Sunday 27th September
It is now nearly 5pm on Sunday evening. The temperature is beginning to drop a little so is now probably below 30 C. The Jacaranda in the front is dropping its petals reminding me of the Derbyshire well dressings which comprise pictures made from the local flowers – here I have a rich blue carpet. There is more birdsong than most sounds, though the sound of children's voices is present most of the time in varying volumes.
Yesterday I set off for the parish just after nine with Natasha and found some lads busily cleaning and polishing Fr. Kenan's car – it seemed a shame to dirty it again. After putting in some petrol and finding an ATM that would give me some cash, we headed for Pemba – about 35km along the Livingstone Road. (calling in on Charles very briefly on the way.).This section is a good tarmac road remarkably free of potholes. Jennipher was waiting in town and took us first to look around the clinic before returning to her house. The clinic seems much more active than on my last visit. There are several rooms for files, testing (they also have equipment at the clinic to test for malaria). There are also counselling rooms etc. Jennipher was called away to deal with some matter (perhaps a client) while we waited in one of the counselling rooms.
Soloman and Selina were there to greet us when we arrived at the house. Selina was unusually quiet and not like the girl I left last year, I hope that she just felt a little shy with Natasha around. Soloman was also a little distracted – in his case he was concerned that they had had no water for 2 days and all the work he had done to grow his vegetables could be in vain. They have a good sized garden area that is used my Jennipher's family and her support group to supplement their diet.
Jennipher has two additions to her family since last year. Grace is an orphaned girl who told me that she is 15 years old. She was treated very badly by her relatives and Jennipher agreed to take her in about a month ago. Emmanuel (God with us) was named by Soloman. His mother died in Monze hospital and no one could locate any relatives so Jennipher also adopted this child of no more than 3 weeks. He is now two months old and looking very healthy. Initially he was provided with some powdered milk but this has run out and so has Jennipher's credit at the grocers! It's an expensive business having friends in Zambia – especially good natured friends like Jennipher!
Natasha immediately took charge of Emmanuel – since he slept till almost the moment we left, that was very far from a hardship.
Jennipher wants to register with an organisation that receives money from the Global Fund for food. She believes that she will then be eligible for support. She showed me the bricks that her support group have made for a shelter (just cement and roofing needed!). She also showed me the well that needs rehabilitation. Unfortunately projects rarely go smoothly here in Zambia. Although when I left a couple of years ago I understood we were within days of finishing the well, capping it and having a safe – fully enclosed - pump connected, it wasn't done. The result was damage during the floods and much more tragically one of Jennipher's children Chimunya fell into the well and drowned. The well is still open and I will do my best this year to ensure that it is rehabilitated and made safe. Unfortunately open wells are only one of many hazards for the people who live here.
Soloman offered us a chicken but Natasha couldn't bear to have the bird killed for our dinner and told him that she should be the one providing a chicken. I explained to Soloman that in England most people think that chickens only exist in plastic bags in supermarkets – we don't like to know that someone has to kill them for us to eat and we don't usually see them running around before they come to our plate!
Jennipher provided me with my second meal of sump since I arrived in Monze and Nataha's first for some time. Sump is a sort of pudding made out of partially pounded maize – it's amazing how many ways you consume maize here.
Eventually I prized Natasha away from Emmanuel and we headed back to Monze.
After depositing the vehicle and having a quick bite to eat I headed down the road to meet Edward, who is the head of Monze Basic. Monze Basic school is where I meet my first bit of tarmac from here and only a couple of hundred metres from my house.
I was surprised when Edward entered the room walking very slowly and looking a fraction of the man I left last year. He told me that he had a very serious attack of malaria three weeks ago. From the comments I heard it seems that there were even doubts that he would pull through. He spent some time at the hospital where I gather they gave him blood transfusions as well as other treatment for the disease.
He told me also that he is retiring on Thursday and so will not be working at the school any more. At least for the time being he will continue to live next to the school in what was the original school building.
