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


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