Friday, May 25, 2018

Catching up

25th May 2018

Since I left Monze last July there have been two notable new lives that have come into the world. Delia gave birth to a girl – and I must confess both her Zambian and English names elude me at the moment. The other is birth is a girl to Selina – Jennipher's daughter - named Maria. Selina tried to keep the pregnancy secret and was very concerned about letting me know. Anyway I spoke to her and assured her that she continued to have my love and full support. Jennipher is looking after Maria while Selina continues her education. Both children are doing well.

Teddy suffered a break-in at his home, where it seems he was drugged while they stole his possessions – he is gradually putting things back in place. Best passed his bar exams, but his certificate is being withheld until he finds money claimed to be outstanding! Raymond is still trying to support some elderly and disabled people without any funds! They struggle to find enough food just to survive.

The rains this year started well, but for a month or so, when the rain should have been the heaviest the rain ceased. It then rained heavier than normal. The result is generally a poor harvest. I remember some years back doing work with the Diocesan Projects Office. They wanted to record the assets of poorer households in the diocese. I was surprised to come up with what I thought was an average income of about £100 per month – this was higher than I expected. I then looked more closely - it was £100 per year! Some families received less than £20 per year! However, most people had a spade or a hoe. Some had a few chickens or even a goat or two. It was then that I realised how essential it was to have decent rain and the opportunity to grow enough food for the family. You cannot buy enough food to live on with £20 a year!

Fr Clement finds himself alone in his new parish – Fr Raphael having been moved. Our church in Cheltenham provided funds for some pigs to start the piggery – these are now developing and soon the project will be in full flow. We were also able to help with funds for a toilet block at the church. Fr. Clement has been practising pool in readiness for my visit – I too have had a few games here with Roger, my brother-in-law. Whether it will make any difference I doubt – but I sure that the competition will be intense!!

Luke is trying to start a small poultry business to supplement his income. He still struggles to support his nieces and nephews through school and college and is trying to get additional qualifications himself.

Most people in Zambia live on the edge. For those who have enough food the next aim is to try to send their children to school and perhaps end the cycle of poverty. PIZZ School takes children whose parents/guardians have difficulty in feeding their children and would never be able to fund their education themselves. PIZZ School gives the children the possibility of a different future and while at the school the children have a stable environment and they know that they are really valued.

Ketty is a girl who has developed with the care of PIZZ School. In December she passed her grade 9 exams and this year started at Kaumba Secondary School in Monze. Thanks to Helen's efforts last Saturday £700 has been raised towards Ketty's education. Another £200 will cover her costs until she completes her secondary education. If you would like to help us pay for Ketty's education you can donate at Helen's 50 Miler

In August a number of HATW volunteers will visit PIZZ School to help run a Holiday Club. At the moment there is some doubt as to whether I will be there at that time. I am looking forward to returning to my second home before long. There is a lot to catch up with and I can't wait to enjoy some of the local produce with my friends.

Chris

Monday, May 21, 2018

Visiting Friends

Monday 21st May

Over the past couple of years I have been in Zambia at this time. It is now winter in Monze - temperatures can drop below 10°C at night which is cold if you have no mattress or blanket! In the UK, I have a friend who is terminally ill, so I will stay for now to provide a little support. My most important duty – as everywhere – is to be available for a cup of tea or coffee and a chat. Even better if we can find a pub with a garden when the sun is out!

My role with respect of Hands Around the World has changed in recent months. I decided to give up my formal duties as Trustee and Project Co-ordinator and to concentrate on being a friend to the people of Zambia. When I first went to Zambia I was told that it would cause problems if I said I was working – even doing voluntary work – I was told that I was going to meet friends. I felt a little uncomfortable and decided that I should therefore make a point of making friends in Zambia. Since that time I have made lots of friends. I then obtained a work permit (though now my main purpose was to meet friends!). Immigration officials queried why I had a work permit if I was retired! So now I will continue to go to Monze, but without an official role. My purpose will be to drink tea and coffee with friends – a very much underrated ministry!

Sometimes as I enter Zambia I hope they will challenge me to reveal the friends I claim to be visiting. I will then tell them about Captain who was in charge of making the blocks for building the ICU at Monze Mission Hospital in 2003; Lashford who was the builder in charge of the project; Obie one of my workmates; Suki and Michael who worked at Nampeyo Guest House or I could tell of my friendship with Mrs Sianga who has become an inspiration to me over the years. Most of these people I still meet when I visit Monze – and these are just some of those I met on my first visit in 2003. 15 years later, having spent well over 3 years in Monze I have met a large number of people who I now consider to be friends. I therefore have no problem in spending all my time visiting friends in Zambia.

