Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Doing and Being

Monday 30th May

I had the morning free so I decided to sit in the garden and do a little thinking. It is easy to rush about keeping busy, but now and then it is good to reflect and do a little planning. In particular I needed to look more strategically at PIZZ School and think about long term issues and plans. I need also to understand better the challenges and how I might be able to help. Sitting in the garden with butterflies dancing around me, grasshoppers crashing and birds calling can provide the right atmosphere for creative thinking! It works for me anyway – and happens to be a very pleasant way to pass a couple of hours!

I chatted to a dozen or so children during the afternoon. Some had changed their proposed occupation since last year – we have for instance a new pilot in the making! He wants to fly to the UK. There are some children that have a great sparkle in their eyes and you can sense that little bit of mischief, together with determination to succeed. Others are quite shy and seem a bit intimidated by this strange white guy asking silly questions. It was good to meet one or two children who last year were very thin and sickly looking, but this year have filled out and are more alert.

After the session, Killian took me back into Freedom Compound to meet a girl who hasn't been attending school regularly since February. He told me that she is very keen to study and was very disappointed that she will need to drop back a year, because she has been sick. She contracted TB and it seems that the strength of the drugs was too much – at one time she was taken into the intensive care unit at the hospital amid concerns that she might not survive. The girl has been on ARVs (anti-retroviral dugs) for AIDS for twelve years. She lives with her mother and three younger siblings – all of whom are HIV+. Her mother sells in the market, but because of her daughter's recent illness hasn't been able to leave her. Mrs. Sianga has provided some mealie meal (maize flour), as has her church – this is what they are currently surviving on. They have nothing to go with the nshima they make – by way of other vegetables or meat.

There are so many people here who live on the edge. In normal times they can just manage to have enough to eat. Any disturbance can put survival in question. There are very few welfare services available.

The family live in a simple two-roomed house which is badly in need of repair.

Mrs. Sianga and Killian would like to establish some small projects for the guardians of the children which could help, particularly in times of desperate need such as in this case.

On the way back Teddy pulled up in his car and offered me a lift home. He came in for a coffee and we chatted for a while.

There was a suggestion of a pool session in the evening, but Fr. Clement must have been busy. I made myself a late night supper of sweet potato with fried eggs and some rape with pounded groundnuts. The pounded groundnuts add an interesting flavour especially when they added to the boiled rape and the combination braised with a little oil. I am finding that I am generally inspired to concoct something a little more interesting than my initial thoughts. I am enjoying cooking and, even more, eating my food!

Tuesday 31st May

I had agreed to meet Diven in the morning, but couldn't reach him on the phone - so I took to the garden and read about time and how valuable it is!! The writer I think is a little too intense! He is a Christian involved in missionary work, but I believe that often it is in being, rather than doing that

we often meet God. As if to justify my thoughts, a beautiful butterfly danced around me and as I hoped, but didn't expect, it settled on the ground, opened its wings and posed for a few photos. The butterfly is one of God's most beautiful and wonderful creatures. It is a creature that is transformed from a crawling insect into one with the freedom even to fly to other countries in migration and many are very colourful and beautifully marked – as was this one.

Eventually I walked to Diven's house where he was charging his phone! The guy who did most of his building work – a distant relative of his wife – had been ill at Monze Hospital and yesterday he died. Diven had been asked to contribute to the funeral expenses and agreed to provide a bag of mealie meal.

I had agreed to meet Obert at 14hrs and had to hurry back home. Every day people ask me for money. Today a young man asked for 2 kwacha (about 15p) because he was hungry. I find it very difficult to say no. If I say yes, more will come and probably before long I would have a queue at my door here at Homecraft. I am sure it is true these people are quite literally hungry. Unfortunately I cannot feed them all. I do what I can to support my friends and their families and others that are connected, but my resources are limited. Unfortunately we live in a world where the rich everywhere are getting richer at the expense of the poorest. It is just that here poverty can be a case of life or death. It is not easy coming face to face with this reality and having to say no.

It was good to catch up with Obert. His dream is still to have his own car. At the moment, if he gets a call from someone wanting a taxi, he borrows a car and gives the owner the fare. It is difficult making a decent living without your own car. Anyway it is good that Obert still gets some work. He told me that it was in grade 5 that he decided he wanted to drive a car. He was told that, with an artificial leg, it would be impossible and to forget it. It is therefore with justifiable pride that Obert drives his taxis.

Chris

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Wheelbarrows and Ox-carts

We have had a few cloudy days. Everything of course is relative and we probably had more sun than in England on a “bright” sunny day! However it was a joy to awake yesterday to a pure blue cloudless sky. People here are wearing jumpers and coats, while I find it perfectly OK in a tee-shirt when the temperature is hovering around 20°C. I note that in England's summer, temperatures are reaching 17 or 18, here in the Zambian winter we manage 24 or 25 most days!

Interesting insects abound around the house and in the surrounding areas. Some of the grasshoppers/crickets/locusts are quite beautifully coloured. There are a large number of butterflies of varying colour and size. I met Raymond by the railway line a short while back and he asked if I had seen any snakes – apparently they are abundant in that area, mainly cobra. There are a few birds around, the local pied crows do what crows do worldwide and the call is very similar. A house sparrow joined us at mass, flying in the rafters during the service. A couple of noisy bulbils did acrobatics in a tree in the garden and a blue waxbill flew into a tree outside.

