Thursday, October 25, 2012

Independence Day

Wednesday 24th October

Today is Independence Day. It is 48 years since Zambia ceased to be a British Colony.

Last week one of the priests temporarily staying in Monze was refused a visa to visit England next month. Some religious sisters in Newcastle had invited him to come and give some talks – they were happy to pay all his expenses etc. but, apparently because of some documentation being missing, his application has been refused. The little contact I have had with people going through the process suggests that it is very bureaucratic and it takes ea lot of time and effort to jump through the hoops set out. I can't help suspecting that applications from the so called developed countries wouldn't be so onerous.

Yesterday was my last day in Monze and, not surprisingly, it was hectic! I had arranged to meet up with Sr. Rachael to look at the goods made to support orphaned children. This year I have no market back in the UK, but I picked a selection of items that might end up in a few Christmas stockings – though if you look at the size of some of the baskets they had better be very large ones!!

I realised that I hadn't seen Mrs. Chiiya properly this year, so I called in to say hallo on my way back. We chatted for an hour or so. Saki is about to finish secondary school and hopes to take up nursing – this might be influenced by the fact that her Mrs. Chiiya (her mother) has started a private nursing school in Monze.

Jennipher had been trying to see me to say goodbye and called in when I got home. While I was with her the two ladies who she introduced as being in need of support also dropped around. It is very difficult to refuse help, but I cannot meet all the demands. A friend had given me a few pounds to pass on while I was here so I split this between them. They will at least have a little food for a short while.

I had been trying to load anti-virus software onto yet another computer, whenever I had an opportunity. The internet connection however was too slow.

After lunch I headed for the ATM which might give me some cash. There is always a final bit of settling up – various projects etc. and a donation here and there, which usually means a lot of activity at the bank over the final few days!! Another queue in very hot sun meant that I didn't get to see Mrs. Sianga until 14.30. I needed to return the laptop and camera as well as having a final chat about the project. She introduced me to a guy who has agreed to help with the production of her reports and I left just before 16 hrs.

Next I made a quick trip to the convent to pick up and pay for the goods I chose earlier at Buntolo. Buntolo is a bit of a walk and I didn't want to carry a big bag back with me, so I used Sr. Rachael and her taxi to do the transporting. (The convent backs onto the cathedral grounds and there is a connecting gate – so in contrast to Buntolo it is very convenient!)

I agreed to swap bits of two computers in order to provide a decent working machine in the parish office – so this was my next task. The dogs were a bit bemused as I walked to and fro with computer CPUs and screens! Recently Bingo has objected to me passing and has ran at me barking – I don't what I have done to upset him, but he soon backs away when I talk to him sternly! It was after 5pm by the time I had installed the machines and started downloading anti-virus - this time the speed looked promising.

I had been getting calls throughout the day from people wanting to say goodbye. I had told them it would be OK but had started to lose track of who I said could come when!! Obert arrived while I was packing. I had just put the kettle on and offered him a drink when I noticed a face outside. Raymond was checking to see if I was alone! I said we wouldn't be long and he agreed to wait. Time was moving along by now and at about 18.40 I had a call from a number I didn't recognise. “Please can you come and collect your things!” I began to think it must be a wrong number, but then I realised that it was Ireen who promised to complete my shirts by 16 hrs. I apologised and ran off to her workshop taking Obert with me. She was busy completing the button holes when I arrived – using a torch shone by one of her 'apprentices'! I had another call from Collins who couldn't find me at the priest's house. I had told him I was around to receive a letter he had for me to take to Lusaka. We arranged to meet on the High Street. Ireen got me to model the shirts - again in torchlight - she declared they were OK .Just as well really, since it was 19.15 and I hadn't time for alterations!

Back at home I had a knock at the door and expected to see Raymond. However, it was Diven who had appeared – Raymond was still willing to wait, so I was informed by Diven. Raymond eventually popped in to see me just before supper – though I did have to do a little bit with the computer in between!!

Nearly there! The packing was almost complete, the anti-virus was downloaded, though for some reason Google Chrome has been installing for over an hour – I wasn't aware I asked for it, but probably left a box ticked somewhere!

Fr. Kenan had been busy at a funeral and wasn't at supper. I assumed that our final tournament wouldn't take place, however he called around and said he was up for it. I was now just waiting for the egg cups! These arrived a few minutes later with Fr. Raphael – after I checked and found that my friend Google was still busy.

