Saturday, October 31, 2009

Swallows and Wells

Thursday 29th October

During the past week or so I have noticed the European swallows being more obvious. Perhaps this year they left home a little later than usual and have just arrived. Here they mark the start of the rainy season as they join the resident swallows and swifts enjoying the plentiful supply of insects that come with the rain.

I expected to do a lot of walking this morning, however after a couple of kilometres to Moonlite Guest House to meet with Mrs. Chiiya, I was treated to car rides for a site visit with Mrs. Sianga and then dropped back home.

I was asked today whether I considered my visit this year to be successful. I wasn't sure how to reply at the time, but having thought about it for a while, I think that I have learnt a lot this year. I have always believed that whatever happens here should be a two way process. Very often there is a tendency to think about what we have done to make changes here, however it is also very important to look at how we are changed by the experience ourselves. The fact that I have learnt a lot means that I am more likely to be able to guide changes here in a more appropriate way.

Today I arranged to meet up with Jennipher to explore what we could do to sort out her well. She had established a good contact at LADA – an NGO operating in and around Monze. Unfortunately the contact was not in, but another lady listened to the issues surrounding the well. She then rang Ainutu who spoke to both Jennipher and myself. Jennipher had obviously made an impression because Ainutu is very keen to help. She is going to be away until December but is keen to work with me to ensure that the well is renovated then – if it is possible at that time. She said she would mail me and I agreed to tell her what advice we get from DAPP who have specialists in well building.

Our next trip then was to DAPP (another NGO). The usual entry to the building was partially blocked and eventually we found out that DAPP had moved and this was now a private house that we were trying to enter! So we now had a bit further to walk. The new DAPP offices were by the maize silos to the North of the town. The maize silos still dominate the skyline in Monze though they haven't been used for more than 15 years now. I still remember being taken to top of the silos in 2004 by Reagan for a wonderful panoramic view of Monze. Unfortunately the DAPP guy who deals with wells is at the office at Water Affairs - probably 4 or 5 kilometres to the West of town! I agreed with Jennipher this was a bit far for today, so I will see if I can manage by phone.

I am hopeful that we will be able to come to a good solution with support from each of us. I am particularly pleased to see that Jennipher is beginning to receive support from local NGOs for her groups. She tells me she is now properly registered and expects her support groups to receive some food, seed, fertilizer etc. soon.

Jennipher also has had some income generating ideas from her group members. There is an idea to make school uniforms – one member has a sewing machine, another idea is to sell goods from a shop that has been left to another member after her father died. As usual the issue is getting some starting capital to begin the process.

Jennipher has recently been asked to plant a tree in the District grounds because she was one of the first people to be put on ARVs (and the only one of the initial group still surviving). I don't know whether they will put a plaque by it. Anyway Jennipher wants to plant it before I go and to have plenty of photos! - if I get the facility back on the blog I will certainly post a couple. (It was a mistake to boast how I had cracked the issue of placing photos within my blog!)

For the past hour or so the power has been off. Fortunately I got my cooking in early this evening. I have a few minutes of battery life left so I will probably see if I can beat the computer at Hearts.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Still Busy

Tuesday 27th October

There are still a few friends that I haven't yet met this year. One I had realised I hadn't seen, John, sat next to me at mass on Sunday. I seem to have known John ever since I set foot in Monze. In the past I have come across him often in the hospital. For some reason he always insisted that he left the hospital by a different route and not with me. It was something to do with jealousy! John is a bit of a rogue and never has any food at home. One year he persuaded me to buy him a pick and shovel so he could dig his own well – eventually after a bit of food for the friend who helped him, a rope and bucket, few bags of cement etc. the well was dug. I don't think the rope pump was ever installed! Still I had missed John and was pleased to see him looking fit and well.

Others still greet me and are surprised that I have already been here more than a month – others had heard that I was about from other friends. Desmond greeted me this evening and walked for a while with me warning me not to walk about in that area after 20 hrs. (I must admit that Freedom compound and surrounding area is not a place I feel very comfortable after dark.) Desmond was one of the stallholders who call me over. Sometimes I go and chat to them and thereafter get a warm greeting every time I pass. The instinct is to ignore such calls, but I have learnt that people here are generally very friendly and appreciate you responding – even if you don't buy any goods.

Yesterday I was surprised to find out that it wasn't a public holiday. Usually Independence Day is a holiday. Being on a Saturday this year I expected the holiday to be moved to the Monday, but not this year at least. I had a few things to do in the morning including making a trip to the Internet café. In the afternoon I popped down to the hospital and checked on the Human Resources computer where I managed to persuade the database to come back into life. I also had a look at the Smartcare system produced for the Zambia Health Service. This is a very ambitious project that is designed to record all the patients medical history and analyse any treatment. The idea is to have the data stored on a smartcard that the patient will carry with them. All hospitals – and presumably Health Centres should be able to read the cards and update them. The system actually looks impressive and very comprehensive. The reality however is that I doubt if any hospital currently has the technology to maintain the database for that hospital. So the idea that there can be a system integrated throughout the whole of the health service in the Country is fantasy! There seems to be an attempt to use some elements of the system for ART (Anti-retroviral therapy) in some hospitals, however I suspect that the complexity of the system will result in it being abandoned eventually. No doubt another foreign organisation will come up with a similar idea in the future to waste a bit more money and a lot of time and energy of the people here. My system is not nearly as sophisticated but would capture the information already held in paper registers and then do all the analysis, that currently takes many man days, at the touch of a button. Anything more complicated at this time is unlikely to get off the ground.

Today I had a meeting with Sr. Barbara booked for 9 hrs, but when I arrived was told she had just left for breakfast! After squeezing in a profitable trip to the Internet café I headed to the hospital for my meeting with Dr. Mvula at 10 hrs. Unfortunately some guests had arrived that he would probably need to see after the meeting he was still in, so we will reschedule the meeting!

Jennipher came to the hospital to have her CD4 count checked. This is a measure of her immunity and helps determine her treatment. She told me that she is still on the first level of ARVs and her CD4 count has always been high. She puts this down to her change in behaviour and sticking strictly to the treatment regime. I am sure that having a reasonable diet is also important. Jennipher says that she is very happy with her life now, which I have no doubt makes a huge difference in combating the disease. She tells me that some of her clients don't listen to the messages that she gives them, but others have difficult choices to make. She mentioned one woman who is a single mother and the only 'breadwinner'. She sees no alternative to prostitution in order to feed her family. Jennipher persuaded her to be tested and, unsurprisingly, the test was positive. Jennipher is trying to help her find another way to support her family, but is worried she will continue her lifestyle and have a very short life. Re-infection can make the disease progress more rapidly. Poverty here is very real and it comes in many forms. One of them forces people to act in ways that, without poverty, they would never consider. It is easy to say that prostitution or stealing is wrong and condemn those involved, but maybe we need to look to ourselves and see how strongly we condemn the causes of poverty and the systems that cause it. We cannot possibly know how we would behave given the choices of the people here.

Mike (one of Jennipher's children) has malaria at the moment but is recovering. He is at boarding school and hasn't a mosquito net. So we bought him one in town for when he returns to school.

I met up with Sr. Barbara and picked up another job to convert her 42 spreadsheets into a database. She works as the Administrator for the Diocesan projects. CAFOD is one of the agencies that partner Monze Diocese and it was through them that I was first made aware of the connection. The spreadsheets hold data for each of the communities with which the Diocese works. Various meetings take place and sometimes the communities are supported with animals – cows, goats, chickens etc.; farming tools and seed etc. as well as provision of boreholes. The aim is usually to to provide a little that will enable the community to produce much more – so for instance a couple of animals that will reproduce and the offspring go to other families, and the process is repeated etc. Anyway I will have plenty of work to do to sort this out, in my spare time, before I return.

This afternoon I caught up with Mrs Sianga and this time I was a little behind schedule and she was waiting for me. I am hoping that my visits to other community schools in the past week will prove helpful for the Maluba/PIZZ project. I am hoping that we can all learn from each other to see how best to provide education in the area for children who otherwise would have no chance. There are many people trying to achieve the same thing in their various ways – and some seem to be more successful than others.

I had responses in connection with my virus problem both from my personal Technical Support Team back home and from the providers of F-Prot my anti-virus software. Both responses have proved helpful and since they are different, as someone at the hospital commented, a joint attack might solve my problems. I am now in the process of putting the solutions to the test.

Wednesday 28th October

Today was another day when power was absent. Unfortunately for me, I had intended to spend most of the day working on the computer. After a couple of hours my battery was exhausted so I headed to the hospital where they had power. With my newly cleaned flash drive I copied a spreadsheet from the Human Resources computer and caught a few more viruses in the process.

I called in on the Pharmacy and sorted a couple of things for Mrs. Mwaamba. Dr Mvula was around so we met and discussed my work at the hospital for this year and future years.

I had a call from Southern Comfort Motel asking me to come up because the rooms for David and Kevin that they showed me are no longer available. So after lunch I made my way a couple of kilometres up the Livingstone Road to the motel. I just hope the rooms are OK! It seems that there is a lot on next week and rooms in Monze are at a premium.

It seems that today there is generally power in Monze – just not where I am staying. I headed for Homecraft and was stopped first by Rasta Brian who is keen to give me a present from his stall and then a woman who seemed to know me who wanted to know how to become a Herbalife distributor. You might remember there was this organisation trying to get Jennipher to part with money to become a distributor. I told her to keep well away. I picked up the spreadsheets from the Sr. Barbara and now have the task of converting all this information into ACCESS databases. I suspect there will be a bit of midnight oil burnt in the coming days!

