After a few days of clouds the sky is once more a uniform blue - though I am told that it is still cold.
On Monday, I was eager to sort out an internet connection and to recover my Zambian mobile number. I am still suffering the loss of my UK SIM card in Rome in February. I had moved my numbers to the SIM from the phone when I swapped it with Jennipher. The result is that I no longer have the numbers of many Zambian friends. However, they will have the number I usually use in Zambia and will also know I am in the country – word gets around very quickly!! The only problem is that I lost two SIMs in Rome – the other being my Zambian one!!
My first trip was therefore to Zamtel, where last week I was assured that blank SIMs would be available from last Friday. It appears I must have heard wrong, but they should be around on Thursday!
Next stop the MTN shop to buy a dongle. “Sorry we have none – try above Food Royal!” So on to the only two storey block in Monze. I was told they had no dongles and it seemed that there were none in Monze. However, the other salesperson picked up the phone and told me to sit down. A little later a guy presented her with a dongle – apparently the last one left in town!! I needed an additional SIM card. At the airport the process was very straightforward. They used the details from my passport to register the SIM and the process was very quick. In Monze they completed the form, then took my photo, a photo of the passport, probably a photo of the form and finally a photo of the Assistant who served me!! I asked for the numbers required to convert talk time to data bundles and the girl said she would show me. There were a few quizzical looks and I was asked to sit down again. Assistants went in and out of the office, phone calls were made, other customers were served. How much, if anything, had to do with my connection I don't know. Apparently the SIM was registered, but not activated. Half an hour passed, ¾ hour and then a bit more – suddenly smiles appeared and the process was completed. Most of morning had now passed. However, when I entered the shop I was feeling rather tense and slightly down. Yet I left happy and with a spring in my step. You can choose to fight the relaxed atmosphere of Africa – or you can embrace it!! Fighting it won't make anything move faster – so relax and enjoy!
On the way into town I picked up two pieces of chitenge – paying a lot more than usual. They seem to be of good quality and are made in Nigeria. At least they are made in Africa and Nigeria is were my son-in-law has been attending his father's funeral during the past few days. The shirt will remind me of this time. I couldn't find Ireen but a guy, who guessed that I was looking for her, took my material and said he would pass it on to her. I am sure that a shirt will appear one day (most probably late on August 4th!)
I couldn't return home without diverting through the market. A friend from St. Veronica's sells lusala (I wrongly called it Masala previously) – the root vegetable I like. I also picked up some pounded groundnuts and some dried fish. I started my quest for mayonnaise – easy to find except that I don't want Cross and Blackwell products (part of the Nestle empire). I read only a day or two back that Nestle are planning to buy rights to extract enormous amounts of water for almost nothing from a drought ridden part of the US – I think a poor town in Oregan. They will then sell it back at a fortune! It appears the company's ethics have not improved. Perhaps I should spell it Ne$tle! I have now searched a large number of the small shops for an alternative brand without success as yet. I will continue my quest!!
I have forgotten my hat this year. I have a couple at home - one with South Africa on it and the other Zambia. I could get one that says 'Boy' or another that says 'Pot'– neither appeal!! A stall holder however promised to get a hat with Zambia on it for tomorrow! I will keep you posted.
Back at home I needed to connect to the Internet, catch up with my mails and send reports. It is good to be back in touch.
This morning I spent at PIZZ School talking to the children who are being sponsored or are awaiting sponsorship. Most were in grade one and had limited English (though still better than my Chitonga!). The sponsorship scheme raises much needed money for the school, gives the sponsors a chance to connect with an individual from the school and often gives a boost to the most disadvantaged children.
I was struck by the differences between the children. A few were very cheerful and full of energy, but many were extremely quiet and seemed weighed down by a terrible sadness. The children all have very difficult lives and many have endured terrible losses and upheavals in their short lives. I like to meet all of them each time I visit. I hope that next year some will seem to be a little less burdened. The school is very active in trying to support the children – those who are not performing well or are not responding as would be hoped, will usually have someone visit their families to see what might be the cause and if there is any way the school can help. Over the years I often see differences in the children - particularly in relation to their self confidence. PIZZ School is so much more than just an educational establishment.
At the end of my session I was asked to take a picture of the grade one children. After the formal picture I asked them to wave their HANDS to add to our HANDS around the world. You can still show your support by using this link. Lets join our HANDS to support disavantaged children around the world
Precious came around after lunch and invited the three of us to join her for nshima with rape and pounded groundnuts at supper time. We enjoyed the meal later and talked for a while with her, her mother and brothers Andrew and Mike. I enjoyed the company and hospitality. Mike accompanied us back home under the starlit sky.