Sunday 27th July
A large part of today was taken up celebrating with some local nuns – more of that later!
Yesterday I had another date at PIZZ school. Hands Around the World runs a child sponsorship scheme. People in the UK donate £10 a month which goes to one of our projects and we provide details about a child. In this case students at PIZZ School. The money doesn't go specifically for that child's use but the sponsor receives details of the child's progress and a little about their background. Often the student gets a boost from knowing someone abroad is sponsoring them. The children at PIZZ are chosen often because they are bright and with encouragement will succeed in their exams. Sometimes children having a very rough life are chosen to provide a little spark of hope and help them realise that they are not abandoned.
I like to talk to some of the sponsored children and over time I can get to know a few. Yesterday I spoke to Jack, Esther, Christine and Gideon. These were all in their initial years at the school, so Mrs. Sianga interpreted for me. The children are taught English, which is eventually used to teach all their lessons. Christine is Bemba by tribe and that is her local language. She therefore has the extra difficulty of being taught in Chitonga, when English isn't being used – neither language is her normal tongue. I wouldn't be able to manage.
Some books had been sent from the UK and I wanted to go through a few of them with the teachers to understand what was useful. Atlases and dictionaries were much needed – even if some of the country names had changed. A few books such as GCSE revision guides were generally too advanced for grade 8 or 9 children, but would be useful at secondary schools, despite the syllabus being different. Some books were designed for individual students – with spaces for answers. Individual books of this sort have limited use. Mr Men books could help the young ones with reading and some books on nature were considered to be very useful. Story books were also considered good. However the problem I see is that these are designed to be read to children not read by them. They are often for young children, however the vocabulary is too difficult for the children to be expected to read, at that age. So for instance if the school developed a library – which is a hope they have – the books would be of limited value in that context.
I also looked at some of their textbooks and was dismayed to pick up a couple of 'activity' books. These were of the type already described where they are designed for an individual child to work through the questions and fill in the spaces in the book. e.g. sentences with words omitted or grids where numbers need to be entered according to particular rules. These books have limited value if the children cannot write in them – and if they do, the book cannot be usefully be re-used. Each book costs at least £4 or £5 and might last a year – possibly only a term - and cover one subject. I am not sure who has the designed the material, but it doesn't seem to be very clever for the Zambian system.
Jennipher came around with Selina and Maambo (a young woman who often stays with Jennipher). After lunch Selina accompanied me to the bank and was amazed at the workings of the ATM, while Jennipher, Maambo and another friend made themselves at home in my flat!
In the evening Teddy came around and we caught up with the latest – particularly in relation to the hospital. There has been a lack of stability over the past few years with Acting Medical Superintendents (who are in charge of the day to day running of the hospital) staying for a year or so, before going back to college. The current postholder has started leave and is also on her way to resume her studies. Unfortunately doctors are encouraged to get additional qualifications – then they get management positions and their practical medical expertise is wasted.
Today I awoke once more to a bright cloudless sky. It is several days since I have seen the faintest hint of a cloud in the sky. Absolutely cloudless skies very rarely occur in the UK – here they are very common.
Every time I come to Monze – at least since 2004 - I ask Ireen to make me a shirt, which she does. Urgency however is not a word in her vocabulary! I saw her very early on this trip, knowing that my time was brief. She said she would choose me some nice chitenge material and make my shirt. So a day or so back I looked in to check on progress! Ireen told me that she would buy the material the next day (except that she had someone to see so it might be the day after.) The shirt would however be ready on Monday, or Tuesday! I will keep you updated with progress!!
A local order of nuns – the Holy Spirit sisters were formed 42 years ago under the authority of the then Bishop of Monze, James Corboy – an Irish priest. During these years the nuns have officially been a local community, but in May this year they were officially recognised by the Catholic Church (with Vatican approval) as a religious congregation of the Monze Diocese. This is a rare event – the first to occur in Monze since the formation of the Diocese. It was therefore right to celebrate in style – so today we did just that.
The main celebration took the form of a Catholic mass. We started at 10 hours and interspersed were talks about the history of the order of nuns, and a few words from various people attending. The processions and dances were elaborate and great fun. The advantage of this service compared with most I attend was that it was conducted largely in English – despite the fact that I was one of only a few for whom it was their first language. Bishop Emilio gave an interesting sermon based on the constitution of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit. (Honestly it was very interesting!) Their charism is to let their lives be guided by the Spirit. He pointed out that their constitutions talks about the gifts of the Holy Spirit – the most important being Joy. He referred to Pope Francis saying that a Christian should always have a smile on his, or her, face. Today there was joy in plenty and smiles everywhere! If only we could follow the example of the people here. Unfortunately smiles and laughter are not the norm in Catholic churches in England in my experience!
Bishop Emelio, thinking of the 42 years, also mentioned how 40 was an important number in Christian tradition – he could also have mentioned that 42, according to “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” is the answer to the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything! Maybe in fact when thinking of the Holy Spirit this is close to the truth!
So with lots of singing, dancing, drumming and laughter we finished our service just before 14 hrs!!
I remarked that it wasn't likely that we would experience such an event in the UK. Fr. Kenan pointed out that it would be inside the church not outside in the grounds, I mentioned we would be unlikely to have dancing and drumming and I doubt if our congregations would be happy with a 4 hr long mass!!
I enjoyed every minute and felt spiritually refreshed as a result. We are hoping for action on the visa and I am happy to storm the heavens over the next few days.
There was a feast laid on at Homecraft for those with tickets and something for everyone – so we were told. Some people were checking for tickets at the gate, but I felt I should be allowed in as it is my home!! I suspect that I would have been welcomed at the feast, but I would be uncomfortable barging in because I am a 'white man'. I headed for my flat and a welcome cup of tea and a couple of sandwiches.
I then popped into town for a couple of items and on my return wandered over to the assembled gathering to seek out friends. There are a few nuns from the congregation who are away from Monze but I know from my connection with the hospital. A few greeted me. In particular it was good to see Sr. Juunza who told me she had just finished her studies. She had travelled from the Copperbelt, arriving this morning, and was now back at the hospital. I hunted for Sr. Christeta who worked closely with Dilys when she came in 2006. Eventually I found her. When the bishop spoke about joy, I thought of Sr. Christeta! She is the bubbliest nun I know, never without a smile and was in the thick of all the dancing today. It was good to have a brief chat with her, unfortunately, though she will be around tomorrow, I can't see how I will have time to get together with her again.
I must remark that religious congregations all around the world generally lead a life which revolves around a pattern of formal prayer – much of it based on the Psalms from the bible (used by the Christian and Jewish religions). The psalms have a verse and a response – traditionally the verse is sung in a very simple chant. In our mass we sing a psalm between two readings. Today the sisters sang the psalm and I immediately recognised the simple chant in the first verse, then as the second verse began a vibrant beat was introduced and my mind drifted to 'Sister Act' because it was very much in that vein. (Those who have watched the film will know what I mean!!) Religious services can be, and should be, fun!!
I was meant to be picked up by Edward for another night on the town. However, I decided not to remind him. If he turned up I would join him, but to be honest I have so much to fit in in these last days that I am better of doing some catching up. Which is what I have just been doing with my blog as he hasn't arrived!
Please keep praying – and smiling!