Those who have followed some of my blogs will be aware that I am involved in a wide range of small projects beside those where I had an official Hands Around the World role. I have no intention of abandoning the HATW projects, but hope that with less pressure I will feel free to spend more time with other projects – and perhaps be able to relax a little more.

The children from PIZZ School will always be very important to me. Many I have known since they first came to the school as young traumatised children. I have seen them grow in confidence. At the school Mrs. Sianga and her staff have provided a very special caring and loving environment geared to each child as an individual precious life. To see how this nourishment has lit that beautiful spark, which is in all of us, bringing out the talents, joy, mischief and fun from within, is such a privilege and a truly life-giving experience.

The school is moving into a new phase. The earliest students have now left school. Some are making their way in the world – Boniface is earning his living as a singer and musician, others have jobs in shops and on building sites, one is a pastor. Mawini and Maxwell are at university. Some no doubt are struggling – unemployment in Monze is very high. About 80 children now attend local secondary schools and we hope to have a couple of students going into nursing this year.

It is my dream to enable all children from PIZZ School to fulfil their potential. My focus now is to raise funds to help ensure that all PIZZ Students who pass their grade 9 exams can continue their education in local secondary schools. School fees for each child are about £900 for the three years. I would also lhope that funds are found for further study or training for all who gain their Grade 10 Certificate. Then there are all those who are not academically gifted but still have a lot to give. We should be providing help for all. This is a challenge – but the difference we can make to the life of any child makes it so much worthwhile. I am so fortunate to be able to see the impact our support has had.

On Saturday here in the UK the sun shone non-stop. Most people were busy following the Royal Wedding, but my daughter was running 51.3 miles from Taunton to Minehead. My regular followers will remember that Helen attempted her first Ultra-marathon last year. She was ill for most of it and after 46 miles collapsed and was taken to hospital where she spent two nights. It was therefore very brave to attempt another 50 Miler! This time she kept going and finished the course. I am encouraging people to celebrate her courage by helping to fund at least one student to complete their secondary education. If you would like to contribute you can donate using this link: Helen's 50 Miler .

In April - on a day which was very hot – with temperatures up to 27°C – a bit like those regularly experienced to the children in Monze when walking to school - the children in Class 3 (yrs 3 & 4) at Temple Guiting School in Gloucestershire walked more than 10 Km – yes all of them!! They then had a meal of rice and peas instead of their usual dinner. They had been learning about life in Africa and wanted to do something meaningful and raise money to send a child from PIZZ School to secondary school. Their target was £800. In fact they raised £1,827.18 (with Gift Aid the total will be £2,169.48) - a really wonderful effort. As a result of this walk Rosario and Kyfod (former PIZZ School students) will be able to complete their education at a local Monze secondary school.

There is a lot of news about my friends in Monze which I will bring over the next week or so, but for now it's cheerio. With love and prayers,


Chris






Sunday, July 9, 2017

Last Day in Monze

Sunday 9th July

Power this year has been good – until today!! My last day in Monze and there has been no power all day – until now 20 hrs. However, on the whole, this hasn't mattered. I had arranged to go out with Diven, Delia and Paul for lunch and fortunately there was power in town. The main problems have been that I haven't been able to use the computer – so the blog will be very brief! But more importantly I have been suffering from a lack of tea!! I am getting my caffeine fix now.

Being a long weekend and the last week it should have been all systems go to finish my work. However, Killian went to Lusaka to get the photocopier repaired, so there were no children to see on Wednesday afternoon and Mrs Sianga's cousin died and was being buried on Thursday, which was postponed to Friday! There was also a sports day on Friday, but I was very busy and forgot that all day means up to 13 hrs – so when I arrived at 14hrs everyone except the Head was gone!!

I know a lot has happened and I seem to have been very busy!! I am still meeting friends – some that I even remember!!

