Monday, November 8, 2010

A Wonderful Day

Sunday 7th November

Today has been a very good day. I am now really in Zambia!

On Thursday Justine took the beef – so I enjoyed the chicken. The menu since has, as expected, been the same – except that the beef has been taken off the menu!

I didn't have the best sleep on Thursday night, but on the Friday I was a bit less tired. In reality it takes a little while to fully adapt to all the changes – how people whizz around the world hitting the ground running, wherever they land I am not sure. Though no doubt first class travel and a good rest on the flight must help.

I spent most of the day on Friday at the Centre re-acquainting myself with the accounts database that needed to be restored, talking to Justine about progress during the past six months and the plans for the future. I also inspected some of the damage caused by a fire a month or so back. A neighbouring farmer was burning the stubble on his farm on a windy day and the fire jumped the windbreak into Kaliyangile. It went through the gardens burning the crops and burnt a structure next to the 'flat' I occupied last year. The wooden poles are standing but have been too badly burnt to be re-used. The building contained feed for the cattle, which was also destroyed. The following day Davidson went to have a bath only to remember that his bathroom was another casualty of the fire.

In the evening, after my meal, I avoided the bar and returned to my room. I had borrowed the Centre USB modem (or dongle), so, since this time I have a power socket in my room, I was able to post my previous blogs and check my e-mails without having to move.

I awoke as the sun burnt it's way through the curtains just after 6 hrs. A breakfast of 3 fried eggs, salad, chips and bread is really enough to keep me going all day! I went to the Centre in the morning.

I have decided to make my way to Monze on Monday, so we needed to go through a few things over the weekend. In general I like to keep weekends free – particularly Sundays - but I don't want to delay getting things moving in Monze. Once I have started all the plates spinning, I will have no difficulty keeping busy ensuring none smash! But, if you are aware of the analogy, it often takes a while before the plates all get going – and I have a lot of plates to spin!!

I had seen a notice announcing a Brai (i.e. barbecue) at Fringilla run by the Holy Cross Catholic Church here in Chisamba. Justine had been asked by Fr. Dominic if he would be supporting the event. He was inclined to go but hadn't enough fuel for the journey. I said that I would be happy to attend and could contribute towards the petrol. So a little before 13 hrs we set off for Fringilla - for the first time since I arrived in Chisamba I saw some pale faces as we arrived at Fringilla Guest House.

The first time I came to Chisamba without a 'chauffeur', Mrs. Sianga and myself overshot the Chisamba cross-roads and when we asked to be shown to the guest house were taken to Fringilla. We were a little surprised and thought our luck was in! Fringilla is a very pleasant lodge with 4 star amenities (but with prices to match - though perhaps not UK prices). Needless to say Chisamba Guest House is a little more basic but it is 25 km closer to the Centre – and also closer to the budget!

Once again Fringilla Guest House was not our intended destination – as we realised when handed the menus for the Brai, with the accompanying prices. Eventually we found Fringilla camp site were the entertainment was getting underway – and yes, other than myself, everyone was a person of deep colour!

The MC announced that since it was a Catholic event, as well as the soft drinks, Mosi, Castle, wine and even whisky would be available!

For the first couple of hours the MC / DJ had the children entertaining us with a dancing competition. I remember how scandalised some people were by Elvis Presley's hip movements in the 60's, well some of the three year old children performing on Saturday could have taught him a thing or two. Those who have experienced the dancing in Africa will know what I mean!

We then had a group called Fanwell who classified themselves as Gospel singers. They were OK but I must confess to finding it difficult to understand how waving my hands, or shouting Alleluia, proved that God was the most important thing in my life (even though it is.).

After more dancing another group hit the stage. In fact they jumped on to the lorry trailer that formed the stage and did there best to get it moving out of the field. At one point some speakers on the 'stage' were moved to the floor because that's were they were heading as Mazeteti dancing and jumped with gusto. Soon members of the audience joined them on stage which didn't phase them in the least – in fact they were warmly welcomed. A couple of the guys jumped off the stage and soon were surrounded by children wanting to get in on the act. So the performer arranged the children in a circle and led them in an array of different dances. He obviously enjoyed the experience as much as the children who followed his moves circling with tremendous enthusiasm, joy and skill.

It was clear to me that God and Mazeteti were friends by the way they related to all around them – somehow they didn't have to wave there hands or sing alleluia to prove it.

At about 18.30, when it is dark here – despite being the equivalent of the height of summer – we headed back to the car. We called at the petrol station for a bit more fuel and then returned to the campsite to pick up the young lad we forget when we left earlier!

I didn't need an evening meal, but I had a refreshing 'bath' and popped in to the bar to pick up some water. While there a guy switched from the state controlled channel, which shows what Rupiah Banda, the President, has been doing during the day to Strictly Come Dancing! I quickly left, having explained that I had travelled 5,000 miles to get away from Strictly Come Dancing! I also did a little work sorting out a few issues with the accounts system before picking up on John Grisham and turning in before 23hrs.

So to today! I slept well and again awoke to the bright African sun. Mass was at 8hrs so there was no time for breakfast. At the beginning of mass Fr. Dominic spotted me – he must have keen eyesight to pick me out of all the other parishioners! So I was introduced once again to the people of the Holy Cross church. I was grateful that yesterday I wasn't selected to speak to the crowd from the mike! It reminds me of similar issues we had when my wife and I visited Burma a few years back – it is sometimes very difficult to fade into the background.

