Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Glorious Days & Moonlit Nights

Tuesday 30th March

Early evening is a glorious time here. The air is cooling a little and the bright sun sheds beautiful colours through the scattered clouds, as it sinks towards the horizon. Today have been a lovely warm Zambian day and this evening even better than usual. The promised heavy showers never arrived and yesterday's rain never amounted to anything.

I awoke at about 5.20 am this morning and knew that I was meant to attend the 6 am service at the other end of town. The roads here (as in Monze) follow the points of the compass. The main road running North to South and the roads past the project and back to the Lusaka Road junction, running East to West. So as I headed West towards the main road the sun began to rise behind me as the full moon sank in the sky ahead of me. It is obvious here why there is a full moon, because this always seems to be the picture. Its as if there was a metal bar though the Earth with the moon at one end and the sun on the other. As the Earth turns the fixed sun and moon rotate on opposite sides. For just a brief moment both objects are in view with me in the middle! And of course the sun is shining directly at the moon. The bible reading that says God made the Sun to guard over the day and the Moon the night, comes alive as I see the Sun take over from the moon as it disappears beneath the horizon.

I have realised that at the church here, I have not seen any instruments. All the music is just sung – but of course in wonderful rich harmonies.

I am busy trying to tidy a few things up before I move the next stage of my visit. So I spent most of the day working from room with the computer checking the database and copying all I need to keep onto my flash drive. (my computer will not come with me to Monze.)

At lunchtime I arranged to give Andy a call. I wanted to see how well 'Skype' would work with the modem. I want to encourage Justine to keep in touch and this is a possibility. In fact it worked OK – the video was slow and fragmented, though I could recognise my son. The sound was fine and Justine and Moses, who had chanced to drop by, spent a few minutes chatting. Barby my daughter tried to join in but unfortunately didn't sort out her system before I ran out of talktime. We were able to send a few messages however and she told me she could hear me even if the conversation was uni-directional!

It has always struck me how rarely the clouds block the sun here in Zambia. In August and September it isn't surprising because there are often no clouds. However, today the sky had a lot of scattered clouds and yet I cannot remember going out when a cloud covered the sun. It then dawned on me that clouds are very much three dimensional objects and probably their height is often as much as their length and breadth. In England the sun always comes at low angle and therefore is likely to be obstructed by depth of the clouds. Here of course the sun is often almost vertically above and therefore is not affected by the clouds height! There is a very large field of view at Kaliyangile so the clouds I see, all gather on the horizon.

Enough of my Physics lesson. Tomorrow is my last day in Chisamba for a while and I will be heading for Monze and Easter. I look forward to meeting my old friends there but will hardly have time to say hallo before I say goodbye again. This phase of my trip has gone very fast – as I expected – I think it has been worthwhile. I have certainly got to develop my relationship with the people here on site and have come to know the new staff and trainees. I hope that we will get to know each other well as time goes on.

In case I don't get to post another blog before Sunday I wish you Peace and Joy this Easter.

With Love and prayers


Monday, March 29, 2010

And Briefly

Monday 29th March

Today has been very much a day to concentrate on my work here and report my findings and suggestions back to HATW in the UK. We are currently experiencing a light shower, I hope it doesn't turn into anything more significant – no more rain is needed here, I am assured, until October.

It is very difficult to make any projects supporting the poorest self sustaining. Its a little bit like expecting the National Health Service or education in the UK to run without taxes – although there currently seems to be an attempt to pay for hospitals through parking charges for patients and their visitors. I am beginning to realise that most, if not all of this type of project will always need a regular input of funds from somewhere outside the project itself. Hands Around the World has introduced a sponsorship scheme for children and young people at some of their projects. This is hoped to meet at least some of the shortfall. (you can find more information on the HATW website www.hatw.org.uk )

This afternoon some of the trainees were busy clearing around the ponds ready for the introduction of the fish. It would be good to see them in use at last.

This is perhaps the briefest post yet!



Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday

Already, as I write this at 8 am, the sun is hot and the temperature is probably in the low twenties. Yesterday only two committee members turned up. Having confirmed that they were attending the others found that they had other functions that took precedence. Still Dr. Ngoma, Godfrey, Justine and myself spent some time looking at the draft business plan and I reported on my initial impressions, HATW support, the budget etc.

After the meeting, Justine's brother arrived and had a chance to look at one of the ponds and provide some valuable advice. His view was that the pond was viable and we should try to stock it after a bit of minor work.