Friday 27th May

I had a mammoth session in the morning seeing 19 students who are sponsored under a Hands Around the World scheme called Hand in Hand. I try to meet all the students each year and find out how they are progressing. On Friday I saw mainly grade 2 students and they are often a bit shy and they are not always very confident in English – I am embarrassed that after all these years I can still only greet and say thank you in Chitonga! I was sometimes helped with extra information from Killian about the family background or from their school report.

I heard more moving stories about the children – one has a mother who is mentally disturbed, she stays with her grandmother, but sometimes roams the streets with her mother, getting food from bins. There seems to be little treatment in Zambia for mental illnesses, leaving the person suffering to survive as best they can - this is obviously devastating for their children.

Mike grabbed my hand and said hallo. I am not sure whether it was the hand shake or the face that I first recognised. Mike was working at the Nampeyo Guest House were I stayed on my first visit in 2003. I have met him over the years when he has been engaged in various jobs. Last year I didn't recognise him until he explained who he was. He didn't seem to look well and I was quite concerned. This year he seems much fitter and healthier.

I returned to the house to write some reports and chase the problem with the funds transfer. I spend a lot of time on the computer recording what I see for various reports as well as this blog. I see this very much as part of my work here in Zambia. Not everyone is as fortunate as I am to be able to spend a couple of months here with the people of Zambia. I see it as my job to try to give a feel of what I am experiencing daily. The world here is so different. I find it very easy to adapt and hardly notice the different sights, smells and sounds – but for many it would be a revelation. As I sit I hear African music in the distance, yesterday the church had a “Brie” (barbecue) with loud music for most of the day - this was continued by the late night bars. In the market music is often played on music systems in some shops, a small concert in the nearest part of the market also added to the atmosphere yesterday afternoon. Woman often carry goods on their heads and the most common goods transport for larger items is the wheelbarrow, which comes in a wide variety of styles – which are designed for different types of goods – some seem to be chosen for the comfort of the owner – who can often be seen dozing in them! Ox carts are another common site on the main roads as well as side roads. Going really up market you might pull your trailer with a tractor. I pass chickens for sale every day. Here the people prefer them fresh – which means alive – when they are bought.

I am always reluctant to wander around taking pictures of people without their consent, so I have few pictures of these everyday sights.

Fr. Clement called around briefly to load some units to the electricity supply. We are on a meter at the house. I was aware of the position and knew that there were in fact still plenty of units left, but the extra will last some time. I needed to buy and load units last year, so I know the system.

Jennipher popped around late and joined me for some chilli beans and rice.


Saturday 28th May

There were some more reports I wanted to get out and I also wanted to spread the word about PIZZ School.

Diven came around and somehow we got talking about the European Referendum. He said that he found it confusing – I don't think he is the only one. I have applied for a proxy vote enabling Dilys to vote on my behalf – I wonder how she would feel if I tell her to vote the opposite way to herself!!

I found that I was out of teabags and low on sugar and coffee. I went around the local small shops – most of which sell groceries – looking for coffee which isn't Nestle. Years ago I understand that Nestle ran a campaign encouraging mothers to use dried milk instead of breastfeeding. This was likely to have resulted in many child deaths in the poorest countries. I try to avoid this company for that reason and the fact that their business methods don't seem to have improved – e.g through exploitation of poor coffee farmers. After a long search I failed to find non-Nestle coffee - teabags and sugar are not so difficult, though the sugar is from a British owned firm that pays very little tax in Zambia. I will find my Frisco coffee before I completely run out!!

During my travels around the market I picked up a few pieces of chitenge material which I hope will make a nice shirt.

I had thought I might call at the church brie, but time moved on and I missed the opportunity. I sat in the garden for a bit – reading and soaking up the atmosphere.


Sunday 29th May

Today in the Catholic Church we are celebrating Corpus Christie – the feast commemorates the institution of the Eucharist which for most Christians forms the basis of their main liturgical service. In the Catholic Church we believe that God is, in some sense, fully present under the form of bread and wine. Quite an amazing claim! But if you believe in God, anything is possible! - even a universe populated with many trillions of stars, heavenly bodies, each tremendously hot, giving off light that can be seen many thousands of years later by creatures who happen to live on a rock held by an invisible force at just the right distance to prevent them freezing or frying, sustained by a liquid which is recycled in a way that constantly purifies and redistributes it – enabling life and growth. Of course such a universe and all that it contains might have occurred by chance – but I wouldn't like to guess at the odds!!

I expected the mass to be longer than usual as we had some children receiving communion (the bread and wine) for the first time. In the event this wasn't the case, however after mass there was a procession which covered about a kilometre outside on the minor roads. The Host (Bread) was displayed and carried by the priest stopping occasionally for prayers. This used to be a common tradition in England – though often confined to church grounds. However, it is rare that such processions take place these days. It is good every so often to express your faith in public. Bringing God to the community in what we believe is a real sense, cannot do anything but good.

