Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Monze Rally

Monday 2nd November

I am finding it a little difficult remembering what day it is!

It seems like a week since I was in Monze yet it was only yesterday that I left for Lusaka, to return this evening.

Friday seems a very long time ago! I spent the morning sorting out the Personnel database to produce a new report that the Province requires, having picked up as much information from spreadsheets to produce an up to date database. After lunch I needed to go to the Internet café, call into the hospital and then set off to see Charles. In fact this order was dictated by the fact that the hospital staff would be away at lunch and meant an extra kilometre or two as I would need to double back on myself. In the event the Internet café had no Internet, as opposed to the other day when it had no power! I was two early for the hospital so I walked with my backpack and laptop to the market to buy a few bits and pieces essential to life here – like mayonnaise (particularly for lunchtime visitors – now a favourite and a must!) and enough cornflakes for my last 11 days in Monze.

I called at the hospital but personnel in Human Resources there were none. Now being heavily ladened, I headed home and dropped my groceries. Charles was waiting for me just after 15 hrs when I arrived. I have always enjoyed talking to Charles and sharing thoughts about his project, Monze and the world. I started by showing him a selection of photos of my family taken back in the UK and a few places that we have visited. One of my aims with Charles is to look at the business side of his project and discuss ways to generate greater profit to support his elderly and disabled clients. Last year I was interested in seeing what his clients could do to help support themselves. I asked what they did to socialise or entertain themselves and was told that they tell stories. So I have asked Charles to collect some stories and memories from his clients so that I can read them. I am personally very interested in what stories they tell. I have heard a few African stories that are moral tales – a bit like fables. I am also interested about some of the memories from some of the elderly people who will have lived through some very different times in the history of what is now Zambia. It seems to me likely that others might also be interested – so if all goes well I would like to produce some leaflets – or a book! - and sell them, the profit going to PEASSA (The charity Charles runs) to support his clients.

I think that too often – especially in our so-called developed world we don't value our older people highly enough. There is often great knowledge and wisdom held by these people and sometimes when they die we allow some of what we are die with them. I worry here that the changes and the devastating effects of AIDS on a generation will lead to the loss of much of the rich culture here – and part of that is the storytelling. It would be good to at least record as many of these tales as possible – though it would be good to see the oral tradition continue.

I thought that it would be particularly quiet at my house this weekend as the Australian girls next door were heading for Livingstone and Victoria Falls. So I was surprised to see the gate open on Friday after returning from my wander in town. Someone was cleaning the building at the bottom of the garden. In the afternoon a family arrived in their 4x4 and started moving into the back garden. Some into the building and others erected a tent!

Saturday was a day of great excitement in Monze. Most of you will have heard about the Monte Carlo Rally – but not everyone will be aware of the annual Monze Rally. Fuel had been put aside for the rally cars that had been arriving in town over the past few days. I went to the 7 hrs mass at the chapel and then picked up my camera and followed the gathering crowd to Monze Golf Course. I realise that I haven't told you a lot about this other side of life in Monze. I am sometimes surprised myself to realise that there are a few that enjoy a good life here in the town. It is of course a life that I and most of you are used to back home.

As we got closer to the golf course and the clock got ever nearer to 8 hrs. the pace of us in the crowd quickened and a few ran the last metres.

The golf course was packed with an expectant crowd. The rally cars were parked and soon started rolling onto a ramp – presumably for scrutiny before going to the start line. Then one by one they roared into action leaving clouds of brown dust as they skidded their way around a short tight course carved out of the golf course. I found a vantage point that allowed me to see some of them skid spectacularly before I was covered by a thick cloud of dust. The lady next to me covered herself with her chitengi each time a car passed by. After about half an hour all the competitors had been around the course and they headed 10 km up the Lusaka road to Moorings campsite where they would spend the afternoon. Mr. Meheritona wanted to take me with him but he couldn't get fuel for his car. As an official at the event he was allowed to jump on a truck – but unfortunately I wasn't allowed to join him. In the event I found I had more work to do than I realised, so spent a few profitable hours on my computer. I had enjoyed watching the rally section at the golf course and was well satisfied.

I found the Internet café in operation in the afternoon and returned just after the rally cars had returned to Monze and were on their way home.

It is already late so it will be tomorrow before I can fill in the next couple of days and no doubt Wednesday before I will post this blog.

Tuesday 3rd November

On Sunday I decided to go to the 7.30 mass at the Cathedral. David was due to arrive at Lusaka airport just after 12hrs but I decided that it wasn't critical to be there at the airport when he arrived – since Fr. Tim would be picking him up.

It was good to attend an English Sunday mass again. The 1st November is a day when the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of All Saints. Saints are those people who are now able to experience the full presence of God. At one time there seemed to be a view in the church that this privilege was only for the few and certainly not for anyone who wasn't Catholic. I believe that we live in a rather more enlightened age where we recognise that god speaks to people in many different ways. He is a God of love and compassion who is far more forgiving than any of us can be. I suspect that we would have to work very hard to avoid this wonderful gift of joy that will come after we part from this life. So there are many saints that I have known and I hope that they will have a quiet word with my God to help me keep on the right track. I am very aware that only by having God work through me, here especially, will good come of my efforts.

After mass it is straight up to Tooters Roadhouse to catch a big bus. I didn't bother to book last night thinking that I would have a choice in the morning. (And being too lazy to go for a 3km walk!)