So I went to Mayfair to play pool with a clear conscience, feeling that I was more or less ready to depart. Fr. Clement joined us and claimed the major successes of the evening. It was about 00.30 by the time we were back. Before leaving Fr. Kenan remarked that it had become cold – the concept of it being cold when the temperature was 25 °C might seem a little alien to most readers! After setting the computer the overnight task of checking for viruses and increasing the weight of my cases with the 122 egg cups, I turned in for the final time in Monze.

I rose early and headed for the church, forgetting that there is no 6.30 am mass on holidays! However, it gave me the opportunity for a final visit to the ATM to cover the remaining cost of my stay here. I also satisfied a recent request I had to bring back a few mealie meal sacks in case they could be converted into bee-keeping suits.

I had a lonely breakfast and called a taxi to take me to the big bus stop.

I was able to leave Monze shortly after 9 am and we made good timing until we caught up with 3 exceptionally wide loads just before Chilanga. Here they have exceptionally unfriendly sets of speed bumps. In the usual course of things they probably add 10 minutes to any journey. Today our journey was delayed by at least 30 minutes.

I was relieved to see Justina soon after I arrived at the Inter City bus station. She organised a taxi to take us to her house where we had some nshima and watched the proceedings at State House where President Sata was handing out awards to commemorate Independence Day.

I caught a bus and walked through town to Lumumba bus station. I thought I was in luck. A Chisamba minibus was just about to leave, but even more astounding, after being told to get in, the conductor decided that it was full. I had a book ready and decided to settle into my thriller. I was surprised to read that my character was visiting Lumumba hall. Time passed quickly and, after an hour or so, we headed for Chisamba Turnoff. I was offered a taxi for K50,000 but said I was happy to wait and pay K10,000. So I covered another few chapters before leaving for Chisamba Township. My room was awaiting me. I can't remember how many years ago I was introduced to room 1 but ever since this has been allocated to me whenever I visit.

This is likely to be my last post from Zambia – and you might not get this till I get home – depending on Internet access. Very soon I will be transported back to a different world. I will need to stop eating with my fingers – I had t-bone steak tonight, it was a bit more expensive, but is rarely on the menu, so I spent the £3 for the meal and treated myself! In England buses will move when half full and keep to a timetable, cars and pedestrians will have separate paths, water and electricity will become reliable, and people will rush around without saying hallo.

I asked one of the priests how he found his time when studying in Washington. He said he hated it. No one spoke to him, he reckoned that if he died in his room they would only realise when the smell reached them. What an indictment of so called civilisation!

There will be a lot to reflect on over the next few weeks. It has only been a short trip, but I am ready to go home. I hope I will have a few hours on Friday to prepare for the shock of returning home.

With my love and prayers


Monday, October 22, 2012

Will I ever learn Chitonga?

Monday 22nd October

Saturday is already a blur – probably because too much of my time was wasted with computers. I still have a machine that will not load Windows. At least it now produces more than hieroglyphics on the screen. I suspect that opening it up after so many years was my mistake! Dust and brittle cables are best left undisturbed!!

Sunday was a busy day with church business. The choirs and young dancers at the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of the Wayside swapped for the day. I wondered why the ladies of the choir looked so elegant in their satin gowns! They put on a very good performance at Our lady of the Wayside.

I have an assignment to take photos for a calendar so I took a few before and after mass. I am far from the world's best photographer – I just hope if I take enough some will be usable.

After our 'Section' meeting a few of us visited the home of the man we saw last week – he died a couple of days ago. The room was emptied so that 20 – 30 could squeeze in to say some prayers and sing a few hymns. I was asked to say a prayer and quoted from next weeks gospel which we had just reflected upon: “They said to Bartimaus – rise up, Jesus is calling you.” It seemed appropriate for the elderly man who had died. I also recalled the poem which talks about saying goodbye to the person as the boat goes over the horizon, while those at its destination are getting ready to welcome the new arrival.

At the end of our prayers we had a sharp shower, that slightly delayed my return. Diven was keen that I went to see his current house, so despite the time pressing on, I made a quick visit and enjoyed a little sump and sour.

If anyone has a solution to Luke's problem with Skype please let me know! It works fine except that the video cannot display properly on his screen. The camera works and the video can be seen at the far end and there is no problem taking a picture for the Skype profile!

