Monday, July 13, 2015

Road Construction

Monday 13th July

I have returned from Mazabuka where I extended my visitor's permit. The permit is issued at the airport on entry, for 30 days. After this period a visit to an immigration office is needed to extend it. Again a further 30 days will be given. However after 3 months, as I found to my cost in 2004, immigration is reluctant to grant a further extension to a visitor's permit. Extending my permit today was very straightforward and took no longer than 10 mins. Despite having limited delays the whole morning was taken up travelling and it was about 13 hrs by the time I reached home.

Friday seemed to be occupied almost entirely trying to acquire some cash. The ATM is about a ½ hour's walk each way. My money doesn't last long here and I was down to my last few kwacha. I hoped that once the power returned late morning, the Finance Bank ATM would release some funds. However, it seems that the loss of power upsets the systems and, although everything appears to be working, no funds are released. I called in at the hospital where I chatted a bit to Sichone, dropped some glasses with Teddy who was attending a meeting and visited Bright at his “office” by the motuary. Bright invited me to visit his house on the Saturday, where he had further building work underway. I also caught up with Jasper – who is our landlord and a driver at the hospital.

It is interesting that there are some people who have the energy and ability to make big changes to their lives, whereas others in similar positions seem to be completely weighed down by their problems. I am sure this is true everywhere – however in Zambia the contrast is stark. Jasper has managed to buy the substantial property we are renting and is enjoying the income. Bright is in the process of building himself a six bedroomed house for his family. I can think of another driver and another general worker from the hospital who, as described above, are always desperate to find money to buy the next bag of mealie meal. I wonder in which category I would fall given their circumstances? It is not possible to know!

I returned home with no more money. I thought we should celebrate Friday with fish and chips! Having found a fish shop, bought a few “Irish potatoes” and a small bag of green beans, I had the princely sum of 1 kwacha to my person!! (about 10p) I had lunch and returned to the bank. In the morning I had an inkling that I might be lucky because the ATM was “temporarily out of order” which suggested someone might be checking the problem. I was right and felt relieved with a bit of money in my pocket. I would at least be able to buy a few scratch cards to load airtime into my phone and make a few calls.

I called around on Ireen who told me that I could pick up my shirt on Saturday – she just had the buttons to sew on! ( There was a feeling of Deja-vu!!).

I made the mistake of trying to fillet the fish! Its a while since I've had fresh fish in Zambia. I have decided next time just to leave the bones until it is cooked. What was left was good and the chips and green beans were fine. I will repeat the performance and hopefully get a better result next time.

I headed for the crossroads to meet Bright on Saturday morning. Bright has been working as a general worker at the hospital for many years. He has a son Brian who is deaf. Despite having relatively low wages Bright has used his initiative to ensure that Brian goes to a special school where they have experienced teachers for children who are deaf. He has also managed to look after the family well. After a while we realised that there are a number of crossroads in Monze and we were not at the same one!! Eventually we met and headed past Diven's shop towards Bright's house.

He seems to be the only person so far to have defined his land with a fence. It is a reasonable size – I would guess it amounts to an acre or so. He built himself a small house using empty paint tins as a mould for the mud. He has recently moved his family into this house. However his new project is constructing a very large house out of proper “burnt bricks”. I am always impressed by the skills of the local people. Bright has built his own house – albeit temporary. He dug a well with one of his sons and he will “burn” the bricks himself. The building of his new house however he will leave to the professionals. I met Bright's wife who told me she recognised me from Our Lady of the Wayside church.

On my return I joined Diven who had prepared some lunch for me and a cup of tea – for which I was particularly grateful, as it was my first of the day. A few days ago Precious mentioned that she wasn't able to have a cup of tea whenever she wanted – like we do. Diven asked me how I make coffee – obviously having never made it himself. It is very easy to forget that tea and coffee are luxury items for most people here. It is so easy to moan because we are unable to have a cup of tea before 10 hrs these days, yet this inconvenience is nothing compared to the daily struggle of so many of the people around us!

While I was at Diven's we were warned that a machine was about to drive by and we should close the door. A little later horns sounded and smoke billowed up outside. After passing a thin layer of tar or bitumen was left on half of the road. The process was repeated and the other half of the road tarred. This emulsion was laid on compressed stone which seemed also to have a bit of dry cement within it. We will come back to the road construction a little later!!

Jennipher called around in the afternoon. She had been to Namibia where Sandra had her operation, hoping to bring her back to Zambia. However, they decided she wasn't fit to travel on a bus and Jennipher returned alone. We decided that it was probably best to leave here were she was until she had recovered sufficiently to make the journey herself. It seemed that I have not previously introduced Jennipher to Guacamole. She enjoyed some when she was with me. She had a bit of a cough and sore throat so I also supplied her with a hot cup of honey and lemon – another first for her.

Raymond called around in the evening and we talked a little. I showed him how I was creating a birthday card for Dilys for Sunday. I completed the card later and sent it via e-mail later that evening.

The Tonga mass gives me time to reflect and pray. On Sunday I was glad of the opportunity and felt better for it. I met George at church and he offered to give me a lift back after the service. George has been a key figure at both Our lady of the Wayside and St. Veronica's over the years, though he was away for a while and is only now getting involved again. He was attending a brief session with Legion of Mary – a Catholic group who particularly
encourage those who are no longer coming to church to return. A group in Cheltenham have developed a bit of a relationship with those from Monze, so I was able to bring their greetings. They meet at a grotto which is based on one in Lourdes, where it is said Mary appeared to Bernadette. Lourdes has been very important for me over the years and is a wonderful place to go to with sick and disabled pilgrims. I was reminded of the many wonderful people I shred that experience with over a number of years.

I called Dilys to wish her a Happy Birthday properly, and then headed for the Dam. A tarmac laying machine was ready for action with two guys sitting very grandly on top. In addition to my regular birds I spotted a little grebe. I realise that few of the birds I see are also present in the UK. The little grebe is an exception, being resident in both places. On my return the machine, which has been in place since the morning, had not moved. The tar laid yesterday is dry and numerous people, bikes and probably vehicles have travelled along the road since!!

I spent a little time with Mrs. Sianga discussing the budget for water distribution and toilets among other things. Electricity had gone again by about 14hrs and I returned to a dark house. The sweet potatoes couldn't be cooked, so I put together some coleslaw and Deana opened a tin of fish in “hot chilli sauce” - it didn't make me cough so it couldn't have been very hot!! Deana is looking after my health with bowls of fresh fruit and sour milk, she added a few cornflakes for a bit of carbohydrate.

The wonders of technology enabled me to arrange for a weekend away and visit to the theatre as a present for Dilys. Before I turned in everything was booked and tickets delivered to my computer!

The road building outside continues! Stones have been built high and compressed – again with some cement. However, today water has been added to create a concrete mixture – most people walked on the road anyway. Deana was caught out! She avoided the road, but failed to notice that under a pile of leaves the concrete mixture had leaked from the road to form a pool. She returned quickly having covered her sandals and feet in the mixture – at least both her and her sandals made it out of the trap!

Earlier today after returning from Mazabuka I called in on Ireen. She will have the buttons put on by this evening – if I am passing I can pick it up!!


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