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.