Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Country in Mourning

Wednesday 3rd September

Today is a national holiday as this afternoon President Levy Mwanawasa's body will be laid to rest.

At lunchtime I decided to pick up a few items from the market. I have never seen the market so empty. Hardly any stalls outside the market had anything, or anyone present. The enclosed market hall was also quite empty – though there were more goods than Marketeers. It looked as if some had left their stock – perhaps to watch the funeral proceedings while others kept an eye on their stalls. The usual bustle of crowds looking for goods was absent. A few grocery shops were open but they were very much the exception. I decided that it wasn't necessary for me to buy anything today – I can find something from my stock!

Though the computer appeared to have resolved its fault yesterday, it recurred in a slightly less disastrous form later in the day. So today I am working on the computer to try to understand the problem and what are the triggers. So far after a morning's work I haven't found anything conclusive and neither have I resolved the problem!

I met up with Sr. Christeta again yesterday and we had a good chat. She mentioned that they had been doing more work with bereavement and Winston's Wish's idea of choosing what you want to remember according to three different sort of stones seems to have caught on. This was an idea Dilys explained in 2006. It is interesting to know how some of the ideas are just as applicable here in Zambia.

The other day I received a response to my letter to 'Aunty Gertrude'! Aunty Gertrude writes an interesting column in the Post (one of the main national newspapers here). She provides advice to the young people (mainly teenagers) and when I have glanced at it I have always been impressed by how sound the advice is – I think we could do with her in the UK. My eye was caught by her headline which related to how children were reacting to President Mwanawasa's death. In fact she was saying how children's feelings seem to have been forgotten at this time. She went on to talk about bereavement and how children need to able to talk etc. I wrote to congratulate her on the article and also to tell her about Winston's Wish. Her response was very warm and she says that having looked at the website she will use the information and recommend it to others working in this field.

Last night I attended a memorial service at the Cathedral for President Mwanawasa. Since I first came to Zambia in 2003 he has been the President and Head of State in the Country. I felt that it was appropriate for me to join the local people to show my respects to a good man and leader of the nation. The singing (with or without accompaniment) puts us in the UK to shame, often sung in parts with harmonies – all of which seems to happen naturally and often spontaneously, and the volume! You don't need to be inside a church to know a service is taking place – a hundred metres (or two) from a church and the air is filled with the singing. At the offertory a few people processed in turn with an object that symbolised an attribute of the President and read a short explanation. It was very dignified, appropriate and a fitting way to say farewell. My the soul of President Levy Mwanawasa rest in peace.

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