I decided to wander into town in the afternoon to pick up one or two provisions. I met one of the students and she offered to accompany me to the market. I realised that I had left my caps at home and if I was to spend any time outside could do with one here. Several caps were advertising brands of clothes/footwear etc. I have never understood why anyone would want to spend money to advertise the products of rich multinational companies! So I kept looking. Having scoured the market, my favourite was one with South Africa and some lions emblazoned on it – I was told it was for sale at 4,500 kwacha. I said I might return. One shopkeeper grabbed me by the hand when I asked if he had a cap with Zambia – or Chisamba on it. He took me to one of the stores in the High Street – but not surprisingly they hadn't what I wanted. So I returned to pick up my cap which was now 12,000 kwacha! I said no and moved on, because I felt they had increased the price because I was 'white'.

I decided to have an evening off and do some more reading. This year I had nothing to read until the day before I left the UK and found a secondhand charity bookshop that was packed with my favourite authors. So now I am spoilt for choice – and Luke and others will be happy when I leave them with them! I was well into a Margaret Yorke novel. Her novels are rather dark and perhaps uncomfortably near to the truth. She is quick to draw out faults which we all have to an extent, but in certain circumstances can lead to lives of crime or other terrible acts. The novels are gripping and thought provoking. (I have now finished the one I was reading)

Davison informed me that the church service would start at 9 hrs instead of the usual 8. I arrived a few minutes early and the service was getting underway – not a usual occurrence in Zambia! We gathered outside the police station which is at this end of the High Street. The priest (Fr. Mauritius), in his turn, said that today was a day when all Christians, irrespective of denomination, race or colour celebrated the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem. The people of Jerusalem greeted him carrying palms. There were congregations from at least three Christian churches outside the police station listening to readings from each pastor and in a number of languages (including one reading in English from one of the female pastors). I think I was there representing the 'white' races as there was no one else present of my colour!

Sunday 28th March – Palm Sunday

We then processed waving branches of fresh green palms and singing hymns. Each congregation peeled off at their church and gave a final wave with their palms. It was about ½ mile to the Catholic church at the far end of the High Street where we gathered for a mass with lots of singing an some incense – it is a very special day for Christians and the start of the most important week in the church's calendar. It was 12.10 pm before mass was over – more than 3 hours after the service started, but it was a good an appropriate start to Holy Week. I couldn't help think of the fortune I have had to celebrate Holy Week, and in particular Palm Sunday, in some wonderful places. In 2000 we were in Manilla on our first visit to see Tino (or Celestino) – now Fr Celestino who we have been in correspondence with since the 70s. He hopes to visit us in England for the first time this June. We still have palms from that day in Manilla which the local people weaved into beautiful shapes. During mass some of the children here weaved the palms in a similar way. In the 90s I celebrated Palm Sunday in Lourdes – a shrine to Mary in the South of France. I was concerned about the long Gospel and numerous languages – particularly because we had elderly sick and disabled pilgrims with us. In fact the gospel of the passion that day was acted around the altar and brief verses from it were read in a variety of languages – one of the most beautiful Palm Sunday 'readings' I can remember. Todays gospel was chanted and sung by two male cantors and a few female choristers – one of the cantors was Davison again something new to me and very beautiful.

I decided that the the 4,500 for the cap was a mistake later put right and therefore returned to the shop and parted with the 12,000. I had decided to go for a walk so a cap was needed, as was some suntan cream. So after setting off up the dirt road I returned for the cream I had forgotten to put on! At the second attempt the boys who were fishing in the pool, left by the rains, wanted me to 'copy' them – probably mistaking my binoculars for a camera. I thought they had fish to show me but I never saw any. However they were delighted by the pictures and thanked me very much.

There was an abundance of bishops about today which I thought on such a holy day was very appropriate, even if most were Yellow Bishops! These are beautiful black birds about the size of a starling with a glossy yellow back. My walk just took me up the road for a mile or two and back again. Unfortunately most of this area seems to be owned by farmers with lots of land and wire fences, so my forays into the bush are not so easy – I think I need a bit of advice and maybe a bike! Anyway it was a delight to get out into the warm air and enjoy the wildlife and African scenery. I am missing the bird book that I loaned last year but find I can now guess some of the birds from the way they move as well as the shape and colour – at least I have a good attempt to identify the family. As well as the bishops, there was the odd bulbil, probably a black backed kite, some doves,
swallows and a hornbill that were easy to spot and towards dusk a flock of egrets flew overhead. In one of the pools I found a couple of decent sized fish so perhaps the boys weren't wasting their time. It seems that many fish had found their way into the drainage system during the floods. The pools also contain lots of beetles and tadpoles. In a couple of months they will be dry.

