Monday, June 27, 2011

Back in Chisamba

Saturday 25th June
This is a time of year when the sky is deep blue from horizon to horizon. The early mornings and the evenings are cool, but during the day the temperature rises pleasantly into the low twenties.
Yesterday I was touched to receive two gifts. A young boy – one of the very many who greet me with “How are you?” – came after me to give me a guava. The other gift – a couple of incense sticks – was from my Rasta friend Brian. The people here are very generous and like to show their appreciation by sharing what little they have. Sometimes I am invited to join them for a simple meal or they might buy me a small drink. It is important to accept and treasure these gifts. Sometimes I am tempted to say no - thinking that it is me that should be doing the giving. Perhaps if that is so I need to question why I feel uncomfortable. Our parish in Cheltenham has adopted Our Lady of the Wayside church in Monze as the parish project and a couple of weeks ago I was pleased to have a stall at the church fete, selling Zambian goods to help the Cheltenham church’s development fund. It was an occasion when our friends in Zambia could contribute to the needs in Cheltenham. There are gifts far more precious than guavas and incense sticks that I receive daily from the people here in Zambia.
I visited the new PIZZ school yesterday. The building was erected a few years ago with support from Hands Around the World – including a team of ‘amateur builders’. It was an opportunity to speak with some of the teachers at the school. On my last visit I met the teachers and found it to be a useful experience. The school caters for orphaned or otherwise disadvantaged children. These are children who otherwise would not be able to receive education. They cannot afford to pay school fees but are still provided with uniforms and, when funds allow, a little food for breakfast and breaks. I was at least able to thank the teachers for the wonderful work they are doing – even if I cannot provide them with decent salaries or housing allowances.
Monday 27th June
I am now in Chisamba once again. Dilys tells me that she recorded 29°C in Cheltenham yesterday. Here , if anything, it is a bit colder than in Monze (temperatures have probably stayed below 20°C, so we have the unusual situation of England being hotter than Zambia (and significantly so) – but only in the shade! I haven’t seen a cloud for a few days now and the sun is still higher and hotter than it ever is in England. On Saturday I decided to relax a bit. I did some reading and took myself a little into the bush and in the afternoon to the local dam.
The water level in the dam is about as high as I can remember – which is a little surprising since the rain stopped a month or more ago. In the sky above I spotted a brown breasted snake eagle. I am told that snake eagles are good especially around towns because they live almost exclusively on snakes! Which is fine - except that it suggests that there is an ample supply of snakes in the vicinity!

