Monday, August 22, 2011

Arrival of the family

Sunday 21st August

It is hard to think back to last Saturday – I have moved and now have Dilys and Amy staying with me. I am now cooking again and my time is being fully occupied showing the family around and introducing them to some of my friends.

Last Saturday Best visited in the morning. He has been offered a position as a law clerk in Lusaka and has found some accommodation. I suggested that he accepted the offer and tried to raise a little money to help support his family and if possible to save some towards his degree course.

After lunch I set off to find where St. Veronica's would have their celebration. I set off in good time and eventually found a guide to take me to the venue. The service was confirmed for 14 hrs. We settled under an awning designed to shade us from the sun and gradually the numbers grew. It was good to see so many children ready to join our celebration. At 16.30 Fr. Raphael arrived! He had been held up at a church meeting along with Mr. Moonga. There is always something special about having a small mass for a group of friends. Last year we were privileged to have Fr. Celestino staying with us in Cheltenham. Often he would say mass for just Dilys and myself, using our dining table as the altar. This was not such an intimate mass – it was held outside and therefore neighbours were able to observe our celebration.

After mass I called around to Diven's shop for a quick chat before returning home.

On Sunday I was able to enjoy another mass without the distraction of setting up the computer. I decided that I needed a short walk and bit of relaxation, so I headed for the dam. I stopped at the near bank for a change. There were a couple of girls with a 'fishing net' who started throwing a ball close to me. After a while I decided to move on – and so did they! It seemed that, once again, I was to be deprived of my solitude – by this time the girls had been joined by others , including a few young lads. As usual the binoculars and the bird book where of interest. When David came over he had with him some gifts given on his birthday by his children, these he left with me. So I put my hand in my pocket and when I took it out, I had a bandage on my finger with a nail sticking through it. It received the expected gasps from the children, but I quickly took it off - to roars of laughter. The next game was to get one of the young ones to sit on the whoopee cushion – again with the desired reactions! It is clear that children all over find the same things amusing, so I spent the next few minutes trying out the jokes and made sure that I will never get peace again by my dam!!

On the way home I called at Diven's shop. In fact I had carried the jokes with me because I knew that a group of children loiter around the shop when I come to visit. They too were delighted by the jokes – as was Diven!

Monday was my last realistic full working day, so I tried to ensure that at least the database for the projects team was sorted. In fact I found that there were a few discrepancies still in the records – so even at the end of the day there was work still to do. Access to the network via Airtel is still almost impossible. Whether it is the Airtel network, the dongle, the laptop or a combination I really can't tell. What I do know is that it is very frustrating and has wasted a huge amount of my time.

On Monday evening Jennipher arrived. I had not yet had supper so decided to take her to Tooters for a bite. While there, a guy sat himself beside me without any explanation. I asked him eventually why he had joined us. He said he wanted some food. I said something to the effect that I couldn't feed everyone who asked. Jennipher on the other hand offered to share her meal with him. Afterwards I asked if she knew him and she said no, but he was hungry! Being from this area, I think that it is easier for her to be generous in that way. I suspect that if I did give food and money to everyone who asked, I would have bigger queues than I have now and it would encourage people to beg from other musungus (white people). Still I felt somewhat humbled. Jennipher also managed to save some chicken for her friend Lilian who was providing a 'bed' for the night.

Fr. Kenan confirmed that all was set for the trip to Lusaka the following morning.

Jennipher joined us for breakfast a little after 7 hrs on the Tuesday. I had attended the 6.30 am mass. I had a lot to be thankful for and there was still a bit of travelling where a blessing or two wouldn't go amiss.

Our trip to Lusaka went well and we arrived soon after 10.30. On the way to Disacare I received a text from Dilys suggesting that the plane would be delayed. So we took our time to examine the bicycle ambulance and the wheelchair that I was to purchase. Fr. Kenan decided that he could fit all the equipment in the back of the pick-up, so, after a quick test drive, it was loaded and securely fastened in the back of the pick-up and we headed for the airport.

In the event the plane was only 10 – 15 minutes later than scheduled and we were still having a drink when we saw it land. A few years ago it was possible to sit out on a terrace close to the runway, but unfortunately – no doubt due to fears that we might bring down an aircraft with a few bottles of coke! - this is no longer allowed. Still from our vantage point in the “cocktail lounge” we were able to see Dilys and Amy come off the plane and walk across the tarmac to the arrivals hall.

It was wonderful to give Dilys a hug again after 8 ½ weeks apart. It was a particular joy to see Amy and to be able to welcome her to Zambia – the first of my grandchildren to step onto African soil. A privilege my children have yet to experience.

We broke our trip home at a cafĂ© where we enjoyed some burgers! It is best that Amy takes a little time to acclimatise. Dilys and Amy already had a shock when they arrived at Johannesburg to find that it was only 3°C! Not the sort of temperature they expected in Africa!

At Kafue Fr. Kenan asked if I wanted to drive – when he said that he preferred if I did, I was happy to take the wheel. I knew that it was tricky to drive through Mazabuka in the dark because of the number of people and bikes (without any lights) that moved along the main road for some kilometres. In the event the light had not completely gone by the time we were clear of the town. We reached Monze a little before 19hrs. Although Dilys and Amy were very tired, having hardly slept for 48hrs, it was late before we turned in.

Needless to say, we didn't arise early on the Wednesday – in fact I can't remember being still in bed quite so late in all my years in Zambia! There was no intention to do a lot, but I introduced Amy to the market and we visited the hospital briefly in the afternoon and stayed for mass at the chapel.

