Friday, 24 May 2013

So, did you think I'd been eaten by an Elephant?

So, did you think I'd been eaten by an Elephant? Chomped by a Crocodile? Hassled by a Hippopotamus? Or, laughed at by a Lion?  I know I've been away for ages but no such calamity occurred in Livingstone, despite my other pseudonym being Calamity Kate!!  Sorry to disappoint you all but I am still alive and just about kicking in Lusaka.  I had a fantastic week in Livingstone with my parents and saw loads of animal antics but none of my encounters were of the fatal variety.  Instead, my only disease is a fatal attack of Audit Fever.  Audit Fever is known to strike well meaning Accountants roughly four weeks after their Financial Year End and it can indeed be fatal.  Unfortunately, despite extensive research, Interhealth have failed to find a cure or indeed a method of prevention and so I'm just trying AfiD's recommendation of sitting it out and hoping for the best.  

The symptoms for me have been, in no particular order: regular bouts of talking to myself, repetitive strain injury, black spots on my fingers, yellowing teeth and bulging biceps.  However, those in the know, doctors and the like, say this is just due to the tasks in hand.  I can see what they mean.  I guess the repetitive strain injury could be caused by typing up endless pages of the Finance Manual, and the black spots on my fingers are probably the result of my touching Fixed Assets after just labelling them with my permanent marker.  The yellowing teeth could be due to my endless tea consumption and bulging biceps, well, if you'd seen the numbers of files I've created and the office filing cabinets we've found, moved and filled you'd know I've been doing some serious working out!  But, talking to myself, I can't explain that.  Maybe that's what I've always done :)

Fellow AfiD volunteers assure me that the Audit Fever symptoms have a miraculous ability to disappear after the auditor has left the vicinity.  So, given I have the local auditors arriving on Monday and the UK auditors arriving the Monday after I guess I may be in this state until, well 4th June at roughly 5pm when I ship the UK auditor off to the airport.
You'll be pleased to know that things are coming together for our audit.  The team are pulling out all the stops.  It's amazing what you can find when you spring clean the office.  Sarah, our Director, has led my example literally turning her office upside down.  She has no paper left on her desk, it's all in neat, labelled files in the locked cabinet (yes, I know, she's been 'neatfreaked').  She even won the competition for most bizarre thing found.......I didn't dare ask when she came to my desk saying she'd found 2 packets on condoms duct taped together in her office!!  The mind boggles.  I thought we should label them as an asset and see what the auditor said but I think she thought that may be pushing it too far :)

Whilst this has been going on, Karla has been busy chasing up our debts.  We used to have a macro installation programme where we installed large solar lighting systems on schools.  The schools paid a deposit and were meant to pay the balance a few months later.  However, this didn't always happen and we had some outstanding at year end.  We're trying to save for a new vehicle for the team so I persuaded / cajoled Karla into seeing what she could collect - Every Little Helps and all that (shhhh Waitrose guys, I know that's not our logo but it's very catchy!)

She started by phoning all the schools.  Here most people don't have landlines, including our office, so we rely on mobiles and the reception isn't that great so at times Karla has to scream down the phone to be heard.  I sit next to her and I hear everything!  Anyway, I thought we'd be fobbed off but every school knew what they owed to the nearest Ngwee.  It was really very impressive.  Karla turned up the heat a bit (well Zambian style) and threatened to dob them into their regional bosses, the DEBs, by this Friday if we didn't receive a small contribution towards their debts.  These are really very old debts so we thought it was justified.  Well you'd have thought we'd set their pants on fire as the phone has been ringing off the hook all week with school headteachers phoning saying they've made deposits into our bank account.  It seems Karla hit the spot with her message. 

One village headteacher told us they'd gone round the village and taken a small amount of Maize from every school pupil's family to raise funds to pay for their lights, they value them that much.  I kind of know how they feel.  This week at home we have had alot of 'load sharing' taking place and my solar light has been on every night.  Now, I'm sure 'load sharing' won't mean much to many of you but here it basically means the electricity that is available for Lusaka has to be shared around.  The result is entire districts being cut off the Zesco grid for periods of time during the day/night. 

This week we have been unlucky in Kabulonga as we seem to be getting the teatime slot.  I can vouch for this because every evening when I have started to cook my supper this week the electricity has been cut.  It's resulted in some very funny meals as I either try and cobble things together in the dark or eat partially finished meals.  I'm lucky as I have my solar light to eat by but there are many families that still rely on Kerosene or candles, both of which spell accidents and health issues.  That's why people are so excited about solar and what we're doing.  People come into the office raving about our products and making repeat purchases for their extended family and friends. 

We do our best to go out to the villages and towns of Zambia but we can't get everywhere and often we don't come often enough for our customers so they travel miles and miles to see us.  This week a man caught the bus from Solwezi to Lusaka specifically to have his solar light fixed by Robin, our Solar Technician.  That's a long distance (6+ hrs on dirt roads if not longer) and I'm pretty sure he came by minibus, not the fancy coaches plying that route.  Don't get me wrong, my holiday in Livingstone was amazing, but this is what I really came all this way to experience. 

Talking of my holiday, I guess I should fill you in on a few of my adventures with Mum and Dad.  Mum and Dad met me in Lusaka and, true to form, I gave them my walking tour of Lusaka.  Their little legs were quite tired by the time I'd walked them from Addis Adaba Road to Cairo Road and then down Church Road.   I think they were pretty surprised by how nice it was and how 'easy' it was to live in as city.  You can get most things you need / want here and there are some nice cafes and restaurants to hang out in.  It hasn't got parks and that's one of the main things I miss from London but I still rate it 'Africa Lite' in terms of hardship.  It's nothing like as hard to live in as Lagos.

