Heat stroke and happiness

8 10 2009

It’s sweltering here. Seriously. The heat is intense.

So, loaded with water, we rolled down the windows of Siwale’s little Toyota and headed to Chongwe first thing this morning.

When we arrived, we parked the car and met with one of the foreman in charge of construction on The Esther School. Earlier in the week he had talked to the headmaster on our behalf and set up an appointment for us to meet. We walked to the school together and introductions were made.

The headmaster was very gracious. We explained why we were there and he readily agreed to help us in any way we could. He went to talk with one of his teachers and came back to inform us that we could begin filming right away.

He escorted us to a seventh grade classroom. The stark, bare walls encased three rows of rickety benches – each occupied by three or four students huddled around a single workbook. An old, dusty chalkboard took up most of the front wall, and about forty pairs of eyes starred curiously in our direction as we entered.




A little background…This is the government school in Chongwe. In Zambia, private schools are so expensive that few people can afford them. The government schools, on the other hand, are free from first through eighth grade. However, you can’t attend these “free” schools unless you can purchase a uniform and the appropriate books – something that proves impossible for many people struggling to feed families several generations deep on less than $2 a day. And, to make it worse, high school isn’t “free”. In addition to school fees, uniforms, and books, each student must pay to take a final test at the end of each grade before passing to the next. And, it’s not uncommon for these tests to get lost in the system – with the burden landing back on the student to repay and retake the exam.



This particular school is in the bush. So, it services families from several surrounding communities. With only eight classrooms and almost 800 students, the day is broken into three sessions that last between an hour and a half and two hours. Each student attends one session. The burden on the 19 teachers is understandably large. And these are the lucky kids, the kids who can afford the required uniform and books. The lucky kids who get a whole two hours of education a day.

The teacher was very gracious as we invaded his space with our equipment. He began reading from the workbook as the children followed along. When he had finished reading the section, he wrote several questions on the board that the kids began to copy into their notebooks. This was their daily exercise. Listen, copy, repeat.

By 10:30 Steph and I were feeling the effects of the heat crammed in the small room. We thanked the teacher and excused ourselves to walk around the grounds.

Some of the very youngest girls were carrying water on their heads, and most of them were eager see what we were up to. Many shouted, “Hello, mizungu” (that’s what they call white people here).





chores can be fun! I was just excited he jumped!

chores can be fun! I was just excited he jumped!

We made our way back to the orphan homes we visited earlier in the week. Many of the children ran to greet us and we decided to put down the cameras and take some time to interact with them. We taught them a new song and their smiles and giggles as they each had a chance to sing and dance to the rhythm of their own name were contagious.

One of the older boys asked if he could sing a song, and he led the other children with confidence and pride. Finally, they taught us a game that involved even more singing and dancing. Needless to say, the little kids put us to shame.



By this point it was noon, and the heat was deadly. Steph almost passed out (it was scary) so we decided to head home.

It’s equal parts humbling and inspiring to get to live life with these people – if only for a short time. I love being in Chongwe. I love it. They have so little but are filled with so much joy. Friends and family members are literally dying around them every day. And through the horribly tainted filter of a North American’s eyes their lives appear stripped down and bare. But they are grateful for what they have and are eager to take full advantage of every opportunity they get. The kids love school. They talk about how important it is. They feel honored and privileged to be able to attend.

Yesterday, I was interviewing a 16 year old girl who helps lead one of the clubs here in Lusaka. “I like to lead worship,” she said, “because God is my creator and He has given me everything.” She is an orphan. Both her parents are dead. She couldn’t afford to pay her tuition for school this year. She literally has nothing. “Some of my friends,” she continued, “they are dying. But me, I am alive today so I will sing and praise and worship God.”

I am so thankful for this experience. I am so thankful for these people.

And, on a lighter note (Mom and Grandma, if you are still reading you need to stop now…seriously, you don’t want to hear this) we have a guard that comes at night, and tonight he showed up slightly intoxicated. He is typically very shy and won’t look you in the eye, but tonight he has been rather boisterous. One of his duties is making sure the outside light is on when he arrives – which it was. However, as happens quite often here, the power went out for a couple hours this evening. About one hour into tonight’s blackout we heard him calling us through the gate, “Madam, madam! The light is gone! The light is gone!” Hmm, really, ya think so, huh? We think maybe he passed out for a little while and so didn’t realize it right away. It’s been an interesting evening to say the least!




4 responses

9 10 2009

You love being in Chongwe. I love seeing it through your eyes, your words, and your pictures.

Stay hydrated.

Stay safe.

Know you’re loved and prayed for.

hugs ‘n peace,


9 10 2009

Oh, honey! I kept reading! I am always praying for you…I will double my efforts! Stay safe….

9 10 2009

Haha. I warned you, Mom! Don’t worry, though…he showed up drunk again tonight so Siwale called his boss and they sent a new, more sober guard 🙂

10 10 2009
Uncle Jim

You be careful get a ball bat!

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