Saturday, September 29, 2012

Choices and Good fortune

Saturday 29th September

I once went to a series of plays with Dilys. All of the plays had the same first scene and then the key characters had choices to make, perhaps which route to take home or whether to make a particular phone call. The plays then diverged and the lives of the characters took very different turns.

Yesterday morning I was visited by Obert who has only had one leg since he was a small child. His older brother was very protective of him and walked behind as Obert crawled on the ground in front. If anyone laughed or made fun of Obert his brother ensured they wouldn't repeat the behaviour! One day a white nun approached them. Obert was scared of white people - fearing he might be snatched and crawled away as fast as he could. The nun followed them to their house and spoke to Obert's father, while Obert hid in the background. This chance encounter changed Obert's life. The nun arranged for him to be taught to use crutches and an artificial leg. He now walks well and rides a bike. In another chance encounter I met Obert and a friend of mine paid for him to have a replacement leg as he had outgrown the one he has. Obert is sitting his final school exams at the end of October and then hopes to gain a driving licence if he can raise 700,000 kwacha – about £100. ( He has driven an automatic off road and is confident of succeeding!)

We all have chance encounters that can significantly effect our lives, but here the differences can be huge. Just meeting someone who is prepared to help you with school fees, pay for some medicine – or even transport to get you to a hospital can transform your life and, in some instances, save it. Sometimes it is easy to get dispirited when you see the scale of the need, but to improve even one person's life makes it all worthwhile. Very often the encouragement is as valuable as any financial support provided. There is a young woman that Jennipher often refers to. I only remember the incident vaguely. I think I provided transport money for her to go to Lusaka for some treatment – no more than £3 or £4. She is now married, doing well and living in a neighbouring country. Jennipher seems to believe that without this small gift she would not have recovered and probably wouldn't be alive today. This is both humbling and frightening. To think that lives might be lost but for £3 or £4.

I spent a couple of hours chatting to Obert, and showed him photos and videos of the Olympics and Paralympics.

In the afternoon Jennipher came around and took me to another support group – this time it was to the West of Monze at the district called Water Affairs. This is a more rural part of town where people tend to have a little land around their properties. Chisikili support group has a decent sized piece of land and vegetables are grown in the garden.

The major issue is getting the water to the plants. There is a deep well – about 30 metres (100 feet). At the moment the water is raised with a bucket and watering cans are used to carry it to the garden. This is hard work and not all the members are up to the task. A rota is drawn up to ensure that there is sufficient water, however only a small part of the land can be cultivated. Using this method. The group has acquired a tank and a stand to raise it. Gravity will enable it to be distributed, but they have not yet raised funds for a pump and hoses to connect the system and distribute the water. If funds could be found to complete this project the group, would be able to provide vegetables and maize for their members and probably also have some remaining to be sold. This is an instance where a helping hand will provide long-term benefits. I agreed to find out about solar pumps – but funding is another issue!!

Here too the group are keen to plant maize both at the group centre and in their homes – as yet that have received no support for seed or fertiliser.

There are some trees on the site including some cashew nut trees. These produce nuts – apparently on the outside of the fruit – in the rainy season, but I was told that with the right attention – probably water – they would produce all year round. The group also has a peanut butter making machine, but a grinding wheel has broken. One of the Hands Around the World Trustees is hoping to find the spare part and bring it later this year when he plans to visit Zambia.

I was very impressed with the enterprise of the people here. I could see them being fully self-sufficient if they could get the water supply harnessed.

In my spare time I have been sorting the anti-virus on the Parish laptops. The ease with which we can access the Internet back home has serious repercussions here. To update two laptops I have transferred at least 600 – 700 Mbytes of data. The main system here probably transfers at a rate of less than 10 kbit/s, hence it would take at least five full days to complete the exercise. Fortunately I am using a USB modem which is operating much faster ,but I have paid about £25 to be able to transfer 2 GBytes during the month – at this rate it might run out before the month is up. If the computers are not kept up to date they invariable collapse under viruses, but sometimes the costs are prohibitive and therefore people take the chance.

I have been missing my walks out of town, so today I wandered to the dam. I used to be able to sit and enjoy a little peace, but now I find myself surrounded by children who just follow me to the lake and sit next to me, giggling and staring at me. Today was no exception. They wanted photos taken and enjoyed looking through the binoculars. Previously they have asked if I could get them a football. I wished today I had brought an extra one from the UK, they are a good natured bunch of children and would love a decent football to kick around for a while!

