Tuesday 16th June
I have reached my destination!
Dilys came to see me off at the bus station. I wasn't looking forward to carrying my luggage between the coach and train stations at Victoria, but I consoled myself with the thought that I had built in an hour to cover contingencies.
We were at the bus station at just after 7 am in good time for the 7.30 am coach. Unusually by 7.20 there was no sign of my transport. Eventually at 7.50 a coach arrived. The driver seemed a bit confused by the number of passengers and picked up the phone. It seemed that my bus had broken down, but he should be able to pick up all the passengers. However a different route meant the journey would take longer and it was doubtful that I would meet my train (I got a special price because I was willing to book the 11.02 without any possible amendments! It seemed like a good idea at the time.) I thought that I could get a train to Gatwick from Heathrow so I warned the driver I might jump off there!! In the end I was transferred to the Gatwick coach at Heathrow without additional charge. This was the coach I would have got if I hadn't muddled the booking. So the final outcome was that I didn't had to lug my bags at Victoria and I saved a couple of pounds on the official cost of the coach!! The Lord certainly works in mysterious ways.
The procedures at the airport went very smoothly, without a hitch. I had prepared to remove my laptop from my backpack at security so I was prepared for the unpacking and repacking this entailed.
The plane left for Dubai on time – although to be honest a delay of an hour or two wouldn't have mattered – this was one occasion when it was difficult to use up all the available slack!!
The plane was big! 10 seats across the plane even at the back where I was sat in row 88! There was also an upper floor with stairs going up from the rear. As well as a wealth of films and CDs there were a few games on the console in front of each passenger. I have rather a liking for backgammon. On my laptop I have a backgammon game, but unfortunately the computer cheats!! The dice thrown are far from random and are heavily weighted in the computer's favour. Although I occasionally play the game, I soon give up in frustration. On the plane the dice seemed random, but unfortunately the computer wasn't a very good player and was too easily beaten! It also lacked the doubling facility – an essential part of the game from my perspective. Anyway it helped me pass an hour or two!
The meal was good and accompanied and followed by a good selection of drinks – so I enjoyed some wine etc.
In fact the 6 ½ hour flight passed quite comfortably – helped no doubt by a little alcohol!
I was in the departure lounge at Dubai airport with 8 hrs to spare before my next plane. The large array of luxury goods didn't tempt me, but the airport is very smart and clean with a couple of pleasant gardens laid out. I found a chair – all loungers being claimed , very much in the style of those around pools at holiday resorts!! I dosed on and off until about 5 am (2am BST) when I went for a stroll and tried to locate my boarding gate. It was quite a distance so another twenty minutes or so was taken up. An early breakfast of coffee and croque monsieur helped further. I then positioned myself near the gate and dosed on and off until the gate opened.
We boarded on time, but a broken down loading trolley blocked our path to the runway for 30 minutes. The next stage of my flight was mainly one of further dozing. The 6 ½ flight passed reasonably quickly - two meals being squeezed in (I decided it was too early for more alcohol!). We landed at Lusaka airport at about 14.45 local time. There was a 'health check' at the airport where temperatures were taken and passports checked to see which countries we had recently visited. The queue in immigration was to the back of the hall as usual – interestingly the Diplomats queue was as long as for visitors! However, despite no obvious reason, movement was even slower than usual – not surprisingly there was absolutely no delay in collecting bags, the carousel had long stopped and bags been laid beside it! At 17.45 – yes three hours after landing, I made it to the entrance of Lusaka airport. (and I still beat some of the diplomats!!)
An Inter City coach and two taxis later I arrived at this house around 22.30 - 38 ½ hrs after starting my journey.
Raymond met me at the coach with the second taxi and Deana was waiting for me when I arrived at the house with a welcome cup of tea. I spent a little time reading before settling down some time after midnight.
I arose at 8 am to the sound of the sparrowsand seeing the glowing sun in a cloudless sky. Despite being relatively cold during the night there was no need for a jumper by the time I left my bed.
Today was time to say hallo to some good friends and venture out to explore the environment. I rang Jennipher and she immediately said she would head for Monze. Teddy said he would come around within the half hour and Diven's phone wouldn't work!! As usual Jennipher came with a friend – one of her clients. She told me a little of her news. Family members with cancer and other health problems, no food at home, Soloman trying to make charcoal to generate a little money but not really being fit enough for this work. She said she was currently trying to look after 12 people at her house. Unfortunately the solar phone charger has broken and it doesn't look as if anyone can fix it. This had been a good source of income for the past couple of years. It doesn't take long to come down to earth here in Zambia.
Teddy told me of the new systems and computers at the hospital and brought me a warm blanket for my bed.
I walked with Jennipher to the original PIZZ School which is only 800 metres straight down the road. Mrs. Sianga and her husband greeted us and we talked in very general terms about the situation. Mrs. Sianga is having problems with her blood pressure and the monitor I brought with me confirmed some frighteningly high readings. Some of the teachers greeted me including one who asked how Barby was doing. Some years back the children were talking about birthdays. It just happened to be Barby's birthday that day and the teacher got them all to make her a birthday card based on the one she put on the blackboard.
It was now time to see Diven's new house, shop and toilet! After all the effort and disasters it was good to see that the buildings were looking solid. Diven has always made great efforts to keep his houses tidy and well arranged – despite only having single room rented dwellings previously. I met his wife before he joined me to go around the town to pick up a few essentials.
My impression is that generally prices have risen – particularly non foodstuffs. I was disappointed to notice that a number of the stallholders were drunk and hardly able to carry on their business. This is not an issue that I had been so clearly aware of before.
Going around the town I met a few of my friends and others that knew me. Ireen grabbed me for a big hug, Patrick pretended to run me over as he approached in his car – Jennipher had earlier been telling us how Patrick saved her life by getting her as one of the first people to take ARVs. Mr. Mongu was about again and greeted me with a hug, I exchanged Rasta greetings with Brian and others greeted me in their particular fashion. Children cried out “How are You” and some shared high fives.
My first day couldn't be complete without visiting the market stalls and stocking up with vegetables and spices.
At last I had really arrived back in Monze!!
It was about 18 hrs when I returned home. Precious was there with a friend and Raymond was waiting for me. When Teddy returned we were struggling a little to find enough cups. I waited until the visitors had left before cooking my evening meal. Now it is time for bed but I will read a little and get another caffeine fix before turning in!