On Thursday we went along to PIZZ school. It seemed that they had hoped to have a session on Skype – though I wasn't aware of this and hadn't tried to organise anything. Some children were having a bit of extra tuition in preparation for next term's grade 7 examinations so we took the opportunity to introduce them to Amy and they had a chance to discuss the differences between their experiences and that of Amy and her friends.

In the afternoon we were invited to visit Best's family. They live on the western edge of Monze, so we had a fair walk through the market and out past the graveyard. I am always struck by the fact that very few graves show details of anyone as old as I am. We were welcomed by Best's aunt and some of the cousins who live with him. They had prepared some nshima and various accompaning vegetable dishes. They also gave us some sump – another maize dish, which Dilys likened to rice pudding – which I suppose would be our nearest equivalent. Amy did well eating some of each dish. Many teenagers would have refused to even try the dishes. Suitably filled we returned to town and Homecraft where we now reside.

Later Saki came around with Mrs. Chiiya – her grandmother – and they took the opportunity to get to know each other a little.

I got together a meal and we settled down to some reading at the end of a busy day.

On Friday Saki had arranged to come around for about 10 hrs. She took Amy back to her house where Amy stayed till about 4 pm. - experiencing yet another nshima meal.

Dilys and I called around at the hospital and dropped off some glasses. Later I picked up a few items from town. I also got the chance to do some more work on the database.

In the evening Reymond called around and I invited Diven to join us for supper and a chat. It was 22 hrs by the time he left and we relaxed before turning in for another late night.

Our schedule is beginning to fill! On Friday morning Fr. Rodgers came around at about 10 hrs. Dilys was particularly pleased to have a chance to talk to him again. In 2006 she discussed the issue of child bereavement. As chaplain to the hospital and in his work with the student nurses and midwives, Fr. Rodgers is involved with a lot of counselling. Dilys in her work as a Social Worker and a pastoral assistant at the church has had a lot of involvement in very similar fields. There is a good understanding between them of the difficult situations people face. People are very complex and, although there are huge differences across the world, many of the issues that trouble us are very similar.

We called around at the Cathedral, where we understood some young people were meeting. There is a Youth Congress for the diocese taking place at the end of this month at Pemba. The young people have songs and sketches to practice. It was clear that the young people were organising themselves and not relying on adult control, as often happens back in the UK. As we arrived they were busy practising one of the songs. We were welcomed into their group and listened for a while to the proceedings of their meeting.

After lunch we headed for Our Lady's church in Manungu. It was a 2 km walk along the Livingstone Road to the south of Monze. Already Amy and Dilys had walked a few kilometres since arriving on Tuesday. I pushed the wheelchair as far as Charles house and we spent a short time in conversation with him. He was delighted to see Amy for the first time and re-acquaint himself with Dilys. He was also pleased to have a wheelchair that could go in the boot of a car and allow him to inspect his projects properly for the first time.

At Our Lady's church we found the choir already practising. They had been told that I wanted to record some of the music so that we would be able to introduce some into the mass back in the UK, so they were ready to oblige. I recorded a number of songs and was promised that the words would be provided. Afterwards we took the opportunity to talk to some of the other groups who were meeting and to listen to the children practising for their Sunday mass. The place was a hive of activity, with most of the beautiful thatched shelters in use.

We had been out for some time and I thought a little relaxation was called for. I directed our small band to Southern Comfort Motel were we had some soft drinks and sat ourselves in front of their large TV screen. This hotel provided my first accommodation in Monze, when I arrived in 2003. Because our guest house wasn't quite ready, the 'boys' were put up here, while the 'girls' stayed at Truckers – an altogether different quality of lodging! The girls certainly didn't have a full English breakfast – not to mention en-suite bedrooms, neither did we after that first night!!

Suitably refreshed we coped with the return journey without any problems! Before picking up the laptop Mrs. Sianga had left at the priests' house I was invited to meet some relatives of a friend I can't place, who had just been to a memorial mass. After entering the bus and greeting those inside, I was asked to give them a blessing. Despite explaining that I wasn't a priest, a blessing was duly given! I bumped into Fr. Joseph and chatted for a while before joining Dilys and Amy back home.

This morning I arrived at church with the laptop. At mass a group of children were making a commitment as part of an organisation called “Action” who help out with the general running of the church. They were invested with their uniforms and welcomed in traditional fashion. At the end of mass Dilys, Amy and myself were asked to come to the front of the church and I said a few words, as did Dilys. This was another important step in the development of the partnership between the communities in Monze and Cheltenham. After mass we eventually made contact with St. Gregory's church and had the opportunity to exchange a few words. We finished the video link with some songs from Our Lady of the Wayside including Bind us Together Lord, in which we were joined by parishioners from St. Gregory's church.

We were then treated to a meal with representatives from the parish – the Small Christian Communities and the parish council. This small celebration was laid on in our honour – again to help grow our burgeoning friendship.

After the meal and a few words from both groups Fr. Raphael gave us a lift to St. Veronica's Small Christian Community. Amy had a chance to join me on the back of the pick-up – a treat that wouldn't be permitted in the UK!. We stayed for an hour or so with the community. I had intended to make it a speedy visit – Amy have been very patient, but it wasn't fair to expect her to sit through lengthy discussions in Chitonga. Unfortunately I found it difficult to find a suitable place at which to excuse ourselves. It was important that the group had a chance to meet Dilys and Amy since they are very much part of my life here in Monze.

It was about 17 hrs when we arrived back home and it had been yet another full day. At least I had no need to cook another meal this evening.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sun & Moon

Friday 12th August

As the sun set in the West the moon was rising in the East. This configuration produces the wonderful full moon here in Zambia. After a few hours the moon will be overhead producing a wonderful and mysterious light – easily bright enough to see your way by, with no clouds to dim its beams.