I again enjoyed the singing and dancing that is so much a part of Christian celebration (as well as life in general) here in Zambia. Fr. Dominic explained for his 'friend from Kaliyangile' that the choir were going to sing a song which said “we believe in heaven”, which was the theme of the gospel. When I think sometimes what we as Christians profess to believe it is staggering! Our belief in a life after death is one of these mind blowing concepts. Still some scientists apparently believe that the universe came into being out of nothing, without any force present to facilitate the change – personally I am more inclined to believe in Heaven! I was interested that Fr. Dominic talked about metamorphosis in relation to the idea of heaven (I am not sure whether it is the same word in Nyanja, he spoke in at least two languages during the sermon). He talked of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly – one apparently dying in order for the other to live a more wonderful existence.

In the Gospel Jesus tries to explain that after death we will be different beings – as the angels. I think so often we make the mistake of thinking of God as a human being and life after death as a continuation of life here on earth. We can be sure that the difference between the caterpillar and the butterfly is nothing compared with what we can expect and that nothing can prepare us to understand the mind of God.

At the end of mass I thought I was in the clear, but, when the notices began, the man from Kaliyangile was asked to stand up to receive the applause of the assembled congregation – which he did as graciously as he could!

Outside the church I was greeted by a number of the parishioners including Fr. Dominic. The children came to shake my hand and give me high fives. As I left the church I felt like the Pied Piper, as a group of children trailed behind me. They accompanied me back to the guest house before waving a cheery goodbye before going on their way.

I intended to have a rest so I lay on the bed and read a little. I then decided that I really needed a walk. I was getting a little hungry, having still not eaten since supper, so, as I passed along the road, I picked up a few bits for lunch.

I have been disappointed that Chisamba seems to provide little scope for walks in the bush. I had seen a track the other day but on reflection thought that I had tested it on another occasion and found it just led to a local house. I headed towards the track but before the railway line came across another. As tracks go here, it was quite substantial. I headed along and was pleased to see a few houses to my right and very little fencing - suggesting that I was unlikely to be on private land. I passed a large tree full of birdsong and headed for another which was probably ¾ kilometre from the main road. The track continued but I settled under the tree. The other waitress at the guest house (not Citride) was excited when she saw my John Grisham novel – apparently she loves to read them. So I need to finish it before I leave tomorrow morning. I decided that under a tree away from anyone was the place to do some serious reading! Here in Zambia I am glad of a bit of shade when I can find it – in the UK the sun is so scarce, and rarely too hot, that I don't like to waste the opportunity to greet it wholeheartedly.

So I began with my feast. Two boiled eggs, four bananas, a packet of freshly roasted and salted peanuts and the crowning glory - my first mango of the year! Everything here seems to taste a bit better than in England. The eggs are different sizes and colours – one of those I bought was pleasantly spotted, each comes with a small packet of salt wrapped in plastic – reminding me of Smiths Crisps in the 50s! The bananas have probably been picked in the past few days and are full of flavour, the peanuts are again grown locally and come in light plastic bags – thinner than cling film and sealed at each end. Then there are the mangos!!!! Anyone who knows me well or has followed my blog before knows how I feel about fresh mangos. I had a text from Fr. Kenan in Monze a couple of days ago asking me to ring as soon as I touched down because he has mangoes ready for me! It is early in the season and mangos seem only to be available in Lusaka at this time. The seller told me that she paid 500 kwacha for the big ones in Lusaka and was selling them for 1,000 kwacha here! (about 13p). I did some friendly haggling over the price – since the child next to her had offered the same mango at 500 kwacha, but was more than happy to pay 1,000 kwacha for my first mango.

I am fortunate that the laptop runs off a battery – unfortunately all the flies are now attracted to the screen – since the power has just gone off and my screen is the only source of light in the room.

Sorry where was I? Oh yes waxing lyrical over my mango. Yes it was a good introduction to 2010 mango eating – it wasn't the juiciest fruit I have eaten, but still beyond comparison with what claim to be mangoes in the UK.

A walk in the bush, a mango feast and a few chapters under the shade of a beautiful tree, filled with glorious birdsong – there definitely is a heaven, and I suspect it might be here in Zambia. I have now arrived!

Each visit to Zambia seems to highlight a different part of nature. I am struck this year by the vast assortment of jumping creatures. No kangaroos, but grasshoppers that start at the size of those found in the UK and extend to some perhaps 10 cm (4 inches) long. They are of various colours. Most look drab on the ground but some look like butterflies when they jump and fly over distances of 30 metres or more.

The weather here is getting warmer – sitting under my tree, I sometimes thought that I was no longer in the shade – only to realise that the heat came purely from the air. When I arrived back I decided to throw some cold water over me – only to find that the tap was only providing hot water today!

Today I was re-acquainted with the mini-tornados that occur regularly here. They rarely come to anything and usually are much less than a metre in diameter and no more than a couple high. We did have some wind this evening at the guest house – on one occasion I suspect it was a slightly larger tornado, these pick up the local rubbish and spin it 20 or 30 metres into the sky. These, though more powerful, seem also to pass without any substantial damage being done.

This afternoon I had another session with Justine for a couple of hours before returning to write this blog. My regular readers know I can go on a bit – for any newcomers I hope you will bear with me!


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