Today I spent the morning staining concrete so it looks like sandstone. The other day I plumbed in a solar hot water geyser, above a slightly rickety wooden platform. I’ve got to admit when I turned it on this morning, rather like a fountain, it leaked. In the last few weeks I have had to do so many things that I have never done before.

I remember last year having to fix some wiring that was smoking in a house I was renting. I simply ripped it all out and started again. A few weeks before in Wales I had asked an electrician how to wire in a fuse box…..???

The thing is, even with some of my inexperience, I am probably still better placed to do it than many of the tradesman around Mkushi. Plumbers normally remove the rubber seals meant to stop leaks and apparently in Zambian electrical work, earth and neutral are often the same thing.

The difference is confidence and education. If I’m not sure how to do something I simply get online and have a look how. I can understand the instructions and I’m handy enough to do the practical things I read. Guys here cannot get online and even if they do, they don’t have the background and framework within which to understand the information.

Lasford last year asked me who had taught me electrics, he was amazed when I answered I had just read something the day before. And yes! the house hasn’t burnt down…….yet……..

Even in our work here, even simple tasks can often become very complicated, simply because of this ‘background’ knowledge issue. You would not believe how complicated, convoluted and difficult communication can be.

Now many people will read this and just assume that villagers and builders in Zambia are stupid. They are not! Some of the best times in the last few weeks have been spending some time with the builders and working out with them how to do things. They are not stupid, many of them simply haven’t had the opportunity to learn.

Perhaps one of the saddest situations I have come across is perhaps that two of my builders I am having to let go, as they are alcoholics. They get paid and disappear in a drunken stupor for half a week. They could go far, but alas, their situation keeps them captive.

In some ways the problems these guys face are a microcosm of the situations that many people face in the villages. Imagine thousands of people, held captive by issues, not educated very well and not having confidence. You really then begin to get an idea of the challenges faced by Rural Africa.


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