I returned home at about 5.30, managed a refreshing shower before the water ran out and cooked my meal just before the electricity was cut off – so my timing was perfect for once!

I hope to get on the Internet soon and have a few mails to prepare so goodnight and best wishes.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Power off/on Puff!

Friday 26th March

Unusually this year I am writing my blog during a power cut. Apparently 'load shedding' is still part of life in Zambia – it might be worse in Monze.

I have spent most of today in my 'Office' amending the accounts system, thinking of improvements and trying to get to grips with the finances.

I decided to stroll into town to buy a loaf and to allow my brain to work in the fresh air for a change – though during the day I leave my front door and both windows wide open. By the way what's the weather like back home? The town seems relatively dry now – the guys hiring out boots and carrying across the stream are out of business – there is no longer a stream! I called in at a shop I visited on Sunday and asked if anyone had got hold of some tea towels and, as promised, they were there waiting for me.

I haven't seen the news or read a paper for over a week now. It is amazing how I can cope without it here. Yet as soon as I get home I need to find out what is on the news and feel deprived if I miss it.

The power is back on. The solar lights that I brought with me however don't seem to have on/off switches, so I have placed the one that worked outside to avoid it's flickering light all night. In trying to find a suitable position I lost the spike that goes into the ground. I hunted with my torch but only found a handsome frog looking up at me as if to say – what are you doing!

Justine brought me a new kettle yesterday and I asked him to get me an adaptor today. I have just had the chance to try them both out. After a minute or so there was a sound like a 'puff' and some smoke coming out of my new adaptor – so its back to the pan for boiling my water!

Tomorrow we have a management committee meeting, so I need to do a bit more serious work before turning in!


Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Sounds of the Countryside

Thursday 25th March

I am feeling refreshed after my evening cold shower in the block hundred metres or so from my rooms. The sounds here are mainly of the countryside. Next door (literally) there are 300 chickens, the cicadas are providing a background of sound and owls also add their voice to the evening. In the distance there is a storm because on the horizon, many miles away the sky is lit with regular forks of lightening. Today there was a strong breeze that caused the wind pump to sing - competing with the rich variety of birdsong. The European Swallows are congregating on the power lines no doubt getting ready for their long trip back to their breeding grounds, chats, bubils and African Pied Wagtails are numerous and in the sky above hawks and eagles circle and hover. Lizards scamper about the grass and around the buildings.

The cows are away from the Centre at the moment making their acquaintance with one of Patrick's Bull's – we look forward to some calves in a few months and being able to supply some of the local demand for milk.

I have spent most of today tidying the database for the accounting system and adding a bit more data. This also makes me more familiar with the activities and costs associated with the project. I made a point of taking a few photos of the students and the chickens to record the progress since my last visit.

I awoke this morning to a thick mist - my first in Zambia! In recent mornings there has been a dew on the grass – reminding me of camping in the UK. It doesn't take long though for the sun to dry the ground – or to burn away the mist.

Well I need to sort out another book having finished The Rainmaker.

Best wishes


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Back to the sandals

Wednesday 24th March

It has been dry since Saturday and conditions around Kaliyangile are much improved. I can now venture out without my wellingtons.

On Monday I woke to find that we had no power. So Justine suggested that the trip to Lusaka I had scheduled for Tuesday should be brought forward. I checked that Diven was well again and Justine took me to Chisamba crossroads where there was a bus waiting. The bus moved off picking up passengers as we went and was soon full (but in my experience not excessively so). There was the usual assortment of luggage, including a couple of live chickens. As we approached the first police check point we stopped and a few passengers were encourage to leave! They joined us the other side of the check point having passed by on the other side of the road, where there was a path behind some tall grass. At the next check point everyone stayed on board and we were ushered through without any problem.

In Lusaka I found an Internet cafe and sent an e-mail. The network seemed quite good but I probably spent an hour, sent one e-mail (without attachments – they failed) and got as far as my blog but couldn't log in! This is very much the reality here and I am not aware of another Internet cafe closer to Chisamba. (Lusaka is at least 50 – 60 miles away). While in Lusaka I received the very sad news that the mother of my best friend Jeff, from my school days, had died. I am very sorry that I won't be able to attend the funeral. Throughout much of our schooldays we spent the holidays at my house or, more often, his. I got to know his mother over this period and she was always ready to welcome me and make me at home. She will be sadly missed.