I returned home along the railway tracks. This isn't the most direct route, though the railway runs roughly parallel to the main road which I would otherwise use. I spend a lot of time here rushing around and wanted to stroll a little away from the hustle and bustle. It is also good to walk along the railway when it is strictly forbidden in the UK!! At the side of the railway is an area of grasses and some wild flowers which attract butterflies and other insects – as well as snakes!! I forgot to pick up a paper – I might see if they are still selling them on the High Street!

I hadn't realised have time had fled and failed to get the Post. While on my way Boniface rang. He has copied his music and videos to my flash drive and wanted to pass it back. I have watched the videos and am currently listening to the music – it is good, maybe if he made some in English it might be more commercial worldwide.

By the way I have solved the issue of the massive downloads!! My friends from Micro$oft want me to have Windows 10 – apparently for free. Why am I a little suspicious?!! Anyway I had said not to install it, however Windows 10 is provided as an update and if the computer is set to update automatically – the default! - it attempts to download the software, all 2Gb+ of it!! No wonder my data bundle ran out quickly. Presumably because I never let it complete, the downloads failed and it retried! I have now told it not to download and I can use the Internet for my purposes not Micro$ofts!!


Chris





Friday, May 27, 2016

Can we Walk in their Shoes?


Wednesday 25th May





Today is African Freedom Day and it commemorates South African Independence completing Africa's independence from colonial rule.

I went to mass at the cathedral which was later than usual due to it being a holiday. In his sermon the priest doubted that Zambia was free – particularly in economic terms, the country is still oppressed. In the Post (one of Zambia's national papers) an article asks “who is setting the agenda”. He points out that Africa is constantly being told what it should do in order to be successful by western powers pushing their own philosophy which so far has only led them to become richer at Africa's expense.

The system at work today which gives big companies huge power - the ability to make big profits and pay little back in taxes, benefits the wealthy shareholders, but leaves the poorest even poorer.

The past few days I have been moved by the stories of some of the children I have met at PIZZ school. Perhaps those expounding free trade and current economic policies should talk to some of these children suffering as a result.

I had decided to take life easy. I read a bit and generally relaxed. Best had travelled through the night to get to Monze and after a brief rest would head back to Lusaka. He has been busy over the past couple of days meeting with senior members of a major western tribe to research his work on tribal law.

I was able to print a poster for Diven advertising his mobile phone charging facility. I also found a butcher and bought some prime steak. Incidently the piece of meat weighing over ½ kilogram (more than a pound in old money!) cost the same as an A4 coloured poster! (about £1.35).


Thursday 26th May

I decided it was time to re-introduce myself to Monze Mission Hospital. In 2003 – my first visit – I came with a small team to 'build' an intensive care unit at the hospital. In the event when we left there was still a hole rather than a building. Most of our time was spent fetching hardcore to fill the chasm, though we did also help make some bricks for the foundations. What many volunteers don't realise, at least at first, is that the experience is as much to change them and their lives as that of our partners in distant lands. It certainly changed my life!!

The receptionist didn't know me and when I asked for Sister Juunza suggested I returned in 30 minutes. I took a leisurely stroll around town and on my return was asked to sit outside of Sister Juunza's office. When Sr. Juunza emerged she greeted me with a big hug – no doubt to the surprise of the receptionist!

Sr. Juunza is the Administration Manager at the hospital. She succeeds Justina Yamba and Sr Beatrice who was in charge when I first arrived in 2003. Sr. Juunza was due in a meeting so I didn't delay her. My intention was just to say that I was around – we will meet later and talk about the hospital etc. I was able to give her some glasses which Roger, my brother-in-law had passed on to me and some special sleeves/stockings also given to me for the hospital. These items will be put to good use.

In the afternoon I spent a couple of hours talking to secondary students. Many of them have recently moved from PIZZ School and some are finding it difficult. A major problem is the lack of electricity at home. They are desperate to progress at school, but cannot study at home in the evenings. As a result they fall behind with their homework. (We would really need four hundred lamps to ensure that no PIZZ student suffers this problem – I am working on this!!) One girl told me that after school she plaits hair to earn some money to buy food for the family. Another boy has to walk 4 kilometres each way to school and said a bike would make a difference.

My final interview was with a boy who, like many, has lost both parents. He lives with his grandmother who cuts grass to sell for roofing, she also makes some brooms. Unfortunately she has a drink problem so the boy has to find work to support both himself and her. He also has a sister who is disabled and lives on her own, so he also has the responsibility of looking after her. We visited his home which is a one roomed house he shares with his grandmother. This was built for them by a local church a year or so back. Until then they lived in a mud hut. The new house has no electricity or mains water which is the situation for most of the students who attend PIZZ School

I visited this house with Killian and one of the care-givers. When I was talking to the students Mrs. Sianga encouraged me to ask the children why their marks were poor, if that was the case. I admit I was initially reluctant to put hem under such scrutiny, but the purpose was a positive one. Mrs Sianga and her staff are keen to know why performance drops off. In this way they find out that the children are also the breadwinners in the household, that they might have health issues, that the conditions at home make it difficult to study etc. With the caregivers they visit the families and try to resolve some of the issues and encourage the guardians to do what they can to improve the situation. In the longer term these children can help the families escape the desperate poverty in which they currently live. It is only through this sort of additional care that the children are enabled to continue with their education, many – perhaps most – would otherwise drop out long before completing their education.