Recently I have had difficulty finding a working ATM. Today I found one but had to queue for 30 minutes under the African sun. I then had to get my money out in three sessions because the highest denomination was 20,000 kwacha (about £2.50) and the drawer holds a limited number of notes. (Nationwide also charges me for each transaction which adds to the cost! - it is my one complaint with Nationwide, that they charge me to use ATMs here, despite heading a campaign against charging in the UK. So if there are any Nationwide managers reading this blog, please use your influence to remove these charges!)

Yesterday I met Mr. Monze on the road – and to my shame I didn't recognise him. For years he has talked to me at the hospital, attempting to teach me a little Chitonga. He has been so patient and never gives up – despite my pathetic learning skills. Today I met Alick. I first got to know Alick as the MC at the hospital chapel, but haven't seen him for a couple of years, he lent me a book – learning Chitonga – he has been as successful as Mr Monze! Alick's father said hallo on Saturday – another face I didn't recognise – and he told Alick I was around. He is now studying welding in Mazabuka. He told me it was fine, except for its effect on his eyes. Though they have shields, they lift them sometimes to see what they are doing and, naturally, it affects their eyes. Health and safety practice is not good in Zambia, I hope that no permanent damage is done.

I called at PIZZ school for a quotation for books. To fully equip the grade 1 to 7 classes would cost about 40 million kwacha – about £5,000.

On the way home I popped in to see Edward. We had a chat and he offered me a very welcome drink.

I don't know how many people said that they would say hallo and goodbye tomorrow. I am also compiling a long list of tasks to fit in! Tomorrow will be hectic!!

Bye for now


Friday, October 19, 2012

Familiar sights

Friday 19th October

I realise how familiar I now find the way of life here. I don't think twice about the ladies with all manner of goods carried on their heads – even children will carry 4 or 5 litre water bottles. Many will balance the commodities without a thought about steadying them with their hands. Eating with my hands is second nature to me and mixing with cattle and Ox-carts in the streets seems perfectly normal. However I still find the poverty difficult to accept. How can we allow this to happen? We live in a world where we are capable of providing for everyone, where even the most disabled, with the right, equipment can take a very active part. If scientists co-operated we could solve the world's biggest problems. Yet the richest are not satisfied, we guard secrets that could make huge positive differences to mankind and we still spend fortunes on weapons.

Yesterday I was talking to Charles about his PEASSA project. He tries to provide support for a few elderly and disabled people around Monze. Sometimes he cannot afford the chemicals needed to stop disease and insects destroying his crop – and if he can they are often not available locally. He produced a long list of food that he would like to supply to every person each month – in practice he will just provide a client with a small bag of beans one month and the next a little bag of Kapenta (very small dried fish). Four of his clients will almost certainly have their houses washed away when the rains come – they are due any minute. They are hoping to have them rebuilt. Simple single room buildings made of mud bricks and grass thatching costing about £80 each. There is no way that PEASSA can find this money.

Today two ladies Agnes and Catherine came to see me. They had been waiting for Jennipher since morning. Agnes is the lady whose husband is sick – she tells me she has 6 not 5 children as I previously reported! Catherine lost her husband in 2008. Last month one of her sons died. She had to spend what little money she had on transport costs to and from the hospital. She has a little market stall where she tries to earn enough to keep her children - selling beans and Kapenta. She was considering selling her mattress and sleeping on the floor to raise enough money to buy a bag of Kapenta or beans tand start selling again. (Friends advised against it because she recently had a serious operation and sleeping on the floor wouldn't be good for her.). There is a major problem in Monze with water shortages. Sometimes at 3 am Catherine says she can get some water if she queues. She would like more than the two containers she has because it is difficult for the family to wash with so little, but she cannot afford extra containers. (People usually buy empty containers once used for cooking oil or similar commodities – about 5 litres.)

I visited a lady whose girl was in the children's ward. Her child was brought in with Jennipher's help and that of the bicycle ambulance. The child is unable to stand or support her head. The hospital have diagnosed sickle cell disease. She was in the ward for malnourished children. Here the children receive extra food, the parents however very often go hungry. The lady is pregnant with another child and worries how she will cope because she cannot afford a pram and carrying two children – one being severely disabled – is going to be a problem.

Unfortunately these stories are just a few of the many I come across, but give a glimpse into the lives of so many here in Zambia. Yet there are minerals here, particularly copper, which are much sought after and command high prices – someone is getting rich, but it certainly isn't the ordinary Zambian.

