Friday, August 8, 2008

It's a wonderful world if you listen carefully

Saturday 2nd August

My reading material is helping me to listen more attentively to what is around me. I believe that it is important to 'listen' with all the senses, too often when we just look we see very little. I have been noticing the wheelbarrows. Some time ago I mentioned the trunks in which goods are delivered to the market stalls each morning and I 'assumed' that wheelbarrows would be the preferred form of transport. I wonder how often I have seen them carrying their cargo but not taken it in? Not only are wheelbarrows indeed the form of transport but not just any wheelbarrow but barrows made for the purpose. Trunks would slip off a traditional barrow so these have no 'sleeping compartment' but appropriately formed bars hold the load secure – and some trunks will hold quite a load. I have now seen a vast variety of wheelbarrows – some will hold buckets and others are geared for other loads.

I pass some cages which contain live birds but only recently have really noticed just how many cages and birds are just a few yards from my home. Most are chickens but cages full of guinea fowl and turkeys are also present. It might seem cruel and the birds are often roughly handled yet in the UK most of our chickens are held in the most appalling conditions. Here the reality of the meat we eat is not hidden. Just along the road from the Holy Family Centre is the Abbatoir and the butcher will tell you the day to come if you want very fresh meat. My friend Alick showed me the barn where the 'broilers' were being fattened – they were 3 or 4 weeks old. I asked him when they would be ready for the pot and he said they would start slaughtering them next week. There is a lot more honesty about these issues here.

As I returned from the market this evening darkness was falling and in front of me the moon was chasing Venus across the sky. I wondered whether the fine upturned crescent was a new moon or one just about to vanish – a hour or so later it had vanished! Again I took the opportunity to admire the array of stars visible during 'light's out'. The Southern Cross is clearly visible these days in the early evening sitting above my home clearly showing the points of the compass.

Today I spent much of the day producing samosas. Not that I have started a small income-generating scheme – though from what Dilys tells me about the increases to fuel bills, I probably need one. Today our Small Christian Community were celebrating St. Veronica's feast day with a Catholic mass followed by some food and drinks. We were all asked to contribute something so my contribution was a few samosas. Fr. Maambo – the priest in charge at Our Lady of the Wayside celebrated mass. (Our Lady of the Wayside has 9 Small Christian Communities within it and St. Veronica's is one) After the festivities some of the children asked me to 'copy' them with my camera. As I was showing them the resultant pictures my 'phone rang and Dilys was on the line. The scene was a little surreal with me surrounded my laughing excited children in one of the poorest area of urban Monze, while trying to hold a conversation with my wife 5,000 miles away!

This evening I finished using up the mixture for the samosas taking the final tally to about 70 for the day!

Monday 4th August

It is another holiday today. This time the Lwiindi ceremony is taking place – apparently the ceremony is called Lwiindi and the place is Gonde which is regarded as a sacred site. As on previous occasions I have been promised that I will be taken to see this traditional event. In previous years this promise has come to nothing – we shall see if this year is any different.

Yesterday I wanted a walk in the bush. In practice I walked to my 'dam', after getting a few photos of the Maluba site before it is completed! I thought that I should take heed of the messages coming from my reading and try to be aware of everything that was happening as I sat for a ½ hour by the lake. I was amazed just how much was going on, from wherligig beetles rushing around in circles next to a yellow trumpet shaped flower, to a pair of grey herons moving around the lakeside (including standing quite close to me so that I didn't feel any loss being without my binoculars), some ladies were washing their clothes and a pig 'nosed' in the shallows, and egrets and African Jacanas reminded me that I wasn't in England. There was not a second when the place was not filled with activity, in fact it was difficult to take it all in. Even the weather was playing the game, with clouds hiding the sun and then letting it peep out again before once again covering its face. Wind would come and go sending small waves to join the grass and trees in musical combination. How often we look and yet do not see!

I was on my way to meet Charles after my meditation, so I decide to take a short cut. Charles lives just off the Lusaka/Livingstone Road which runs North to South. I therefore reasoned that, as I was west of the road, if I walked to the east I would eventually hit the road and, since I was already to the south of Monze, I should hit it close to Charles home. Being now 15.30 the sun was beginning to drop to the west thus following my shadow I had everything sussed! Unfortunately I had forgotten that just outside the town the road bends and heads in a more easterly direction. So when I eventually hit the road I was a couple of kilometres closer to Livingstone than I had hoped.

For those not familiar with my antics in Monze, Charles runs a small organisation (PEASSA) that aims to support some of the most vulnerable elderly and disabled people in Monze. Over the past few years I have come to know Charles and his project well. Unfortunately a succession of problems beyond his control have made progress very difficult. These have included erratic water supply from SWASCO (the water company) causing the vegetables to fail, contaminated feed killing the chickens, and disease preventing the pigs going to market. This last year has seen the total maize crop destroyed by the excessive rainfall. In addition 12 of the 17 people currently being supported have had their houses destroyed by the floods. (Charles is hoping to raise 900,000 – 1,000,000 kwacha (£140 -£150) which he believes will build twelve very simple houses made mainly of mud bricks and grass thatch to replace those destroyed)

I have been trying to work with Charles to develop the project into a self-sustaining operation. However, in the short term, investment is needed to generate the income needed for expansion.With support from home we have managed to obtain a pair of oxen and a plough and built a well on one site. This year charles has obtained another piece of land but he cannot develop it yet through lack of funds. The manager would like to build a well but I wouldn't want them to start and have it collapse when the rains come. About £150 - £200 is likely to be needed to ensure that it can be dug and the sides reinforced with concrete rings. At this new site they also have a plough but no oxen to pull it.

The main issue at the moment is the lack of moey to buy maize seed and fertiliser. They have enough land to plant a 50kg bag of seed but at a cost of about 4.5 million kwacha (£700) but they have no way to finance it. As well as potentially providing both an income and food for those supported, growing maize is an essential way of life for the Tonga people, so not to attempt to grow maize is unthinkable.

I have been working with a small group of ex-colleagues from Eagle Star to see how we can provide support but I think that perhaps I need to extend the group in order to try to kick start this struggling project. So if anyone would like to be directly involved in this small project in Monze I would love to hear from you – and so would Charles. If anyone fancies a holiday with a difference you couldn't do better than come out to Monze and see the place for yourself. (In case you are wondering there are even lodges here that provide en-suite rooms!)

It is now 16.30 and no sign of my lift to Gonde for the Lwiindi celebrations! I think I will make my way to the Internet Cafe instead and maybe you will get this blog sooner than expected!

Best wishes


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