Looking at my recent post “Open our schools!” you might think I was dancing with joy when the president last Friday announced that schools can reopen. But I wasn’t. I do think it is the only way forward as children in government schools have missed out on six month of learning, but as for me and my youngest boys we were just getting the hang of it. I was even planning how to set up our new “classroom”. You could say I received the news with mixed emotions. And so did the boys. Six months away from what was routine meant it was like first day at school all over again on Tuesday, it didn’t make it any easier that we weren’t allowed to escort them to hostel or class, just drop off and go to avoid crowding. (I know it was all smiles by the end of the day but it was still hard!) My youngest only goes back next week and will hopefully get the excitement up, at least he made sure to load up on snacks today when we went grocery shopping. Thanks to technology and hard working teachers the children at Martin house have been able to keep up with work. Unfortunately, that can’t be said about many other schools that are now looking at catching up on all the lost time. 2020 is really a year for the history books for all the wrong reasons but I hope we can see a silver lining which for me has been all the time spent with my children (though I can’t lie, it’s been challenging too!) Now the question is how do we expect our kids to adhere to social distancing and wearing masks at school when most adults have failed so badly at it!?
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about my self (or rather confirmed) in the last few month it’s that I am a true introvert, quite content in my own company. I’ve always been bad at keeping up with friends (hey, don’t take it personal!), so when we now all sit at home more than ever I “forget” to keep in touch. From the time the schools closed I’ve been busy helping my kids with their on- and offline work and only doing my weekly trip to town to stock up on groceries. To say that my social life has taken a back seat would be an understatement, but that seems to be the tune of 2020! I really shouldn’t complain, others have had to sit it out in flats, we don’t even have a lock-down in place. I think though, I’ve had a lock-down-mentality, I’ve locked myself in with my thoughts and not making enough effort to keep up with the world outside (and I don’t mean the news, just with you know, people). I’ve seen that I easily close myself into a cocoon, this week I’ve been craving company though, and the plan is to go visit a friend this afternoon for some good old gossip and coffee (they go together well).
Another thing I’ve learnt is that I own way to few leggings and nowhere near enough sweatpants but too many jeans! I saw a headline recently saying that shampoo sales had dropped while ice cream sales had soared, sounds about right. We have had to deeply reevaluate our priorities and we might be on to something here!
Tomorrow we close this term, without knowing if we are coming back online or to actual school in September. It is, however, a welcome break from logging on, keeping the boys from fighting (“he’s looking at me mum!”), and sitting in the house all morning. I may even be slightly more excited for the holiday than my kids!
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 bored 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 we came down to our fire again, except 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 water all in under an hour. Such a bonus and a great ending to a lovely getaway.
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.