Saturday 9th July
If I had almost unlimited Internet access – as I should have – I would send this today. However you need to be patient for the time being.
Today I finished my thriller. Fortunately, like most, though not all, authors, Mary Higgins Clark makes sure there is a happy ending!
I took a walk to the small nearby dam and was treated to some real spectacles. On the way a roller was perched on the power cable – a very beautiful bird with deep blues, lilac and red, a forked tail and very acrobatic flight. I managed to find a spot close to the water's edge, but before settling a large snake eagle flew directly above me with what I assume was a small snake hanging from its mouth. A mixture of various types of swallows, swifts and saw-wings flew over the lake. A couple of pied kingfishers flew past and then one perched on a stone only a few feet away. A truly beautiful black and white bird with a massive beak when seen up close. Cattle egrets, African Jacanas and crowned lapwing were also present. There was a bit of a commotion when some pied crows disturbed the lapwings and then turned on the snake eagle which had returned. The eagle then settled on a nearby tree and allowed me to study it quite closely through my binoculars - quite a treat. I wondered whether it had a nest though the was no evidence that it was feeding any young.
This evening I sneaked a look at BBC World which made a change from ZNBC extolling the virtues of Rupiah Banda - the current president.
Wednesday 13th July
For the past few days I have worn a jumper during the day – something I can never remember from previous years when I have visited at this time. I have known cool evenings and nights, but usually during the day it is comfortable wearing just a shirt. The forecast is for it to be a little warmer tomorrow so maybe I will be able to abandon my jumper until I return to the UK!
My Sunday was largely spent at church and with the Small Christian Community. I realise that I am now a longer serving member of the Community, than some of the local people. It was good to meet up again and receive the usual warm welcome. Simon who was the chairman is working away in neighbouring villages – despite being in his 70s. This causes me a bit of a dilemma since his is one of the very few houses I can consistently find. (having said that I did get myself rather lost on Sunday!) Anyway I found his wife, eventually, and, with the help of others, found out where the meeting was taking place.
I continue to fight the technology. The project computer is still dead, because, try as I might, I can't produce a copy of Ubuntu or other Linux based software. Airtel Internet, as far as can make out, is still effectively unusable and I haven't received my data bundle yet. So the link up between schools here and the UK hasn't taken place and the count down to the holidays is gathering pace.
I continue to be greeted by lots of friends and acquaintances I have made over the years - and fail to recognise most! Each day several people come up to me and say that they would like to have a word. Almost everyone here has a problem to survive and I am very aware that they have problems that fortunately I don't have myself. I try to listen to their issues sensitively and would love to solve all of their problems, but I have very limited resources. I will give you examples of some of the issues raised. Two ladies I know, who work as cooks/cleaners, told me that just about earn enough to provide food for themselves and their children. They want to build a small house. They would mould the bricks themselves, but could afford iron sheets for the roof. I think they would rent out the house to pay off a loan and then move in. Their children cannot afford to attend secondary school because of the fees. Even if I had the money, I wouldn't give it as a loan because the reality is that more often than not, because these people have nothing spare, repayment of the loan becomes virtually impossible. For me I never assume that a loan will be repaid – so if I help it is by way of a gift. I remember once being shocked by someone repaying loan – but I only remember it happening once. I think I told them to use it to buy their child a much needed pair of shoes. Another friend says that his families home is in desperate need of refurbishment. (he has invited me to visit the families house on Sunday – an invitation I will accept). Again he has an idea of buying and selling goods to fund the work and wants a loan. Another acquaintance wants a bike and another fees to go to college! These are just a few examples from the past two or three days – I would have no difficulty in making good use of almost endless amounts of money just with the people I know. It is natural for people to use the opportunity to try to sort out one or two of their problems, but, as it is, my money is spent as soon as I get it. Occasionally there are someone comes to me with a particular need that I can satisfy from some donations given to me before I came - but on the whole people go away disappointed.
On Monday I spent much of the time chasing around hoping to sort the computer . I used the meeting with Mrs. Sianga to sort out one or two things, instead of connecting with Whitecross school in the UK – much to the disappointment of teachers and students – not to mention Mrs. Sianga and myself.
I am now used to joining the priests for meals in the dining room. Once or twice I have tried to eat nshima with a knife and fork – mainly because I find eating rice with the hands not so easy. However it has just confirmed my belief that there is only one way to eat nshima and that is with your hands. It is only with your hands that you can properly scoop up some relish (vegetables and meat with gravy) using the nshima as a spoon!. The texture of the nshima also changes when moulded by the hand and I find it a much more pleasant taste. The discussions with the priests discussions are wide ranging, with a lot of good natured banter and joking going on. The number of priests varies from day to day, often with additional visitors – priests and others.
Jennipher took me to see the local AIDS co-ordinating body DATF – I can't remember what the initials stand for! Jennipher certainly stands her ground, and showed her knowledge of the procedures – sometimes superior to that of the manager. Although there was some dispute as to whether Jennipher's group comes under her jurisdiction, the manager agreed to visit and see for herself how the group functioned. Jennipher is keen that she visits another support group she is in the process of setting up, but, like me, the manager (another name I haven't remembered!) is concerned about giving people false expectations. She was keen that I went out as well, so we will probably go together. I think this might be a useful contact to develop. Maybe she will be able to help Jennipher get more local support.
I have started discussions with the Diocesan Projects Team. There is quite a lot of extra work to do on their database. Vincent can only spare Saturdays to work with me – which might not be sufficient. Still I will have to see what can be done in the limited time. At least there is decent internet access (satellite) at the Projects office, so there is a good possibility of keeping in touch when I am in the UK. However the temptation to revert to spreadsheets will be great!
I can see myself struggling to cope with the work and with working Saturdays, I should try to find a few breaks during the week. However with already less than 5 weeks left before Dilys and Amy arrive, time is ticking. I am aware that there is more work for me to do at the hospital and I need to spend some time at Chisamba!
I moved house yesterday. I am still within the parish complex – just a courtyard and a few dogs away from the main priests house. The dogs can make a lot of noise – a couple of Alsations and a big black beast!! They enjoy chasing the cat – one Alsation got stuck under the kitchen cupboard a couple of days ago. On another day the cat was apparently taunting them behind a window and one of them launched itself at her, smashing the window pane and bringing down the curtains! They jump up at me as a pack, but so far I have come away unscathed!!
I bought myself some tea and coffee and a kettle, so I can get my regular caffeine fixes and entertain my guests! I also have my own small lounge which is very useful for that purpose.
Once again it is past my bedtime. I am hoping to wake tomorrow once more to bright warm sunshine and the African winter will soon be a thing of the past.