Another week has gone. It was good on Sunday to leave the laptop behind and to be able to enjoy the mass without distraction. A change in the weather meant that this week people sought the shade rather than looking for warmth from the sun. Could I at last abandon my jumper!!

I received no word from Airtel on Monday and my laptop keeps crashing when I try to use the modem! Reconciliation of the records on the Monze projects database has proved more time- consuming than I would have wished and no one was about to sort out a programme or to work on a variety of my tasks.

I had arranged to visit Charles on Monday afternoon – usually we get together soon after I arrive in Monze, but this year Charles has been busy with meetings and workshops and this is our first opportunity to get together. As usual we discussed politics at first and I put forward some of my prejudices! The maize crop failed this year through a combination of a dry spell in the middle of the rainy season, followed by torrential rain and flooding. Very little was left to harvest. The general view is that, across the country, the harvest overall will be good. What seems to be happening is that conditions vary in relatively small areas, so within a few kilometres the outcomes can be very different. As usual I enjoyed our discussions.

I had to leave a little abruptly because I had agreed to meet Justina at 5pm. Justina has produced a couple of training manuals for the prospective pro-life group “LIFE Zambia”. The steering committee is ready to register the group and establish a bank account. The plan is to launch the organisation next year in about April.

The bishop has returned from Italy, after having heart bypass surgery. The priests from around the diocese were meeting him on the Tuesday and some had come on Monday to stay over. Fr. Kenan mentioned the pool table and claimed that I was the guy to beat – so after supper a few priests, a cousin of Fr. Kenan's and myself adjourned to the pool room. By 2 am, after we had enjoyed a few Mosis and had many enjoyable games, we ran out of tokens and had to call it a day (or perhaps a night!)

On Tuesday I rang Airtel and the manager got back to me to say that my data had been loaded on the Friday evening. The problems I have been having since have prevented me taking.
advantage of the system, but I was happy to accept that they had done their part.

Jennipher called around and I told her the good news about getting money for her to buy a cycle ambulance.

Tuesday afternoon I planned to go out with Edward but in the event he was feeling too tired. Trying to access the Internet meant another late and frustrating night.

I spent Wednesday fighting technology again. I was planning to return to Chisamba on Friday, but was informed that the Saturday meeting had been postponed. In many ways this is a relief. I have very little time left and the trip to Chisamba would take up three days – two of them travelling! However, I won't get another opportunity to visit before I leave and it was important to attend the next committee meeting.
Yesterday I thought I had spent more than enough time on the computer and gave Shatis a ring. He said I was welcome to visit, so after lunch I headed up the 'High Street' to Lwengu school. It is an oasis on the edge of the town. I was interested for a few tips in case I manage to visit Lochinvar with Dilys and Amy. Shatis is very interested in nature and enjoys visiting the local Parks. He showed me the best area to head for in Lochinvar and was hoping to find a better map. He was suffering from a slipped disc or would have escorted us to Lochinvar.

After quite a wide ranging discussion Shatis took me to see the developments at the school. First I remarked on how beautiful it looked and he pointed out the trees that were planted by the students. He has a map showing each tree and the name of the student who planted it alongside. I have often thought how wonderful it would be to plant a tree and watch it grow over many years. In Cheltenham my garden is already over populated with trees and has no room for another – though Dilys tells me one has died – so maybe a replacement is called for.

The talk in town has been about the new swimming pool at the school. As with everything else at the school, the swimming pool is well made, of ample proportions and I am sure will become a star attraction. It is sighted in an area that isn't too far from 'The Holy Family' - which is a centre that provides therapy and aids for those with physical disabilities. Shatis is trying to incorporate features into the school buildings to make it accessible for people with disabilities. So the new buildings incorporate ramps etc. and the pool will also have facilities to enable all people to make full use of it.

I might at last have identified the problem and possibly a solution to my modem problems. So feeling a lot better at lunch time I returned home to find the modem was missing! Sometimes I believe the Lord is trying to send me a message. For my entire time in Zambia the modem has been a major headache and cause me endless distress and wasted huge amounts of my time and energy. It has been stolen and now was lost!! I decided I needed to be prepared to let it go – other things are far more important. Once more I needed to have more faith and leave everything in God's hands.

I hadn't been far, since I knew that I had the modem, so I quickly traced my steps. As I entered the office of the Human Resources Manager, he said he was trying to find my phone number because he had found something he was sure was mine! Sometimes you are just meant to be willing to give something up, often the Lord doesn't impose the agreed sacrifice, but in fact provides wonderful gifts instead. In 1995 I had the courage to decide to leave work, with the idea of working with people with disabilities. I had expected to go without any remuneration,but, having take the decision, I eventually left with an excellent package, which has made possible my new life working here in Africa.

This afternoon I finally reconciled my 30,000 records with the hundred or so spreadsheets that form the basis of my database!

Sometimes interesting topics come up at meal times. Fr. Spencer has recently returned from Preston in the UK and, while there, visited a community in the Lake District where they support those suffering from the addictions of alcohol and drugs. He is wondering about setting up some sort of centre in Monze and asked for my thoughts. I don't feel qualified to advise on what might be appropriate in Zambia, but my experience is that the people who give the best advice are generally those who have been there themselves. To some extent it is only by going through an illness or suffering from a disability, that you can really understand what it is like. My own experience of depression has enabled me to be able to strike a rapport with others suffering from the illness. I know a little of what they are going through and it is clear from the discussions, that we have a good level of understanding. Very often one will say something and it strikes a chord because the other knows exactly what she is saying. I am sure that this is also true for those who have an illness of addiction. These are illnesses and have no easy cure – if in fact they can ever be fully cured.

