Monday 15th July
How time flies!
I am now set up with Internet access and have no further excuses! I believe that the last post on the blog is when I was at Heathrow.
Things have moved on. I have just posted about my journey and this one will bring you up to date with the start of my work here in Zambia.
I easily forget how many friends I have here in Monze. Tonight Bright called around to my flat. Clearly word has got around – even though I have not as yet made it to the hospital. He had tried my usual Zambian mobile number and failed to get through. I lost the SIM card recently in the UK, but I am tempted to see if I can revive the number. There might be others trying the number in vain.
Bright is a gentle man who I have known for many years. He works at the hospital and told me he is now in charge of cleaning the wards. He was a security guard when I first met him. He has a son (Brian) who has hearing problems and attends a special school near Monze. The fees are too high for a hospital general worker and so he has to find support from wherever he can. Despite the difficulties Brian is now in grade 10 he is intelligent and always gets marks towards the top of his class.
On Friday I met Mrs Sianga. I wanted to arrange to meet at the school, to get a feel for any issues at the school and to bring her up to date with where we were at Hands Around the World. One issue that I always try to address and somehow come short, is the collection of some stories about the children and the effect that being at school has had on them.
We have a scheme where sponsors support the school and reports are provided in relation to a child at the school. Mrs. Sianga chooses the children in discussion with me. Usually they are children that show some aptitude in their studies. They are also often children in need of some encouragement. They generally have difficulties at home – e.g. having lost one or both parents, maybe struggling to get enough to eat or often falling ill. Sometimes the sponsors want a child of a certain age or sex.
Initially some of the students sponsored were in the top grades at Mrs Sianga's school. When they left it was decided that it wasn't right to abandon then, so, with our help, Mrs.Sianga continues to pay there fees at local secondary schools. One of these children – Malwini – will finish her secondary school at the end of this year and hopes to continue to study and eventually become a doctor. I hope that we can help her achieve this ambition – her results so far suggest that she has the ability.
We talked a bit about providing some food for the children. Mrs Sianga told me that many come to school without having eaten anything. The children cannot concentrate on their lessons – she says that you can tell which children are hungry – they are listless and inattentive.
A large number of care workers have been trained to support the children. They check on the families and any children that are not attending. They try to find out if there are serious problems at home or illness. Although training workshops were provided there are no funds for ongoing support. At the moment however, these care workers are being very helpful to PIZZ School.
Jennipher was also around on Friday after returning from Lusaka. I was a little dismayed when I noticed that she still had some of my documents. When she visited the Embassy last time her documents were taken without comment, this time they looked through the file and discussed the planned visit. Jennipher was able to point out my mistake with her birth date and talk about the people she hoped to meet in addition to stated friends – Dilys, myself and Amy. I think that my covering notes etc. might, in a strange way, help the cause. It is now out of our hands – she should get the decision by the Friday before the Sunday when I plan to leave!
Jennipher has acquired seed and fertiliser for some of her clients – but not all! This of course leaves some in her support group less than satisfied – not to mention those in associated groups!
Diven has also been around a number of times. He joined me for supper on Friday.
It is good to be able to make my own meals and to have guests around. For some time I have only made occasional meals at home, because I am not sure how to ensure I conform to Dilys diet. I wondered how I would manage to get back into cooking! I found myself getting excited as I went around the market – the vegetables are different shapes (as they should be), I picked up some impwa along with aubergines, peppers and carrots. I noticed some spring onions – not often available - I picked a big bunch for very little (maybe 50p). I added some kapenta (small dried fish) from a stall just around the corner from my house. I collected 6 large eggs from another market stall – here you buy eggs individually, choose which you want and receive them in a small clear plastic bag. I had to buy some tomatoes from my friend at the entrance to the indoor market (I picked two piles of the medium size. - piles are four tomatoes in a pyramid. The stallholder greets me warmly and tells others that she is my wife.(apparently I have a number of wives in Monze!) She also sells me fresh garlic, ginger and spices – paprika, chilli and curry powder. I see many more items that I fancy, but they will wait for another day.
I am aware that during the last couple of years I have missed the process of meeting the marketeers and exchanging banter - which is so much part of cooking here in Zambia.
Diven is keen to start running a shop once again. He has spotted a couple available in the market – which is unusual, because they don't often come up for rent, being in prime position and get taken very quickly. He is keen to get to work building a new business. Some years back he had a shop in the market doing very well, but a series of events led to disaster!! Lets hope this venture is more successful.
Yesterday I visited the new parish of Our Lady of the Wayside which has a link with my parish of St. Gregory's. I thought that I might get away without being noticed!! - Though as the only white face apart from Sr. Gabriella, that was unlikely! At least I hoped I could stay in my pew.
At the end of mass, the parish chairman said something and people started looking at me. I was told that visitors were to go to the front of the church. I didn't know why they looked at me! I was at home, how could I be considered a visitor! In the end I joined the 'visitors' and passed on greetings from St. Gregory's. I must confess that it was heart warming to receive a rapturous welcome as I made my way to the front.
It is humbling to receive the greetings that I receive in Monze. I try to do my best for the people, but I am aware just how inadequate that is. I had a long conversation this evening with Catherine. She told me how she has two orphaned children who are not related to her.She also has three children of her own. She has no employment and in Zambia there are no welfare payments – unlike a few neighbouring countries. She has been teaching the children at PIZZ school needlework so that they will at least be able to repair torn clothes. They have agreed to buy the aprons they make so that they can buy more material to continue. Life is very hard for people like Catherine, she admitted that sometimes she arrives to teach needlework hungry.
The rains last year have been poor as I have stated in earlier posts. As an example a friend who has a small farm which usually yields 200- 300 50kg bags of maize each year has only produced 28 bags this harvest.
Last night I was tired – it has been a hectic and stressful few weeks! I had an early night and got up at 6 am for mass at the Cathedral. Afterwards Fr. Kenan invited me into the Priest's House for breakfast. It was good to meet some of the priests again and listen to their debates. It was almost 9 hrs when I returned to my house!
It is only when I start to recount a few of the events over the past couple of days and know how much I am leaving out, that I realise what a full life I live here in Monze.
Tomorrow I am very much looking forward to meeting with the children and the teachers at PIZZ school – Catherine tells me that some of the children have already realised that I am about and have high expectations. I hope that I won't let them down!
Please keep me in your prayers.