Thursday, June 30, 2016

Centres of Excellence

I am already saying goodbye to people here in Zambia. I am not sure just how the time has flown. Yet there are still people to whom I am saying hallo. A lady in a smart car called out to greet me. Julie was my landlady a few years back when I had a marvellous house – far to big for me, but justified on the basis that a number of volunteers were coming out. In the event I had the place to myself!! Her husband Peter is a builder and was involved in a project at Monze Basic School some years back and I was asked to become involved.

I was sitting with Ireen as she was completing my shirts yesterday, when another guy from the past appeared. Clever was in charge of a piece of land used to grow vegetables and at one time he also kept chickens. This was part of the PEASSA project ran by Charles and Raymond. I understand that the owner of the land has now taken it back. I asked Clever how he was doing and he said he was struggling.

Monday 27th June

There was plenty of paperwork to catch up on after my trip to Chisamba. I had a chance to buy a few vegetables etc. and had visits from Raymond, Diven and Jennipher.

Tuesday 28th June

I had agreed to meet Mrs. Sianga at 10 hrs. I had mentioned a need for photos and there was a number of items to discuss.

When I arrived at the school it was empty! No children or staff and no sign of Mrs. Sianga. At first I was a little concerned! I knew inspectors had been around – surely there can't be a problem!

I needn't have worried everyone was at the 'New School'. Mr Sianga was waiting at the house to drive me there. It seems that there was to be a bit of a gathering in my honour!

It is a tradition that the school assembles to put on a show with dancing, poems, traditional dancing and sketches. It was great fun and it demonstrated the way in which the children grow in confidence as they go through the school.

I was asked to give a small speech – which I had not prepared. However, I don't find it too difficult to say a few appropriate words and it was my chance to express my appreciation of everyone present. I was proud of the school and told them they they too could be very proud of this wonderful project. Everyone plays their part in making this a caring environment, as well as one of academic excellence.

After the performances I spent a while with the teachers explaining, for those who were new, my role and assuring them of my support. I am very aware that the teachers struggle on the little they are paid, but I am amazed by their dedication and the resulting achievements. I like to tell them directly how much I appreciate their work – even if we don't compensate them adequately.

I was shown into the staff room where it appeared I was down as no 11 in the staff v students soccer match. Its a very long time since I played in a football match and I was never any good at my peak!!Still it was an honour to be selected and I could hardly refuse – kick-off scheduled for 3 pm.

After a quick lunch I was back for the big match – of course I needn't have rushed. I was given a team jersey to wear and battle commenced. I have slowed a lot in the past few years and know my limitations. My main aim was to avoid giving the opposition too much help – so most of the time I kept away from the ball!! (which incidently I recognised as one that I brought with me this year!) Despite my presence, our team won 2 – 1 !

Wednesday 29th June

A visit to the hospital was well overdue. I arranged to see Sr Juunza. She told me that considering the catchment area and amount of work at the hospital, it is significantly underfunded. It is obviously a struggle to provide adequate services. We talked a little about solar and she said that she wanted to look at completely powering the hospital using solar. She wondered whether I knew a donor that might be interested in providing funds for the installation.

My kettle stopped working on Tuesday, so I decided to go back to the shop – Mandes Supermarket where I bought it. Although it claimed on the box to have a one year warranty, I didn't expect a replacement!

A guy was eventually asked to look at it and he started to disassemble it – with my encouragement. We didn't find any disconnected wires and concluded that the switch must have a fault. After about an hour I left him behind the locked doors of the supermarket with the kettle.

I returned later in the day but he hadn't solved the problem, but had reassembled the kettle.

I called around to Ireen to see if my shirts were ready. One shirt still needed buttons. Just watching her sewing the buttonholes made me realise how much work was involved in making my shirts.

I had to leave because a visitor was due. Conceptor is a member of St Veronica's Small Christian Community who I have known for many years. Her family have been through a very traumatic time over the past few years. She is leaving the Community and I invited her around to chat before she moved on. I didn't manage to get back to Ireen!

I have been enjoying my beef stir fries so much that I bought another piece of steak! I have found that a very generous piece of ginger goes down very well. So it could be beef stir fries until I leave!!

Thursday 30th June

I had a 9 am appointment at Our Lady of the Wayside church to meet some of the children sponsored by St. Gregory's church. I thought no one was coming when we reached 9.30 am, however I eventually met two students and the mother of another.