I met Diven at CHAZ which has become our regular meeting place – one that both of us know well. We headed to the shops where Spar is sited, where we can eat and were the MTN offices are. MTN is one of three telecoms network providers in Zambia. The Zambian state-owned provider doesn't provide a signal in Chisamba or I would be inclined to use them. My objective was to obtain a modem that would connect Kaliyangile to the Internet. A similar device from the other provider had stopped working and the current view is that MTN is a better bet. The girl behind the counter assured me that it would work fine and that it only cost 2,000 kwacha (30p) an hour after the initial cost of 800,000 kwacha for the modem and SIM card. Unfortunately I was in a queue with only one assistant so I didn't feel able to quiz her extensively and hoped I could check it out before I left Lusaka.

After some chicken and chips Diven led me to his shop/house. (He sleeps behind the counter because he doesn't want to leave the premises unguarded – he couldn't afford rent on a house anyway!) It is quite a trek to his place in one of the compounds in Downtown Lusaka. I have never seen another 'white' face in this area in normal times – but Lusaka has been suffering from a lot of flooding and these are not normal times. We soon come across a small stretch of water and I have to revive my skills at jumping between stepping stones. Some of the surrounding homes are submerged in water – in places a metre or so high – window level. The water is far from clean so there is a constant stench in this area. We have to negotiate several more shallow lakes before arriving at his shop. The real art is jumping onto a stepping stone where there is already a sitting (though hopefully standing!) tenant, without both of you ending in the drink! I arrived with relatively dry feet but didn't relish the return journey. Of course those who live here have this and often much worse trials to overcome every day during this period.

Diven's shop is not making any money – barely covering the rent, if that. So he plans to move back to Monze where things were a lot better. He has power so I connect and install my modem. I seem to have a network connection but failed to get on the Internet before deciding it was time once again to brave the waters.
The foot traffic (not that there is much else around here) was all in the other direction on the way back and at the largest crossing there was a jam. Diven did his best to quell the tide but it was only with careful negotiating and much sharing of stones that we made it across.

At about 18 hrs I hopped onto a bus – having refused to get on the empty bus that was apparently going to Chisamba sometime! We moved off without being full – but very slowly. On the outskirts of town we pulled into a lay by. My fellow passenger in the front seat told me we had to get off and on to the bus conveniently empty in the same lay by. We had broken down! After five minutes we all got back onto the original bus because there was a dispute between drivers over the fares. Fortunately our bus now seemed to work fine!! The driver obviously didn't want to take the bus to Kabwe and I wasn't sure how far we would get – especially when we stopped at the next garage to check the tyre pressures. However, after matching the front tyre pressures (there was a difference of 10psi) there was no further incident – just a bit of banter between driver and passengers.

Justine was waiting at the crossroads and I was soon back home, having replaced the talktime I had left with Diven by mistake!

It would be Tuesday afternoon before my modem jumped into operation and I was able to connect to the Internet.

It was good to wake up to sunshine on Tuesday morning – more like the Zambia I have come to know and love. I hope that the dry weather has also impacted on those in town flooded out – at least it won't be getting worse since water is no longer flowing. At last I am able to make a bit of progress with updating the accounting system I installed in November.

Although all the sockets here seem to have 3 'square' pin outlets, many of the appliances have 2 round pin plugs. I learnt very early on how to reconcile the two (suffice it to say that it is better to facilitate the connection using plastic rather than metal!) It is also a strange fact that most 3 pin plugs need skilful adjustment for them to make an electrical connection. It was only on Tuesday morning that I linked the two facts and realised that the connectors in the socket were being forced apart by the oversized round two pin plugs! A little later I experienced a common consequence of this situation, when I couldn't extract my plug from the socket however hard I tried. In adjusting the plug it is common to hear a crackling sound as sparks fly, sometimes if the connection is not good this can continue. Many plugs here have a plastic insulation on the pins and, subjected to very high temperatures, this melts and welds plug and socket together – the exact phenomenon that I had just experienced!! Unfortunately I will not be using the kettle tonight!

Tuesday was also my grandson Jack's birthday (apparently he likes the blog – at least some of the photos!). I just had enough battery life to make an elementary card and e-mail it - now that my modem is working.