There were a lot of cattle at the dam and only a few birds – mainly cattle egrets.

I headed for Our Lady of the Wayside church this afternoon where I hoped to take some photos. They were having a workshop which was expected to finish between 15 and 16 hrs. In the event they separated at 13 hrs and by the time I arrived there were few people around. I took some photos of ladies washing the dishes and returned with Fr. Clement.


Friday, September 28, 2012

No Welfare State

Friday 28th September

In Zambia there is no welfare state. Though occasionally people can get a little support from social welfare, there is no jobseeker's allowance, disability living allowance or housing benefit! When people become ill it often becomes, quite literally, a struggle to survive.

I met a man yesterday who had sold a piece of his land (maybe half of his plot) for 1.3 million kwacha (about £175), so he could buy food. This has now run out. His house has only partial walls on two sides and some of the walls move when you touch them. The roof consists of a few loose bundles of grass and an umbrella. Like many he has contracted AIDS and has not been well enough to work. He has recently started on the ARVs (Anti-Retroviral drugs) but these have caused a skin reaction and stomach pains. The fact that he hasn't enough food causes further complications with the drugs.

I was out with Jennipher who had taken me to visit the women's AIDS support group just south of Our Lady of the Wayside church. The chairperson of the group is a parishioner at the church. I am pleased and feel privileged to be able to meet with such groups – but it is difficult to have to say that I probably won't be able to provide any practical support. Of course when they see me their expectations are raised. I hope that the fact that I care and that I listen to their stories and their needs, gives them some consolation.

This group cares for a significant number of children with disabilities. One girl is deaf, blind and has other disabilities but seemed to have a particularly gentle nature. She reminded me of other people I have met with very severe disabilities, who have influenced my life. I remember Elsie who was unable to do anything for herself and only spoke to say “I like” when a bird or butterfly passed by. I told them a little about the Paralympics and how people with a wide range of disabilities were achieving feats that were way above anything I was ever capable of doing. I was pleased and humbled to see how much they cared for those who had additional difficulties to overcome. One lady said that she had difficulty communicating the issues connected with being HIV+ to those who were deaf. She thought her group needed training in sign language – as did the health workers. I wonder how many people in the UK are so perceptive? How many of our health professionals have received such training?

The support groups are very helpful in advising people about being tested, taking the drugs etc.(so Jennipher was able to tell the man mentioned above that she had suffered similar reactions and no longer takes a certain drug – she advised him to see the doctor who would probably change the medication.) The difficulty usually comes down to lack of food, and money to get to and from the hospital or clinic (though few clinics dispense ARVs and can do the necessary tests to monitor patients.) Jennipher has obtained fertiliser for the most in need in her group and will try to obtain some for this group “Mkandu Womens Club”. Their main concern then will be to find some funds to buy maize seed. Jennipher is going to provide 5 kgs each to a few of her members – a 10kg bag is currently costing 125,000 kwacha (approx £17) I suspect that they are hoping I will find money for at least 5 x 10 kg bags!!

On the way back we passed by a school established by a lady from her own funds. Her husband is no longer working and, although the school is still operating, there is no money to pay teachers and it is a struggle to provide books, chalks etc. Some of the desks are broken and need repairing or replacing. This is a common problem where someone determined to help the orphaned children get a chance through education, finds the ongoing funding too difficult. In this case the buildings are good – there are three classrooms, a small office and a toilet. I met a couple of teachers who were giving their time voluntarily. The lady said that there are about 250 orphaned children in the area just around the school. It is hard to know how to respond in these cases. PIZZ school was a similar case – through Hands Around the World some funding has been found and Mrs. Sianga has been fortunate – but it is still a constant struggle. There are so many other 'community schools' established where funding isn't forthcoming. It is a pity that the government cannot find a way of harnessing the goodwill and enthusiasm of those setting up these schools by creating some sort of partnership to help them succeed.

In the evening I had arranged to meet Edward, who used to be the headmaster of Monze Basic School and who I came to know some years back. He is now retired and looking for something to keep him occupied, and perhaps provide a little extra income.

I met up with Diven briefly and had a quick bite to eat at Tooters.

