-special-school/)  we only had one communication from the head, that Ketty was doing fine.

Alice & Catherine bought loads of vegetables & stuff in Chipata, on the way, then we went to the school. Saturday, day off, kids playing everywhere, then we spot Ketty…they hadn’t told her and she runs over to us, surprised and happy to see us.

A beautiful day then kind staff lend us a stove & charcoal, and we cook her favourite; chips!!! plus a feast… sausages, cabbage salad, green beans in tomato sauce.

It’s still very much the rainy season here so we were lucky… a hot sunny play and eat… then the heavens opened and we rush for cover.

So so sad to go…. Ketty hardly looking at us, shuffling around. I took her aside for a mo and explained I was flying away, not to see her for a year…. finally she looked at me and we had a little goodbye. I was so sad driving away, then I thought, ‘this is actually beautiful… having someone I care about this much and being loved in return…. how fortunate to be so sad on parting’.

Alice told me on the way back… the teacher told her that Ketty had cried for her mother the first two nights of her stay. I’m glad I didn’t know that! But now we know she’s settled and is proudly showing us the sign language she’s learned already.

Once again, to those generous souls, friends of mine, who have donated money, please be proud of how much you have changed the life of a beautiful young person. Not only her, but her whole family… Alice’s father and mother both said ‘God bless you’ to which I replied, please also give your thoughts and blessings to my friends who make this possible.

love to you all, from us.

A good year!

Ketty, bless ‘er

What starts out being a project to help others, becomes another way for life to bring joy to you. The Goddess of the World says, ‘don’t think you can help my children. That task is mine to administer as I please and you will never understand my ways for I am the chaos and order of Nature, in all her beauty. But for having that wish, I bless you again and again’.

This is NOT a post about prospects for this year’s Chianti producers. It’s to celebrate my first ever year of trying to fundraise. I’ve learned a lot. What have I learned?

Don’t treat your friends like oranges, from whom you can periodically squeeze out some more money.

Talking of fruit, don’t be attached to the fruits of your actions. It’s hard not to, but such is the path of karma yoga. The lesson learned will vastly increase the joy in one’s life. What starts out being a project to help others, becomes another way for life to bring joy to you. The Goddess of the World says, ‘don’t think you can help my children. That task is mine to administer as I please and you will never understand my ways for I am the chaos and order of Nature, in all her beauty. But for having that wish, I will bless you again and again’.

If you can hang in with that last bit, it’s an instant cure to ‘shining white knight’ syndrome; the belief that you can go and single-handedly effect change in the areas of hardship in the world.

It’s action that matters. That’s all. Words (like these) count for nothing, except to shape and refine the direction for action. ‘Sharing’ sound bytes on social media shows good intent and has been the means to generate change for the better, no doubt. But it’s useless without action. Doing something.

the Banks exist to increase misery in the world… they will do everything they can to ensure that they, the Banks, profit from anyone’s attempt to help their sisters and brothers. They are snakes, feigning interest in your story whilst looking for more ways to rob you.

Lastly, the Banks exist to increase misery in the world. And most importantly, if you’re a fundraiser trying to transfer funds to Africa, they get very protective about money laundering. I suppose they think that’s their prerogative. They will do everything they can to ensure that they, the Banks, profit from anyone’s attempt to help their sisters and brothers. They are snakes, feigning interest in your story whilst looking for more ways to rob you.


So I have enough funds in place to get Ketty through first year at Magwero School for the Deaf, and for Alice to get to visit a couple of times each term. And the foundation for starting next year’s saving. When I started out in March this year, I had nothing but a plan. Now I have fruition, beautiful. I’m about to go out to Africa to spend three months with my friends, and to do some painting and artwork with Ketty, before she goes for her first school term in January. Thanks to all who contributed. Not just for your money, more for your goodwill, your trust that something good is happening here.

It’s been a Good Year.

Love, Tony

Black Humour

I wrote this story while it was fresh in my mind after hearing it. I was at the NGO in Eastern Province, Zambia, where I stayed for a few months. Sittin’ in the shade from the hot hot sun, drinkin’ tea and sharin’ banter. Isaac and I became good friends and I always loved it when he had time to reminisce. In return he would push me for stories so it was two way traffic. Our senses of humour were pretty similar so I look forward to seeing him again when I go to take the money for Ketty’s first school year. I tell you, there will be a great reunion, a great homecoming, when I meet all those new found friends again, in December. Cool!

These stories were designed as tales of gentle humour….  you’ll find no great plot, with denouement that you’d never have guessed. Just a playing with words in an effort to share some of the love I have for this country, it’s people and their caring culture.  Please enjoy.