I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my family, but for now will once again say goodnight.


P.S. I realise that another week has passed. I hope to post an update tomorrow explaining the delay!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Life Giving Encounters

Saturday 6th August

In Ignatian spirituality discernment is key. Recognising what leads us to God (or to do good) and what leads us away from good (or God) is very important, if we are to lead a fulfilling life. It is suggested that before going to sleep a useful exercise is to examine our day and consider the 'life-giving' experiences that we had. Yesterday, as I prepared for rest after a long day, I was struck by just how contented I was and began to recall numerous encounters throughout the day which were truly life-giving. I also realise that most of them were from interactions with the people around me.

I woke early. At 5 am the bells at the Catholic church rang out to remind the people that there would be mass at 6 am. This was repeated at 5.30 for those, like me, who turned over to sleep a little longer! So just after the second set of bells I woke myself up with a quick wash and shave and headed for mass.

It was last year when I last joined the community here for mass. After mass a few parishioners greeted me “good morning”, “mwauka bwanji” or “mwabuka buti” - there was particular delight when I responded to the Tonga greeting with “kabotu, mwabuka buti”. It makes a huge difference just to be able to respond to a simple greeting – I wish I could do much more - the smiles I received marked the start of a life-giving day. I had a chance to talk to Fr. Dominic after mass. I would very much like him to be involved in the project, but for some reason his support has not been summoned. The original project was started by Fr. Tim under the auspices of the Catholic Church and, in some quarters, the project was thought to have become too closely associated with that body – perhaps some are still concerned about getting the balance right. There is obviously a lot that the church has to offer, so I hope that in time a productive relationship will be developed.

A few minutes after 6hrs, the sun rises above the horizon and by the end of mass its beams beckoned from the open church doors. The air was still crisp and cold after the night and before 7 hrs the sun has little strength.

I returned to the Guest House and packed my backpack. I feel obliged to carry a selection of books, which make my bag particularly heavy. When I am moving around Lusaka, as I was this Friday, it can be a bit of an encumbrance. Walking through town isn't too bad, though after a while I feel the weight, but trying to move in the small buses with the backpack and laptop on my knee can be cumbersome – especially when invariably the person wanting to get off the bus is behind me! Here there are not usually gangways on the buses. People are packed right across the width. So to get out other passengers first have to disembark, or you climb over them trying not to step on too many toes, or fall on top of them. This is tricky in normal circumstances, but with my luggage it is made many times worse!

Some guys from the Guest House, who I think where involved in a government department, offered me a lift. Once I had settle my account, we set off across some fields! To be honest most of the time we were on small dirt roads, but when we got lost a guy escorted us across his field to get back on track! It turned out that a colleague owned a farm in Chisamba and they wanted to view it before moving on. They took a few pictures and we headed back to the tarmac and set off towards Lusaka. I have often been offered lifts by complete strangers. The people of Zambia pride themselves on their friendliness and hospitality - in my experience they live up to that claim.

As we headed for Chisamba turn-off (the junction with the Great North Road) a solitary monkey ran swiftly across the road in front of us. It is a while since I have seen monkeys along this road, but it is always a delight when I do. Its one of those experiences you never get driving around Cheltenham!

I was dropped off at Ten Miles - called because of the distance from Lusaka. Once on the main roads heading for Lusaka, getting buses is never a problem and you rarely wait more than a couple of minutes – as was true in this instance.

I have always found the conductors on the small buses very honest with the fares. They could be tempted to increase the price for a 'white man' but that is rarely the case. The conductor hadn't enough change so charged me 5,000 instead of the official 6 pin! I think he was somewhat surprised when I handed him an extra 1,000 in order to pay the correct fare.

There are numerous bus stations in Lusaka. On the past few occasions I have left at one bus station only to be returned to another across the town. I knew of yet another bus station where I catch the Chelston bus that takes the great East Road, heading towards the airport and passing Lwisha House ( the Jesuit Centre) and Manda Hills which was my next destination. I headed across town and eventually found my bus. The Chelston bus is one of the few that you can happily jump aboard as the first passenger. In this instance the bus was empty, but, by the time I confirmed that I was on the right bus, there were 3 or 4 passengers already on-board and within a couple of minutes it was full and ready to depart. A young man next to me started chatting and we shared a little about what we were doing. Owen is a musician and he told me that he had been involved with some volunteers from Germany who thought Zambians should be proud of their culture. They had helped his group made a CD and hoped to promote it for them. I agreed that often Zambians seem to regard anything from abroad as automatically being better than goods produced within the Country. It is important that the people of Zambia take pride in their culture and recognise the many talents they have.

The traffic in Lusaka has increased in recent years and congestion is a major problem. No ring roads or bypasses have been built to allow through traffic to avoid the city, so the problems are inevitable.
Eventually we escaped the clutches of the city traffic and I reached my destination. After Monday's experience, I was more alert – and, importantly, knew exactly where I was heading. The fact that I stopped to get my bearings earlier in the week made me vulnerable. I therefore strided purposefully to the Airtel Centre, where I asked the girl at the customer services desk for a refund. After a little while she escorted me to the managers office. The time was about 11.30 and I was pleased to arrive before any possible lunch closure.

The manager welcomed me in and assured me that she would sort the problem. I pointed out that I had heard this from many people in Airtel and yet, after more than a month, had made no progress – why should I believe that she would resolve the problem. She assured me that she was different and that it would be sorted. A refund didn't seem to be within her purview. I suggested that I would wait while she demonstrated her ability and she said that was fine by her!