I had a couple of Mosi's with Edward and we talked over a variety of issues including the changing climate. During the evening I was joined by his niece who works in sales for one of the larger stores in town.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Water contrasts

Thursday 27th September

I understand that you have a surfeit of water back in the UK. Here it is a very different story. We are coming towards the end of the dry season and it is not uncommon for some water shortages to take place. Here in Monze there is currently little water coming from the mains supply. It is sometimes very difficult to determine the causes of supply problems when they occur – rumours are rife. There is a suggestion that the water in Monze dam is low, but some doubt that it is any different to other years. Apparently the government want to enlarge the reservoir at the dam, but when is not stated. I walked around it one year at about this time and reckoned I covered at least 10 kilometres. (So it isn't small!). It also seems to have some depth to it. When the mains supply fails, people traditionally come to the convent, hospital and Homecraft where there are boreholes, and draw water from the taps. This year we too are suffering. I am lucky if I can extract a kettle full of water in a day at the moment. The theory is that the electricity supply is not providing a high enough voltage to pump the water into the tanks. It is true that the lights are often dim, but last night after 10 pm they became considerably brighter without significant water arriving during the night. I suspect that although it maybe a factor, the low voltage doesn't tell the full story.

Since I have been coming to Zambia the number of people accessing mains power and water has grown considerably. In 2003 no one in Monze had a mobile phone or Internet access – now most people seem to have a phone (or two) and many people regularly access the Internet. With power and water it seems that the basic infrastructure has changed very little – some upgrades have been done but much of this has been little more than maintenance work. The result seems to be that the main infrastructure cannot support the increased usage. In previous years electricity was switched off at times to cater for this issue. Now it seems that the voltage is allowed to drop! Not ideal for cooking or pumping water. Mobile phone networks have an advantage of starting from scratch with a very quick uptake. But here too the networks experience congestion and there is usually one network to avoid – which one differs each year!! The Internet is brilliant one year and awful the next! Last year I failed to get anywhere with a Zain modem and MTN gave me a connection that just about let me use Skype – sometimes. This year MTN is giving me good Internet access with Skype video which is very acceptable.

The past couple of days have been relatively quiet in that I have been catching up on some paperwork and trying to move forward on a couple of projects. On Tuesday I visited PIZZ school briefly, both in the morning and afternoon. Whitecross, a school in the Forest of Dean, has been providing some support for PIZZ School and wants to sponsor 8 children. Hands Around the World runs a sponsorship scheme whereby for £10 a month someone can support one of our schools or VTCs (Voluntary Training Centres). We provide information about one of the students at the projects and the students are often very encouraged to know that someone cares. So I photographed seven of the eight children who will be sponsored by Whitecross School – the eighth was sick, so I will catch up with her when she is back in school. I try to meet the children who are sponsored when I come out each year. I talk to them and try to find out more about their interests and aspirations. It is also a chance to find out how the school has made a difference in their lives. There is a realisation that education can provide the opportunity to move out of the poverty that these children find themselves born into. It is far from a guaranteed escape route – but it gives them a chance that otherwise they wouldn't have.

The other project I am concentrating on at present is the relationship between my church in Cheltenham and Our Lady of the Wayside in Monze. I am fortunate to be living in the same house as Fr. Clement, the Priest in Charge, so communication is easy – we have most meals together. Yesterday we sat done for an hour or more to discuss the developing partnership and some ideas from one of our parishioners back in the UK. I am tasked with collecting information about the lives of the people in the parish here and also some good iconic photos for a 2013 calendar. I am hoping that someone from the church will be able to do this work – I am sure they will do a far better job than I would.

I am not used to early nights! I have been finding water for a shower at around 11 pm but even that has eluded me in recent days – in any case I rarely find my bed before midnight. At just after 6 am the shop or bar close by, puts on it's music at full volume! I try to sleep on but they don't play lullabies! There is a morning mass at 6.30am but other than on Monday I can attend mass at the hospital chapel at 5 pm. So although usually awake, I chose to continue to rest a bit rather than attend the early service. This mass in the chapel is usually well attended by student nurses and midwives studying at the hospital. Yesterday I joined them.
The place where I am staying used to be the bishop's offices. It has lounge with, unusually, a fireplace. You don't often see chimneys on the houses in Zambia but this one has one.

I have captured enough water for a mug of tea so I will enjoy that while I connect to the Internet and post this blog.

