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.