• So far, so good – Starting the Program in Zambia

    Original Post: 8/30/2009

    Written by Coach Sam working with Beyond Sport Integrated, Monze, Zambia

    9am, Lusaka, Zambia. The plane touched as sun was
    already beating down and unforgiving as I walked across the
    busy runway in a kamikaze like mission in which the British
    board of health would have had a field day, but just a way of
    life in Zambia, a theme which would continue throughout the
    day. As per usual at a international airport there was a
    “Welcome to…” sign. What was different however was the
    smiling faces, helpful and friendly staff and locals which
    actually did make one feel genuinely welcome when entering a
    country. After a two hour wait in the quite small Lusaka
    airport, without any money, phone – it all became apparent as we had the pleasure
    of sampling Zambian public transport. Wow! A bus type
    contraption which made the Dodge conversion van I recently
    had to sell for scrap look like absolute luxury. The bus
    spluttered into action on the dusty ground with the help of
    half the passengers push starting the vehicle and then
    scampering after it and jumping back in.

    We drove through the dirt tracks for an impressive
    three and a half hours which by all accounts seemed to defy
    the laws of physics. The windows were open for AC purposes
    whilst everything seemed to shake, especially the
    passengers, who didn’t mind one bit, all laughing and
    joking for the whole duration. We were all packed in there
    along with cargo, everything from rice to poles to my
    footballs to car batteries which made sure the cabin space
    was filled. Every time the bus shuddered to what would feel
    like a terminal stop, teenage girls would appear from the
    local village thrusting mainly bananas and apples for sale
    through the bus window, especially at me, being a muzungu.
    Stranger items where also offered, from pirate dvds (not
    ones staring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightly)
    to children’s’ underwear. There was constant noise for
    the hours we packed into the bus, more beeping then NYC
    taxis, considering we didn’t see other vehicles for miles
    at a time it was rather unclear for the reasoning, but
    morale was high with shouting and laughing always being
    heard.

    As day turned into night villages were noticeable by
    tiny camp fires outside of each home with the overpowering
    smell of smoke and burning wood. Finally to where would be
    my home for the next three months. A humble dwelling in
    Monze. The night had now well and truly drawn it dark cape
    over the town as we had a welcoming camp fire outside with
    my housemates underneath the clearest night’s sky I have
    ever seen, with thousands of stars twinkling above us.
    Awoken by natures own alarm clock, the rooster, along
    with the burning sun blazing through the window and my
    mosquito net, it was off to my first football coaching
    session. I would later learn that this would be a loose term
    for the task at hand. With a three mile walk to the football
    pitch (also a loose term) along the sun burnt red soil and
    avoiding cattle which were haphazardly meandering around the
    paths it was already draining. The friendliness of the
    locals with cheery shouts of “hello” and “bboola” as
    the whole nation is football crazy and mesmerised by the
    sight of a bag full of footballs which are too expensive to
    own for the average inhabitant. Children came rushing out of
    everywhere on our trek to the field in a very much Pied
    Piper like situation. Children kept appearing as they knew
    that this could be the only time in the week that they had
    to play, have fun and actually be children.

    The growing numbers of youngsters are not put off by
    the burning sun above, the dirty dusty stoney ground with
    sparse patches of burnt grass, the fact that 90% aren’t
    wearing any footwear or even that some are carrying their
    baby siblings on their backs. It was obvious rather quickly
    that the children had a limited English vocabulary, and
    unsurprisingly my Tongan language education was extremely
    small. Through a lot of key words, hand signals and
    demonstrations it seemed to be a success for the 60
    participants. Smiles, laughs, intrigue and eagerness filled
    the faces of the children for the couple of hours I was
    there. A particular highlight of mine was including a small
    girl, to which the language barrier was eradicated due to
    the fact she was both deaf and dumb. Seeing the enjoyment
    she was having joining in with every game we played was
    phenomenal.

    For the second session I took a ride on the back of a
    motorbike in my shorts an tee-shirt along the uneven cattle
    worn tracks for ten miles. A hundred times more thrilling
    than a roller coaster but also more dangerous and scary! As
    we arrived my arms were tired from holding on so tightly but
    we were met by the whole town on a sports afternoon. There
    was an adults football match in full swing on the village
    football pitch, a Netball game on the netball court, which
    left myself and my assistant coach / translator with seven
    footballs and 10 square yards of grass. Again kids came from
    everywhere to fill this small space. Whilst they were still
    pouring in I counted over 140 children in this tiny area. I
    will never forget that hour and a half in which we kept
    every child involved with plenty of touches of the ball,
    having fun and smiles on their faces. The appreciation the
    kids have for our visits is undeniably evident. We wrapped
    up each session with the kids sat down and a talk on
    ‘Childs rights’ which the kids could ask us questions,
    answer our questions and learn more. All together this is a
    great programme for everyone involved and I am extremely
    thankful for the experiences and to be part of it.