I have now said goodbye to my main friends. Fr. Clement has just dropped around a bottle of sunflower oil which I hope won't get me into trouble with customs!! Jennipher has left with the notebook where the letters “W”, “S” and “X don't work and also the number “2” - I spent ages trying to set up Skype on it last night and failed – it is also very slow. However photos can be displayed and magnified which should help Jennipher with her cervical cancer screening. Diven lost the razor I brought a couple of years back, so I have left him mine – I might look a bit ragged when I get home! I have passed on books to those who requested them including Hannah who called around with her mum yesterday and returned today because she forgot to bring me photos of her taken at her school. I left one John Grisham book with a marketeer from church who has a stall close to a lady in the market to whom it was promised.

The curtain rail collapsed early in my stay. Unfortunately it is not the appropriate rail for the curtains. As far as I can work out, in order to put the curtains on the rails they need to be dismantled. Anyway I bought a new rail, then realised my incompetence and failed to hang the curtains (yes, dismantling them wasn't such a problem!) – hopefully someone who nows what they are doing will sort it!! A door handle also fell off. Alright! Yes, I had to abandon fitting the replacement lock as well!!

             OUTSIDE THE CURIA

I had a final walk back along the railway lines today – in fact it is a single line. I had just chatted to some children sponsored at school through St. Gregory's church – three were completing their schooling this year. Somehow just chatting to the children lifted my spirits. As always it is interaction and relationship that plays the biggest part in the way we are and feel.

Obert will pick me up at 7.30 tomorrow and take me to Tooters Roadhouse or Golden Pillow – probably what you call it depends on your social status! The two establishments sit side by side – one is a bar and the other a hotel! There I will catch a bus to Lusaka. I will meet Persis – the manager from Kaliyangle- for lunch, hopefully. I will leave her with this laptop and another of my books. I will miss this laptop – the one I have at home is desperately slow and I didn't want to insult the people here by bringing it for them. I will probably get a replacement – a bit like this!

Well I am sure that there is a lot more to say, but time is running! So for now I will sign off.

With my love and prayers,

Chris





Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Reflections

Tuesday 4th July

Today marks the end of a long weekend. Traditionally the Gonde ceremony would be celebrated now just outside Monze, but with the leader of the most popular politcal party in this area in jail on treason charges, people are not in the mood to celebrate and the ceremony has been postponed. I have been here on numerous times when Gonde has been celebrate, but for some reason though invited I have never quite made it – so another year passes!

As I walked along the railway tracks today, stepping from sleeper to sleeper I had a chance to reflect on the past few weeks here in Zambia. A Black Headed Heron flew over, heading for my home and a Brown Breasted Snake Eagle hung in the breeze. I will remember the wildlife that has lived with and around me while I have been her at my house behind the Curia. The herons are beautiful birds – especially in flight, with their huge wings edged in black contrasting against the light grey. Yesterday and today cattle Egrets lined up on the garden wall – I counted 19 a few minutes ago. Palm Swifts, Bulbils and Canaries are also constant playmates in and around the garden. The delicate trees outside are loved by some large bees which constantly feed on the nectar. Inside I have a few lodgers – some more welcome than others!! Ants appear in their hundreds if the slightest morsel of food is left, beetles trundle through the house one by one, but in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. A rat or two couldn't resist the smell of peanuts and even broke into a plastic container where pounded groundnuts were stored. Some platic bags sealing the entrance under the door at night seemed to have deterred him(them) in recent days! A couple of house frogs have stayed for a day or two at a time, booking the toilet or bathroom for the night – it ismeant to be a guest house after all! A family of lizards have found some pleasant accommodation under the freezer – they race across the floor and create quite a freezer furore during family arguments. Yesterday however they were evicted for a time by another visitor who had obviously heard of the luxury accommodation with overnight heating! A snake made its way into the house and headed for the freezer. I was about to leave, but noticed it gliding slowly across the living room floor. I decided to fetch the security guard, who, after deciding it had moved on, spotted it at the back of the freezer. Eventually it was located and killed. I now feel guilty because I susspect the snake wished me no harm. I understand that there are snakes which choose to live in houses without causing trouble – in the same way there are varieties of frogs and lizards that have adapted to live in houses. (My lizards however are the outdoor variety that come in to get warmed up!)
On Sunday I went to the Citonga mass. It was a bit shorter and with less theatre than usual. Afterwards I asked Fr. Clement about the oil press. He told me that it was used a little in October, but a fortnight ago it was brought into full production. A few days a week they press the sunflower seeds. In a day they can process 30 x 50Kg bags (although in practice the sunflower seed is lighter than the maize meal for which the bags are made – so a 50 Kg bag actually weighs about 30 Kg!) They get about 10 litres of oil per bag.