It is a great joy, as well as a relief, when water comes out of the tap. Yesterday we had a little water after lunch and today it is after 9 pm and this is the first water since yesterday. But I am lucky! It is rarely more than a day before water re-emerges. I can fill up a few bottles and a bucket when it arrives and I can cope till it comes back. For others water is a constant issue and often they have to resort to impure sources. There is plenty of water in Zambia – most of it underground – but the infrastructure needed to deliver it effectively is often absent.

My work on computers has had some success, but there are still computers in a sorry state and I doubt whether they will all be fully functional before I leave.

My stay here in Zambia is rapidly coming to an end. I intend to leave Monze on Wednesday, passing through Chisamba before leaving for the UK on Saturday. My final days are becoming booked by friends and my little projects – as usual I will run away leaving many things incomplete.

Bye for Now


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sometimes the needs are overwhelming

Wednesday 17th October

It seems an age since I was in Chisamba!

The past two days I have spent back at school. I started yesterday in grade 1 and reached grade 9 today. I thought that it would be good to spend some time with the students in their classes. And I enjoyed the experience – in grade 2 they were talking about birthdays when I joined them. I mentioned that it was my daughter's birthday so the teacher designed a simple card on the blackboard and all the children copied the card “Happy Birthday Barby, we love you” into their exercise books. They also sang Happy Birthday Barbara, which I videoed and played to my daughter and granddaughter over Skype later in the evening. Teaching is a difficult task anywhere, with very few books and other teaching materials and children who have to learn their subjects in a foreign language – the teaching is in English – the task is made much more difficult. I admired the teachers determination and was impressed by the way they praised and encouraged the children – especially the younger ones.

It was probably a bit intimidating for the teachers to have me sitting in their classes, but at least some were able to put me on the spot and tell me about their difficulties, in a meeting today after the classes. Finding funds to pay salaries is very difficult and the amount that can be afforded is hardly enough to live on, but they are keen to help the disadvantaged children, so they continue to teach despite the hardships.

On Saturday I met the committee at Kaliyangile which proved very positive. My brain switched off again in Lusaka and I made the mistake of parting with cash for a coach which I was assured was just about to leave. I had caught a Rosa bus from the “Chisamba turn-off” which was heading for the Inter-City bus station. Since time was moving on, and I didn't relish wandering through Lusaka, I decided to catch a Big Bus – these were very well described by someone telling me a story about a man who was saving the few kwachas he earned for a big bus. If you put your arms straight out in front of you and then flick the palms downwards, you will know what a big bus is!! - I digress! There are many big buses at Inter-City - a few of which go to Monze. Unlike other buses they usually stick to a timetable. I arrived just before 16 hrs and one was leaving at 17hrs or 17.30. Instead of deciding to wait – or look to find one leaving sooner, I agreed to go on the one leaving now! At a little after 18hrs we moved off and when we left Lusaka it was after 18.30, so we didn't arrive in Monze till 21.15.

On Sunday the bishop was confirming 120 candidates! So there was a single mass for the parish and all connected churches. The service started at 9 hrs and concluded at 12.30. It was lively with plenty of singing and dancing. As well as the usual gifts offered there were a couple of goats and a few chickens and other bird – live of course.

Sometimes the needs here can feel overwhelming. Last week one of Jennipher's clients who was doing well and looking after his family was involved in a freak accident and was killed. He leaves a wife and five children. She has no idea how she will be able to provide for them.

On Monday just after Jennipher told me this story, the lady who has been cleaning the rooms where I stay wanted to speak to me. Using Jennipher as an interpreter, she told me that her husband has been bedridden for four or five years. She is just doing the cleaning while someone is away. She also has five children and doesn't want to leave her husband. She has a little land but no money to buy fertiliser and maize seed for the coming growing season – the money she earned won't cover this cost. (About £65 will provide the family with a crop that would last most of next year). I cannot find any more money this year – I hope I have enough for getting to the airport next week!! Such requests I receive daily and is very difficult to refuse. Sometimes – like on this occasion – I say that I will tell people about their needs on my blog, and just maybe someone will be willing to help.

Best wishes


Friday, October 12, 2012

Getting to know you

Friday 12th October

I easily get distracted by computers. I see a process on paper and think that I could do it more efficiently by putting together something on the computer – usually a database!

So I have spent a little bit of time setting up a form to collect data on egg production. Davidson is not at all familiar with computers but was soon entering the data. It might be helpful and it would do no harm for Davidson to get some exposure to the computer. I could link it to the accounts records – but I think that would be a step too far at the moment.

