On our first full day in Zambia, we slept in blissfully late. We had spent Monday night on an overnight flight to London. Coach. We spent Tuesday night on an overnight flight to Johannesburg. Coach. Wednesday night we crawled into (bunk)bed at JollyBoys Backpackers and slept the sleep of the dead. Or of the jetlagged. I finally pried the kids out of bed at 9:30am after going to bed at 8:30pm the night before. We had one full day in Livingstone, Zambia before pushing on to the orphanage a few hours away, and gosh darn it, we were going to make the most of it.
And by make the most of it, I meant see the city and surrounding villages by bike. I booked us on a village tour with Local Cowboy Cycle Tours, which not only gives bike tours, but also gives back by supporting a local school.
As we learned today, the founder and his brother grew up in a very poor village just outside Livingstone. So poor that many families in the village could not afford the fees to send their kids to school. So just a few years after Local Cowboys began running bike tours, they used some of the money they made to open a school. Now, they have classes from pre-K to 7th grade. Their tour includes a visit to the school. I was sold…
We started on the Main Street of Livingstone (keeping to the left rather than right, because Zambia is after all a former British colony, so they drive on the wrong side of the road here too.) We were a total liability on the main road (don’t worry Mom & Dad, we were in helmets), so we quickly detoured to the side roads and into our first village.
This first village suburb was apparently built up by government, so each house had electricity and running water. Luxury.
Pencil! Pen! Elephant!
We then kept biking to the “traditional village” – where crocodiles apparently live in the nearby creek. where the water is taken from the local well (thank goodness not from that creek) and the houses are hand built from bricks made of sand and mud.. We gave out a lot of pens/pencils to the kids in this village. And Zara played soccer with some kids with a “ball” made of plastic bags all scrunched up together.
Most of the time I just don’t think my kids appreciate our travels. Or take much in. Most of the time I have to beg them to remove their eyes from their screens and look out at the exotic scenery. But today made an impression. The plastic bag ball. The sheer excitement over a pen. I think they appreciated that they weren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto. (See the blog posts they wrote, in the post just prior to this one!)
We passed by the local quarry, where the villagers make their living by removing large rocks then pounding them into chips to sell to cement makers. Backbreaking work for pennies a day.
Then, we were making our way to the Local Cowboy school when we hit a detour: ELEPHANTS!
We were biking on a busy road, crossing a bridge, and our guide pointed left. And there was a herd of like 15-20 elephants. Hanging out by the river we had just crossed. I wanted to stop for more photos, but apparently these elephants are known for rambling down the road, for occasionally destroying a car, and even taking the life of over-excited tourists who have gotten too close in the name of a stellar selfie. So I kept moving. Too bad iphones don’t have better zoom.
But still, I wasn’t expecting our first wildlife sighting on Day 1. I thought we’d have to officially be on safari for that. Not on a bike ride through town!
Lightening our Load at the Local School
We spent some quality time at the Local Cowboys school. It was literacy lesson hour, and in each classroom the students were studying vocabulary words and spelling. Each class we walked into the students would stand and say “welcome visitor” in unison. A few had questions for us: Where we were from? How old were we? Did we go to church? Did it snow where we lived? They all spoke beautiful English. In one classroom, they tried to teach us a few words of one of the many local languages: Chitonga. But we could barely get beyond hello. I think we provided some comic entertainment, though.
If you follow me on Facebook, you know that we packed in 4 huge bags of school supplies and toys and clothes. We passed along piles of pens/pencils, notebooks, backpacks, markers, and more to the Local Cowboys school. We feel great about that, and send thanks to everyone who gave supplies to us.
The day ended with a stop at the local “central market” – where I bought my first fabrics to (hopefully) have more Kippahs made from. As before, the challenge is to sufficiently explain to an (often non English speaking) tailor exactly what we need. TBD…
We head to the orphanage a few hours out of Livingston in the western province of Zambia later today. And while I bought a local SIM card for data, who knows.
So don’t worry if you don’t hear from us while we are volunteering. We’ll have plenty of updates on the other side!