It was my last opportunity to meet with St. Veronia's Small Christian Community. Next Sunday there will be no meeting as there is a parish retreat on the Saturday at Chikuni. The Jesuits first arrived in Chikuni to bring Christianity to this area of Zambia over 100 years ago. In truth being my last day in Monze next Sunday, it suits me that there is no 'Section' meeting next Sunday. At our meeting we reflected on next week's gospel which contains the phrase “My yoke is easy and my burden light.” I see yokes almost daily in Monze as the oxen pull their loads, but the phrase troubles me! So often I feel that the Lord is just asking too much. Earlier in the scripture he talks about revealing things to children and hiding them from the wise. Maybe it is ourselves that create the burdens. So often we see problems that are not there, we live our lives in constant fear of what might happen – yet so often when the time comes, we wonder why we were so anxious. Perhaps we need to learn from children who so often enjoy the moment and let tomorrow take care of itself.

I handed out some photos I took last year. One of the ladies I visited when she was sick has since died. Another has breast cancer and after the meeting we went to her house to see her and say a few prayers. She has a cancer which is forming a mass at the surface of the breast. She went to Lusaka for treatment and they said they hadn't any medicine, but gave her some painkillers. She is waiting in case they call her again for treatment. It isn't clear what if any treatment they propose. I am not sure what painkillers she was given – panadol (I believe it is just paracetamol) seems to be the norm. I gave her some stronger tablets that I bring with me, which Jennipher says are effective.

I eventually got to see Charles, after a slight delay due to the incident with the snake. We attempted to put the world right – though in truth I think with the world's current state it will take more than a couple of hours between Charles and myself.

Power has been remarkably reliable this year. A short planned outage last week and a couple of minor breaks have been the only losses. Yesterday, while talking to Dilys via Skype, the power went down for a while. On the way to the staff room where I access the internet I was aware that the moon was now half and almost directly above me. Returning during the brief power cut that moon came into its own! It is a real joy to me to see by the light of the moon. With no electricity in Monze the moon became my torchlight. It was more than adequate and quite strange to switch off my torch as soon as I came out of the room, because it was now superfluous. My shadow was now clear and lead me back slowly home as I wondered at the beauty displayed by that very special light. I wasn't home long before power was restored and I could return to continue my conversation with Dilys.

This morning I met with Obert's parents. They live a little way beyond Southern Comfort Motel – about three kilometres up the Livingstone road. I arranged to meet at Southern Comfort since there was no chance that I would find their house on my own.

Southern Comfort gives a small glimpse of what Zamba could be. It is a reasonably comfortable Motel with green gardens and even model animals out front. With water, electricity and a little money Zambia looks very nice, and with the climate it is a wonderful place to live.

We talked about the pre-school which struggles to survive. Growing some chickens helps pay the teacher, but it is a struggle. The children are given a little food two or three days a week – the other days there is nothing to give. Another batch of chickens would allow them to raise enough to cover costs, but this would need about £200 to set up.

While I was there Nancy arrived. She had been told that I was visiting. Today is her eighth birthday and she had produced a letter for me.

I am very impressed by the way that Obert's parents work with people who have children with disabilities. They encourage them to take their children to school, Sometimes the parents won't even let the children be seen outside the house. Obert's dad told me how he was told not to take Obert to school, but he was insistent that he learnt. Now Obert can read and write, speak better English than his dad, drives a car and plays in goal at football – discarding his false leg, but using a single crutch instead – which is thrown aside as he dives to save a goal!

TREE FILLED WITH BEES

So I returned along the railway line thinking of what I would miss. Life happens at such a pace and in full view here! Ladies with large containers full of buns balanced on their heads, cycles that are loaded with charcoal, maize and many other products. They often have a passenger on the back or on the crossbar. Women will cycle with childen strapped to their backs with a piece of chitenge cloth. Goats and cows wander down the main roads. People have conversations as they continue their journeys, shouting louder as they move apart. Goods are carried on heads, shoulders or more often by wheelbarrow or ox-carts. Minibuses rush around hooting to attract passengers and display messages such “God Knows, In God We Trust” or given references to bible passages. Children use all sorts of objects as toys, kicking bottles or balls made of rags, rolling tyres and pushing cars which they have made from discarded bottles - and I notice when the sun goes behind a cloud, not when it comes out! Life will seem dull when I return to the UK next week.

