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


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