Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Trip to Mazabuka and some Good News

Tuesday 6th May

I awoke yesterday at about 6 hrs and decided to go to the morning mass. I had noticed that the past couple of days the water seemed to be overflowing from the storage tank. On closer observation I realised that the water was in fact shooting over the tank and landing in the neighbour's garden rather than filling the tank. Soon after the water stopped flowing from the taps! I told the lanlord of the problem before heading down the road to catch a bus.

George's wife met me and because there were no full, or nearly full, buses we headed down the main road to another bus stop. Soon a Rosa arrived and we got on board. We were on the back seat which apparently has room for five adult passengers. By about 9.30 we were in Mazabuka.searching for the immigration office. I haven't been since 2004 when I ended up with problems, because I wished to stay for 4 months. It seems that 3 months is the limit for a visitors permit – though I don't think it is explicitly stated anywhere. We found the office without too much difficulty and there was no delay. I was asked how long I wished the permit to cover and told the officer that I intended to leave on 7th June, but it was possible that I might wish to extend my stay by a few days, if I needed to change my flight. He told me they could issue a maximum of 30 days – which apparently extends my permit from 7th May to 6th June! My passport was stamped and I was informed that I could extend it by another 30 days if I came back between 2nd and 6th June! I will have to decide whether to return to Mazabuka in my final week or go to Lusaka early!!

Although prison visiting was not until the afternoon we called in to check. George is a builder by trade and has gained the trust of the officers. He is currently involved in building a house a little way from the prison – it seems that by such activities the prison can generate some income to improve facilities. It also gives George something useful to do and helps him maintain his skills. I was surprised that this was possible. I have the impression that in the UK prisoners rarely spend their time usefully.

We were told that George should be back between 15hrs and 16hrs. Being about 11hrs we strolled to the market to pick up a couple of items George had asked for and his wife contacted someone for whose company she was making some clothes. At about midday we adjoined to a pizza restaurant for a bite to eat and a drink. Monze doesn't have pizzas and I haven't tasted cheese since I arrived! I thought it would be good for a change and my companion was happy with the choice.

After half an hour or so I suspected that our order had been forgotten. Since we were in no hurry I waited to chase them. Our pizza had been sitting waiting for I don't know how long! The time gave us to talk about her family and how they were coping. At about 14.30 I mentioned that jennipher should be receiving her visa decision and right on cue my phone rang. Jennipher told me that she had been granted a visa. She also said that she had lost her bag on a bus and was stranded in Lusaka!!

There was a kiosk opposite where money can be sent. You just need a phone number for the recipient and some proof of identity and a text is sent to tell the receiver to collect the money from another kiosk using a 4 digit code you have devised. Within a short time Jennipher had picked up the money to get her back from Lusaka. She would stayovernight and see me today.

We arrived back at the prison at about 15hrs but when we were led into a sort of waiting room we were told George wouldn't be back for a while. Apparently when he returned he might have a wash and rest a while. We tried to find people to catch him - looking in the garden. -We wanted to let him know we were around. I suspect that with the two of us wandering about – especially a 'white man' – word will have spread.

After a few minutes George appeared outside the prison building from the direction of the garden. We spotted each other and greeted with a big hug. It was good to see him again – even in these circumstances. We haven't met since he was put in prison two years ago for a serious crime. He will probably serve another year or so. We went inside to the 'waiting room' where he obviously was well known to the officers. We talked for best part of an hour, sharing a few jokes. It was good to see him in such good spirits and I was very glad to have made the effort to pay him a visit – I couldn't promise to visit again before I go, but I will see him again next year, when with luck he will once more be a free man.

I was due at Our Lady of the Wayside church at 10 hrs this morning to meet some of the students sponsored by St. Gregory and St. Thomas More parishes. When I arrived I was surprised to see a number of vehicles in the grounds and the church was full. Fr. Clement was no where to be seen so I sneaked into the back of the church. I had intended to get up for mass at the cathedral earlier, but awoke too late! I wanted to thank God that Jennipher had succeeded in obtaining the visa, despite my doubts! The service turned out to be a funeral mass for someone who worked at Monze Mission Hospital. I will have come across him, even if I didn't have much contact. Several of the staff from the hospital greeted me after mass and encouraged me to visit them at the hospital. I didn't make contact with Fr. Clement.

I didn't want to intrude on the funeral so I left and made my way back. I decided to walk on the far side of the railway and was attracted by a path that took me through some pleasant bush until once again I found a pleasant opening where I sat for a short while. I try to tell myself that I don't need to constantly rush around, but our current culture makes that difficult. Somwtimes here in Zambia I am forced to sit around and wait – this time is very valuable and if used properly can greatly increase the productivity of the more active periods. There is a lot to consider while I am here and plenty of challenges to try to overcome. It is interesting after some quiet time the thoughts often start fitting into place.

Jennipher called around on her way back home from Lusaka. She showed me her passport complete with her visa. There are seats on the planes on which I am booked to return to the UK so she will join me and stay in the UK with Dilys and myself for a little over 3 weeks. I am sure that it will be an experience of a lifetime. She will be keen to meet lots of people and tell them about life in Zambia and in particular her work with those living with HIV/AIDS. If you would like to meet her or would like her to talk to a group or organisation please let me know, I am sure that she will be eager to respond.

As always, with love and prayers,


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