African Adventures Part 2

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February 6th 2007
Published: February 13th 2007
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I wrote this last week but never got round to posting it as the internet is SO slow that it took another week to get the photos on, so sorry this is a little out of date already.

Mambo everyone, and Shikamoo for the oldies out there (mambo is hi to people your own age, and Shikamoo is a respectful greeting for those older than you that literally means I will wash your feet). Based on the state of most peoples feet out here due to the dust when its dry, or the mud when its wet, there's no chance of this happening real soon!!

After 4 weeks of our new African life, we are starting to settle into a bit of a routine which we haven't really had since we left Australia last June. Many people have been asking about what life in Africa is all about so I thought I would start this blog with a typical day in the life of the School of St Jude’s.

We don't bother setting an alarm as things round here run like clockwork. We wake up about 6.30am as the sun comes up and the roosters start crowing (if they've had a sleep in) and the first bus drivers start the buses for their trip out to pick up the kids. We have had all intentions of getting up early and going for a walk to see the new day in but as yet this has happened only once, and that was a weekend! After climbing out from under the mozzie net, it’s on with the clothes and out the door to the communal kitchen to get breakfast (cereal and toast). The mozzie nets are great, as even though you may get woken up by the high pitch whine of an incoming mozzie looking for a feed, you know that at a point only a few feet from your head that it will meet with an impenetrable barrier and you go back off to sleep thinking - too bad sucker!!

After breakfast it’s time for the daily commute of about 60 seconds from our apartment to either Rachel’s classroom or the office for me, at about 7.45am. The kids arrive on the buses between about 8 - 8.15am which is amazing really considering how bad the roads are. Obviously a school runs on a strict timetable; morning break at 10.30am, where the kids get sickly sweet tea and biscuits or a local pastry (the office also get the same and I actually do not mind the tea which seems to be a mix of tea, cinnamon and lots of sugar, and the pastry called Maandazi, is like a mini donut - I had five the first day). Lunch is at 12.30pm which consists of the same menu repeated each week, so on Monday - Rice & Beans (beans are good, but be careful of the rocks in the rice), Tuesday - Kigali (ground maize - had it once - say no more) & spicy spinach (very tasty), Wednesday - Meat Palau & Potatoes and Coleslaw salad (watch the bones, enjoy the salads), Thursday - Rice & Beans, Friday - Vegetable Palau with potatoes and coleslaw (highlight of the week). So as you can see it’s actually quite healthy really, and we’ve both lost a couple of kilos already, although after Christmas in England that was always going to happen. Rachel only eats the lunch on Thursdays because she is on lunch duty with the kids, which means she only eats the beans as she swore off the rice weeks ago. Update, since first writing this I found my biggest rock so far in the rice and took a photo to show you all.

School finishes at 3.30pm when the kids pile onto the buses and head off home. The office shuts about 5.30pm, about the time Rachel finishes, so it’s a quick drink from the bar before a communal dinner in one of the 2 kitty’s running for the volunteers. After that it’s a bit of a chat or some relaxing time as the sun goes down before an early night.

Weekends consist of working on Saturday, maybe dinner out with some of the group at one of the local restaurants and then a relax on Sunday before it all starts again. The first week or so seemed to go forever but with 4 weeks already gone, the time is starting to fly past.

Rachel really loves her kids and her own classroom and has spent endless hours creating posters and signs to hang up and brighten up what otherwise would be a very basic and cold concrete room. Her classroom has now become a bit of a tourist attraction for the other kids, as many of them come to the door to have a look. She also always has it well stocked with supplies so the kids are always asking for new pencils, etc.

However we have found the days are really long here which is mainly because we are living and working in the same place so you never feel like you actually leave work. As such we try to get out on a Sunday so we feel like we have some sort of break.

Last Sunday we got up and decided to head off to a local coffee plantation lodge for the day as they let the school staff visit and use the pool and facilities. We got there about 10.30am and lay by the pool in what is a very nice and relaxing environment. We were having lunch about 1.30pm when 10 other staff with the same idea turned up. Oh well it was good while it lasted and the 3 hours felt like a weeks holiday.