Best wishes


Monday, September 24, 2012

A Fishing Community on the banks of the Kafue

Monday 24th September

Today I decided to list the projects and look at the work I need to do during my stay. I found at least 6 major and a similar number of minor projects, plus half a dozen people that I need to catch up with in detailed discussions.

Any of the projects could produce major tasks, so I doubt if I will be bored!!

I spent most of the afternoon looking at the PIZZ project with Mrs. Sianga. Here again we haven't been able to secure quite the funds we would have liked. It is clear that the project needs some extra money quickly, and then an increase in the regular income in order to meet the basic needs. Despite this the school is making a huge difference to well over 200 children. They hope to have an outing to Lochinvar National Park – so far about 30 of the children's guardians have raised the 20,000 (£2.50) kwacha to pay for the trip.

Yesterday I was taken out to a fishing village by the Kafue river in the depths of Lochinvar National Park. It is within Monze parish, though two hours drive from the parish church across dirt roads. On the way we met some children moving a herd of cattle, perhaps 50 – 100 animals in all. Apparently when they are born the child is given 3 or 4 cattle. By the time the child is adult they have a small herd. Many don't go to school but spend their lives looking after the herds. They use drums to move the cattle and apparently each animal knows the sound of it's owners drum.

Almost half of our time spent driving was within the park. The villagers are only visited by the priest about 3 times a year. The church is made out of grass and mud – as are most of the permanent buildings. All the structures are built on anthills or raised mud foundations because the whole area is flooded during the rainy season. Boats are needed to move between houses, though some are only 3 or 4 metres apart.

There was another village nearby – a couple of kilometres - but these people hadn't yet arrived at the church, so Fr Kenan sent me with the truck to fetch them. I was directed across the flat plain and eventually saw some buildings in the distance closer to the river. These houses were just made out of grass and were temporary dwellings, used during the dry period. When the rains come these people move to a permanent village which we passed on our way. Their grass houses are washed away with the rising water at the start of the rainy season.. While at this village I was treated to some nshima and dried fish. As far as I could see the whole fish was eaten, so I consumed a couple - complete with bones, skin and head!

When I returned with a dozen or so extra worshippers, mass had started, but I was still lead to the front. As always the singing was very powerful, as was the drumming. At the offertory about half of the congregation went out of the church and returned in procession placing their donations directly into Fr. Kenan's hands.

After mass I was directed to join the line with Fr. Kenan, and the others who had come from Monze, to shake the hands of each of the parishioners as they left the church. At Our Lady of the Wayside the priests and altar servers shake the parishioners hands after Sunday mass.

It was about 15 hrs when lunch was served – fish and nshima again – this time fresh bream caught very locally (and you didn't have to eat the bones or head!) after lunch we headed back through the park and meet Fr. Jackson at the gate near where we left him earlier. He was saying mass for the people of Lochinvar village who live just outside the park. He had been told we would pick him up at 14 hrs!

We didn't see a lot of animals in the park but I enjoyed meeting some new people and seeing a very different way of life. A few monkeys scampered across the road and a group of vultures were circling when we made the outward journey. Otherwise the lechwe and zebras could not be clearly made out. There were a few birds but even these were more scarce than usual. Lochinvar is famous for its birds, having very many species including Fish Eagles, Secretary Birds and Malibu Storks – all of which I have seen in the past. There were a few razorbills, crowned lapwing and magpie shrikes (which have spectacular long tails), but often the place is full of a rich variety of brightly coloured birds. Antelopes, zebra, wilder-beast and buffalo are also present in the park as are crocodiles and hippos in the river.

When we reached Monze I was tired but grateful for a wonderful day.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Never lonely in Zambia

Saturday 22nd September

There is no chance of me being lonely here in Zambia!

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours with Persis, Kaliyangile's new manager, before starting to return to Monze.

The jacaranda trees in Chisamba are in full bloom with their deep blue blossom producing a magical and almost unreal effect. Inside temperatures are still between 25°C and 30°C but outside I suspect they are higher. A few clouds in the sky predict the coming rainy season – though it is probably a month away here in Southern Zambia.

The 'taxi rank' looked unpromising as I appeared to be the only passenger. I am happy to join with 4 or 5 other passengers to cram in a taxi and travel at local rates so I expected a long delay. I got to thinking that I will save 40,000 kwacha here and 20,000 there to reduce costs - then as soon as I walk in the door in Monze I will part with more than10 times that amount without much thought. I suppose I reckon that the less I spend, the more is available for those far more in need than myself.

