Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Arriving in Africa and first impressions

We arrived at the airport bang on time which was good considering I couldn’t leave the house without checking I had everything at least twice. We got there about three hours before the flight so that I could spend some time with my parents and DL before I had to leave, and we spent most of the time in a restaurant sitting chatting. Poor DL was distraught and very tearful, and when I had to go we hugged for ages and I felt awful for leaving her. Apparently she had lots of cuddles from my mum and dad after I left so hopefully that made her feel better.

The flight was difficult as I had to make two changes, in Frankfurt and Johannesburg, and the main part of it lasted all through the night, so I took a nightol and tried to sleep, managing to get a couple of hours. I arrived in JHB with the awful feeling that my case would get stuck there, and wouldn’t make it on to the final flight to Livingstone, and when I arrived at Livingstone airport I found I was right. Consequently I didn’t get my luggage until yesterday, but I borrowed another woman’s clothes to sleep in so it wasn’t too bad. We were met by Greg at the airport, and he was warm and welcoming, and we were driven to the house in a people carrier type car, him explaining about the two different types of accommodation on the way. Half of us are staying here at the main house, and the other half are at a lodge down the road, and I’m very glad I ended up in the house, as I get on better with the people here, as most of them at the lodge are younger than I am. I’m sharing a room with a lady called Annette, who is fifty nine years old, smokes like a chimney and snores, but apart from that she is very amusing and lovely. The other girls in the house who I really get on with so far are Lisa, Jenny, Kate and Meg, the first three share a room and Meg is Greg’s sister.

Just had to stop to take a call from uncle Ian which was lovely, it’s so good to talk to people from back home, although surprisingly I’m not feeling homesick yet.

As soon as we arrived at the house on the Monday, we were given lunch, which was lovely. The chef has been stolen from a five star hotel, and so the food is absolutely out of this world. So far we’ve had home made pizza, which could have come straight from an Italian restaurant, beef stir fry and home made chicken Kiev amongst other things. That first afternoon we were given a general talk about African impact, and in the evening we went out to a local bar. I got hit on straight away by a local, and in the end I had to move seats because he just wouldn’t leave me in peace. That first night it took ages to get to sleep, being in a strange place and all, the beds are basic but surprisingly comfy.

Yesterday we were taken around the different projects, the schools, the clinics and the orphanage, where we had a chance to stop and have a look around. The kids just attach themselves to your hand straight away, and it really is quite moving and hard to leave. I can’t wait to work there on Saturday mornings. Yesterday afternoon we had a language lesson, and we were given a long list of phrases to try and learn, and also were taught a little about the culture and customs here. For instance, the majority are Christians, you look away from some one when you meet as a sign of respect, and people hold hands all the time, even if they are just friends. I also unpacked my suitcase and felt a lot better once I’d had a shower and made the room feel a bit more like home. In the evening I got a chance to speak to Lucy and mum properly, which settled me even more.

Today has been hilarious in one way or another. This morning when we were walking to look at Victoria Falls bridge, a baboon ran up to Jenny and stole her bag which contained biscuits. At the time it was quite scary as I was walking with her, but afterwards everyone was in fits. Then this afternoon we went on a mini safari, and watched elephants with their young, saw giraffes and buffalo, and had our photos taken standing right next to a rhinoceros. Then after dinner we were all talking about the huge spiders in the house, and Annette said there were three in our room. So I got quite freaked out and made her kill them. One of the volunteers, Adam, has hurt his foot and is using crutches, and the spiders were right near the ceiling, so Annette took a crutch and disappeared to kill them. Five minutes later Jenny, Kate, Lisa and I went to see how she was doing, and she had seriously massacred them all, and there was spider goo and blood and mess all over the wall. It was so funny, we were crying with laughter, and vowed not to tell the project leaders that we were massacring insects. We also have three cats here, one of whom is crazy, but we don’t intend to kill them. We also had the chance today to book some activities, I chose jet boating over white water rafting, an elephant backed safari, a lion walk on which I’m told you can cuddle them and everything, and I also want to go on a gorge swing above the falls, but I haven’t plucked up the courage to book that yet. I think I’ve remembered everything, I’ll try and write more each day so I don’t miss things out. Tomorrow and Friday it’s sports days at the schools, so we can’t teach and have to go and cheer the kids on, but we’d much rather go to the orphanage, so I think we’ll talk to Greg and try to sort something out. I’m off now to have a shower to rid myself of ants, mosquitoes and any other bugs that might have attached themselves to me, sorry it’s all so fragmented at the moment, I’m still taking everything in.

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