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


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