Climbing for Dwankhozi…AGAIN!

Need some inspiration today? Let us introduce you to Chris Kenessey. Chris is just days away from embarking on a climb to summit the tallest mountain in Europe, Mt. Elbrus. Not impressed yet? Mt. Elbrus towers 18,510 feet above the earth, which is over 4,000 feet higher than our own Mt. Rainier. chris Still need some convincing? How about this: Chris is climbing to raise money for Dwankhozi Hope. This is the THIRD mountain he has climbed to support DH. His first two expeditions raised  $11,000 to help construct school buildings, and this latest fundraiser has already reached nearly $7,000! Check out Chris' crowdrise page here to learn more about his passion for the Dwankhozi Community, and if you're as inspired as we are, help him get closer to his goal! And watch his video below...we're cheering you on Chris! Thanks for your incredible efforts to support the Dwankhozi community!

Back in civilization; ready to travel

For those of you who are sitting in Seattle, worried sick about lil' old me due to my lack of posting, fear not! Your fearless narrator, and more importantly the rest of the group, is just fine. 🙂 We have arrived in our final Zambian resting place of Lusaka and are just hours away from beginning our journey back home. As always, I will start with the good news (not that there is really any bad news in this scenario). All 16 of our bags have arrived and are in our possession. That is right, after all that, we finally have all the supplies that are soon to be on their way to Dwankhozi. Since I don't have a ton of time or really any pictures to throw your way, I will keep this update brief. We had a wonderful time at the game reserve. The food was great, the service was top-notch, and other than the bats that swarmed inside of the ladies' chalet, the lodging couldn't have been better. We saw pretty much every important animal you could think of other than hyenas, so the actual safaris themselves were breathtaking. After arriving in Lusaka, we got all of our luggage, got to the hotel and proceeded to transfer all of the supplies (some 10 bags worth) into trash bags that we could give to Bertha later today. We went to Mike's Kitchen for dinner, which is an odd mix of the Cheesecake Factory (due to their tediously long menu), Chuck-e-Cheese (from the arcade and trampolines), and Red Robin (from overall feel). We watched Argentina win their quarter final game, and then headed back to Protea. Today we slept in, ate breakfast at our whim, and are soon going to head to the local Sunday market to grab any souvenirs that we may want to bring home. Really, this post was to let you know that 1) we are all still safe and sound and 2) that our bags arrived and the supplies are soon to be on their way to Dwankhozi. I apologize that the post is not much more exciting than that. Please continue to stay tuned to the blog over the upcoming weeks. Once home, I will post a link to a gallery of some of my favorite photos from the trip, I will make a couple of different videos, and I am sure there will be more updates as well. Thank you again for your continued support and wish us luck on our way home. Cheers, Ryan

Cock-a-doodle-doo is a universal language

NOTE: This is the second part of a two-part blog. Again, the internet is not really cooperating, so there will be a slight lack of photos. It began at 3am as we lay in complete darkness. First it was just once, but within 15 minutes it was like clockwork. Every 10 seconds one of the many roosters surrounding the farm would sing his song. I am told that you get used to it, perhaps as I have to the sounds of traffic outside my window in Seattle. Nevertheless, Rene and I did our best to sleep until the time our alarm began to blare at 05:10. Getting up out of bed, we dressed, attempted to un-dishevel ourselves (or is it just shevel?) and went outside to catch a ride back to the village. CJ and his friend were sleeping in the truck, so a quick knock turned a car-sleeper into a chauffeur. Within 5 minutes, we were back in the village and greeting Martha and her mother. Martha’s morning chores were similar to that of the night before. She scrubbed the pots and plates, bathed, swept, and put on her school uniform and within 15 or so minutes, we began the 2km walk back to school. During this walk, the groups of students were far less spread out. Martha walked with a group of 5 boys, her friend Gertrude, and her younger sister. As fast as the sun went down and it got cool the night before, the sun was just as quick to come up and begin baking. I suddenly wished I hadn’t worn my fleece while carrying a 35lb backpack and a dual camera harness. We got to school at 07:00, right on time, and Martha slipped into an empty desk and prepared for class. Her first class was science with Maurice Masala and the topic of the day was pollination. While Maurice threw pointed questions out to the class, many of which I didn’t know the answer to, Martha proceeded to answer each question under her breath with the accuracy of Ken Jennings. She was called upon a few times to answer a question, each time resulting in the same, correct reply. She was a force to be reckoned with. She proceeded to do the same through both her civics class as well as in mathematics. I was beyond impressed. Martha is just as devoted to her education as she is to her family – the model citizen of Zambia, not to mention the US. After class let out, Rene and I went around the school grounds and took pictures of other children, the buildings, teachers, and other aspects of Dwankhozi that caught our attention. I couldn’t help but notice that everyone seemed to know Rene by name, and vice-versa. It was obvious that my time behind the camera has somewhat shielded me from those that surround me here at Dwankhozi – a sad truth that I hope to compensate for by continuing to introduce them to you.
Today, I was inundated with students wishing to have their picture taken. This is just one of many.