Fr. Clement informed me that the oil press has been purchased. However, it now needs to be assembled and the operator needs some instruction. They will go to Lusaka on Wednesday to collect it. Since Wednesday is the day I leave Monze, I will either go with them or meet up in Lusaka. This will give me the opportunity to get some photos and find out a bit more about the operation. It is also hoped to collect another submersible pump for the water at the same time.

The children from the pre-school were outside and I couldn't resist going over to say hallo!

Best came around with his fiancée and their child. They are preparing for the wedding next month. I would have liked to be there.

In the afternoon I visited Lwengu School and its Director Shatis. Shatis had an idea to build a school many years back. He told me he had virtually no money and was advised against the idea. Anyway he more or less started building the school on his own – quite literally. Many of the buildings use hydroform blocks which fit together a bit like lego. These blocks he makes himself – now using a diesel operated machine. The school is now accepted as a place of excellence with students from many countries competing for places. I think anyone would be pleased to have their children educated here.

I was invited into his office in a new complex, which was being completed last time I visited. His grandchild wanted to know who I was and why I was visiting – apparently she is always interested in his work and spends a lot of time with him. She made us cups of tea.

Shatis has always been interested in nature and is involved with Kafue National Park as a Ranger. He said he is going away for a fishing trip with a couple of his nephews this weekend – he has his own boats and they will camp out well away from what we sometimes call civilisation! He told me that some of the children have decided to raise money for an elephant sanctuary in the Park and another group, again from their own initiative are supporting a school for disabled children not too far away. The emphasis is on a rounded education – not just getting good exam results, though I am sure these come as well.

My shirts were ready so I picked them up on my way back - and rather smart they are too!

Jennipher dropped by very briefly, but the other guest I expected hasn't made an appearance.

Best wishes,


Monday, June 27, 2016

Wildlife and Shooting Stars

When I first came to Zambia there was no internet access or mobile phones. Now it is possible to keep in touch regularly with what is happening at home and in the world at large. I therefore keep abreast of happenings at home. This last few days there has been a lot happening, both at national and personal level and from my perspective most of it has been negative.

Thursday 23rd June

I was a little later getting up than for previous trips. I left the house at about 6.30 am. Previously I had hoped to avoid the Rosa where I was hustled onto the bus, but today I was almost disappointed that I reached the middle of town and a parking place for Rosas without being approached. All buses seemed to be empty. I was told one was going in 10 mins at which I laughed. They wrote me a ticket but I said I would pay when it set off. After ¾ hour or so rounding the town a guy said hallo and announced that he was the driver! We continued rounding – the vehicle being driven by someone who presumably wasn't the driver! - while he stood at the parking spot. At about 8 hrs the driver got on board and we set off! Despite having no delay at Chisamba turnoff it was 15 hrs before I arrived in Chisamba – 8 ½ hours for a journey of about 150 miles. The journey itself was unremarkable, except that I saw a lion! (It was in Chisamba Zoo!)

I spent some time with Persis preparing a few thoughts for the meeting on Friday with the Global Giving Rep.

I met Davidson as I got off the bus and arranged to meet later for a meal and perhaps a game of pool. We kept the appointment but fared poorly on the table!

I brought a notebook computer with me specifically to track the events in the UK, but the MTN network was so poor that I failed to get anywhere. I decided to go to sleep and check in the morning.

Friday 24th June

I woke just after 6 am, got dressed and tried to check on the referendum results. Again the connection was too poor. I had some breakfast but after an hour or more still couldn't get a connection. I had some talk-time on my phone and the dongle was apparently universal, so I swapped SIMs and at last got a connection. It took me very little time to hear the devastating news that we had voted to leave the EU.

I was in shock! I really didn't believe that the British people would make this choice. It seems to me that in a world which is becoming more connected, to choose to isolate ourselves in this way is an odd choice. What saddens me is that it appears to be a move made primarily out of selfish motives. We are keen to keep the benefits of a decent life to ourselves and not be prepared to welcome others, particularly the less fortunate, to share in our good fortune. I suspect that in fact the result will in fact be that we will be much poorer financially as well as being much poorer as human beings.

It was difficult to concentrate on the matters of the day. Aleia arrived at about 11 hrs. Patrick joined us and we outlined some of the history of the project. Unfortunately the tailor is sick – just when we were about to recruit more students. We toured the site – keeping a good distance from the bees, which by all accounts are a bit aggressive! We were reminded why we should have been wearing gumboots when we passed close to a snake – as usual I didn't see it!

