Friday, September 9, 2011

Wednesday 7th September

Jumping between different worlds can be difficult. Thinking back a couple of weeks to Monday 22nd August seems a little unreal. We had been very busy for a couple of days and took a chance to have an easy morning. In view of the likely schedule ahead, Amy asked Saki to call around for a while in the morning. It seemed that Saki had come to Monze specially to spend time with Amy. Her mother lives in Lusaka and we understand that she would usually have spent her holiday there. I was able to catch up on a few jobs for which I was very grateful.

Fr. Raphael had offered to take us to Chikuni – a town abut 30 km from Monze, where the first Christian missionary priests settled just over 100 years ago. The Jesuit priests are still very prominent in Chikuni. They have become very active in the fight against HIV/AIDS and have an impressive centre from where their activities are planned. As well as testing and counselling they have a large number of volunteers spread throughout their parish – their area extends 30 – 40 km from the centre. In general the Catholic Church in Zambia is very active in respect of voluntary services – in respect of HIV/AIDS support it provides a lot of very useful services. However, the set-up in Chikuni seems quite exceptional. I remember visiting some years previous and being similarly impressed.

One of the activities being undertaken is the drying of fruit and vegetables using solar driers. There are several at the centre and others being taken to the communities to provide a way of preserving food and generating some income. They are also providing boreholes and solar pumps and teaching conservation farming methods.

Our main reason for visiting Chikuni, however, was to visit the museum and cultural centre. The centre shows some of the cultural history of the Tonga people. I think it is a shame that so often the wisdom of our forefathers is lost. In the UK most of us have lost our connection with the natural world, it's moods and rhythms. At Chikuni they are trying to ensure that at least some of the history and way of life is recorded and preserved. They are trying also to collect and preserve some of the folk tales. It is interesting that in history so many people around the world came to similar conclusions – that we are custodians of a world where we should live in harmony with it's other inhabitants; there are forces much more powerful than ourselves which provide us with sun and rain, and ultimately on which our existence depends; there is also a belief that our life on earth is only a part of our existence and that in some way our ancestors can influence a greater power in our support. I believe in a God who was revealed through Jesus Christ, but also a God who has been revealed through many people and their religions throughout the ages. I think it is important to respect the many beliefs of the peoples throughout the world – we have a lot to learn. The ancient Tonga people and the Jesuit priests have a lot in common and both have something to teach us about how we should live today.

I enjoyed the opportunity to get out of town and travel for a while in the bush – the longer trip in the back of the pick-up was another highlight for Amy. On the way back we visited Fr. Raphael's parents at their farm. Apparently wild animals were common when he grew up, but, as it is not in a protected area, you are less likely to see anything these days. We were unlucky and had to make do with a few birds.

By the end of our trip Dilys was feeling weary – she thought she might be a bit dehydrated. In fact it was to become clear that she was suffering from dysentery or something very similar. For the next couple of days she was virtually confined to the house, thus making considerable inroads into her visit.


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