Dear Family and Friends,
We arrived in Zambia nearly two weeks ago. This trip we are staying at Seven Fountains – at Kasensa House. Richard and Sue came ahead of us and have been tidying and cleaning, washing curtains and bedding and generally giving the house a once-over. This house can tell lots of stories and I often wish we could sit and chat with those who have lived here in years past.
It is the rainy season but this year the rains stopped in December. Two weeks ago it was bone dry, dusty and hot. A week ago Monday the heavens announced their return with much thunder and lightning and then – a flood of water from above! Steve estimates 6 inches has fallen in the past 10 days. People here are rejoicing and have headed to their fields of maize to weed and put down fertilizer. There will be a crop after all. Thank you Lord.
Rain also helps to point out where the roof needs repairing Here at Kasensa it is the verandah and one of the bathrooms. Many of the ceiling boards have soaked up water and several are bowed with the weight of it – now added to the “maintenance list” for hubby to attend to. Taps are being fixed, stove elements replaced, new light bulbs here and there – soon the list will be completed!
The new school year finally began two weeks ago. A cholera outbreak in Lusaka forced the delay of school openings and many other public gatherings were cancelled until things were brought under control. The students have settled in now and we will be meeting them on Saturday. This year a record number of new Grade 10 pupils have been added to the sponsorship program. Most are from villages some distance from town and it is wonderful that so many qualified for Grade 10. Some are in need of full sponsorship and others, who have at least some income, will receive partial sponsorship. Last week was a ‘meet the parents’ gathering at Kalomo High School. This is the meeting where Ruhtt Mbumwae, program manager, encourages the parents to be involved in their children’s education. She explains that they are a very big part of the support team for their kids. We met mothers and fathers, grandparents and guardians – all of them there to show their commitment. And now – we wait and pray for the students to dig into their studies and grow in their spiritual development. Many will blossom!
Kasensa sits on a large farm used mostly for cattle grazing. Much of the land is leased to a neighbor and due to some recent poaching there is a locked gate at all four entrances. We have keys for 3 of them and the 4th is supposed to be unlocked during the day. Supposed to be. If we head to town in the morning we watch the sky and if it looks like rain is imminent we head home, not wishing to get stuck in deep ponds in the road. The other day we didn’t quite beat the rain and arrived at the blue gate – the one that leads to town – only to find it locked. It was pouring buckets. Steve leaned on the horn to alert the family living by the gate – the holders of THE key – in hopes they would dash out and unlock for us. Unfortunately, the roof of their home is iron sheets and during a downpour the sound of rain on a metal roof is deafening and the horn was in vain. Steve thought he would quickly check to be certain that the lock was hooked to the chain and meantime I shifted to the driver’s seat to drive through – ‘in hope’… Steve did not notice this change in seat assignment and in an effort to keep at least of his clothing dry he baled into the now occupied driver’s seat. We had a good laugh at the situation, readjusted the rear view mirror, praised God for the rain and praised God for Jackson – our faithful employee who came to the rescue.
Kalomo town is busier than ever with cars, bicycles, motorbikes, transport trucks and large buses. All share the road equally and pedestrians are quite unfazed by passing vehicles that pass with inches to spare. As they say here - “we are used” (translated ‘accustomed’) On Tuesday we visited Mwaata’s shop near the market to purchase supplies for students. Steve inched the car through a lane flanked by shops, delivery boys pushing wheelbarrows of goods, ladies with merchandise piled on their heads and – thankfully – no oncoming vehicles… The store owner, Oscar, filled our order of toothpaste, soap, Vaseline, cookies, etc – all the while serving other in-store customers and talking on his phone. He never left his perch but gave orders to several employees and miraculously the invoice was correct. Oscar gets top marks for multi-tasking and making maximum use of space: goods such as toilet paper hang from the ceiling, there is shelving on three sides to the top of the wall and a previously unnoticed loft hold an amazing amount of items!
I am very grateful to have a proper bathtub and flush toilet – never more so than when here. For most Zambians these are still luxuries and I am very aware of the gap between those of us who have and those who do not. Each bath is a luxury. The tub here is chocolate brown – allowing it to look fresh even though it is elderly as tubs go… When the water begins to pour I often notice chocolate brown spiders swimming upstream – not visible except by the movement of the water. They are small but I am not keen to bathe with them and I am not so kind as to pick them up and put them out a window. Maybe this has helped bring some rain?!!
Mandalena has worked at Kasensa for decades and raised her children here. She was widowed in 2004 and left with five children. Three of them have benefitted from the sponsorship program and one of them, Emmanuel, visited today. He is in his final year of teacher training college - a humble and well-spoken young man. The next son, Aaron, finished Grade 12 in November and is working for Shepherd and Ruhtt at El Pantano. Catherine, the youngest, is in Grade 11 at Kalomo High. Mandalena has worked hard to teach them values and a work ethic and I believe her efforts will bring a reward.