Today, I was inundated with students wishing to have their picture taken. This is just one of many.

What would have turned into trash in the US has been repurposed into a backpack. So hipster.

What would have turned into trash in the US has been repurposed into a backpack. So hipster.

The rest of the group arrived around 11:45 as Rene and I helped Bertha and the rest of the ladies prepare today’s meal. The amount of work going into the meal, and  even just into the creating of groundnut powder, is astonishing. We spent at least an hour pounding and sifting groundnuts just to be left with a small bowl of powder to show for it. Again, a craft best to be left to the masters.
Prior to the rest of the group returning to the school grounds, Rene captures another elusive photo of me. This time, I am sifting crushed groundnuts.

Prior to the rest of the group returning to the school grounds, Rene captures another elusive photo of me. This time, I am sifting crushed groundnuts.

While we prepared, there was a meeting between the women of the community and the PTA that many members of our group participated in. A meeting that was supposed to last 30 minutes proceeded to take at least a few hours, albeit a very productive few hours. In the meeting, they discussed the groundnut program that they started this last year. In the program, they sponsored women by giving them $10 to start, which the women would start a farm with. The women would sell their nuts to the crop manager who would sell the nuts on the open market, the process would restart. They also talked about the adult literacy program. Last year, many of the community members were unable to sign their names, but due to the program were now able to do so. As the meeting wrapped up, I was called over to help document a dance circle that had formed. The women of the community boisterously sang, full of joy, as the entire circle clapped in unison. Just as with any good dance circle, members of it would jump in at their whim and dance their hearts out. The QAE teachers joined with enthusiasm as smiles and laughs broke out across the crowd. It was truly a magical moment. We then ate a delicious lunch as a group, recalling the day’s events as well as those of earlier this week. As plates emptied, the group split in two as some of the group left for another nearby primary school and the rest stayed behind at Dwankhozi. The women that stayed behind split off to teach the women of Dwankhozi how to make the bracelets that were so prominently promoted throughout this year at QAE while the males continued to build upon the relationships that they had created this week. The afternoon finished out with playing a bit of football again, watching nettiball, and, finally, showing the QAE video that we presented during DH week to children and teachers who remained on the school grounds. The volume was a bit lacking, but it was a nice way to end our time together.
This man posed stoically, as his torn pants wavered in the wind.

This man posed stoically, as his torn pants wavered in the wind.

Saying goodbye was incredibly difficult, even to someone who spent the majority of his time behind the camera rather than interacting face-to-face. Long, meaningful handshakes and hugs abounded as well as well-wishes and “see you soon”s. Soon enough though, we were back in the van and on our way to the Cross Roads Lodge, our Chipata home. It was a very introspective ride back to the hotel. Looking out over the dark landscape littered with bush fires, one could not help but think about the children of Dwankhozi, some of whom undoubtedly live exactly where we are looking. With the friendships that we have built and the seeming progress the school has made, we can only hope that we can continue to make a difference. Thank you again for continuing to tune into the blog. Your support is what has made this trip possible. Cheers, Ryan