While I was at Edward's Sr. Christeta rang. She is now at a village on the other side of Choma (about 100 km south of Monze.) She was returning from Mazabuka (60 km or so to the north) and wanting to stop off and say hallo. Sr. Christeta is a big bouncy woman who I thought of immediately when I read the description of a key character in a book I am currently reading.
She presented me with a bag of groundnuts (peanuts) and came in with a novice who was accompanying her. She told me that she has passed on the guidance that Dilys gave her in respect of child bereavement. Apparently they have regular sessions with orphaned children who are helped to tell their stories and they use the three stones as an aid as Dilys taught. They could do with some more material from Winston's Wish – perhaps we can sort something.
Time was pressing! I have known my friend Jeff since primary school and more than fifty years later he was celebrating his 60th birthday. (At this time he didn't know it – at least that was the plan). My plan was to go to the Internet café and try to set up a call with a web-cam. Well I managed to install the camera on the boss's computer but there was no working microphone and I didn't bring anything. Unphased, I attempted the call and seemed to connect but heard nothing. I cleared the call and Jeff called back! Still without sound in either direction. So I sent a message! Since everything else seemed to have failed, I decided to ring using my mobile. Eventually I was able to wish my friend a happy birthday. He couldn't work out how to send messages but eventually all was sorted and we went back to our respective computers. (He had no web-cam installed). We exchanged a few messages and I was also able to 'talk' to my friends Pete and Bob after correctly guessing who might be at the computer that end each time - I claimed access to the ubiquitous CCTV network in the UK. So the objective was achieved - I had at least made contact during the party - though perhaps not in quite the manner intended.
It was after 20.30 before I started preparing supper.
I arose this morning a little after 7 hrs and had my cornflakes. (It surprising how comforting a bowl of cornflakes is here!). Not working at the hospital has disturbed my usual pattern so this morning I made my first visit to the chapel this year. I was delighted to see Bright on duty at the hospital entrance. He has a son Brian who I know has been doing well at school over the years and his Dad is very proud. Keeping a child at Secondary school on a security guard's pay is very difficult.
My next encounter was with Mr. Lungu – one of the hospital drivers. He told me that his wife lost her father last week. A little further I was greeted by Ennias who is an uncle to Fr. Kenan and also to Lillian. Last year one of the volunteers was keen to meet Ennias because she had a gift from a friend who knew him when she (the friend) worked in the Pharmacy at the hospital. (Don't worry I think I am lost as well!) Suffice it to say that it is a small world. Ennias has a new car this year. I understand that he had an accident at work, some years back, leaving him paralysed from the waist down. He is able to drive his adapted vehicle and therefore have considerable independence. I am sure this is very rare in Zambia.
At last I covered the 150 metres from the gate to the chapel and took my seat. On each of the benches I was surprised to see the prayer stations that I brought out several years ago. (Fr. Rodgers says another set wouldn't go amiss if they're available!)
It was good once again to hear the joyous singing and drumming and watch the dancing that characterises services here in Zambia. It was also good to shake hands with all around me - sharing the peace of the Lord. One year when I was hear in Monze I shared a house for some time with a foreign doctor who told me I shouldn't shake hands because everyone was carrying diseases. At home in England at our church the fear of spreading swine flu has taken precedence over the sign of peace. Personally I think that friendship and God's peace are worth a slight risk.
I realise that I haven't had a break since I arrived in Zambia so I decided to take it easy and other than briefly popping around to Edward with a card reader (which seems to be faulty) and doing a little washing and tidying, I took it easy for the rest of the day.
Having no TV or radio gives me more time and allows me to read a little. I have often found that books given to me to read generally prove to be better than those I choose myself. This year my friend Mary lent me a book called “The Shack”. (I don't think she'll get it back, it's too good not to leave here!) It is about a man who spends a weekend with God. If you wonder what God is really like I would recommend you read this book. It won't appeal to everyone, but it is clear to me that the author has met God and those who have also spent a day or two is his/her presence will surely recognise their God here.
With my love and prayers