I have only come across a few snakes on my visits to Zambia. On the whole they seem to keep out of the way.
I am now beginning to recognise a few of the local birds from a fleeting glance and spotted a cattle egret, a couple of African jacandas and a pied kingfisher around and above the lake – these are all very typical and common birds in this area. This year I have with me my own copy of ‘Common Birds of Zambia’ bought in England via the Internet, since I couldn’t find a copy in Zambia during the past couple of years.
I went to the early mass on Sunday. This Sunday was the celebration of ‘Corpus Christi’. This is one of the most extraordinary beliefs of the Catholic Church. The claim is that in some way the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus (God). To claim that it is possible to meet God in this intimate way every time we receive the Eucharistic is truly fantastic, but it what makes me try to get to daily mass whenever possible.
I thought that I might get away from mass without a mention, but should have known that Fr. Kenan would insist on me standing up while he said a few words about my return to Monze.
I skipped the procession and headed for the Rosa buses. There was only one sitting outside Tooters and it looked disconcertingly empty. It was about 9.30 am and I was told that is was indeed heading for Lusaka and would be leaving at 10 hours. My experience is that going “now, now” means within the next hour. Leaving in half an hour probably translates to sometime today. I therefore decided not to jump on and pay my fare, but to walk the mile to the other Tooters (Golden Pillow) and see whether there was a ‘big bus’ going soon. The big buses (coaches) go to a schedule and don’t wait until they are full. So you can be fairly confident of catching a bus within an hour or so of the scheduled time. As I passed I was called over by Joshua who happened to be driving to Tooters and he offered me a lift.
We were soon speeding on our way listening to Gospel and Pentecostal choirs – which were played together with the videos. We made very good progress until we found a convoy of lorries carrying large earthmoving equipment. However by about 13hrs I was in Lusaka and by 15.30 I made it to Chisamba – a very swift journey as they go here.
Soon after I arrived Justine appeared and greeted me. Justine is the previous manager at Kaliyangile and had made the trip from the Copperbelt to meet me. The Copperbelt is famous for its mines – hence the name. First the British and now the Chinese, through their mining companies, have extracted the ore and made vast profits – unfortunately very little of it remains to provide a better life for the local people.
We were joined by Godfrey for supper – I had fish (Talapia) which was a very rare treat here at Chisamba Guest House.
Today I had egg and chips for breakfast. I was happy to have a few bananas – plus another egg!- for lunch. We had hoped to meet some of the committee members this morning but none were available, so Justine made tracks for home.
A few days before I arrived in Zambia Frederick Chiluba – the second president of Zambia – died suddenly. Today his burial took place. It was also declared a national holiday and people suddenly found themselves with an extra day off. Caren – the tailor at Kaliyangile - said she only heard on Saturday that today would be a holiday.
Power is still not guaranteed here in Zambia. On Saturday power was off in Monze from about 10 hrs until 17 hrs – I am not sure of the reason, but I was told in advance that we not have power for most of the day. In Chisamba ‘load shedding’ is still a regular feature. On both evenings power has been off for a little more than an hour between 18.30 and 20 hrs. Fortunately here a power cut doesn’t phase anyone. The dependable charcoal braziers come out and meals arrive just the same.(my 6 pm supper arrived just before 8 pm. – the choice I was offered was chicken or beef, and there was no chicken (nshima and a vegetable come as standard!!))
I am currently using the project computer. MTN – a local network provider – seem to have changed the way they charge for data transmission. The cost of accessing the Internet in the way we did last year seems to have increased by several times. It should be possible to buy ‘data bundles’ but I have failed so far to purchase any. So you might, or might not get this blog in the next few days.
Best Wishes

Friday, June 24, 2011

Anothqr day and anothqr computqr.

Thursday 23rd June

Yesterday I met up with Mrs. Sianga and, among other things, she showed me the computer which I had been warned was not working well! She was right!! The computer took ages to start-up and very quickly slowed to the extent that is was totally unusable – and then it wouldn't shut down – at least in the time I was willing to allow. I took the opportunity to take it away with me. (It wouldn't feel right if I didn't have a broken computer or two in my room.)

Mrs. Sianga employs teachers awaiting appointment to a government school. Unfortunately there are very many of these trained teachers, some who have been waiting several years for their first appointment. However things are about to change and three quarters of the teachers at Mrs. Sianga's PIZZ School have suddenly received appointments.

There are elections coming up in Zambia very shortly.

PIZZ school has benefited from some Hands Around the World related donations, since I was here in December. This has allowed the school to purchase 120 books among other things and is likely to have a positive impact on the exams coming up in October – even if the staffing issues are detrimental.

Everyone is looking forward to Dilys and Amy coming in August. All are keen to arrange something special for Amy, relating to children or young people. I met Mrs. Chiiya this afternoon and she reminded me that her daughter Saki will be at home in August when the schools have their break. Saki is also 15 years old and I am sure will be delighted to show Amy how girls of that age enjoy themselves here, and will introduce her to some of her friends. I remember one time when Saki provided me with drinks and biscuits at their home, when her mother wasn't around – this was perhaps four or more years ago. I was reminded yesterday that children here are expected to do a variety of household chores – including waiting on guests.

I called at the hospital again this morning and met the new Medical Superintendent. I briefly explained what I had been involved in at the hospital and the involvement of Hands Around The World. Not surprisingly the issue of viruses arose! I will return tomorrow to discuss databases with the Human Resources Manager. Why does my life here keep coming back to computer viruses and databases?

Dilys sent me a text to say that Amy's surgery demanded over £200 before they would start giving any injections – so much for a free NHS! I suspect more people will take the risk and not have the injections when going abroad. Apparently the doctor even needs £12 to write a prescription for antimalarials – that's two weeks income for someone here!