My main task has been to get to know the staff at Kaliyangile. Yesterday I talked to Davidson and Robert – the tailor. Davidson has been with the project since it's inception and has been very loyal and hard-working. The recent re-introduction of chickens has meant that he has to work every day – if only to collect the eggs.

I enjoyed talking to the staff, picked up a number of good ideas and a better understanding of some of the requirements that are not currently being met – particularly in relation to training equipment.

Today I arranged to meet all the staff as a group to discuss the project and get some discussions flowing. I found the session very helpful - there was a lot of interaction and some positive ideas came forward. I was impressed that the staff were all very much in line with regards the aim of the centre – that being to make sure that the students had a good future beyond their training. As one of the staff put it – he would rather that a student finishes with something that will provide for her and her family in the future and fail the exams, than receive a certificate and sit at home doing nothing. This is not to decry the qualifications, but in themselves they are not the objective of the training.

At the end of today's session I powered up the computer to show the Hands Around the World website and the link to Global Giving - where details of the Kaliyangile project can be found. I also showed the links to this blog. Finally I logged onto Skype where we found Jim. He is keen to establish a bee-keeping course here at Chisamba and has been in touch with Bees For Development who are considering providing some support. In addition to the training, the idea would be for the centre to make the protective clothing, bee-hives and possibly “smokers”. We must have talked via the computer for about 30 minutes. For some of the staff this was their first opportunity to experience this technology.

Last night I joined my friends in the bar for a pint and a chat. It can be quite interesting when we talk about the project. I pick up some information about the local perceptions and sometimes try to correct a few that are off the mark!

It was back to fish yesterday, though on Wednesday the chicken was very good. Here chicken comes in two varieties – chicken and village chicken. Chicken is what we are used too – although much tastier than the caged variety we might get from a fast food chain. Village chicken is something else. I expect these are the birds that run around everywhere feeding on what they can find. They haven't a great amount of meat on them, but the flavour is wonderful. Much richer than the usual bird. I am sure that it was a village chicken that was served here.

Best wishes


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sorry about the photos

Wednesday 10th October

I am back at the Chisamba Guest House. I am familiar with this place, I am used to the facilities and I know the staff. I miss ready access to cups of tea, so I indulge with a full pot at breakfast. Cornflakes is not on the menu but eggs, sausages, chips, bread ,onions and tomatoes are present (or not!). This morning everything was available, sometimes some of the items are missing – I think on one occasion everything was present except for the onions, tomatoes, bread and yes, the eggs and sausages! So I had a plate of chips!! One thing is consistent however – breakfast costs 25,000 kwacha (irrespective of the contents!) Supper is beef, chicken or fish - with nshima of course. (often the fish and beef are off, but the chicken is usually present) Yesterday,however, I had a beautiful whole fish (talapia, I think). The food is usually cooked well and is tasty, though the oil is never spared!

Water is not such a problem here – I shouldn't test fate, but I can't remember it being absent. I had a cold shower at 7.30 this morning with pleasantly cold water, without getting at all chilled!

I was surprised to find mangoes on sale today. They are not due in Monze until late November, if not December. I was told that these are from Mongu, which I believe is up in the north of the country. I was given a mango back in England a month or two back and was told it was like a fresh mango - I was disappointed! As I peeled back the skin of today's mango, the memories flooded back. The smell that pours out of a proper mango is intoxicating, the juice starts dripping and the stringy flesh entices that first bite. It didn't disappoint! As you might gather I love my mangoes!!

On Monday I spent some time with my student. Obert had a few algebra questions to answer and, although I can't remember how many years it is since I looked at the subject, I had no difficulty in understanding the questions and knowing how to tackle them. Obert had managed a couple of questions and with some guidance managed to work his way through the remainder. I hope that I helped him to understand how to tackle the questions – I told him to come back if he wants any more tuition.

While Obert was with me, Jennipher brought Selina and left her for me to entertain for a while. I showed her some photos and videos on the computer and ended up showing her how to play pinball! I wanted to set up a Skype session so she could talk to Dilys but the connection failed.

Before Obert arrived I adpicked up some desktop memory from Teddy and installed a card in Fr. Jackson's computer. It seemed to be OK when I went for my lesson, though I didn't check whether the new card was recognised. When I returned the computer no longer had Windows running! So far the computer cannot load Windows! - I did say I wasn't a computer expert!!