Again sunshine greeted me this morning. I had a new shirt to wear – presented yesterday by the tailor who made it during the past couple of days and I was also given back my sandals that had been repaired by one of the students after the strain they suffered in Lusaka on Monday. I have been suffering through lack of caffeine and so I am relieved when Moses came to replace my plug and socket. Moses told me he was a Jehovah's witness and the repair probably lasted twice as long as as usual as we shared our views of Christianity. At lunchtime I was treated to a very large portion of nshima and beans, with an additional cassava leaf relish. With an effort I consumed it all but declined further nshima for supper. I think we have agreed that I will have food prepared by the cook at lunchtime during the week and look after myself otherwise. If not I will gain a couple of stone instead of losing it on this trip!

I am getting to know some of the students now – though I can't remember their names. I walked into town yesterday with the girl students who were very interested to know more about England. This afternoon I popped into one of the classrooms and chatted to some of the lads. They are a lively bunch and are a delight to be around.

With any luck I will connect to the Internet and be able to send a mail and post this blog. Then I can read a little more of my John Grisham novel, have a brief look at the stars – the Southern Cross is very prominent at the moment – and hide once more under the mosquito net.

Bets wishes


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

At last a little sun

Today I was able to enjoy a little sun. On my previous trips I have probably experienced as much time without sun (in total) as I have in the past 4 days!It was therefore wonderful to enjoy a little sun this afternoon and see Zambia at it's best – if we ignore the new rivers and lakes surrounding the town.

I was surprised when Davidson told me mass started at 8 hours. In Monze I usually attend Sunday mass at 9.30 or 10 hrs. We arrived just after 8 but were in time. Davidson is in the choir and therefore couldn't afford to be late. Mass was not as lively as I am used to in Monze and no one danced! However the choir sang well. Before mass the visitors – a group of nuns and myself - were introduced to the congregation.

People are very much more sociable than back in the UK. You cannot move around without people greeting you. Davidson seems to know everyone in Chisamba and carries on numerous conversations as he passes by. I now seem to had acquired a number of friends and get greeted regularly as I move around the town. Many people have suffered from the flooding – one man told me that he had a small holding in one part of town and a house in another – both were under water. As I spoke to Moses, the Chief Commissioner for the area introduced herself to me. There are many senior people in Chisamba investigating the flooding and people hope they will also bring solutions.

After mass we returned home and I had a relaxing few hours reading and watching some of the birds. The power lines are good perches and a bee eater joined the sparrows and swallows this afternoon. Another smaller bee eater – probably a 'little bee -eater” took advantage of the leaking water tank to enjoy a shower – it was so good he returned several times. Overhead black storks flew in small flocks.

I decide that it was time to hit the tracks on my own, so I headed for the market. There were a few things I needed to make my home fully functional – like waste bins and containers to thwart the army of ants that seem to have decided it's too wet outside. Enroute I was greeted by many people. I had an apology to make to Moses. As I left in November Moses handed me a note requesting support for a project run by his church the United Church of Zambia (UCZ) for orphaned children and vulnerable adults. I was meant to pass this on to Hands Around the World (HATW) but never checked whether they already had a copy. The church provides some clothes and extra food for these people, but talking to Moses he suggested that if they could buy an oil extractor the people would be able to help themselves by extracting oil from groundnuts and soya to make cooking oil. The cost of this equipment is £3,000 - £3,500. It is not something that HATW is likely to be able to help directly with but maybe a contact might be interested. The UCZ is part of a group of Christians that includes the Methodist church. It's possible that a church might be interested in supporting a project such as this.

With the assistance of some helpful stallholders I managed to find almost everything I was looking for – tea towels still elude me! I called into the Guest House and had a coke. There was a man originally from Zimbabwe and we got talking. He left 7 years ago, though his family is in Zimbabwe at the moment. He left with a white farmer who was employing him. He had nothing good to say about Mugabe who he says has destroyed the country. He works in Zambia in order to pay to educate his children in private schools back in Zimbabwe. He would love to return but not while Mugabe is still around.

On the way back I met a lady and we got talking about cooking. She tested me on the way to cook nshima and kapenta and seemed satisfied with my answers. She said she was pleased to see me because a white pastor came out and taught her a lot about God and I reminded her of him. She said she was keen to hear stories about England even if she could not visit the country. I told her that I was just as interested to here her stories – to which she answered that she had lots!

There is a tremendous richness here in the people and their culture. People have not lost the art of conversation – nor the desire which seems to be so lacking back home in England.

Karen (the tailor) made me some nshima with egg and vegetables this evening which saved me cooking. However time is still running away – so I will say goodnight.


