Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Arrived Safely in Monze

Tuesday 1st July

This year's adventure is now underway.

I spent the weekend celebrating my dad's second silver wedding anniversary. (He was married to my mother for over 30 years and has now been married to his second wife for 25 years). It was also a wonderful opportunity to say goodbye to my family before I went direct from Hastings – where my dad lives - to Heathrow Airport.

As always there is relief when I manage to offload my case and get into the departure lounge without having to remove items or use a different bag. (There is never more than a few ounces or centimetres leeway and I haven't precision instuments at home to be sure!). Well, all was fine and I was at last on board. The plane left the gate on schedule and as we started taxi-ing I remembered landing on a previous occasion because we appeared to be approaching the runway where planes were landing. On that occasion we had to cross the runway where planes were taking off. This was a bit more exciting because we waited for a gap and then sped across the runway while I could still see 2 or 3 planes approaching the runway with their headlights shining at us. Anyway we were soon airborn and after enjoying the flight over the South of England and across the channel, which was very busy with boats, I settled down to watch a video. I don't remember the title but it was about a couple of guys who were dying of cancer and given a few months to live. One had a lot of money and the other had faith. They decided to spend time making the most of their last days. They created a wish list and set about crossing off the items. The final outcome was that they spent a very exciting and fulfilling last few months of their lives and both gained greatly from what the other could give and the great friendship that grew.

I have only been here in Monze for 24 hours and two people have already asked if they will ever get a chance to see England. I might not consider myself rich but the experiences that are open to me are just dreams to so many in the world – including some of my friends. However, as in the film, it is possible to have friendships between people whose lives are very different and invariably good friendships result in both parties gaining greatly – this is certainly my experience. The film also reminded me that even the man with faith can benefit from a bit of money!

I was collected at the Airport at about 11.30 by Mr Longu and by 16 hours was leaving Lusaka for Monze. The road has been badly damaged by the floods last January - so what was a good tarmac road now has a lot of potholes, in places stretching completely across the road. This is the main road between Lusaka and Livingstone and a major route to South Africa.

On arriving in Monze, I was shown to my accommodation by Mrs. Yamba (Manager Administration). It is a flat in a complex by the market where there is a project which teaches home crafts – particularly providing skills for orphaned children. It is very convenient and has all the facilities I need. I even had a hot shower last night – the water pours out of the pipe in a stream rather than a shower, but I consider it the height of luxury. I hope that I will be able to stay for my visit – though there appears to be some doubt at the moment.

Today was time to meet a few of my friends. There were some things I needed to sort out – the first being my phone. I was determined to stick with Zamtel and the CellZ network because it is the only one that is Zambian. It is also the only one that cannot afford to advertise throughout the airport – and almost everywhere else in Zambia for that matter. I couldn't manage to use my O2 service when I arrived and couldn't buy a CelZ Simcard. (Yes I could have bought one at the airport for either of the other networks). I therefore paid to use someone's mobile to contact the hospital. Unfortunately the simcard I eventually bought in Lusaka didn't get registered - so that was one of my jobs today. My mobile is now working and has the same number as my Cheltenham home phone – just substitute 0955 for the Cheltenham code!

Every time I attempted to move to do one of my little tasks I met another friend. Jennipher and Diven found me at the hospital and have brought me up to date with their lives so far. Jennipher has pursuaded the hospital to issue ARV drugs at Pemba clinic and her group has grown from just over 60 to more than 200 since last year. She tells me that 4 of her clients are very poorly but are worried about taking ARVs because they have no food. The problems with the floods at the beginning of the year has meant that many are surviving on almost nothing – the maize which is what many people live on here, is no longer available to many. Jennipher's bike is now broken so she has difficulty getting around to see her clients. She has managed to keep her children in school but needed to borrow money and sell all her pigs to do so. She has also gained two more children whoare relatives who escaped from Zimbabwe after witnessing their grandfather being forced to drink poison. Another child was too weak to make the journey and died on the way. Once again I am confronted by the reality of life here.

Ireen greeted me very warmly on my way to the Internet cafe and insisted on buying me some drinks. I met Lashford, who is in charge of building the Secondary school, and he tells me that everything should be fine for when the team arrive in 3 weeks time. I also had many updates from friends in and around the hospital.

It is always a delight to be back wandering around Monze. So many friendly cheerful faces greeting me with calls of “Mr. Chris welcome back” - and I really do feel welcome. From the Executive Director to the Cleaners, Security guards and street vendors I am greeted with broad smiles kind words and very often big hugs. In England we could learn a lot about welcoming from the friendly people of Zambia.

So warmest greetings from Monze.

With my love and prayers


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