Jennipher has just left. While she was with me she was able to see and talk to Dilys via Skype. She has received seed and fertiliser for 20 of her most needy clients from government funds, given through a local NGO. In order to be given these assets she had to say that she would ensure that her clients had enough food. The fear is that given the 'agricultural inputs' the clients would sell them to relieve their hunger. So someone has to fund 20 x 50kg bags of maize!!

I will continue to share taxis and use the coaches very sparingly!!

As I went for a bottle of water, the taxi vanished with my backpack. I had just settled down under the shade of a tree to eat my bananas, when a full taxi appeared. I wasn't sure whether it was the same one that had my bag, but I was encouraged to get in and I think I was told by the driver that my bag was in the boot. The taxi had arrived with one driver and another driver took over, but I am not sure whether I had seen either driver before. Drivers here regularly jump in and out of different vehicles, so life becomes a bit confusing Anyway when I arrived at the 'turn-off' my bag emerged safely from the boot!

In Lusaka I met Best who had just finished at college for the day. His taxi is doing well, it is registered to provide a service to and from the airport for 3 days a week, and this seems to be profitable. He is confident of completing his Law degree and is considering going into politics.

Best found me a Rosa bus (not the small bus I came on – but a bit more reliable and probably safer.) Apparently there were only two places to fill when we arrived a little after 16hrs. By 17.30 we had loaded at least another 6 or 8 passengers plus miscellaneous goods including a solar panel measuring no less than 6 foot by 3 foot. There was some banter when there was no sign from the driver that he wanted to move. At 18hrs the conductor got out of the drivers seat and the driver arrived. A travelling pastor said a prayer for a safe journey and only after he was finished did the bus move off. The driver drove very well and we arrived at Tooters (just outside my house) at about 21 hrs.

As I walked through the door Dilys rang. She has been trying to resolve a problem where her phone will not receive text messages from me while I am in Zambia. (It receives from other phones in Zambia, it receives calls and can send both to me!!)She received a new sim caard from Virgin but they sent the wrong one – it was meant to be for the same number but turned out to be another customer's number. Because Dilys activated it before realising Virgin's mistake, they are refusing to send another sim. The people from the call centre in the Philippines are being as helpful as possible but it seems that they haven't the authority to try to resolve the problem. They can only hand out free minutes and texts messages as compensation (for calls within the UK – not to Zambia!). I doubt if Richard Branson reads my blog – perhaps he would have the necessary authority. Maybe the answer is Orange!!

I was ready for a shower after the long time travelling, but I had to wait more than an hour before the taps produced any water. I have one of the world's most ecologically friendly showers here at the house! The water drips from a few holes in the shower head (more, but not much more, leaks from various hoses and the base of the head – not so ecological, I agree). Only the cold water tap works – in fact I haven't found a hot water tap working in Zambia yet this year! Having said all this I had a wonderful refreshing shower before turning into bed. At this time of year cold water here isn't very cold – even from the borehole. The combination of the air temperature of about 30°C and cool water tricking down makes for a very pleasant experience.

This morning I attended a meeting of a new pro-life group starting in Zambia. Justina spoke to me about her ideas a couple of years back. In the 70s and 80s Dilys and I were very involved in “Life” - a UK pro-life organisation. After discussions Justina decided to establish Zambia Life on similar lines. The name had already been taken so the organisation is registered as “Loving Life Offering Hope” after the motto of Life UK. It will probably be known as “Loving Life”.

Abortion is becoming more common here in Zambia. Whatever people feel about whether it should be allowed, there are very few who believe it to be a good thing. Life concentrates on showing that there are positive alternatives. Unfortunately much of Life's work in theUK is now involved in counselling women who weren't shown the alternatives and need counselling after having the abortion. Abortion is not an easy option and the consequences can be devastating to the women – of course it always destroys the life of the child.

Earlier in the morning I was visited by Catherine – a sister of Mrs. Sianga. She is hoping to re-establish a small business as a tailor, a profession in which she has been trained. Her previous sewing machine no longer works, but with support from Deana (who came out as a Hands Around the World volunteer.) and an NGO working locally she hopes to be better able to look after her young family.

