Deborah’s Blog: The Centre of Excellence is feeling alive! – November 2017

I’m writing this blog from my site office, which means it will get written piecemeal; I definitely spend more timem out and about on site than I do behind my desk. The Centre for Excellence feels so alive!

Aside from all the trainees and workers involved with my construction projects,the Centre is currently hosting Cohort 3 trainees learning basic masonry, a group of trainees learning carpentry and an advance class of trainees on the new painting course. Not to mention all the Build It staff and trainers who make these courses possible. The site inductions that I was so nervous about in June’s blog now seem like a weekly run of the mill task, and my Nyanja is coming along nicely. My most important phase of late has been “takomboka” – “I am knocking off”.

Day to Day

I wanted to give you all a flavour of day to day life here, so here are a few little quirks:

  • The morning site safety briefing often concludes with a prayer. About 95% of the Zambian population is Christian and most people do a double take when I tell them I don’t go to church
  • Women are respected, but not without a gender role. I had to intervene when I realised that the female trainees were cooking lunch far more often than the men. Most people don’t believe me when I try to explain how bad my own cooking is and that my brother is far more capable
  • Not everyone has phones, as I discovered when I’ve tried to contact absent trainees. I genuinely think I’d be lost without my phone; I use it to communicate, schedule, take photos, keep notes, call home. Try and have a day without your phone and you’ll see what I mean
  • It takes me about the same amount of time to drive 60km on a tarmac road as it does to drive 20km on an unsealed road. It’s amazing how easy it is to forget how essential roads are to infrastructure and development. Not to mention the fact that unsealed roads require a high clearance vehicle and an acceptance of the fact that your luggage (and your stomach) won’t arrive in the same state in which it departed.
  • Driving is a free for all. Especially when the traffic lights aren’t working at a major intersection
  • My tan isn’t real – it’s a light covering of dust that collects every day and gets washed off each evening

Spare time, when you’re in Zambia

Despite being so busy, somehow I’ve managed to fit in time to get out to Lower Zambezi National Park whilst my brother and mother popped over to visit me. I don’t want to boast (by which I mean “I want to boast”) but on one particular day we were able to sit in a truck watching buffalo grazing to our left, elephants having a shower straight ahead, and a pride of lions sunbathing to our right. We also spent an afternoon canoeing down the Zambezi River, staring into the yawns of hippos from a worryingly equal level. I have a suspicion that the UK may be somewhat tame in comparison.