We haven’t done much this weekend as we went out on Friday night with a few people to a local (Aussie owned) restaurant called Stiggy’s which we have been to before and is really nice. It’s not much from the front but it has a great garden and courtyard where you eat out the back. Unfortunately at about 2am on Saturday morning Rachel woke up to what we can only think is food poisoning (she had a pepperoni pizza) and spent the next 5 hours being very ill, and then spent the rest of the day still unable to get up, but at least she had stopped being sick. By Saturday night she had managed to hold down Nurse Bernie’s (an Aussie volunteer in the Library) suggested remedy of a hot vegemite drink with dry bread - which she even came back for seconds of. Today, Sunday she is a lot better although very sore from the continuous vomiting, and is eating very carefully.

Other than the weekly routine there is always something going on at the school and the first few weeks had loads of things happening.

First up were the 3 peaks in 3 weeks where 10 girls from various places became the first all women team to scale the 3 highest African mountains in 3 weeks. As they are raising money for the school they
Here's Dinner for your effortsHere's Dinner for your effortsHere's Dinner for your efforts

They did cook up the a goat, and I actually quite liked it
had a big party for them on Australia Day (26th Australia for the Poms) and they had roasted goat, a local African band and loads of impromptu dancing from the kids and adults that were there. Lets just say that they really had a good time and it was very refreshing to see that some of the poorest people on the planet enjoying simple food, a few soft drinks, and music. The kids were happily dancing away up on stage with the band and anywhere they could find a spot. It was great fun and we all had a laugh.

In week 3 we had some new kids arrive at the school that had been unable to start at the beginning of term as the required house and school checks had not been completed in time. They have a very strict policy of checking children’s previous school results as things are very easily forged here. Well when these kids started they all had to be kitted out in the uniforms so I helped out for the day and it was a really heart warming experience seeing these kids come into school wearing ragged old clothes and be transformed into
Careful of the RiceCareful of the RiceCareful of the Rice

I found this rock in my lunch one day, fortunately I chew carefully.
a St Jude’s student with new shoes, socks, shorts, shirts, hat, tie and even the occasional pair of undies for those that didn’t have any. The kids were very shy but they all had massive smiles on their faces when you got out the new clothes, which for many of them would have been their first ever new anything.

We have started Kiswahili lessons twice a week with one of the local teachers and it’s actually quite an easy language to pick up, although saying that it’s still going to take us a long time to become fluent. The best part is that it is a very phonetic language so to read you simply have to say it as it looks and its generally correct, although I have had a few of the locals in stiches with my attempts. I have to deal a lot with the local trade’s people and people coming into pay for things or get money so at this stage it’s a lot of sign language and writing things down, or if all else fails a quick call for help from one of the local office people.

Anyway, so far so good, although we are starting to miss some simple things such as good quality toilet paper, quality meat, fresh milk, cheese, chocolate, and other things that don’t do well in the heat. The local fruit and veg are fine and in fact what you can get is good quality (ok its not going to win any beauty contest but it tastes fine) and is super cheap. A weeks worth of food in the kitty costs about 5 pounds each or $12, and then your luxuries on top of that are not much more. You can get decent beer for less than a dollar for 500ml, and soft drinks are about 30cents. Some items are outrageously priced as they are fully imported, for example Rachel thought she really fancied some Rice Bubbles cereal and a normal size box was $10, freshly flown in from the UK. They obviously adapt things for the climate and the fact that refrigeration is not common in most homes, so the biggest selling margarine is Blue band which amazingly does not need to be chilled. In fact if you put it in the fridge it freezes, so god knows what’s in it.

A few people have asked what
The Office TeamThe Office TeamThe Office Team

This photo is actually going in Gemma's book to be published in April
we need over here and we do have a list which I will post on the next blog which will hopefully be in the next few days, otherwise this one will never end.

So farewell for now and have fun wherever you are.


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