The rooster cocks at the sight of Sun creeping up beyond the horizon – there is no need for a digital alarm clock. Groggy murmurs of the Tonga language soon begin to stir and in a short while turns into an all out discussion over this or that. I’m awake and it feels like Groundhogs Day every single morning – I feel a palpable sense of confusion and suddenly realize that I am indeed in Africa. I then wake up.
It’s time to brush my teeth. However, the water from the pump has turned brownish-yellow over night. I choose to instead take a prudent sip of my rare, purified water to gargle and clean my toothbrush instead with toilet paper. I know I am dirty and sweaty on the surface, but I only feel the breeze of the morning air subconsciously.
Ding ding ding! signals the arrival of breakfast at the Container, a large cargo container that sits in the middle of the school grounds. I have a 30% chance of guessing what will be for breakfast. Hoping for Rusks biscuits, I’m a bit dismayed that it is Samp & Sugar, lumps of grounded maize that looks like porridge mixed with white circular “Samp” chunks; it tastes more salty than sugary. I finish what I can and feed the rest to the dogs.
Assembly time for the kids! One by one, they walk to the Zambian flagpole and round up in a circle to sing the Zambian national anthem. I stand, listen, and watch mainly the greenish flag flap its wings to the sound of the winds. At times, I may be asked to come to the front to say a few words. “Good job! Keep up the good work!”
The kids adjoin and go to class, separated between the 6th and 7th graders. Classes are not what I had visually imagined them to be, but I know a comparison against westernized classes is out of the question.
Mr. Makala, who is completely blind, is the head teacher. With the help Mr. Masasai, a new teacher from the Western Province, they provide direction in education, while Katharina (another volunteer from Germany) and myself will fill in whenever help is needed. However, classes are some times found to be empty with just the children (I don’t know why), so that is when we provide ad-hoc lessons.
Today, the classroom has been left empty. So I proceed to teach a class about mathematics, probably the only subject I am half-qualified to teach. If you want to buy tomatoes from the market at 2 Kwachas each, how much money do you need if you want to buy 10 tomatoes? I repeat the question several times and then a slew of hands come up at once. “Mapeenzi, don’t blurt out the answer next time!”
First break. I am extremely hungry and devour the biscuit or popcorn we get as snacks. Back to class for the children. Back to the office for me to read or teach typing lessons for the workers.
I am starving again and await the ring of the lunch bell. Pasta with Soya. My absolute favorite and the only meal I can fully finish. I want more of this. But the portions here cannot satisfy my western appetite.
The workers can be seen pacing back and forth, corralling the two class donkeys or wheel-barreling the water can down towards the water pump. Sililo is singing like always. Sooka asks me for more food. And Charles pops his head out of nowhere to inquire, “What you doing?”
Back to class after lunch does not always mean back to class. Some of the studious kids are back to the learning board while others stroll leisurely to and fro their rooms.
Worst time of the day as the sun casts its strongest and most menacing heat wave onto the land. Katharina, Joseph, and I are most likely in the office cooling off and doing a bunch of nothing – reading, talking, and just letting time and the heat pass.
Every movement provides a new sweat mark, so for the next hour, it is deafening silent other than the buzz of the flies.
Having salivating thoughts of In n’ Out, boba, and chili cheese fries are torturous reveries I experience on a daily basis at this hour. Staring at the emanating heat waves on the endless plain…I could only fill my stomach’s desires with these distant memories.
The bell rings. Popcorn is served.
5PM could not have come sooner. The sun begins to ride away into the distance bringing in the evening breeze. As I leave the office cave, the dying sun’s glare still blinds me for the next several seconds.
It’s time to shower before it really gets dark and best to not shower with the mosquitoes. I drag my body to the water pump along with my 5L jug and pump the water for my shower. With my 5L jug of water, soap, travel towel, and a change of clothes, I proceed to enter the shower stall to wash myself off.
I know it’s dinner time but have already forgotten the actual date…something that is not unusual as each day that succeeds the next feels like the same exact day. Today I try to help out with dinner by making traditional Shima, but I fail miserably and completely emasculated myself in front of these African women.
The light is starting to fade...and I drape myself with my Uniqlo dri-pants, wool socks, and North face rain jacket. The mosquitoes are out – I hate mosquitoes.
Dinner is served. Shima and Beans. We gather around the Container with the only light source coming from one light bulb, surrounded by what must be several dozen flies of different sorts.
The kids head back to the classroom to prepare for the next day, while I am exhausted from a long day of doing nothing. I then remember that I should take my anti-malarial tablets and pop a Malarone in my mouth.
I take one last glance at the cheerful stars shining high in the sky and with one last huff and a puff, retreat back to my room to turn off the lights and swiftly scramble into my mosquito net lest any bugs find their way in.