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Two Schools, Five Marshmallows and One Dinner at Fatmol’s

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This post was written on June 24, but we’ve haven’t had the chance to post it. I hope you enjoy it! (This is Joann again!)

Our day yesterday was a true eye-opener. We started by visiting a government school and a private school in Ndola, where Hope Community School operates. Community school like Hope’s are a recent phenomenon that are aimed at helping Zambia reach the Millennium Development Goal of providing free universal primary education. Government and private schools are often better funded and better run, and we hoped to learn from their experience.

The government school we visited, Mwabombeni Basic School, was large and clearly well run, and the students’ strong command of English demonstrated the quality of teaching there. It was the private Catholic school we visited, Dominican Convent Secondary School, that really made our jaws drop, though. Much more expensive and exclusive than the government school, this school ran like a Swiss watch. They had well-stocked laboratories, a large library and even a swimming pool, and what’s more, the students were confident, healthy and seemingly very happy! It was truly a marvel, and half the time I kept thinking that it was better than the high school I attended! After speaking with a senior teacher at Mwabombeni and the headmistress at Dominican, we learned a lot that will be of use for improving our own school, and we also saw models of what we might dream for Hope to be in a few years’ time.

After the school visits and a very long delay I caused by getting 20 copies of our training materials (a process that took about an hour!), we continued our day with a quick lunch and time with our reading partners, the children that each of us sponsors. This has been, to my surprise, one of my favorite parts of this trip, and every time that Steward, the student I sponsor, recognizes the words he’s reading, he gets this great smile on his face and a look of sheer pride and achievement. It’s been just wonderful.

After our time with our reading partners, Rich and I ran our first training session for the Hope staff, and it turned out to be a blast! We gave them The Marshmallow Challenge, which is a program we found in which teams of 3-4 have to try to build the tallest free-standing structure out of spaghetti, tape and string with a marshmallow at the top. We used it as part of a training session about creating and refining efficient processes, and the staff really rose to the challenge! We had two close calls during the session as two teams’ taller structures ended breaking halfway through the training! A group of the school teachers ended up winning with a structure 46cm high! (The blog’s not allowing me to post pictures right now, but I’ll try again soon!)

And lastly for dinner, which we had at our motel, Fatmol’s Executive Lodge. Despite ordering dinner at 9AM to preempt any problems, it turned out to be a hilarious comedy of errors including wrong orders, cold dishes, questionable parts of chickens and the arrival of our “Banana Boat” melted banana split dessert that looked more like what Brady called a “banana pond.” We were all so tickled by the end of dinner that the embarrassing stories from the trip started to flow!

The best was probably Rich’s admission about his trip to buy “talk time” (minutes for your cell phone). When he was on his way back, he had jogged across the dark street to get to our lodge. As he rushed across the road, which was definitely not equipped with sidewalks or street lights, he didn’t notice the upcoming barbed wire guard rail and ended up taking a head-over-heels, face-down tumble into the street. I SO wish we had gotten some video (or photos at least!) of him as he tried to untangle himself from the barbed wire with his backpack flying about as the bus drivers that had taken us home watched and chuckled from across the street.
As you can imagine, it was a great day, and we are looking forward to another eventful (and hopefully less dangerous!) day today!

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