Our night with Martha

Note: The internet is incredibly slow and intermittent tonight, so the post will be lacking in photos. What I lack in images, I hope to make up for in imagery. I apologize about the inconvenience. I will attempt to add photos throughout the night. First and foremost, thanks to Ciara for taking over the blog last night. As you should be aware by now, since I am writing the blog, Rene and I made it back safe and sound after a night in the nearby village. We had an amazing night with Martha and her family and I cannot wait to use the footage we got to tell her story. Yesterday around 4pm the group left to go to the market while Rene and I stayed behind to walk with Martha back to her village. When we began, the sun was blazing hot with very little cloud cover. The walk was about two kilometers along the main road right outside of the school grounds. Cars and motorcycles whizzed by as we and dozens of students did our best to stay as far on the shoulder as possible. Due to the relative lack of activity, you could hear the cars coming from a mile away (or perhaps I should say “from 1.609344 kilometers away”). Each car that overtook us gave a quick honk or two prior to passing us, making sure that even the most aloof of the pedestrians made room. After what seemed like forever, we turned onto a small dirt path that lead to her village. Altogether there were over a dozen homes scattered about the village with chicken coops, fenced off areas for the cattle, pig pens, outhouses, bath houses, and other assorted buildings interspersed among them. Within 15 or so meters from her family home we were quickly surrounded by barking guard dogs which Martha and her family promptly called off. While the dogs were far from large, I certainly wouldn’t have stuck around without the owners present – they had been trained very well for their roles. Immediately after putting down her book bag, Martha began working on her chores. She worked efficiently and with purpose. She started by washing her school uniform, a process that included a bucket of water, a bar of soap, and lots of elbow grease. She then proceeded to sweep the debris away from the home and surrounding dirt as well as from inside the family home, take a quick bath, scrub the pots and pans, and cook dinner. All of this was done as her mother rolled out groundnuts and the rest of the family sat back and relaxed. While we had arrived a bit later than the rest of the family, it was obvious that Martha was a driving force in her family.   Watching Martha cook dinner was mesmerizing. In a small, three-sided hut with plenty of ventilation, Martha stoked up a fire that had apparently been smoldering since earlier that morning. A bucket of stripped maize cobs sat by her side and acted as firewood; I must say, it worked quite well. Once the pot of water that sat atop the fire began to boil, she masterfully fed corn meal, handful by handful, into the water. Despite the smoke going directly into her face, Martha remained stoic as she stirred the soon-to-be nshima. Within a matter of minutes, the solution had solidified and the pot was magically filled with nshima, piping hot and steaming.
Martha cooks nshima for her family with a fire made from spent maize cobs. One of her nightly chores.

Martha cooks nshima for her family with a fire made from spent maize cobs. One of her nightly chores.

Martha's brothers sit around the fire that they use for cooking and heat.

Martha's brothers sit around the fire that they use for cooking and heat.

As the sun disappeared from the sky and darkness fell upon us, Martha sat and ate the nshima along with the ocra/groundnut combination that her mother had created. As someone who just had his first helping of nshima earlier this week, Martha was a master of the process. Forming each scoop of nshima into a small paddle with her fingers was second nature, barely necessitating her to look at her food while she ate. With just scraps left on her plate, she began to drop the leftovers at her feet so that the dogs could have their share – they pounced at each piece, making sure not to go to sleep hungry. By the time dinner was complete, the village was darker than Seattle has ever seen. The entire family sat on the elevated foundation of their home and stared out into the greatness that is the Zambian sky as millions of stars stared back. All was quiet and very few words were spoken as they mentally retreated from the day’s activities and prepared for sleep. We left the village to stay with Idah Masala at her nearby farm. There we ate a lovely meal of nshima and vegetables in a hearty potato gravy and then proceeded to talk with Bertha for about an hour prior to tucking into bed and catching up on some much-needed sleep.

Day Three, we packed a lot in!

Muli Bwanji! Zikomo for letting me be your guest blogger for today!
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The head sister showing us the facilities at St . Margret's Secondary School

  Our Wednesday morning started with our usual talk about our plan for the day while having breakfast at the hotel. Today we scheduled a few stops before arriving at Dwankhozi Primary School. First we drove along the iron-rich, red dirt road to visit St. Margret’s Girls Secondary School. We were impressed by its vast and well-kept campus and comparatively developed buildings. The head sister gave us a school tour which included classrooms, common areas, enormous wood burning stoves with range tops the size an inner tube, and the sleeping areas that house 26 girls to a room. The reason for this visit was to get ideas for the secondary school Dwankhozi hopes to build in the near future. The next stop was at Vizenge health clinic where men, woman, and children waited for checkups and medical care. Beth and Laurie checked the facility and found that the maternity ward (a small building behind the clinic) was finished being built and now needed a furnished interior. This was yet another time we would have loved to have our checked luggage to fill the empty shelves with the medical supplies we packed. The supplies will end up here...eventually. We visited this clinic because in the near future, we are going to break ground on a new clinic in Dwankhozi. This clinic will allow the community closer access to medical care.
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The wood-fires that create the gigantic stoves for this kitchen.

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Mr. Kaluba teaching about the Voyages of Discoveries

Next we continued the familiar drive to our home for the week, Dwankhozi Primary School. The teachers got right to work observing classrooms and visiting with students. Mr. Kaluba requested we watch him teach and along with the children we learned about “The Voyages of Discovery.” We were in awe how the students chimed along, did group work, and shared their learning in front of the class. They drew their own maps and shared the little paper and pencils they had available. We quickly realized how fortunate we are to have maps, globes, and supplies at home to use for reference. We also realized how carefully the students drew maps of Africa and other parts of the world from their teacher’s initial example.
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A student-drawn map of Africa showing the early explorers' voyages of discovery.