We met a couple of the students. One has just completed her course and the other, Matilda, finished a couple of years back and has her own machine. It seems that she is having some difficulty because where schools used to provide material for uniforms, they now only buy completed goods. Matilda has no capital and is finding it difficult. She needs to find the equivalent of about £100 to enable her to buy material and get into the market.

I decided that I should invite our small group for a meal and so we headed for Fringilla. I think that it was when David and a supporter from Jersey – Kevin – were out here that I last went to Fringilla. I think that was in2008! Fringilla is about the only place around Chisamba where I have seen white faces. Although there are a number of white farmers who own the large farms around I never see them in the town.

We had a chance to chat in a relaxing atmosphere and enjoy a nice meal. It was however quite cold and we needed to move out of the draughts to be comfortable.

Aleia's taxi dropped us at the crossroads and she headed back to Lusaka. What she made of us and the project she didn't say!

I spent a short time with Persis putting together an agenda for Saturday's meeting and was ready for a meal and some action on the pool table. I tried to ring Davidson, but the Zamtel network was now out of action. So – late – I caught up with Davidson in town. We had a meal and headed to the bar. I was an angry man and no one was going to beat me on the table tonight!! And so it turned out! Davidson arranged to arrive late for his night work and I destroyed all opponents with the courage to challenge me on the pool table!!

I checked the state of play on the internet – having already had regular updates from Dilys throughout the day.

The day ended with me wondering what was going to happen as a result of yesterday's decision. One immediate impact is that unless we increase the amount we send, our projects in Zambia will receive less today than yesterday. With fluctuations in the kwacha to some extent the differences cancel themselves out, because prices here go up or down as a result, but the drop in the pound it will have a direct impact.

Saturday 25th June

The weather has been relatively cold. A strong wind and cloudy sky have added to the impact. Yesterday was probably the first day since I arrived when the temperature hasn't reached 20°C. Albert, Dr. Nkata and Patrick who form the active committee at the moment came to meet with Persis and myself. They had scheduled the committee meeting to fit in with my visit.

It must be ten years or more that I have been visiting Kaliyangile on a regular basis. I have come to know some of those involved quite well. Though it is a formal meeting we get on well and can discuss issues openly and honestly. Last year Hands Around the World stopped sending regular funding for the staff. This has given the manager a serious challenge, but so far she has kept the centre going and paid the staff. There are activities in hand which should help the long term sustainability of the project – particularly the piggery. I will continue to visit and will keep in touch with their progress.

I left for my taxi at 1pm and was on the road by 1.30. Occasionally I spot a monkey or two on the road – Aleia said she saw some on her way. Today they were about – a single monkey then a few more further along the road. There were also some impala in one of the farms. Apparently when they established some of the large farms a few wild animals were trapped and have stayed. It is unusual for me to see wild animals in Zambia apart from this stretch of road – though I have seen a monkey once or twice on the Great North Road in the Mazabuka area. My heart does lift a bit when I get close to nature – and on Saturday I felt in need of something to raise my spirits.

I decided not to delay in Lusaka, so I headed straight for the bus at Downtown without stopping for lunch. I was on the other side of the road when someone called and said there was a bus waiting to take Mr. Chris to Monze! It seems that even the conductors recognise me!! He said that there was only one space!! Well it was almost full!

I settled in a seat with good legroom – something quite rare on Zambia's buses. I had been told that an empty seat, which had a jacket on it, was taken. The bus filled and I thought the extra passenger was a bit inconsiderate having a rear seat and waiting till the last minute to board, thus disturbing all the other passengers. I needn't have worried! The guy came in through a window! What surprised me more was that his friend followed him through the window, though there was no longer a vacant seat. One of the advantages of a Rosa is that although passengers are tightly packed, you do get your own seat – or so I thought!! The guys squeezed either side of a girl and made our row a very tight squeeze. I was at least happy that I had enough room to stretch out my legs.

As we approached police check points various procedures were introduced by the guys to prevent detection from outside! In the event, for some unknown reason, we didn't seem to need to stop at any check points – another first!!

I was heartened when the driver filled up in Lusaka with nearly 70 litres of fuel – it seemed that he expected a long journey!

We made good time to Mazabuka and arrived at 18 hrs. I was surprised when everyone started disembarking! It seemed that we had no lights and therefore couldn't continue.

