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.

Thanks for all the help!!

IMG_0955Thanks so much to the people who’ve donated to help me in this delightful project. With two really generous donations, I’m close to what we need for Ketty’s first year at Magwero school for Deaf Children. You cannot begin to imagine what this means for her and Alice, her mum. A future! My plan is to build up a fund for her 12 years of schooling, and at the mo, I haven’t even got enough for the first year. I can put the extra in, but things will be tight!!

So if you’re inspired by this lovely story and want to give a donation, then brilliant! Thanks so much. I’ll be taking the money to Zambia soon, and going with them to take Ketty for her first term. The money we need is so paltry by our standards…£55 ($70 US) pays for an ENTIRE TERM including food and boarding! £30 ($38) pays for a round trip for Alice to visit (Ketty is only 7, and her first time away from home).

I’m doing my bit! Not just sitting here asking others for money… I’m not rich at all!, so I’ve been living on £20 (appr $30 US)  a week for the past several months (I’m vegetarian so it’s possible to live well & healthily and I don’t go out!!). But still my concern is, I should have a fund built up in case I die before she’s finished her education. And I will start to sell off possessions that I don’t really need. So I WILL get there.

It’s strange because this is not a very regular fundraising project. I actually only want money which comes with love, and a real wish to help me to help Ketty. I loved the wee lass from first meeting her… and it was a hard parting when I had to come back to England,  but I do understand that you’re one step further away.

Thanks, love to you all, Tony

If you’d like to, you can donate here.

Cultures and Vultures

logo

Abstract: Has the concept of ‘working for a living’ become distorted away from our own best interests, without us realising. Rural Africa, which is regarded in the West as being third world, may have a far better cultural model.

 

Who wants to work!

Actually I do. Love doing stuff, creating, being productive.

The norm though, for many of us, is to work in a job because we have to. Usually working for someone else.

OK… back to first principles, what we need:

  1. Basic animal needs:     Food, shelter, a mate.
  2. Luxury items:                Happiness and the search for meaning.

Three years ago a review by Experian found that some 7 million working people in the UK were basically on the breadline. Middle class people as well as the lowest paid. The money they earned was just enough to keep their noses above the water; pay the mortgage, buy food, support a family. If they lose the job, it all goes down the pan; they’re applying for social housing and going to a food shelter for handouts. WOW.

So that’s no different from (1) above, in the neolithic era. Except those people were probably a lot scrooge-28854_1280closer to (2).

Of course there are people who are very content with their lot; according to Credit-Suisse, FIFTY PERCENT of the world’s wealth belongs to ONE PERCENT of people, and 97% of total wealth is held by 30% of people.

Swallow those numbers. That’s the whole planet. This is what Oxfam has to say re the UK, 7th richest country in the world.

Over 2 million people in the UK are estimated to be malnourished, and 3 million are at risk of becoming so.

36% of the UK population are one unexpected bill away from hardship.

1 in 6 parents have gone without food so their children get fed.

(http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/our-work/inequality/food-poverty)

entrepreneur-1428452_1280Most people are working for the benefit of the already very rich. If we want to play the game we have no option but to climb up the ladder as far as we can and cling tightly to whatever rung we’ve managed to reach.

This is the model of society that we’re brought up with, and assume to be the correct way to do things, even though it doesn’t work. Political alternatives are non-existent, most politicians are greedy for personal power and wealth. With some few, but great, exceptions.

My opinion is that Western society will implode. I don’t think it’s possible to change it simply because the people holding ALL power are the people in that top one percent. Then it occurred to me to look to a gentler model of how humans could co-exist, forget my roots, abandon ship in terms of hopes for a fairer society. It won’t happen in the West.


I experienced life in rural Eastern province, Zambia. This area, along with Malawi, Zimbabwe and big chunks of the immense DRC, is probably the poorest area of the world. Existence is hand to mouth in the purest sense of that phrase. People grow crops, and eat them. If the crops fail due to drought, there is no food. Most people have hardly any money. Cooking is done outdoors on a fire of sticks or charcoal. Water is from a communal well, or if you’re very lucky, borehole.

img_0792But, and here’s a big but…. there is something much more wholesome about life there. So am I advocating a return to some ‘primitive living’ model? No, I’m not advocating anything. I’m holding this out for inspection. There are not enough life support systems, but mostly because Zambia, like many African cultures, has been plundered. And is subjected to the same emulation of a failed model; some are very rich, most desperately poor.

I guess what I’m saying is that human culture and civilisation has a better chance of rising above dog-eat-dog in places like this, than in the West.

The West has too much to lose by changing.

In the poor countries, people rely more on friendship, cooperation, loving one’s sister or brother. And already, where I was staying, there are successful cooperatives being formed. This is probably a key factor in future developments in rural communities.

Cooperative groupings mean equitable sharing of roles in a business, but more than that. When you are working in a company which is squeezing as much as possible out of it’s workers for the profit of senior managers and shareholders, that culture often reflects down through the ranks as mistrust, a sense of performance-related unease, definitely a sense of inequality. That’s been my experience when I worked in big business. And that brings a lot of stress to everyone, another serious malaise within Western culture.

When you work together without pressure, the natural friendship of healthy human relationship is much more common. I see in myself, if I fall out with someone (I can be opinionated, aloof) it makes me unhappy. Which makes me stressed and unable to function. I saw far more smiles, gestures of affection, regard to a fellow human, in the very poor communities of Africa.

Ultimately what will save us as a species? Probably only global community. National boundaries are an invitation to falling out with the neighbours. And only when the nations start working together do we get close to agreements (e.g.climate change) which may save the planet, or at least, our species (the point being that once we’ve wiped ourselves out, the planet may recover). As a true global community we could learn to live with our planet rather than on it.

Imagine living in a society where artists, teachers, health workers are valued more highly than bankers and politicians. Now that would be something!

This is an opinionated piece, of course, and I welcome, indeed hope for, criticism and comment.