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…..

Christmas 2019… where has the year gone?

It’s nearly a year since we last posted! I have to start as I always do by thanking everyone who has donated to the project,   and of course to those of you who make regular donations.

Once again Ketty has proved that her schooling has given an outlet for her bright intelligence by coming top of her class. So it’s all because of you, thanks so much!!

Last year we scraped together enough money to get to the game park. This year we needed a replacement bike; Ketty has outgrown her pink bike that Alice bought for her a few years back (no easy task when you earn a dollar a day!). So we went to Chipata a couple of days ago to see what we could find. Lots of brand shiny new Chinese bikes! Awful quality you can tell just touching them; probably they’ll fall apart within a

old bike, new bike

week. And a gem of a store selling second hand Japanese bikes. There it is… the next pink bicycle, Shimano gears, solid. One satisfied little girl!

Ketty and her mum Alice, along with two other great friends Ennie and Jason, are helping me with Yoga classes here. Most of you know me from our contact at Mandala ashram,  how cool that the influence of Swami Nishchalananda and the ashram he founded is now resonating halfway round the world in this awesome continent that is Africa. We started with some impromptu groups of 6 or 7 enthusiastic people, then the Director asked if I would teach twice a week in the ‘Great Hall’… a space build with sponsor money years ago which is used for large meetings and parties, pre-school kids, silo storage of maize and soybeans, and now Yoga. I’m a trainee teacher (even though I used to teach 50 years ago when I was at uni and a student of my first Yoga teacher, Swami Jyotirmayananda fresh out of Bihar School) so kind of ‘in at the deep end’ as 18 people show up for the first class, most with no English, ages from 10 to 70. It was very different from the  classes we see in the ashram!!! But we held it together, me and my helpers and we’re up and running. We have great hopes for the future.

Ketty has become a girl suddenly, no longer a little child. Well what did I expect. Like almost-teenage everywhere probably, attention span of 30 seconds. All the logic games I bought to help her with maths logic, well they get a few minutes before something else wins her attention. That’ll teach me to get stuck in concepts of what’s going to happen! But soon I see what she and the girls at school are getting up to (with the help of MTV when Zambia Electric graces us with power for the little telly at home). They are practicing their moves.  She has no hearing, but a very cool sense of rhythm and movement. That’s many of my sisters and brothers here… see them and weep, they’re born with rhythm and grace. Here’s a video. Me and Alice and Martha sitting in the back of the kitchen and Ketty decides to put on a show. Amazingly the music, ‘Domoro’, that I dubbed in fits exactly with her timing… Durban House sounds… Gqom it’s called.


Happy Christmas Everyone.

Love from Us.


Fun and Adventures then back to third year at School

….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.

Ketty at Marula Lodge

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……

Not all plain sailing

Life here can be hard.

This post is an eye-opener for anyone who doubts that life is tough here.

We have Cholera in the area. Spread from the slums of Lusaka where the pollution of wells (main supply of drinking water) by nearby pit latrines (holes in the ground) has had inevitable consequences.

The schools will not start again on the 15th because of Cholera. There will be a review on Jan. 30th.

It’s almost lucky (!!!???) that the rains appear to be failing again for the second time in three years in Eastern Province, as Cholera is a waterborne disease and the compounds become flooded when the rains are good. At least The ridiculous Potato-head President of the United States assures us that global warning is not a problem.

The crops will probably fail; it’s too early to say yet. The government is supposed to support the population by giving food aid. They probably won’t as they have huge debt to pay.

Ketty had Malaria. An inevitable consequence of living here even if you have a mosquito net. You just get ill for a while, sometimes very ill. You feel dreadful. Then her grandmother had malaria straight after her, Then her mother. They’re all recovering or have recovered. It’s the annual competition for survival; will it be a mild illness this year or severe, even life-threatening?

Most of my friends here work for an NGO as ‘volunteers’ which means that they’re not covered by Zambian minimum wage. They get paid less than a dollar a day. They work up to 9 hour days but there are no other jobs in the area.

One positive note; I was invited by the Chief of this area to go to New year celebrations at his Palace. I was treated as an honoured guest and sat with him as The Nyau dancers (a secretive male sect) performed the ritual dance of ‘Gule Wamkulu’ accompanied by shouted vocals answered by singing from the girls of the community, and drumming to get deep under your skin. Awesome, powerful.

Happy new year to everyone.