Now I’m in a quarantine hotel for 10 days. They keep you in confinement with no human contact. No problems, I’ve got lots of work to do and anyway, Wimbledon’s on the telly.Continue reading “may you live in interesting times”
….this is Africa. It smells like Africa, it feels like only sub-saharan Africa can feel, it gets in your blood, under your skin, just like they say. Either that or it freaks you out, the poverty, the utterly different culture, the snakes, the spiders, the malaria, and you never come back.
I haven’t posted since I’ve been here in Zambia; seems time has just flown by on this trip.
We picked up Ketty from end-of-term school soon after I arrived. She’d come first in class for the year, her second at Magwero. I wish I could adequately describe… to those of you who have donated to her fund, how you have changed the life of this little girl. Please be proud of your part in her story!
It’s hard to tell what life is like here unless you’re actually here; it’s so different to life in the West. Some of my friends have been to India, there are similarities, but this is Africa. It smells like Africa, it feels like only sub-saharan Africa can feel, it gets in your blood, under your skin, just as they say. Either that or it freaks you out, the poverty, the utterly different culture, the snakes, the spiders, the malaria, and you never come back.
Even just walking back from Alice & Ketty’s home on the compound, this is not my territory; people sometimes stare at you because it’s strange for them to see a white guy on the compound, or they might say ‘where are you going?’ But I’ve persisted year after year so now it’s equally common to hear shouts of ‘hey Tony!’ and I feel I have started to be accepted.
So a great stroke of luck; I wrote to a couple of game park lodges asking if they’d give us a cheap deal. The lodges are for rich white people coming to see the game parks with prices correspondingly way out of reach for Zambians in this low income area. By low income I mean a dollar a day. One game drive of 4 hours costs 46 dollars i.e. 6 weeks wages and that’s if you didn’t spend money on food in that time. Anyway Jenny from Marula Lodge wrote straight back saying she loved people who tried to help a bit, and appreciated what we were doing for Ketty, and she gave Ketty and Alice free(!) game drives and all of us greatly reduced accommodation charge. So off we went to South Luangwa game park… one of the finest in Africa.
We had such a great time. Check out the video at the end of this post, and the gallery below, for some pictures. Ketty had everyone, from kitchen staff to the director Jenny, wrapped around her little finger. She has a magnetic personality and an infectious laugh. So little miss popular got an invite from Jenny to return for longer so they could go to the local village, Mfuwe, to work with deaf kids there.
I just have to do a plug for Marula Lodge, to anyone who’s thinking of going on Safari to Africa. Unlike some NGOs I see here, and some of the other Safari Lodges, Jenny treats her Zambian staff like fellow human beings, and Marula is based on love and trust between employer and employees. Lovely. Jenny goes down to the local school in Mfuwe and helps the kids with books for learning; she’s establishing a library apart from other acts of generosity.
As well as safari, Ketty and I spent a lot of time in the pool; it was the first time Ketty had ever seen, let alone been in, a swimming pool and at first she thought we were there to bathe or wash clothes. I nearly got her swimming by the end…. nearly. Hours before we left A delightful Californian family arrived, one of whom was a swimming instructress! Timing. But generous people, they insisted on buying us lunch before we left.
We got a ride to the bottom of Mount Mphangwe the weekend before Ketty returned to school… I made a huge Spanish omelette for our breakfast on the top. Alice is heavily pregnant and we had to strongly persuade her not to climb the mountain but get a lift to the top via a service road for the phone masts up there.
So that’s it, I’ll go and see Ketty once more at school, on her Saturday day-off, before I return to the severe climate shock that awaits me on my return from African summer to British winter!!
Thanks again to you all; at the end of this little video Alice thanks everyone personally but it wasn’t until I edited the movie that I realised the wind blowing across the microphone obscured all sound. Anyway…enjoy this short clip……
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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.