Sunday 6th July
Since arriving in Zambia last Monday I haven't seen a cloud – until today! Despite experiencing totally cloudless skies here regularly, it is still a surprise not to see the faintest cloud in the sky. Then after a week of cloudless skies to experience a cloudy overcast day at the beginning of July is perhaps even more strange. At one point I thought that it might even rain.
This weekend is a long one. We have two public holidays tomorrow and Tuesday. There should have been the Gonde ceremony this weekend but it has been cancelled due to the illness of the President Levy Mwanwasa. The latest news is that President Mbeke of South Africa who apparently announced his death has 'clarified' the position. It appears that the President is very ill in intensive care in France but still alive. This is the third time that I have been around for the Gonde ceremony – on each occasion I have been invited by a friend to attend and each time I have failed to get there!
I took a walk the afternoon to the local 'Dam' or lake. I noticed that areas on the way which I expected to be dry and dusty are now waterlogged. I was also surprised to see new grass appearing. It was therefore not a surprise to see the dam quite full and covering a larger area than I have previously experienced.
The scene at the dam was rather eerie. There were no cattle drinking and very few people about and instead of the usual brilliance of the day it was very dull and still. One solitary pig oinked its way along on the far bank. A small group of Crowned Lapwings were about all that gave a little excitement to the scene. I did however spot what I believe was an African Jacana as well as a couple of cattle Egrets, Grey Herons and the ubiquitous Pied Crows. As you can see my guidebook to birds of Southern Africa is paying dividends!! Of course our swallows and some of the swifts are enjoying summer in Europe at this time. By the time they return it will be time for me to take flight in the opposite direction.
I have now been here a week and my friends tell me of their difficulties. One of the workers at the hospital had his 3 bedroomed house and all his belongings totally destroyed by a fire. He now has to sleep in an enclosure he made out of grass with his wife and 11 children (some of these children of his younger sister who died). He told me that he had only two blankets between all of them and at this time even I am wearing a jumper in the evenings. I was able to help him with a little money to buy another blanket or two but cannot help him rebuild his house. Another friend from the hospital didn't mange to complete her schooling. She has one year to do and if successful would get a certificate to allow her to apply for nursing training. Again the cost ( about £150) is beyond her means. My blog is not about soliciting money but if anyone is interested in becoming invovled with any of the people or projects that need support I am always happy to hear from you and will try to keep you informed about progress. So if I receive pleas for support I tell people that all I can do is let other people know of their needs because I can do very little personally.
I am beginning to settle into this place – though I cannot get too settled in case I will soon need to move. Early in the week I noticed a bulbul (a local bird quite common in the gardens) enjoying a ripe banana growing outside. I was thinking that I didn't often see ripe bananas around. The next day they were gone! Whether it was the bulbul or someone else that enjoyed a good meal I don't know.
Wednesday 9th July
I need to catch up with events here and post this blog!
Monday I had decided should be kept free for a walk. For me it is important to go for reasonably long walks now and then. I find that it helps me to relax and to get my thoughts straight – it is a therapy and also a spiritual experience for me.
So, despite only a little time for my feet to bed in and very little time for my fitness to improve, I set off for Hichanga dam This dam and reservoir supplies Monze with its mains water. I estimated that it was about 8 – 10 km (5-6 miles) from town though a taxi driver told me that it is more like 14 km. Anyway it is a walk I have done before – though perhaps not so early on my visit. I took my time and arrived at about 11 hours – 3 hours after leaving Monze town. Not surprisingly the water level here too was higher than I have previously observed. En route I decided to take a closer look at some spiders webs. I have been reading a book (actually half a book that I found in my flat) by Gerald Durrell -”My family and other animals” which is about his childhood growing up in Corfu. He was fascinated by the creatures he saw and would spend hours sitting and observing them. It made me realise how difficult I find it to sit still and look carefully at what is surrounding me. So when I looked at the spider's web I was amazed to see that in fact in the middle was a cone that presumably led to the spider's lair. The webs are large and all seem to be of similar construction.
As I approached the dam a car drew up and Fr. Maambo said hallo. He had used the holiday to come with a couple of nuns – one of whom was having a driving lesson which included driving along the narrow path at the top of the dam. They also had brought a group of 'youths' for an outing – they had already escaped from the back of the pick-up when we met up.
I spent an hour or so sitting on my own in a favourite spot – now at the water's edge, before returning to Monze. I stopped of at Monze Basic school on the way back to greet Mr. Chambwa the headmaster and pass on a couple of gifts from the UK. He warmly returned my greeting and showed me the progress made at the school since my last visit. The project to provide water is now complete and a celebration is being held on Friday afternoon to which I was invited.
So a little weary and with some sore feet I collapsed for the evening. Unfortunately I have found the card game hearts on the computer and have become addicted – so it was very late when I found my bed!
Yesterday I had agreed to meet up with Charles to check out his projects. We took a taxi back past Hichanga Dam and then a few kilometers beyond to where Henry manages a project. On my walk I remembered that the road is primarily for vehicles – cars, bullock carts and bikes – in general, though the road to the dam is wide, the part that is suitable for cars is limited. On the dirt road usually it is the edges that are preferred – often one more than the other. So vehicles approach each other at pace on the same side of the road. Then at the last minute they obey the rules of the road and pass port to port (or is it starboard to starboard) in the same fashion as boats on a river. Pedestrians like me are generally best in the middle of the road, though if a horn or bell sounds you are expected to know which way to jump!
The taxi weaved its way along the road trying to avoid the largest potholes on the tarmac road – there isn't enough road to miss them all – and selecting the smoothest parts of the dirt road.
Henry is a teacher at the local school and lives on site. A new water tank has been installed with a wind pump sitting above the borehole. I understand this is a bit of an experiment to see the effectiveness of alternative energy.
At the project site I was introduced to Captain and Saddam the two oxen that were obtained thanks to supporters I found back in England. They are now looking very sturdy and seem to have grown considerably since they were obtained. Henry would like a biullock cart to be able to put them to work outside the ploughing season. They could then also take the vegetables grown on site to market in Monze.
The well has been partially re-dug after the walls collapsed last year. Apparently it was partially lined with bricks and the mortar hadn't enough time to fully set before the extremely heavy rain came and caused the damage. Charles is determined to have the well made 'perfect' this year and wants to have work started as soon as possible.
There is now a new building almost completed which will be used as a tuck shop to generate a little more income.
A hedge has been planted and will border the garden once the rain arrives and it grows. I was surprised to hear that they had people potholing in the garden! I later learnt that this is a technique for growing maize organically. The maize is planted in small holes (potholes) with some manure or compost and provides an early crop.
It was good to visit the site again and see how things are moving despite the dreadful effects of the flooding early in the year.
On return I had various visitors keeping me company till nearly 22hours.
Today I realised why life is very busy here in Monze. As well as starting to get a grip on my hospital project, I met with Mrs. Sianga and a volunteer from SAPEP a Zambian NGO (Non Govermental Organisation) and had a number of people wanting to make contact with me – several of whom have promised to see me tomorrow.
I think that I am now accepted here in Zambia. Friends tend to be expected to share things here! So the other day I was sold the shampoo I left with a friend last year – it was on the shelf of his shop! Today Jennipher 'lent' me the camera I have just brought out with me but I was told that I could only borrow it for a week!!
Well another day is over and the mosquitos are looking for food!
So bye for now