Chisamba Floods

Friday 19th March. As well as gaining two hours, I have lost a day according to my watch! However I am sure it is now Friday! I am settling into my new home which has been quickly produced with the help of the craftspeople here.

My plane left on time on Wednesday evening – though as usual it takes nearly 20 minutes to taxi to the runway and wait your turn in the queue before taking off. The flight was uneventful with just a few small periods of turbulence. We made good time and landed just after 6 am (4am UK time) – breakfast before 5 am (3 am UK time). So, other than being in the usual state of tiredness, I embarked to a wet reception at Lusaka airport (The first time I have experienced rain on my arrival) – a temperature of about 20C was some consolation. For the first time I can remember we were met by a bus to take us the hundred yards to the arrival gate. Recently I have been given special treatment and ushered to the 'Zambians' queue at immigration. This time I joined my usual 'Permit Holders' line only to find that the visitors where shown to my place in the 'Zambians' line - by the very nun who usually picks me out! Anyway I cannot complain because I passed through immigration without any problem and with no suggestion that I needed a visa.

There was no sign of Godfrey to meet me, which was fine because it gave me the opportunity to sort out my mobile – my SIM from last year jumped back into life with a bit of extra talktime and I was even given back the time remaining from November. After a quick trip to the bank I headed for the coffee lounge /cocktail bar – stopping briefly at the chapel to give thanks for a smooth passage so far and ask him to keep up the good work.

I was able to contact Jennipher and Diven to let them know I had arrived. Jennipher has traditionally been the first person to greet me when I have arrived in Monze in recent years and was not going to wait another two weeks! She had intended to leave Pemba on Wednesday and stay in Lusaka overnight. However she was still en-route when I rang, having left Pemba as I landed at the airport! So when Godfrey arrived I pleaded to wait for a little while until she had a chance to meet me. This was readily agreed. While waiting for Jennipher I was greeted by a man who said his name was Eric – he recognised me from Monze and was a parishioner at Our Lady of the Wayside. At about 10.30 I met up with Jennipher for a light snack. I caught up on news of her family. Soloman is still in Zimbabwe having gone there before Christmas to collect some items that belonged to his mother and grandmother (both of whom died about the time I left last year). He also found there a child – probably a nephew or niece – who is sick. Emmanuel is doing well and growing – he will be about 6 months old now, Selina is fine – though not happy that she wasn't allowed to go with mum to meet uncle! Mike and Sandra are about to return home for Easter from their respective schools.

Having failed to make further contact with Diven I headed for Chisamba in Godfrey's car. A group of vultures circled overhead and a few monkeys darted across the road as we made our way to Chisamba town. As we approached the Kaliyangile project site Godfrey rang ahead to arrange for some help with the bags. He wasn't going to risk trying to get his car on site. Fortunately Moses was around with his four wheel drive – so we jumped in as he demonstrated how to drive through the swamp that used to be a road track to the site.

It was good to see the centre now active. There were a number of women studying tailoring and a group of men busy in what used to be a chicken house doing carpentry. The traditional male/female roles are still much in evidence in Zambia. It was also great to meet Justine and Davison again and be in familiar surroundings.

We had a chance for a look around and time to catch up on the significant progress since last year. I greeted the people with my only Nyanja “muli banji” and thanked them “zicomo”. I checked out my accommodation and decided that it should be fine once I had some gumboots (the 'ablutions' are a little way across the 'damp' grass!) and a few items of furniture – some more work for the carpentry class.

It seemed appropriate to renew my acquaintance with the Guest House so Justine drove me and Davidson there for a late lunch / early supper. (I was very impressed by his handling of the conditions without four wheel drive). We were greeted warmly by the Guest House staff and I also renewed my acquaintance with meat and nshima!

We returned to site and decided that the best option was for me to spend the night at the Guest House to enable everyone to have time to finish preparing my accommodation.

My usual room was waiting for me – though when the manager saw the ants crawling over my bed he insisted I moved! I took Sondash's chair in the shelter but we greeted each other as old friends when he returned. As usual I spent the evening in interesting conversation with the guys in the bar (and enjoyed their last Mosi). By 9 pm I was more than ready to turn in – I had hardly slept since Tuesday night so dropping off was not an issue!

Saturday 20th March

The situation on site is not as bad as I had envisaged and many of the water levels of last night have decreased.

