Our intrepid columnist continues his visit to Africa.
Fed up with the beach side bliss in Zanzibar, the family and I decided to re-embark on some more African adventure, this time with the Child Fund organisation.
We sponsor a wee lad in a remote village in Zambia. His name is Ozbert. He's 7 years old, the same age as my eldest boy. What a fantastic opportunity, we thought, for our son to meet his pen friend.
After flying into Zambia we were met by our driver Lawrence who greeted us with some bottles of water before taking us on a four-hour journey to the Luangwa River. The Luangwa is one of the biggest rivers in Zambia. It acts as a border between Zambia and neighbouring Mozambique. It's teeming with wildlife including many crocs, hippos and monitor lizards. Once we arrived at the river we drove alongside it for another hour on a rough dirt road, often bumping up and down hysterically like Ace Ventura in When Nature Calls. Anyway, we passed a lot of small villages along the way before we finally reached our destination.
"Here we are," said Lawrence.
"Well, that didn't take long," I said, rubbing the bruises on the top of my head.
We were met by the local Child Fund chap who led us into Ozbert's village. As we entered we were welcomed by women singing and clapping. It was an unexpected joy to see not only Ozbert's village community but also some of the neighbouring folk who turned up to celebrate our arrival.
Once the hype calmed down I was touched on the shoulder and given an initiation test by a man speaking good English to my right.
"Okay my friend ... now which boy is Ozbert?"
Well, I have to be honest, I wasn't expecting this sort of test straight off the bat. Luckily, though, I recognised Ozbert's cute face straight away. He was standing there looking shyer than a wallflower in a disco room without walls.
"That's him!" I said confidently, while pointing in his general direction. Everybody cheered. I was correct. Thank God, after all, we'd come all this way.
Soon the wife and I and our two kids were sitting in a sheltered spot surrounded by Ozbert's family and about 100 locals, half of whom had their camera phones out videoing and photographing our presence. It was an amazing experience but I'm proud of my boys, who despite the oddness of the situation held strong and played their part.
During a tour of the village, Ozbert showed us some of the things our money had paid for. He had two goats and a number of pristine chickens. It was such a joy to see the reality connected to the paperwork you fill out on the other side of the world. Our two families had lunch together and then I brought out the piece de resistance, a classic New Zealand frisbee. No one in the village had ever seen one before. My son Finn and I revelled in the delight of showing Oz and the gang how to throw it.
Soon a massive crowd had gathered and everyone was laughing at the silliness of throwing a plastic disc. It was a gift, of course, for little Ozzy. I think he liked it.
"This will make a good weapon to scare away the hippos from our crops," said the man speaking good English to my right.