28 November 2017

Hello again!,
It’s nice to have wifi back! Things are going well.

On Monday morning we had not heard from the Ministry of Education about an appointment but decided to pop in anyway and see how we did. The ‘School standards and performance officer’ kindly came out of a meeting he was holding with a large number of local head teachers to see us. He said he admired our passion to help the vulnerable; it was good to make contact with him. He and Stephen exchanged phone numbers.

The next priority is to see all the kids we are sponsoring as an organisation. Count so far: 45 out of 48, not bad, 92% in fact, in 4 days – a new record! – but we are going for 100%. I keep humming the Pokémon song in my head, for those who know what I mean – ‘gotta catch ’em all!’

To this end the next stop was Magwero School for the Deaf, where Zoe sponsors Yotam, a pupil from Mnukwa area. The school is in a stunning location near a lake with hills looking like something from the lake district, and the grounds are beautifully maintained. It seems a really nice place; it all looked well cared for, and the boy we saw looked happy. We had visited his family (mum and sisters) the day before and made a video of them and their friends and neighbours all waving hello to him. We played this for him on my phone letting him hold the phone. The first time he just looked wide eyed, then he replayed it about ten times, smiling wider each time. It was great!
The head teacher is very happy with him, he is working hard, well behaved, and got 90% in maths. He even got 60% in English which impressed me more as he’s learning a second language as a deaf person, as well as learning sign language and chinyanga.
The school used to be a bit remote, but there is a new mobile phone mast near the school which has improved communication.

On the way home we dropped in to see old friends in the local Indian community who have helped us considerably with Zoe work and had a nice social catch-up. We had a little drive around, Stephen showed us St Monica’s, a big Catholic boarding school for girls, and the new hospital that has been built on the Great East Road outside the town (or should it be called a city now?, it is getting so big- and it does have a cathedral!). The hospital is just starting to open some departments.

Then we got a tyre replaced on the truck as it had an ominous bulge where the wire inside the tyre had broken on a sharp rock out on the bumpy roads.

Chris and I went to MamaRula’s for dinner. This is the local B and B run by a South African family, which has been here for a long time and is a stop for the big overlander trucks doing tours of Africa. It was good to see it is still here and the steak and chips is as good as ever! We had a convivial chat at the bar and admired a sophisticated overlander coach which morphs like a transformer (once parked) to create a mobile hotel with comfortable beds. Well, beds, anyway!
When we got back to Stephen’s we pressed the remote to open his sliding gate, and as it opened a dog ran out and disappeared down the road! We knocked on Stephen’s door to confess, and were told not to worry, ‘he’ll come back tomorrow’. Well as I write nearly 24 hours have gone by and no sign of him yet. Apparently this is not unusual though. They have 2 dogs. One is good and comes when called, the other one is naughty. If you keep telling them that, do they start living up to their roles? This one does, anyway!

It rained in the night and was still raining this morning – in fact it has rained most of the day! When we set out Chris and I were in summer clothes, it is still in the mid 20s Celsius. The local folk, however, were in thick coats, kids in anoraks with furry collars, and a number of women wearing plastic supermarket shopping bags tied on as hats to protect their hair. Assorted plastic sacks and sheets from packaging had been transformed into improvised but effective waterproof cagoules.

There were 2 more kids to find! Chris was driving today, all around Mnukwa chiefdom on the ‘bumpy roads’ in the rain with me trying (and occasionally failing) not to be too nervous in the back! I’m OK until the vehicle tilts more than about 30 degrees. I can’t understand why people go off-roading and do this for fun!!

We reached Kalembe school where we managed to find one more lad who had been absent when we popped in here last week. That day they had a big AGM going on so we didn’t stay, but today we had a session with the head teacher talking about each of the 10 Zoe kids who goes there; discussing their school reports and how they are doing.
Then we had a tour of their building project, the community are building 2 more classrooms. They have 375 pupils and only 4 classrooms. We also saw the teachers houses; the teachers farm and grow their own food in their spare time!

We had now seen 47 out of 48 Zoe kids which spurred us on to find the last child, a girl who used to be at Kalembe school but has moved school. Stephen thought the rain might have kept her at home, so we went to her home which was pretty remote and took lots of bouncing about and several hair raising moments to get to, but no! she had gone to school! which is exactly what we want to hear. It was just after home time so Stephen figured if we drove towards her school from her house by the best route we should hopefully meet her. And we did! It was great to go round a bend and see her coming towards us. She seemed a bit surprised by our effusive greetings and celebrations at finding her. We couldn’t really explain she had just completed our ‘gotta catch up with ’em all’ 48 out of 48!!
We texted John triumphantly!!

It was quite a relief to get back to the flat gravel road, and tarmac total luxury!! After getting back to Chipata, a brief stop at Spar for provisions for dinner and tomorrow, and home to celebrate! (which involved flopping with a drink and having a look at Zambian TV, then cooking dinner!)

Update on the dog: Stephen located it and took it to the vet for a check.

We complied a list of things we still have to do, Chris had a shower and then fell asleep at 7.45pm, worn out by all that off road driving, and now it’s 8.15 here and I guess I will follow shortly! Most folk turn in quite early here- by 9pm- but are up at 5am when it gets light. School starts at 7am!!

While I was writing this the ‘great big God’ video has been downloading, it took over an hour, but it’s just completed and I have watched it- it’s great! it works! Thanks, Nick!
We had not been able to download it (maybe less bandwidth here?) but whatever you did to change it was successful. Good job!

So – I will end there for today – night night !!

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