Last weekend we managed to get ourselves out on a three nights stay in the Kafue National Park, Zambia’s largest reserve and one of the largest in Africa. We had booked in at Mayukuyuku Camp site which sits right on the Kafue river about 8 km off the main road. The camp site is very basic and in need of a little TLC. You pay 20$ pppn (plus park fees) to have access to a flushing toilet and hot water in a grass walled ablution block. The site however is very beautifully situated on a rocky bend in the river. Once the tent was up the boys were quick to set their rods to have a go with fishing, we walked just a stone throw from the tent where my youngest spotted a crock a few metres away, sun basking on a rock. And at the spot the boys wanted to fish we found foot prints of lion! We sure were reminded that we are not on top of the food chain.
Day two we crossed over the river in to the main body of the park, we spent over three hours spotting the odd bush pig and warthog, water buck and too many impalas to count and elephants either in the distance or in the thicket. As we were starting to feel hungry and a little board we made a few random turns and ended up facing a massive herd of buffaloes, possibly a thousand all waiting to get to the water (Shishamba river). Wedged between the buffalo and the water hole was a pride of lions lying in the shade, their mouths watering. This was such a treat to watch. We parked sort of between the buffaloes and the lions for almost an hour, the lions first kept in the shade but soon the two young male lions came out to stretch and warm up in the sun.
Much time was spent fishing from the side of the river (while watching out for crocs and hippos) and by the camp fire. On our last evening we had a close encounter with a mother hippo and her calf. The campsite next to us was now empty and so she saw the gap for her to pass. We heard a big splashing sound and as we shone the torch we saw that she had come up onto the bank below our tent. She proceeded to walk up towards our fire, calf in tow, through the narrow passage, max 5 m from our tent, the children quickly climbed the back of the car and when she gave a warning “snort” my husband and Albin also bolted. I was left under the grass thatch kitchen giving myself a couple of minutes to decide to either run och carry on cooking my flat bread on the gas cooker, I decided for the former and so we spent some time on the back of the car! After she had passed through we came down to our fire again, except for the two youngest, Emil and Nils, they had their supper on the back of the car!
On the day of packing and leaving we decided to visit some family that have a private camp site near the main road, they had come out just to pack up after having spent almost the whole term there homeschooling by the river. We were just popping by but ended up staying for brunch and the kids had so much fun fishing from the deck. Albin, my oldest, pulled out a big barbel (that he released again). And as elephants were spotted in the distance we were treated to a boat ride to get up close. We saw at least three or four groups of elephants and numerous pods of hippos, both on land and in the water, all in under an hour. Such a bonus and a great ending to a lovely getaway.
When masks were made mandatory I had been making masks for just over a week. Easier said than done when power only comes back at 3 pm and four kids need to be done with school, but I needed something to keep my hands and mind busy. I was reluctant at first as a mask is only useful when used properly and made of the correct material. Anyway, as it was now mandatory I was able to donate to some institutions and make sure all the employees at the farm had a mask each. I lost count somewhere after two hundred but I probably completed over four hundred masks in about a month.
The idea with a mask is that you protect those around you in case you are asymptomatic, and so others protect you by also wearing a mask. But that is where it gets tricky as many don’t want to don the mask. Once it was made mandatory the question was how will it be enforced? Well, we soon got the idea. The police decided one day to pick up about 150 people in Kabwe town center that had no mask or were not wearing them properly. As much as I understand the urgency it was not the right thing to do. As masks are only a last resort for when we’re not able to keep enough distance to those around us, what sense did it make to bundle up 150 people, carry them to the police station only to caution them and send them off again? What if even one of them had been positive? It showed us how poorly informed the police force is on the issue of Covid-19. They seemed happier to have an excuse to harass people rather than informing the public. However this seems to have been a one off. And once people saw that there was no consequences for not wearing a mask the usage kept dropping. Last time I checked I could only see about one in five with a mask and too often the mask is under the chin.
As Covid-19 numbers are still relatively low in Zambia I don’t think most people take it seriously enough, some even think it’s not here at all, or that it is already over. Unfortunately that is wishful thinking. We can only get through this with a community approach, wear your mask to protect those around you and I will wear my mask to protect you!
A few days before our Ministry of Health went public with Zambia’s first confirmed Covid-19 case in mid-March they announced that all schools were to close as a precaution. At this time my anxiety levels were already on a high as I had been watching how the pandemic was spreading around the globe on my phone. With the school closure announced I felt like everything came crushing down and I had to ignore the new recommendations of social distancing to hug a friend and cry on a shoulder (in town centre in the middle of the day…). Somehow once we knew Covid had arrived in the country I felt as if my anxiety dropped, like “it’s here, now what?”.