On the way back home, after attending mass at the chapel, I was accosted by a woman wearing a Herbalife tee-shirt and handing out small leaflets about Herbalife. I have had no response from the organisation so I feel it is due time to make it known just how Herbalife are exploiting the very poor people here in Monze. I warned the lady handing out leaflets that she too was likely to become a victim of Herbalife – in fact she almost certainly already is, and in trying to recover her costs is bringing more people in. Herbalife seems unreachable, so their 'charity' will get a follow up letter from me!

This evening I decided to use my brazier. Power came on before it was properly alight but it didn't seem sufficient to heat my rice, so I continued outside. Now I have a brazier burning merrily and my steak, rice and curried vegetables has long gone!

Best Wishes


Monday, October 26, 2009

Hichanga Village Community

Thursday 22nd October

I am in danger of picking up more projects every time I visit Monze. Today I went for a bike ride and also picked up a bit of colour from seven hours of almost continuous sunshine!

Yesterday I had arranged to visit Buntola to place an order for a few of the products the orphan support groups make. After watching the beautiful butterflies outside the locked gates for a few minutes, I spent nearly an hour chatting to George who was about to chair a meeting of care-givers in the shelter outside. If you go with the flow it can be quite pleasant waiting for the African clock to catch up with ours!

I told Bridget and Clara that I wanted a few aprons and bags but would take as many baskets as would fit in my bag. They were pleasantly surprised to see that I had another bag within my backpack that opened out into a rather larger bag. With a bit of decent packing it was agreed that I could take their complete stock of about 80 palm leaf and bush twig baskets. They only weigh about 20 kg so I should be OK as long as I can convince customs that I am not carrying out a bit of business! I will however be travelling with a couple of large bags back to the UK so I will have trouble on a small bus!!

I left Clara and Bridget re-packing the baskets and producing the bill and headed for the hospital where I had promised to spend some time as a data entry clerk.

Sichone had done a stock take and wanted to enter the data in the database and produce a report from it. So for the next six hours or so – no time for a lunch break today! I entered the data – including new prices which had almost all increased by at least 50% since 2006. I put together his report within the database and headed for home. (I will pop in tomorrow to make minor adjustments)

This exercise reminded me of one of the first tasks I did for Sichone when we met in 2004. They were in the process of a budgeting exercise and I threw together a spreadsheet so that he could easily produce the figures required – i.e. with the correct totals. I have a feeling that government budgeting is the same worldwide – or maybe only where the English have had a significant influence!!

So today Reymond arrived at 9 hrs with a bike. Unfortunately Kate had acquired another bike that had a flat tyre – so Reymond took it away. Having thought we had lost him he arrived back at 10 hrs with two bikes – Kate's with two hard tyres, and another. So the three of us set off (Lee not feeling a hundred percent decided to give it a miss.) In case I haven't introduced Kate and Lee properly they are Australian volunteers with the sports project and have moved in next door.

I haven't done much cycling of recent years but found it reasonably easy going. I can't help thinking that if this evolution thing was so good we would have grown wheels instead of legs! Of course it's the birds that really have it cracked!

Our destination was somewhere near the Hichanga Dam which is about 10 km East of Monze. To my surprise we covered the distance in about an hour. We then collapsed at the lake side for a breather. The water is a lot higher than I remember at this time in previous years. A guy just wearing shorts and carrying a shotgun told us that the water was almost at the top of the dam by the end of the rainy season this year. He also told us that he was going to shoot a bird and pointed to a duck on the lake.

We were heading for a small village but stopped on the way to see the pumping station that sends the water to Monze town. Here there are always a lot of swifts, with a conspicuous white rump, showing of their acrobatic flying around the bridge linking the pumping station to the shore. We watched them for a while. (After a little research back home these seem almost certain to be little swifts.)

Back on the bikes we rode and walked around the lake to a small village which is home to a small community including twenty adults and four children with disabilities. They have a church and a thriving primary school and are situated on the edge of the lake. There are a good number of banana plants, as well as other trees and a vegetable garden There is also a borehole with a solar pump – I recognised the work of Soloman Phiri and the name was obviously known. We were directed to a lady who was the wife of the chairman of the village community and she graciously told us some of the history of the village.

It appears that an Irish volunteer came across a number of people in this area who had disabilities and wanted to provide some support. She arranged for them to be trained at Homecraft in Monze. (this is where I stayed last year and where they do training in tailoring, carpentry and home economics.) The idea was that with skills the people could become self-sufficient. However, after training they didn't want to go back to living in separate places, so they asked the headman for some land near water so that they could also have a garden. They were given this land by the lake which really is a beautiful place to live. Over the years various sponsors have supported little projects - putting up buildings, including the church. The community build the houses with each family providing someone to mould the bricks for each one.

The feeling that I got was of a place of tremendous peace. The woman told us that they had peace because they all helped each other when someone had a problem.

We were treated to a large bowl of sump, that the three of us enjoyed between us together with some fresh water from the borehole. I am constantly amazed by the friendliness and hospitality of the people here in Zambia.

I was a little disappointed not to meet more of the community members, but it wouldn't be fair to intrude. I had understood that they produced some lovely craft goods but Reymond said they didn't have them available at the village.

Now at least I know where the village is and I will return sometime on my own – though maybe not this year. I am interested in people involved in providing appropriate wheelchairs for Africa. I understand that there is an organisation that teaches local people to maintain and repair the chairs. My sister Theresa is also involved with a group in Tanzania who make their own chairs. I will try to do some research before I return next year.

We took some photos and then found a good spot to rest awhile. It is lovely here to be in places where there is no traffic noise. The sounds are mainly bird song, cattle and the occasional human voice. Here we were also treated to the gentle sound of water lapping on the shore of the lake. A few cattle egrets flew from one bank to another, African Jacandas played hide and seek in the lush grass near the water, a couple of grebes swam up and down in front of us, while a pied kingfisher checked the area for lunch, bright yellow village weavers sang from nearby trees and a large bird of prey soared overhead. This is a beautiful Country with a lot to offer, I hope that one day the people here will be able to relax like we did this afternoon and enjoy it, without having to constantly worry where the next meal is coming from.

Reluctantly we left the lake side after a couple of hours and cycled back home where we arrived tired but fulfilled.

Sunday 25th October

I have just spent some time sorting out some photos. I seem to have been taken more than usual this year. I have worked out how to place photos throughout the blog – as you might have noticed - and other than the one day I was unable to upload any photos it seems to work OK. My magic software (GIMP) allows me to reduce the size of photos very easily without losing a lot of the quality which makes sending photos a possibility here. (1 Mb photos and the Internet here don't mix very well!)

As I set of to the dam on Thursday, I was hailed by the School Manager of St. Vincent's – so we arranged to meet Friday.

At about 10pm Thursday evening the power went and was off on Friday morning. Apparently Zambia Sugar was burning a field (they do this both to prepare the ground for planting and to burn the tops of the sugar cane and frighten the snakes before harvesting!). Anyway the fire got out of control and took done a couple of poles carrying the power. So my plans to use the computer first thing Friday were amended somewhat.

Mr. Meheritona had to help take the body of a teacher's parent to the mortuary, so my meeting was delayed. We met at about 11.30 and caught up a little on progress. For some years I have tried to link St. Vincent's with Christ College (formerly St. Benedict's) in Cheltenham. Letters have been exchanged between students and Christ College has held concerts with an African theme – sometimes showing photos from St. Vincent's. Changes in the school and personnel – and my slowness in following up – has resulted in a bit of a gap in communication that I hope to correct.

St. Vincent's is another Community School teaching grades 1 to 7. It has had support from the Catholic church and associated NGOs. It has 5 government teachers and 3 volunteers. The aim is to extend the school to cover grades 8 and 9. Mr. Meheritona is confident of getting more government teachers but would need support to erect the extra buildings. At the present he has difficulty placing children in other schools when they pass their grade 7 exams, because the children are from very poor families and can't afford the fees, uniforms etc.

In the afternoon I paid a visit to the hospital, where some departments had power from the hospital generator. Sichone gave me a copy of 'our' report, I went through the Pharmacy system with Mrs Mweemba and helped Teddy increase the memory in the Human Resources machine. I then had a chance to attend mass at the chapel before returning home. Power had returned by 18hrs when I got home, so I had a chance to get onto my laptop and sort a few mails.

I am trying to keep weekends free to rest! So at 9 hrs I headed to see Ken and his brother at Ken's shop. (I am playing with the stock control database for Ken so that he can use it to track his sales and profit.) Ken wasn't around so another brother rang him. Eventually the brother, Matthew, I was meant to see, turned up. Matthew told me that he lost his sight through disease about 20 years ago. He teaches students with similar disabilities to read and write brail and has also set up an organisation to support people with little or no sight. The story is similar for most people here who have disabilities. There is a lack of the necessary equipment and resources to enable them to compensate for their disability. Even white canes don't appear to be available to all who need them. Matthew had a frame that he used to write brail but, I believe he said, that even that is now broken. He would like to help his members grow vegetables but again hasn't the money for seed or fertiliser. One of their group said she would teach them to make baskets (similar I believe to those I am bringing back from Buntolo) but even the reeds needed to start the process are beyond their means. I promised to see whether the RNIB had anything useful or could provide any support and also talk to people in the UK who I know have been involved in similar organisations.

As you see, I have endless projects to offer anyone interested in trying to support people here trying to move forward a little. Though I was reminded earlier about the parable about sowing the wheat. For a whole host of reasons many of these projects, even when given funds to start, will fail. However, occasionally some will produce a very rich harvest. I am very much aware of this from my personal experience here and accept the situation because of the great changes that take place in those few instances. When lives are changed and sometimes saved, you can be philosophical about the apparent failures. Many things are beyond monetary value.

