The first part of my journey was from Belfast to London Heathrow, I met some of the other volunteers after I checked in and made my way to the departure lounge. It was nice to see everyone again and it seemed we were all in the same boat of excitement and anxiousness. We rushed to our gate to board when we saw the ‘final call’ sign for our Ethiopian flight to Addis Ababa. I was delighted to find that there were movies on the plane for this 8-hour flight (I watched the amazing spider man 2 and some new girl), especially as I was sitting on the other side of the plane from the other volunteers. We spent some time in the airport at Addis Ababa, had a look around their duty free which was very different from other airports then we boarded another plane to Lusaka. I slept for most of this journey. As we got off the plane in Lusaka airport it was very warm and I noticed there were not very many planes about, very different from UK airports. We passed through border control then collected our bags, luckily everything arrived safely. As we exited we met Tony for the first time, he is our team leader and some Zambian’s who Cris, the country manager had sent for us. They carried our bags for us to the cars and Tony gave us a can of coke each. The journey from the airport to where we were staying was a strange one; it was what I had expected after being in Uganda however still overwhelming.
We all arrived at Mupigu lodge and we were greeted by Cris who seemed to know all our names which was very welcoming. There wasn’t enough space for everyone in the same lodge so Ellinor and I stayed in this lodge where Tony was already staying. Mine and Ellinor’s room was insanely nice and grand, it was like a palace. The others went to another lodge behind us called The Blue Harven. That evening, Cris took us all out for dinner, we went to this really nice restaurant called Rhapsody were there was lots of old school Destiny’s child which I was loving and the food was really good. Even though we were all really tired Cris wanted to show us a good time so we went to a club called Chez Ntemba which was rather hilarious.
Training wasn’t beginning until Monday so our first full day on Sunday we went to convert some money and try to sort out sim cards at airtel. After Donald and Gerald who were driving us said they would take us to Munda Wagma which was an environmental park with a zoo, botanic gardens and a pool. This was cool as it was good to do something fun before training was to begin the next day.
On Monday morning Ellinor, Tony and I went to the Blue Harven were training would be all week. This was our first time meeting the 7 Zambian volunteers who would be our counterparts, so we had some time first to chat to them while the leaders set up. Our training gave us a pretty good insight into what life in Africa was like, not just because of the cultural and history presentation given by Cris but because we began to see first hand how things can be quite laid back, slow and often disorganized in Africa – as we were warned in our training in Edinburgh. However this gave us a lot of time to get to know each other quite well. We played many games of countdown (numbers and letters) using Steph’s Bananagrams and a well-devised system Euan created. We had a talk from Dr Harry on how to stay healthy, the police came to give us a security brief, we had some presentations on AgbIT (Agribusiness Incubation Trust) and some information about the ICSE program. A man called Hector who owned 2 companies, Sylva Foods and Sylva University came one day to train us on management consultancy which was very interesting. We had a very useful finance workshop over two days, a lot of it was basic accounting and finance, but Kaye, a financial advisor, who presented really helped teach us how to use this knowledge in practice in small businesses in Africa. We also went over some marketing, business plans and marketing plans with Cris.
During lunch and evenings we spent a lot of time bonding, having meals, playing games, and sitting outside by the pool. On Monday evening we went to Golden Days Lodge were the Zambian volunteers were staying, they had wifi there which was extremely exciting. We were called through to the restaurant for dinner and we reluctantly left the wifi. There was live music and wine for us and the food was delicious. Before dinner we had a motivational speech by a man called Edwin and after we had a bit of a party in the clubhouse bar. There were lots of hilarious attempts at African dancing by the UK volunteers; it is safe to say the Zambian side really showed us up. On Thursday night we went back to Golden Days for salsa class as we loved it so much the first time. After Salsa we had a huge buffet which was delicious and more live music. We met a pop star called Daxon Banda who is in the band Ma Africa who sings Mutima Wanga which is my fav song here so far. He taught all of us the dance and we danced together in the clubhouse, it was great fun.
Florence and myself have been placed in a company called Lyben ltd, it is a very small business that produces jams and marmalades and they want to grow and enter more supermarkets and potentially expand into bottled water and juices. All the volunteers are working in similar agribusiness however some are a bit larger than others but everyone was pretty happy with where they were placed. I am very excited to get started and stuck in at work. I have also been placed in a home stay in the same compound where Cris lives with Ellinor, Chigz and Annie. We are attached to Cris’ house but have our own separate space which is nice and we have a housekeeper.
Look out for my next blog to hear more about my home stay and work.
Highlights so far:
- The team in general, everyone is great and we have all been getting along so well
- Zambian people – so friendly and welcoming, they have been so good to us
- Steph bringing the lowest denomination of dollars ($1, $5) to convert which was the opposite of what we were told to do as lower notes get a lower conversion rate.
- Golden days Lodge