Saturday, May 14, 2016

Meeting friends

Saturday 14th May

My phone rang at 8.30 am on Thursday morning. Mrs. Sianga had a couple of problems, but had allowed me to sleep in after my long journey!

Mrs. Sianga is probably the main reason I wanted to get to return to Monze and get to know the people. We met in 2003 and I spent a life-changing afternoon meeting some of her patients – she was a nurse looking after people dying of AIDS. She had nothing beyond a few paracetamol tablets and words of comfort but they were grateful for her kindness and love during their last months. It was a huge privilege to be welcomed into these people's modest homes. Mrs Sianga set up PIZZ School because she got to know so many orphaned children left by her patients. You can read more about PIZZ School using this link. PIZZ School

My first official appointment was made for 14 hrs.

I had been warned that there would be no power before 10 hrs (unless I decided to rise before 5am!). However, since I had no provisions, my first task was pop across the road to get some cornflakes, milk and teabags in readiness.

My house is just a few doors away from a little flat I used on a number of occasions – with a single bedroom, living room, bathroom and kitchen it was ideal. A few years back it developed a crack and was considered unsafe – it is now an office like the remainder of that block. As I passed the offices I thought I should say hallo to the receptionist Agnes. She in turn told me to greet Sr Barbara – the administrator for the Projects Team.

                                                                                                                                                                      The Project offices  from outside my house

Sr. Barbara is an Irish nun who has been in Zambia for many years. I did a little work for the team some years back analysing data for some of the poor communities in Monze Diocese.

We chatted a little about the current situation. There is a cholera outbreak in Monze at the moment with a few cases in Manungu. It seems to be just a few isolated cases. The Projects Team are finding funding very difficult at the moment and have had to reduce staffing. I was surprised to find out that the house I am staying in, though in the same compound is not managed by them. In fact Sr. Barbara didn't know that I was moving in as a near neighbour.

I was expecting power to return and was in desperate need of that cup of tea!! I have so far travelled 50 yards from my house! At the exit to Homecraft – another 50 yards and Rasta Brian was passing “Hallo Mr. Chris, when did you come? Good to see you, you are welcome.” was his greeting – echoing what will be very common over the next few days. Brian sells small items – polish, incense sticks etc. on the corner outside the Cathedral. I have known him for many years. He is an intelligent guy, but couldn't afford to finish his education. He sometimes gets me to put on some boxing gloves and do a little sparring.

Another 10 yards and Killian said hallo. Killian helps with administration at PIZZ School. Killian already knew about my 2 pm meeting.

My shop is only 30 metres away, but another friend shouted greetings from his car! Teddy is a friend who I worked closely with from 2014 and 2016. His boss and also very close friend was Bentoe. Together we were developing computer systems for the hospital. Unfortunately Bentoe was killed in a horrific road accident in 2006. Since that time Teddy has been Acting Information Manager – apparently not having the proper qualifications for the full post.

Teddy had been taking a patient home as he happened to have his car at the hospital, I looked for my shop and realised I had overshot. As I returned past Teddy I decided to ask about the Internet and the best network. He told me he had a dongle he wasn't using and confirmed that MTN was the best network.

At last I made it to my shop not much more than 100 metres from my front door!! My friend the shopkeeper greeted me ( I have never known his name), but he disappointed me by having neither cornflakes or teabags!! In the past he would get large (1Kg) boxes of cornflakes and boxes of 100 teabags for me (500grams cornflakes and 50 teabags were always available). He told me there was a big shop up the road where I could get these. It seems his market was being stolen.

I like to use the smaller shops and stalls when in Monze – not that there have been many large outlets in the past. Traditionally this shopkeeper supplied me with talk-time and a few items not available on the market stalls – such as cornflakes, tea bags etc.

I did look for the larger store, but wasn't disappointed not to find it! I decided to go around the small shops opposite Homecraft and call into them one by one until I found the items I needed. On the way I picked up a few bottles of Finta (UHT milk) from a stallholder I know and was greeted by a few more stallholders one shouting out “Hallo Chrissy!”

You might think that in a row of grocers you would only have to go into one to get standard items like cornflakes and teabags. Of course here these are luxury items for many, and therefore not worth stocking by all. Eventually I had my items and returned feeling elated that I had really arrived back in my second home.

