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!

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