Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bush Camp

Monday 18th August

I think that another blog posting is called for although my last has yet to be published.

At 17.30 I met the Maluba team and we headed for Tooters to pick up our transport for the next adventure. Before we got there the SAPEP vehicle stopped and Wilson the Director of the organisation introduced himself and we jumped aboard. We met Tom and his two volunteers who had just arrived on a bus from a weekend in Livingstone and (leaving them behind) made our way to the farm which was to be our destination for the night.

We were all treated to a sumptuous supper before moving down to the camp where a fire was already blazing. Straw had been laid for our mattress, but before turning in we got to know each other through a few 'ice-breakers' – with all parties taking an active part. It was well beyond midnight when some of us hit the hay (literally!). The moon was full and the whole night was bathed in bright light clearer enough to allow you to find your way about without the need of a torch. I find the moon shadow truly beautiful and with the moon high the trees painted a complex pattern on the ground below. Occasionally during the night I woke momentarily to see the bright glow above and a silhouetted landscape in front. The only sounds were from the cicadas and other occasional nocturnal creatures chatting to each other. A little before 6 hrs the moonlight was gradually joined by its daytime, even brighter, companion. Despite only a short night I had no inclination to lie in. So before breakfast I joined Nigel and Peter for a stroll down to the river. We spent some time there and I felt that I could have happily spent the whole day sitting on the bank. The sun rose gently bathing us in warm sunshine in this idyllic setting. A kingfisher flew past and perched on a branch a little way upstream. After checking whether breakfast was ready at 8hrs I returned to the river until it arrived at about 9hrs.

Breakfast comprised nshima porridge with homemade jam, omelette, toast and tea. We were truly being spoilt in a great variety of ways.

After breakfast we piled aboard the project vehicle and headed out to a village a few kilometres further down the dirt road. The final kilometre or two being covered on foot with our lunchtime picnic being carried with us. On arrival, as is the tradition, we were warmly greeted with sining and dancing. Our base was a school were everyone introduced themselves to each other. For the remainder of the day we were treated to various presentations to demonstrate the way of life in the village. This included information about herbs by the local herbalist and traditional healer, a demonstration of a dance they do to ask the spirits to give good rain, another showing us the techniques used in thatching – we even had a chance to enter a goat corral which was built with information provided by SAPEP. Many other exhibitions and demonstrations were put on to show us the local customs, cooking, handicrafts etc. A lot of work had been put in to help us understand the local culture and traditions and it was a real privilege to be among the many smiling faces. SAPEP put on a sketch with the help of their local volunteers and discussed the issues about HIV/AIDS that were raised.

After a very interesting day we left to return to the farmouse and collect our luggage. After a cup of tea and muffins we made our way back home to Monze.

I had a call from Jennipher while I was with SAPEP but didn't want to take it at that time. This evening I called her to find out that the mother of the baby who died a few days ago had also died. She was in fact one of Jennipher's relatives who had escaped the trauma of Zimbabwe and was living at her house as part of her extended family. It is heartbreaking to think of the suffering that this girl had gone through in the final months of her short life. For Jennipher two more funerals within a week.

Again my life here continues to be a roller coaster of emotions. So tired but grateful for an incredible few days I will say bye and get ready for an early night!


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