Rising Fountains Development Prog Weblog

September 1, 2008

ARRIVAL!

Filed under: Uncategorized — rfdp @ 6:19 am

Hello from Lundazi! First let me introduce myself- my name is Fiona Robertson and I am the new international volunteer for RFDP! I come from Bath in the UK and have just finished my A levels. So that is me.

 

Okay so let’s start with Zambia. What an amazing country! I must say that my first impressions of Lusaka somewhat confused me! I was expecting the usual overcrowded craziness of a developing city- lots of idle people, dirt, rubbish, harassment by shop/stall owners, insane driving etc etc. None! There is also a great feeling of space- the roads are so wide and clean, lined with mature green trees. Really beautiful. The roads are also very calm and safe, really shocking but good.

 

Anyway, I arrived in Lusaka last Thursday morning and was greeted at the airport by Mathias. We went and dropped our bags off at the lodge and proceeded to the bank to sort out my work permit. Things went very smoothly for Zambia and we got that finished within the day! However, whilst sorting the fee for my work permit, we discovered that my Maestro card (which was recommended by HSBC international banking ‘expert’ in the UK, who changed my account and made me this card especially!!) only works is on bank- Stanbic. This bank only operates in Lusaka and the copper belt. Thank you HSBC! SO I have had to open an account here in Lundazi and transfer the money, so at least things have worked themselves out- but it all costs money.

 

The next morning we caught the bus to Chipata. The bus was meant to leave at 10 am, so we got on at 9:30 , waited until 1 (or 13 hours as they say here!) for the bus to leave and didn’t arrive in Chipata until 12:30!! Yes, not much fun, but the scenery was very beautiful, it really made me realise how vast this country is. The trip to Lundazi flew by in comparison, although it was very bumpy and dusty!

 

My house is pretty basic. I mean I suppose it’s all relative. Compared to the rest of the houses here it is pretty good, but compared with home..! I was surprised at how helpless I am! Things like cooking and washing that you do without thinking at home are suddenly a huge challenge- heating water to wash, using limited supplies to cook, coping with sporadic water and electricity supply. When I first arrived, I was just completely useless, I was very grateful for John, who had to explain even the most basic of things to me- thanks John! Now, I learn from my maid, Rose. I’m getting used to it now and learning this new way of life.

 

On Monday, I started work at RFDP. After a meeting, we discussed my contract and I drew myself up a work plan. I will mainly be involved in writing grant proposals and micro loans and income generating schemes, then helping out with Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) child sponsorship and creating media for distribution in the valley. Micro loans and income generating schemes is a new project for RFDP, I will be working on it with Jack and am really excited- so will keep you up to date on it’s progress!

 

On Monday night, we held a goodbye gathering at our house for John. Everyone from the office came, as well as Mathias’ wife. It was really lovely; we had Fanta and biscuits, with everyone saying their piece. John is going to be missed here. I just hope I can work as hard as he did! John left for Chipata the following morning.

 

I am also taking over from John in holding computer lessons. Yesterday we held our first- we covered all of the useful keys on the keyboard, then manipulation of images in Microsoft Word. Only Jack and Dorothy were able to make it, but I think it was successful!

 

At home I have already been visited by various bugs- spiders and a cockroach in my room so far! I don’t mind as much as it thought I would! I managed to chase the cockroach and catch it- I couldn’t believe how brave I was! Ha, the spiders are a different matter though, I have had to get John or Rose to deal with them so far.. they’re big and black and weird, really flat. It’s okay until they move and I totally freak out! …who knows, maybe I will overcome my fear. There are also a few lizards that live in the house. I love them. Night lizards are yellowy with big black eyes and in the day they’re greyish brown. I have one that comes and clings onto my curtain every morning. Since he’s been there, there have been no spiders! I hope he stays!

 

On Wednesday I tried Nshima, the staple food, for the first time. It’s Mealie meal or Maize Meal as it’s sometimes known. Literally just ground maize and water, but with different relishes. The rape and pumpkin leaves are really good here, as well as the various beans. I really like Nshima- in fact I think too much. I can’t stop eating! It’s tasty and you get to eat with your hands, what more do you want?! Yes food here is really good; locally sourced, natural, organic. My favourite purchases are Luangwa valley ‘It’s Wild’ Honey (which you can buy in the UK as fair trade!) which supports wildlife conservation in the valley. They also do ‘Jungle Oats’, which makes breakfast! Yum, so that’s food so far.

 

As far as life in Lundazi goes, I think I am settling in now. I didn’t get lost yesterday at least! Yes, I am making friends too, slowly. I’m really excited about working with RFDP and will keep you updated on my progress!

June 30, 2008

A Clarification: John’s entry

Filed under: Uncategorized — rfdp @ 8:02 am

In my post “Arrival of New Volunteer” dated 26 June 2008, I wrote, “Microcredit loans for women already freighted with caring for many children seem like nonstarters to me.” A reader said in response that my statement is “a blanket denial” of loans from willing lenders to women with many children. In case others among you had this interpretation as well, I’d like to clarify here what I intended to communicate. A denial of loans is not what I meant, and I should have been more explicit rather than rely on the subtlety of writing about how things “seem to me.”  What I meant by the phrase “seem…to me” is that this is what I perceive, and I hoped that the reader would bear in mind as I do that not all is at it seems. In other words, I stated my mere perception knowing that it might be wrong. Instead of denying these loans, I am very supportive of women with many children who borrow money to start businesses even though what I have seen in the catchment area and Lundazi thus far — and what little I’ve seen certainly is not the full picture — gives me the perception that their existing responsibilities make their proposed endeavors nonstarters. I hope that they prove me wrong. If a willing lender took on the risk of loaning money to a mother already busy with many children, I would not try to dissuade them. I would be impressed with the can-do attitude of all those involved but skeptical of the prospect of success until proven otherwise. If her business endeavor succeeded, I would deferentially applaud her and the lender and try to find and understand the discrepancy between my perception and reality.

John

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