Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Zambian Paella

Tuesday 7th July

Today was the last day of the long holiday. People were travelling back to their workplaces from where some had come to visit friends and family. Edward was heading to Lusaka where he works as headmaster, leaving his wife in Monze, Simon was on his way to his farm close to Kafue and Fr. Kenan was returning to Chilimantando.

Yesterday, after doing a little on the computer and making some phone calls, I decided to have an hour relaxing at the small dam (lake). I watched a Great White Egret stalking its prey and catching something quite large in its beak (either a fish or some type of amphibian). The African Openbilled Storks flew low over the lake before settling. They make me think of Pterodactyls with there large gaping beaks and the way they hold their heads – a very unusual sight.

Teddy popped along in the afternoon and we caught up on a wide range of topics. He has been off work because he scalded his leg with boiling water which he was going to use to warm his bath. Precious came around, but couldn't be persuaded to try my scrambled eggs with “House of Commons” (at least that was what my mother called a mixture of fried onions, tomatoes and rice!).

I had arranged to meet Edward in the evening. Some years back, while he was the headteacher at Monze Basic School, he realised that the school was in dire need of renovating and could also do with some improvements. He had the idea of contacting some “old boys” to see if they might provide support and had some success. Before independence the school was for Europeans only and, needless to say, some of the ex-pupils were in a better position to help than some of the more recent intake. (It is now a standard government school) When one of these “ old boys”, now living in England, found that I visited Monze regularly he asked if I could act as a sort of liaison. For a couple of years I met with Edward, discussed his plans and observed the progress. We became friends and I like to get together with him when I can. We chat over a beer or two. He is now living in Lusaka and is headmaster at a secondary school there - returning every fortnight or so to his family who still live in Monze. He dropped me home a little before 22 hrs.

Today I set off for Pemba to say hallo to Jennipher's family.

It was good to meet up once more. Soloman is getting stronger after being very ill during the past year. He was at UTH – University Teaching Hospital, which is the main hospital in Lusaka and he was not expected to survive. As a last resort he was treated with some “Chinese medicine” and eventually pulled through. Selina is now a young lady and apparently doesn't appreciate being shown the pictures I took when she was a very small child. Maggie and Obadia have grown, but still want to sit on my knees. Little Jennipher was busy rehearsing for an event at the Catholic Church so wasn't around and Emmanuel is still staying in Livingstone. Since Maambo's death a few months ago her sister has been staying with Jennipher. Among other things, Maambo took on the major role of looking after the children while Jennipher was in England. She is missed terribly by Jennipher. There is also a young boy staying at the house - his mother died last year,. An elderly gentleman arrived while we were talking – he spends most of the day at the house and Jennipher gives him food.

The house is quite crowded and mattresses and blankets are a bit sparse – some of the family have to sleep on the concrete floor. Jennipher wants a double mattress and Selina needs school shoes and a jumper.

On the way to her home we passed by the house of one of her clients. The lady has made a nice garden and is growing onions, rape (a local vegetable a bit like spinach), tomatoes and other vegetables. She has mains water but the pressure is very low during the day. It is very important to be able to grow some of your own food. With a decent water supply everything grows rapidly – but without it it is difficult to grow anything during the long dry season (April to November – and recently even longer). This lady was managing very well under the circumstances.

Some people in Pemba are buying storage tanks and filling them overnight in order to have water for their gardens. Jennipher is hoping to be able to get one some day. She says they can make a stand but cannot afford a tank. I will try to find out the prices. I think a tank would make a big difference to the crops they could grow.

Jennipher told me she has 18 goats. Any male goats she sells, but she keeps the females to increase the herd. She also has a number of guinea fowl, a few chickens and two ducks which produce some eggs. She showed me her orange tree where she had left two oranges for me – Selina picked them and gave them to me before I left. It is only a small tree but it produced over 100 oranges which she was able to sell. It is from these animals and by growing some vegetables that Jennipher is able to feed the family. A solar panel designed to charge mobile phones was bringing in a good income – as much as £4 - £5 on a very good day - but unfortunately it was struck by lightning and, not surprisingly, does not work any longer. I would like to replace the charger if I can sort out the logistics of acquiring it and arranging for it to be brought from the UK.

I brought a football with me because I remembered that Soloman is involved with a small football club. A friend back in Cheltenham lives close to a football ground and field where they practice. Balls regularly land in his garden and no one comes to collect them! Little did the guy who kicked this ball one day out of the ground into a Cheltenham garden realise that it would end up in Zambia!!

When I arrived in Monze a few weeks back Jennipher told me that her daughter Sandra needed an operation in a neighbouring country. She had the operation but a problem with the stitches has caused her to remain in the hospital. Jennipher is intending to travel and arrange for her to be moved to a hospital in Livingstone or Monze where Jennipher will be able to care for her more easily.

On the way back I caught what I class as a 20 seater bus. This one actually managed 21 passengers if you count a child of 9 or 10 years old – here children don't get a separate seat, so perhaps there were only 20 passengers after all. At least this travelled at a respectable speed – this morning we were in a race with another minibus and had to concede when we were eventually overtaken while we were travelling at about 80 mph (130 kph).

This evening I started preparing a Zambian Paella when Raymond appeared. Dilys then rang with an issue about a document saved in a format no-one can read. Undaunted I held the phone to my ear with my shoulder, giving instructions on how to reformat the document, guiding her around the Ubuntu menus, whilst chopping onions and trying to entertain my guest! - who said men can't multi-task?! Eventually I was able to concentrate on my culinary activities whilst chatting to Raymond.

Deana didn't seem too convinced as food was piled high and eventually dry rice was added. However all took shape with some boiling water and a bit of simmering. I must admit that I was very pleased with the resulting dish – and it tasted good too!! This could be the first paella which included impwa as one of the ingredients!!



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