Tuesday, June 17, 2014

New Experiences

Tuesday 17th June

I am very aware of the huge contrast between life in England and that in Zambia.

Last Thursday we visited a school in Oxford were my friend John teaches. The school has extensive grounds with football pitches, tennis courts etc. Well equipped classrooms with various items of technology are standard – computers are used as a matter of course, as we found out when we joined a french class. There were several music rooms with various instruments available for the students and even a recording studio! I couldn't help comparing this school with Lushomo in Monze where there were no tables or chairs and where buying enough chalk was a major issue!

Jennipher talked to some of the students who were interested in her life and work in Zambia. We then made our way into the city along the river where we watched young people rowing. In the centre we looked around some of the impressive buildings and pleasant parks, we climbed a church tower for a better view of Oxford. Jennipher is enjoying her experience in England – she was particularly pleased to visit Oxford which was the place named on some her her books when she was at school many years back!

John joined us after he had finished at school and he led us to an inn on the river. He asked me where I thought we should sit and I suggested a table near the river in the sun would be ideal. We headed for the river and as we approached the customers at a table at the riverside freed it for our use – we couldn't have found a more suitable table. We had a very pleasant meal in the evening sun to conclude a lovely visit.

On Friday we returned to Wales – this time to meet the volunteers and trustees from Hands Around the World. Jennipher gave a moving talk about her life in Zambia and met people from Hands Around the World including David and Jim who she knew from their visits to Zambia.

While I attended the trustees meeting Dilys took Jennipher to Raglan castle which she found interesting.

The World Cup has started!! Jennipher enjoys watching the games when she gets the chance. Dilys has been recording the matches – despite the fact that she doesn't enjoy watching sport herself. It is therefore wall to wall football here when Jennipher is at home!!

On Saturday Dilys took Jennipher to our church where they were doing a “Stitch and Pray” session. Jennipher learnt to knit and now spends much of her time knitting while watching the football! She seems much too good at knitting for it to have been her first experience!

On Sunday we went to St. Gregory's church and met some of the parishioners over coffee. In the afternoon Barby and Cheyenne, Andy, Tracy, George and Charlie joined us for a barbecue and Paul and Jess came later. Jennipher has known about the family over many years – seeing photos, now she was able to meet them properly.

Yesterday Dilys took Jennipher to Gloucester to visit the hospital. When I asked Jennipher how she found it she said she was amazed that everything was provided – women giving birth didn't need to bring any bowls and patients could choose what food they wanted! She was saying today that because Selina was in hospital for a few weeks with a broken arm some years back she missed important schooling and as a result lost a year. She was impressed that our children can continue their education whilst in hospital.

It has been busy, with new experiences every day for Jennipher. It is a delight to have her with us – she is so easy, enjoying trying different foods and taking in the new environment.

Today Jennipher is having her portrait painted by an artist friend. Unusually the artist wants to pay for the privilege! I hope to be able to have some good quality prints produced.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Different World

Wednesday 11th June

It's a different world!!

I have been asked whether it is difficult to adjust to being back in the UK. In reality it isn't, but what is difficult is to connect the two very different worlds. On this occasion the differences are accentuated by having Jennipher here with me. She is totally amazed by what she sees, but enjoying the experience enormously.

Last Wednesday I went to Mazabuka to extend my visitor's permit. It took less than 10 mins to go through the process find the stamp etc and issue the permit, 1 ½ hrs to travel there and back and 3 hours waiting for buses!!

Thursday was my day for saying goodbye, but I found myself sorting out a few bits of business and constantly running an appointment or two behind schedule. It reached abour 20 hrs and I decided that I had to call it a day and recognised that my visit to Monze was finished. I finally called at the priest's house before joining Diven for a final meal at Tooters.

I didn't sleep well on Thursday night, but managed to over sleep eventually. It was therefore before my breakfast when Obert's parents arrived unexpectedly to wish me a good journey. In the midst of a later than expected breakfast, Julie arrived and I had the chance to talk about the imminent arrival of the first of the volunteers and hoped she was ready to accept them at the house.

Obert arrived a few minutes late – for which I was grateful. He had agreed to take me to Pemba, where we would pick up Jennipher. Soloman was at the roadside waiting to direct us. I was welcomed with hugs from Obadia, Maggie and Jennipher (the younger). Jennipher joined us in the car and we headed to Pemba Basic to say goodbye to Selina. On seeing the police check point however, Obert was persuaded by the owner of the car to head straight for Monze. I was sad that we let Selina down, but I heard later that she understood the problem.