Anyway, after a day in Lusaka we flew to Livingstone.  The airport security was a bit worrying i.e. their really isn't any, with people walking in and out of the departure lounge willy nilly, but the flight was very pleasant.  It was a very small plane with only 20 seats but they were comfortable enough and the flight passed quite quickly.  It really was a treat flying into Livingstone as we could see the Falls from the sky.  

It being the end of rainy season there was alot of spray and you could see a cloud of water floating on the horizon, indicating the position of the Falls.  We arrived quite early in the morning but spent most of the day finding our bearings and exploring Jollyboys and the Livingstone Musuem.  

I got in super cheap after showing my work permit as I was classed as a resident :)  The museum had a great exhibition called 'My Village' about rural life and how it was changing with the influences of the western world and the accompanying gadgets we bring. I guess our solar light fit into that category!  That evening we went out for supper and tried the Laughing Dragon Chinese restaurant.  I know I'm in Zambia but I haven't had Chinese food for ages and it was delicious.  Really lovely, fiery Sichuan cuisine - yum yum.  It was down a treat with a Mosi Beer :)

The next day we had an early start, taking a helicopter ride over the falls.  I know I'm not the best photographer but for someone scared of heights (I've yet to make it over the road bridge to Manda Hill shopping centre!) I thought I did OK.  At least you can see the topography of the falls.  Apparently the falls used to be further downstream but they've gradually crept back to their current position as they've eroded the valley.

We followed the helicopter ride with a guided tour of the falls.  I was a bit dubious about this when I booked it as I couldn't see what the guide would add but it was part of a package that JollyBoys arranged so I just went with it.  As it happens the guide was great and really added to the experience.  

Again, I was brave and went across Knife Edge Bridge.  

The spray of the falls kind of helped as I couldn't really see the drop beneath me but trust me it was high. I'd been told that I'd get wet visiting the falls at this time of year as the rainy season really increases the flow of water coming over the falls but nothing prepared me for just how wet I'd get.  Let's just say my underpants were dripping and my trainers quelching by the end of the tour.  A few hours in the sun (and believe me it's alot hotter in Livingstone than Lusaka) and we were nice and dry again, albeit a little bit crispy! 

Jenni, my sister, had asked us to take lots of pictures for Noah my nephew for his future geography projects (talk about planning ahead, the lad's 7 weeks old) but we duly obliged.  A few of the photos are below.  Dad even videoed the falls tour although I will be making sure he heavily edits it as I don't need Noah seeing Auntie Kate looking like a drowned rat!

We finished the day, very relaxed, by taking a sunset cruise down the Zambezi.  There was a free bar included in the cruise and it was very nice sitting in the evening sunshine, sipping my G&T, spotting the odd Giraffe and Hippopotamus along the riverbank.  dad may claim I was tiddly by the end of the evening but I promise you I wasn't.....well, maybe just a little bit.  The bonus was I may finally have a decent photo of myself to put on dating websites (sad but true that I use these things) when I return from my adventures.  What do you think?  At least I have a tan rather than my normal pasty complexion.

After getting into the swing of being chilled and relaxed we thought we'd make the most of it and spent the next day, mooching around the pool at Jollyboys and having afternoon tea at the Royal Livingstone Hotel.  Both were fab although I nearly disowned Mum when she started snoring by the pool (!!) at Jollyboys but the cakes the Royal Livingstone really were to die for.  There was pineapple mousse, carrot cake, savory scones, chocolate cakes, √© was basically a buffet table where you helped yourself for a fixed price.  Needless to say we had several rounds from the table and became pretty stuffed so we decided to take a walk around the grounds before we left.  I don't think any of us expected to find Zebra, Ampala and Giraffe wandering alongside us.  Can you spot the Giraffe?

We ended our trip to Livingstone with a morning Game Drive is the Mosi O Tunga National Park.  We left JollyBoys at 6am and hadn't realised how cold it was going to be so, despite being dressed in long sleeve stops, we were quickly shivering.  Luckily our guide was prepared and gave us thick fleece blankets to wrap ourselves in as we headed into the park.  The first 30mins was kind of quiet and despite seeing Impala (they're common as muck really and the guide said we'd quickly tire of spotting them) we'd seen little else.  However, I suddenly then started to spotting lots of things and I was quickly snapping away. Maybe I'd just taken a while to wake up as it was still very early?  At this time I became very glad of my brother in law's advice about buying cameras as mine performed really quite well. It has a brilliant zoom and I managed to home in on animals from quite a distance.  Here are a few of my snaps to prove it:

Dad was most impressed by my Hippopotamus pics.  He'd spotted the Hippos on the opposite riverbank and asked the driver to stop.  Despite being some distance away I managed to capture the following which is quite a rare sight:

Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of an elephant although I did see one.  Our taxi driver on one journey was talking about his brother hitting an elephant with his vehicle.  Just at that point I decided to look out of the window and 'bang' there in front of my eyes was an Elephant staring at me from the side of the road, through the trees.  We were driving so couldn't stop and turn back but he was a biggie!

Anyway, all good things have to come to and end so Mum and Dad returned home to England a few weeks back but I think they returned with lots of fun memories (and fabric due to Mum's shopping).  Not long and I will be back home with them but first I have the audit to complete - boo hoo! 

Oh, I also have a 3 month trip around Asia to plan but I'll tell you more about that in my next post. 

Toodle-oo for now, Kate  

1 comment:

  1. Great photos and although I know where the giraffe was ( you told me when we were there with you) I still found it difficult to spot it.
    I have shown Noah your blog ( and read it to him) and he stayed awake so obviously a 'Livingstone' in the making? However he is a little bemused by the blue giraffe you send him, especially as it has his name on one of the legs!