Sunday, January 11 – Arrival on site at 3:30
Lordy, what a day! As I write about this day (4 days later), when I have just come up for air, I still shake my head at the challenges of the day and the first night, and at the fact that they are behind us now, but with the full understanding that more challenges are simply lining up to replace them.
Monday, January 12
Sorted out dorms today. Jettisoned idea of mixing Grade 9s and 8s, they now have their own half of the dorm. The 9s are sharing very used double and queen sized beds donated by the mine, and sleeping resplendently like princesses two and three to a bed, and the 8s have the bunk beds, for which I am still short 4 mattresses. Hoping at least four Grade 8s bring mattresses so that we will not have to buy any.
Interviewed two new applicants for spaces and accepted both. Spoke with PTA about why there are no new uniform shirts and how to make that happen. That one is bumped way up on the priority list. Message, and 100k per girl received. Another student can only come if she is supported for the first term, until the harvest comes in.
Discussed all the reasons the Grade 9s had for why cooking in groups would not work. When I announced that, even so, we could not have 50 girls cooking separately, Wana walked by with her new more womanly body moving very well indeed saying, “Well, Ms. Gibby, there’s going to be a lot of quarrelling. I’m just telling you that”. Oh, the attitude of a teenage girl, regardless of nationality when they know they are right.
I have a plan which addresses their concerns. There WILL be cooking teams. The draft begins on Friday.
Tuesday, January 13
Big cleaning and moving day, Met the troops in the morning and issued marching orders. Two home classrooms emptied, swept, scrubbed, desks and chairs washed with Ms. Gibson’s famous spray bottles of vinegar and water, desks and chairs from up the hill brought down by a line of students. Another caravan of girls carried new school supplies down, yes, on their heads, from our house to the Teachers Office. Unpacked and organized by some. New library books incorporated into tidied older collection by Nancy K, Sipora (the book worms).
Then, lunch, bathing, uniforms and back for afternoon classes with yours truly and two of the three teachers who are here. I think Teacher Alfred is going to be exactly what our feisty Grade 9s need. He loves to teach, comes with loads of experience and a quiet but commanding presence.
Wednesday, January 14
Best day yet. No rain, lots of sun. Girls did schoolwork in the morning, cleaned the science room and the Nursery class plus a variety of other as yet untouched areas in the afternoon, and shared the two watermelon I bought roadside from Lusaka. There was also enough to give watermelon to the several little children currently living onsite because their parents work here. Then, Teacher Alfred had the girls help him erect the fallen net ball pole and they had their first sports afternoon. Much leaping and screaming.
Laura, our Peace Corps volunteer, who will be helping with the farming classes, came by to print out grant application forms which will hopefully bring in some funding and also was able to finally help me print out the timetables. Starting to feel like we might be ready for the first day of classes.
Finished the day walking down to the school to take pictures of the beautiful dahlias which currently grace the front of the classrooms and met two fathers on bikes who had accompanied their two Grade 8 girls in to the school. The place, in the sun at the end of the day, with the flag up, and everything clean, seemed like heaven. I felt proud to be meeting their dads and I could tell that they are happy for their daughters.
Lots of singing at the fire last night, and in my heart, as I fell into bed.
Thursday, January 15
Went to Solwezi today with Mr. Mukimba and Joseph, the driver. Left late due to rain (9ish) and returned at 5:30. Very long day. Stopped at Michele and Jaco’s to have quick look at van (needs brakes on the left at the back within the next two weeks), and so that I could use wifi because i am still having connectivity issues with laptops and dongle onsite.
Bought a variety of school, dorm related requirements, none of which I believe we have a budget for, but all of which are necessary. I was too exhausted to do the forensic examination of the ball of receipts and collapsed financial organization of my purse when we got home. In the end I was madly pulling money from envelopes and pockets to buy what was needed and get out of there. Of course, no one in the market gives receipts, so that will be fun sorting out. Waited an hour and a half in front of Shoprite fending off assertive taxi drivers while waiting for our English teacher Harriet who, finally, due to malaria was not able to join us for the ride back to the site but will come tomorrow on her own.
The trick on these visits, is to buy as little as possible at Shoprite, which is the local grocery store plus some hardware and housewares, terribly overpriced and absolute madness in the parking lot with aggressive taxi drivers and 7 year old boys requesting 5 kwacha for being cute whom I tell to go home and study, and a network of young men selling armloads of jeans, religious posters, Talktime and a variety of other merch, as well as forlorn young women with babies on their backs and trays of fruit on their heads.
Alternatives to Shoprite mean visiting a number of vendors in the local market: hardware wholesaler, Chinese store, PEP (think Giant Tiger, but more Small Tiger), three different school suppliers of overpriced supplies, although I did discover a new supplier in the market, Legacy World Trade, who supply receipts, excellent service and are reasonably priced), grain wholesaler for rice and mealimeal, and MTEC, another market on the way out of town for more dry goods, as well as the gas station where they smiled at my Credit Card. It is a cash society, baby….except for Shoprite.
Discussed with Mr. Mukimba all the reasons why building two teacher houses, and a dorm, and a science lab are great ideas but must be temporarily put in abeyance until spirited fundraising and astonishing results make this construction possible. I remain optimistic.
I did not get everything on the lists….by the end of the day I was ready to go with what we had, consequently missing the matron’s requested Ventalin. She has bronchitis and I feel terrible that this was missed.
However, a floor mat means nursery can start before the new chairs are finished. Three brooms, bought from a lovely member of the parking lot syndicate while being the sitting duck muzungu at the front of the store waiting for Harriet and my driver, mean the classroom floors and dorm floors can be washed other than by on knees on gritty concrete floors. Nails and wood glue mean Kennedy will be one step closer to finishing the chairs and desks. Rice, a pot and brazier mean Joseph can start cooking breakfast for the girls at 6;00 a.m. tomorrow. Teacher Alfred now has a pair of flip-flops so that he can save wear and tear on his one pair of school shoes, salt which he has been doing without, and mealimeal to get him through to payday. The student, who asked for support, so that she could return to SWSC, now has mealimeal, cooking oil, fish, relish, soap and detergent. Her arrival will be delayed because of a funeral for her father, whose beer was according to crazy rumours in the dorm, poisoned. (Later determined to have no basis in fact, only imaginations). It does take a village!!!!
Day finished with Charity, Precious and Tiba doing math with Kennedy at the kitchen table. Trying to do questions about time. They pronounce 60 as skixty. We had a little pronunciation lesson. another good day.
I am just now publishing this as it has taken me almost three weeks to get into a wifi environment to do so. More to follow.