I was introduced to Coiled when I was at the school. He lived in a fishing village not far from Monze. A few years ago I visited such a village with Fr. Kenan the former Parish priest at the Cathedral. The people who live in the village live in temporary houses near the river's edge during the dry season. When the rains come these house, made mainly of grass, are washed away and the people retreat to their more permanent houses built high to avoid flooding. Each house or group of houses becomes an island during the rainy season. For much of the year the people are isolated.

Coiled has lost both his parents and was living alone in the fishing village – surviving by catching fish for himself. An older boy who has just finished his final year at secondary school was visiting his family who live in the village. He found Coiled and took him back to Monze and approached Mrs. Sianga to try to obtain a place for him at the school. The boy has no means to buy a uniform or note book. If Mrs. Sianga accepts the boy he will need help with these things and there is no guarantee that his new young guardian will be able to provide for him. She told me this was but one example of the dilemma she faces daily. Without schooling the prospects for these children are very poor, but every child she takes in requires a lot more than a few academic lessons.

Each time I visit I realise both what a tremendous task it is to provide ample resources for the children, but also that this project is truly wonderful. Every penny used in this project is well spent and I don't hesitate to promote it wholeheartedly. Hands Around the World funds the project, but Mrs. Sianga struggles to provide adequately for the students and staff from the relatively little we send. A major issue at present is ensuring that the children in secondary school are provided with what they need. Many cannot afford to buy uniforms, books – even soap where it is required. Reading lights are out of the question.

I am determined that all students who pass their grade 9 exams are able to complete their secondary school education and that some will go to university or training courses. The students cannot fund this education themselves, so it is our job to find the money. If anyone wants to help support this excellent project they can find out more on the HATW website http://www.hatw.org.uk/ or on the Global Giving websitePIZZ School

I decided to make myself a kapenta stir fry with sweet potato and musala. I was pleased that Raymond joined me to devour the feast!

I realise that it is difficult to understand someone's life without experiencing it. 'Don't judge me until you have walked in my shoes!' Even while here in Monze I cannot imagine what life is like for many of the students at PIZZ School. This year I have a very comfortable house with running water and electricity for most of the day. Even then when I found myself unhappy because I couldn't get a cup of tea in the morning with that caffeine fix, I could get myself a kettle and a flask and have water hot enough in the morning for a cup of coffee. Last year water was difficult at my house, sometimes not arriving till evening and occasionally being unavailable all day. However, with a bit of careful management we could store water, which we got from the taps when it flowed. Most of the children I see will have to fetch water daily and when there is a shortage they will need to move further or queue for a longer time – they might even have to use a dirty source. They never go home to a house lit by electric bulbs, let alone experience a hot shower.

I know about the conditions that the children face, but still don't know what it is like to live this way every day. I am sure for many in the Western world they cannot believe that such situations are still common in many parts of the world, let alone imagine what it would be like to walk in their shoes.

There are 360+ children at PIZZ School that stand a chance of a better life. I will do my best to help their dreams come true, I hope that you will consider spreading the word to enable them to have a better future.

Thank You,


Chris

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Reaching their Potential

Monday 23rd May

I had an appointment with Diven at 10 hrs. Diven's property would be a rectangle but for a shop that sits immediately in front of his house and next to his shop. This arrangement is not very good and might cause some confusion. He hopes to acquire the other shop and eventually expand his business into it. The owner didn't appear, so the meeting was postponed.

I like to meet students sponsored by Hands Around the World and today some of the Secondary students came to PIZZ School to meet me.

It was a delight to see how the children are developing into young men and women. Most were very confident speaking in English and seemed very happy, having taken the next step in their education. To get to this stage all the children had overcome many challenges – only possible with the support provided by PIZZ school.

They will continue to have challenges. One girl suffers from severe epilepsy and her guardians struggle between traditional and modern medicine to control the symptoms. The old traditional ways are hard to give up, though often for severe diseases the modern medicine is the answer. There is a role for traditional herbal remedies etc. but too often people see the choice is one or other rather than seeing the strengths of each. With diseases such as AIDS however abandoning the Anti-retro-viral drugs usually proves fatal.

One boy is expected to support his family as well as attend school. So he fixes vehicles etc. after he leaves school. Mrs. Sianga says he feels the burden of his responsibilities very much and worries a lot about how he will put food on the table. He asked me if he would be supported to do a mechanics course. I can't promise anything, but I will try to ensure that he gets the training he needs after completing school – he certainly deserves it.

I met a familiar face! At first I didn't recognise her! Janes – our poster girl – has had her hair cut short so that she is almost unrecognisable – until you notice that sparkle in her eyes. We are now old friends and it is good to know that she continues to do well and is happy in her new school.

I saw a total of eight children this afternoon and enjoyed catching up with them. With new subjects some had revised their ideas of a possible career. It seems we have a number of doctors and accountants in the making! I am keen that every student has a chance to reach their potential. Funding the students at secondary school is a challenge – tertiary education or training courses is an even bigger challenge.