The next hour or so was spent at the Internet café.

I have not been very happy with the compost arrangements here because the pit is now a mound! So after a bite to eat I set to digging another compost pit and covering the old one with plastic bags to keep some moisture in and cook it! Early afternoon is a good time to exercise in full sunshine!! So after my exertion in the dust, I wallowed for a while in a cold bath – ecstasy!

Just as I prepared to get lost in the bush,Samuel, one of the hospital general workers, arrived. His son has an interview in Lusaka on Tuesday for a job in Community Development. Apparently, like other government workers they appoint people each year, if he doesn't get to Lusaka Tuesday he will have to wait till next year to get a job!

Samuel told me that he, himself, had been earning good money in another part of the country working at a hotel that was British owned. When it was taken over by an Indian business he decided to resign. Unfortunately this lead to a considerable period without work and eventually he came to Monze where he now earns 350,000 kwacha a month (about £45). Despite his loss of income he has managed to ensure all his children have been educated (he tells me he only has six children) – two to degree or equivalent level. The older children are paying the fees for the other children and the grandchildren (he has eight).

At about 15 hrs I moved swiftly from my house and took a circuitous route that eventually led me a little way North of my present house. I found a tree to shelter from the sun and sat down to watch the birds around me. There is a good book here in the house “Common Birds of Zambia”. It is produced by the the Ornithological Society of Zambia and is just what I have been looking for for some time. My daughter Barby gave me a book on Birds of Southern Africa which is quite good but has over 950 species described and doesn't officially cover Zambia. Another book here 'Birds of East Africa' describes 1,283 species and still seems to be rather selective – for instance the house sparrow and European swallow (two of the most common species found here) don't seem to be described. In “The common Birds of Zambia” just over a hundred species are described, but the 733 species that have been seen in Zambia are listed with information about how common they are. Hence this is a great starter to point to the most likely bird from the enormous lists. So I used this book together with descriptions from Barby's gift as I rested under my tree. It wasn't long before I knew that the black looking birds in the branches above were Azure Sunbirds, that on a high tree stump a Black Shouldered Kite was busy with a tasty meal, a Cape Turtle Dove was perched on a tree opposite, where a couple of Common Bulbils also took a break and a Black-bellied Korhaan was playing hide and seek in the grass. Reluctantly after a couple of hours enjoying the sights and sounds of nature that surrounded me – and identifying a few more birds - I found my way back to my home where I was expecting Best.

In fact Reymond visited for a while before Best arrived in time to join me for curried beans and sweet potatoes.

I attended mass at Our Lady of the Wayside this morning where Fr. Maambo gave a very animated sermon with much laughter, cheering, clapping and screaming! (most of this from the congregation!). A quick clean of the house followed and then an afternoon with St. Veronica's community. Unusually, I had a lift from one of the members part of the way. (My first journey in the back of a pick-up this year!) Also very unusually we watched bits of a Southern African football competition in which Zambia are playing while waiting for people to assemble.

You are now up to date and as usual I should be in bed!.



P.S. Problems again with photos - will post them another time.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Community School

Tuesday 20th October

Unusually I am writing this as the sun shines almost overhead. I have just returned from visiting a local community school and decided to take the opportunity to bring you up to date.

Yesterday I spent the morning at the hospital and met with the universal cry – 'my computer is not working properly'. In Human Resources the computer claims to have insufficient memory to run ACCESS though nothing else is running. Sr. Juunza's old computer gets stuck when trying to boot and Motty told me was having problems with his computer and when I popped around in the afternoon an attempt to reload Windows on the machine was failing.

Jennipher called around to try to sort out seed and fertilizer for her group. She did tell me that she hadn't in fact parted with any cash for the health product but just had a sample – I had wondered where she could have got the money and was surprised. I should have had more faith in Jennipher's common sense. I have still written to the company complaining about their tactics.

A few days ago a guy asked me if I would go to see a community school nearby. Although I am more than fully committed, I was interested to see what a 'real' community school looks like and how it operates. So I told him not to expect anything from me, but that I would see the school and be pleased to hear more about it.

There seem to be a number of community schools dotted about. Many communities are too poor to afford to send there children even to local government schools where the children need uniforms etc. So the communities find, or erect a basic building and find some teachers willing to help. The community tries as best it can to support the school, though with few resources the facilities are extremely basic. Although I have been aware of these schools for some time I have never seen one except from a distance.

As we approached a reasonable looking building I was surprised. However, this was someone's house – the school was the other building that I had mistaken for a toilet block. The owner of the house allows the local community to make use of the building as a school. The building is split into three/four classrooms and an office. The classrooms have basic blackboards and the students use bricks/concrete as chairs – there are no desks. The ground is just dirt, so I was told that children can come clean in the morning but go back home dirty at lunchtime. (I will include some photos with this blog.)

Children here are keen to learn and will attend classes despite the lack of facilities. The older children should be sitting their grade 7 exams but problems with the administration means they weren't registered and will now need to wait a further year.

Despite these problems the school has been running for almost two years teaching from grade 1 to grade 7 (roughly equivalent to primary school in England). The community does what it can to provide support but obviously any additional help that allows them to improve things a little would be welcomed.

There are two teachers who work voluntarily. In Zambia there are more teachers trained than have been given jobs – though if all children were to get an education I am sure there would be a shortage. Today only one was present. Nyambe told me he had a job that he does for part of the day to earn enough money to survive, the other teacher is a married woman and presumably her husband supports her.

I visited each class and met the children. While I was their one of my next door neighbours appeared with a couple of guys from the sports charity that they are with and started playing games with the children which seemed to be going down very well.

There are two long drop toilets that have no roofs at the moment. These will be difficult to use in the rainy season as they are – they might also be damaged being mainly mud construction. So the community will gather some grass and put on thatched roofs before the rains.

The committee chairman for the school (who we met at the Southern Comfort Motel – where I think he works) has a building that he has offered for use to raise chickens. The community members would look after this project, if it could be started. The idea is that once started they could raise chickens in about 6 weeks providing an income to help improve the school.

Siboma said that he will give me details of the set-up cost of this project. My guess is that it will cost about 1.5 million kwacha (£200) to raise 100 chickens and they should sell for between 2 and 2.5 million. If there is the market they could raise perhaps 500,000 kwacha every 6-8 weeks (£65), which would make a lot of difference to this little school. I will see how their figures compare with my quick estimate. If anyone would like to help set up this little project please get in touch. From what I have seen it appears that this is very much a community project, where the community is the owner and is just looking for minimal support to give them a boost that might enable them to develop their school.

This afternoon I secured my accommodation for a further 12 days to save me moving. The owners run a business in town providing mainly building materials. Peter was managing much of the project at Monze Basic last year where I also became involved.

I visited the hospital later and seem to have picked up a job tomorrow as data entry clerk. Reymond popped along in the evening and shared supper. I showed him my house and some of the places around Cheltenham using Google Earth. (Without Internet connection the amount clearly visible is limited.)

Best wishes


Monday, October 19, 2009

The Under 20s Football World Cup comes to Africa

Thursday 15th October

It will be a couple of days before I am re-united with my laptop. Last time I took it to Chisamba, but this time I want to travel light.

I had a successful trip to the Internet café this morning and my anti-virus software is up to date – and my flash drive is infected as suspected.

The Golden Pillow is being invaded by a group from UNICEF when David and Kevin arrive, so it looks like the Southern Comfort Motel instead. When I first arrived in Monze I was treated to a night at this hotel – though I think the standard has improved since. The girls in the group spent a night at Truckers – where apparently full English breakfast wasn't on the menu!

I spent the afternoon talking to Mrs. Chiiya about the VIM project, as usual I have plenty of issues to try to deal with. The free range chickens are upsetting the carpenter/gardener and getting fat on the vegetables.

The Jacaranda trees have lost most of their flowers now but I notice that the Flamboyants are coming into bloom with their flaming orange/red blossom. Clouds are forming in the afternoons and today I thought we might have another shower or two, but it didn't happen.

Cattle roam freely in the open fields outside my house and I spotted a couple of pied crows scavenging outside the gates earlier this evening. There is a book of birds of East Africa here that covers Zambia (unlike my book of South Africa that just misses it – though many of the birds are found in both regions.) I hope to use it to help me identify the local species. I will take it to Chisamba instead of the laptop!

Sunday 18th October

I have returned successfully from Chisamba.

The past couple of days have been mainly spent travelling. Today I decided that I would take life easy and have some time to myself – well I managed an hour or two late this afternoon!

On Friday I was just as fortunate with my transport – though Reymond happened to be at the right place to hail the bus for me. The ride was somewhat smoother than on my previous trip but we still made good time and reached Lusaka in about three hours. Diven knew that I was due and called me as I got from the bus. We had time for me to visit his house and later to have a bite together before I set off for Chisamba. At the crossroads I met one of the candidates who was coming for interview and before long Godfrey arrived with the other candidate and we made our way to Chisamba Guest House a little faster than my previous visit when I walked the 20km.