After Fr. Jackson left I tried one more time to get the machine working – and the power failed!!

We have had some interesting discussions over meals. One theme has been about thinking that we are indispensable and rushing around too much without resting or praying enough. I think that I was being reminded that I needed a rest – I was also being put in my place when I was about to show how clever I was. (The Lord regularly uses this tactic to counter my pride!)

So I found a place at the side of the Dam, where I was not surrounded by the local children, and relaxed for an hour or more taking in the atmosphere and watching the birds.

I made an early start yesterday. Around 6 am there are a few Rosa buses that head off to Lusaka. Unusually they even leave without being full!! I jumped into the bus heading towards Livingstone! Although they don't necessarily fill up, they still go around the town – in all directions – before setting off. We eventually headed in the right direction at great speed. I was grateful that I have found a lap belt in the front seat to which I was directed. A little way out of Monze we were overtaken by another Rosa who pulled in front of us and waved us down. It seemed that we should take up the rear so that the other bus could get the first chance at passengers along the road. We now continued at a much more sedate pace, only occasionally speeding up when we had a chance to take over the lead and put some distant between us and our rival!

It was 10 hrs before we arrived in Lusaka.

I don't enjoy Lusaka! I am aware that there are pickpockets everywhere and I am a prime target. I warily stepped out of the bus and thought I was very aware of anyone near me. If I had any sense I would have ensured that nothing tempting was kept in the side pockets of my backpack – unfortunately I have no sense. I had left my camera in it's usual position where it is accessible to take photos and for thieves. After a little while I thought I should check that the pocket was zipped . It was undone and the camera was no longer there. Had I thought at all I would have buried it at the bottom of the bag. You will be lucky to get any new photos this year!! Sorry!

I have decided to spend some time getting to know the staff here. I have made a good start finding out a bit more about Precis' background and I also talked for some time to Remmy – the tailor.

I have decided to donate my laptop to Kaliyangile, so I also spent a while showing Precis the accounts system.

Best wishes


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Zambia Roads

Sunday 7th October

Was it really Wednesday when I last wrote?

I have to keep reminding myself that roads in Zambia are for motorised traffic – with the possible exception of the ox-cart! Others are permitted to use the roads as a concession when the true owners are not around, but if a car wants to use any part of the road the driver has only to give a quick toot and claim the space. For those not familiar with Zambian roads – a road is a piece of ground that is used by motorised vehicles and stretches between the bushes that border it. Don't be confused by that bit of ground that has been laid with some tar – it is rarely used, being more holes than tar anyway- no, that sandy mud at the side of the tar is a major highway!

Despite being just as likely to move into the road than off it, by some miracle, as yet, I have escaped with my life – though I did have a very close shave last week with a bicycle travelling at the speed of light! Even animals here seem to have better sense than me – and they need to because many drivers assume that they know the highway code. This morning, on the way to church, I saw a donkey taking a stroll. He came to the main Lusaka / Livingstone road stopped looked one way and another and, after letting a couple of vehicles pass, wandered into the centre of the road – and stopped!! At least he made sure the next vehicle had plenty of time to brake – having made his point, he strolled to the other side and headed for the railway line (his next challenge!)

I am very familiar with seeing animals wandering around unaccompanied. Cattle, pigs, goats, chickens and even the occasional donkey routinely pass by, without me casting a sideways glance. Lizards and geckos are also a common sight. For one moment I thought a butterfly might alight on my hand this afternoon – it's wingspan was the size of my hand, but, as seems normal here, it didn't settle for me to get a good view. I am looking forward to the first swallows to arrive from Europe, there were a few at the church but I don't think they were the European variety.

Today, after mass, I chatted to five students whose education is sponsored through our church in Cheltenham. It was good to get to know them a little, some I might meet again in future years and follow their progress. After a very quick bite to eat, I headed for where St. Veronica's Small Christian Community were meeting. I had arranged to meet a couple of members who would take me to the meeting. I didn't see them but met another and was directed by them. In the event neither of the members who were to be my guides came to the meeting! I don't think I will ever understand much of what I experience here!

I have been touching base with a few places where there might be some work for me to do – such as the Diocesan project office and the hospital – but no one is demanding my time, so I will quickly retreat. I am not short of things to keep me busy! When at the projects office I did make a few enquiries about solar pumps to take water from wells and boreholes. This seems to be a major need.

I have a couple of computers that need anti-virus software – at least! I have to be careful not to let them devour too much time.