Hands Around the World has introduced funds where any donations specifically given for secondary or tertiary education can be held. However a lot more will be needed to meet the aspirations of these children. Having been involved myself in seeing Best grow into the role of a lawyer, I know how rewarding it can be to help someone become who they were born to be. Born in the UK instead of Zambia the chances might be different – although unfortunately being born into a poor family is having an increasingly effect, even in the UK.

Jennipher had been at my house for some time when I returned. She decided to use my broom to sweep around the outside of the house – she had promised to teach me how it should be done!! She has done a wonderful job clearing all the leaves and dust.

Tuesday 24th May

There are a lot of butterflies and other insects in my garden and the surrounding areas. Grasshoppers, crickets and locusts often fly rather than jump. Some don't quite seem to have the art and crash land – or just crash.

This morning I needed to get some documents printed before meeting Mrs. Sianga at 10 hrs. I went to the only internet cafe which works without mains power. All was going well, until I tried to print. The lights went off - as did all the computers. Power returned to the cafe (not the mains!) and I waited as the various computer systems were rebooted. Eventually my screen came to life. At this point I was informed that the laser printer took too much power and the other printer was out of ink!! The outcome was that I wouldn't get my printing here!

I decided to search and eventually gave the NAPSA building a try. A kind young woman allowed me to print from her computer, though the equipment needed restarting and then took further coaxing. I thanked her profusely and rushed to the bank where I was already overdue. This afternoon I found the flash drive seemed to have a virus – I hope it hasn't affected the machine of the Good Samaritan. I suspect that the internet cafe must have given me one of their viruses. Computer viruses are a major issue in Zambia – something I very rarely encounter in the UK.

The issue of the transferred funds continues! We were told the money has been returned because a wrong sort code was used. I am not hopeful that the issue is resolved.

Yesterday Mrs Sianga spent about four hours chasing this problem – it was less than two hours today. You need a lot of patience in Zambia – particular in relation to the banks!!

When I returned I met with Diven and we concluded the business scheduled for yesterday.

I continue to meet friends and people who know me from various connections – some from church say hallo. Children from PIZZ School also greet me.

I had another visit to make to the bank this afternoon. In fact I now know why everyone goes to bank in the morning! The banks shut early afternoon!! By the time I arrived the bank was closed and tomorrow is a holiday!!

I decided to have early supper. My expected visitor hasn't arrived so maybe I will have a restful hour or two before bed.


Chris



Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Trinity Sunday

                                                                The Papal Nuncio

Sunday 22nd May

Today in the Catholic Church we celebrate the Trinity. This is the belief that God, though one, takes the form of three persons. In essence the Trinity is about relationship and particularly about love. The complex theology isn't important, but it makes sense to me that relationship and love is at the centre of our being. I think we all know that it is here that we find real joy and inner peace.

It was a very special occasion for the church in Monze because the Papal Nuncio was visiting – something that people could not previously remember. The nuncios are bishops who represents the pope throughout the world. This particular nuncio covers Zambia and Malawi.

We had just a single mass for Monze covering both the Sacred Heart Cathedral and Our Lady of the Wayside. Naturally with such a large gathering the mass was held outside.

Fr. Clement had told me on Saturday that I should arrive early so I decided to aim to be at the cathedral by 9.30 for the 10 hrs mass. At 9.15 I heard loud music coming from nearby. In fact I suspect most of Monze heard it! So I headed off in case the crowds were already growing. The music was indeed hymns booming out from a serious set of speakers!! I was impressed and a bit surprised that the church had such a system. It turned out that Radio Chikuni had come with their kit for the occasion.

It was a wonderful mass! The fact that much was in English helped me, but the joy was evident – and the fun. Men danced wielding spears and ladies waved branches as the choir, with beautiful harmonies led the congregation.

The Nuncio in his address referred to Pope Francis extolling people not to wear faces of mourning, but to wear “sunny” faces. There were many very sunny faces at the mass on Sunday.




 



                   Serious Speakers

At 2 ½ hours the mass was long enough, but for such an occasion here in Monze not excessive. I enjoyed it immensely and felt spiritually uplifted. We were challenged at the end of mass not to keep our faith for the occasional celebration, but to show it also in our daily lives. Here it is easier to be Christian. In the UK we are often dismissed as somehow out of touch, but more difficult is the constant ridicule that our faith is subjected to, particularly by the media. My faith is very important to me and without the support I believe I get from God, I couldn't live the life I do.
                                                                   Free-range pigs

I promised myself a bit of relaxation and particularly I wanted to revisit the dam, which regular readers will know is my favourite place to relax around Monze.

I pass Diven's shop on the way, so I said a brief hallo. When I reached the dam I was surprised that the water level was so high. I had expected it to be low after the poor rains, though I had been told that very heavy rain during the final week had made a difference. There were a few people around the lake and a couple of girls braved the cool water and waded in beyond their waists.