After a quick tour of the project site (Kaliyangile) and the end of the under 20s World Cup semi-finals, I had a meal with the candidates for the Project Manager position. After the meal we popped our heads around the bar. I was surprised that the final was now on Ghana versus Mexico. Although not a keen football supporter I enjoy the occasional match – especially if it is significant. My son Paul spent a few months in Ghana not long before my exploits in Africa started, which gave the match extra significance. So, though my new companions headed for bed, I chose to join Sondach and a few others to watch the match. The match was already into the second half without score. This was how it stood at full-time, though there were a few heart stopping minutes in the final minutes. Fortunately the girl behind the bar turned out to be a keen football supporter and let us stay for extra time! Again there was no score – though there were chances on both sides. Our bartender couldn't watch the penalty kicks, which were not favouring the Ghanains. When everything appeared lost Brazil missed a couple of penalties and Ghana triumphed to the delight of everyone in the bar (me very much included). It is seen here as a victory for Africa and a good sign for next year's World Cup in South Africa. At 23.15 Sondach, who by this time had enjoyed a few Mosis, passed me his phone and told me to speak to his Minister! (Sondach apparently is the chairman of the ruling party the MMD) So the evening ended on a rather surreal note.

So much for an early night. Breakfast was at 7 hrs so that we could be ready when Godfrey arrived at 8 hrs. There is currently a fuel shortage in Zambia. There is one oil refinery in the country and by imposing a 25% tariff on imported refined fuel the government have restricted fuel coming into the Country. However, each year the refinery shuts down for a month for maintenance - hence the shortages. There are queues at the pumps – some filling stations have been almost a week without fuel. There have been angry scenes – according to the national paper they brought in armed police at a petrol station in Monze. (I was on my way to Chisamba at the time). After negotiation Godfrey managed to secure enough fuel to get him to the meeting and hopefully back afterwards. However this made him nearly an hour later than intended.

Another three committee members attended the interview process with Godfrey and myself. We hope to have a new Project Manager shortly.

Godfrey dropped us off at the crossroads and after a few minutes I jumped in a small minibus heading for Lusaka. Although I have tried to keep my eyes open I saw surprisingly few birds on my journey and did even worse with identification. I was dropped near the market – where there is also a bus station.

I decided that I should explore the market a little before setting off to Monze. I was surprised to find cars and even buses parked amid the stallholders. Most stalls comprised a piece of cloth – or more often sacking – on which a wide variety of goods – from mangoes and tomatoes to shoes, pants and bras where piled. (Yes in some parts of the country mangoes are ripe! I was tempted but didn't fancy the squashed mangoes back home.) As the vehicles moved off the stallholders had to move their goods to stop them being destroyed under the wheels.

There is also a large covered market here. It has some similarities with our shopping centres but then there are also marked differences!! The aisles are narrow and all manner of goods – though not generally food – are displayed on shelves, hangers etc. Lots of clothes and yet more shoes, alongside CDS and televisions. Lots of noise and people selling their wares. Aisles criss cross throughout the market and when I made my exit, it took me a while to get my bearings.

This year I am confused about where it is best to pick up a Monze bus. In previous years I have used a bus station close to the CHAZ offices. So I made my way there finding nothing at the market. I was told that I needed to go the the Inter-City station for a Monze bus (once they understood my strange pronunciation – though to me when they realize the place it sounds the same.) When I arrived there I was told the Rosa buses had left and that I needed Booker's Express. It looked as if it was just leaving so I was taking to the booking office nearby and given a ticket. (It was cheaper than I expected and only slightly above the cost of a Rosa.) I settled down then realised that the tickets had seat numbers on them. Apparently the seats had corresponding numbers though look as I did I couldn't see them! A fairly large woman told me that seat 30 was next to her so I spend the next couple of hours listening to a BBC World programme from New Zealand, wondering whether the coach would leave today! Not long before 16 hrs we were joined by another healthy lady and her baby. Bookers Express seem to be the Ryanair of the buses here! They have managed to fit an extra seat into each row, and I suspect a few extra rows as well! So there 50 seater coaches probably take 70 -80! I had the enviable position of being squashed by women of ample proportions both sides, so as we set out just after 16 hrs in temperature well into the 30s, I found myself swiftly drifting in and out of sleep. At Mazabuka the lady by the window climbed over me and I thought I might be able to breath freely again, but we were joined by the lady on my left's husband – so I got no respite until I disembarked at Tooter Golden Pillow in Monze. Without a torch, I took the road back to my home and arrived just before 7.30 pm and just before Reymond! I decided to be unsociable and didn't offer him food because I needed to freshen up and then collapse!

Today I went again to Our Lady of the Wayside for mass. It is World Missionary Sunday and the priest welcomed me at the start of mass. ( I didn't catch much beyond my name because he was speaking Citonga). I have been asked on a number of occasions here whether I am a missionary. I think that in some ways I would like to think that perhaps I am. I know on one occasion in particular I hesitated before saying no. My belief is that God dwells within all of us. So, if we allow God to work through us, we are all missionaries, bringing him (or her!) to those we meet. I am perfectly sure that without his help I could do nothing worthwhile here in Zambia.

While in Chisamba and again before leaving Lusaka Jennipher contacted me saying she needed to see me when I returned. It is usually costly when I see Jennipher so, having agreed to meet her today, I dreaded her arrival fearing that Barrell Banking Crisis might end up worse than the small one that Gordon has been playing with recently!

Jennipher announced when she arrived that she had been approached by someone connected to a big company who told her she could make a lot of money, but she wanted my advise. She had brought the product plus literature and a DVD.

There is another company about to get an e-mail from me! The company uses high pressure sales techniques to persuade people to buy a product which is apparently designed to help people lose weight. (The last thing Jennipher needs!). She had been persuaded to part with 165,000 kwacha (nearly £23 at current rates) – a small fortune for Jennipher to buy a tin of this product that apparently contains numerous vitamins and other 'good' things. She was shown pictures of people who apparently not only lost weight but lost rashes etc. and was told that it was good for people with HIV/AIDS. The salesperson then wanted a further 350,000 kwacha to make her a distributor which could make her $100 - $1,000 per month. I think she had convinced her that she would get this money through supplying this 'herbal' product to her clients.

I think that it is appalling that such vulnerable people are targeted in this way. I will be suggesting positive ways to help Jennipher and her clients. Failing a proper apology, full refund and positive support from a company that boasts that it has made many millionaires, I will make sure that you have the details to publicise the tactics of this organisation and warn as many people as possible. Watch this space!!

At 16hrs I headed for the local lake and dam. Once again birds were rare, but human activity was plentiful. On the way I was met by many who knew my name and I couldn't quite place, including a woman who stopped her taxi to jump out and give me a big hug! Another guy fishing in the small lake called out 'Chris' so I took the opportunity to see his catch and was surprised to find a couple of reasonable sized fish and a very small one. I wasn't sure that there were any fish in the lake at all.

Once again time has run away. I should be able to get to the Internet café tomorrow morning to catch up on the mail and see whether the blog is accepting pictures again.

With my love and prayers on World Mission Sunday


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fight against mosquitos

Wednesday 14th October

It is already just a month before I return to the UK. Time is passing too fast here in Monze. I still have a lot to do and more people to see.

Yesterday the guys arrived just before 9 hrs to spray insecticide in the house. I had to leave the house, so I decided to visit the Internet café and test the wifi. I connected successfully but for some reason the anti-virus software failed to update. However, I didn't have to risk picking virus up through the memory stick – just direct from the Internet!

I called around to the hospital, meeting Mr. Phiri from 'Sweet Sixteen' - the barbers – en route, as usual he asked after Emily who was here in 2004. I popped my head around the ICU open door. (Unfortunately they haven't any air conditioning installed! Patience told me that a couple of free standing fans would suffice!) She gave me a list of items needed for the ICU last year but so far nothing has arrived. She told me she was busy with two very ill patients at the moment. At least they have her full attention – unlike in the other wards often with 30 – 60 patients to one nurse.

As I made my way out I spotted Justina. So we spent some time discussing her plans to establish 'LIFE Zambia' here in Monze. As with the LIFE organisation in the UK, it would aim to provide positive support for women during and after pregnancy – even if they choose to have an abortion. In Zambia the number of people coming to the hospital after an abortion – sometimes incomplete – is growing. As in the UK the women, sometimes under pressure, decide that the difficulties they would face if they continue with the pregnancy are too great. The organisation would seek to provide support to address these problems wherever possible, so that both mother and child can have a fruitful life. I am liaising with LIFE UK to support her in this venture.

By the time I arrived back home it was time to go out again! I grabbed a couple of glasses of squash to relieve the dehydration and a couple of bananas to stave off hunger and rushed to meet with Mrs. Sianga.

She was offered another piece of land but it was quite narrow and expensive. The owner has agreed to extend the plot, making it a more useful size. The price however has also increased – though not quite in proportion. She wanted me to see the new plot and see whether it could be funded (we might also attempt a further bit of negotiation with the landowner.)

As I passed through the market on my way back, I met Lashford. He was in charge of the building of the ICU in 2003 and last year supervised the building of Maluba school. Almost the last time we met last year he was mourning for the death of his young child of about one year old. Yesterday he told me that his wife died in July. Please remember Lashford and his family in your prayers.

I moved the furniture back into position, uncovered the crockery etc., brought in the food from outside and cleaned the house after the action of the mosquito killers.

I felt quite tired, so I had an early night.

This morning I had an appointment at Our Lady of the Wayside church at 9 hrs. As neither Fr. Maambo or St Veronica's executive committee were about, I set about getting a few photos. The shelters in the church grounds are beautiful – I will include some with this blog if I can remember how to place photos throughout the blog. I hope to provide photos with each blog from now on. There is one shelter with angel cartoons and a thank you message. Another has pictures representing bible scenes used as meditation during the saying of the rosary. One has a herd of elephants running around it – a painting, not the real thing! Another drums etc. I have a pretty full set! I am sure they would be excellent for illustrating children's booklets – they could do with the royalties! I hope that, if by posting them on my blog, Google want to use them they will at least give a donation! ( they can have full quality versions for a negotiated amount!!)

