MOUNTPOTTINGER PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
MOUNTPOTTINGER PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

Monday 23rd July

Maybe its the Doxycyclone or maybe it’s the heat (or is it a Doxy -resistant strain of Malaria!), but I am genuinely starting to think I’m going crazy!  Woke this morning to music (that no one else seems to have heard) around 5:30am coming from quite far away, but still audible and then it stopped just before 6:15am.  How did I know it had stopped at 6:15am you ask?  Because that’s when rooster friend started his solo!  I’m even considering the possibility that rooster fancied a lie in and it was him playing the music at me! 

Anyway, struggled into my usual morning cold shower.  As usual, I run around the cubicle trying to avoid the spray until acclimatisation is reached and washing can commence.  (Laughing?  You try it!)  Got to breakfast at 8:00am where Craig was chatting with Grace and John (the two guests who had been here from 1st Donegore since May) about their departure home today.   I was kinda on autopilot and while all main motor functions were operable, speaking wasn’t.  I hope they didn’t think me rude.

Anyway, by 9:00am the whole team had assembled and 8 of us were off to Chihanga school first thing for kids club and more classroom painting.  Because Jackie was dropping John and Grace to the bus station, our other 3 would have to wait until she returned in order to drive them to Chihanga also.

We got to Chihanga around 10am.  This school is a little further out that Msalato school (the scene of our first kids clubs).  It takes nearly an hour to get there, but like everywhere else here that is more than 100 yards off the main road, there is seemingly featureless and endless bush with the occasional house and then you see a few more trees and a school and a small settlement (sometimes very small) appears.  We were greeted by the same presidential like crowd as before.  The teachers must inform the kids that the Wasungu are coming to school today because as soon as the landrover pulls into the school grounds, heads peek out of the classroom doors and a swarm of black children very soon engulf you.

On this occasion they actually did engulf us.  Before, there would be this phalanx of children attacking you with fist bumps and high fives from the front, but this time they had skilfully used a pincer movement and we were attacked from the rear also.  David failed in his express duty “make sure we keep an escape route clear!”  Still, its charming really.  You would not get such a reaction back home, even if you were a dignitary or famous person visiting a school.

Greetings completed we headed for our tasks – 2 classrooms to be painted and a kids club in the morning and afternoon.  Our class this time was a standard 3 class (Most around 10 years old).  Their English was not as developed as the previous standard 4 class in Msalato or really as the standard 3 class there – so interaction with the class was not as easy as before.  (In trying to find out who their favourite footballers were, no response was given,so I called out “Messi?” – the whole crowd replied “Messi?” in a tone not dissimilar to the little aliens in Toy Story.  When I tried “Ronaldo?”,they repeated this, so I’m figuring this is not working!  Move on.)

We went through our songs, our talk and the bead bracelet making craft and into the memory verse, which they all did very well in Swahili, but struggled with a little in English.  (We’ll see how well Mountpottinger does on the Swahili version of John 3:16, and then you can sympathise fully!).  After break – when I’m fairly sure they savaged their Haribo along with their Kids4School prepared meal (Ugi) – we headed to the playing (field?) for games.  Chihanga actually have a defined football pitch (OK – two posts either end, approximately the same distance apart (posts not necessarily vertical) with a length of rope as the crossbar!).  We got out the parachute and as well as playing under the parachute, we tried a ball on top of the parachute.  Both went down a storm!

After this we decided to show the girls how to make loom band bracelets while the boys played football.  The loom bracelets were made both on fingers as well as on the looms.  Judging by the number of bracelets on girls wrists after this session and the afternoon session by the other team – and that all 2500 loom bands in the set had either been used in bracelets or had been taken by girls for use later in bracelets – I’d say that this was a success.  Well done Chloe, Beth, Zara and Ellie.  You may well be the instigators of a resurgence of this fad in Africa!

The football matches (morning and afternoon groups) also showed that while the kids in Chihanga were potentially a year younger (standard 3 instead of standard 4 – but remember this isn’t necessarily an indicator of age), they were better footballers then Msalato.  These boys were playing a bit of football rather than simply chasing a ball around the bush.  They did have the same no fear attitude that we saw previously.  No one it seems ever goes into a tackle lightly around here (shoes or no shoes)  and no one ever seems to get hurt when they fall.  There is a quick 2 seconds reset and then the child is up and running after the ball again.  I want to be the manager of Chihanga come Friday!

When a break was called in school, we had everyone line the near goal line spectating.  It was really quite something to see because they did all stand behind the (imaginary) touchline and didn’t encroach on the pitch – unless of course the ball was on the far side of the goal from where they were standing and therefore to see, the snake of spectators wheeled out into the pitch for a better view.  As soon as the ball was more central they all retreated.  Several of the larger boys helped police this no encroachment policy by kicking along the goal line.  If your foot was kicked, it shouldn’t have been there – step back!

From a painting perspective, we got two classrooms completely painted with emulsion (2 coats) ready for final decoration tomorrow.  We might actually get another classroom or two done at this school, as this is where the football tournament is being held on Friday (home advantage, another reason I fancy Chihanga United!).  If you had any doubt of how hard the young folk on our teams can work on practical tasks like painting, they should be dispelled, because these guys did put a shift in and it is clear that they are getting better and more efficient with practice.  (A lot of the paint doesn’t end up on the walls, so if considering this work team for your house, invest heavily on dust sheets to cover everything!)

We returned to the lodge around 4:30pm, cleaned up in time for dinner which included Ugali – the staple diet of most Africans in rural areas. Ugali is a pretty tasteless food made from Maize flour, which provides a lot of the carbohydrate in their diet.  You do need some form of sauce/other dish along with it to give a taste to the meal, otherwise it’s a hard eat.

We did our evening devotions, prepared our stuff for tomorrow and launched into a public enquiry as to who was hogging the Wi-Fi router.  Supposedly suitable for up to 10 devices, we found that out of 11 of us, 4 could not get onto the network.  Had some people second and third devices they hadn’t turned the Wifi connection off on?  Questioning glances were exchanged, poker faced replies trying to convince that the problem is with the router, not with me.  A level of distrust was present right up until – while preparing  the gear for tomorrow at the school, we couldn’t account for around 20 bags of Haribo – a full scale public enquiry was asked for.  Was there someone lying in their room watching streaming movies on one device, snapchatting their friends on a second device and downloading memes on a third device, all the time munching away on a pilfered bag of Haribo?  Step forward the culprit!  Let’s find a tree and lynch him or her (probably a her)!  Swift justice!  Set an example!

As I write this, no one has admitted to Wi-Fi on more than one device and no lynchings have been reported, but the Haribo were located in Matthew and Davids room – David forgot he had them from today. Hmmm!  And I was able to get onto the Wi-Fi shortly afterwards.  Hmmm!

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