And so I parked myself in her office. After half an hour to three- quarters, with no visible progress, I commented on my poor experience with the Airtel internet product when I was connected. She assured me that progress was being made to upgrade the network and 3G operation was being spread throughout the country. She offered to let me test the new system, which is already present in Lusaka, by lending me a laptop in her office. For the next hour or two – in fact it was two! I was able to catch up on my e-mails and check all the reasonably priced hotels and lodges in Livingstone that were listed on the Internet. Those with prices of $200, $300 and above (per person per night) I ignored! At least I now have a list of possible places to stay at the end of the visit, when Dilys and Amy will be with me. There were comprehensive details of many places together with photos and prices. So my time wasn't wasted and both myself and Yanker (the manager) were more comfortable than we would have been if I just sat glaring at her!!

At lunchtime she offered me a slice of pizza and a drink of squash, which I gratefully accepted. She showed me the e-mails she had sent pointing out that she had now had this customer parked in her office for several hours and I heard her end of a number of conversations trying to escalate the issue. A little after 2 pm she rang her boss and told him the problems she was having – and those I had experienced. She eventually asked him if he would speak to me. He again tried to assure me and said if I gave him an hour or so he expected to have everything fully resolved. He suggested there was no need to stay in Yanker's office! I was wanting to move on (in fact I hoped to be away before noon) and was sure that at 5pm everyone would go and I wouldn't have achieved any more – they weren't going to give me a refund! So having been given Yanker's number and that of her boss, who told me not to go to customer services, but straight to him, if things weren't resolved quickly, I called my sit-in to a halt and left Yanker on good terms. Strange as it may seem, the experience in Yanker's office was one I count among the life-giving moments of the day.

I didn't delay but headed straight for the bus and a return to Lusaka. Time was moving on and I had arranged to meet Justina to discuss Zambia LIFE. I rang and we decided to postpone the meeting until she was next in Monze – this coming Monday. It can be difficult to get back to Monze if it is left too late. However, I was fairly certain that there was a 'big bus' at 19hrs which would act as a long stop (hopefully there would be a seat.) Anyway I decided that if I got back to the city centre reasonably quickly and could find another bus which didn't take two hours to fill, I would chance a trip to Disacare.

In the event I was again brought back to the bus stop I first alighted from when I came from Chisamba earlier in the day. It struck me that perhaps this was a useful alternative for local buses and before traipsing across town, I should see whether there was a bus heading out towards Chilenge, which Harrison had told me was what I should look for. Indeed not only was there, clearly marked, a line of buses heading out to Chilenge but also one to Chelston – so I could have saved myself a walk earlier. Again there was little delay, before I was on my way out of town once more. I asked the guy next to me if he could tell me when I had arrived at my destination. He said that he was alighting before me, but he had a word with the conductor on my behalf. In the event he decided to stay an extra stop so that he could make sure I found Disacare.

After trying to find someone at the office a man came up to me to see if he could help. I explained that a friend had found details of the company on the Internet and that I was very interested in what they were doing. Charles took me to a workshop and showed me the wheelchairs and bicycle ambulance that they made. I was impressed particularly by how substantial the ambulance trailer was. The picture on the Internet doesn't do it justice. Having seen it, I could imagine that it would work well, even on some of the roads in the rural areas of Zambia. The standard wheelchair that is provided is similar in style to those produced in the UK, in that it has two small wheels at the front. The back tyres however are typical bike tyres with plenty of grip and the front wheels are wider, made from solid rubber. I was also told that the bearings were stronger – being the same as used for caterpillar tracks. The frames are welded iron and certainly look very substantial. The chairs fold to enable them to be easily transported in the boot of a car.

Charles told me a little more about some of their products and also about other activities in which they are involved. They have a basketball pitch outside and train people in wheelchair basketball. They are connected with an organisation in the Netherlands and on being given a small donation they invited some local people with disabilities to come and try out wheelchair basketball. As a direct result this group formed themselves into a team and regularly play against the 'Disacare' team. The organisation is committed to help people will disabilities to become self-sufficient and to empower them socially as well as economically.

When I left formal employment I had intended setting up a consultancy where people with disabilities would advise companies on how best to provide facilities for people with the same challenges – particularly wheelchair users. So often these experts are not fully involved in the provision of such facilities and many mistakes are made. I shared this with Charles who told me that I should revive this project when I return to the UK. I often think that I should pursue this task, but seem to be constantly distracted by the work related to my life here in Africa.

Charles showed me a scrap heap of foreign made wheelchairs for which they had no spare parts to repair. They repair what wheelchairs they can and their own are designed to be strong in the first place and to use easily available parts so that repairs are simple.

Charles introduced me to the company director, who showed me the latest invention – a motorbike ambulance which can also be used to carry produce.

I left delighted that I had the opportunity to see the place and the products and particularly pleased to have met Charles.

Once I had been shown where to catch a bus back to town, I jumped aboard and soon was once more in the city centre.

Since it was only a little past 17hrs I decided to try to find a Monze Rosa bus down the Kafue Road. I was fortunate to find one reasonably full. It was also heavily laden with a variety of goods. Bags of maize flour and other commodities are placed along the gangway and then folding chairs come down on top of them. Then every other available space is used to stack luggage of various sorts. Many small scale traders go to Lusaka to pick up goods at cheap wholesale prices. It appears that it is worth the fare to stock up there, rather than buy from a local wholesaler. Often cardboard boxes with a few chickens – their heads sticking out of small holes – are taken on board. I wasn't aware of any livestock on this particular bus.

