Tuesday 23rd July
All is well!
My camera came back into life after I charged up some new batteries. I have Internet access back and this morning I managed to transfer some cash to bring my bank balance back into credit! So life is good!!
I awoke on Sunday morning to find I had no power. I had slept in a little and it was after 8 am so I wasn't surprised. I assumed that Zesco were doing work and that power would be restored in the evening.
I went to mass at Our Lady of the Wayside and met a few more friends. It was useful to have reflected on the Gospel the previous Sunday. Since the service is in Chitonga I don't understand any of it!! Perhaps that isn't entirely true, because the format is the same, I am aware of what stage the service has reached and know the standard prayers. However, I was able to think a bit more about the story of Martha and Mary. Mary who just sat and listened to Jesus and Martha who rushed around doing things of less importance. We live in a world where activity seems to be admired, however pointless and spending time with others – particularly listening is often frowned upon as wasted time. I have come to realise that the great gift I was given when made redundant 17 years ago was the freedom to be available to listen. Yet too often I fill my life with activity of less importance.
After mass I had a sandwich and headed for St. Veronica's section meeting. I called in on a lady who said she would direct me to this week's location (the meetings move between the homes of the members each week). She invited me into her house while she got ready to come with me. I was aware that her family had suffered a great tragedy and asked how they were. For the next hour or so she shared the details of the horrific events. A story of suffering, courage, forgiveness and outstanding loyalty. I listened! I was aware that here at least I was able to fulfil the role of Mary and I had no doubt of the presence of the Lord. It was an enormous privilege that someone who I don't know well was happy to share such personal and private events with me. I was deeply moved and promised to remember the family in my prayers, please will you also pray for her and her family.
By the time we arrived at the meeting it was winding up. I was reprimanded for being late, but knew that I had already spent time deep in prayer.
They were making preparations for the feast of St Veronica on 16th August. I told the group that I wouldn't be there. I mentioned that Veronica was a special name for me. My mother and a cousin who recently died were called Veronica. They were both very gentle people who would put themselves out to help anyone and their lives were an inspiration to me. I asked them to remember my special Veronicas on the feast day. There will be a special mass followed by a celebration and meal for the Small Christian Community.
I returned home and unsurprisingly the power was still off. I used the laptop until the battery power ran out and then read for a while. I have candles and a torch so I could cope with the dark.
I expected that at about 20 hrs normal service would be restored and was a little surprised when the time passed and there was no change. I decided to look outside, only to find that mine was the only house in darkness! I tried lights in the corridor – they too filed to work. I decided to head for the security guard and ask him why I had been singled out to continue in darkness. He suggested a trip switch, but didn't seem to know how to address the issue, so he suggested I spoke to a member of the projects staff who was outside her house. Eventually she came around and confirmed that they use a meter and someone must have forgotten to top it up!! She offered her house for me to make a meal, but I decided to chop up a few vegetables and make a coleslaw, then follow it with a bowl of cornflakes and a couple of glasses of mango juice!! (A well balanced meal!)
Yesterday by 9 hrs power was back on and I celebrated in the traditional way by making a cup of tea! Still suffering from Internet failure, I went to the cafe to check my bank account and to see if there were any important e-mails. At 8 hrs the cafe was closed. I asked the guy in a neighbouring shop what time they opened – he confirmed 8 hrs. Almost next door is HHI, so I took the opportunity to call around and ask if anyone knew anything about bee-suits! I was directed to Joseph who expected them, though not from me! I took the opportunity to pass the goods over to Joseph who accepted them gratefully and promised me a trip to Gwembe where their project was based, if I could fit it in.
Makwembo Internet Cafe now open I proceeded to sort my business and returned for another cuppa before heading out again. Raymond was going to collect me and take me to the PESSA project the other side of Hichaanga Dam. I have been involved with this project for many years. They struggle to support a few elderly and disabled people through growing a few crops. Floods and drought destroyed most of the maize – a little harvest of cow peas was all that came from the rainy season. Animals have broken into the garden and helped themselves to the impwa! One Ox died and the cart is in need of resuscitation, but the well is in good condition and still providing water – if only for washing clothes at the moment – so there are plenty of challenges ahead!
Diven joined me for banana sandwiches. I hadn't managed to get to the hospital during working hours so I headed over and looked for familiar faces. There have been a lot of changes – even in the past 8 months. The long term secretary and receptionist have moved. The acting Medical Superintendent has been replaced by another and other changes have occurred. I headed for Teddy's office. I have known Teddy since at least 2004 so it would be good to meet an old friend. I entered his office to be greeted by Sichone. He used to work in the stores and in 2004 I introduced him to a new stock control system, which despite our joint efforts was never fully implemented. As we got down to catching up on the past year or two, I received a call from Jennipher. She had just arrived at the hospital as a patient. Someone had beaten her with a stick and kicked her and she needed treatment. It is a sad fact that too many disputes here are settled with violence. I went to the outpatients department to meet her. She was walking but in pain. She needed a medical report to present to the police and needed 50 Kw (£6) which seems a lot of money. She was going to be seen by the doctor and given some medicine, so I left her and she was going to call later for a coffee.
On my return to the flat I decided to ring the MTN helpline once again (they don't appear to work at weekends!) A girl checked my account and found that I had failed to activate the data bundle and the connection was just eating my talktime. I had little choice but to take the hit and buy some more – this time making sure that the data bundle was confirmed. 1 GB should keep me going for the rest of my stay.
I met Jennipher as I headed to pick up some talktime. She decided to head straight for Pemba. Soloman wasn't around when the incident occurred and she was afraid he might be very angry and retaliate, so she wanted to return quickly.
At last I was back on the Net! I realise just how dependant on it I have become. While in Zambia it is important to feed back as much information as possible – not only in my blog, but in reports to the many groups and individuals who have an interest in what I am doing. Somehow a report written a few weeks later when I am back in the UK hasn't the impact, more importantly it is too late to interact and respond to the thoughts of those back home. Only a few years back this communication would be impossible.
I was invited to supper by Fr. Clement and it was good to chat over a meal. Fr. Gabriel from St. Mary's parish about 12km to the west of Monze joined us and was interested about my views of the church in the UK and how we encouraged the youth. Unfortunately I had to say that most young people find the church irrelevant and it isn't surprising when they live in a world of Facebook, I-pads and smartphones and the church sings hymns from the 18th and 19th century! Personally I think we need to embrace the new technology and not be afraid to use it in the services. I told them that people rarely laugh or even smile during services, which is very different from what I experience here in Zambia where mass is a wonderful joyous occasion where people are undoubtedly celebrating.
After supper Fr. Clement, Fr. Gabriel and myself headed for Mayfair where the pool table awaited. In the event Fr. Gabriel decided to forego the game and chat instead to another priest based at St. Kisito which is within St. Mary's parish. There was another guy at the table and he was persuaded as the winner of the previous game to defend his position against Fr. Clement and having succeded against me. Again he was successful – he then admitted he was just beginning to learn the game! We played a decent series of games and Fr. Clement came out on top overall. We returned a little before 23 hrs.
More news soon!