Tying Rope and Eating Dough

Wednesday 27 May

Those bloody roosters don’t have a clue! Joined the dogs in a shouting match from about 1:00am! Good thing I went to bed so early, or I’d be exhausted!

Funny thing though, since I’ve started taking these Malarone Malaria prevention tablets, I’ve got an incurable hunger and all I want to do is sleep! Thank goodness I’m here volunteering in manual labour… This should prevent me from becoming the size of a cow.

Today was my first day house building, working alongside two local guys who work for the charity; Gabbi and Martin. It’s hard work, but has taught me so much already! Skills I hope to use again, perhaps to build a tree house or something for my kids some day.

The main structure of the house was already there when I arrived, I assume part of the work of volunteers who were here before me, so the job today was to securely tie branches to the outside and inside, creating walls that will later be filled with mud clay for setting. Mission very much accomplished, and I have the blisters to show for it!

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While we were working, this little old woman happened by, who it turns out the house is for. She started clapping her hands together in delighted applause, she was so happy! I just loved it! I only wish I was able to see the finished job and move her in, but Gabbi and Martin say it’s highly unlikely the house will be completed in the 3 weeks that I’m here.

I know it’s a cliché to say it, but we really are privileged to work in the UK. Here this woman stands, delighted that the work we’re doing will someday house her and her orphaned grandchild, while here I am with dreams of someday using these same skills to make a house like this for my child to play in! It’s a jarring comparison…

Gabbi and Martin are both Slozi, the dominating language of Mwandi (as opposed to most of the more modernised areas of Zambia, which speak Nyanja). They’re a lot of fun, and between the three of us we’ve agreed that I’m going to learn 5 Slozi words a day! This list includes ‘mukuwa’, which means ‘white person’. An urgent one I needed to learn, as it’s how the children in the village address me!

Mukuwa – White person

Makuwa – White people

Enisha – Hi!

Musiyale fo – Goodbye

Kanjnan – Puppy

That last one got thrown in because a puppy walked by…

After the day was done, Matt picked us up and drove us back via what he called “the scenic route”, and boy was it!

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He took us by the picturesque Zambezi river, where the Mwandi people go to fish (occasionally only to be caught themselves by hippo or crocodile). Here, Matt taught me that ‘Mwandi’ literally translates into ‘plenty of fish’! Apparently, this place is known for its beautiful and delicious fish- which includes Tiger Fish- to the point where if you tell anyone in Livingstone that you’ve been to Mwandi, the first thing they’ll ask you is “how’s the fish?”

FffI’m now looking left, right and centre for any opportunity to catch and cook my own fish here!

After this, we popped to the main street where you can find a market, a bakers and a few shops selling what can only be described as Many Various Things. Matt had told me they sell a kind of bread here, which I had the opportunity to try once in South Africa when Mama cooked it at Kwantu. In South Africa, they call it Fatty Cakes, whereas here they call it Matun Buwa. It’s basically a fried, somewhat donutty bread, very naughty and extremely delicious. And they’re sold at only half a kwacha each! I got 4 for 2 kwacha! I’m going back for sure.

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Matt also pointed out “The Big Tree”, an obvious and appropriately named tree based close to the end of the main street, under which women sit selling the aforementioned famous Mwandi fish- raw, fried, dried, you name it! I’ll certainly be paying them a visit soon.

Once back at camp, I took my first shower here. I was a tad nervous about the privacy, but soon relaxed, and in fact quite enjoyed it! There’s something very special about showering with a palm tree over your head!

I then indulged in a beer and a couple of those super naughty fat bread things.

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And for dinner? A delicious chilli con carne!

I love it here. I feel genuinely useful and, not only that, but I’m learning so much all the time! My hands are blistered and raw from all the rope tying today, but I can’t wait to get back to work tomorrow!

I’m now tucked up in bed, just in time for all the dogs of Mwandi to begin their noise contest again. Hopefully the roosters will stay out of it this time…

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