                            Water Lilies           

                                                                  

I noticed some water lilies – something I have not seen here before. I settled with my binoculars on the far side of the lake. A few piglets were strolling around the water's edge – I assume that they would make their way home when they were ready. (obviously free-range pigs!). There is a strange dragonfly like insect which I only see at the lake which has patches of black on transparent wings which gives the impression of rotor blades hardly attached to the body. There were few birds today. An African Jacanda browsed on a far bank and eventually a wide billed stork came in to land. A small flock of crowned lapwing disturbed the peace with their raucous calls and just before I started back a pied kingfisher flew in. He hovered in typical fashion with his head down and long beak vertical, ready to pounce on any unsuspecting fish. The kingfishers are reasonably common at the lake – though still a joy to see – it's a pity my camera is not good enough to get a good photo. However, I have yet to see one make a successful catch. I compare this with the few occasions when I spotted kingfishers at Slimbridge – there they are very successful fishers! As I left a group of four wide billed storks flew over the lake. These are unmistakable and I have remarked before that they look almost prehistoric.

Diven had prepared me a meal while I was relaxing, so I joined him before continuing my journey back home.

I decide to finish reading my Agatha Christie novel – one I can't remember reading previously.

Raymond came to have a chat. He has the ambition of coming to England next year with his fiancĂ©e. When I told him the costs he recognised what a challenge it would be – not to mention to difficulty in obtaining a visa!!







                                                                                                             My Bathroom Spider

Before turning in, I thrashed the computer at backgammon! There seem to be certain situations where it cannot cope! In the end it lost the plot and allowed me to pick up a maximum 192 points!

I must confess a few human players also find my unorthodox tactics difficult to deal with!

With much love and prayers,

Chris



                                                               My Garden Cat







Sunday, May 22, 2016

To Chisamba and Back

                                                  Jennipher setting off with my case

Since my last post I have been to Chisamba and back. So the events of Monday and Tuesday are a bit sketchy.

Monday continued.

Luke came around and we started talking about Jennipher and within a short time she too appeared. Luke had been saying that it was a long time since they had met. Luke has always been supportive of Jennipher even when she was not popular at the hospital. It was good for the two to get together again. It sometimes seems strange that I can bring people in Monze together, but sometimes that is the case. It reminds me of a time some years ago when my cousin visited from Australia. She asked how often I met with my brother and sisters. To my shame we hadn't met together for a year or two. She insisted that we all got together and now at least we try to met at least once a year.

I had been given a few things for Jennipher and her family from a friend. I also had some babies hats, a few knitted blankets, a solar/wind-up radio, a football, some Sudocrem, a solar security light and probably a few other items – she decided she might just as well take my (almost full) case, empty it and bring it back on Tuesday.

Tuesday

I arranged to meet Mrs. Sianga to catch up on some issues and to visit the new building. The problem with water is very severe. The school was allowed to re-open on Monday, but the health inspectors were keen that special precautions are taken to prevent the cholera outbreak from spreading. Without adequate water this is very difficult. Some drums of water are being fetched from Lushomo School at the moment, but this is unsatisfactory other than as an emergency measure. We talked about the options and it seems that the only quick solution will be to buy a bigger generator to pump water from PIZZ School's borehole.
                         Lunch

We talked a bit about David's visit and I suggested that going out with the care-givers would be useful. I would also like to have that opportunity myself. It would also be good to visit some more rural areas to see the impact of the lack of rains in recent years. Mrs. Sianga said that there are now few village chickens and goats because people are coming at night and stealing them. People are protecting their chickens by sleeping with them. How different it is from the lives many of us lead.

We arrived at the new plot where the building is largely complete – in that the walls are built and the roof is up. There is a veranda to allow passage between classrooms in the dry during the rainy season. The builders were plastering but there is more to do, windows need glazing and there is a lot of finishing work to do. Again water has been a problem – especially since the second generator broke a week or so back. The belief is that the generators used have not been powerful enough for the pump.


                                                                                                   The new classroom block


We visited the adjacent site where the older children study. Education inspectors were around assessing the facilities. For several years the school has tried to get registered to be an examination centre. The major issue seems to be a strong room. This was built a couple of years ago according to what was requested, but since then stronger locks, additional safe boxes, different metal gates etc. have been required. Despite doing everything asked, each visit brings further requirements – this was no different. They are also required to build a strong room at the other site at significant cost, despite only ever needing one for the school. I suspect that government schools do not have quite the restrictions placed on PIZZ.

I needed to talk to David and decide how we could resolve the current issues at PIZZ. Wey agreed a way forward. Fortunately I can use Skype to make calls to landlines in the UK very cheaply, allowing easy communications. (however as mentioned later there is also internet c onnection to be considered!)

Having written a few reports and had supper with Diven – during which Teddy came around – it was time for an early night.


                           1st School children
Wednesday

I was up by 5.30. Chisamba is a trip of about 150 miles, but a major factor in relation to the overall time is the wait before the transport is ready to leave. Using local transport the journey takes about 7 hours on an average sort of day, but can take longer!

It is not difficult to find a Rosa bus. Rosa's are the medium sized buses which take about 30 passengers. They are usually driven by competent drivers and have reasonably fixed seating arrangements! The small minibuses can take 20+ and are a bit more risky!!