Jennipher reminded me that some of her clients want solar radios. This allows them to know the time to take their tablets and also provides some lessons for the children. (Some local stations give school lessons for those unable to attend a school.) If anyone wants to donate a radio, Dilys and Amy should be able to bring a few out with them.

I suspect that if I stay here with the priests I will put on weight! I am currently getting two cooked meals a day and lots of nshima!

Oh yes! I found a rogue file on this laptop and it seems to work OK after deleting it.

Howqver it has anothqr problqm!! The e doqsn't function! I can work around it, but wq use a lot of es – fortunately not as many qs!

With love and prayers


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A very warm welcome

Wednesday 22nd June

I was dropped off close to the Cathedral where I am currently staying. After I was welcomed and shown to my room, I decided to look more closely at my bag. I found that it had obviously been opened. When I checked inside, my laptop was missing. As far as I can tell, only the laptop itself has gone –even the bag and the adapter have been left.

I have managed to get access to a computer here at the priests’ house so, unlike yesterday, I can prepare my blog ‘offline’.
Enough of my woes! As always, I have been welcomed back to Zambia with open arms. I am currently being looked after very well by Fr. Kenan and the other priests and seminarians here in Monze. Yesterday I wandered around the town meeting many of my friends. At the hospital I only visited one office – that of the Medical Superintendant (formerly Executive Director). The current Superintendant was not present, but I was warmly greeted by Judy. Ian, Sichone, Mr. Longu, Hichali, Sebia, Teddy, Clara, Beatrice & Sr. Rachel were among the many who came to say hallo when they noticed me passing. Luke appeared with Jennipher and we made our way to the hospital tuck shop and sat down for a chat.

This year I remembered to bring out copies of the photos Jennipher took last time. She has had a digital camera for several years, but the cost of processing the pictures and the difficulties in sorting the pictures when you she hasn’t a computer makes it difficult to print the pictures. So each time I come here I take away a copy of the photos and print them in the UK. I therefore had about 200 pictures to pass onto her. I also brought a photobook containing photos of her family taken over the past 6 years. I caught up with the latest happenings. Emmanuel, who is probably about 2 years old now, has not been well and she is concerned about him, the rest of her family are doing OK. She continues to help establish HIV/AIDS support groups and is keen that I visit the latest one.
My friend Kris, back in England, asked me on Sunday if I would get Ireen to make him a shirt. So I wandered into the market and picked up some chitenge material that I hope is suitable. Jennipher was wearing a skirt and top made by Ireen and gave me some of the same material so that I can have a matching shirt. Ireen gave me a very warm welcome as usual and will start work on her ‘commissions’. She was delighted when I told her that Kris insisted on paying UK prices for the shirt. Irene told me that her son had started Secondary school and she had to borrow some of the money. It costs 760,000 kwacha a term (about £100) at the school he attends. She also has a sister who has diabetes and she is worried about being able to treat it. The sister is currently in Monze Hospital and is apparently getting insulin injections. I doubt whether regular insulin would be affordable and the advice here is very varied! For instance, she was persuaded to buy some coffee (at a very high price) because she was told that it was good medicine for diabetes. (There is an added ingredient in it, but I doubt whether that has any significant beneficial effect.) Ireen tells me if she could help her sister and pay for her son’s education she would have no worries!!

I met Diven and we lunched at Tooters. As usual Diven has had a lot of problems in recent months. He had a lot of items stolen from his house and shop while he was away, including his mattress -which during it’s removal caused the door of his house to be destroyed. It is going to be a hard struggle to get back to the position he was in when I left only last December.

This morning the sun is again shining and it is time I took some fresh air.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Transported back into a different world

Tuesday 21st June

I awoke this morning to a wonderful bright morning. So familiar and yet so different to the "summer mornings" i experienced only a couple of days ago in England.

A lot has happened in the past couple of days, but for reasons that will become clear I will make this blog very short.

A couple of days before my trip both the TV and car fell to pieces! The TV was declared terminal and needed a rapid replacement. The car was fortunately put back together in time for my trip to Heathrow.