I was informed by the man at the wooden booth selling Shalom tickets that the 9.30 Mazhandu Family Bus was full and that he had only 3 seats left for the Shalom bus that left at 10.30. I realised that if I caught the 10.30 bus I would be too late to meet David at the airport, but a word with Mazhundu confirmed the position and I had little choice (unless I wanted to risk hoping a Rosa would pass). So I settled down with a Cabana (Zambian milkshake or smoothie) and waited. I was a bit surprised that they don't sell papers at Tooters – which is effectively the bus station for the big buses (coaches) in Monze. However, by now I should know better. There is a culture of allowing everyone to have a chance here and find a little niche. So after a while a guy came along with a bundle of papers that would help him put a bowl or two of nshima on the table. So I took the opportunity to catch up with Zambian politics.

One of my 'missing' friends Towera appeared and came over to greet me. Towera has been working as a receptionist/secretary at the hospital in previous years but is now training as a Physiotherapist. She had come down to Monze for a couple of days and was also heading back to Lusaka – but had a ticket for the 11.30 Mazhandu Bus. Towera's father is Soloman Phiri – the Diocesan Projects Manager.

The 10.30 coach arrived at about 11.15 and left just before 11.30. So it was 14 hrs before I arrived in Lusaka. A taxi to Regiment Parish (Charles Lwanga Catholic Church) in the suburbs of Lusaka cost almost as much as the fare from Monze to Lusaka. When I arrived, Fr. Timothy told me that David's plane had been delayed so we wouldn't be leaving for the airport for another hour or so. In the event we we left a couple of hours later and not surprisingly David was already waiting for us. David left the UK two weeks previously to look at projects in Uganda and Rwanda and had spent the night travelling and waiting for planes.

David and I had some time to discuss the Zambian projects in the evening before he turned in for his first opportunity for some decent sleep in a couple of days.

Monday I was up by 5.30 so that we could head off for the airport by 6.00. Tony arrived with the car promptly at 6 hrs and we weaved our way across Lusaka arriving at the airport by about 6.40am to find Kevin (whose plane touched down at 6.20) waiting, having already been to the bank.

Jennipher was quite ill last year and needed some treatment for stomach problems. A specialist from South Africa has been attending to her and he was in Lusaka. We needed to met briefly so we met at the Inter-City bus stop. (Inter City is the main terminus for coaches in Lusaka and coaches go all over the country from here and into the neighbouring countries.) Jennipher joined us for breakfast of tea, omelette and bread which arrived promptly – after about 45 minutes!

Our next stop was Chisamba. We met with Godfrey and Moses and had a fruitful discussion about the plans for the project. Kevin, as always, was very supportive and confirmed his commitment. We had arranged to meet the new Manager, Justine, for lunch. So we adjourned to Fringilla – a very nice hotel with plenty of tables outside under the shade of a variety of trees. Patrick joined the party for lunch and we continued to get to know each other better and enjoyed a good meal.

Justine had come down from the Copperbelt that morning to join us – a 3 ½ hour journey. With David I had agreed the importance of meeting him and getting him to start work immediately. This has led to a change in my plans. So instead of leaving Monze next Thursday I will leave on Monday morning so that I can spend a few days in Chisamba with Justine! This means the office work I needed to do in 5 days now will have to be completed in two! How I will fit in my other projects and make sure I say goodbye to everyone I don't know – I am sure that, as usual, much will be left incomplete.

After a good lunch we headed for Monze – arriving just before 19hrs with the Southern Comfort Motel in darkness. Fortunately a generator soon kicked into action and we were soon enjoying yet another cooked meal. I then returned to my place with Tony(our driver) who was going to use my spare room.

For Tuesday I had arranged a busy schedule – seeing Mrs. Sianga and the school in the morning, followed by Sr. Christeta and finally in the afternoon Mrs. Chiiya and the VIM project. As usual the children entertained us at the school where there are now a total of nearly two hundred – all orphaned or otherwise disadvantaged. It is great to see the building, erected with help from a Hands Around the World team last year, being well used. In January an additional class of children will start at this building. The project here is definitely making a difference to the children here, without it they would have very little chance of an education. One of the teachers who used to reach the older grade 12 students at another school told me that the grade 8 students here were, in some ways, more advanced than his former students. The children certainly seem keen and very happy here. However, coming from very difficult backgrounds, school attendance can be difficult, so the school has voluntary 'care givers' who will follow up on absentees, find out the issues and try to get them to return to school. This is a vital service that helps the school to function properly and the students to obtain the standards required.

Sr. Christeta is a very bubbly lady who enjoys a joke and light hearted banter with Kevin. Like many she has come to know Kevin and David over the years. She made the trip from beyond Choma (100 km) to meet up with them this year. She was able to tell us how the hospital's project for orphaned and vunerable children was working. The guardians have produced items for sale – and I picked up my bag containing all 82 baskets they had in stock plus a few bags and aprons. Some children are also sponsored through their education and we were given details of a couple of them. She also said how child counselling (introduced in 2006 by Dilys) is now an important part of their work.

Finally we met Mrs Chiiya and her husband who brought us up to date with their project. They have about 100 students in years 9, 10 & 11. Of these about 30 are unable to contribute towards their education but are still accepted for their study. In addition to they receive some training in carpentry and gardening. We saw a class that had made sieves that are used for maize and to remove unwanted bits and pieces from other foods. The idea is to give 'life skills' alongside academic studies. Most students pay to come to the VIM school – at least a little. This enables the school to function and for others who are unable to pay to also learn. HATW has provided much of the infrastructure, but in the main the school is now self – sustaining so our future role will be maintaining a general interest, rather than active involvement – unlike the Maluba/PIZZ and Kaliyangile projects.

Mr. & Mrs. Sianga joined us for a meal in the evening and it was close to 22 hrs when I arrived back home with Tony.

Best wishes


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