I have decided that I will remain at the priest's house until the end of my stay. I am sure I will be back home before the Hospital Guest House becomes available. Power has been quite good until just now. I only have a couple of minutes before my battery expires! In any case I better try to find my way in the dark to retrieve the matches and light a candle!! In the event the power was off for less than half an hour.

Tomorrow I have agreed to help Obert with his algebra. I told him that, because I never learnt any maths, I haven't forgotten any! In fact I have always found that even after many years I am able to help because I

understood maths rather than learning it!

On Tuesday I am returning to Chisamba for a few days and already I am aware that I have very little time left here in Zambia.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Life Giving

Wednesday 3rd October

I often ask myself what am I meant to be doing here is Zambia.

In 1996 just before I stopped formal work I spent a week on a life changing retreat. It was a difficult time in my life, but during my spiritual searching I was taught to recognise those things that are life-giving and those that are life-draining.

So often we rush around trying to do things, to make changes, to have a positive impact. We become exhausted and frustrated. Even though we seem to be seeking what is good, the effect is far from life-giving and so often our efforts result in failure. At other times we relax and enjoy the company of others, we listen and learn and we have no pretence that we will solve all the problems. This can be hugely life-giving and, despite knowing that little can be done, the results are sometimes immense.

This morning I joined Jennipher on a visit to Pemba where she lives with her family. I wanted to meet up once again with the children I have come to know over the years. Emmanuel and Maggie have grown from babies to bright little toddlers in the past year. They ran up to me and let me scoop them into my arms. They laughed as I carried them both to meet Jennipher's support group. Selina now a lovely girl, who, when not at school, is busy looking after and playing with the little ones, gave me a hug, but is now too grown up to sit on my knee. She was a very small girl when I got to know her 7 years ago – at that time life was a struggle and she was very thin and kept a sad face. She is very different now. She is at school and doing well. She would like some books, new school shoes and a bike, but is otherwise happy. When I first saw Emmanuel he was only a day or two old. His mother, one of Jennipher's clients had died in childbirth. Jennipher was willing to take him in as part of her family, though she would need help to buy dried milk. He was very weak initially, but with care grew strong and is now a lovely mischievous little lad. The smiles from Maggie today touched the depths of my soul.

At another retreat I remember there were lots of pictures that showed two monkeys smiling at each other. I don't understand why I have never seen pictures of Christ where he is shown laughing! At the end of my retreat I imagined myself and God as the two monkeys laughing together. Being together with Jennipher's family just for a short time connected me with what is truly life-giving and in so doing connected me with my God.

Before arriving at her house we passed through the health centre. There I met a man who has been bed-ridden for sometime. He was extremely thin with hardly an ounce of flesh. His ribs showed clearly under his Manchester United tee-shirt and he was attached to a saline drip. He was a teacher and confirmed that he supported Manchester United – though he hadn't heard the result of yesterday's result in the Champions League – I was at least able to give him the good news that United won 2-1. I suspect that with the right treatment he would be back at work. Jennipher told his family that she was HIV+ and had been living on ARVs (Anti-Retroviral drugs) for the past 12 years and was obviously strong.

I was told at the clinic that they no longer had any food supplements to give with the initial supply of ARVs. It used to be the case that 3 months food supplement was given when someone started on the AIDS treatment. This is very important because without enough food the drugs can cause very serious side effects. After 3 months the hope was that they would be strong enough to provide for themselves.

Soloman, who I have also known from the time he came from Zimbabwe in 2005 to join Jennipher, gave me a hug. He has been so important in providing for the family – he works very hard, but is frustrated by the lack of water to grow crops in the garden. The family has moved a long way from their situation when I first got to know them. With a little support they are now healthy and doing reasonably well – yet life itself is still a struggle, as demonstrated by the untimely death of Mike earlier this year– a teenager and another of Jennipher's adopted children.

I have a small thermometer with me and the temperature has stayed at around 30°C inside the house. Today I put it outside on the window ledge (in the shade) and it is showing 35°C – I am not sure of its accuracy, though in Chisamba it was showing a couple of degrees lower than the max min thermometer at the centre.

I caught up with Charles yesterday afternoon. Charles is another long-term friend who has been involved in a small project that supports a number of elderly and disabled people around Monze. When we get together we talk about all sorts. We spent a lot of time yesterday discussing the Olympics and Paralympics, as well as touching on local politics and the development of his projects – I will visit some of the project sites with him on Saturday.