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School Motto: Education First

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An intent learner

Next we continued our joint Queen Anne Elementary and Dwankhozi project with a few more classes. We have learned a lot about our young friends and are now calling them by name. We are excited to bring their work home to share with our students. During this time, the Dwankhozi-Hope staff was busy meeting with the project manager and Head Teacher to hear the status of the World Reader project that was launched last year.
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Mr. Kaluba's grade 9 history class

We ended the day with a trip to the local market. We were expecting a few food stands and were surprised to see a hubbub of activity and the variety of items for sale. Let’s say it was a one-stop shopping kind of place. It was fun to run into so many familiar faces and people happy to greet us. On the way out of town we only had 10 of the 12 of us packed in the van. We waved from the road toward the villages hidden behind the tall grasses that lined the tarmac. We hoped to be waving at the village that Ryan and Rene would be spending their night and morning in while shadowing the day-in the-life of a local grade-7 student, Martha. We are anxiously anticipating hearing how this experience was and look forward to having Ryan produce this story to share with the world. We watched out the van windows as the striking bulbous orange sun set and the familiar smell of  campfires filled the air. Tikawonane mailo (good night and see you tomorrow)! -Ciara Leckie

Dwankhozi day #2, what a day!

After an early breakfast this morning, we got our stuff together, hopped in the van, and headed into downtown Chipata to buy supplies for the school. After thirty minutes and five different shops, we had what we needed: a bag of fabric, two rolls of chart paper, medicine, colored pencils, copy paper for the project, chalk, and a few other necessary items.  
Dwankhozi Primary School has a new sign - and is now classified as a Primary school rather than a basic school.

Dwankhozi Primary School has a new sign - and is now classified as a Primary school rather than a basic school.

The ladies at the shop were so gracious, which made supporting local Zambian shops that much more rewarding. After talking with them and buying what we needed we realize now that for future trips we can buy local rather than attempting to bring so much checked baggage (since we know how well that works). What a wonderful way to start the day.   Once we got to school, it was pretty much straight to work. The first item on the agenda was a teacher meeting where our teachers have the Dwankhozi teachers about Project Based Learning (PBL). Joe led the meeting as the Dwankhozi teachers listened attentively. Each of the QAE teachers was able to chime in and give examples of PBL in their individual classes, which gave the Dwankhozi teachers much more context. Near the end of the meeting, Moses addressed the teachers in order to explain, quite eloquently, how PBL is important because it helps children look at complex, real-life problems and come up with meaningful solutions.  
Rachel explains project based learning to the Dwankhozi teachers.

Rachel explains project based learning to the Dwankhozi teachers.

Roster (pronounced "Row-stah") listens attentively as Joe and the QAE teachers present.

Roster (pronounced "Row-stah") listens attentively as Joe and the QAE teachers present.

As the meeting wrapped up, our teachers discussed the project that we want to do in order to follow up from the QAE project that we attempted to bring for the kids of Dwankhozi. For this project each child gets one sheet of paper that are separated into quadrants of their family, their house, their favorite food, and their favorite activity. The sheet has their name on the top, a picture of them in the middle, and each child draws the different aspects of their lives in the quadrants. By doing this, we will be able to show Dwankhozi children what life is like in Seattle and vice versa - helping to build the QAE pillar of being a global citizen.  
A female student pauses to think about her PBL project.

A female student pauses to think about her PBL project.

We spent the next two or so hours with two classes that were in session – a 5th grade and 6th grade class. Rene and Joe were with the 5th grade class and Rachel and Ciara were with the 6th grade class. After the students filled the classroom and sat in their desks, the teachers explained the project, showed what their pieces of paper would look like, and passed out supplies. As the children drew, I (and Tyler for the 6th grade class), would call up three students at a time to write their names on the board and take a picture in front of them. These pictures were to be printed off later in the day and pasted onto the sheets that they were drawing on.   One thing that stood out to me as I took pictures of the children was how stoic they remained during their pictures. This juxtaposition of their seriousness compared to their carefree attitudes outside the classroom made me realize just how seriously they take their education. As I walked around the classroom after taking each student’s photo I couldn’t help but notice how intricate their drawings were; with very few “stick people” to be seen, each student put their hearts into their drawings.  
Students in grade 5 prepare their project.

Students in grade 5 prepare their project.

