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 café 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.