Wednesday 24th September
It was a wonderful visit, filled with different experiences. It would be easy to list all the places visited and people met, but that would not do justice to the value of that precious time.
It is always difficult for me coming back from a trip to Zambia and trying to re-adjust to life back in the UK, perhaps this time it has been more difficult because I brought back a bit of Zambia with me. Jennipher has had to return to the difficulties of her life in Pemba. Our close connection was strengthened during her visit. We shared our home and our lives for a few weeks and we came to understand each other better. The differences between our worlds has been reinforced and the huge gap emphasised.
Fortunately Jennipher threw herself into the experience. Everything was different. The climate, long days, rolling green hills, a lack of dangerous animals particularly snakes and crocodiles – there were so many strange things to get used to. Jennipher ate nshima twice during her stay, probably less nshima than she would consume in a normal day in Zambia, but she was so interested and willing to try new foods that she hardly missed it. We were so grateful to Jennipher for throwing herself into our world. It must have been quite frightening and challenging at times.
It was towards the end of her visit that we journeyed to London. She had seen many things but London topped everything. We arrived at Buckingham Palace in time for the changing of the guard, had lunch in a restaurant overlooking the Thames and travelled around the city by underground trains. There is certainly nothing in Zambia to compare with these experiences.
Of course we were determined to spoil Jennipher, so we lived more extravagantly while she was with us. I have always tried to be honest about our lives in England and haven't tried to hide the fact that we live a very different life - so perhaps she wasn't too surprised, though of course being told and experiencing the life yourself are very different things. Some people I know in the UK seem to have been too embarrassed by their relative wealth and as a result kept their distance.
I remember once having a decent meal with friends who asked if I found it difficult enjoying a feast while my friends were hungry. My response was that I was happy to spend more than the cost of the dinner on my friends in Zambia and therefore I had no problem. There was another occasion years ago when I was in Rotterdam and I was asked to buy some cakes for tea - they do very nice cakes in the Netherlands. I then realised that the day was designated by CAFOD as “Family Fast Day”. Initially I felt guilty, but then decided to add a letter and turn the fast day into a feast day. Instead of just cakes, I bought biscuits and beer to take back home and really went to town indulging myself. To solve my conscience I had decided that for every £1 I spent (or more accurately guilder) I would donate two to CAFOD. Needless to say CAFOD did very well that year! I would like everyone to be able to enjoy some treats - as Jennipher did in the UK – but this should not be at the expense of the poorest.
It was amazing that Jennipher's interests and concerns so closely matched those of Dilys and myself. We visited the Slimbridge Wetlands and Wildlife Trust reserve and the Forest of Dean where she embraced the natural world, delighting in it's variety - even if some of the creatures seemed to her ripe for the pot! She was interested in people with disabilities, sickness and the homeless in fact all the disadvantaged and marginalised. She enjoyed meeting my friends and family and made a lasting impression on all she met. As I have said before it was a delight and a privilege to have her stay with us.
Since returning to Zambia she has been busy. The harvest this year has been poor and food is beginning to get scarce and expensive. Most of the money Jennipher was given while in the UK has been converted into maize before prices get too high. Her main support groups have each received a small stock for when times begin to get hard.
In discussion with the Hands Around the World volunteers Jennipher took in a mother and baby and two young children. The mother and baby weren't in the best of health and some extra food was needed for the baby – unfortunately the child wasn't strong enough and died a couple of weeks back, the child was buried with dignity at Pemba. The mother is still will Jennipher, though not in the best of health. She is supporting the other children but feels that her accommodation is small for her growing family.
I am still in very regular contact with other friends in Monze. Diven has finished building his house and shop - though how it is complete when there is no roof I am not sure! There is also the issue of a toilet! It is good to hear him so happy and proud that one of his dreams is near fruition. Mrs. Sianga enjoyed having the volunteers and the Holiday Club. More than 60 students had a wonderful day in Livingstone and the volunteers found out that children in Zambia aren't so different from their counterparts in the UK.
I am well aware that the rainy season is a month or so away. This will bring good news but crops will take a while to grow. It will also bring challenges – some buildings which are not watertight will be in danger of collapse, the mosquitoes will be very active and the rate of malaria will rise. Flooding will also bring its own hazards. The maize harvest will not happen until March/April at the earliest, food prices will rise and during the next few months their will be a lot of hunger in Monze.