This year I am flying South African Airways. They don't know my arrangement with BA to take as many bags as I wish - at no extra charge!! Perhaps more to the point I didn't seem to be able to take a laptop except as part of my main or hand luggage. I decided to pack it in my case and carefully adjusted the luggage to scrape into the respective allowances - more or less!

I arrived at Heathrow at least three hours before take-off and, having checked in and printed boarding passes, soon found myself settling down to read my novel in the departure lounge.

The plane took off on time and, apart from having no sleep, the journey was good. I watched a South African film about a boy who aspired to be a great footballer. It was a good preparation for Africa. So much reminded me of the world i was about to enter and of which I am now a part.

I was surprised by the long queues in Johannesburg airport to transfer flights. I have another stamp on my already well-stamped passport (still less than a year old.

We flew back over South Africa and Zimbabwe crossing Lake Kariba as we entered Zambia (again!)and landed at about 13 hrs at Lusaka. It is winter here and the temperature was a pleasant 23C.

I managed to get to the back of all the queues at immigration and then caused confusion because I wanted to come in on an employment permit, which I haven't got!! Eventually I was told to collect my bag and return when the Immigration Officer would have consulted her supervisor. I noticed my bag had been tampered with - the locks were no longer properly secured. Eventually - after a further half hour or so - I was allowed into the Country with a form that had to be printed specially before being completed.

Godfrey had been waiting for me at arrivals - buy this time all other passengers were long gone. I rushed out of the airport and went with Godfrey for a coffee and an update!

He then took me to the bus station. The bus was going at 19hrs (it was about 17hrs, but the earlier bus had just left and we were told we could catch it up! Our guide jumped into the bus and we took all the side roads to try to outpace the bus. As we approached the filling station were we were meant to meet we saw it drive away! I boarded eventually and got to Monze at about 19.30, having spent the journey in theological discussion with a fellow passenger.

MUST Go the Cafe is closing - I will continue tomorrow!!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

It's been a difficult few weeks

Thursday 16th June

It has been frantic here over the past few weeks. What should have been a time spent preparing for the trip - which starts on Sunday! - has been disrupted because of a number of very sick friends and relatives and a number of deaths.

Just over two weeks ago I heard that a good friend of mine Yunus had suddenly been rushed to hospital and was in intensive care. He had a tracheotomy, as yet they haven't been able to remove the tube and his condition has not improved. A day later I heard that a friend of mine, Sr. Elly-Maria, who gave me the courage to leave work early and pointed me in the direction of Hands Around the World, had died. The same day I had a call from an uncle who had been keeping me updated about another sick uncle (my Uncle Gerard). He told me his wife had died. So I attended two funerals within 5 days.

An aunt came over from Ireland and stayed a week, during which time we attended the funeral of my aunt and visited my sick uncle on the Isle of Wight. We did manage a small celebration for my dad who had his 90th birthday on Monday of this week. On Tuesday my Uncle Gerard died.

Uncle Gerard had no children of his own, but went out of his way to keep in touch with all the children of his brothers and sisters. When we were young he visited us every Sunday with bars of chocolate and spent time amusing us. Subsequently he has made sure all our children (and grandchildren) get cards on their birthdays and Christmas – and often presents as well. He was always great fun and will be very sadly missed by so many.

In between I ran a stall at a church fĂȘte to publicise the Parish project and sell a few items to support our church in Cheltenham. Naturally I have also kept in contact with a few of my friends in Zambia.

Yesterday the television and the car fell to pieces!! (we now have a new TV and a repaired car – although Dilys was complaining of more noises earlier this evening!). This afternoon I checked that my accommodation was sorted, only to find that they have decided not to let anyone stay in the flat at present, because of problems with a crack in a wall. (I have subsequently been offered a room by Fr Kenan!)

So the signs are good certainly none of my planning is coming to pass!! So I am leaving the UK much in the same way as I left Monze. I look forward to an exciting time!! I am certainly not in control – I hope that the Lord has a plan for me - I suspect that he has!!

With love and prayers