One of the pearls of wisdom shared with budding volunteers prior to their placement abroad is to “be really friendly, and say ‘yes’ to everything”. While part of this equation can be fraught with danger, this approach may well be the reason behind my unexpectedly great weekend, and my ability to slowly etch out a Chipata crew to call my very own.
It started on Thursday evening, when I headed to a British volunteer’s, house to enjoy some home-made pizza, fresh from her home-made pizza oven. Apart from meeting a bunch of cool people, I gorged myself on what can only be described as the best pizza I’ve ever eaten in my life. Or maybe I’ve been eating village food for a little too long.
The excitement of the world cup led me to my neighbours’ place on Friday night, where I squished in with the Italian fraternity and bonded over our losses.
Saturday started out with a day trip with the effervescent peeps from the office next door. Aka, Nelson and Gerard took me out to Sunnyside Lodge, 10km from town on the way to Malawi, for a day of swings, see-saws, ultra-competitive (and muddy) volleyball, Waida (a Zambian game using elastic around the ankles / knees / waist), skipping, gymnastics and, finally, pedalling a directionless boat on an unswimmable dam. I had so much fun, I actually didn’t notice that I had ripped my favourite top into two.
That evening, I headed to another British volunteer’s place for a good ol’ African braai (BBQ). Here I spent some time sharing vegan BBQ ideas and the philosophies of life with rastafarian Manyoni; compared Dutch and Australian immigration policies with George; and introduced Brenda and her son Victor to the delights of feta-stuffed grilled green peppers.
This excitement was followed up on Sunday morning with a hike to Malawi, led by Konda the overly-enthusiastic 1 year old puppy, followed closely behind by an expat crowd of Americans, Brits, and me. When I say a hike to Malawi, what I really mean is four hours of bush-bashing our way up and down a series of increasingly higher hills to reveal a picturesque view over all of Chipata and beyond, before scrambling down a cliff-like face of spiky grass and stumbling onto the hide-out of a friendly Rastafarian duo fascinated by their (meat-eating) rasta sister. Epic.
Flaked out on the bed with exhaustion, and when I thought I couldn’t handle any more entertainment, I got a call from a young gentleman I met on the job in my first week. As he lived in the vicinity, we caught up for drinks, which then morphed into dinner, in what I later realised largely resembled a date. Now before you get your easily excitable knickers in a knot, I don’t envisage any romantic blossoming with my 25 year-old Jehovah’s Witness acquaintance, but our conversations on soccer, social work and selfies made for a charming end to an utterly charming weekend.
Ah, Chipata, it’s going to be one hell of a year.