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.