Every time I think I understand something about life in Zambia I am surprised. Wednesday was no exception. As the Rosa passed I had to decide whether to jump in or to try to find a bus that would start earlier. There were half a dozen seats occupied by lads I expected were friends of the driver!! It is never good to drive around with an empty bus! Still I decided to jump aboard at just after 6 am. We drove around the town and after about a half hour we had perhaps one additional genuine passenger. At this point one considers jumping off – having not yet paid any fare – and looking elsewhere. However, I couldn't see any evidence that other buses were doing any better, so I stayed on board. We toured the town a few more times and possibly got 2 or 3 more passengers by 7am. To my surprise the bus headed out of town towards Lusaka. Now if there is one rule that never gets broken, it is that buses are full before they travel. Certainly an empty bus never leaves Monze. I was therefore not surprised when the bus stopped as it reached the edge of town. All the lads got off leaving about 4 of us who might be paying passengers. I asked one of the passengers what was happening and he said we would now be going. With that he jumped off the bus himself and hopped into an awaiting car. Eventually the driver and conductor got back onboard, leaving their remaining friends by the side of the road and the empty bus was on its way to Lusaka!!

The bus made good progress, filling up en-route. The driver didn't believe in queuing in traffic and took a dirt road at Chilanga on the outskirts of Lusaka to avoid the evil set of road humps and consequent queues. He also had a knack of finding the best lanes as we approached Lusaka, though he was fairly assertive when changing lanes!

The Rosa's drop off on the Monze side of town. We are still on the Great North Road now known as the Kafue Road. The Lumumba Road at a right angle takes me straight to Lumumba bus station were I pick up my next bus – this is about a 20 minute walk. This bus is a little Toyota Hiace minibus (the more risky one!!) we again pick up the Great North Road. It is quite a road good and I resent paying twice the price for a Rosa – hence I risk the little minibus. My wait was minimal so by about 11hrs I was once more on the road.

I am dropped off at the Chisamba crossroads. Here I leave the Great North Road and take the road to Chisamba Town – about 23 Km from the crossroads. I have walked before, but not today! I jumped into an awaiting taxi, which, when two of us joined the three passengers already in the car, set off immediately. (A taxi ride is generally a very cosy affair!!)

Getting out of the car I spotted Patrick. Patrick has been involved with the Kaliyangile project since its inception. His family has loaned the land to the project for a nominal rent. Patrick's father died just a few weeks ago. We exchanged a few brief words and agreed to meet up to talk some more before I left.

The site for the project is close to town – less than a kilometre from the centre – but that short distance makes it feel quite rural and quiet. The wind pump on the site can clearly be seen from the main street in Chisamba.

I passed Albert a few metres down the road. Albert is someone who has become involved in recent years as a committee member at Kaliyangile. Again we exchanged a few brief words.

I missed the short cut through small tracks and on doubling back saw Persis, the project manager, waiting for me. The purpose of my visit was to see the state of the project and discuss issues and plans, I also wanted to check on preparations for David's visit.

The rest of the afternoon was taken up talking to Persis about the project and walking around the site to see how the activities were working on the ground.

Kaliyangile has about 10 Hectares of land. Over the years the site has installed a number of buildings for training, a couple of barns for chickens, a piggery, various storerooms and some accommodation. It also has a fairly sophisticated water distribution system. There were four piglets and three new calves since I visited last year.

I was shown my accommodation – somewhere I am now well familiar with. This year the cows would be milked directly outside my house! A former storeroom with a mattress on the floor provides ample accommodation for a couple of nights. Toilets are only a 100 metres away!

I arrangement to eat with Davidson. Persis accompanied me to the town centre so I invited her to join us. Although Davidson no longer works at Kaliyangile the relations are still good and they were pleased to catch up over fish and nshima.

                                    Milking

After the meal Davidson persuaded me to join him for a game of pool - not that I took much persuasion! The way the system works the winner usually stays at the table. In the event we both had a game, but we didn't play each other. Davidson had to get to a new job as a security guard by 20 hrs so after showing the way to the centre he left.

The moon is currently quite full and provides plenty of light with which to see, so there was no problem finding my way at night. I always delight in the powerful moon and particularly its shadow here in Zambia.

Thursday

I spent most of the day reflecting on what I had seen and heard. I took a trip to meet the bees wearing gumboots to protect me either from the bees or the snakes – or perhaps both!! 

                                                                                                My house at night

I discussed some thoughts with Persis during the afternoon and also took the chance to meet Patrick and talk to him about the project.

I have had little time this year to observe the birds and other creatures about, but Kaliyangile makes me more aware of the environment. The local mosque swallows are here. A few lizards run up and down the walls. I have a resident spider that seems to live behind my bathroom mirror home in Monze. I thought he was dead at first, but he had changed position one day – so probably not!! There is a cat who seems to live in my garden and thinks I will one day start feeding him if he rubs up against my feet and tries to make himself lovable! I will make time to touch base with nature soon.

