In this post, I'd like to paint a picture of the sights, sounds, and modes of transport in Eastern Province, Zambia.
Getting around Katete district is proving to be an adventure in its own right. Three weeks ago, on our journey from Lusaka to Joel, we traveled on a crowded bus along the northern edge of Lower Zambezi National Park. To my surprise we were driving through lush, tropical mountains! While the area we are in now is not mountainous, it is quite hilly and the fields are many vibrant shades of green. The deep, rusty red clay underneath our feet offsets the green. As it’s currently rainy season, the skies are full of clouds, many fitting to burst with heavy rain. The sound of the rain on the tin roofs range from a light patter to a thunderous cacophony, which can cause classes to stop and conversations to be put on hold. The heavy rains also contribute to the erosion of roads and the formation of tiny rivers in the clay. This erosion makes travel challenging, especially the day of a storm and the day after.
Joel village is situated off of a very busy main road. The road is full of pedestrians, bike riders, bike taxis with passengers, carts, herds of cows, motorbikes, and the occasional car or truck. Depending on the time of day, there are primary and secondary school students heading to school in uniforms and carrying their school bags. Many children use plastic carrier bags as their school bag. There are two schools within walking distance from where we live, and a few more that are in biking distance. It's hard for me to judge the distance accurately – a kilometer or two doesn't seem far until you get on the road and experience the hills!
Thanks to Bessie, our host, I've solidified my Chewa pleasantries so I am able to make small talk. I enjoy watching people's expressions change as I greet them – the sometimes-scrutinizing but oftentimes-curious gaze usually becomes replaced by a big smile! I've put those pleasantries to good use as I take walks and explore more of the fields around. I've also taken to riding the intern bicycle to nearby schools. It can only switch between first, second, and occasionally third gear so biking uphill is out of the question. I've had some interesting conversations with people as we walk our bikes up the steep inclines though! The afternoon sun is blistering but, depending on where you're coming from, you can coast and enjoy the beautiful breeze. The views are incredible: cornfields spotted with the occasional sunflower or gerbera daisy, all set against a backdrop of large hills on the horizon.
For the faraway schools, Joseph, the Operations Manager, takes us on the back of the motorbike. As I mentioned earlier, the roads are full of deep grooves from the rains so it can be pretty tough getting through the wet clay. An occasional stall or two is to be expected!
All of these modes of transportation are ways to see more of Eastern Province, to snap an occasional photo or two, and to practice Chewa. It's hard to picture just how remote Impact Network schools are until you venture between them. The distance is a reminder of how far some teachers travel to get to schools and how dedicated they are to make an impact in their students’ futures. It also shows how important Impact’s community schools are – they serve to open up opportunities for education around the region! I am humbled to be here and am looking forward to many more walks and rides through the hilly countryside in the next few months.