Thursday 11th September
For the third time since arriving here this year I received the news that a friend of mine has suddenly died.
Sylvie worked with me at Eagle Star for many years and we were good friends. She moved across from O&M (where we both worked) to join me in the early stages of the telecommunications section. She also went to UEA (University of East Anglia) and although she was in the year behind me I am not aware that our paths ever crossed at that institution. Whilst still working for me Sylvie and her husband Roy were victims of a quite brutal redundancies after BAT (British American Tobacco) had taken over the company. They moved to France where they have lived ever since, making only very occasional trips back to the UK. Recently Sylvie has suffered from kidney disease and following a kidney transplant operation she got a blood clot. Sylvie subsequently died yesterday. In recent years Sylvie has read my blog and encouraged me to publish it. One day I hope that it will form the basis of book and I will dedicate it in her memory. My deep sympathy and prayers go out to Roy and Robert her son. Once again I mourn the loss of a good friend and, although recently our contact has been only the occasional e-mail, I will miss Sylvie. May she rest in peace.
Jennipher paid me a visit today. I have been able to provide food for six of her clients over the past three months thanks to someone who gave me some money to provide food for the hungry. She told me that one of these clients died a day or two back. He had been eventually brought to Monze for treatment but died before he could be attended to. She said that he had been waiting for transport from Pemba Clinic for 4 days and if he had been taken to Monze earlier he might have survived. Such are the realities of life here. I am hopeful that we will be able to fund a bicycle for Jennipher through a school in Cheltenham. At the moment there are places too far out for Jennipher to reach without transport – and she has no money for that.
I week or two back Jennipher went to follow up a client - a 15 year old girl. When she arrived she found that the girl had committed suicide and they were burying her. There is a big problem of stigma in relation to HIV/AIDS – and it isn't just here in Zambia, in fact in the UK the illness is hidden from almost everyone. Here sometimes a child known to be HIV+ is used as a servant and refused education – as seems to be the case in this instance. Jennipher's role is to maintain contact with her clients and help them, their family and the community to understand about AIDS and to recognise that a person, with the right treatment, can live a relatively normal and useful life. Jennipher gives her own testimony to this effect. It is very important that people like Jennipher can maintain contact with clients in the remoter villages – so when her bike arrives it will enable her to save more lives. It is really good to see Jennipher so obviously happy these days. She tells me that she loves her work. After a very difficult life she now believes that she has found the work that the Lord had reserved for her and I have no doubt at all that she is right.
Best came around this evening. I put a bit extra rice in the pan knowing he would call and invited him to join me for a bite to eat. My cooking repertoire comes from various sources! Tonight I was cooking 'House of Commons' which is my mother's recipe. (Boil some rice and in the meantime fry some onions, add some tomatoes to the onions, then finally add the rice, mix and fry a bit more.) Best admitted that he had never experienced such a method of cooking! I also braised some cabbage with pounded groundnuts which is probably a Zambian variation on a Delia Smith recipe! I was pleased that Best had the courage to try this strange concoction and delighted that he really enjoyed it. He is now planning add it to his recipe list and to serve it up at home.
Best is confident of receiving an acceptance letter to study Law before the end of October. He met another volunteer from the UK a while ago who has promised to help him fund his course – though there will still be a shortfall. Best will also raise some money himself. It is still going to be struggle but since our church was able to support him through his final year at school it would be a shame if he still fails to get a job.
Yesterday I saw a lovely jacaranda close to the railway – unfortunately I loaned my camera to Luke this morning or I might have taken a picture. Maybe I will get a chance at the weekend.
The past few days I have been attending meetings to sort out the plans and budgets for the hospital. There are a lot of good ideas here and I hope that I will be able help the team to focus on the key activities and streamline the process. Unlike most people, I am very much at home with planning and budgeting – sad really! Still it might prove useful here.
In between (and sometimes during) the above meetings I have been exercising my brain on my little expiry date dilemma. If anyone wants to know how to track expiry dates so that you can press a single button to list all the products in stock, with the quantity against each expiry date, or list any products expiring in a week, month or two months – or in fact any date you care to specify then get in touch! I seem to have cracked this conundrum – though (for those who understand a little of these things) I do run 10 consecutive queries and a few other supporting processes to achieve it.
The official mourning period for President Levy Mwanawasa was over on Tuesday and now the gloves are off! The 30th October has been announced as the day of the presidential elections. The ruling party – the MMD – have chosen their candidate. He is the Vice President and acting President. He was chosen despite it being made known that, although Levy Mwanawasa appointed him Vice president, he preferred the current Finance Minister to succeed him. Unfortunately Rupia Banda (Vice-President) seems to have gathered a group of very close supporters whose reputations are by all accounts rather suspect. The fact that while Levy Mwanawasa was out of action the present cabinet chose to award themselves huge salary increases also gives a worrying message. At the moment it looks like a 'three horse race' between Rupia Banda (MMD), Michael Sata (PF) and Hichelema Hakiande (UPND). There is however talk of a possible agreement between PF & UPND which might change the balance. Having been present during the 2006 elections I would not like to predict a winner, though to honest I worry that only HH is likely to move the country in a positive direction. (The unqualified support Sata gives to Robert Magabe and his eagerness to develop ties with Angola – “because they know how to fight” - is also very worrying.)
Anyway the next few weeks will be interesting, though I will have to follow the election from a distance.
I have been pressing to attend more of the management meetings – so I am invited to the morning briefing – at 7.30! So I better get to bed!!