                                                                           

I arranged to have an early supper with Davidson and perhaps have a better chance to talk – the bar has loud music which isn't conducive to discussion. I assumed that Davidson had an early shift. It seemed however when we met that he thought we might get on the pool table more easily at this time!! This time after I beat my opponent – in fact he was well ahead but beat himself by going in off the black when he potted it – don't worry if you are not familiar with the rules of pool. Basically he made a foul shot which resulted in him forfeiting the game. The outcome was that I played Davidson. I was about to win when Davidson pulled out a series of spectacular shots to beat me – Davidson currently holds the title of champion!! We returned for another couple of games after the meal,

I had to get back in order to do some work on the computer. The MTN network was not good and it wasn't until 22.30 that I managed to e-mail my report.

Friday 20th May

I was not looking forward to the trip back to Monze. After some further discussion with Persis I was ready to depart when a face from the past arrived.

Godfrey was involved with the project for many years. For some time he was the committee chairman. For the past few years he has not been involved, though very occasionally I have received e-mails from him. He contacted me to say that Patrick's father had died. He also mentioned that he intended getting involved again in the project. We talked for almost two hours about the project and his thoughts.



                             Piglets

It was about 12 hrs when I found my way to the taxi, ready to hit the road. There is rarely any delay getting a bus from the crossroads and this was the case on Friday. As we approached Lusaka – perhaps 5Km from the centre we were told to disembark and were led to another bus which took us into the centre. It is not an unusual occurrence to finish a journey on a different bus to that which I started! The buses into Lusaka may drop at almost any bus station. Maybe someone understands which go where, I haven't a clue! However, it is never more than a half hour walk to the Kafue road stop, where I get the Rosa back to Monze. In this instance it was no more than ten minutes away – though we all disembarked before the bus found the bus station, because of the traffic jam.

Eventually I arrived in Monze at 7.30 pm – a fairly average 7 ½ after leaving Chisamba.

I have had a distinct lack of tea since leaving Monze on Wednesday morning. In fact NONE!!! I made up for it on Friday evening. I picked up a sausage and chips takeaway from Tooters and finished my day with a hot shower and all was well with the world.

Saturday

Today was a restful day. Power didn't arrive until 2 pm. I popped out to the shops and bought an electric kettle and a flask. The kettle works – we shall see how effective the flask proves to be.

I met Luke in town and we returned to Homecraft together.

We spent some time discussing politics here and in the UK and found a lot of similarities. In particular the apparent lack of concern for the most vulnerable and a tendency for politicians to look after their own personal interests, often at the expense of the ordinary citizens. It is sad that the world over the gap between the poorest and the wealthiest is still growing.

Luke is from a large family which lost both parents when the children were young. Luke managed to complete his education and since then has taken on responsibility for supporting as many of his siblings and their children as possible. It is very difficult particularly because schools here charge fees for attendance and more for exams. There are many who don't get a chance to get a secondary education. Luke's small income has to go a long way.


                             spot the beetle!
On the way to the shops I met Maxwell. Maxwell was a student at PIZZ School who was supported through secondary school by Hands Around the World. He did well with his final exams and is keen to progress to university, or teacher training college. He is currently applying to these institutions. I would like to be able to support all the children to reach their full potential but we need to raise the necessary funds. We have funds established for both secondary and tertiary education where donors can contribute. Whether we have sufficient to fund Maxwell at the moment I doubt.

Fr. Clement popped in around supper time. We talked about various topics including the introduction of an oil press at Our Lady of the Wayside church. A generous parishioner at St. Gregory's has donated the money needed for this equipment. We are currently waiting for the transferred money to reach the church account in Monze. There are some cables to be moved by the electricity supplier, before the press can be installed in the appropriate position, but it is hoped that the site will be ready by the end of the week. I hope to see it working before I leave in July.

I have now been here for about ten days and have met a good number of friends. Many people call me over to say hallo and I confess I am not sure to whom I am speaking. Others I am delighted to see once again. Two ladies who greeted me with big hugs this year were Ireen and Sebia. I don't think I introduced Ireen – my tailor. In 2004 I was staying with a volunteer (Emily). She and an American visitor decided to have a shirt made for me. Since then Ireen has made a shirt for me every year. I usually choose the material or several pieces from which she chooses the best. Ireen has three children who she tries to support through school by her work as a tailor and a few other small enterprises – buying and selling small quantities of commodities. I need to pick up some material for this year's shirt!

I have known Sebia for many years. I first met her on the road (Yes the Great North Road again!). This time I was heading to Pemba for the first time to visit Jennipher. Pemba is about 35Km along the road in the direction of Livingstone. Sebia was also going in the same direction and guided me. We met subsequently at the hospital where she works in the small cafe. I always get a very warm welcome from Sebia. We will no doubt meet again when I call around to the hospital.

Another person I met today in one of the shops asked about Jennipher and told me that Lillian who I know from the hospital has been off sick for the past couple of months.

It is good to feel a part of this community. I get to know about so much through friends and acquaintances here in a very short time. There are so many connections. In Cheltenham I can wander around town for days without anyone even saying hallo!

Well you too are up to date. Somehow my 2GB month's supply of internet access has been used already!! I will need to buy more before this can be posted.

Take care,


Chris

Apologies for the photo labels, but they seem to move on publication! I'll try to sort something next time!!





                                                                  A proud mum!