After my meeting I went to see Sr. Catherine. Sr. Catherine is an Italian nun who has been in this region of the world for the past 35 years. She currently coordinates the Home Based Care and VCT (Voluntary counselling and Testing) services for the church. All churches in the Catholic Diocese have such centres to support the local community. She told me that this year they are unable to get out into the villages or do other activities because the donor that provided money has none to offer this year. Inevitably more lives will be lost as a result. She says there is still a lot of stigma attached to HIV/AIDS (I suspect it is even more so in the UK!). Particularly in the professions, people don't go for testing or treatment because of the stigma and lose their lives as a result. A lot of the outreach work is to educate and reduce the stigma attached to the disease.

Sr. Catherine gave me a lift close to home saving me a few kilometres. The rest of today has given me a chance to record and assimilate a lot of the information I have gathered over the past couple of days. So I now have a few more reports to pass back to various parties in the UK for information and consultation.

I finished my John Grisham novel yesterday. I didn't bring out much reading material this year, but I have a small book called “The Practice of the Presence of God”. I have a feeling this was a donation from a friend. It contains conversations and letters of a 17th century monk who devoted his life to recognising the presence of God with him at all times. It is interesting how often a random selection of books can give a consistent message. I have with me a trinity of books with a spiritual theme. All of them are written by people who have had a personal experience of God and therefore, perhaps not surprisingly, they describe the same God. A God who is a God of love and relationship. A God who thinks that I am special and so are you and who doesn't waste too much time and energy on religion! This God is also a God of now – not one dwelling in the past or future. I am sure there is a clear message for me here – and one I find very difficult.

Sr. Catherine was telling me today that the people here are very much of the present and perhaps that's why they smile so much. If they have 3 bags of sugar, she says, they will eat it all straight away and if asked what they will do tomorrow when they have none, they will say that they will have enjoyed eating the sugar today. (No doubt with a huge smile on their faces!)

Tomorrow I have nothing planned so I look forward to what my God has up his sleeve for me – its usually something a bit special – we will wait and see.

May God bless you all


P.S. I am trouble with pictures hoe to resolve this soon, Chris.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A quick visit to Lusaka

Friday 9th October

Sometimes God decides to give us a gift as a pure gesture of his love.

In 2004 I had a lot of problems trying to extend my visit to Zambia. At one point I was declared a “prohibited immigrant” and told to leave the country by midnight or I would be arrested. This was subsequently (and fortunately very rapidly) sorted out. However, any trip to immigration now makes me anxious.

On this visit it appears that the Lord has taken control of the immigration system for me. In the past when things have gone smoothly I have sat for hours waiting for people to arrive and sometimes have to return on another day – requiring another 280 mile round trip. (I don't want to think about the times when they didn't go smoothly.) So far this year every time I arrive unannounced the guy I need to see seems to be waiting, forms appear immediately and queues are for everyone else but not for me.

So despite the obvious signs that everything is in good hands, I awake just after 5 hrs and leave just before 6 hrs anxious about the day ahead at immigration. As I get to the main road there is a Rosa bus pulling out of the petrol station. I wave and the conductor confirms that he is leaving for Lusaka. OK Lord so you have also provided transport.

I jumped aboard and we took off immediately – like a rocket – for Lusaka. I suspect that the driver was really heading for Livingstone, but to get good value he needed to reach Lusaka at a good time to make the return trip. Most buses rattle a bit. I thought that they had sorted the road to Lusaka – but this vehicle didn't know it. A few times I clashed with the window when our respective motions brought us to the same point! We stopped anywhere if it looked like a possible fare might board. It seemed that there were also a few regulars for this morning express - at one point the driver backed up a dirt road to meet passengers heading his way. Despite the stops and detours we reached Lusaka by 8.45 and I was at the CHAZ offices at 9hrs.

Chris was at his desk apparently waiting for me and before 10 hrs we were at the central immigration offices. He was directed to a room were two men were sitting opposite a man at his desk. Despite appearances they said they weren't waiting. So my file was presented, the guy at the desk seemed quite uninterested, I didn't see him look beyond the application form at the front of the file. He scribbled something on top of the form and told Chris to go to the cashier. Here we probably waited two minutes before the cashier issued the all important receipt. On returning to the 'room' Chris was told he would have to wait 14 days for the application to be processed – I am not sure he noticed I was there at all! So by just after 10.30 I was leaving the CHAZ office (which is on the other side of town to the Immigration Office) with my receipt and all I need to do is to call at the immigration office after a couple of weeks to pick up my extended work permit.

Diven is still having problems with his phone despite a new battery so I failed to meet up with him and for once I had time to spare. I visited an Internet café and had a bite to eat, then decided to find a bus to return to Monze. I have been dropped off this year along the Kafue Road just before the town centre. Since this is the road to Monze I decided not to go to the bus station I have previously used, but to try my luck here.

Today I will use the opportunity to describe the journey from Lusaka to Monze. So please bear with me as I leave you with this brief travelblog.

I approached the conductor of a likely looking Rosa bus. “Are you going to Monze?” I asked. “Mongu?” he said. “No Monze” I repeated. “Where” he answered. “Monze” I said. “Write it down here” he said handing me the back of the ticket book. “Yes” he said, writing Monze on the ticket (in the same way I had “Monze” - “40,000”. So I boarded the bus not completely convinced that we really were heading for Monze.

The bus was already three quarters full of people but we made up the difference in luggage. Already the front of the bus had the usual few cases and bags, the aisles were also filled with luggage – though here were the remaining fold down seats. The conductor patted one oversized bag with his fist till it fitted under the seat – admittedly even with a passenger seated the chair was 30 degrees off the horizontal. After saying that there were just two more seats to fill he found another six passengers to board. There was know no room for the conductor, but another hefty guy forced his way on and tried to close the passenger door. Despite his efforts it wouldn't close – then the driver used the button that powers the door and with an extra push it closed. By this time the bus was full both of people and even more so of luggage. However, now more cases started coming in through the window. Then extra bags, a laundry basket – I was expecting a few chickens, goats and pigs to appear at any moment. The bags were now stacked high at the front and also a couple of cases, two or three heavy bags and the laundry basket were stacked against the passenger door making it impossible to exit from there. All this amused both me and an elderly guy next to me.

The tickets were handed to the last guy to get aboard and we left for Monze. (Well at least that is what I hoped.) A dual carriageway leads out of Lusaka. It appears here that overtaking can be done in either lane – and sometimes on the verge. The traffic today seemed particularly heavy all day with long queues on the main roads into the city. (earlier a police car with sirens blasting seemed to be stuck in traffic. I always thought the sirens were to avoid this!)

A few kilometres up the road there is still an extra lane – though no dual carriageway – as we enter Chilanga. Here is the main cement factory in Zambia. Last year it had a huge contract to produce cement for the stadiums in South Africa which host the World Cup next year. This sent cement prices in Zambia soaring – this year I am told they have dropped back to normal levels. On the right I spotted a couple of zebras, as we passed Chilanga Zoo!

Unlike this morning the ride was very smooth – maybe the suspension was much better, or maybe struggling to reach 50 mph instead of 70 mph had an impact! I suspect a bit of both. Roads in Zambia tend to be much straighter than in the UK. On the way to Kafue there is a lot of ground with very few significant trees so you can see a long distance. There are hills in most directions - though at quite a distance.

Kafue itself is an industrial town with a number of large factories and sprawling housing estates. The road bypasses the industrial heart of the town. We passed over the railway line. The crossing has road humps to warn of the hazard but no gates, barriers or lights. (This is typical in Zambia now)

After the railway crossing we go up an incline and here the police had set up a check point. I had once been in a bus where the driver was fined for being overloaded, so I wasn't surprised when our bus was pulled over – nor was the guy beside me who was obviously further amused. The driver got out and asked for some kwachas from the new conductor and after a few minutes we were allowed to proceed. We did so slowly – this bus doesn't do uphill very well, especially with a full load!

On the other side of the hill is the bridge crossing the Kafue river where pleasure cruisers are moored – I expect to see crocodiles but haven't spotted any yet. I know that a kilometre or so further on is a customs and police check point. So once again the bus is pulled over and the driver gets out. A few minutes pass and a policeman / customs official comes to the front of the bus and climbs in at the driver's door with a smile on his face as he saw the luggage piled high everywhere. He seems to be suggesting that some of the luggage needs to be off loaded and I think that we are in trouble this time – at least I was travelling light and had nothing but today's copy of the Post. To my surprise the policeman made himself some space, plugged in his earphones and settled down for the journey.

So we continued with our additional passenger. After the checkpoint we leave the road that is heading for Harare in Zimbabwe and then on to Mozambique and turn right towards Livingstone (to my relief). At the junction we pull over and are immediately surrounded by women selling bunches of bananas and, fortunately, bottles of, mainly frozen, water. By this time the air blowing around in the bus warmed rather than cooled – so very cold water was ideal and I hugged the the cold water bottle as one might do with a hot water one at home! The next landmark is the Munali Hills. It is unusual for trucks and lorries to overtake Rosa buses – especially on the Munali Hills! I suggested to my neighbour that we might need to get out and push, however we reached the summit eventually. On the other side of the hills they have opened a new mine – nickel I believe. Zambia is rich in minerals, unfortunately the country has always been persuaded to give the ore away – so the large mining companies, and the countries where they are based, are the ones that have become wealthy at Zambia's expense.

