Chingola and Chimfunshi, 21st-23rd May - Volunteer work at Chimfunshi Chimpanzee Orphanage
After a lazy Friday morning and a much needed lye in, we began making preparations for our impending visit to Chimfunshi Orphanage, the chimpanzee sanctuary that we had visited the previous day. We had agreed with one of the supervisors name Innocent that Scott and I would arrive Friday evening and stay until early Monday morning when Silver would pick us up. The visit was planned with two objectives in mind, firstly it would allow Scott and I to play the tourist for a little while, whilst allowing Silver the freedom to travel around and do some more meets and greets without worrying about the two of us.
Prior to our departure we visited the local internet café to check emails the usual before meeting Chansa and moving onto shoprite to buy food and drink for the weekend ahead. Chimfunshi being a chimpanzee's sanctuary needs a lot of space for the chimps to roam; as a consequence it was located 70km away from the nearest town so buying supplies was a necessity. We decided on a rather basic range of foods to survive on for the next few days and attempted to load the car, in the process receiving much attention from the usual locals hanging around outside the supermarket which almost ended in Scott losing his sunglasses!
Full loaded and ready to go we headed to the Chimfunshi office located in Chingola where we had arranged with Innocent to be picked up and transported to our desired location. True to form, and on African time Innocent turned up at 2.15pm much earlier than we had anticipated, however upon his arrival he informed us that he had to go arrange some last minute flights to South Africa which meant two things, firstly being delayed a further 2 hours, and secondly that he would not be present at Chimfunshi during our visit. During this time we managed to meet a female Israeli volunteer named Laly who had been travelling sub-Saharan Africa for the best part of 6 months and was due to start at Chimfunshi the same day as us, and an American guy named Tom who had been working for the Peace core for the past 27 months teaching fishing conservation in a nearby town. Innocent arrived back around 4pm and we departed, the journey lasting just over an hour. Stemson, another supervisor at Chimfunshi, showed us our lodgings for the next few days, a two bedded room inside a basic cottage house, and we thought it resembled a small prison cell without the toilet! Not that it mattered, the beds were comfy the toilet was a hundred metres away but we were excited to get involved and help.
The remainder of our Friday evening was spent eating poorly put together ham sandwiches, and meeting our fellow volunteers and a group of around 30 American students. Whilst sitting at the fire meeting a fellow British volunteer, a middle aged woman named Hannah on a career break, we were suddenly swarmed by Americans who proceeded to in the midst of our conversation start a group meeting, bringing up official discussions of their days work and ending in a session whereby they shared with the group experiences they had enjoyed over the past week. This session seemed to last forever going round the group one by one. Scott eventually made his excuses offering to wash up our mugs which had contained an alcoholic drink made from a local spirit, squash and water which Hannah very kindly donated to us. Eventually the session worked its way round and before I knew what was happening thee senior lecture and head of the American group turned to me and asked if I would like to contribute. My first impression of the group as a whole was that they were like totally awesome!!! In truth the whole experience was a bit of an ordeal and I was left with the impression that they had were a little arrogant, so of course I proceeded to mumble to them about how inspirational it was to see individuals with such dedication and passion for their work…It's the British way, think one thing say another! Shortly after their meeting finished and I returned to our cell and before I could utter a word Scott echoed my sentiments.
A new morning Scott and I full of expectation and enthusiasm rose from our slumber around 7.30am ready to go at 8am. Innocents mother Mary was our source of transport for the day, and she suggested that as we had already seen the main enclosures we should perhaps visit the further away orphanage where the newer chimps are first placed. So we jumped in the back of the pickup in true African style and on we went. We arrived at the orphanage 8km later with sore bums but still eager to help. The orphanage looked exactly the same as the enclosures we had previously seen and most of the chimps were out but nearby playing. As soon as we arrived Mary asked if we'd like to meet Billy….the hippo!!! We walked around a corner and there it was possibly with the exception of elephants the biggest living creature I had ever seen and so close. Billy was named after one of the rangers that rescued her from poachers who had killed her mother when she was just 5 days old. The ranger had heard of a white lady named Sheila, the founder of the chimpanzee orphanage, who took in sick and abused chimps. It wasn't until a month later that Sheila found out that Billy was in fact a girl but they kept the name and the Hippo has lived there ever since. There is a nearby river where she ventures almost everyday disappearing for a few nights on end from time to time, but she always returns. When younger she used to play with the dogs and move freely in and out of Sheila's house but this is no longer possible since she is fully grown. Billy moves between the few houses located at the orphanage freely with everyone making sure she is given plenty of room. A few minutes after our arrival she lazily made her way down towards the back of Sheila's house to begin here daily routine of eating trough full of vegetables and two warm bottles of milk given to her by her surrogate mother (Videos and pictures to follow shortly!). The hippo made the day; little to no volunteering was done in all honesty. We briefly revisited the other enclosures and talked to little Patrick about how he had seen Americans do peculiar things with animals on the internet before returning to camp and crashing out after a decidedly dodgy tea of bread, potatoes baked beans, runner beans and carrots which claimed the life of an innocent tea towel which Scott accidently set on fire!