As the period came close to an end, Rene and Joe further explained to the children that once our bags arrived, the QAE project would come to Dwankhozi and that the Dwankhozi drawings would be taken to Seattle upon our return to be shown to the QAE students. Upon hearing this news, students were overjoyed and many even applauded (even without Maricue’s trademark “Manja, Manja, Manja!” call. Manja means “clap”). The smiles that spread across their faces let us know that this project was far from lost on these students.
Two community members work to make a wall around the drinking well in order to keep animals at bay. Their progress was mesmerizing.

Two community members work to make a wall around the drinking well in order to keep animals at bay. Their progress was mesmerizing.

A Dwankhozi teacher plays a local game in the sand with the students.

A Dwankhozi teacher plays a local game in the sand with the students.

  After the class let out, we ate lunch that, as it would most days, included nshima, meat, and many different types of vegetables. As mentioned yesterday, lunch followed a very strict protocol with us eating in our own room and before the students.   Once lunch let out, class officially came to a close and students went about the rest of their day participating in various activities. Donna, Beth, Becka, and Morris left Dwankhozi to visit a sister-school called Dwansenga that was a 45 minute drive away from where we were while the rest of us stayed behind at Dwankhozi. This point is where the role that I came here fore changed (albeit only for that afternoon). All of the older male students separated and organized a game of soccer, or as they call it here, football. Tyler and I joined the game on opposing sides and proceeded to play our hearts out for well over two hours. It was an exhilarating game that left me panting for breath within the first two plays, letting me know that maybe two Coca Colas weren’t the correct choice before extreme physical exertion. Even so, Tyler and I tried our best to keep up with the rest of the students, many of whom were formally dressed, shoeless, and half our size. Oddly enough, or perhaps not odd at all, was the fact that even with these handicaps, I was consistently out-run for the ball. Blame it on the heat, huh?  
Tyler and I take a break from taking pictures to play soccer.

Tyler and I take a break from taking pictures to play soccer.

For those of you who followed the blog last year, you might recognize this bag. Many of the students still carry around their bags that we gave them last year.

For those of you who followed the blog last year, you might recognize this bag. Many of the students still carry around their bags that we gave them last year.

While Tyler and I played soccer, I handed my cameras over to Rene, and subsequently Ciara, who continued to document not only the game but also the rest of the activities that both the younger grades as well as female students were participating in. Among those many activities was Ciara teaching students how to play tic-tac-toe, Rachel playing music on her iPad while students surrounded her and danced, a prolonged meeting with Martin, small-sided soccer games with a ball made from plastic bags, and many others.  
Ciara teaches students how to play tic-tac-toe.

Ciara teaches students how to play tic-tac-toe.

The female students could not get over Rachel's hair and finally decided that they needed to touch it.

The female students could not get over Rachel's hair and finally decided that they needed to touch it.

While all this was going on, the other group that was visiting the sister school was having quite the adventure of their own. Dwansenga is a school that was built slightly after Dwankhozi and which DH has given some assistance in the past (however not to the extent of Dwankhozi). While there, the group met with the headmaster, members from the PTA, the teachers, students, and some community members. The headmaster gave the group a tour around the school grounds, showing them their main buildings, the building that DH funding helped to complete, and the classrooms that their students spend each and every day inside of.  
A school nearby Dwankhozi that Laurie, Beth, Donna, and Becka went to visit today.

A school nearby Dwankhozi that Laurie, Beth, Donna, and Becka went to visit today.

Laurie and Donna meet with the headmaster of Dwansenga Primary School.

Laurie and Donna meet with the headmaster of Dwansenga Primary School.

While not nearly as developed as Dwankhozi, Moses correctly pointed out that the school does a wonderful job utilizing the funds that it has received from DH, as shown by the now completed building on the school grounds. This is a perfect example of how well the fundraising that DH has done in the past has made a massive difference in the lives of students and teachers here in Zambia.   Prior to their departure from the sister school, Laurie was presented with a chicken, which is a sign of great respect in the community. While Laurie will keep the chicken with the Masala family, it was touching to know the amount of respect that the community has both for Laurie and DH as a whole for the work that they have done to help Dwankhozi, Dwansenga, and the surrounding community.  
Laurie is presented with a chicken as the group prepares to depart Dwansenga.

Laurie is presented with a chicken as the group prepares to depart Dwansenga.

After the group arrived back at Dwankhozi and the soccer game finally wrapped up, Joe rode on an ox-driven cart, we made some final connections with the children – who were all at school far later than normal due to our visit – and eventually made our way back to the van.  
Joe couldn't help but hop in the cart that brought supplies to the school.

Joe couldn't help but hop in the cart that brought supplies to the school.