After lunch I had visits from Jennipher and Lilian, then Diven and finally Raymond who has just left at about 21.30. So as I said at the start of this post - “ I am never lonely in Zambia!!”.

Good night and may God bless you,


Thursday, September 20, 2012

From Monze to Chisamba

Thursday 20th September

In many ways it feels as if I have been here for weeks and yet it was only this time last week that I was passing through security at Heathrow.

I am now in Chisamba catching up on progress with the Kaliyangile project.

I have quickly become accustomed once more to the ways of the people here and many seem to remember the strange white man who wanders around their compounds. The children greet me with 'How are you' and respond with smiles and laughter, as I wave and reply. I have learnt to accept the many people coming up to me to ask for money, or some other assistance. It can be intimidating, but I try to treat everyone with respect and listen to their requests – most accept my refusal of money graciously and sometimes I find that they are just inquisitive and want to know what I am doing in Zambia. Today a guy asked me whether there were white men who would pay good money for old Zambian coins (in fact all Zambian coins are old, since the depreciation of the Kwacha has meant that only notes have been exchanged for many years.). A couple of years ago I was asked a similar question and not knowing the answer checked a coin catalogue at home. It would seem that the coins have very little value unless they are in excellent (almost new) condition, and particularly rare. So I couldn't impart good news.

On Monday I needed to catch up with the Hands Around the World project in Monze – PIZZ School.

All the projects I know, run on a shoestring. There is never any spare money and lots of juggling is needed to keep up with the bills. The school is producing good results and it was good to meet up with Mrs. Sianga once again. As a charity we do our best to promote the work of this school where 240 children are being taught. Most of whom would have no education otherwise and little chance of progressing to make even a modest living. It is wonderful to see what a difference a relatively little investment can make to so many lives. Without inspirational people like Mrs. Sianga many children would lack hope. Unfortunately here in Zambia there are more than 1 million orphaned children – many just wanting that chance. We caught up and I promised to do whatever I could to reduce the burden, under which she is looking rather weary these days.

I have told Fr. Kenan that ideally I need my own space. One of the problems is that I have a constant flow of visitors – who like cups of coffee and feeding if possible! Another is that my lounge often resembles a workshop – which wouldn't be fair in the priest's house. In the morning he brought me several printers and a laptop and asked whether I could get them working! So my lounge became a workshop! I had a fair bit of success, though an Epson printer refused to perform.

The government has introduced a number of knew rules which have merit, but perhaps the implications haven't been fully recognised. (It seems to me governments are the same worldwide!) One change is the introduction of a minimum wage of 540,000 kwacha a month (about £72) – this equates to more than twice the average income of about £1 a day. This is likely to cause a lot of people to lose jobs if it is enforced - some of the staff at our projects earn less than 540,000 per month and at the moment the budget wouldn't cover the proposed increase.

By Tuesday I was well sorted out with tea and coffee. Unfortunately very little water had emerged from the tap for a day or two. Tuesday afternoon was the first opportunity to gather sufficient in reserve to cater for the requirements of myself and my guests. Luke visited me with his wife and Jennipher and Diven also called in during the day. I showed them some of the photos and videos from the Paralympics.

I was lucky to attend some sessions of the Paralympics with Dilys in the Olympic Stadium and watched the final day of athletic competition with my son Andy. It was inspiring to see the capability of these athletes. With a bit of thought, determination and the investment of time, energy and finance, it is amazing how disabilities can be overcome. If only we were determined to provide this opportunity to all with disabilities, however caused and in all parts of the world. How much better our world would be.

One of the interesting outcomes of the Paralympics was the amazingly good humoured and life-giving atmosphere that resulted – particularly around the Olympic Village. I hope that the event will change perceptions of disability and that more resources are provided to ensure that people with disabilities are able to take a fuller and more active part in everyday life.

First thing on Tuesday, I called into the hospital to check the position on my possible move to the hospital guest house, to check on the situation at the hospital and offer my services if required. The Accountant Motty, who was an uncle of Lukes and someone I knew well, died earlier this year and other key staff are currently doing courses away from the hospital – including the Administrator. Though it is not clear how I could help during my short stay, there might be some assistance I can give – we will see.

After breakfast yesterday (Wednesday), I set off for Chisamba. Diven was travelling as far as Mazabuka to pick up some goods to sell back in Monze, so I decided to join him in the minibus – though I usually avoid the small minibuses on long journeys. The driver was reluctant to move although he had a full bus and I predicted that another driver would appear. True enough he arrived eventually and ,after some wandering around, we set off an hour after boarding the bus.

