From the scene – week no. 10
What´s happening at the construction site.
The foundations have been concreted and we are starting to tie the reinforcement to the columns in the tenth week. On Monday we send Vašek and Bornface to buy materials in Ndola, which was an experience in itself. At the end of the week we start preparing the formwork and we have 4 columns ready to start concreting the following week.
Trip to Ndola, Vašek, 14. 8. 23
Monday morning started like any other morning. After waking up and an optional warm-up, we had breakfast. And then it started. Peter handed me a shopping list, which I added window material to, saying: "You and Bornface are going to Ndola to do the shopping and it would be a good idea to put the load on one car so we don't have to pay for transport twice. Well, I don't think it'll work, but you'll give it a try so the experience won't be so easy."
So after breakfast we went to the car. I noticed the change from the original plan when I saw the car, where not only Bornface was standing, but also Josef, Esther (one of the volunteers) and Josef's eldest daughter. When we set out, after asking about the length of the drive, I found out that we should be there in two hours, which was a pleasant surprise, so then I just enjoyed the views of the slightly shrivelled nature and Bornface's narration. We reached Ndola after about two and a half hours.
Our first task was to buy cement. Since we had forgotten to do that, we had to go back to the store part of the way. They already knew us in the store, so we ordered a truck with 200 bags of cement with the promise that it would arrive that afternoon (well it didn't) and went to buy reinforcement for concrete. We had two stores picked out, Fire Prevention and Rakey's. First we went to Fire Prevention Store, which was supposed to have cheaper goods. We agreed that Bornface and Joseph would go to the store first to negotiate a price and then I would just inspect the goods. That didn't go entirely smoothly. Some of the reinforcement did not have the properties we wanted, so I had to go to the store earlier. Based on my inspection, we decided not to purchase the reinforcement. However, we did find material that compensated for the needed reinforcement. They just charged us a pretty high price, so we argued because we knew the price from a competing store. They laughed at us, saying that Rakey's surely wouldn't have it cheaper, so we bought the reinforcement for the price Bornface and Joseph had agreed upon before I entered the store. We said we would pick up the goods in the afternoon by car, and left there Joseph as a deposit.
When we arrived at Rakey's Store, we immediately started negotiating the price of additional reinforcement. The instructions were that it should cost 35 kwacha. However, the price was 38 and we accepted it. I continued shopping according to the list and Bornface went off to arrange the wood. After 15 minutes, Bornface returned, saying that after all, he and Peter had agreed on a different price, so he started arguing with the staff, who were not very cooperative. So he went straight to the shop manager, with whom he managed to defend the price of 36 kwacha. You could say it was a salesmanship masterstroke. Then Bornface left and I finished my purchase and waited for him for about 2.5 hours. It was now 4 pm and they were closing up shop at 4:30, so I called him and learned that they would be loading any minute at Fire Prevention Store, where Joseph had been waiting for the last 5 hours. I called him again at 4:15 to make arrangements with the attendant to pick it up the next day if we couldn't make it. The phone was answered and I was told that the truck would be at my place "any minute", a timeline describing the possibility of something actually happening in a minute or hundreds of minutes. I decided to make arrangements with the attendant to get the order ready to load. Due to the quantity of the order, this caused the entire store to mobilize and I witnessed the assistant manager loudly urging the staff to act. Meanwhile, at 4:23, the "truck" arrived on site. A car that was about four metres long overall, which wasn't exactly ideal because we were going to load six metres of reinforcement and timber into the car. Eventually a second truck, which was coming from Fire Prevention Store, arrived on the scene and Joseph jumped out of it. We loaded everything in such organized chaos and I jumped in the truck with Josef. The interior of the driver's cab had a steering wheel and two seats in it, so we almost all had a place to sit. After starting the car by connecting the wires in the door, we drove to the sawmill where Bornface was waiting for us with a bunch of guys drunk on banana wine . The mood in the group lightened considerably when we arrived and they discovered I am from Europe. We loaded the car almost to bursting, literally, because one of our axles almost broke, so we unloaded the car again and Bornface started to arrange another truck. Surprisingly, it arrived in about 10 minutes. The driver of course tried to raise the price while looking in my direction. But we had counted on that, so Bornface didn't let it bother him and still insisted on the price they had agreed beforehand.
Finally, we loaded everything up. We put Joseph with one of the drivers. Bornface and I went to drop off Josef's daughter, who had been going with Bornface around Ndola all day. So she spent about 9,5 hours with us in the car. After dropping her off, we went to Kashitu, where the others were already unloading the cargo from both cars.