You may have noticed that the blog is slightly later tonight than normal. This is due to our late departure from Dwankhozi and our dinner which took even longer than normal. Amazingly, about half of our group is staying up until midnight in order to watch the US world cup game, so let’s hope that the US makes it worth our while.  
Thank you to Jack Leary for your fundraising. We gave the camera and adapter to the teachers today, and they couldn't be more excited.

Thank you to Jack Leary for your fundraising. We gave the camera and adapter to the teachers today, and they couldn't be more excited.

As an aside, please accept my advanced apology for not being able to write tomorrow’s blog. Rene and I are actually going to stay in a village with a family in order to hopefully get footage which will be used in future videos for DH. Because of this we will not have internet, or lights for that matter. So the next time you hear from me will likely be on Thursday.   Wish us luck! Cheers, Ryan  

Our First day at Dwankhozi

The time we have all been awaiting has finally arrived – our first day at Dwankhozi Basic School. It was a jam-packed day, so get ready for quite the update… First of all, as I mentioned in my last post, last night was a very special dinner. Along with Moses, Idah, and Maurice Masala, we were joined by 18 teachers, PTA members, and volunteer teachers from Dwankhozi. The room felt small prior to their arrival, but once our guests showed up, we were hard-pressed to find space. However, what the room lacked in free space, it more than made up for in delightful conversation. Our group was interspersed across four tables that were evenly divided between the Seattle visitors and our Dwankhozi guests, so everyone got a chance to get to know a new group of people.
Here is our group along with 18 teachers and PTA board members prior to our first visit.

Here is our group along with 18 teachers and PTA board members prior to our first visit.

The conversations ranged from introductions and getting to know each other to education, cultural differences, and even business. We spent over three hours mingling and getting to know the people that we will be working so closely with over this next week (and hopefully much further into the future). After breakfast this morning we made a couple of stops to pick up supplies for today’s festivities and then made our way to Dwankhozi. After an hour of driving we pulled over to see Moses’ mother’s house and meet his mother, father, and nephew. They were so happy to meet us and I can assure you the feeling was mutual. The stop was short, but a great way to start our day.
This is the back of Moses' mother's and father's home. What a wonderful family.

This is the back of Moses' mother's and father's home. What a wonderful family.

A few miles later and we turned down the dirt road for Dwankhozi. When we got out of the van there were perhaps a dozen or two people nearby and the scene remained quiet. But after the word spread to the school houses across the property we were soon met by hundreds of children sprinting in our direction, waving, cheering, and happy to see us. It was a surreal feeling.
The Zambian flag stands tall and proud in the center of the school property.

The Zambian flag stands tall and proud in the center of the school property.

We spent the first hour or so surrounded by children, taking photos, and breaking through the language barrier and initial slight awkwardness that seemed to fill the air. They were happy to see us, we were ecstatic to see them, but it took some time for everyone to figure out how to show those emotions. I am not sure what it was that changed, but by hour #2, this problem had melted away and we were embraced by the community around us.
Rene talking with students.

Rene talking with students.

Ciara immediately took to talking with the children. Language barrier or not, the chemistry was tangible.

Ciara immediately took to talking with the children. Language barrier or not, the chemistry was tangible.

  After the initial greetings and pictures, we sat down to begin the community celebration. Along with us there were hundreds of students, all of the teachers, a dozen or so PTA members, and perhaps 30 chief representatives and other community head figures. Everyone sat in desks in a circle around a large tree that seemed perfect for gatherings such as this and Maurice began the ceremony.
The community surrounds the gathering tree awaiting the start of the ceremony.

The community surrounds the gathering tree awaiting the start of the ceremony.

Perhaps Zambia's most eloquent and animated speaker, Maurice captivated the crowd.

Perhaps Zambia's most eloquent and animated speaker, Maurice captivated the crowd.

After a small speech, everyone stood while the children sang the Zambian national anthem in perfect harmony (certainly something that they have practiced extensively). Following that we were serenaded by the school choir (which has placed first in the province), shown live, student-performed plays and dances, and even had a group of community members perform a ceremonial Zambian dance – altogether an extremely impressive spectacle.  
A community group performs a ceremonial, Zambian dance.

A community group performs a ceremonial, Zambian dance.

Four female students performed a spoken poem about women's rights. Extremely well done.

Four female students performed a spoken poem about women's rights. Extremely well done.

The student choir was phenomenal.

The student choir was phenomenal.

