Hello everybody from the long lost land of Zambia.
So last Friday 3rd October I packed my bags and set off to London Heathrow for my flight to Lusaka. I stopped by duty free to buy the last part of my presents for my host family; I found some coasters with a stereotypical black and white with a red bus view of London to go with the shortbread in my suitcase. I just sincerely hope the chocolate shortbread has made it through the heat!
After leaving duty free I conveniently found Ellinor, Jo and Will sitting down and waiting and we were shortly joined by Euan. We met Chigz and Rudo on the plane then we were a complete Team Zambia! The flight was pretty standard, some odd fish was put infront of me and I decided to watch Rocky but unfortunately fell asleep before the big ending.
After a brief layover in Addis Ababa we made it safely to Lusaka, marvelling at the views through the window where you see small collections of buildings, like a mini village, and then miles and miles of nothing but lakes and trees. On arrival to Lusaka, first impressions of the country were very positive, the security guard smiled at us (they really like it if you smile and say hi how are you). We met our Team leader, Tony, at the airport along with our drivers Gerald and Donald – (Gerald has already given me his collection of Afrobeats to practise traditional Zambian dance). We met our country manager, Cris Muyunda at the lodges (he has a photo of himself and Barack O’Bama on his CV – he’s kind of a big deal). He had memorised all of our names and our back stories which was impressive.
On Saturday evening, Cris took us out for a meal in Rhapsody’s which was pretty cosmopolitan, I had steak with melted cheese and jalapeños –the dream. The most popular beer is called Mosi which is short for mosi-o-tunya, the traditional name for Victoria falls, and the meaning is ‘the smoke that thunders’ .
We haven’t had a chance to try too much of traditional Zambian food yet as we have just been in the hostel training so the menu focuses predominantly on fish, beef, chicken with rice or chips. I have tried their favourite food – nshima (pronounced shee-ma) which is like boiled maize, a bit similar to mashed potato but a lot less flavour. I wasn’t a huge fan but perhaps time will change this after I move into my host family as they apparently have it at least once a day. I did start eating my fish with my hands today which is the traditional way! We stopped by a supermarket one day so we could buy some snacks to keep us going, the Zambians only eat three large meals a day, so the UK volunteers wanted to have some home comforts to snack on, food was more expensive than we were expecting but still reasonable, we even found pineapple flavoured Fanta!
On Thursday night we went to the Zambian volunteers’ hostel, Golden Days which is really nice and the hosts are very friendly. They put on a salsa night there at their bar with four teachers, it was really funny to watch everyone attempt the moves. We haven’t quite mastered the art of salsaing just yet. They also taught us Kazomba (excuse the spelling) which is traditionally from Angola and more of a slow dance. Annie, one of the Zambian counterparts even volunteered herself to do a demonstration with the professional!
First major hiccup for me: during training when Kirsty advised us to bring only big dollar notes to convert into Zambian Kwacha, I somehow understood the opposite. So when I felt super savvy that I had specifically asked the guy in Thomas cook for the smallest notes possible, clearing him out of all his one dollar bills, I was actually making a serious mistake. Big dollar notes get 6.2 Kwacha to the dollar, whereas small notes have the rate of 5.5 Kwacha to the dollar.
Myself, Will, Euan and Ellinor have managed to do two morning runs to try and wake ourselves up and keep us active. It is surprisingly difficult with the heat, and mainly with all the dust, the roads around the hostel are quite dusty so whilst running it affects us. We managed to do a lap of the area in 30 minutes so overall happy we have done some exercise!
The past week of training in the hostel has been pretty intense but, as a whole, I have learnt a lot. Specific training was given in Finance, Management Consultancy, and Marketing with advisory talks on Health and Security. At first we were all a bit baffled by the accountancy exercises, but the consultant was very experienced and explained everything very clearly so we feel much more prepared if we were to come across something like this during our time at the companies.
We recently discovered the businesses we will be working in, they are all in the agricultural business and mainly food processing. I will be going into Pumuna Ltd with my Zambian counterpart, Vivian. She is from Lusaka and really lovely and smiley. Pumuna Ltd produces fruit juices in Zambia, namely orange, cream soda, raspberry and pineapple. They require support to expand its market share and develop a forward looking business plan so I will have to dig out my old marketing courseworks!
Vivian and I moved into our host family on Saturday. It is in Woodlands and 5 minutes from both the presidential palace and the military grounds so a nice area. The family are really nice and welcoming. They are: Blaze and Carol Lusaka, with their three children: Nigel, 18, Natalie, 13 and Emmanuel, 5. Emmanuel has already decided he will follow me everywhere I go, including checking up on me while I am napping, just incase I have woken up to play with his toys. It is nearish to Showgrounds (main business centre where we are working) but buses are tricky because you have to go into the centre and back out. However, Blaze goes past there on his way to work so we should have transport there and then get the bus back.
I will leave it at that for now and hopefully update you about what is happening at the business and how we have handled public transport, me being a Muzungu (foreigner) and all.
Lots of love,
P.S. For anyone wondering about the title of the blog, that line was said by little Emmanuel when we had a 12 hour power cut on Sunday, while we sat by candlelight he shouted “at least we have water Mummy, because life is water and water is life” pretty insightful for a 5 year old right?