Ever had one of those middle-of-the-night sudden awakenings when you can't remember where you are? I have them often, sort of an occupational hazard, I think. I couldn't think who I was or, indeed, place myself for the life of me, except I knew I was somewhere far, far, far- I could hear insects buzzing away instead of London sirens blearing. I reached for my alarm, realising that 4.49am was too early for an existentialist crisis. And then I remembered- after a mind-numbingly boring, painful flight, I was in Lusaka. And I wasn't quite sure what I was doing there.
The next morning, I stood by the dusty roadside of my hostel, in a pretty yellow morning light, flagging down every single minibus that came up the road, still not sure why I was there. They all look the same, blue, battered, and there seems to be no logic in routes, fares or suchlike. Yet the zambians negotiate these with such grace and knowledge, leaving me flapping my arms at every passing car. I like the mornings here. They are fairly tranquil compared to the normal hassle of the day, and they are cool. I like watching women coming out of huts in their colourful dresses, placing chairs in the shade before commencing their day of gossip and shelling beans.
Lusaka itself is hardly gorgeous. In fact, it is ugly. Very, very ugly. It is full of concrete buildings, manic traffic and littered roadsides. Sigh. I miss my pub by the Thames waterside in Hammersmith, and all that green stuff. Grass? Yes, grass. But the people are wonderful. Truly wonderful. They are the most helpful, smiley people on the planet. Last night, as I was watching a crackly Zambian government TV programme and having dinner in a little place next to the hostel, the waitress asked me kindly how long I'd been in Lusaka. When she discovered not too long ( she could tell by the way I was struggling eating Nshima, the national maize dish, by using my hands and looking like a two-year-old who'd just been given a spoon for the first time) and I suppose she felt sorry for me, she invited me to her brother's wedding on Sunday. Which is the perfect way to desribe people here. A country where life expectancy is 33, and most families have lost at least one or two young people to AIDS, you need to look after everyone around you. No one should ever be by themselves, which is so heartwarming.
I have been at my job for two days now, and have acquired many new skills. The most important ones being sitting perfectly still, and staring into the distance. I have completed one task so far, which was drafting a curriculum for the computer and communications lessons, and that took about an hour and a half. Unfortunately, as Zambia's president died 3 weeks ago, there's been a national mourning, and the students have been on leave until today. However, they are not yet in today. But see, who would start school in the middle of the week? Silly me.
From top: Me in my tiny office, the automechanic students killing an engine, the computer classroom being cleaned by our fabulous janitor Mr.Simwaba