Its 11.30 on Saturday the power has just come on, so it is time for some serious tea drinking!

Back to Thursday!

I was keen to sort out the internet in order to look at Mrs. Sianga's issues – the priority to chase a bank transfer that hasn't arrived. The school had remarkable success last year in the exams and I persuaded Hands Around the World to cover the school fees at local secondary schools. Usually transfers are very smooth but for some reason there is a glitch with the payment and children will not be allowed to start this term unless the fees are paid.

                                 My Lounge

I called Teddy but there was no answer so I headed for the hospital anyway. There is a short c ut between the hospital and Homecraft if you can find the right gates. (Those who know my sense of direction will understand my challenge!!) I did get to the hospital, but via the school of nursing!! Teddy wasn't in his office, but the door was unlocked. This time when I rang Teddy answered and came running (literally) to meet me. He was, as usual, in a meeting but gave me the dongle.

I headed out of the Hospital using the main entrance which opens onto the main street in Monze which is part of the Great North Road between South Africa and Tanzania (originally planned to link Cape Town and Cairo). More importantly on this road – otherwise known as Monze High Street - there is an MTN office where I can buy a SIM card.

As I came to the exit of the hospital I was greeted with big hugs from Jennipher and Diven. You will hear a lot more about Diven. I have promised to write a book about the adventures of Diven, so I will just give the briefest of introductions. Diven was one of the first people I came to know outside of my HATW projects. I was waiting to meet someone at the hospital, but the offices were closed. There was a guy with an ankle in plaster standing around. This was Diven. He had been given a little work as debt collector and the debtor hit him with a rock instead of paying! I must have given Diven my address in the UK and he wrote – we have kept in touch ever since and have become good friends through thick and thin – and there is plenty of that , but you will have to wait for the book!!

We went together to buy the SIM. Fortunately I had remembered my passport which is needed in order to register the card. The process took a few minutes and a few minutes later the card was activated. I was able to buy talk-time which I would convert into 2GB of data. The SIM card cost 5 Kwacha (about 30p) but you get a credit of 15 Kwacha talk-time, which is not a bad deal!!

Diven had to get some medicine for his wife so he left me and Jennipher accompanied me to my house where we chatted briefly. Jennipher's daughter Selina is going to start boarding and needs a few items such as a mattress and a reading light. Fortunately I had been giving a good solar powered reading light so I was able to hand it over.

My life in Zambia follows a similar pattern to that in England. I feel that I am doing little, yet when I record my activity, I am rarely idle.

I was greeted by a few people who know me from church as I walked to PIZZ school where I had arranged to meet Mrs. Sianga. There are always plenty of challenges for the school. At the moment water is a big problem. The school is currently split between two sites a kilometre or so apart. The original school buildings have electricity and mains water except that electricity is not around most of the morning and the water supply is small and very erratic. Sometimes several days pass without any water coming from the tap. All the children get a cooked meal each day which is a major challenge when the taps are dry. My major formal role here in Monze is to listen to the issues and see whether there is a way to help resolve the problems with the backing of Hands Around the World. There will be a lot more work to do on this and other issues facing PIZZ School. Some, though not all, will come down to the question of funds.
I was able to connect to the Internet and talk to David back home while with Mrs. Sianga.

I needed some food for supper. It was a joy wandering around the market stalls spotting some of my favourite vegetables and chatting to the stallholders.

Next trip was to the internet cafe to print a letter relating to the bank transfer. 

                                                                                                              The dining area 

I invited Diven for supper which I cooked while we talked. His wife has been very seriously ill, but, with Jennipher's help and advice, is improving. Paul, their baby son, is also getting stronger I am told. Both were apparently close to death a few weeks back. We enjoyed a meal of Kapenta (small dried fish), aubergine, impwa (a local vegetable), dwarf beans, green peppers, onions and tomatoes with sweet potato. I will equip myself with a few spices in the days to come!!

I am very lucky to be so close to town and the market. The house is very comfortable with a large lounge/dining room, well equipped kitchen, shower, toilet and good sized garden. It has 3 bedrooms which will provide adequate accommodation for David and Joanna when they stay. It has a very good water supply – it must be from a borehole – and I even have the very rare luxury of hot water!!

This time you will have to make do with photos of the house. Later I will try to have photos of the people!


                                                                          The Kitchen

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