I find it difficult to watch the way in which animals are treated here in Zambia. We had a trailer on the back and in the course of our journey it became full of pigs and goats unceremoniously dragged into it. We also had a couple of live chickens stuffed under a seat inside.

Once again there were accidents en-route. A lorry carrying steel girders was on its back - the cab crushed – I doubt whether the driver survived. Another lorry further down the road was on its side and cotton bales lay on the edgeof the road. I must admit to a great dislike of speed bumps. They seem to have taken off with a vengeance in Zambia during the past year. One of the side effects is damage to the vehicles' suspension. I can't help wondering whether this could be a contributory cause in some of these accidents.

As we approached Lusaka I had a call from Sr. Loice, for whom I had a sewing kit given to me back in the UK. We met and she drove me to the bus station were I jumped onto the Chisamba bus with my backpack, laptop and saw! (I was asked by a man in Lusaka whether I was a carpenter – to which I replied “no, but I know a man who is!”)

Surprisingly the bus was very soon full and on its way to the crossroads. Again at the crossroads the taxi left immediately. Surely this was too good to last!! And sure enough it was!! About half way to Chisamba the car lost power and gradually came to a halt. I had smelt petrol fumes and it seems that we had no fuel left. We waited at the side of the road for a short while and another taxi came along. I was surprised to see a familiar face in the front passenger seat. Patrick, who is very much involved with the Kaliyangile project had taken the cab. We were back on the move again and approaching Chisamba when there was an explosion and the front tyre split open. So another stop was required to change the wheel before we completed our journey. The incidence of breakdown in Zambia is high!! This is very far from the first time I have had to transfer from vehicles or wait for repairs before completing a journey.

I settled into the Guest House before Moses drove me to the Centre (Kaliyangile site). There I met Persis the new manager, Remmy – the carpentry instructor and Robert the tailoring instructor, together with Davison and Petros who I know from previous years.
It was good to meet the new staff and get an idea of the current position with the project. Disappointments over funding have made it a difficult year, but some progress has been made and there is more activity at the Centre than when I was last around. The 'day old chicks' are now nearing six months old and are big and healthy chickens laying some 250 eggs a day between them. The tailor and carpenter are in demand both from students and local customers. When they are not teaching they make products to sell and bring in income for the centre, providing funds for further materials to use on the courses. The laptop which has given good service over the years seems to me to be beyond its useful life – I tried a few things to bring it back to life but failed to resuscitate the patient.

Today I spent most of the day at the Centre getting to know the staff, explaining my role, and talking about plans for the future.

I am now well used to nshima again. This evening a guy joined me at the table for supper. He thought that people would come a long way to see a white man eating nshima with his hands! I think that it is important to try to fit into the culture and adopting some of the local customs shows respect. It certainly seems to be appreciated. Personally I don't understand how you can eat nshima except with your hands! Its not made for knives, forks or spoons!!

Best wishes


Monday, September 17, 2012

Left at Sunset and arrived at Sunrise

17th September 2012

I am back home in Zambia!

Many of my friends welcome me with the words “welcome back home” and its true that Zambia has become a second home for me.

I took off into the sunset from Heathrow airport and arrived at Lusaka as the sun was rising.

Moses was meeting me at the airport, but before he arrived I had a chance to sit in the cocktail lounge, which overlooks the runway, and have a cup of tea, while I acclimatised to my new surroundings. The temperature was just above 20°C when I arrived at 6 am. The local swifts and swallows were there to greet me, as they anticipate the arrival of their visitors from Europe.

I had been a little concerned about carrying a box of tools on the plane, but I needn't have worried. Everything went smoothly and the box arrived intact and in perfect condition the other end, with no one interested in the contents.

So I made my way to the lounge with two large suitcases, a cardboard banana box full of carpentry tools, a backpack and a laptop. (I have never had a problem with the amount of luggage I carry. It seems that the Lord sorts out my booking. - everyone else who flies economy class only gets an allowance of one bag – not the three 23kg bags that appear as my free allowance when I check online). I was greeted warmly by the waiter, who I have met in similar circumstances over a number of years. Moses arrived and joined me for a coffee and a chat before we set of for the bus station. He relieved me of the box and continued to Chisamba.

