Tuesday, March 23, 2010

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.

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