Saturday, December 11, 2010


Saturday 11th November

Today has been a joyous day – for the Ignatians among you, one of deep consolation.

Yesterday I spent the morning working on the Diocesan Projects Database. In the afternoon I attempted to teach ACCESS to Dr. Mvula in record time. Dr. Mvula is very proficient with the computer and, like me, an advocate of Ubuntu and Open Source software. Unfortunately he has Office 2007 on his computer. I am convinced that, since Office 2007 offers very little extra functionality, Microsoft have deliberately made it operate differently to former products. It therefore looks like a different product. I have great difficulty in finding my way around it and, when I do, everything is more complex and takes longer (for no good reason). This made my attempt at record speed training more difficult. In practice there were also a couple of functions that I failed to find with 2007, but I achieved most of what I set out to do.

I went to the chapel for mass and afterwards met Jennipher and one of the people involved in a new support group. Some more computer work was required in the evening – at least it is still behaving itself on the whole. I have minimised cooking recently. I made some salad a couple of days ago and have been working through it with some rice and peanuts or eggs.

In recent days I have found myself quite agitated and concerned. I am very aware that I cannot complete all the jobs I need to do. I am also aware of the huge difficulties of the people around me. They all have very basic needs which they cannot meet themselves. A friend of mine told me that he was now doing well – he has a mattress, a radio, a television (though it is broken), some pots and a bowl to bath in! These were all things he didn't possess when we first met! Those involved in projects need support for them to survive and meet the needs of so many disadvantaged people. Over the years I have become involved in a number of these small projects. Where they have developed the needs increase! So ironically success tends to require more support and I cannot meet all the requirements myself.

So this morning I woke, as I have recently, in an amount of inner turmoil. After mass, I decided to ring a hotel near the Immigration office to book a room. It is a hotel I have used before and ideal for what I want. They said that they would even be able to store my bags if I went to Chisamba – the only problem was they were fully booked on Wednesday when the room was required. This was a bit of a shock, as I have never had a problem before – and this time I was relying on this booking. I had promised to visit Charles at 9 hrs so I set off just after 9! Charles lives a couple of km down the Livingstone road. I thought I had everything with me but forgot the few dollars I had for him. I also needed to get some cash from the ATM as I passed. When I reached Barclays Bank there was a notice over the ATM informing me that it was out of order so again I was out of luck

I have with me a book called “Landmarks”. The book helps us to focus on our lives, using the Ignatian suggestions for getting in touch with our deepest feelings and helping us to discern God's will for us. In Ignatian spirituality, desolation is characterised by negative feelings, unease and sometimes despair. Consolation on the other hand brings forth positive feelings such as peace and joy. It is good for me to remind myself of my Ignatian Retreat in 1996 and the lessons I learnt during that life changing week.

So I woke in desolation, but when my plan to book into Longacres Lodge was thwarted, I felt a certain excitement. Failing to access any money confirmed my initial thoughts and the joy increased!!

The Lord works in mysterious ways! My experience in 1996 was that whenever I had set clear plans they failed completely and I was taken somewhere different, or in some other way had to abandon my plans. I would feel led along another path – and without fail, it was one that provided me with amazing experiences. Those experiences I re-call regularly and today they reminded me of how my god works with me.

It is clear that I cannot solve all the problems here, I can only do a little. Yet I have been trying to solve the world's problems (or at Monze's) on my own and today I believe I received a clear message. I can only be a conduit to bring peoples attention to the plight of the people here and I can only start a process of introducing systems and structures to support the projects in which I am involved. The people here, and others back home, have to carry on some of the work I start. The Lord is waiting for me to let him get on with his work and stop trying to run his show! So I intend to step back and marvel at what he has in store!

After my meeting with Charles I returned home and collected my washing from the line. The sun has been shining today – another delight for me – so after a few hours the laundry was dry. I was looking forward to a quick trip to the little dam, but promised to see Diven on the way. We chatted for a while and, as I got up to go, it started raining! So we talked a little longer before I stepped out into the glorious sunshine. I had almost forgotten how strong the sun is here – even at 5 pm.

On the far side of the market a guy had attracted my attention. He held out a model of a bicycle made from wire and bits of rubber. It not only looks like a bike, but the pedals turn the back wheel. He told me that he was selling it. Eventually he confirmed that he had made it himself. He wanted 5,000Zkw for the model so I asked him if he really thought it was worth that much (about 60p). I told him I thought it was worth at less double that and gave him 10,000. I felt very mean giving so little for what has so much work in it. Here of course most people live on less than 10,000Zkw per day.

With joy in my heart I approached the dam, greeting people along the way and responding to the children's “how are you”s. On the way I noticed early shoots of maize were pushing up in the fields adjacent to the road. The water in the dam covers a greater area at each visit and everywhere it is now green with fresh luscious grass. The cows are again putting on weight after a few months when food was scarce. Some lads were fishing in the lake. I asked one if I could look at his rod and line. A stick acts as the rod and a little piece of rubber as a float, a small worm is threaded onto a piece of wire bent into a hook. Again the ingenuity of the local people is inspiring. This fishing rod works well and small fish are caught for supper.

I sat down and enjoyed the quiet, still scene, as the sun dropped low in the sky. The colours as sunset approaches are particularly beautiful over here – especially on a day like today. There were plenty of clouds to reflect the last minutes of sunlight, as our star moves on to wake those on the other side of the earth. A solitary great egret stalked its prey on the far side of the lake. As I relaxed and enjoyed the peace, the rain started to come down in the form of a moderate shower. I didn't expect it to last, so I didn't move. A bird was hovering over the lake so I trained my binoculars on it. It was obviously a kingfisher and the behaviour told me it was probably a pied kingfisher though the fading light made identification from other features a little difficult. For a few minutes I was delighted by it hovering and diving and didn't mind the rain at all. I was disappointed that it didn't make a catch. The Great egret was replaced by a cattle egret and it was time to make tracks, if I was to reach home before dark.

As I was leaving the lake a few birds caught my eye. I talked about swallows earlier with Charles and mentioned the swifts. He claimed that swifts were rarely seen in Monze – or even Zambia. (Though I have seen many). I had assumed that the birds skimming the water and picking insects from the surface were swallows , but on closer inspection they proved to be the elusive swifts.

I had taken a picture earlier and been intrigued by a small, almost vertical, band of yellow cutting through a building on the far side of the lake and opposite the setting sun. Now this band of colour was clearer and I could see that it was a rainbow. I have only once before seen a proper rainbow in Zambia – and that was at a significant moment. ( You see rainbows – or rain circles - formed by the spray at Victoria Falls. They appear if you look down from a bridge close by.) The sun is usually so high that rainbows cannot be seen. In fact today it wasn't strictly a rainbow, but just the end of a rainbow! Who says the Lord hasn't a sense of humour! There is me worried where funds can be found! You know what is said to be found at the end of a rainbow? A crock of gold!!

On my way home Dilys rang to say she had just returned from running a day of prayer back at St. Gregory's church – I think I needed those prayers! It seemed to be very successful, despite a couple of administrative hiccups beyond her control.

As I approached my home, and still chatting to Dilys, a couple of guys wanted my attention. They produced a small tube of sun screen. I bought some sun screen in Lusaka a couple of weeks ago when I found out that I was allergic to the cream I brought from the UK. Apparently I left it on the bus and they wanted to return it to me. I was grateful – though I had little change for a tip. I am now expecting some good weather in the next few days!

Well it has been quite a day and as usual time has run away,

Goodnight and may God bless you


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