The pitter patter of not so little feet

Ben is walking.  Hallelujah!

About 10 days ago he did his first proper steps and then in the last five days he’s suddenly just taken off.  It’s amazing!

After such a long time of crawling, admittedly it feels very strange to see him on his feet and tottering around the house.  He is loving his new freedom though.  He’s never been happier.

Many people have said, oh, once he starts walking, you’ll wish he hadn’t started.  Sorry people, I think you’re wrong…  When your 23 month old starts walking, there is nothing but rejoicing!  🙂

In about two weeks we will celebrate Ben’s second birthday.  These first two years have been hard, I would be lying if I said otherwise but it really feels like we’re starting a new chapter of Ben’s life now though.  He is feisty and sensitive and will probably change the world one day (it must be that red hair!) but finally we are more hearing laughing, singing and talking than screaming and crying and he is playing on his own and interacting with other children and not just wanting to live in my arms.

We are rejoicing.

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Solar Power

Zambia is having a power crisis at the moment.  It would appear that there isn’t enough power to run this country anymore, mostly due to poor planning, so now we get to experience daily ‘load-shedding’ – throughout the country people are on various schedules where we are without power for eight hours a day.

Apparently when Zambia’s mighty Kariba Dam was built in 1959 it was never supposed to power the whole country and, as it stands, it attempts to power most of it (despite the population and consumption of electricity having increased significantly in the last 57 years).  Rumour has it, that the dam is in a state of disrepair as well, which is quite worrying.  The rain seasons here have been quite light over the last few years which means the dam has very little water in it.  I read recently it is sitting at 12% full where as at this time last year it was apparently at 53%.

Obviously Zambia as a nation is really suffering because of this.  The Kwacha, our local currency, has plummeted.  Food prices have shot up.  The future looks very uncertain at the moment.

We’ve been incredibly fortunate in the midst of the power issues as the site we live on has a beast of a generator which for several months ran many hours a day to keep the site going during the day for the workshop and mechanics’ college.

That said, just before Christmas we got the best gift perhaps we’ve ever received.  Our ah-mazing landlords had been thinking about the future and really felt an investment into solar power would be well worth it.  They approached us and asked if we would like our house set up with solar power as they were looking to do that for the rest of the site.  We gave a hearty ‘yes’ and less than a week later some incredibly generous friends in the UK said they’d like to pay for this for us.

So, when we got back from our holiday in December, the solar panels were beautifully adorning our roof, batteries were there being charged from the hot African sun, electrics reworked and now we have solar power.  For eight hours (sometimes more, rarely less!) we rely on the sun to power our house.

Having solar power has been nothing short of fantastic/amazing/wonderful/glorious!  When the main power stops, the solar power just kicks in and we can use our lights, charge our phones and computer, and generally get on with life.  We can’t cook or use our washing machine but the laundry can wait and we have gas little stove for easy meals and the generator can be used if something needs to be baked.

In short, we feel incredibly grateful for the blessing of solar power.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

It’s avocado season.  It’s mango season.  It’s plant-almost-anything-in-your-garden-and-it-will-flourish season.  It’s rainy season.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

All is lush and green here.  Everything grows at a remarkable rate at the moment.  We’re getting rain nearly every day (finally!), it’s overcast and not unbearably hot, yet still lovely and warm, and generally it’s just really beautiful here.

I know most of you who are reading this are only near the beginning of your winter and feeling the chills that January almost always brings.  Perhaps next year you should come and visit 🙂

We get the most amazing storms as well at this time of year.  They are spectacular.  The lightning is unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else in the world and you can feel the thunder shake you on the inside.  Generally, I love these storms.  I love hearing thunder rumbling in the distance and the cool breeze that comes right before the rains.  The smell is amazing.

The down side is when you have lightning bolts strike on the property you live on.  On December 26th we had a very intense storm, one of the biggest we’ve ever experienced, a couple of bolts very nearly hit our home – there were literally sparks flying in the house!  Amazingly, only one of our computer chargers and a hot water tank was damaged.  The site’s internet routers were nearly all damaged, the bore hole pump exploded and most of the buildings on the site we live on didn’t have working electricity for several days as a result of the storm.  Last week we had another storm and a lightning bolt either hit our home or very nearly did.  Very spectacularly the light bulb over our dining room table exploded while we were playing a game with friends.  Thankfully no one was hurt and there was no other damage from the storm.  Even amidst these storms, this still is my favourite time of year.

On that sad day when we leave Zambia, I will definitely miss the rains down in Africa.  They are simply amazing.

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Family time

We just spent the last two weeks in Pretoria, South Africa, on holiday.  A while back we received an anonymous donation for us to use on our family and so we bought flights to get some time away together, just the four of us.