The way it works is that the conductor now finds another bus to take his passengers. I am always a bit out of the loop because I don't understand any of the chatter! Usually a Rosa happens to be around and it happens reasonably smoothly. This time – perhaps because it was unplanned – it was a little random and I was told to follow a lady who took the last seat on a small bus. She insisted that I still boarded and I more or less sat on her lap. Another guy was told to get in and finally the conductor filled the remaining space! I think I counted 22 in the Toyota Hiace (plus children of course!). Behind the driver, where we would have 2 people in the UK, we had 6! I was one of them! Fortunately after a very uncomfortable few kilometres a passenger got out and I found a seat. The driver was good – he even checked the tyre when we smelt burning rubber! (we did continue!) Travelling on the roads in a small bus can be risky, travelling at night is not advisable!! Travelling at night in a small overloaded bus is probably something to be avoided – but sometimes there is little choice!!!

I settled down and saw a wonderful array of stars outside. The milky way was clear, looking like a spiral of grey mist in the sky. I decided to watch, hoping to see a shooting star – and so it was that I saw my first Zambian meteor! Maybe there are forces at work far stronger than our politicians that will bring peace to our world – I hope so.

It was good and comforting to reach home. I picked up some sausage and chips from Tooters and put the kettle on! Dilys wanted to chat to me about work issues that had come up affecting our family – life everywhere has its challenges!! We spent some time chatting via Skype.

I tried to relax but ended up with difficulty sleeping – there was too much going through my mind. It is unusual for me to have disturbed nights but Saturday night was one.

Sunday 26th June

I arrived at church to find a group of men in a huddle. It appears that when they arrived they saw that the water pump had been disturbed. In fact it had been stolen. It seems there has been a spate of such thefts recently. It is a terrible crime because it means the church and the local community now have no direct access to water.

This tends to put some of our problems in perspective. Water is so essential to life itself that to be deprived of it is a real catastrophe. Of course there will be other sources, but water which was readily available is no more. The pre-school might have to close and there are other services that might struggle – such at the counselling and testing centre.

After mass I visited the site which is being prepared for the oil press.

About two years ago I talked to Fr. Clement about introducing a project that would help the parish, which St. Gregory's church might be able to support. The people at Our Lady of the Wayside met and decided that an oil press would be the most useful investment. It would enable parishioners to get oil from their crops and would provide a service to the local community which would generate income for the church. I confess that I never managed to arrange any fund-raising activity to raise funds - this is not my forte! However a few months back a parishioner expressed interest and, after I still didn't take decisive action, agreed to fund the project herself. We had hoped that everything would be in place before I left, but issues with the money transfer mean that it will not happen while I am around. However, the press should be bought from Lusaka on Tuesday and preparatory building work for housing the equipment has commenced.

I headed for Queen in order to track down today's meeting for prayers. Queen was out but a neighbour took me on a tour of the compound and after some enquiries led me to the correct place.

The reading was about Jesus sending out his disciples to spread the Gospel. It struck me that it wasn't just a set of instructions for them, but He was also telling us how to receive His Word. There is a verse which says the disciples should enter saying peace be with this house and if the person is one of peace, peace will stay, if not it will return. It is so important that we are people of peace and that we are ready to welcome strangers into our house and land. The Jesuits place a lot of emphasis on discernment – trying to understand whether your actions are in harmony with God or not. One test is that that having made a decision we feel peaceful - a feeling likened to the difference between water hitting a rock or a sponge. I found this reading made me feel more peaceful, again the knowledge that there is a greater power which can transform any difficulty into something life-giving is reassuring.

I decided to make a quick meal – scrambled eggs with rice fried, onions and tomatoes is an easy standby. Diven rang to say he was nearby and Delia needed a coffee. I increased the quantities and they joined me for supper. Delia hasn't visited before. It was good to have them around and of course Paul is a delight! We chatted, looked at some photos and took a couple of new ones!

I finished the day feeling rather more positive, though still wondering what Thursday's decision will mean to the world.

With love and prayers,


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Keeping in Touch

The days are flying. I will leave Monze in two weeks time and of course there is still much to do.

Monday 20th June

There was good news when we went in force to the bank. The money was located and is now in the correct account, ready to use.

Best rang to say he was on his way, making another very brief trip to Monze to pick up some papers. He has to travel to Malawi for a brief trip – checking on their legislative practice. He also gave me a task to provide my views on whether Zambia, who have adopted most of the British legal system, should continue to use it or develop their own way.

Diven was in dispute with his neighbour over drainage he had apparently built on the neighbour's land. I wanted to see the issue and try to find a solution if possible.