We soon set off and made good progress to Mazabuka. I decided to close my eyes for a bit and try to meditate. As we came to Mazabuka the conductor joked about me sleeping and said we would soon be in Monze – I retorted something to the effect that he was a fine job and it wouldn't take long. The coductors of these buses are often great characters. Their job is to fill the bus and keep it full throughout the journey. This one had a great sense of humour and had the passengers in hoots of laughter at his banter with the policeman at a check point in Kafue. We dropped someone just after Mazabuka and in doing so it was noticed that we had a flat tyre. So we were going to be in Monze a little later than planned! The tyre changed, we turned around and headed back to Mazabuka to a garage, because the spare had a slow puncture and needed to be fully inflated.

It was about 21.40 when we pulled into Tooters (which fortunately is opposite my house). I picked up a carton of milk on my way in, but was surprised to be locked out! I decided to phone Fr. Kenan who was obviously surprised. It turned out that a visiting priest was using a room in my block and had put down the catch on the yale lock. I had seen a light on but assumed that it was for security.

I made myself a couple of cups of coffee and settled down with John Simpson's Wars of Saddham Hussain, content with the day.

Today by contrast has been uneventful. I did some reading, wrote a few e-mails and sent them over the Internet, together with the blog posting that failed to go on Thursday night.

I strolled down to the dam and was met by my young friends – one of whom took my binoculars and later the bird book. It was clear that I would get no peace at the lake today! They wanted to know why I hadn't come with the ball that they asked for last time. It you want to make some local children happy then a ball would be much appreciated!!

I was surprised to see a man catch a small fish – the first I have ever seen caught at the lake – though they wouldn't just be fishing here for fun! My friend – the gang leader – pointed out the boy whose father had made the catch.

This time I wasn't escorted back home. The sun was beginning to set giving the grass and trees the rich golden brown hue that seems to be a special feature of African sunsets. The sky, that had been unbroken blue all day, glowed gold and orange as day quickly gave way to night.

I was approaching Diven's shop when a young woman asked me why I hadn't been around to see Mr Chaambwa. She said I should visit and then explained that he had moved to a house opposite Diven's shop. I was invited in and spent a few minutes chatting to my old friend Edward – the ex headteacher of Monze Basic School. Last time I saw him he was not at all well in hospital. He says he is recovering and is certainly seemed a lot better than when we last met. I said I would see him in the week - we would get together for a couple of drinks and chat properly.

I made a delayed visit to Diven and arranged for him to get some Finta (milk) in stock, most of which I will buy over the remaining weeks.

It was already dark when I returned home, but the half moon was more than adequate to light my way.

I was alone at supper tonight, though there was enough food for three or four. After my meal – again alone in the lounge - I attempted to change from ZNBC to BBC World but had no luck. I think I was meant to watch the programme which was similar to the very early candid camera. The situations were just very silly and everyone was able to see the funny side – unlike some of the recent programmes which seem to deliberately set out to upset and humiliate people. When I did change to BBC the news wasn't on anyway, so I returned to my home and my blog!

Well that's your lot for now!



Saturday, August 6, 2011

Life at Chisamba

Thursday 4th August

Yesterday was again cool, with lots of wind and clouds that at times obscured the sun. The wind makes the wind pump blades spin and, though much water is leaking, the tanks are full and even the water in the large reservoir is near the top. The wind-pump pumps the water from a borehole and currently provides all the water for the site. Water comes from high level tanks to the houses, toilets and a number of taps around the site. Water overflows from the tanks into a reservoir which can provide additional water to the gardens and eventually it will be used to top up the ponds during the dry season.

I had a bit of work to do in respect of the diocesan projects database, so I settled myself down to that task in the classroom, while Harrison got on with other work. Trying to make sure my 13,000 records match the spreadsheets from which they were derived can be tricky – when initially they don't! I still have some minor discrepancies.

Some of the students who completed their course last year are busy making garments when the new students are not around. They seem to be specialising in different products. One makes shirts and skirts, another a suit, and another bedsheets and pillow cases. They are all hoping to be able to set up little businesses of their own, in time. For now they are able to use the machines at the centre and earn a little money to help the family finances.

In the afternoon I went through the accounts system again with Harrison. He has now had a bit of experience entering all the details from the receipts. The system enables the manager to control and understand the finances better. It also allows me to comprehend the reality of running the centre from an accounting perspective. This has helped me to see that the centre has an ongoing problem where expenses exceed the regular income. It is as a result of the system that I understand some of the difficulties and can make a strong case for additional short term funding, until some good income generating activities can fill the gap.

I attempted in vain to connect to the Internet with Airtel and 10,000 kwacha in airtime. In fact that is not quite true - I connected, but didn't manage to send or open any mails. I decided that when I go to Lusaka on Friday it is a refund that I want, not Gigabytes of unusable data bundles!

It was a full breakfast this morning with eggs, chips, bread onions and tomato. I missed my chips yesterday and almost asked whether there was a chance of some before I returned to Monze. Seeing that breakfast was almost complete I didn't say anything – but got my wish anyway! At home I am content with some cornflakes – as at the priest's house. But once you are spoilt with something different there is a sudden craving when you return to the 'scene of the crime'! I remember my days working for Eagle Star . If I was working away I would stay in a hotel and take great delight in a full English breakfast or scrambled eggs with bacon and sausages!

I worked with Harrison on the accounts system in the morning – tidying it up and making a few minor changes.