Jennipher's holiday had begun! We arrived at Monze just in front of a Shalom bus (quite literally). They had a couple of spare places – it seemed that the Lord was with us for we were on our way without delay. At the Inter-City bus station a taxi driver was waiting – he agreed a fair price, drove well and had a good car with ample space for the luggage. When he dropped us at Longacres Lodge, I engaged him to take us to the airport the next day.

I spent a considerable time during the afternoon trying to check in online. This proved futile and eventually I gave up. I don't think that Jennipher was impressed! We returned to the hotel and rested for a while. I rang Judy who I was aware was in Lusaka preparing for some exams. I have come to know Judy over many years from Monze Mission Hospital where she worked as the secretary to the Hospital Executive Officer/Medical Superintendent. She was transferred to the Copperbelt a couple of years back, so I was pleased when she met us at the hotel. Jennipher appeared with a nephew who works in Lusaka and he joined us for supper. Judy had to rush off, but it was good to see her - even if it was brief.

On Saturday there was no great hurry. The taxi was arranged for 9 hrs, so we could enjoy a leisurely breakfast and even sit and enjoy the early morning sun. I warned Jennipher that she might not see it again for a while!

Our taxi arrived on time and we were at the airport in very good time. One of the many error messages i received when trying to check in online suggested that I contact customer services at Ethiopean Airlines to complete checking in, so I took the opportunity to go to their office at the airport. The guy confirmed that on the first plane my attempt to gain a window seat had succeeded and that we were in adjacent seats – though not by a window – on the final flight. Unfortunately he couldn't change this. However, a final attempt to sort out our seating arrangements to my satisfaction succeeded at the check-in desk. I wanted Jennipher to be able to see as much as possible from the plane, hence the energy expended trying to get to the window.

We watched the planes from the departure lounge before getting onboard. A delay at Harare meant that it was dark by the time we passed Kilimanjaro, but there were some good views. It seemed that the equipment that lifted the luggage to the plane was faulty – hence the delay. Most appeared to have been had been loaded, so eventually we carried on with our journey.

At Addis Abbaba further confusion reigned!! I told Jennipher she should find the next plane! However, it seemed that there was a delay of an hour or so. I tried to contact Dilys, first by phone, then by e-mail and, since neither was operating, by a message to a friend on Facebook chat! When I returned to Jennipher she said that there had been a call for Heathrow passenfgers to go to gate 4. Since we were still 3 hours from the revised departure time this seemed strange! I looked on the departure information screen and was alarmed to find that apparently the next plane left at 8 hrs (it was about 23 hrs) and there was no mention of any flight to Heathrow. I decided to ask someone with the right uniform on, and was informed that the Heathrow plane was leaving from gate 6 which was in a separate area. We were both sceptical but after receiving confirmation we passed security and made for the gate. An hour later about 50 people were at gate 6 where an Ethiopean Airways plane sat. (Since almost all the planes were Ethiopean Airways it wasn't very significant – except that since it could hold about 350 passengers there was a marked disparity with the number waiting to board.!!) It was sometime later that thepassengers at gate 4 eventually joined us!!

I had told Dilys not to rush as we would be at least an hour late. In the event when we boarded the plane it was announced that, despite leaving an hour late, we were expected to arrive on time!

We had no food on the plane to Harare but had lunch at 15 – 16 hrs on the next leg of our trip. We were now served supper at 3 hrs (Ethiopean time). By 4 hrs (UK time) – 3 hrs after supper! It was light. We enjoyed watching out of the window as we flew along the Greek coast picking up the many small Greek islands. We were then gifted with the sight of the alps in bright sunshine – Jennipher's first view of snow! As we approached the coast it was cloudy but this cleared as we neared England. Finally we were treated to a close-up view of London before coming into land. It was a wonderful flight for Jennipher. She appreciated all the new sights and was in awe of the world which was appearing before her. All the efforts to precure the window seat were amply rewarded.

I decided to do all I could to stay with Jennnipher through the entrance process and was able to be with her at the immigration desk. Being able to explain that we were together on the flight and that she would be staying with me me and my wife made the process relatively straightforward – I suspect on her own Jennipher might have had a more difficult time.

Jennipher found a trolley while I tried to spot our bags. Two cases arrived on the carousel but when all was loaded my final bag was missing. I eventually found it at the side of the carousel with the lock broken! (I only noticed this when I arrived home!) I don't think anything was taken – probably because it contained nothing of interest, but it was curious that it appeared to have been taken from the carousel. I can't imagine anyone removing it of the carousel, then trying to open it in full view of the other passengers!