The promised cement didn't arrive until the next day, but we're glad it did. Or rather, we found out that it was on its way on Monday, but the driver had crossed the turn-off to Kashitu and unloaded the cargo elsewhere that day. So we had to make some calls and deal with it again on Tuesday.
Thanks to Vašek's action, we have everything we need for the next phase of construction. Matěj is also leaving to Lusaka on Monday. He is in charge of the shopping, taking the car to the service (oil) and on Wednesday he picks up another crew, Dita and Míša, who have their own project in Kashitu to paint the primary school, and Honza Krajíček, the construction manager for the next phase of the project. All of them were supposed to arrive on Wednesday, but their stay is prolonged when our "brick-machine" event starts again. Bornface arrives in Lusaka on Wednesday and negotiations begin. It's our last week, then the whole shipment is in danger of being confiscated. We don't want to pay the amount of duty and we are trying to get everything we need to get our cargo. Time is running out. In the end, we have no choice but to pay at least the reduced amount and then we can take the cargo. But oops, there is a payment problem and it's getting close to the end of business hours to make the payment on time. Ugh, all goes well, but we can't get to the shipment on Friday, so one last time the crew in Lusaka makes sure that the shipment won't be confiscated and that we can pick it up the following week, after the deadline. And then the whole gang hit the road to Kashitu. Which wouldn't have been a big deal if Matěj hadn't been in a hurry to catch the 11pm train to Livingstone Falls.
Matěj and Pája go to the waterfalls
Matěj and Pája were the first ones to arrive in Zambia together with Peter. So they were in charge of all the initial arrangements, solutions and negotiations. And thanks to them, the rest of us are here like in paradise. That is why they deservedly planned a trip to Livingstone Falls for the penultimate week of their stay. Matěj arranged a train for Friday, August 11, but it was cancelled. The next connection in the timetable was not until 18th Aug.
But Matěj is still in Lusaka that Friday and hasn't packed. Pája is in Kashitu trying to pack all the things. The whole day is very tense for everyone. They are already past the traffic jam in Lusaka, they are already in front of Kapiri, and a little before 11 pm Matěj arrives with the girls and Honza in front of our house. He barely gets out of the car after a five-hour journey and runs to get everything he needs. Together we drink to the arrival of new reinforcements and say goodbye to Pája and Matěj and wait for the train. And how do you wait for the train in Kashitu? Cool, at a table with wine and waiting for the train to horn. Then you run up to it and get on. Especially when the driver and the stationmaster in Kashitu know that Matěj and Pája are getting on today. And so we talk, play games and time runs. At 2 a.m. the rest of us slowly give up and go to sleep. Matěj and Pája go to the station to wait there for the train. Don't be fooled, Kashitu station means insaka, a mattress and a fire.
On Saturday morning we slowly get up for breakfast and see our two travelers sleeping at the table. The train didn´t arrive again. So whole Saturday they are both in tension and every time we think the train is arriving we run to make sure we all have time to wave goodbye to them. Suddenly we hear a train but it's coming from the other direction. After a while, Matěj runs up to us and has unexpected news. A freight train going in the opposite direction has derailed in Kashitu. So their train has no way to pass. We go to have a look and it seems almost impossible for their train to run this week. We're inviting the engineer of the derailed locomotive to come to our site. On that occasion we learn that he must not shut down the locomotive or it would not start again. So the locomotive rumbles all day and all night behind our house. However, Zambia is a magical country. Saturday night we all go to bed. Around 6am we hear the train horn, Káťa wakes up Matěj and Pája. They take the backpacks on their backs and run. The rest of us continue sleeping. Around 7.30 a message arrives that they are in the locomotive heading towards Ndola, they are picking up their passenger train and going back to Kashitu with the familiar train driver Gilbert. So we all run to the track and wave. No sign of the derailed train. The train does stay in the station for a while, but after an hour we get the news that after 34 hours of delay they are indeed on their way. They are on a train pulled by 4 locomotives, only one of which is working.
We end a week full of stories and twists with a Sunday trip to the local market hoping to pick up some local souvenirs and specialties. Along the way, we check out the elementary school that operates in Kashitu, Peter arranges for fresh donuts to sample, we check out the local medical center and head back. Apart from vegetables, there was nothing to buy at the market and we more made an attraction for the locals.
On the way home we pass a field of sugar cane. We agree that we could take a few pieces, then when we put together the change to pay the locals for the bounty, they give us the whole bundle right away. For 10 kwacha it's a pretty good deal.
On the way, we make one more stop at one of the houses where the local burnt bricks are just ready. Peter gives us a lecture on the pros and cons of this technology but we can talk about it next time.
And a little bit of life in Kashitu...