Our church in the UK has connections with a network of churches in South Africa, Doxa Deo, and one of their leaders offered us their house and use of their car as they were away on holiday themselves. Such a massive blessing – they even organised lifts to and from the airport!!

It couldn’t have been a more perfect break.  The house was full of toys, we had use of a communal pool just a short walk away, as well as a playground and massive sandpit, plenty of local shops and many a restaurant with play areas for the kids.  We took advantage of Ben’s naps and one of us often slept when Ben went down, whilst the other one had quality time with Jacob.  Everyone won!

On one hand we thought we should do an adventurous holiday, we do, after all, live in Africa!  But as one of our friends said, getting out the door with two small children can feel like an adventure.  There is never a dull moment with two small boys, life is an adventure, we don’t need more at the moment.

So we relaxed and ‘did’ very little – it was exactly what we needed.

Here are a few photos from our two weeks…

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Not used to Christmas lights, the boys were mesmerised with a neighbour’s ‘impressive’ Candy Canes._DSC0732-2

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They boys adrift in the communal pool.

Team work makes the dream work

A year ago the Beyond Ourselves Zambia team was comprised of Dan and myself.  Ben, was sleeping hideously (or rather, he wasn’t sleeping!) and I was a sleep deprived shell, so, basically, Dan held things together.  Since we’ve arrived in Zambia, we’ve been praying for people to join our team.  We’ve had three huge answers to prayers this year…

At the beginning of the year Emily joined our team to ‘take the mantle’ of improving the standards of education at the schools we work with.  Adding even one person to our team made such a difference to our capacity.  When we had visitors or teams Dan and I could host and Emily could keep things ticking along as normal. Dan’s to do list is extremely long and always varied, so having Emily to solely focus on education meant that many of his hopes for education development could become reality thanks to Emily.

At the beginning of September we have had two more people join our staff, Mike and Jan.  Mike’s background is in the construction business and Jan was an infant school headteacher for a number of years: there couldn’t be a more perfect skill set for Beyond Ourselves Zambia at the moment.  Each Friday we all meet together, the five of us, for a real staff meeting (not just Dan and I trying to talk about work whilst feeding the kids dinner!) and each week we come away so excited by what our team is doing and the possibility of what we can do.

Last Thursday I saw the out working of our increased capacity.

I arrived at Kawama School to find Mike painting away, making small chalkboards for the children to use in Early Years.  A simple chalkboard yet something that could have significant impact for the learning of our children.  Love it.

Emily was in Early Years setting up resources for the children to play with, as they now have a carousal of activities happening in the afternoons rather than everyone sitting in front of a chalkboard ‘learning’ by rote.  This is a big win.

Later I was in the staff meeting and Jan and the Head Teacher Mary came in.  They had just done a lesson observation and some team teaching to help one of the new teachers.  Mary was so excited about what they had just done together and, to be honest, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen her so excited about anything before.  Her face shone and I just love that she is learning how to better lead Kawama School.  If we can empower her to lead her staff more effectively, that would be amazing for the school but also it would release to her stand tall in the leadership position she has in the school.  She’s an incredible woman and she is growing to be a great leader.

After being at Kawama I went to Greater Joy to find the grade 7 teacher in the staff room working with the less able children, reviewing some lessons with them.  The Head Teacher was in the grade 7 class, teaching them while the teacher was out.  Many schools in Zambia only teach to the middle, they don’t necessarily know how to identify the less able and the more able children.  To see Metrude working with this small group of children is a huge step forward.

All this to say, Dan and I are excited by what our team can achieve.  We already feel like our team of five has done so much, and we’ve only been a team of five for a month!  Imagine the possibilities for the future!  🙂

We are back in Zambia!

This week we arrived back in Zambia. It feels quite strange being back but we are thankful to be back in our home, we very extremely thankful to done with long haul flights with two little boys for quite a while now, and we are looking forward to a bit of routine and ‘normal’ again.

Our four months went by so fast. We can’t quite believe our time in the UK and Canada is over already. There are so many things that were so wonderful about our time at home, we could write for ages and still not capture them all. Most of our memories we will treasure in our hearts, as they were moments when our hearts swelled with love for those around us and we just wished time could stand still so we could be near to those we love so much for just a few minutes longer.

Here are just a few photos of our last few weeks in the UK.

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Home

We’ve been home for three months now.  One month in the UK, two months in Canada and now we’re back in the UK for another month.

We’ve been rubbish at keeping our blog up to date while here.  I’ve started many a blog post and just couldn’t quite find the right words to express our experiences, our thoughts, and our emotions during this time.

So, in the absence of words here are an excessive amount of photos of our last few months.

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