Dilys wasn't around so We had a couple of coffees and waited.

The song “I'll raise you up” started playing at the café and I wasn't surprised to see see Dilys appear at that point – it is one of her favourite songs!

Dilys drove us home, while Jennipher looked in wonder at the world in which she had suddenly arrived.

On Monday I went to mass and arranged that Dilys met me for a coffee afterwards. I was a little disappointed that some friends weren't at the service. However, I greeted a few that were around. Dilys and Jennipher should have been at the parish office but hadn't arrived so I headed to see if I could get some mealie meal! Before I left the church grounds I bumped into Maria and after a brief chat Dilys and Jennipher arrived. I introduced Maria to Jennipher. We entered the office and before leaving Mary arrived and agreed to join us for coffee. Both Maria and Mary have been very much interested and involved with my Zambian trips and I had hoped that I would see them on Monday. It appeared that I would meet neither since they weren't at mass, yet both were brought to meet us anyway.

I showed Jennipher around town and we entered some of the shops. I organised a mobile for her before rwe returned to relax in front of the TV.

Yesterday after dropping Paul in Cirencester for 8 am, Dilys, Jennipher and myself made our way to Ogmore on Sea - just beyond Cardiff - using the scenic route through one of the Welsh valleys. Jennipher loved the views – especially the mountains and we were blessed by good weather. Until that is we arrived at the coast – the first sight of the sea was still a special moment for Jennipher, though we didn't linger. We met Deana who lives nearby and who visited Monze in 2012 as a Hands Around the World volunteer – where she first met Jennipher. Deana has subsequently set up her own small charity and is leaving to return to Zambia this Friday. I was able to pass on some items from Zambia for her and others items for her to take to Zambia with her.

We had a very walk around Ogmore castle before having a very pleasant lunch at a café overlooking the sea.

Of course, though the weather had changed for the worse, I was not going to allow Jennipher to return without getting really close to the sea. The rain eased and we headed for the beach. Only I was brave (or foolish) enough to have a paddle, but we all enjoyed walking on the shore at the edge of the sea. Deana showed us to a walled garden and Jennipher continued to say Wow!

We took the quick route back on the motorway over the Severn Brige to complete a very memorable day.

It is such a joy to have Jennipher here with us. She is enjoying all the new experiences – the food as well as the sights, sounds and smells!

Today was a quieter day but we visited Cheyenne's school where her class put on an interesting and entertaining assembly for the school and Jennipher met Amy again. Amy visted Zambia in 2011 and spent some time with Jennipher – we visited Livingstone together.

I will try to maintain my blog while Jennipher is with us in the UK.

Best Wishesws


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Mothers and Babies

Tuesday 3rd June

At that this point in my trips I start panicking realising how much I need to fit in during the last few days. I was feeling somewhat under pressure by the weekend so I decided to take a day off!! Strange as it seems when there is too much to do, doing nothing can be the best solution. On Saturday I decided to read the Jeffrey Archer book I found in the house and then go for a walk to the small dam. I was immediately rewarded with a view of an African Open-Billed Stork. Later another 4 or 5 joined this one. A flock of White-Faced Ducks where floating on the lake and some African Jacanas flitted around the edges of the shore. As is usual, a group of lads playing with a football gradually found themselves kicking the ball ever closer to where I sat. More unusually a group of girls grouped behind me in some bushes. It is very usual for girls and boys, men and women to keep in separate groups. The girls were bolder and greeted me – finally sitting with me and enquiring about my presence, using the binoculars and looking through the bird books. One of the girls proved very knowledgeable and told me the Citonga names for many of the birds. She turned out to be a student at PIZZ School.

On Sunday I expected to be free after mass. However a change in plans meant the Small Christian Communities would meet after all. I still planned to excuse myself, but eventually decided to join them. I saw three of the students we sponsor through the church in Cheltenham, before Best gave me a lift home. After a quick bite he took me to his home, where I was offered some sump and sour. It was therefore about 15hrs by the time I reached the prayer meeting. As with the previous time when I almost excused myself, my presence turned out to be important. Clarification about a small project established last year was necessary to clear up some misunderstandings.

I had arranged to meet Sr. Christeta at Pemba at a variety of times during recent days! I was at Pemba at 8 hrs – one of the agreed times - met Jennipher at 9hrs and Sr. Christeta at 10hrs! I decided to relax while waiting and walked slowly along the main street taking in the environment. I have spent too much time rushing – I need to make the most of my last few days and enjoy the experience of being in Africa.