Our daughter Elise and her family are due to arrive here Saturday, along with Steve’s sister Marlene and her husband. It will be a first visit for two of our grandchildren and a wonderful opportunity to ‘see’ Zambia through their eyes. I know they will fall in love with the puppies (2 litters!) that previous occupants left behind. These puppies are just beginning to wander about and we have enjoyed the dynamics of a grandmother dog – mother of both current mothers – who nurses both litters. And there is a sweet baby next door at Tendai. Chibbo’s daughter “Loyalty” is 3 months old and bright as a button. Georgette will be in her happy place!
Did I mention the rain?! I believe another inch has fallen since I began typing!
February 26, 2018
Dear family and friends,
The verandah at Kasensa is a special place. I can see the rooftops of Kalomo in the far distance, a broad expanse of sky indicating impending rain – or not, assorted trees and shrubs - some in flower - and all of them catching a lovely breeze. Dogs snooze on the steps. The iron sheets above have been patched and new ceiling boards installed, though if the rain falls sideways some puddles still form near the outside half-wall. Screens keep most critters out of my tea.
Our family have come and gone in a whoosh of activity. The day of their arrival we purchased a soccer ball at ShopRite and each afternoon, after school, several boys nearby would join Levi and Georgette on the lawn in front of the verandah to play. No common language needed. The cheers and laughter and thuds of a good kick were lovely to listen to while we worked at our various stations. When the kids came in for supper they were good and sweaty…ready to eat, bath and head to bed.
Georgette was ‘mother’ to the seven puppies, rocking them like babies and scratching tiny bellies. Levi created a plane from a box and took the pups on a number of ‘flights’. They assigned each puppy a name which was helpful due to their similar looks – most especially on the day Aunty Marlene took them one by one to remove ticks and fleas. They sleep in a big bundle, fight like small children, and nurse interchangeably between the two mothers and a grandmother.
Schools are well into first term now. We have visited Butale, Nalabumba, Siabalumbi, Good Hope and Seven Fountains. Some have presented us with their ‘dreams’ to improve their schools and all have expressed gratitude for the education given to their children. Each year we notice parents becoming more interested and more involved. It is a positive sign.
We have never met anyone who advocates for children as passionately and tirelessly as Ruhtt Mbumwae. She does not back down even when the way forward is a steep incline. When we visited Nalabumba one of the mothers created a song for Ruhtt which roughly translated “you have the frame of a woman, but the fiber of a man”. The schools have developed because of Ruhtt’s grit and determination that the children should receive an education. At Butale, one of the students said “with an education I can make a choice for my future”…. Without education, the choices are not there.
Two weeks ago we had our first sponsored student alumni gathering here at Seven Fountains. Due to limited accommodation the number was limited to 25 but what a time we had! Ruhtt was toasted and roasted and all 25 commended her for stretching them and pushing them to do their best. She taught them a strong work ethic, to love the Lord, and to give back to their families and communities. It was a precious time of reflection and gratitude.
Tomorrow we will make the bumpy ride back to Butale for the official ‘hand over’ of a new duplex for teachers. Next will come pit toilets behind both sides of the duplex and outdoor kitchens in front. And we will not be surprised to eventually find satellite dishes on the iron sheets and a few solar panels!
Rain has fallen abundantly. One afternoon we arrived at Jason and Cintia’s for supper and as we approached the house we saw people who arrived ahead of us sitting comfortably in the garden. Levi and Georgette were playing on the lawn. By the time we rounded the driveway to park the car – less than 1 minute – drops were falling. Marlene, Steve and I remained in the vehicle and were treated to the spectacle of a waterfall overhead, blowing sideways, while people big and small RAN for cover. Most made a dash for the large covered court nearby, though it did not keep them dry. 20 minutes later the rain stopped, wet shirts exchanged for dry, tables and chairs wiped down, and our outdoor meal carried on as planned!
Before the kids returned to Canada we spent two nights in Livingstone, affording them the chance to see Victoria Falls, the Zambezi River, Chobe National Park – and enjoy gelato!! Several years back we discovered the best gelato in the world at Da Canton on the town’s main drag. The pizza and pasta is also authentically Italian, thanks to the fellow who emigrated from Italy a few years back. Our first night in Livingstone was thus a fusion of Italian food with African drumming and dancing. Quite delicious and entertaining, especially when four of our Zambian colleagues took a turn with the drums!
The trip to Chobe began with a drive to Kazengula where three ferries carry transport trucks, personal vehicles and foot passengers across a narrow stretch of the Zambezi. We counted nearly 200 transport trucks waiting to cross on the Zambian side and were told that 80 can cross in a day. To our eyes it was chaos but somehow it works. Our tour driver managed to squeeze our small bus between congested transport trucks, narrowly missing rear view mirrors on both sides for a drop right at the water’s edge. Waiting for us were baskets of curious such as carvings and copper bracelets carried by seasoned salesmen. It is hard not to look like a tourist here – especially on the days when we truly are tourists!! Oh my – the pressure! Soon enough a water taxi scooped us up and took us to Botswana where we enjoyed a day in Chobe park. Elephants were plentiful, as were hippo and crocodile. Beautiful birds…cape buffalo, impala, waterbuck and even a lioness. Thank you Lord.
Today we are packing and enjoying one last afternoon on the verandah. I will miss it!