In many ways Chisamba is a rest. I don't have the very numerous little projects going on, or the frequent visits by friends that I have in Monze. I get a chance to relax a little and I am about to finish my P.G. James crime thriller. I might pop into the bar after supper to catch up on the local gossip if I have the stamina!

At lunch time I returned to the Guest House, but was satisfied with some more eggs and some bananas bought at a stall on the roadside. I decided to give the Internet another attempt and to my astonishment had some success, sending a few e-mails, posting my blog and picking up a Facebook message from Amy. I asked whether she would be willing to take part in a web-link with some students if I could set it up. “Yeah sounds good” was the reply, so I better see what I can arrange next week.

The afternoon was again mainly spent with the centre manager thinking about an agenda for the coming committee meeting. The important thing for me is to gradually build up the relationship with Harrison, so that we are comfortable working together on the project. These few days have been useful in starting to build an understanding and trust between us. For the next year we will rely mainly on e-mail contact to develop the partnership – never as easy as with face to face contact.

Harrison lent me a guide book with a number of guest houses and lodges around Livingstone listed. I want to find somewhere nice for Dilys and Amy – I suspect the costs will be high. Ideally I would like something close to the river and the wildlife, but I suspect these will be enormously expensive and run by people from outside the country – so profits will not help the people here in Zambia. We shall see what we find. I need to start planning in detail for their visit, since their time here will be very short.

You never know this might be posted before to long!

Best Wishes


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Back to Chisamba

Tuesday 2nd August

My jumper has stayed on all of today apart from when I had lunch! I am sure that this is not how it should be in August!!

I am now once again in Chisamba. I have put off the return to Kalyingile in the hope that some additional funds would arrive. The project here, as everywhere, struggles because long term sustainability can only be achieved with outside help and sufficient initial funds to kick start income generating activities. This project is still at the stage where an additional kick start is badly needed. Nevertheless there is some training taking place and the possibility of helping some young people to gain skills that should provide a living for them in future.

The past week or so it has been windy – a feature of July. The windpump is whirring at a magnificent pace and, but for a leak, caused apparently by the lack of a non-return valve, the impressive sysem of tanks and reservoirs would be overflowing and even the ponds wouldn't be able to leak fast enough to use all the water. I delight in the energy that comes so freely from the Lord. I can never quite get over the way a cross wind is capable of happily blowing yachts on their way, though they are travelling in opposite directions. My torch works very well and all I do to kep it charged is to place it on the windowsill during the day. Most of the power in Zambia comes from hydroelectric power obtained by just getting the water to turn a few turbines on it's way downhill. Victoria Falls and the Kariber dam provide huge amounts of electricity – both of course are huge features. The falls one of God's finest and the Dam one of man's biggest – if not greatest – creating one of the largest man made lakes in the world.

On Saturday I eventually met up with Vincent. He is spending some of this week on an ACCESS course so that when we meet again we should move fast! He gave me a bit of homework to do while in Chisamba. I paid a visit to the local dam in the afternoon and this time was left to reflect on my own. The usual birds were about and also a small heron – a Squacco Heron – that I haven't noticed before. In flight its white wings make it look like an egret, however on landing it becomes a brown flecked bird like a small bittern or partridge. Unless you've followed it, you wouldn't believe it was the same bird. I am becoming rather blasĂ© about the pied kingfishers as they circle the lake diving for the small fish – as yet I haven't seen a catch.

On Saturday evening I met Diven and we visited Tooters for a bite to eat and a couple of drinks – Mosi for me and cokes for him! This has become a tradition over the years and I enjoy the company and discussions. We often talk about areas of difference between the very different worlds we inhabit. Diven knows what it is like to have to struggle to survive – quite literally. I am fortunate to have always had food in the house. From first hand experience, Diven enlightens me about some aspects of life in Zambia that I find difficult to comprehend and I am grateful to have someone who is happy to share this with me. In return I can tell him about my world, which again he finds quite difficult to understand.

I was not expecting great things from the attempted video-link on Sunday. I was beginning to think that maybe it was a waste of time and not really wanted by anyone else anyway. I just missed Fr. Joseph who was saying the masses at Our Lady of the Wayside – I hadn't mentioned my plans! I kept telling myself to relax and leave everything in God's hands, but like Peter in last week's gospel after taking a couple of steps forward I quickly sink into the waves. I arrived at the church not long after 9 hrs. On checking the buildings they were are securely locked. Last year, when I was nearing the end of my visit, I noticed a flock of swallows playing around the church building – the only time I have seen them in such abundance. On Sunday a couple of swallows were showing off their acrobatic skills darting around the building where I had hoped to set up the laptop, seeing just how close they could come at great speed, yet always missing me by what seemed like only inches. So I was in trouble with this week's plan to use the web-cam inside the building . I had a quick glance in church but realised that to set it up in church would be too disruptive. However, Sr. Gabriela came out when she saw me. I mentioned my plans and she said she had a key and would open the very room I had in mind. There appeared to be no power, but since Rupiah Banda, the President of Zambia, was due in Monze later I was confident it would not pose a problem!

I set up the kit and left it in the room, Sr. Gabriela even sent George Moonga to see if I was OK with everything and he demonstrated that the round two pin plug could really be made to fit in the square three pin socket.(I had decided that this particular plug had the pins too close together.)

Everyone told me that the weather was bad. This was apparently why everyone was late – even Fr. Joseph arrived at 9hrs to say the children's 8.30 mass. We started late and the 10 am mass didn't finish until 12.30. I left a little early to set up, but needn't have bothered because the internet transmission speed varied between 0.0 kb/s and 0.50 kb/s - viable speeds start at about 10 kb/s UK speeds are 1,000 – 2,000+ kb/s. So for the next 15 minutes we had no connection and I was about to give up. In Cheltenham mass finishes at about 10.45 (11.45 Zambian time) so even with coffee I didn't expect many to be still at St. Gregory's by 12.45!