One thing that stuck me as interesting about these meetings is how incredible formal (and therefore lengthy) they are. Every member that stood up recognized every other individual and group that had attended, thanked those people, and only then began their speech. While this may be unique to meetings/performances in the United States, it was obvious that this was a very important meeting to the school and community. Everyone wanted to show his or her gratitude and respect to everyone else, which was quite touching. Around 3pm the ceremony ended and everyone left the circle to begin cooking/eating lunch. In Zambia, meals follow a very specific protocol: in this instance the esteemed guests and chief representatives ate first in their own room, followed by our group and the teachers from Dwankhozi in our own room, and finally the children and their parents, who ate outside. After eating, we continued to meet and talk with the community members. The group that performed the ceremonial dance began again, and perhaps not to our surprise, Joe decided to join them. It was the hottest point of the day, we were all tired, and Joe was surrounded by nearly 100 people as he danced his heart out in the group of community members; it was truly a sight to behold. 🙂
After the ceremony, Joe joined the community dance group for the time of his life.

After the ceremony, Joe joined the community dance group for the time of his life.

After this, we continued chatting and taking pictures while Tyler showed a ever-growing group of kids some card tricks and kicking the soccer ball around.
A young girl peeks around the door of a house on the school property.

A young girl peeks around the door of a house on the school property.

After turning the camera phones around, the students fell in love with waving to the cameras.

After turning the camera phones around, the students fell in love with waving to the cameras.

  Around 5:15, we decided it was time to head home. The sun was going down, everyone was quite tired, and the hotel was still an hour away, so we hopped in the van and got ready to leave. Before we shut the door, the van was surrounded with children who were not-too-keen on letting us leave. We shook hands, fist-bumped, waved goodbye, and shut the door as we began the journey back to Chipata. Seeing the school shrink in the distance as we drove away was hard to see, but knowing that we still have the rest of the week to continue getting to know everyone gives us something to look forward to.
A familiar face, no? Everyone's favorite student: Martin.

A familiar face, no? Everyone's favorite student: Martin.

After an hour or so, we arrived back at the hotel, put in our food orders and headed back to our respective rooms to get ready for dinner, which we are heading back to shortly. In other news, Beth and Donna are headed to Chipata tonight. The bad part of this news is that all of our bags, which contained vital supplies have not gotten anywhere closer to Zambia. We found out today that due to an IT failure at London Heathrow, thousands of bags are stranded there with no ETA, so Beth decided that waiting it out in Lusaka wouldn’t do much good. Certainly not the best news, but we can’t wait to have her and Donna back with the group later tonight. We have them in our thoughts as they still have 5 hours left in their drive to Chipata. Anyway, that is all I have for today. Again, we can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds for us and hopefully neither can you. I will keep you posted, so look for an update tomorrow. Cheers, Ryan  

Our Journey to Chipata

Last night we had dinner with Moses Masala (DH Projects Manager), Annie (his wife), and Nchima Nchito (a member of the DH Board here in Zambia); it was a wonderful way to start our time here in Zambia. As always, seeing Moses and his wife was a treat, but it was equally wonderful being able to talk with Nchima. We were able to talk with him about what is going on over here at Dwankhozi and on top of that we were able to pick his brain regarding what he sees as issues, how to solve those issues, and what his views are about education (along with other aspects of life). Unlike most dinners that we are accustomed to in the US, we stayed and chatted for a few hours until finally retiring to our rooms.
Riveting conversation before dinner with Moses, Annie, and ****

Riveting conversation before dinner with Moses, Annie, and Nchima.

After breakfast this morning we had two missions: 1) get the bags and 2) drive to Chipata. Notwithstanding our efforts, only one of those missions was completed. Read more to find out which of the missions was less than successful. SPOILER ALERT: It was the bags.
The sign tells the story.

The sign tells the story.

After getting to the airport and spending two or so hours figuring out where they were, we have discovered that they are in London. 🙁 So after a quick group meeting, we decided to split up the group and send most of us to Chipata while Beth and Donna stayed behind to wait for the supplies – and our clothes – to arrive. We packed the 10 of us into a van along with the bags that we did have as well as some of Bertha’s (Moses’ sister) and started on our journey.
Joe waits on a very picturesque staircase at the Lusaka International Airport.

Joe waits on a very picturesque staircase at the Lusaka International Airport.

The group meets up to discuss the less-than-stellar news at the airport.

The group meets up to discuss the less-than-stellar news at the airport.

The drive through the countryside was magnificent. Blue sky was interspersed with large, puffy cumulous clouds that made the landscape that much more beautiful. Passing through vast expanses of seemingly untouched country, small villages, and a couple of small towns, Moses masterfully maneuvered the van east to Chipata.   With only a couple of small bathroom stops and one stop for gas, we made it to Chipata by 6:45pm, checked into our hotel, and are now awaiting dinner with the teachers from Dwankhozi Basic School. Another day down, another journey completed, and still so much ahead of us; we cannot wait!
Our drive to Chipata from Lusaka was quite arduous, but Moses handled it like a champ. Weaving in and out of pedestrians that riddled the shoulders , potholes which were pervasive, and oncoming traffic, we arrived safely in Chipata this evening.

