Week three has almost come and gone. It has probably been our quietest week so far – things have calmed down since our venture to Lake Malawi.
Progress on the school has slowed to a temperamental snail’s pace. The roofs framework has gone up and the painting of the right-hand classroom has begun; however, the laborious levelling of the frontal school ground and brick shifting are still the two dominant activities. No – this is not quite true – in stark contrast to brick shifting, a third, highly exhilarating task has emerged: sand carrying.
Above: Kaiky moving bricks ready for use on the classroom in Chitakale
Peter, the head builder, has told us we will be finished with the main school by next Monday; we still have to complete the roof by setting planks on the wooden framework, level out the classroom floor with bricks and cement, and complete the painting. Once we have done with the school we have remaining work to do however – the guttering needs to be done, which, according to Richard, will take a while, and we are also building toilets, a boys & girls one and one for the teachers. Yes, classic long-drops.
Last Saturday we decided to have a little Quest-Team party in our Chitakale compound. We trickled into Blantyre in two trucks, and, because people wanted material to have happy- pants made up, most of us took on the market. After a lot of haggling, an adventurous day shopping, and eating at Ali Baba’s – pizzas and burgers once again – we stopped off at Metro, the local supermarket for food and drink; and on the way back to Chitakale village, picked up three live chickens. The party started off slowly, with Luke and myself fixing up the improvised oven – you can get pretty far with bricks, mud and wood (Luke single handed built a kilm), whilst others started the cooking with Ida. Sotiris, Kaiky and Charlie each killed a chicken – it was a gruesome thing to witness – and Ida plucked and fried them. We ate at 11 p.m. – terribly late for our standards – fried chicken, chipaty, bean burgers, guacamole, salsa and chips. It was a feast.
On Sunday morning we all went to church. The girls all donned their chitengae’s – the material they had bought the previous day – and the boys, well, we just went in everyday clothes. Just to put it out there, Richard was by far the most stylish; he wore a tweed jacket. The procession at church – church being a rock building with rock benches – was made incredibly charismatic by the two choirs, which at some point arose from the audience, the smiling chairman of Chitakale, Willy, and his interpreter, and, not to be forgotten, Richard’s improvised speech.
Above: Sotiris and Sophie get stuck in with the work.
In the afternoon, six of us, Luke, Natasha, Sotiris, Ali, Richard, and I, decided to climb the mountain (technically more a hill than a mountain, but we insist on calling it a mountain) close to our compound. By the time we had reached the foot of the mountain we probably had over half of the Chitakale village children following us – the Piped Piper had never seen such a thing. It took us a good two and a half hours to reach the top and get back down again – we trekked through high grass and up rocky slopes, and watching the sun set on the horizon from the top made the trip well worthwhile.
This Thursday afternoon the Quest Team organised a Chitakale Sports day for the kids on the football field; probably the worst football field in history – it has a slant and a ditch runs through the side, but a football field nonetheless with a beautiful view, as it is surrounded by hills. We divided the kids into two age categories and four individual groups – Snake, Mouse, Crocodile and Elephant – which were brilliantly drawn on paper by Natalie, and had four races: a relay, a sack race, a three legged race, and, best of all, a clothes race. The kids received bottle top medals as prizes, a football for the whole school, and there were small plastic balls to go around too. All in all, the event was a huge success, thanks to Charlie’s and Miriam’s organizational skills, Ali’s swift medal-making and more than fifty children turning up.
On an ironic note, despite the large quantities of food we consume, 80% of our conversation has turned top our food cravings. You name it, we’ve talked about it. Ali won’t stop talking about cheese and pickle sandwiches, Lauren loves the sausage bagel with apple chutney, Sophie misses her dad’s spaghetti bolognaise, and my favourite was a Jamie Oliver’s recipe Charlie mentioned, which I am determined to make when I get home: Jamie Oliver’s Bombas, with mozzarella, olives ham and bacon. Just so you know… Mum.
The weather has turned to the better this week – scorching sun and sizzling heat, and, thank God, we have a weekend without work ahead of us. To mix it up, instead of the weekly fun facts, we are putting in things that each of us miss, and do not miss from home.
– Ali misses walking around naked in his room, but doesn’t miss having to pick his nose in private.
– Luke misses the gym, but doesn’t miss having people in his business all the time.
– Bella misses humous, but doesn’t miss chavs.
– Charlie misses her teddy bear King Nebuchanezza, but doesn’t miss adverts.
– Natasha misses only having eight hours of sleep a night, but doesn’t miss Vanity.
– Natalie misses sunpat crunchy peanut butter and Family Guy, but doesn’t miss facebook.
– Alex misses power-showers, but doesn’t miss the Scottish winds.
– Miriam misses her Steven Gerard poster, but doesn’t miss work.
– Richard misses Sterling – a currency with sensible denominations, but doesn’t miss England.
– Lauren misses Lucky Charms cereal, but doesn’t miss fat people on their motorised scooters.
– Hulk misses being called by his proper name, but doesn’t miss Cypriots.
– Elise misses her clothes, but doesn’t miss parking.
– Kaiky misses her sofa, but doesn’t miss having to choose what to wear everyday.
– Sophie misses her washing machine, but doesn’t miss public transport.
– I miss music from speakers, but don’t miss my shoes.
With that, thanks for reading, and until next week!