Saturday, October 30, 2010

Packing Already

Saturday 30th October

Things are moving forward. The last week or two have been occupied with a few last minute purchases and other preparation for my trip.

I find myself panicking about the things I have yet to do and the less than firm arrangements at the other end. Yet I know in the depths of my soul that all will be well.

Today I spent a couple of hours with Dilys watching the past couple of episodes of the Big Silence that were shown recently on BBC2. For anyone who hasn't seen these programs they are well worth watching – of course if you really want to find God and change your life then you need to experience the silence for yourself.

There are many reasons why it was good to watch the programs today. Firstly as I mentioned I have been feeling under pressure of late – rushing here and there and never having a moment free. I was reminded how important it is to take time out and to be still. Secondly, I have experienced the 'Big Silence' personally. In 2006 I went to Loyola Hall – a Jesuit retreat centre for a 7 day silent retreat. I know what the people in the program experienced, because I too met God in the silence. It changed my life and whenever I stop and listen, he is still there beside me as a constant companion in my life. Thirdly it was Ruth Holgate, one of the spiritual guides appearing in the program and a good friend, who recognised my need and arranged my special retreat.

It was apparently by chance that I came across the BBC program The Big Silence, but then if you experience it you will know that is often how God works.

I was about to ring Jim and Jean a few days ago to find out where I could get one of the foldable holdalls that they lent me a year ago, when a postman arrived very early one morning with a parcel containing some beautiful hand knitted jumpers and a foldable holdall! I am sure that I will find some delighted children – though it will be a while before they need to wear the jumpers! It is currently about 22°C in Zambia! (And that's the overnight minimum!!)

I received my tickets a few weeks back now over the Internet. Having checked the dates, I looked at the luggage allowance – as expected 1pc. (I think that means one 23kg bag). With British Airways I fly World Traveller Class – otherwise known as economy! and yes the allowance is one 23kg bag. Now this always presents a bit of a problem. Hands Around the World are keen to ensure that I survive the trip so they give me a medical kit which equates to a small pharmacy! I then have a few friends who need laptops and cameras and solar chargers and solar lights and rechargeable batteries and well lots of things! Then there are some kind friends who give me gifts of jumpers, medical supplies, prayer books etc. which would be most welcome in Zambia. So I need to make sure of my personal allowance. It is a little tricky, but by logging on to BA and preparing for my flight I can get the full details of my flights and the associated conditions of travel. Once again the document I now have printed in front of me says I can check in 3 x 23 kg bags – thank you Lord, I didn't really want to leave that stuff behind – and I do have a lot of baskets and bags to bring back with me – not to mention a Christmas present or two!

Today Diven rang to ask me when I was arriving in Zambia and Jennipher is planning to meet me in Lusaka. Justine has promised to meet me at the airport , though my room back in Chisamba is occupied – I wait to see what is in store for me there! Accommodation in Monze seems to be secured, though I couldn't get hold of Sr. Barbara to confirm.

Last weekend I popped down to Hastings to spend a couple of days with my Dad. He is in his 90th year but was fit enough for a walk along the seafront and he put up well with my non-stop conversation. The Barrells have a certain gene which enables them to talk endlessly once they get going. So beware! We might seem shy to begin with, but given the opportunity we can bore anyone to death!

On Thursday we were invited to attend a play starring Helen, a friend of mine who I was privileged to pray for as she prepared for her first communion, some years back. My Fair Lady was performed by a local amateur dramatic society. Helen is now a good looking woman and was outstanding as Elisa Doolittle. I remember that I was preparing for my first trip to Zambia when Helen was celebrating her Confirmation in the Catholic Church. She had a party and I could only stay briefly because I was involved in a street collection, raising money for our trip, on that day.

Today I have started packing! For me this is very early, but I hope to get down to London on Monday to say cheerio to my daughter Helen, Demi her husband and Asia and Jack - two lovely grandchildren.

Although this trip is only 6 ½ weeks, it will be difficult to be away from the family again. In many ways it gets harder rather than easier with each trip. The fact that Dilys was so ill during my last trip makes it more difficult. I pray that this time she keeps well and enjoys the peace without me!

Bye for now, with my love and prayers


Saturday, October 16, 2010

A new adventure is soon to begin

16th October 2010

Six months after returning from Zambia I am about to make another visit.

As usual I am thinking that there must be a lot I need to do in preparation and no doubt the day before I leave I will be rushing around trying to do things I should be doing now.

The weather in Zambia will have been dry since I left – possibly with no rain at all in the intervening months. Temperatures are rising – low to mid thirties being the normal maximum daily temperature. Much of the green will have gone to be replaced by a grey-brown parched and dusty land.

I have been in regular touch with my friends back in Monze and Chisamba trying to keep track of progress. The reality though is that internet access and mobile phones cannot replace face to face contact. Only by sitting with a friend in Zambia can I start to overcome some of the vast differences between us. There are lots of difficult issues to discuss and somehow even the phone is too impersonal and it would be so easy to end up with misunderstandings.

(The picture here is of Choolwe with Jennipher and Soloman)

Diven has now remarried and his shop is moving forward slowly. Jennipher is doing wonderful work but has suffered another tragedy. Choolwe, who joined Jennipher last year from Zimbabwe with her daughters Margaret and Anna, died two weeks ago from measles. Choolwe must have been in her early twenties – though she seemed much younger. Her daughter Margaret is probably 6 or 7 and Anna only 1 year old. It is tempting to think that such a loss in Zambia can't be felt as painfully as in the UK, but having been with so many friends who have suffered bereavement in Zambia I am aware the pain is just as bad – even though it might be more common.

I received an e-mail today from a friend in the USA who had been reading a book written by someone who had been travelling through Africa and had come to the conclusion that NGOs did more harm than good by creating dependency. I wouldn't defend everything that NGOs do but I know that everyday I meet people who would not be alive but for donated ARVs or food supplements. I am also aware of many that would not have died if additional nutrition or medicines had been available. Of course if we had a fair world, where the poorest weren't exploited by the wealthy, the people of Zambia and other countries could become self-sufficient. There is currently a campaign run by Christian Aid and other aid agencies to get large multinational companies to publish details of how much tax they pay in countries where they work. It is believed that large amounts of money due to poor countries is not paid by some companies whose names we are very familiar with. It is unfairness like this that takes much more from the poorest than is provided by NGOs.

I am told that my room next to the chickens in Chisamba is still available – though a shed next door was recently burnt down. I still have to negotiate for accommodation in Monze.

As usual this blog will be fairly quiet until I set off on my journey on 3rd November – then no doubt pages will flow unchecked for the next few weeks. I hope that you will join me on this journey and that I am kept well in check by the one who is responsible for all that is good. Please pray for me as I prepare for another adventure.

With love and prayers