Monday, October 15, 2012

A Joyful Weekend

I spent Saturday morning in a hot and sweaty music studio listening to the choral group from the Ndola Lions School for the Visually Impaired record music for a fundraising CD.  I thought I would be able to video tape them all singing, reminiscent of the "We are the World" recording - post it on YouTube and the orders would come flooding in.  Right -- and where are you, Heather?

The students not only sing beautifully, but despite this being their first recording, they really understand what is involved in recording all the components of the song.  The sopranos went first and then in succession the tenors, altos, etc followed with the layers of music becoming more and more moving.
The audio technician was extremely patient with the kids and it took 2 hours to do the mixing for one song
Singers waiting their turn to go into the recording studio
A group of happy boys leaving the studio
Each time I see these students, my admiration grows in leaps and bounds for them.  They all have each other's back, they are polite, and they move confidently in a dark world.

I want to help them, and since they don't have an internet presence, I've offered to create a blog, set up a Facebook page, and help market the CD.  Good friends in Priest River saw my photos on Kinley Travels and called me to see if they could approach the Lions Club for a donation.  I put together a PowerPoint presentation along with a wish list, and we're hopeful they will approve either a one time donation, or an ongoing one.

Once I was done at the studio, I got to tag along on a trip to the Kansanshi project where Roger hosted a Town Hall meeting.  Before it started, we heard a lot of whooping and hollering from the dining hall tent, so I went to check it out.

Zambia was playing in the Africa Cup of Nations and won against the Ivory Coast in a dramatic shoot out.  It was the first time Zambia had won since 1994 which was the year following the tragic death of 18 team members who perished in a plane crash.  Clearly, there was cause for celebration.

Roger first introduced himself to the group; many who had not had a chance to meet him although he's been to the site several times since arriving in mid-August.  When I was introduced, there was a polite round of applause -- apparently not many wives come to the sites!

In a sign of respect, the employee bowed his legs as he accepted a Safety Award.  You can also see how his left hand cupped his right forearm which is what very polite people do when accepting something.  We learned this gesture in Botswana and it is a practice carried out in Zambia.  Roger and I have adopted this as well; much to the delight and surprise of the nationals.  
Fortunately, this group was much more receptive to Roger, than when he conducted his first meeting in the Congo.  He said a near riot occurred with angry workers shaking their fists at him!  I'm sure he thought he'd be tomorrow's dinner.  However, he has earned their respect by doing what he said he would do, and subsequent meetings have been much more amiable.

After staying at the Royal Solwezi Hotel again, we were up at dawn to drive to the Chimfunshi Chimpanzee Refuge in the hopes we could go on a walk with chimps.  Unfortunately our information wasn't correct, and when we arrived at 8 a.m. we were told they left at 7:30 a.m.!  We met the son-in-law of the refuge's founder at a BBQ a couple of weeks ago, and when he knew we were going to the refuge, he called ahead to make sure we were warmly welcomed.
Rescued chimps (and some other animals) are brought here but only animals indigenous to Zambia are released back to the wild.
The sign should add they sometimes throw balls of poop!
We jumped in the truck, and headed towards the enclosures which are actually span hundreds of acres.  The chimps are free to roam, but are extremely clever, and know when feeding time is and head to the building twice a day.  Out of the 120+ chimps, 3 are deemed dangerous or a flight risk (one actually figured out how to make a ladder to climb the electrified fence!) so are separated and stay in a typical zoo-like enclosure.
This is by the feeding station, but the chimps are free to roam through hundreds of acres
They are extremely intelligent and social animals.  The Alpha gets replaced periodically as younger males get stronger and older -- often there are some bloody fights 
This is "Colin" -- a chimp that used to trick staff into coming close to him, only to bite them.  He is now in a separate enclosure with his mother.  Hmm...20 years old and still living at home with his mother.
There were staff to explain the personalities of the chimps that came to see if they could score some biscuits (they can open up the wrappers).  We saw babies on their mother's backs, chimps swinging from the trees, and observed the silliest noises and behaviours.
After visiting the chimps, we were introduced to the founder, Sheila Siddle.  This incredible woman is 81 years young and is a living example of how miracles happen when people are committed to a cause.

Sheila and her late husband were awarded the Member of the British Empire for their work, she has written books, toured the world educating people about the horrors of poaching and animal trafficking, and has twice hosted Jane Goodall at the refuge.

We were invited into her home for tea, and it was like being inside Dr. Doolittle's house.  There were dogs and birds, and she just recently had to let the two lambs live outside when they became too big.  But that's nothing.

Twenty years ago, a baby hippo was found beside her dead mother and was rescued.  "Billy" was nursed by Sheila and David and for 20 years was a beloved family member.  She was raised inside the house until she got so big that she broke the love seat she enjoyed lying on!  Billy died in April, and Sheila has been devastated by her death.  To help ease the sadness, Sheila's daughter bought one lamb, but quickly bought another one as the first one had also made herself quite comfortable in the house!

Sheila and her two baby lambs - they follow her everywhere
We will return next month and spend the night in one of these cottages before going on a two hour bush walk with the young chimps.  The main reason to have people stay overnight is for the staff to observe them and ensure no one is ill as flu and colds is the chimps biggest killer.
The dedication to wildlife, and chimps in particular is very moving.  Sheila is a truly inspiring woman whose short stature belies her strength and drive.

"Chimpanzees have suffered so much pain and trauma at the hands of humans...yet they still have the grace to forgive us."    Sheila Siddle

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