A few more kilometres and we stop. One of the women passengers has reached her destination. Fortunately she must have had mountaineering experience because she succeeded in climbing over the towers of bags and was let out of the driver's door – this still being the only means of escape. During the next fifty or so kilometres to Mazabuka we had repeat performances of this exercise and we also collected more passengers and luggage using the drivers door for human cargo and the windows for everything else.

Mazabuka is the nearest town to Monze (about 85 km distant) that has a proper supermarket. It was also the nearest town with an ATM for my first couple of visits. My elderly friend eventually disembarked in Mazabuka. I got the feeling that he stayed longer than he wanted in the hope that he wouldn't have to clamber over the luggage and drop from the drivers door. He wasn't so lucky!

As you leave Mazabuka there are fields of sugar cane as far as the eye can see. A huge area must have been cleared of trees so that Tate & Lyle (I believe it is their sugar, apologies if I have it wrong) can grow their crop. I have been told that after a few years the land stops producing, so they abandon it and move on. (You can always buy Fairtrade sugar – I do).

When we arrived at Monze about 4 hours after setting off from Lusaka the policeman or customs official was still with us, but at last the passenger door was unblocked and I was spared the challenge that met other passengers.

I was waylaid by my friend in the shop and I loaded a copy of the stores database onto his computer. Another familiar face was with him. He works in the Hospital School admin and I produced a modified stock control system for him last year.

So it was 19.30 and dark, before I got back to my home. Fortunately I had some boiled eggs and salad ready prepared so there was no need to cook.

Sunday 11th October

Yesterday I had a quiet day spent reading and relaxing. I went for a stroll to see how my local dam (lake) was doing. There was plenty of water still – no problem with drying out this year. It was busy with lads swimming, ladies doing washing and trying to net a few fish, with what looked similar to mosquito nets, and a lot of cattle enjoying the grass growing on recently exposed land. There were a few swallows and small flocks of pigeons but it was too busy for the other frequent avian visitors.

On the way back I picked up a couple of Chitenges for Ireen to make into shirts, a brazier, a small bag of charcoal and a mop (or mopper as it is referred to locally). For a change I got an early night.

This morning I woke refreshed after a good night's sleep. I had intended to go to the chapel as usual for Sunday mass but decided that I should make a habit of attending Our Lady of The Wayside church since I am trying to build a relationship between the communities there and in Cheltenham. Perhaps if I listened to the Chitonga enough some might stick! Mass at Our Lady's starts at 10 hours and lasts upwards of 1½ hours. This means that, until the clocks change, in the UK the service here surrounds the one at St. Gregory's church in Cheltenham. By my reckoning by the time of communion we were at the same point, which for me was a pleasant thought. I have always said that in connecting the two churches we need to focus on relationship. True communion is what I believe should be the ultimate goal – a full sharing of our joint humanity and our gifts, and mutual respect for our diversity in culture, history and way of life.

Our Lady of the Wayside has a good set of musicians and singers, so the drumming and harmonies are very impressive. The offertory procession today was led by Reymond's Small Christian Community (St. Kisito's). He tells me that the communities take it in turn and everyone in the community is expected to provide a gift. These vary from a candle to vegetables, bottles of water and gifts of money. These are taken up with dancing and singing and are presented one by one to the priest.

Someone had spotted me (not that it was difficult since I was the only white male in the congregation of perhaps 700 – there was also an Italian nun who works at the church), so I was asked to stand up at the end of mass – just in case some couldn't guess who ”Chris from England” might be!

I was greeted by many – some old friends and others who were just being friendly. I left for town with Patrick who told me that he had been the Secretary for the Parish Council at the main church (the Cathedral) before they decided to build Our Lady of the Wayside. Apparently they couldn't cope with the size of the congregation at the cathedral so they thought about extending it. Then decided to build another church in Monze. Our Lady of the Wayside is growing and seems to be a vibrant community. Before the main service there is a children's mass which is also quite full. There seem to be a few more shelters put up in the grounds since last year. These are used for meetings as well as being places to gather, out of the sun, before and after services.

As we approached the town centre (I must take a few more pictures to show you the sights!), there was a man in the centre of the road. Patrick told me this was because of a cycle race taking part along the Lusaka/Livingstone road. Earlier I had seen a couple of cyclists pass from the Livingstone direction. Apparently they cycle a few kilometres towards Livingstone, return through Monze and then go a few kilometres towards Lusaka before finishing back in Monze. The finish was marked with a line of sand. Apparently there were 15 cyclists, all from Monze, and they did it for fun – though if lucky the crowd might show their appreciation by rewarding the winners.

I attended St. Veronica's section meeting this afternoon – but forgot my bible, so will have to find out the subject of the reflections later! Perhaps there is a message here about my need to learn the local language. It rained a little during the meeting – fortunately where we met today there was a good sized room to move into – this is not always the case.

This evening Reymond popped around – so again he shared my steak. There always seems enough for two when I cook.

Monday 12th October

This morning I woke in time for morning mass at the cathedral at 6.30 am. After a quick breakfast I was back at the church to meet Fr. Maambo. We spent the morning talking about the development of the link between St. Gregory's parish in Cheltenham and Our Lady of the Wayside here in Monze. It was a very useful discussion and gave us a further chance to get to know each other better. He showed me the details of how funds from St. Gregory's church had been spent. In many ways I felt that to see receipts for the children's shoes and shirts that they needed in order to attend school was an invasion of privacy. Anyway I am more than happy that the funds are being well used.

At lunchtime Jennifer joined me for mayonnaise sandwiches. She told me that they are busy with the shelter for her support groups and are collecting the grass for thatching. They will have three poles to support the roof. A farmer was selling his cattle and had offered her a couple. I am not sure whether the benefits of having cows out-ways the difficulties in keeping them. However, I suspect that it would mean a lot to Jennipher and her groups to own their own cows. I have a couple of birthday gifts to give to folks back home - I think they will get a cow each!

Tomorrow morning some guys are going to spray the house against mosquitos. Jennipher said they don't bother about people in the villages. She said that they weren't provided with mosquito nets either, though she said she would use a net if she had one, she was concerned about have lots of nets when her clients couldn't afford any.

The afternoon was time to catch up with Mrs. Sianga and discuss the plans and problems with Maluba and PIZZ. I have things much clearer in my mind now – all I need is to put some thoughts on paper – or more likely in digital form. (Its amazing what you can now do with a few 0s &1s).

Once again it was dark as I approached my house. Having a torch I decided to use my usual route by small tracks across the railway line. Everything looks very different in the dark, yet, despite my famous lack of any sense of direction, I made it home safely – and without getting lost!


Friday, October 9, 2009

The Rains Approach

Tuesday 6th October

The weather here is changing. On Saturday I arrived back in Monze to a light shower of rain and during the night there were some heavy showers. Sunday was overcast but the past couple of mornings I have woken to the glorious glow of the sun shining from a clear blue sky that I have come to love so much. We are getting to the warmest part of the year with temperatures well into the 30s. I have been confidently told that the rains will be early this year and the signs are there.

A good shower has an immediate cooling effect on the air temperature and today I saw the early signs of the results of the rain just a couple of days ago. Little patches of fresh grass have started to appear on the dust verges. If we continue to get a few decent showers, imperceptibly over the next couple of weeks, the world here will be transformed, and I will wonder if I imagined a dry dusty land. Everywhere will be green and the cattle will start putting on weight again – and some people say that there is no God!

I was down to my last few kwacha this morning and the banks after making promising noises decided not to give me a top up. I visited the Internet café briefly (I couldn't afford more than 10 minutes – so I needed to be very organised and just achieved all I needed to do.) Then after a short chat with Dr. Mvula I walked to my next appointment with Charles.

We had arranged to meet at ten to visit his project site east of Monze. So we set out a little before 12.30 heading past Hichanga Dam. In this area there were a lot of cattle with their white companions - the cattle egrets. Since Henry's sudden death last year, his brother has been looking after the project. The garden is doing well though there are some problems with aphids attacking the crops. The well is in good shape and now has a cap and cover to keep it safe and clean. There is still plenty of water in it, though we are at the end of the long dry spell. Charles hopes to get a treadle pump which will make watering the garden easier. This should allow them to increase the size of the garden and therefore grow more vegetables. (I suppose a garden here is really equivalent to an allotment back in the UK – though they are often considerably bigger than our plots.

Unfortunately Saddam and Captain decided it was lunchtime and couldn't wait for the intended photo shoot! These oxen pull the plough and the ox cart – though I am told that Captain doesn't appreciate the crowds in Monze so another animal is used to take the produce to market. Henry's brother has built a small shop – I will add a picture if I can. So after selling the produce to Reymond's contacts at the market the ox cart is loaded with groceries for sale at the shop. The ox cart is also hired by local people to fetch wood for making charcoal and to bring in their harvest. So my dad's anniversary gift is being put to good use. I would think that Anthony and Freda are quite famous now in this area thanks to the dedication on the whole of one side of the cart!

I spend the afternoon back at Charles' house and enjoyed a bowl of sump cooked by his mother. As usual our discussions are wide ranging and very interesting.

I failed to do a deal for UHT milk with the guys on the roadside opposite Tooters. I can go into the small shops close by and get a better price. I doubt if they sell more than one or two cartons a week (I bought one yesterday and the other five were still there this evening). So I tried to arrange to buy five cartons a week for a price midway between their price and that of the shops. I bought them at the full price anyway despite having to get change from the shop opposite!

