My first week back in Zambia

My first week back in Zambia

written by Sian Jones

We landed in Lusaka on Monday at 6.30am and by 9am I was settled into my accommodation (a miracle in itself!).  However, instead of resting after a long night flight and getting settled back into a very different country, culture and climate, we went straight to Shine Zambia Reading Academy.  We were both very eager to see what the school looked like after 8 months of Vineet’s absence, and I wanted to start working with the teachers straight away in preparation for the new school term that starts the following week.

It was lovely to be at the school again, and the greeting we received from the teachers was amazing.  I had been expecting to be a bit overwhelmed by everything that was suddenly completely different to the UK, but this time everything seemed so familiar that it honestly felt like we had never left.  The one thing that did take me a bit by surprise was how dusty it is in Kalikiliki.  Walking from the market to the school you can feel dust EVERYWHERE on your body and in your lungs.  Luckily my accommodation is in a very low dust area!

This week I met with the teachers for a number of hours each afternoon to discuss pupils, results, schemes of work, timetables and other school related things.  I am so grateful that they worked so hard for me – I’m sure they don’t really know what to make of this white woman who likes to work at a million miles an hour!

At times I felt like the pied piper of Kalikiliki, attracting a trail of children as I walked through the compound where the Shine school stand!  There are no white people living in this compound, and very people white people pass through it, so I am an attraction!  Vineet is almost seen as a celebrity as most people know he is the man who built the free school in their compound, and also because he has provided employment for so many people in Kalikiliki over the past 5 years.  People constantly stop him to greet him and shake his hand and chat to him.  With me, people mainly stare and children call out ‘Muzungu’, which roughly translates as ‘white person’, a term used in Zambia without any offense intended.  Some are brave enough to talk to me, usually saying ‘how are you?’  (Even if they don’t speak English, most children know how to say ‘how are you?’ and ‘I’m fine thank you’).  If I respond and shake their hand (as is the custom in Zambia whenever you talk to someone) they run away, dancing with excitement.  But for the children too scared to greet me, they will often just follow me!  Walking home from the school on Friday there were numerous children walking behind us in a kind of snake!  It must have been a very funny sight indeed.

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