I was awake just after 6 hrs on Friday morning. I took advantage of breakfast which comprised eggs onion, tomato and bread – with a very welcome pot of hot tea, served by Citride. Before Justine picked me up at about 9 hrs I had a chance to talk to a guy from the copperbelt who was from a building firm engaged by the council to construct some latrines in the compounds around the town. He told me that because of recent heavy rain the area was too wet to do the work – he reckoned it might be June before they were completed. I was also told that many houses have collapsed because of the rains. Flooding has been a problem both here and in Lusaka where some people are living in tents because they can no longer live at home.

The rest of the morning I spent discussing the project and his plans. During this time it rained again heavily. Again it seemed appropriate for me to eat at the Guest House. By this time the main path from Kaliyangile looked more like a river and, at the main road, it turned into a lake. When we arrived at the Guest house it was an island with two rivers feeding the lake in front of it. Justine drove through what was the car park to deposit me as close to dry land as possible!

After lunch Citride pointed out her house which was surrounded by deep water – probably two feet or so – which she had to wade through each time she left. It was clear that the already difficult problems where getting significantly worse. Before he left one family, who lived close to the Guest House, told Davidson that they had abandoned their house because it was flooded and they had no idea where they would sleep tonight. Although the rain had stopped water was still moving very fast and flooding wherever it got the chance. Unfortunately I had left both my phone and camera at Kaliyangile so Justine was unable to tell me that, in his valiant attempts to provide a ferry service, he had burst a tyre. I also failed to take photos of the flooding. Eventually Davidson appeared to ask me my foot size for the gumboots. He returned an hour or so later with some boots that were too small. I suspect that the sizes here don't quite match ay that we are used to. As I thought I would have real problems with them he went of to fetch a larger pair. It was therefore almost 6 pm before I waded out of the Guest House. We discovered why the Guest House itself was still above water. There was a drainage ditch taking water across the road – all the ditches were full and often overflowing where they came to a culvert. Eventually the drainage system was giving up and the water was forming large lakes – often in inhabited areas. Along the high street some of the buildings including the veterinary clinic and the Post Office where flooded and as we approached Kaliyangile the road was now completely submerged with the Kaliyangile river – now a torrent! - passing over and along the road. Fortunately the upper track was not so bad and our boots were not quite swamped.

I picked up my camera and Justine and Davidson joined me to take a few pictures of the river. Davidson decided to pose in the river and just managed to keep his foothold - his boots however where beneath the level of the water. Justine also braved the torrent to take a photo of me with dry feet on the bank! I did feel a little guilty being the only one to keep my feet dry, but I wasn't sure that it was a good idea to wade in this water – though I suspect it was cleaner than that now surrounding the town.

I moved into my new accommodation on site. It is next to the cattle milking and feeding unit. The carpenter and his students have made me a table, a chair and constructed some shelves. The tailor has provided some curtains and lent me her kettle until another can be bought. I have water and electricity and a hundred swampy metres or so away is a toilet block with water, showers and soon will have electricity! So I am very happy with the arrangements.

A few cups of black tea and some bananas sufficed for supper. After a lovely shower with my torch as a light – though there is no hot water, it isn't unpleasant – I felt settled and refreshed and I settled down to some reading and writing my blog.

I made a final trip to the 'ablution block' at about 22 hrs. 21 58 would have been better! As I was about to return I heard a familiar sound and the rain had started again. Here it knows how to rain! I managed to pick a time when it wasn't full on – so I got wet but not totally drenched. The rain continued for at least the next four hours and I felt for those who are going to be badly affected.

Saturday 20th March. I woke just before 7 this morning. I was pleased to be able to get around without great difficulty – during the night I thought we might be completely cut off and even moving on site might be extremely difficult.

At a little after 8 hrs Justine came around and we planned our trip to town to pick up essentials like cornflakes!! There was a guy waiting for some eggs. It seems that there is no lack of demand for the eggs from Kaliyangile. All the eggs for today have been promised but there are other people wanting to buy and getting upset that there are no eggs for them. It seems that if production is increased there will be no problem in finding buyers. The guy took eight trays – though he was after 10 another was after 20 trays and a lady came wanting four. It was suggested that Kaliyangile should be proving 100 trays a day – 3,000 eggs!! instead of the 270 or so currently.

I was wondering how the eggs would be transported and then whether the wheelbarrow would be able to cope with the conditions – in the event there was one mishap and half a tray or so were damaged.

The drainage system was working better today so less was overflowing. However, I am sure that a lot more water has accumulated in the lowest lying areas. The High Street had become a river in part and some enterprising guys were hiring gumboots to cross a part of it - or even offering to carry people across the small stream for 500 kwacha (about 8p).