I had missed my usual companions in this house during the first few days but they have appeared recently. There seem to be types of frog and lizard that live inside houses. They are almost transparent – a bit albino and smaller than their outside counterparts. The frogs enjoy washbasins in particular – I was treated to two in the washbasin at Chisamba and a slightly larger one in the bath. The lizards run around the walls and scamper if you uncover them behind a curtain. There are less spiders here than I am used to but there was a beauty in my kitchen sink over the past day or two. I realised that it had probably fallen in and was stuck – so I left a cloth over the edge and this morning it had gone. There was also a fat frog on the doorstep yesterday – there will be many about now that the rain is beginning. Near the Maluba school ponds appear with the rain and the frogs chorus is very impressive.

Wednesday 7th October

Today I spent the bulk of the day at home. I found out last night that my system for dealing with drug expiry dates was even trickier than I hoped. So this was my main task today.

I also went along to Buntolo to find out what goods were available. They have bags and aprons made out of traditional chitenge material, some baskets weaved from palm leaves and thin twigs from the bush, and some necklaces (with or without earrings and bracelets) made in traditional style from beads. I photographed samples of the goods so that I can send details to Jean back in the UK. She wants to sell the goods in England as a way of supporting the projects HATW is involved with around the world. The goods for sale at Buntolo are produced by the guardians of the orphaned children, each item being identified as their product. When they are sold the money goes back to the maker and their support group.

Outside in the shelter there was a group session on anger management. I met Sarita outside and she showed me some of the crops she had helped the people grow using compost. The onions were very large and most had several bulbs from each seed. She told me that she had been out teaching people in the community and some who had learnt to grow in this way at Buntolo now had good gardens back home. These were now able to provide for their families. I know Jennipher has been grateful for the help she has provide for her and her group members.

This evening power went off before 17 hrs so I haven't yet been able to cook. In the past I have produced a salad on such occasions – the other solution is a brazier. However, tonight I am not fully geared for either. Though if power doesn't return I am sure I will rustle up something novel!

Jennipher tells me that her group are busy making the foundations for their shelter. I showed her a picture of the shelter at the Chisamba Guest House. This is a traditional design that comprises a concrete floor with a circular wall to a little over a metre and gaps to allow entry and exit. Poles then hold a grass thatched roof. This type of shelter seems to work well and, as Jennipher pointed out, they are cooler than those with iron sheets. She is going to suggest they follow this pattern.

Thursday 8th October

The power came on in time for me to cook my steak. Like most food here, the steak was succulent and very tasty, cooked of course to perfection – medium rare and with a coating of pepper! My ½ kilo of steak was a bit cheaper than my packet of cornflakes.

In fact I was settling down to watch the stars when the power came on. Here it is difficult to recognise the constellations we see in the UK – partly because the shape can be a little different, but mainly because of the hundreds of extra stars that get into the picture. I am often surprised by the cloud I often see and then realise that it is the Milky Way. The next meteor shower is expected on 21st October so I will hope for an extended power cut that night. (The odds are very good!)

Today I spent most of the day at my house sorting out databases etc. One day I might write proper documentation so that I can remember what I have done – it might also help those who want to modify my systems after me.

Apparently wifi is back at the Internet Café but they have abandoned a system of buying tickets for units of ten minutes. Either I have a virus on my computer or I pick one up every time I go to the café. If I can use wifi I should be much better off.

I installed a new copy of the pharmacy database on their computer, which I suspect already has picked up another virus or two despite the anti-virus software installed a few weeks ago. While chatting to Teddy I had a call from CHAZ to say my cheque was ready. (In order to extend my permit I have to arrange for a bank certified cheque to be produced – this has only taken just over a week.) So tomorrow I will make another trip to Lusaka and visit the immigration office with Chris from CHAZ. Hopefully they will issue a receipt for the cheque which I understand is as good as giving me the extension to my work permit. I have asked for a further 3 years but only expect to get two as usual – but you never know.

I hoped to book a coach for 7 am tomorrow but was told that the condition of the road from Livingstone means that the first coach arrives at 9.30 am. This is too late so I will have to get up early and try to get a smaller bus at about 6 hrs!

So I will try to get an early night and rise before dawn.

Good night


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Visitors in abundance

Monday 5th October

It's hard to believe that it was only two weeks ago that I had just taken off from Heathrow. Yet time passes very quickly and I will be back on the plane back home before I know it.

My meeting on Saturday went well and I am hopeful of significant progress in the next weeks. After the meeting Godfrey took me to the t-junction (21.4 km from the lodge – so I overestimated my speed by about 2 kph!). As we arrived so did a coach and I jumped aboard for the trip to Lusaka. Unusually the 'conductor' seemed to forget the 20,000 kwacha I owed him and I had to find him after alighting to settle my account. Since I still couldn't contact Diven, I allowed a guy to lead me first to a coach leaving in 1½ hours and then to the ¾ full Rosa minibus. I must confess I had never caught a Rosa to Monze from this bus station before. After waiting more than an hour with hardly anyone finding the bus, I decided I had made a bad choice. However at about 14.10 the Rosa pulled off – with space for more passengers. Attempts were made to rectify this situation on route but we could always have fitted more in (by my assessment). Never before have I left with a minibus not full and then we would collect extra passengers en route! I didn't notice being overtaken by the coach despite a few stops and a delay at the customs checkpoint so perhaps we even beat it to Monze. It is very common to be pulled over while the vehicle or documents are checked, though it is unusual to be too full and windscreens crazed with numerous cracks seem to be perfectly legitimate. Sometimes though there is reason found to give an on the spot fine.

So by 17.30 I was back in Monze. I managed about 100 metres before I heard my name called. As I passed Ian (from the hospital stores) was with one of his suppliers at his shop The supplier had seen my database at the hospital and wondered whether I could produce one for him. (I might be able to set myself up in business providing stock control databases throughout Zambia!). I will see if I can easily give him something suitable for his shop.

So back home, where I found Reymond waiting for me. It was time for supper – I decided that I needed to cook for myself and increase my vegetable intake. So I made another peanut stir-fry and Reymond joined me for supper. ( The sausage was still frozen.)

On Sunday I was surprised to see that it was 7.30 when I finally awoke. Fr. Maambo - from Our Lady of the Wayside church – said mass. The readings were about marriage and in his sermon he kept repeating a phrase from Genesis (the first book of the bible) “it's not good for man to be alone” - with me here in Zambia and Dilys in England it rang an obvious chord.

After mass I caught up a little on the Zambian politics with the Sunday Post. Frederick Chiluba – a past president of Zambia has been acquitted of embezzling 500,000 US dollars. There is a lot of criticism of this decision and suggestions that it was a political rather than a legal decision. Lead by the Civil Society – a group of organisations including many of the churches – there were protests with people hooting horns and whistling in Lusaka to try to force an appeal. Some were arrested including a couple of MPs – though it isn't clear why honking or hooting horns is an offence. The Civil Society has vowed to increase the protests – particularly in the light of the police arrests last Friday.

Before long Luke arrived and we chatted for a couple hours about how his life was going. He is hoping to start a personnel management course very soon. (in fact but for funding he would have started a couple of weeks ago).

I had to rush to get to the 14 hrs meeting of St. Veronica's small Christian Community. I met Simon at about 14.15 – fortunately, though not unexpectedly, he hadn't yet set off. The children in the area where we meet greeted me along the route, I suspect at least a few remember me from previous years. Often I hear a distant 'how are you' – though I might not see where the child is shouting from - I respond 'I am fine, how are you' which them usually results in me being bombarded by 'how are you's from all the children in the vicinity and plenty of laughter and waves.

I was warmly welcomed by the community and they sang a special song of welcome for me. At the 'section meeting' we look at the gospel reading for the next week. Next week is the story of the rich man who Jesus tells to sell everything he has and give the money to the poor. Here I am seen as a 'big man' or rich man. It isn't difficult to get rid of any wealth I have here and it is easy to feel self satisfied. However the true message of the gospel is that we totally rely on God and we can only really obtain fulfilment by letting go of everything and trusting in God to provide and guide us. This is a bit more difficult than casting a few kwacha here and there.

I arrived back from the meeting and cooked myself a meal. I had just finished when I heard a knock at the gate outside. Diven's phone had a problem with its battery, so he decided to make the trip from Lusaka to meet up with me. So he joined me in the evening for a coffee or two, we talked about a wide variety of topics and I offered him the spare room for the night.

This year I had decided that weekends would be a time to relax on my own and go for walks etc. This past weekend wasn't a great success in this respect!!

This morning after breakfast Diven headed into town to buy a new battery for his phone, while I sorted a few things on the computer and headed with my laptop to the Internet café. Unfortunately the wifi wasn't working today so I spent an hour or so sending and receiving e-mails, posting a blog and checking to see whether indeed I had given all my riches away to the poor!

I wanted to see Dr. Mvula and or Justina Yamba at the hospital to see whether they had anything specific at the hospital for me to do. I was asking Judy where Dr. Mvula was when I realised he was standing beside me! (No not another recognition problem – he must have crept up on me) We agreed to meet in the afternoon and I headed to the Pharmacy. I found a girl who was involved when I installed their version of the stock control database last year and asked whether it was being used. Apparently a month or two back they had a virus and in resolving it they lost the database. Why does this sound familiar? Fortunately I have a copy of the database from last year and she is keen to do a stock take and start afresh. If the system is going to be used anywhere it is in the pharmacy. Last year I had to exercise my brain to its limit in order to provide up to date details of any drugs close to their expiry date.

It has been clear to me for several years that a proper computer maintenance and strategic plan needs to be devised and adopted in order to avoid these problems and the associated costs.

