Wednesday 16th April
Jennipher arrived just before lunch on Monday. I told her to meet me after lunch and we would go through the visa application together. We amended one or two items slightly and when eventually we were both satisfied I hit the button to confirm the details. I had done my best to explain some of the fields where I was unable to put a sensible answer through lack of space. After this there is no turning back! The next stage was to book an appointment. We decided to choose Thursday morning to give Jennipher time to get the last letter sorted. There was a choice of where to take the papers – but only one centre in Zambia! This is now a FEDEX location in Longacres, Lusaka – no longer the British High Commission. I was informed that if I chose this location there would be an additional fee, but I wasn't told how much. Suspecting that it would still be cheaper than a trip to South Africa I continued! The next step was to pay. Since I had chosen to use Lusaka for the appointment it was no longer possible to pay in person. I had to pay on line by credit or debit card, which isn't something everyone in Zambia has - fortunately I can manage! The cost was a bit over 1,000 RAN which I discovered was South African Rand and in fact about what I expected to pay anyway. Having no printer the final stage would need to wait.
I am used to completing forms and working with computers but I must admit the whole process was very stressful. Later when I found confirmation letters sent by e-mail and followed the links I was told unless I registered on another site the interview couldn't take place. I could easily have overlooked the link and can't see why this is necessary – there was no suggestion anywhere else that this was a required step. Even having registered on this site, which I assumed was connected with FeDex, I was concerned that it was Jennipher's application but my registration. It is almost as if there is a deliberate attempt to intimidate.
Jennipher told me she had an appointmen to see the Coordinator of the District Aids Task Force who was going to write a letter, but wanted to see me first. On the way I was greeted by my friend who travels Monze with his set of weighing scales balanced on his knees as he wheels his chair along. I asked him to remind me of his name – Muluti – and wrote it down. Somtimes this is the only way I can learn some of the African names. I weighed myself and gave him an appropriate contribution (I am afraid I am never prepared to give him his normal asking price! To be honest I don't even know what it is!!). It was good to see him again, I was beginning to worry when I hadn't come across him depite being in Monze for some days.
By the time we arrived at the District Offices Sichali was deep in a meeting with Teddy and others. It was probably a little after 3 pm. I first met the Coordinator ,Sichali, soon after she arrived in her post about three years ago. I seem to recall a rather heated exchange – mainly from Jennipher - because it was claimed that Jennipher lived just outside the Monze District boundary. Of course Jennipher knew the history and boundary demarcation. Soon after this meeting, Sichali visited Jennipher's home and some of her support groups and I joined one of the gatherings. She has been very supportive of Jennipher and her work since that time and is a good advocate for her.
While we waited Jennipher took me to meet the new District Commissioner to get his approval. I agreed that the DATF coorodinator was the best person to vouch for Jennipher, since she knew her well. We received the blessing of the DC.
At a little after 17hrs Sichali was free and after some discussion she produced a positive letter.
My plans for an early start for Chisamba on Tuesday had to be abandoned since I had yet to get papers printed and I rely on the internet cafe - which by 18 hrs would be shut.
Somewhat worn out I returned to the priest's house and chilled a little before supper. It was after 23 hrs when I had sorted all I needed to do for the visa and the trip to Chisamba. I was glad that I wasn't getting up at 5!
Jennipher had agreed to get to Monze at 8 am to pick up the letter from Sichali. It would be printed and ready by then. I headed to the internet cafe and before 9 am had everything else printed. I rang Jennipher to meet up and she told me that she was on her way!! I knew that Sichali had to leave for a meeting at 8.30 and rushed around to find the offices locked. Fortunately she was just leaving and told me where to find the letter.
- When Jennipher arrived she had the final letter with her and she was coming with me to Lusaka! The bus was waiting!!
- Unfortunately I wasn't ready.
- We missed her bus and I took the opportunity to get one more letter printed.
- I returned to the bus stop where another bus driver claimed to be about to leave.
- Where was Jennipher? For some reason she had wandered up the high street.
- OK I bought tickets for both of us and asked the driver to pick her up.
- On entering the bus I saw plenty of empty seats.
- Another call to Jennipher told her to come to the bus stop.
- The bus then sets off!!
- They spot Jennipher and she jumps aboard – all is well.
Life here often resembles a Broadway Farce!
Our Journey to Lusaka was without incident apart from our driver deciding that a section of the road being repaired was fine and provided an opportunity to overtake all the vehicles following the diversion on the rough side road. Not unexpected ly eventually the other end of the diversion was reached with a road block and workmen directing the traffic. Our driver became very apologetic as he made his way past the barriers!
We ate at Lumumba bus station after which Jennipher and I went our separate ways. With little delay at Lusaka or getting a taxi at Chisamba crossroads I arrived at the Chisamba Guest House by about 5.20 pm. (6hrs or so after setting off from Monze.)
Approaching the Guest House a guy greeted me and assured me that I knew him. Maybe I met him one year but I am not sure – he claimed I was with some young ladies, which I sttrenuously deny!! There was a group of volunteers (including young ladies) who came some years back and I suspect that he thought I was with them – I think I also met him (I was alone I hasten to add!) a few years back. Cetride gave me a warm welcome and showed me to my room.
Persis joined me for supper and we talked about the project - Kaliyangile.
Today I spent meeting the Kaliyangile committee, all of whom I know from my previous visits. We are experiencing some issues with keeping staff on the project. The reasons are complex but the large rise in government wages is one issue. We cannot afford to compete with the new government rates and unless we can provide other motivation, it will continue to cause problems.
There are plenty of livestock around the site and a good maize harvest is predicted.
This year the Zamtel network doesn't appear to exist. I am therefore cut off! However I have the internet and if necessary can use Skype to make calls. Receiving them isn't so easy.
I was offered what is evidently a delicacy for supper – cow's feet! I said that I would try them expecting some recognisable meat to be present. They turned out to be skin, fat and marrow. I expect they are an acquired taste! I managed to eat most of what wasn't bone, but will probably opt forchicken next time!
There are of course other delicacies here. The unique vegetables and unusual fruit I usually find very pleasant – other foods exercise the mind a little because of texture or tradition. I don't expect any inswa this visit since these flying ants appear at the onset of the rains. However at the priest's house last week there were some interesting bite sized objects that had a familiar look to them. I didn't remember the Zambian name but a rough translation is caterpillar! Apparently they are very nutritious. I ate a few (they are quite large!) and they were OK – in fact easier to swallow than cow's feet!! (unfortunately I had to delete the picture – maybe the opportuniyty will re-occur!)
Please note that if any of those reading this are planning to come out for their first visit, such delicacies are not compulsory!!