The road we took from Pemba was a good dirt road. Sr. Christeta has a Landcruiser which covers the ground well. I enjoyed getting away from the town for a while. A beautiful glossy bright blue bird flew past – I believe it was a starling – there are a lot of varieties in Africa and some which are present in Africa don't seem to be present in the countries covered by my Southern african bird book, making positive identification difficult for me. We also saw hornbills with their characteristic shape and flight. We passed small vilages with their range of grassed thatched buildings and moved from the Chiefdom of Chief Monze to that of Mapanza when we crossed a small river. Sr. Christe
ta is the daughter of the former Chief Monze, so now lives in foreign territory!

We reached a tarmac road and very soon were at Chililantambo – the village where Sr. Chisteta stays. There is a Catholic church, the convent were she lives, the clinic were she works and very little else! The houses are well scattered over a number of kilometres.

I was glad of Jennipher's presence. She was very much at home talking to the women who had established a group to tackle the danger of transmission of HIV infection from mother to baby. Sr Christeta was very busy immunizing about 200 babies agaist a variety of diseases while Jennipher talked to the mothers finding out some of their challenges and getting me to take numerous photographs! One of Jennipher's main concerns was the number of 'early marriages'. We discovered later that the majority of the mothers at the clinic where students from the local school where the nun's taught.

The group of volunteers were making a lotion which apparently is very good at relieving muscle and back pain. Many leaves were cooked with some oil and animal fat – by the end of the day the lotion was put into pots and labelled ready to be sold. The government provided a borehole and handpump under the same scheme as that for Jennipher's group in Pemba. This has enabled the group to make a small vegetable garden. Sr. Christeta also grows yellow maize and keeps some village chickens – one of which we ate for lunch!

There were a few other patients that appeared. A boy with malaria and a man with a large bed sore. Sr. Christeta cleaned the sore with water, but had no ointment to aid healing. The patient left on the ox-cart used as transport.

There is no electricity at the clinic – though the convent does have power. If the patient has no candle, night deliveries are often carried out in the dark. Transport to the clinic is a problem for the women – Jennipherbelieves that a bicycle ambulance would be a great help.

Once again I was reminded just how different it iin Zambia and because of the lack of things we take for granted, many lives are lost.

Sr. Christeta saw her last patient after 19.30 and we set off for the return journey. I was surprised that we only saw one animal on the journey – a rabbit.

It was 22 hrs when I was dropped at my house. I found the remaining bottles of clove oil and some painkillers and gave them to Sr. Christeta. A lady at the clinic today will be grateful to get relief from her toothache.

It was a good day, and relaxing in the rural setting allowed me to reflect on some of the experiences I have had this year. The prospects of many of the women and the children I saw at Chililantambo is not promising. Infant mortality is still high in Zambia and higher among groups such as these.

Today I had an appointment at PIZZ School. It appeared that since last night there was no water, however the owner was here this morning and demonstrated that the hot taps did produce water. He had attached the pipes to the wrong inlet to the house and just filled the geyser! I suspect that the fact that all the hot taps were open last night when I arrived might explain the lack of water. (I closed them when I noticed).

A man – Kennedy – told me he had a 9 year old son, Lewis, who was unable to sit up unaided, couldn't speak and wasn't growing. He asked if I could give any advice. I am aware that HHI provide support for children with disabilities and suggested that he talked to them. I will also speak to Deana before she comes out to see whether her involvement with HHI can help. Once again I can't help think that their would be so much more support for children with such disabilities in the UK. I hope we continue to value these services and don't let them deteriorate.

I saw a few more sponsored children at PIZZ School and discussed a number of issues including a partnership agreemet that we are drafting between us.

I fitted in a visit to Buntolo to collect a few items made to provide a little income in support of the orphaned children. My next meeting was overdue. Fortunately Obert was able to obtain a car and pick me up to take me to his mum's pre-school - after calling at the ATM, my house and dropping of Clara and Bridget! When we arrived at the pre-school I felt guilty about the long delay that I had caused.

The pre-school is attached to the HIV/AIDS group and has a number of children with disabilities. One who has limited speech was absent, another with a problem with one her legs was present. The teacher qualified at a centre which the government no longer recognises, so she decided to help at the pre-school, but she struggles to survive with very little money. The children sang me some songs and one child recited a poem. The children seemed very happy and one girl inparticular seemed to be wonderfully alive and mischievious. I look at thes children and wonder what their future holds – some obviously have great potential, but just how much will be realised and how much wasted - to the detriment of all of us.

On arriving back home their was a queue of friends to see. Diven joined me for supper and left at about 21 hrs.