Just after Independence…..

Isaac
Isaac

Isaac and I drink tea together as he reminisces. Rhodesia and Nyasaland. That was the name for what became Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. I think if I’d been around at the time, I would have been one of the English who ‘went native’. According to Isaac there were many of them; marry a Zambian woman, blend into the scenery.

But the other mzungus (whites), well, lots of them stayed in positions of authority, effectively operating social apartheid even after Northern Rhodesia was history and Kenneth Kaunda became the first president of Zambia. So Isaac was edged out of the meteorological service in Lusaka despite his knowledge and training. And shunted into the railways. Whence the source of our afternoon stories today.

It seems that social apartheid even applied in the cab of a Zambian Railways steam locomotive. Fairly obvious stuff. Driver… white, fireman…. black. Friendly banter to while away the long journey? No way!

Driver glances at the plume rising from the smokestack, falling like a barometer as the train starts losing power. That’s all. Maybe a raised eyebrow at the fireman if he hasn’t already jumped into action. Not a ‘Hey brother, lets get some coal in the box eh, get some steam up drive this beast a bit faster, what say?’ Nope, just the merest glance serving as a demand for some serious shovelling.

Thus Isaac paints the scenery, the backdrop to our story.

za06_057r__rsz-_9a_117_preserved_kabwe_yard_21-11-2006__pfbThe driver, badly hung over, the usual pack of supplies, food and drink, forgotten in a bleary rush to get to his locomotive on time. Now, the fireman’s ok, got his supplies for the long trip, no problem. Driver sees him swigging from his water bag as he rues the absence of his own, constantly reminded of his thirst by the foetid post-alcohol dryness on his swollen sorry tongue. A signal stops them, driver breaks silence as he brings the train to a halt,

‘Store over there, go get me cigarettes’.

As the fireman goes on the errand, the driver takes a big swig of the other guy’s water. A black man’s water bag, unthinkable to a racist bigot white guy, unless he’s desperate. Fireman returns.

‘No cigarettes’.

So this happens twice more, each time a long draught from the water bag down the driver’s illicitly demanding throat. His tastebuds are so blasted by the previous night’s drinking extravaganza that he doesn’t even realise the fireman’s carrying grade A home-brewed hooch; a cloudy beer with the clout of kerosene. The fireman can handle it; hard work, sweat, familiarised and accomplished liver cells scurrying to the detox party with aplomb. But driver, he’s already on the ropes from last night’s bout with the booze.

Well, people still talk about the locomotive that lurched and staggered into the station that day. Braking with a sodden alcoholic sigh; the last act of an unlikely victim of apartheid just before he surrenders to encroaching coma.

Now to divert down a siding. Into the shunting yard to be precise. Isaac tells me how the more menial task of standing on the ground, to indicate where the coupling is at the start of the trucks to be shunted, falls to an African of course. The driver, reversing the locomotive onto those trucks, maybe early evening as the light’s fading, calls out,

‘Smile dammit, can’t see you until you show your teeth’.


Ah, my friends, I was told when I came here, ‘The people will be kind to you but you’ll always be an outsider to them’.

To which I reply, ‘Are my friendships back in my country some intimate, bonding, soul-secret affairs?’ Sure, some of my friends I love deeply. But I can plunge into new friendships, accepting whatever they have to offer, wherever I may be. Always have. And some people I’ve known for years will always

Musa, Tony, Emelia, Mwasay, Cathy
Musa, Tony, Emelia, Mwasay, Cathy

remain at arm’s length. There are no rules, except that I won’t let anyone try to limit me with their own personal clichés. Ultimately no one is English, or Chewa, or Chinese. Just a human. Get born (did you fill in a form to say where you wanted to get born, before you got popped into a womb somewhere?). Die. And in between those events, live  … we all do the same stuff… look for food, look for shelter, look for happiness, look for a mate, look for meaning. So don’t give me this stuff about ‘you’ll never understand these people’. I’ll never understand ANYbody in a very real sense; we are all unique and very alone, united only by the life-which-sustains-each-and-every-one-of-us. Hardly even understand myself. So now you know the basis, the earth on which I stand, as I go forth to try and relate to my fellow humans.

Which is a long preamble to expressing gratitude to the delightful people I’ve met here. Gratitude for them not subjecting a lone mzungu to a cold-shouldered bitter revenge of reverse apartheid. Gratitude for, on the contrary, warmth, kindness, real affection and nurturing of one who wants only to share his love of life with his sisters and brothers.