Yesterday we had no mains power from 8 hrs till after 23 hrs. Despite this – and also having no water supply – I had a refreshing shower in the evening. I now know to collect a bucket of water, as well as filling the kettle and a few bottles whenever there is sufficient water. A bucket of water will provide half a dozen showers – and uses more water than my usual dripping shower – though I should confess that recently I have experienced water coming out of the shower head resembling what most of us recognise as a shower – it only last moments, but is a great joy when I experience it here!!



Monday, October 1, 2012

The Wonders of Technology

Monday 1st October

Yesterday at Our Lady of the Wayside church there were 19 children baptised during mass. Afterwards there was a celebration and I was invited to attend. I was happy to join the families in their meal. The children exchanged gifts and there was a little dancing and a few short speeches.

I had a bit of a rest before I had a succession of visitors. Hudson is a student at a local university studying social work. He has received some funds through the church scheme, which is supported by our church in Cheltenham. Although he has received some help this falls short of the fees and apparently he is struggling. (Another little issue for me to investigate.)

Luke came around and we talked a little about the usb modem and Skype. I had wanted Luke to act as a link in Monze to ease contact with my friends here. Our attempts at Skype were not wholly successful while I was in the UK, but I hope to sort everything before I leave. Luke has moved from the hospital and is now working at the District Office in Human Resources, which is the area for which he trained. He would like to adapt the Hospital HR database to use in his new post, so I will help him.

Diven had called earlier, but found me busy with others. He eventually joined me while I was playing a card game on the computer. He hadn't come across playing cards before but quickly picked up the idea of the game. While he was talking Dilys appeared on Skype.

It seems that Dilys always finds me with someone! She has spoken to Jennipher, Raymond and now Diven. Very often she really wants to see and talk to me alone – but it rarely happens here!

After supper I contacted her to say I was now alone and we connected via Skype. After a minute or two our Burmese priest friend Fr. Tino, currently studying in Italy, called me! We ended up cutting the videos and having a three way conversation between Zambia, Italy and the UK! The wonders of technology!

Dilys and I managed a little time on our own after 22 hrs.

This morning I met up with Eli who was involved with the PIZZ project when the UK team came to help with the building work. Today was the launch day for his library in Monze. For many years I have thought that it would be a good idea to have such a facility. Whenever I bring books they are eagerly sought after, to read once I have finished with them. I usually bring a few crime novels with me and these go down well. I couldn't find any new John Grisham books this year - I have read most, and so have my friends in Monze!!

I didn't examine the bookshelves carefully, but they are certainly well stacked. HHI has provided the room that is currently being used and Eli has been publicising the library around the town. He also wants to provide libraries to some of the surrounding villages. The idea is to allow people to take books to read within the library – at least at first. He also hopes to provide drawing materials for younger children, quizzes between school teams and even some sports equipment – e.g. footballs for older children. I hope he is successful – funds are always an issue, though I think that donations of books will be forthcoming. Erecting small structures in the villages might be more of a challenge. There is a small team running the project and they hope to establish a small business in town to fund day to day costs.

I caught up with Sr. Barbara and Vincent from the Diocesan Projects office this afternoon. Vincent is not using my database and has reverted to spreadsheets, as I had expected. A collapsed computer was at least in part the reason for not pressing forward with the database. I was aware how busy Vincent was last year whiloe I was here. In practice you need some time to be able to move to a new system and though in the long term you will release time, it is often safer to keep to the system you know. Vincent is enrolling in an Access database course later in the year and hopes to start using the database next year. I am now used to seeing my work on the computers fail to reach fruition. On the whole my time is better spent talking to people than playing with computer systems!
As I reached Teddy's office at the hospital, he was on his way out. I walked with him to the main road and then headed quickly to the Zamtel offices, having remembered that I promised Dilys that I would chase them. Arnold did his best to find someone to deal with my problem and after 30 minutes or more put me in touch with Ruben, who agreed to look into the issue. As I was leaving the office Ruben rang to tell me he thought it would now be OK. I must admit that I had my doubts. When I found that I could no longer send any texts, but just received an error message, my scepticism seemed to be justified – something seemed to have happened, although not positive. I tried to ring Ruben only to find I had no credit left!!

After topping up, great joy!! I can now text Dilys!! Apparently my calls are being routed differently – I am not sure how that explains the resolution of the issue, but as long as it works I am very happy!!

Bye for now