We picked up some provisions, pans and a hotplate and I took a few photos. ZNBC were with Sondash and the local police chief (I met her also at the Guest house) to take pictures and report on the flooding for the Government Television Station.

A little while ago Patrick arrived to say hallo. He is trying to establish a sports facility nearby with football, basketball etc. to give the local youth something positive to do with their spare time. He is holding a committee meeting here at Kaliyangile. He told me that yesterday morning more than50 cm of rain fell (2 inches) and overnight a further 30 cm fell. He has kept records since the 70s and says that the distribution of the rain is changing. When it rains it is tending to be much heavier – though over a season the amount is similar.

I cooked a meal in the evening with the rice & onions I bought earlier and a cabbage given to me by Davidson. After a bit more reading it was time for bed.

Leaving for Lusaka

As I sit in the departure lounge at Heathrow Terminal 5, awaiting my British Airways flight, I wonder what I have forgotten this time! I am aware that I have forgotten to leave my plastic cards and I am wishing that I had changed into my sandals for the flight – but otherwise I am blissfully unaware of what wont hit me when I arrive in Zambia.

The security seems to be more of a pain each time. We were instructed – rather roughly, to take off belts, high heeled shoes and boots, jackets and to put everything in baskets – laptops in separate baskets etc. etc. We then had to grab the baskets before they disappeared down a hole. At the end of the process I felt rather annoyed and slightly abused.

Anyway I have now dressed again and sorted myself out with a pot of Earl Grey tea.

I arrived at Heathrow by bus because it seemed that Dilys would have difficulty taking me. As it happened changes would have allowed her to give me a lift. Having bought the coach ticket we kept to plan A.

As usual the last couple of days have been manic, trying to buy last minute items and contact people I should have been in touch with weeks ago. I have failed in my quest for a digital photo frame that runs on AA batteries! If anyone knows of one please let me know. It dawned on me that a number of my friends now have digital cameras with rechargeable batteries and solar powered chargers. So they have no problem taking pictures. However, they cannot afford to print them so they cannot currently see the photos they take – until my visit after next! Without mains power it is difficult – hence the AA powered photo frame.

Yesterday I visited Winston's Wish who specialise in supporting bereaved children. Dilys did wonderful work in this area in 2006 and it has made a significant impact in the way child bereavement is now dealt with. (As you will imagine this is a massive issue in Zambia.) I had a very positive discussion with one of the staff who handed over a box full of pamphlets – lucky my baggage allowance is so generous! - and asked to be kept informed about progress. I also managed to see the Volunteer Co-ordinator at Leonard Cheshire Disability on a separate matter. Of course conversation moved to Zambia and he was also very interested. If I get an opportunity I will try to visit Leonard Cheshire in Zambia. He would like me to give the residents in Cheltenham a talk when I get back anyway.

My other visit yesterday was to see my friend Mary who has typed up the reflections of three elderly Zambians on their lives. I hope we will be able to produce a booklet sometime with these and other reflections and stories.

It won't be long now before I have to go to the boarding gate so I will leave it there for now.

With my love and prayers – please also pray for me,


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Preparing for Zambia 2010

Although familiar, my preparations for Zambia are never quite the same and my visits are always very different. With less than a week to go I still haven't really come to terms with my next trip. I usually have nearly a year between visits - but this time it is barely 4 months since I was last in Africa and I expect to return again in November. This year I will split my time between Chisamba and Monze (my second home). As yet I haven't arranged accommodation or transport for next Thursday when I arrive - but I know that I will be able to sort something!

I expect a very different world to that I am used to. It is coming to the end of the rainy season - so I imagine a very lush green world where I would normally see an arid landscape. The sand will be grass and instead of dust I expect to find swamps!

I am looking forward to spending Easter in Monze with my friends from Our Lady of the Wayside church and my Small Christian Community - St. Veronica's. In 2005 we spent Easter in Myanmar and in 2000 we returned home from the Philippines on the evening of Good Friday, but this will be the first time since our marriage in 1972 that Dilys and I have been apart at Easter.

I am currently using a laptop to write this blog which I 'acquired' earlier today and like most of my acquisitions it will find a new home in Zambia!

Last night I removed anything I thought I could use from my laptop that died on my last visit. The next game is to see how much can be used to upgrade laptops out in Zambia - or those stillon their way out!!

Take care, with love and prayers