Then I saw a couple of faces and could here friends from the UK greeting me. I switched my video on and they too could see and speak to us. We had a small group of parishioners who were delighted to talk to people from England. Over a period of nearly two hours the transmission – sometimes only with voice – continued, eventually the parishioners from the 9.30 mass at St. Gregory's left and were eventually replaced by some from the 11.15. Canon Bosco and Fr. Tom came to say hallo after the baptismal party. Eventually the parishioners from Our Lady of the Wayside left for their lunch, but three of the committee members appeared before the end of the session to round it off beautifully.

Ye of little faith! Somehow – despite all the odds we had achieved so much. I couldn't see how we could include parishioners from the 11.15 mass and yet it happened. Because of the busy schedule the priests from Cheltenham were unlikely to be able to join in and yet both took part. In a relationship the difficult bit is breaking the ice on those first meetings – I think the ice melted on Sunday! We can now afford a short break before repeating the exercise.

It was 3pm by the time I arrived home and I was followed in by Jennipher. I had missed lunch so we popped out and bought some bananas, popcorn and roasted peanuts for a snack.

Jennipher had phoned on Friday evening when she was on a bus ready to return to Pemba – there was something she wanted to discuss with me. I was rushing to the chapel so the meeting was delayed to Sunday. A few days before Jennipher had brought a client to the hospital. She was about to give birth. She delivered a baby boy safely and I think she was the one who popped around with Jennipher to see me. There is a short cut to the hospital through the convent making it 2 mins away. Anyway on Friday Jennipher got a message to say the lady had died. On Saturday she was collecting the baby from the hospital. The woman had two older children and the grandmother couldn't manage the baby – she suggested sending it to an orphanage, though there seemed to be some doubt whether one would take the child. Jennipher was not sure what to do. She would bring the child up herself – as she has for Emmanuel and Maggie recently, and Selina and Sandra in years past, but feeding for the first 3 months would be a problem. The choice seems to be cows milk or dried milk – both of which are expensive. I suspect that Jennipher will find a way to increase her family once more.

I dropped the laptop of with a relative of Mrs. Sianga, said hallo to Diven, had a cold shower and Luke arrived for a chat. Another day was coming to a close, but after supper Fr. Kenan said we needed to play the long overdue return pool match.

Armed with a few bottles of Castle (no Mosi available!) we found the pool table – me obviously being disadvantaged from the start. At 22 hrs and three games (and Castles) a piece we played the deciding game. I had the upper hand until Fr. Kenan snookered me on the black with the cushion. A beautiful swerve shot prevented the obvious foul, but resulted in the inevitable in-off and forfeit of the game. So we stand one-all in matches and we await the final showdown!

Monday morning I arose early for the 6.30 mass only to find the church locked! Oh that was what Fr. Kenan meant when he said he could lie in – of course it is a hoiday!! Having got to bed after 1am after spending a long time checking that indeed Airtel have not come up with the goods, I could have done with a little more time in bed myself.

It is never a good idea to be first in a bus in Zambia! It is a worse idea to pay the fare before any other passengers join you!! so at 8am (and 8.30am) thats the position I found myself in. I was not surprised when my bus left the stop at Tooters after 5 minutes and headed towards Lusaka. Even less surprised when it turned around and headed back to Tooters. It repeated this exercise several times, once or twice someone got on – then thought better of it and got off again – they had the sense not to depart with any cash! I was surprised that by 9.30 we were full and on our way having covered a lot of miles up and down Monze High Street scouting for passengers. I was relatively pleased to get to Lusaka by 12.30. Justina couldn't get away so we agreed to meet on Friday and I decided to see if I could find a bus to take me to Manda Hills shooping centre to sort out my modem. I found a nearly full bus so had no delay in heading out onto the Great East Road. This seems to be a very busy route and one of the few were buses fill very quickly at most times of the day. As I disembarked I was surrounded by a few guys apparently trying to get me to get on a bus. I was off my guard and hands started trying to get into my pockets. I pushed them away and sped off when a man told me I had been robbed. They had managed to lift the usb modem from the side pocket in my backpack. Fortunately for me this man had spotted them and retrieved it for me. He told me to be more careful and went on his way. Unfortunately Lusaka seems to have a good number of pickpockets – and of course 'white' people are obvious targets. They weren't to know how much the modem cost me, but in fact it is valuable because of the data bundles that I haven't got!

As I arrived at the Airtel centre where I bought the device the doors were shut. I was told to return tomorrow as they had just closed for the day. There was little to do but to have a subway sub and return to town to pick up my next bus. This too was nearly full – something very rare for Chisamba buses! - and I was soon on the way to Chisamba. A relatively short wait for the taxi to fill and I arrived in Chisamba before 4pm.

My room was waiting for me. They always try to put me in room 1 because it was the first room I stayed in and expressed my satisfaction. Once when it was not available they apologised that it was booked. It was only after a little time that I realised that they were only talking about that room – I had thought the Guest House was fully booked.

Today I met up with Harrison – the new manager at the Centre and we spent most of the day talking about plans and updating the accounts details. Moses the new Centre Chairman popped along after lunch and we talked a little. It was agreed that I should attend the next committee meeting which is planned for August 13th. This is not highly convenient, but I need to make myself available. Tomorrow I must cut out a cooked meal! Three in a day is too much for me! (especialy when two are nshima & ?)