Sunday rolled around and to be honest we felt a bit defeated between avoiding the Americans and little volunteer work we were beginning to think what started of as a promising weekend was going to be a bust! We decided to wake up later, walk to the enclosures to waste a bit of time and do the same on the return journey. When we arrived we actually got the chance to prepare some food for the chimps, Scott cutting up sugar cane, and I preparing cabbages…not exactly what we had in mind but all hands on deck I suppose. We really were after a bit of interaction with the chimps but the workers were rather worried about the lack of familiarity the chimps had with us which was understandable if not a little disappointing. We did get less than a couple of feet away from the chimps and we did see inside their enclosures, in fact the enclosure which later that day became closed off due to a sickness among the chimps that claimed the lives of 4 chimps over the past 4 weeks. At least we didn't have to scoop chimp poo anyways!
We returned to camp a little frazzled and very thirsty, applied after sun then cooked our dinner. Whilst discussing at dinner how we were on the whole disappointed with our first voluntary experience the American students began clearing the tables under the main circular bandstand sheltered area and arranging seats in a circular pattern around its perimeter. We took one of the students aside and asked them what they were up to. We were informed that they had organized for the local villagers and workers of Chimfunshi to come visit the camp and they were going to put a show on singing to them in English and in Bemba! We decided to stick around as it sounded like a good excuse to laugh at the yanks. The guests arrived and we took our seats with them and the Americans began to sing their prepared material with the assistance of a blackboard, guitar and keyboard. I helped two young Zambian children sat next to me read the English words to the first song "This land is your land", this was followed by "head, shoulders, knees and toes" In English then in Bemba, and a third song which they created and sang in Bemba, and finally "the hokey pokey" not the hokey cokey!?!? The more we watched the more their enthusiasm started to rub off on the two of us and slowly our attitude towards them started to change. They soon realized their evenings programme was a little on the short side so on the spot they began a rendition of Keisha's hit "Tick-tock" before moving on to "If your happy and you know it clap your hands", and finally Taylor Swifts "Love story" - Scott sang along! Whilst the set list was trivial at best the locals enjoyed it, especially the children, even Scott and I were amused an entertained. A few words of mutual appreciation in both languages were exchanged and we thought the night was drawing to a close…wrong!
This was when the weekend began to come alive and the experience was saved. Out of know where the locals burst into song and as you can probably guess nobody does singing like the Africans (Check the videos)! It was like these quiet polite people who were enjoying the show suddenly erupted into a full blown church choir, I think all of the foreigners were blown away. After an amazing rendition of a song praising Jesus they formed a circle and began a new song clapping all the while, this is where we became more than just mere spectators. Apparently a well known traditional custom of African song and dance was about to take place firstly demonstrated by the Zambian children. At random intervals individuals were chosen to enter the circle amongst the repeating chorus and shake what the good lord gave you! On the outside looking in Scott, Laly and I were laughing as slowly the Americans were placed in the middle of the circle almost entering a dance battle with the locals. Brilliant. Brilliant that is until a boy in a baggy green shirt chosen to select the next candidates to dance headed like a homing missile towards us selecting both Scott and I to dance which was greeted with a large cheer by our American comrades. So in we stepped with two local females a tad younger than ourselves and the singing began and after a little prompting and much embarrassment we gave it our best shot sticking our bums out and wiggling our hips very funny if not a little cringey. From that point on we joined in the singing and dancing with both groups and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The night wound down gradually and after the locals departed we hung around with the remaining students and sang songs that the single guitarist knew the rifts for, a very American summer camp thing to do but it when in Rome, or should that be when surrounded by Romans?? After this we exchanged a few cultural differences namely the difference in how British people single the hokey cokey and the numerous synonyms for the word drunk which was quite amusing before we retired to bed.
On the whole we both decided that the weekend was a success. Although we didn't get to do as much volunteering as we would like but we really did enjoy ourselves. We were left with a changed attitude towards the American students perhaps our preconceptions clouded our judgment who knows but they were all very welcoming. In fact they will be staying at the same place when we move onto Livingstone so there may be more camp songs by the fire yet watch this space.
Lastly I'd like to apologise for the length of the blog not that any of you will get this far! Too many experiences not enough time,
DC, Juju, Scotty Dogg xxx