Time now to meet up again with Diven. Oh and Jennipher was back in town! I was briefly waylaid by Mrs Sianga and her husband and I think we agreed to meet up sometime Wednesday afternoon.

Time to get some food in! My stock was almost at zero. So to the market with Diven. He was warmly greeted by very many in the market and its precincts. Diven used to have a little shop in the market until he had a few problems and decided to move to Lusaka. I had promised one marketeer that I would buy a vegetable that I hadn't noticed before so I kept my promise and spent 1,000 kwacha (12p) on some 'greens'. I also picked up some curry powder, piri piri (chilli powder), paprika, pounded groundnuts and garlic from my 'second wife' so that I can add plenty of extra flavour to my meals. The other task was to buy some eggs and see if I could locate any mayonnaise that wasn't Cross & Blackwell. Cross & Blackwell is a Nestle company and as such I avoid it if at all possible. In the past Nestle has promoted powdered milk in Third World countries as better than breast milk despite this not generally being the case. I believe that this caused a lot of harm to the people in places like Zambia and therefore I am not willing to add to their profits. Difficult though it was I succeeded in finding what I was looking for.

Before exiting the market Jennipher called to say she was in town and would meet me at the filling station. On the way I met Clara and Bridget from Buntola and arranged to meet Wednesday morning - my diary is filling up fast! We were waiting when a young girl came running towards me. Selina had spotted me from a distance and came to greet me. This was the Selina I knew – unlike a week ago! Later Jennipher explained that Selina thought that Natasha was a wife of mine and was worried that she wouldn't approve of her jumping on my lap or behaving as she usually does with me (in fact how children all over the world seem to behave with me!) When it was explained that Natasha was only a friend she was happy and things are therefore back to normal. Jennipher had brought a girl with her who is profoundly deaf, she had taken her for for tests which confirmed this view. Jennipher told me that she wasn't very good at communicating with her, but that Selina had no problems. However, later Jennipher was talking to her about my family photos with signs – explaining the different relationships etc. I am ashamed to admit that I would have very little idea where to start. There is a deaf man who works in the maintenance department at the hospital. Although we greet each other very warmly our communication is very limited, whereas many of the hospital staff will talk a lot using a form of sign language.

Our group made its way to my house – Selina trying to instruct me in Chitonga and showing off a few English words she now speaks. I ran the last few yards with Selina and all settled down in the arm chairs with a cold drink – I had a refreshing cup of tea. So it was egg mayonnaise sandwiches for our party - now increased to six with another of Jennipher's friends. Egg mayonnaise is now a firm favourite with Jennipher. It was also appreciated by everyone else – though only Selina had previously been introduced to it. In fact Jennipher told me the girl who had come with her had never been into a town before.

Lunch took me to the time of my appointment with Dr. Mvula – however he was in a meeting. I had left something at the house so I rushed back. I returned to the hospital and chatted to Judy (Dr. Mvula's secretary) for a while. Judy has had a difficult year. The most tragic event was the death of her eight year old nephew – apparently from a heart attack. This is not the only death of a young close relative she has suffered over the past few years.

We decided to re-schedule my meeting with Dr. Mvula and I returned to cook myself a spicy staek stir fry – very nice it was too!

Justina Yamba popped by on the way back from work and told me she is retiring on December 24th – a day before her birthday. I gave her the details about setting up a LIFE group that I had been sent by the chairman of the UK organisation. She is keen that we discuss the way forward to set up a group in Zambia. (Just in case I haven't enough to keep me occupied over the next few weeks.)

Another day is about to finish so its time to take my leave.

With love and prayers


Monday, October 5, 2009

And he provided a light for the night … he saw it and it was good.

Friday 2nd October

It is easy here to see why we sometimes have a full moon. This evening the sun was sinking in the west as the moon was rising directly opposite it in the east and I stood in the middle. I like to think that I cast a small shadow on that heavenly body.

Yesterday was another easy day for me. In fact Chisamba has given me a bit of a break and one that I needed. I strolled along to the project site at about 9 hrs met Davidson and settled into the office. I was expecting to meet with Godfrey the committee chairman in the morning but he had business to attend to, so I used the time to formalise my thoughts and develop the accounting database - making it more specific to Chisamba. (it currently tries to cater for Rickshaw drivers in India as well as egg production here in Chisamba.)

I had useful discussions with Godfrey and later Patrick in the afternoon and feel that at least we are talking the same language (though my Nyanga is even worse than my Chitonga – and that's still almost non-existent).

I had plenty to sort out on the computer in the evening so I didn't pop over to the bar for a Mosi. On Wednesday evening when I went into the bar it was quite full and a bit daunting. A guy I had met on the previous evening is apparently the Chairman of the ruling MMD party and another guy was chairman of the opposition. There was a guy who was apparently very senior in Zesco which provides the power (or doesn't) and a couple of other important guys – and a policeman. I had intended to have a quick drink but was given a couple of extra Mosi's by the others in the bar and had to stop more coming. This evening I am on soft drinks!

Breakfast here is eggs and chips and a large pot of very weak tea which comes out complete with milk. Outside the guest house is a pump and there is a constant stream of people – mainly women and children filling their plastic containers. Before heading off to the site I enjoy sitting in the shelter outside – a typical round brick base with a roof thatched with elephant grass – watching the swallows swoop around and the activity around the pump. This morning I took a couple of photos of the guest house and of some of the children who wanted me to 'copy them' with my camera.

Patrick arrived at 9 hrs as agreed to take me to Lusaka. Lusaka is probably 80 km from here. There is a fairly straight road west and then you join the Great North Road at the junction. The Great North Road runs from Dar El Salaam in Tanzania to Cape Town in South Africa. All I needed to do in Lusaka was to go to the immigration office to get a form to apply for an extension of my visa, complete it and hand it over to Chris from CHAZ. Patrick dropped me off at Immigration and, after signing in, I asked the man on reception where I could get a form – to my amazement he pulled one from under the counter and I left content! I decided to walk the mile or two to the CHAZ office and was joined by Dorchester and Lanster and discussed various topics as we jointly made our way into town. My visit to CHAZ went just as smoothly as at Immigration – if not quite as quickly. Anyway before 12 hrs I was outside the office. In recent years they have erected a small cafe inside the CHAZ grounds. I was amazed at the menu that offered all manner of delights from India and other countries as well as traditional local fare. I was tempted by the crocodile fillets but unfortunately they were not available today – so I contented myself with some guava juice.

I attempted several times to contact Diven but his phone has been off for the last few days – or so it seems. So I decided to find a bus for the trip back to Chisamba. There are several large bus stations in Lusaka and eventually I found one with a bus to Chisamba. People here are always very helpful and constantly guide me in the right direction. I asked a young woman on the bus to confirm that it went to Chisamba and prepared for the long wait. The girl was obviously interested in my paper so we shared it until the bus set off. She told me that she was a student studying molecular biology and genetics. She is also an identical twin and could set me straight on the fact that the fingerprints of identical twins are different as is their DNA, but obviously there are lots of similarities.

I was dropped off at the T-junction where there is also a police road block. These are very common in Zambia and you don't have to go far before coming across one. I hadn't paid much attention to the distances and since it was only 15.45 wondered whether I was close enough to walk back home. I picked up a bottle of water from a little roadside store and decided not to wait for transport but start walking. Almost immediately I came upon a sign that I remembered seeing before. It said Chisamba 20 km! I almost turned straight around and went back to the junction a couple of hundred metres behind me. However I then thought that if I started walking I was bound to be able to get a lift later on from a passing taxi or other motorist. When I was a bit younger I could walk at 6 mph (9 – 10 kph). I thought I could probably still maintain 5 mph – this converts to 8 kph. At this rate I should make Chisamba in 2½ hours i.e. by 18.15. so I decided to see how it went – the thought of a close encounter with the monkeys probably tipped the balance.

Well I didn't see the monkeys but enjoyed the wealth of birdlife - a couple of falcons sat on poles or power cables on my journey as did hornbills and rollers, egrets flew in the fields and flocks of crowned lapwings took off noisily as I passed. Numerous other birds that I couldn't identify sang and flew past as I made my way to the east – the afternoon sun getting lower in the sky. The sun set at about 18 hrs as it does almost throughout the year here (sunset is never before 17.30 or after 18.30). Having seen the moon yesterday I knew that it wouldn't be dark here for many hours. Which as it happened was just as well! There were times when I even wondered whether I had somehow gone on the wrong road. However, I enjoyed the stillness of the moonlit night. I was on a major tarmacked road and the Lord had provided the moon to brighten my night, so I managed to relax and enjoy the experience. More so when a passing man – the only one I remember on foot for the bulk of my journey - assured me that I was very close – and it only took 40 minutes from there. By the time I reached Chisamba Guest Houseat at 19.20 the bats were well out and I was ready to collapse with a cool drink. However dinner was ready as soon as I ordered it and water was my cool drink. A cold bath afterwards was very refreshing though the water is very angry tonight! It hisses, gurgles, roars and bursts forth with great force or is replaced by gusts of air. There are no plugs here and you probably would really want to get immersed in these baths! So a container of cold water poured over the head seems the best option. This reminds me of baths in the Philippines. There we were asked whether we knew how to take a bath – we said yes and then found that the bathroom contained no bath but a large tub of cold water and a ladle. The technique was to throw water over yourself using the ladle. Very refreshing!

By the way I do get hot water back in Monze but you don't really want anything above lukewarm here at the moment and cold water(probably 25 C) is often preferable.

Unfortunately the bar closed early tonight – Friday! So I missed out on the soft drinks and water that I wanted. I have filled a bottle from the pump outside and hope I won't regret it later!!

Good night