With love and prayers,

Chris



Sunday, July 2, 2017

Building Steadily

Saturday 1st July

Jennipher has been a regular visitor this year. As mentioned earlier her current mission is to screen women for cervical cancer and where necessary have them treated. The main problem is not the screening or treatment, but the fact that many cannot find the money to go to Monze or Choma either for a smear test or for treatment. This evening she said she had borrowed money in order that two women could return to their homes. Jennipher is convinced that the only solution is to buy a vehicle to provide transport for these women. She might well be right, but finding a donor will not be an easy task.

I continue to spend a lot of time either with the team at PIZZ School or on the computer making sense of what I am discovering. I am also meeting with some of the children who are sponsored by people back in the UK.

Today I tried to meet with Charles, but couldn't manage to arrange it. I decided to go for a walk in the bush instead and give myself a chance to think. I have been referring to myself as retired for a number of years, but still feel guilty if I am
not busy most of the time – and keeping busy is not a problem. One of the major issues with projects with one or more key players, is what happens when they are no longer involved. Mrs. Sianga and myself have seen PIZZ School develop into the project it is today, but neither of us are getting younger and I think we would love to believe that, in the not too distant future, we will find a way to take a back seat, assured in the knowledge that the school will continue to prosper. This is perhaps our biggest challenge!

Bright rang me whilst on my walk and I agreed to meet him at PIZZ School at 14 hrs. Bright lives 15 minutes or so beyond PIZZ School – which as David knows, is a pleasant 40 minute stroll from the Curia!! I must admit that by giving myself enough time, I don't mind the extra exercise I am getting this year. I suppose today I must have covered at least 10 miles. I was pleased to see how Bright's house is developing. Last year the walls were at about head height – this year the walls are complete and two rooms have iron sheets covering them. Bright hopes to cover all other rooms this year apart from a large sitting room. His wife has started a vegetable garden and the cabbages are developing nicely. She has also been collecting cuttings and has a large range of plants to go around the house. She made us a meal of boiled eggs with some “soup” and nshima. Soup means a gravy usually with tomatoes, onions and other vegetables. I enjoyed the food.

Building around this area is extensive. What was once open fields is now housing almost as far as the eye can see. Most of the houses, like Bright's, are at varying stages of completion.

I called in to see Diven on the way back and he gave me some biscuits and a Yess drink (a fruity, milky concoction I rather enjoy). I think I have put back the calories that I burnt on my walks today!

Jennipher was at home when I returned – she had been talking to the security guard about cervical cancer and persuaded him to bring his wife for screening on Tuesday!!

I could have managed without an evening meal, but couldn't resist shaving of some more steak for a stir fry!

Chris


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Changing Perspective

Wednesday 28th June

I have noticed how quickly the scene changes as you walk along the road. If you glance to the other side, after just a step or two your view can change dramatically. The buildings which dominated suddenly vanish behind the trees and a rural landscape appears. A little later some rubbish or a broken fence gives a very different impression.

It is similar with the way we feel and perceive life. A pain relieved by a tablet, a friendly smile and a hug can quickly change our mood. Today I met three teenagers attending local secondary schools. I asked one what would make her life at school easier and she said “food to go to school and power – a light at home.” We take for granted that we will be able to eat at lunchtime and have electricity for a lot more than just lighting. Another girl who plaits hair when she gets back from school has food if she has people wanting this service and none if she doesn't. Yet another asked whether I would be helping her with a ream of paper and school shoes that she needed for school. These children are the “lucky” ones because we are paying their school fees. For them a couple of small steps could change their view dramatically.

Deana joined me for a meal on Saturday and it was late when she attempted to get a taxi back home. Most drivers had long stopped work for the day – fortunately one was still awake and came to collect her. We had a good chance to talk. It is sometimes useful to share experiences with someone who also lives most of the time in another world.

After mass on Sunday I visited Diven, Delia and Paul. It seemed that there had been some friction and I was filled in on some of the details. I listened to Diven and watched Delia! I don't claim any skills as a counsellor, but some issues seemed clear to me and I reflected on what I was observing. Since it was past lunchtime, I suggested that we adjourned to Tooters for a meal. Fortunately by this time some smiles had returned and they increased throughout the meal. What tomorrow will bring who knows – yet more steps and changes in scenery, for good or for worse!!
THE CURIA WATER SUPPLY             

I continue to meet friends and others who greet me along the road with a friendly “Hallo Mr. Chris”. Robert passes by daily and I see a few others regularly. Many I am desperately trying to place!