I had my four children back at home and they needed to get on with school in its new format. Google classroom has proven to be a very useful tool in these times. I had three of my kids logged in from two different schools. However, with daily 6-8 hour power cuts and poor network this was already a challenge. After the long April break we came back to online school in a more organised way, the teachers had spent the past 4 weeks preparing and training and the children were now to attend actual live classes. If only technology could be of use instead of an obstacle! Trying to get three children connected to live classes all at once was simply too much for my phone hotspot (airtel) to handle, I got a mifi (mobile router) that only gave me more grey hairs. I then spent the whole of May pulling my hair out over slow internet, long power cuts (running a generator just to keep the laptops going), trying to keep everybody on track and focused. My oldest son had also changed schools in the middle of this and he needed a little daily motivational speech from me, or simply put, we argued a lot!
Somehow we still managed to keep up. But it took my full attention. On 1st June my oldest two were able to return to actual schools as examination classes (gr 7, 9&12) were given the go ahead to go back. My oldest couldn’t wait, the home school format wasn’t for him, while my daughter actually hoped for schools to remain closed as she was enjoying it (being a very diligent and disciplined student!). I’m left with my 10 and 7 year old sons at home and I’m finally enjoying it. I’ve even contemplated keeping my youngest at home until he goes to boarding school (he is in a day school) but he has told me he misses school so much, he is a social butterfly after all.
These past month have given us a lot to be grateful for in the middle of a global pandemic, we have had the kids at home for 10 weeks straight, I’ve been hands on with their learning, and they have managed to keep up despite not being at school. Yes, I did almost throw both the mifi and my laptop out the window a couple of times, and I’ve had almost daily mini-meltdowns, but the kids have manage to keep on track. Now we will enjoy an extended mid term break (two weeks! I think the teachers are tired too…) and then pull through what is left of this term, surely schools will be back to normal in September!?
I must also add that there has been a silver lining to all of this and that has been that the children has had time to do so much besides school, anything from building houses in the bush to rearing ducklings and adopting piglets, growing veggies and going fishing. There was also a lot of bonding taking place and we even got into a habit of taking morning jogs/walks together.
2020, what can I say, there sure hasn’t been a shortage of ideas for blog posts in the first 6 month of the year, yet I haven’t posted anything since February! I guess I’ve suffered blog fatigue or something, feeling overwhelmed with everything happening around me. I’ve decided to catch up on all the major things I’d wanted to blog about but that ended up just a thought in my head. This will not fit in one post, so bare with me as I try to recap this crazy year.
Recap part I: The Gassing
In Zambia I’ve always felt safe, running on bush path on the farm, walking in the markets, travelling in rural areas. Never have I looked over my shoulder, or been afraid to drive on my own. The mantra people always tell visitors is that “Zambia is a peaceful country” and I’ve never felt inclined to disagree, until the beginning of this year. Something strange was happening, first a few incidents, then more widely reported and eventually in all areas of Zambia. People were being “gassed” in their own homes while asleep. The stories varied, nothing was stolen, some claimed blood was drawn from the victims, the panic spread fast. But what was actually happening? I received a number of videos on Whatsapp showing anything from ordinary mosquito spray cans to fumigation used for maize as suspicious items found outside people’s homes in the morning, but it was all items that can be found anywhere. Then, the mobs started to take it in their own hands as people felt the police did nothing. This is when things got scary. Buses travelling on the main road out of the capitol got caught up in a blockade where people came on to the bus looking for suspicious objects. One day in Chisamba there was a blockade down the road from where I was, we all listened to a voice message from a very distressed person that had just come out of there. He had been pulled out of his car, held to the ground with a machete over his face, while his car was thoroughly searched. When they didn’t find anything deemed suspicious he was free to go, nothing was stolen. Unfortunately not everybody was as lucky when getting in the hands of the mobs. A well-known business man from Kabwe was brutally killed, his two passengers were badly beaten and one of them later succumbed to his injuries. Their crime was to travel down a rural road and ending up accused of being “gassers”. Many more died in the hands of violent mobs across the country. All the while there was very little clarity of the actual gassing cases. Did anyone die from the gas? Did anyone even get gassed? Politicians were playing their usual blame games and pointing fingers at opposition parties. The military was sent out to enforce a curfew and we made sure not to be on the roads after dark. Then, things just got quiet, like it never happened. We were left with questions and no answers. In mid-March Zambia had its first confirmed case of Covid-19 and just like that we moved on.