Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Typing by candlelight

Thursday 18th July

Power returned before 20 hrs yesterday, so that wasn't too bad. I wonder when we will have power back again tonight!

I decided to go to an “Urgent” meeting today for all staff. It was scheduled for 10hrs so I thought that I had found the wrong place at 10.03 when no one was about, there were a lot of people in another room but I was told that the meeting was in the location I had located – but not yet! What time was the meeting I asked - 10 hrs was the reply. At about 10.20 nearly a dozen staff had arrived and by 10.45 the room was almost full and we started.

I had come because I didn't want to be left out and I thought it might be interesting to see how things went – and so it proved. It turned out that the debate was about Housing Allowances. The government has introduced payment direct into the bank with the salary but has also banned the subsidy of housing costs out of the government grant. For Monze Mission Hospital this presents a problem, because a number of doctors and other staff are in accommodation rented by the hospital and the directive takes immediate effect. One of the options being considered is a subsidy from user fees! So I better get going and attempt to put a report together with great haste.

This evening I met an old friend in the market. I was rather surprised to see him because Osman had moved hundreds of kilometres from Monze. Apparently he is back in Monze and he will call around at the weekend and tell me his story. While talking to Osman another friend greeted me asking when I had returned. He has been after the address of one of the members of the group that came out in 2003 since that time and always asks me when I see him. A few minutes earlier I was accosted by a lady asking me if I remembered her – needless to say I didn't until she told me that she was Venus. She remembered that I had told her that I had never before met a planet! I remember buying some groundnuts from a fellow stallholder on that occasion. He asked what I intended to do with them and when I told him I would use some in a stir-fry he said he would try it out that evening as it was something he hadn't tried before. Over the years I have met and chatted to so many stallholders in the market that it is difficult to share my custom between them.

However many people I greet each day there seem to be another dozen or so who I am meeting again for the first time this year. Perhaps it is no wonder that I cannot remember all the faces let alone names.

Sunday 20th July

I eventually managed to dispatch the July birthday card number four over the Internet, finding a gap in the power outages! Birthday card number six was sent by post to my cousin as she hasn't an Internet connection.

My socket in the lounge here is one typically found in Monze. It is a little wobbly and to get it to work you have to adjust the plug to the one position where contact is made. Each time I plug in I spend a few minutes pulling it out and pushing it in until I find the spot where I can let go without the power going off again. Usually there is a small spider – only two or three centimetres across (about an inch) – that lives by the side of the switch watching me with interest as I go through this procedure – but so far deciding not to take matters any further.

After mass today I met Sr. Christeta for the first time this year. I thought I had missed her but I caught up with her while she was having a picture taken with Dr. Mvula. I am afraid he felt a little out of things as we hugged and talked animatedly. She was surprised that we hadn't met up before and apparently had a meeting last Thursday that drew on some of the work that Dilys did here in 2006. It is good that Dilys' work has born such fruit, I will be interested to hear more about how their work with bereaved childen is developing. This year I have some more resources from Winston's Wish (taken from their website). I will transfer it to a CD or two and pass it on to anyone interested. Anyone who has an interest in bereavement in children should log on to their site on the Internet – they can be found at

On Friday I spent some more time checking the computers in the School of Midwifery. There is a library there and they have just introduced networked computers and an Internet connection for the students to supplement the small library resources. The computers were provided by an Irish charity Camara and one or two seem to have problems. They have been loaded with Edubuntu software which is a version of Linux geared towards schools (largely primary & secondary). Anyway I think I have made progress in that I now have a better idea what the problems are. It is taking me a while to understand what I have to do, which is a benefit because by the time I have worked it out, Walasmabo (the Librarian) also knows what to do next time.

Friday lunchtime I was taken out by Patrick out to the West of Monze. Patrick works for the Diocese as a driver and I later found out has a family of 15 including 12 children (some of whom are orphaned children.). I was privileged to meet 9 of the children who were at his house. Patrick is very busy digging a well – the man doing the digging pointed out that the chain used to lower the bucket (and him) was at full stretch and water has not yet been found. He also keeps some animals, chickens, pigs and goats and is in the process of building a house in town to try and provide sufficient income to feed his family.

Patrick is also the Treasurer of the Parish Centre where we were heading. It is strange driving through the market. I can only remember doing this once before – the first evening I arrived in Monze in 2003. I suppose I am aware that roads go between the stalls and vehicles regularly pass through but somehow it seems very different when you are in the vehicle. We soon left the market and headed on a major road out to the West. Those not familiar with roads out here might be forgiven for thinking that our truck was now actually off-road! But with careful driving it is possible to manoeuvre even a large truckover the bumps and humps and around the holes that make up the road. After crossing a stream we were out in the bush and I was thinking that I must head out this way on foot again soon.

So this new Parish Centre is very rural perhap only 2 or 3 kilometres from the town but often more or less cut off by the streams that lie between it and the town (and church). For this reason it was decided to make this centre. There are two Small Christian Communities that will between them use the Parish Centre. Waiting to greet me was a group of parishioners including the chairman and secretary of both the centre and the choir. They now have mass at the Centre which is made of a few branches lightly covered with grass. During this the dry season it provides a little shade from the sun, but during the rainy season it will not provide any protection from the rain. Last year Patrick and the other parishioners purchased two tents in which to hold the services.

I was proudly shown the well which is being dug with support from our parishioner back in the UK. It is now probably 6 or 7 metres deep and already has water in the bottom. The aim is to try to dig it a further 6 or 7 metres – yes a further 20 feet or so – depending on what soil is found. ( It might turn out to be too dangerous with the sides in danger of collapsing if it is dug at this time.) In case you are wondering the game is to bail out the water first thing then dig further down, hopefully before too much water returns and it becomes necesssary to swim for it!

The women were busy breaking stones - here there is a lot of very hard stone that breaks showing lots of crystals – like quartz. These will be mixed with sand and cement and concrete rings will be made to line the well and prevent its collapse. The bucket by the way is not only for the removal of the water and soil but is also used by the 'digger' to get in and, most importantly, out of the well.

I greeted everyone at the well . I used the extremely limited Chitonga I have to say hallo knowing that not all will speak English – although probably all know more English than I know Citonga. I was greeted to songs of welcome and copious Twalumba Kapatis (Thank you very much). It was very good to meet more of Our Lady of the Wayside parishioners – maybe I will join them for mass sometime before I return to the UK.

Yesterday was an opportunity to do a bit of shopping, including replacing the iron which last year was donated to a friend to raise necessary funds.

When I saw Jennipher yesterday she was worried that Selina might get malaria because the net doesn't reach her cot. There was a boy in the next bed for a few days who had malaria and now had been moved with suspected meningitis. As I understand it malaria is spread by a mosquito biting someone with the malaria and then later biting another person (the full life cycle of the parties involved in disease is complicated and fascinating!). The issue of course is that in a hospital where many patients have malaria if you cannot sleep under a mosquito net you must be at increased risk of catching the disease. Anyway today Jennipher informed me that Selina was fine but she has contracted malaria herself.

With Love and Prayers


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