Off to Mwandi

Tuesday 26 May

Well, day one has felt much like an African adventure already!

Paula collected me from the Jolly Boy’s hostel about 12:30 and we got on the road to Mwandi Village, about a 2 hour drive away. En route, Paula told me a little more about the charity Homes for AIDs Orphans, which was founded by herself and her husband Dan (who was actually born and raised in Mwandi himself) in 2005, with very meagre beginnings! While they started off sharing land with Christian Missionary groups, in 2007 the Village Chief gave them their own land from which the charity could work. Then, with Paula being part of Rotary International, Rotarian volunteers got involved, who by 2009 had set up running water and by 2010 installed electricity. Although they’re still a small charity and with basic living, it’s very impressive to me that they’ve already come so far with so little.

Paula (and Matt, who was driving) had been a little late collecting me as they had noticed a crack in the car’s front right tire and didn’t want to risk it becoming any more agitated or eventually flat on the bumpy drive back to Mwandi, so they popped to a garage and swapped it for their spare. Problem solved!

The drive was amazing to me- everything you imagine from the word ‘Africa’! On the way I saw baboons, warthogs, donkeys and even a giraffe!! Just wondering around in the wild! At road sides now and then we could see the beginnings of little villages- some mud huts and a few people standing around.

About an hour into the journey we passed the border for Botswana, where I’ll be visiting in a couple of weeks. I peered over and gave a little wave! This also showed the border for Namibia, where Paula and Matt apparently go to food shop from time to time..! Cheaper, apparently!

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20 minutes after this, we stopped at one of the roadside villages to buy charcoal and a pumpkin, only to find that, despite best efforts to prevent this situation, the newly changed front right tire had punctured after all! So, the tire with a crack in it was rolled back out and Matt switched them back again

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… though not without accidentally snapping a stud off in the process. The second to be lost from this particular hub!

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So, we then continued our journey over the cracked and broken Zambian road with a cracked tire and two studs missing, driving as slowly and carefully as possible. The charity doesn’t have much money, and Paula was obviously concerned about the cost of a new tire, but she did well to stay calm. Matt did admirably well to drive as delicately as possible under these new restrictions!

Suddenly, with just 10 minutes of the journey left, Matt pulled the car over and stopped. Somewhere in that short period, the BACK right tire had shredded and was now completely flat and useless!

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At this point, Paula introduced me to a saying she likes to use: “AWA: Africa Wins Again.”

Now we were really stuck, and with both Matt and Paula unable to get signal on their phones! Luckily, they were able to flag down a passing car, the driver of which did have phone signal, and they called the mysterious Dan to the rescue! So we were only stood out in the scorching Zambian heat for about 20 minutes. Dan took Paula and I back to camp, while lucky old Matt stayed with the car until it could be towed back to camp.

He didn’t arrive back until 17:50, and dinner was at 18:00- a beautiful roast chicken! What a treat!

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Paula explained that the reason they’re able to cook such special dinners right now is that I’m the only volunteer here! Which is more than fine for me, I could use a little more space after spending two months sharing a room with 15 other girls at Kwantu, and I hope this one on one set up will make my volunteer work feel more hands on.

The simplicity of this place also goes perfectly in hand with the quiet period I happen to be visiting in! There are two showers outside underneath a beautiful bushy palm tree, I have a little cabin with two beds and a few shelves all to myself and my toilet is also outside (it’s a nice flushing one, behind a door).

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Once I finished looking around and went to my room to unpack, I was also warmly welcomed by Chips, one of Paula’s five dogs!

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The other two volunteers arrive 8 June, and I go to Botswana somewhere on or around the weekend after that. So it’s all looking good!

Tomorrow is my first day on house building. Hopefully I won’t disappoint!

There’s a 21:00 sound curfew here which, at the time of writing this, we’ve just passed. Although all the parties have just about stopped, 21:00 also seems to be the cue for all the dogs in the area to start! Whole lotta barking going on, and I’m fairly sure a donkey just started to join in too! I’ve also been warned that the roosters have a busted body clock, but haven’t heard anything yet… Hopefully I’ll get lucky on that one!

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