Our drive to Chipata from Lusaka was quite arduous, but Moses handled it like a champ. Weaving in and out of pedestrians that riddled the shoulders , potholes which were pervasive, and oncoming traffic, we arrived safely in Chipata this evening.

On the way to Chipata, Moses asked me to stop and take a picture of this sign - the high school he went to as a youth.

On the way to Chipata, Moses asked me to stop and take a picture of this sign - the high school he went to as a youth.

Again, stay tuned for more about our trip. I can almost assure you that the stories will only get more exciting.   Cheers, Ryan

We finally made it!…although not without a hiccup or two…

Since our first update, we have been non-stop globetrotting through London and Johannesburg to our final airport destination of Lusaka.   During our 7+ hour layover in London, the group split up and went about their own way of coping with jet-lag and boredom. A couple of the group members pampered themselves within Heathrow with pedicures and a mid-day breakfast while a couple of us took the Heathrow Express into London and saw the sights and experienced some of London's best.
Some quality London fare (a lobster roll with a delicious cider and an ale).

Some quality London fare (a lobster roll with a delicious cider and an ale).

For those of us that went into London, the weather was great (which was unexpected), and the beer was better (which was far less unexpected).  Rene and I grabbed a quick bite and a few pints and then proceeded to explore the Waterloo area (Big Ben, The London Eye, etc.), while Joe made his way to the northernmost tip of London to his favorite soccer team’s stadium in order to pick up some souvenirs.
Big Ben - just one of the stops on our short sightseeing tour.

Big Ben - just one of the stops on our short sightseeing tour.

London's famous Underground on the way back from Waterloo.

London's famous Underground on the way back from Waterloo.

All in all, not such a bad layover. Perhaps a bit shorter than one would have liked, but you know what they say… “When in London…” right?   After the flight to Johannesburg, a bit of a layover, and our final short flight to Lusaka,  we were finally in Zambia! Excitement was high and smiles were appearing on some fairly tired faces, but as the title alluded to, this is where the hiccups came into play. Of our 16 bags that we checked from Seattle exactly 0 (yes, zero) made it through to Lusaka. So we waited while Beth did her best to figure the situation out.  
The luggage fiasco with Beth in the middle attempting to save the day.

The luggage fiasco with Beth in the middle attempting to save the day.

Joe attempting to get some shut-eye during our downtime.

Joe attempting to get some shut-eye during our downtime.

After everyone did their best to describe the bags that they specifically checked onto the flight (which was a bit difficult considering most of the bags were full of supplies and not actually our personal bags), we left for the hotel. We all ended up heading to our rooms and are now showering, cleaning up, and relaxing prior to our dinner this evening with some very important people. Can't wait to continue our adventure in the morning!  
The lack of bags on this carousel is a metaphor for... well... our lack of bags.

The lack of bags on this carousel is a metaphor for... well... our lack of bags.

Stay tuned for more to come. Cheers, Ryan

We are on our way!

We are finally on our way!

After meeting at Beth's house and fighting our way through Seattle traffic, we made our way through security and onto the British Airways 777 that promises to take us to London.

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Being the first blog post of the trip, allow us to introduce ourselves:

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Starting at the top left and making our way left we have Joe Bailey (a 5th grade teacher at QAE), Ciara Leckie (2nd grade teacher at QAE), Beth MacLean (DH's Director of Programs), Rene Yokoyama (QAE kindergarten teacher). And in the second row starting from the left we have Rachel Marks (also a QAE kindergarten teacher), Donna Verhasselt (DH's Director of Long-Term Planning), and yours truly, Ryan Ward (concerned citizen and husband of Rene Yokoyama).

We are all so excited to embark on this journey in order to continue building relationships with Queen Anne Elementary's sister school in Zambia, Dwankhozi Basic School. But before we do anything, alas, we have to get to Dwankhozi (not such an easy task)! Our itinerary is as follows: 9-hour flight to London, 7-hour layover, 11-hour flight to Johannesburg, a small layover, a 2.5-hour flight to Lusaka where we stay the night, and then just a short 9-hour drive in a van to Chipata!

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Altogether we have quite the journey ahead of us, but morale is high and the chance to strengthen ties between our QAE teachers, parents, and kids couldn't be more of a motivation.

Feel free to comment, share the link to the blog, and stay tuned for daily updates about us, our journey, and our friends in Zambia.

Cheers,

Ryan