There is no progress on the lighting, other than a few positive messages. I have been working on the PIZZ Annual Report. The narrative has been written by Mrs. Sianga and Killian and I have changed a few things, altered the language here and there and re-ordered paragraphs in order to make it more appropriate for a UK audience. I am keen that the document is jointly produced and agreed reflecting our close relationship and common purpose. Monday was devoted largely to this task.

Yesterday was spent at home. I had more work to do on the report and a few other tasks. However, it doesn't take long for visitors to arrive. A lady from the church came around to tell me about a child she took in when the mother died in childbirth. Another couple had arranged an appointment and I expected to need my marriage guidance hat on again. For various reasons life is very raw here and often life and death issues are at stake. In this instance the husband had killed his daughter. He had spent some time in jail. Since his release he had lived apart from his wife. Or so I thought! It seems that they went through another wedding ceremony in February – in fact on the day of my own 45th Wedding Anniversary. They wanted to tell me the good news. I have kept in contact with both parties and am delighted they are re-united. The events were terrible, but nothing will bring the daughter back and the wife's ability to forgive is truly inspirational. I wish them all the best for the future.

Jennipher arrived with Lillian(not Lillian of the rosaries but another!) and another lady. I had made some guacomole for lunch – Deana brought me an avacado pear as a present, this year fruit and vegetables are enormous! This avacardo must have weighed almost 1 Kg!!- Jennipher and friends seemed to enjoy the feast and had no problem demolishing it!

Obert cycled around. He is having a lot of problems with his leg and wasn't working yesterday. I popped into town with him and picked up some more milk – I don't know why but I seem to get through a lot of milk! On return it was around dusk and an owl flew across the road in front of me. I have heard owls around, but this was the first decent view of one this year. I suspect it was a Spotted Eagle Owl – these are apparently more common here than Barn Owls
-
I checked that Raymond was en-route. He had mentioned that he might see me Tuesday and as I was preparing a beef stir fry I thought I would add another sweet potato if he was on his way. He was!! I rather enjoy beef with plenty of ginger – it seems to improve if the beef is left with ginger and garlic to marinate while the rest of the vegetables are prepared. I decided to make some sweet potato chips and fry them with some pounded groundnuts. Raymond said he enjoyed the meal – I certainly did!

There are a number of things that are different here in Zambia. Forgive if I am repeating myself, but sometimes I am reminded of these features. Today the morning started completely cloudless and I was struck again by the intense blue of the sky. My laptop has a light blue background which resembles the UK sky - when we are lucky enough to see blue sky, but here the colour is many shades darker. The moon at the moment is new – which means it forms a in the night sky – eventually turning into an as it sets! having passed overhead!! I need to look at some models one day and make sense of it all!!

So today I talked to a few students and discussed the project with Mrs Sianga and Killian. Mrs. Sianga kindly provided me with lunch at her house next to the old school and her office.

Jennipher and Lillian popped around again this evening. I have promised Jennipher a notebook computer for her cervical cancer screening. I showed her how it worked this afternoon and she has borrowed it for tomorrow. I hope it will be useful for her work.

Life in Monze is difficult for so many people, my decision to share part of my life with these people brings me into constant contact with these situations. Sometimes I am able to provide a little support and comfort, often I can only listen and feel some of their pain.

Chris



Monday, June 26, 2017

Chisamba and Back



Saturday 24th June

I travelled safely to and from Chisamba. New this year are a series of tolls on the roads. I have personally never been convinced that tolls are the most efficient method for collecting taxes – I believe that an extra few ngwee on a litre of fuel would be better. Between Monze and Chisamba – a distance of about 250 Km we passed through three toll booths. Two booths were within 20 Km of each other.

Travelling to Chisamba takes a good eight hours. A significant time is spent waiting for buses and taxis to fill. I set out just after six hours on Tuesday and would have arrived at about 14.30 if the taxi hadn't ran out of fuel!! In the event a back-up taxi delivered us at 15 hrs!

When you get a bus to Chisamba you are dropped at Chisamba crossroads on the Great North Road. I once walked from there to Chisamba town, but since it is about 23 Km you need to be well prepared! Hence the taxi!!

