Friday 2nd May
There have been clear blue cloudless skies for the past few days - unbroken sunshine from 6.10 when the sun rises to 5.50 when it sets!
When I am at the house I spend most of my time sitting under the covered veranda enjoying the fresh air and looking out into the garden. I have an electric socket so I can continue to use the laptop and the internet.
Yesterday afternoon Charles and Precious took me out to see the solar pump installed for a support group beyond Manungu, Mr & Mrs. Sianga joined us.. It was good to get away from the town for a while. Mrs. Sianga has told me that I need to visit a rural area to understand the real hardship of the people there – Jennipher and others tell me life is much harder in the 'villages'. Here a villlage is where the houses are far apart and people live off the land. Jennipher told me today that she was taken out to a 'village' and left to make her way back with a bike – cycling and walking it took her three days! A village is not a cluster of houses as we know it in the UK, but a remote area.. I have said that I will make time to pay a visit whenever Mrs. Sianga is free to take me.
We were invited to sit down - the people remembered me from previous visits, though of course I couldn't be sure who I had met previously. Warren, who runs the group, arrived a little later and gave us a tour of the plot. He is busy replacing some trees with fruit trees – including avacados. I told him about guacamole and promised a recipe! He will leave the existing trees until the new ones have grown sufficiently to take their place – he doesn't want to have bare land at any point. He has started growing some chinese mustard plants which he says are in much demand and fetch a good price. The solar pump is working OK, but the water level in the well is very low at a time of year when it should be high. He fears that by August or September this year it will dry up. He already has a plan to deepen the well.
The maize crop looks good. Unlike many other maize crops this year, his maize seeds are big and it looks like the harvest will be OK. A new brick storage silo has been built. Charles sounded incredulous when Warren assured him that it would hold the equivalent of 100 bags of maize. I think I would back Warren he seems to be on top of the business here.
After our tour we sat down to resume eating boiled groundnuts and talk. We heard about Mrs. Siangas grandfather who had 16 wifes and so many grandchildren that when his farm was inherited there was not a lot to go around! I met Deana – no not the volunteer who went out with Hands Around the World, but a little girl - her namesake!
I can't remember when I first visted this support group, but Jennipher brought me out some years back. I talked to Warren and it was clear that, unlike many, this had a good chance of becoming a self-sustaining group, if they could make better use of the water supply. They had a well and even a tank, but no means of getting the water to the tank. In 2012 Deana (this time the volunteer) visited with Jennipher and has since established a small charity – 'Friends of Monze' – and managed to obtain funding for a solar pump and the necssary associated piping.
On the way back we visited the Sianga's new house into which they are about to move. It is what is now the outskirts of Monze – when I arrived in 2003 it would have been green fields – well in fact more brown ground and bush - but in the midst of the country anyway. Monze has greatly expanded over the past few years. The Siangas have a bit of land with the house and it is being well used with a large number of ochra plants that are well advanced. I was told that the art is to time the crops for when there is a ready market – apparently when the ocra is ripe there will be no competition. It will then be replaced with tomatoes. There is a small building on the site which they said could be my house next year!
I was given some groundnuts by Warren and had already forgotten to bring them twice by the time I had my lift home – I then left them in Mr. Sianga's car when they dropped me off! Today they were returned once more to me!!
I asked Mrs. Sianga if she would call briefly today to talk about the programme for the holiday club. I didn't realise that I had any ideas myself, but by the time she appeared with her husband, I had put together a few thoughts and we mulled them over and agreed an outline plan.
Apparently one of Mrs. Sainga's uncles (you might recall there were probably many!) owned this property at one time. They were interested in the changes that had been made since those days.
Jennipher arrived during our discussions and joined us. After they left she told me that she had a phone call asking her to go to Lusaka on Monday to pick up her documents. Apparently they tried to call her on Wednesday but couldn't contact her. I was surprised because I am meant to have been kept informed of progress. I was told that I would be sent an e-mail with details when the passport has been returned to Lusaka. It is a very quick turnaround and I am surprised ny the lack of a confirmatory e-mil.
Tomorrow the new Bishop will be consecrated, please pray that he will be a good shepherd for the people of Monze Diocese.
With love and prayers.