Thursday, November 1, 2012

Moving to another life

Thursday 1st November

I will briefly recall the final stages of my Zambian adventure before they become a distant and indistinct memory.

I had hoped to spend the day with Persis explaining what was on the laptop and in particular giving some further tuition on the accounts system. Unfortunately she had to attend court in the morning and it was just before lunchtime when we managed to get together.

On the way to the Centre I was attracted to some flowers that seem to have appeared after a little rain. They look like a small lilac-blue orchid and are abundant at the edge of the football pitch – which forms part of my walk between the guest house and Kaliyangile. A number of pied wagtails were also hopping around on the pitch – these are slightly smaller and thinner than the British variety. I think that the first of the European swallows had also arrived, just as I prepared to leave. I have had too little time this year to observe the wildlife.

Thursday raced by and it was getting dark before I left the Centre. There were a couple of things to do with the laptop, so I held onto it overnight. I had intended to spend at least some of the evening in the bar chatting to the local residents. In the event it was well closed by the time I had sorted out the laptop.

I was treated to another fine fish for supper – apparently it isn't Talapia, but the name had skipped the memory of the waitress, so I am still in the dark.

Persis came around at about 8.30 to collect the laptop and I started to prepare for the transition into the other world I inhabit. It isn't a simple process to re-adjust to life in England and I needed at least a few hours to wind down and reflect a little on my visit.

It was about 11 hrs when I arrived at Justina's house – the taxi and bus didn't keep me waiting long, for a change in the bus we listened to some french music! I didn't stay long but picked up a taxi driven by Mr Banda and organised by Justina. He seemed to be surprised that I seemed very approachable and even more surprised that he could understand my version of English! He concluded that over the many trips, I had become used to speaking to local Zambians and perhaps adapted my speech – or possibly my accent is less pronounced than some others. Anyway we chatted a little as he took me to the hotel. He told me that he was willing to take me to the airport and we agreed a figure, if I should wish to take him up on the offer. I hadn't change and offered a 50,000 kwacha note (about £6) for the K20,000 fare. He hadn't change, so I left him with the note while he searched for change – this exercise took about 10 minutes. Apparently neither the hotel reception or the bar had change and he had to hunt around the nearby shops! It is a mystery to me just how little change there is about. Shops that seem to have a reasonable turnover often cannot change anything above 10,000 kwacha – maybe my perception of their trade is wrong. The fact that they have a lot of the more expensive items doesn't necessarily mean that they often sell them! My Finta milk cartons are usually covered with dust which could be a clue (though again after a few days most things are covered by dust in Monze!)

I met a guy in reception – while I waited for Mr Banda and my change – who told me he was involved with a theatre group which put on performances to sensitise people to the issues around HIV/AIDS. He had a list of NGOs with which he had worked. I think he said he would send details to my email address.

For the first time this year I had hot water! However, I chose to have a refreshing cold bath and ignore it! On Thursday the sky was overcast all day and I was told it was good cold weather! It probably didn't exceed 25°C – though equally it wouldn't have dropped much below! On Friday the clear blue sky and African sun greeted me in the morning, by lunchtime the sun was overhead and we were back into the mid 30s. So the main purpose of a bath was to cool down! Again perhaps a strange concept for most back in England.

I had lunch watching BBC World in the restaurant, with three staff looking after me! After lunch I decided to make a quick trip to an Internet Café in order to check in and print my boarding card. They had set rates, so I booked in for half an hour. After 10 minutes I was done and decided to return to the hotel. As I left the café I saw a familiar face. Best had come to say goodbye and wasn't too sure where the hotel was situated. He decided to go the shopping area and this turned out to be an excellent choice. I took him back to the hotel where we had some drinks while we talked. He told me that his taxi was doing well and hadn't needed any major maintenance. As a result he had over 4 million kwacha in the bank (£500) and was hopeful that he would have sufficient for his university fees in December.

By a little after 14 hrs I could relax and be alone with my reflections. There is a lot to think about in relation to this trip but I will leave my thoughts to develop and share them in a later posting. I read a little, watched television and did very little for the remainder of the day.

At about 5.15 on Saturday morning Mr Banda rang me to say he was in reception! (Best's taxi had a job on the Zimbabwe border and wasn't available to take me to the airport.) I was just getting myself dressed and was caught a little off guard – the taxi was ordered for 5.30.

Mr. Banda explained that he was very hot on time - and he knew that we were very precise with timing. He hadn't slept much because he didn't want to be late. He told me that he was picking up a new car later in the day. After two years leasing the car, it would be his own.

Needless to say we were at the airport in good time. Last year there was an enormous queue at emigration due to the introduction of finger printing and photographing of all passengers - this was my main reason for thee early start. In the event they seem to have abandoned last year's practices and, for good measure, also scrapped the emigration forms. In 5 minutes I was in the departure lounge.

As I arrived, the BA plane touched down from England – on time ( it was still before 6.30!). We boarded the plane in good time and it took off half-empty for Heathrow. After an uneventful flight – though I should complain that I only managed a single small Mars bar for my snack ( Here perhaps I should briefly relate the feeding regime on the BA day flight from Zambia. About an hour after getting on board a small cooked breakfast is served. About 8 hours later a sandwich is provided – no meals in between. For those in the know – which includes me when I am thinking! - there is a snack bar where biscuits, chocolates and the like these are are available together with soft drinks at the back of the plane – part of the reason for my rear seat! There are no announcements in reference to the snack bar so many are unaware. On my recent trips these supplies have run low very quickly. When you think of the cost of a few extra bags of mini chocolate bars it seems very petty and can't be worth the loss of goodwiil - BA executives please note!!)

We touched down at Heathrow at 18.30 British Summer Time and by about 7 pm I met Dilys and A different life had started.

I intend to write some reflections in a week or two. People have asked me on my return whether the trip was successful. I have had difficulty in knowing how to respond, but I think that I will conclude that it was successful. It wasn't easy, but on reflection I think that I will find that I have learnt a lot and that perhaps I will have a clearer view of my mission in Africa as I move forward. We shall see!

With my love and prayers