It seems that Miriam and her son Cephas were being evicted for a couple of days to accommodate me. Miriam was very gracious and said that she would be visiting a relative, much as Mary visited Elizabeth when carrying Jesus in her womb. She told me that it was therefore a blessing.

Miriam has worked hard to transform the room, which was prepared for me some years back, into a home for herself and her son. It is humbling to think of this very basic building being a full time home. At least there is now a bed and Miram has everything sorted and in its place. Fortunately I wasn't around long enough to do much damage.

Cephas wrote his name for me in the book I was using for my notes about Kaliyangile! He told me that he was six years old and was in grade 1. His grasp of English was excellent and I am sure he is another child who will go far. We became good friends during the short period I was around. Miriam teaches knitting and some dressmaking at the Centre so they were present quite a lot. At one point I thought I would take a picture of Cephas – possibly a mistake!! He asked me how to operate the camera and then spent the next half hour making me pose for photos which he took, as if he had been using the equipment for years. After showing him once how to look at a pcture just taken he checked all the photos on the camera to see what I had been taking during the past week or so.

Hands Around the World's financial involvement with Kaliyangile has dropped very considerably in recent years, but it is impotant to maintain the relationship. I like to see how things are progressing, what plans they have and if there are particular issues where we might still be able to provide some support. The fact that the project is still active is an achievement in itself, since they used to rely on significant funding from us. The Centre is developing in different areas where there seems to be a local need. For instance they are now providing literacy classes. It is good that the project develops and adapts to what is needed locally.

There is always time to ponder and reflect when I visit Chisamba. I wandered around the site and had a meeting with the local committee – the members of which I know well. I also managed a session of pool with Davidson. In fact I thought I might have to forgo pool when Davidson wasn't around on Tuesday, however I bumped into him in town on Wednesday morning and arranged an appointment for the evening!! In the event Persis came with us to the club, after a meal and met friends while Davidson and myself took our turns on the table throughout the evening. I enjoyed some good games with the local guys.

There is a well known character in Chisamba whose name escapes me. He creates very intricate plans and drawings and has an idea for an aeroplane which runs on magnets! He told me that he had written a song about Brexit and would come around with his guitar and play it for me! I hoped he would visit – in the event I was disappointed because he didn't appear!

While in Chisamba I had a call from Fr. Victor who had some guests wanting to use rooms at my house. Unfortunately I had the keys and the spares were safely inside the house! So different arrangements were made for the visitors– I hoped I wasn't in too much trouble!!

I left Chisamba just after eight hours on Thursday. A couple of half empty buses left the High Street - well in fact the only street in Chisamba!! Eventually my taxi left and took me to the turn off. A friendly policeman found me a “bus” - since it had only a single row of seats it was more like a van!! We made good time until we were stopped at a police checkpoint. It is often difficult to understand on what grounds the police stop vehicles. Our bus on the way up avoided problems of overloading by dropping a guy before the checkpoints and retrieving him further down the road. On one occasion he hitched a lift past the police in a pick-up truck and came back on board a few kilometres later!!

I decided that at eleven hours I would do best picking up a bus from the Inter-City bus station. There was an 11.30 FM bus which suited me fine – if it had left before 12.30 I would have been in Monze by 15 hrs - as it was, a extra hour was added to the journey time.

I paid a brief visit to Mrs. Sianga yesterday morning, but needed to get back for a trustees meeting in Monmouth in the afternoon! With the wonders of Skype I was able to attend the meeting, with only a short break due to network problems. On the whole I was able to listen and participate fully – though occasionally the quality was poor.

Jennipher and Bonadventure popped along at lunchtime and joined me for guacomole. When I emerged from my meeting, Raymond was waiting so we finished the dip (spread) between us as a snack before supper.


Today I have caught up on some household chores. Lillian called around to drop off some rosaries. I had forgotten our arrangement, but fortunately I was at home. Lilian also had a present for me – a necklace made of beads. She explained that the main beads were in fact made from old calenders that she had cut up. I am very impressed with her ingenuity and recycling initiative. I have ordered some more necklaces because I think they look good and might go down well in the UK. Lillian told me that she also works at the Home Based Care office at the church and makes the Communion hosts for the church – both of which activities she does on a voluntary basis.

I have promised to make Deana supper – so I had better sort out a little shopping and get busy.

Chris