By mid-day I was in Monze.

Quickly I begin to remember the differences that remind me I am in another world. The smell is different! I had forgotten the distinctive smell that comes from the dust in the air. The pied crows, palm, baobab and euphorbia trees, mud huts, ladies with babies on their backs and goods on their heads are all part of the welcome home.

For the first time on my trip from Lusaka to Monze I spotted a monkey not far from the main road. Unfortunately a more common sight was the lorry on its side, with cotton strewn across the road.

I was shown to my room at the priest's house – the same one I had used last year before Dilys and Amy joined me.

When I arrived, a celebration mass was under way for two young women who were taking their final vows to become Sisters of the Holy Spirit. I met Fr. Kenan as he came from the church and he invited me (and Jennipher who had already caught up with me) to join in the celebration meal.

I mentioned Mike in my previous blog. At his funeral a man came who turned out to be Mike's brother.

I find it very difficult here to establish relationships as we know them in the UK. Very often cousins are referred to as brothers. I was talking to my friend Diven on Saturday evening about my aunt who died in March this year. He explained to me that she was my mother! Apparently in Zambia aunts are also referred to as mother.

Unfortunately Mike's brother was knocked down by a car in Pemba shortly after the funeral and is now a patient at the hospital. I visited him on Saturday with Jennipher after our meal. He has a broken arm and leg, but the main concern is a large wound in his leg, which seems to be in danger of getting infected. There are a lot of flies in the ward which are causing a problem. The wound is washed each day with clean water and re-dressed, but little else is done - probably due to limited resources. We complain about the conditions in the NHS but there is no comparison to those found in what is a major Zambian hospital here in Monze.

I had a meal with Diven in the evening and was visited afterwards by Raymond. So it was 22 hrs before I was able to draw breath and wrap a couple of presents for tomorrows celebrations.

I knew that Sunday was to be busy!!

Our Lady of the Wayside church has been linked with the Catholic parish of St. Gregory with St. Thomas More for a number of years. On Sunday they were celebrating 50 years of the Diocese of Monze. I usually attend this church, so it was appropriate for me to go there for mass. Of course it was a special mass and, though it started early at about 9.30, it was almost 13 hrs when we emerged after lots of joyful singing and dancing. I was given the opportunity to say a few words at the end of the service and was able to show the congregation the card and photo books I had brought from the church in Cheltenham.

After mass there were further celebrations including a meal, sketches and songs performed by each of the Small Christian Communities and games – tug of war, a sack race and netball competition.

Much as I try to blend into the background, I seem to stick out here! I was treated as the guest of honour, which meant leading in prayer, giving short speeches and sitting on the stage when performances were taking place! Despite this I enjoyed the day. It was wonderful to be with people that were so clearly having such fun – there were times that I joined them in tears of laughter at the antics of some of the performers. I have tried to capture some of the activities and I will attempt to add the pictures to this blog.

It was about 18 hrs when I returned to my home at the priest's house.

We finished supper shortly after 20 hrs and Fr. Kenan wondered whether it was still early enough for a game of pool! Despite still having far from caught up on my lost sleep, the challenge of a game of pool was too great to resist.

Unfortunately the pool table has been moved to a room without electricity. So we had to find another table. We headed for the golf course, but found that the light over the table wasn't working – this we could have coped with, but the lack of a white ball was another matter!! So it was back in the car and a trip of nearly 10 miles to “Mayfair”. Apparently the table is not greatly used, however on this occasion there was already a group of people playing. We eventually took our turn, I just managed to win my first game. It is custom here for the winner to stay at the table and so I was fortunate to spend the next couple of hours taking on all challengers!

When I was young my father had a good billiard table and he adapted the dining room table to accommodate it. So in the holidays I removed the leaves of the table and spent hours playing billiards. This has proved very valuable on the pool table!!

I was finally beaten and, after Fr. Kenan played a last game we returned, getting back just after midnight!

At 6.30 this morning Monze woke up – I was hoping to sleep a little longer! A shop or bar was playing music at full blast, so I only managed to doze a little before rising at about 7.15.

I have already had a visit from Jennipher. I now have a kettle, but haven't sorted out tea, coffee and milk. At the moment there isn't any water coming from the taps which also creates a difficulty!! I will however be organised before the end of the day.


PS Ignore date on photo!