I find myself in all sorts of strange roles here in Zambia (actually its not just in Zambia!). I am asked to decide on building practice, suitability of brides, adoption issues, marital disputes and all manner of things. For the most part I say I am not qualified and I am then usually told the solution and I agree!! In this instance I was able to mediate and Diven is now making a narrower drainage ditch!

The location of Diven's shop is not ideal. In the rainy season the area around has often become a swamp. He is rightly concerned about protecting his property from water getting into the foundations. A new tarmacked road has some drainage which helps a lot, but last year it was overwhelmed and Diven's drainage coped with the excess. The neighbour might also be thankful for this provision.

Monze is interesting at dawn and dusk. During the day the place is full of stalls along the roads and marketplaces. At dusk the guys with their barrows come along and the stalls are packed away for the night. At dusk the process is reversed and the goods delivered to the stalls ready for another day of selling – or sitting. For an hour or so the stallholders carefully unpack their goods and lay them out for display. Some of these displays are very elaborate.

On the edge of the market is Mummy's Bakery.

It struck me when I walked through a part of the market selling mainly clothes – mostly secondhand – just how many stalls there are and how few customers. Many of the children at PIZZ School have guardians who are marketeers trying to sell amidst all the competition. Their return is very small.

Tuesday 21st June

The sun was furthest from us today – though that's not so far! The day was a little over 11hours with 11 hours of sunshine!

Load shedding is a thing of the past – that's tempting fate!! We haven't had a power cut now for three weeks or more. Those who are cynical might say that an election in just over a month might be significant – I won't comment. It will be interesting to see what happens after August 11th!

I had an appointment at Mukandu pre-school. Obert was to collect me at 9 or 10. At about 10.30 I rang to check and he had been diverted and was at a funeral. I thought we would time out, but he picked me up at about 11.30 am. When I visited a week or so back, I managed to delete all my photos. This time there were more children and Jennipher had decided to join us. The place is also the base for one of Jennipher's HIV/AIDS support groups.

Obert's wife Justina appeared with a bit of coaxing. Obert is currently working with a guy who bought two cars. Obert now has the use of one car more or less full time. He is gradually building up a customer base.

I was home in time for my next appointment. Bright wanted me to go to his house to see how his building work was progressing.

I visited last year when he was starting to build. He bought a good sized piece of land – probably 50 – 60 metres square. He has a small house, but is now building a four bedroomed property, making bricks with his wife and children and buying cement whenever he has some cash. The land is on the edge of town beyond PIZZ School. However, there are many properties being built in the area and soon it will be a Monze suburb.

Bright keeps pigeons – he told me that he bought 6 and now has 30! He says that they are for decoration! It is interesting that Soloman also keeps pigeons. He also has a few guinea fowl which produce eggs, and he intends to build a barn for broilers.

He fed me with beef and nshima and I enjoyed spending a while in this very peaceful place.

It was a good half hour's walk back home and I had another visitor waiting. George is a member of St. Veronica's Christian Community and has held various positions in the church. He has been away for a while, but is gradually getting back into the community. He is a builder by trade.

Her told me that he has been asked to do the building work for a little project we have at Our Lady of the Wayside – the installation of a oil pressing machine, for which we had been waiting for the money.. He doesn't think there is any chance of it being ready before I leave! I urged him to try!

Wednesday 22nd June

Good access to the internet (at a price!) allows me to keep abreast of the news back home. The referendum tomorrow seems to be a very close run thing. Dilys has a proxy voting card for me so that my vote can be cast. I worry that we could be entering a time of instability in the world. I fear that a vote to leave the EU would add to that instability. At a time when the world is becoming so much more connected to separate seems very strange. Personally I want to belong to the world in all its wonderful diversity. I am privileged to be able to spend a couple of months each year in Africa. I think we all gain from mixing with other cultures and sharing what riches we have. In this way all our lives are enriched. Isolating ourselves is life destroying and makes us less as people and nations. Let us hope that the vote tomorrow is for a nicer, more caring and understanding world.

I had a very productive meeting with Mr and Mrs Sianga this morning. When I arrived they were burdened by pressure from inspectors who demanded changes by the end of this month and issues with water provision and a list of other issues. We were able to go through everything and I am hopeful that we will be able to make very significant progress.

My data bundle is almost exhausted again!! I have switched off the major updates but still the data gets eaten. I just need to take the hit because regular access is important for me. Reporting what I find in real time is a significant part of my role here. I have also been using Skype for phone calls to keep in touch with those back home.

Tomorrow I will return to Chisamba. I can't say I relish the journeys which generally take about 7 hours each way. I will take a notebook with me so that I can check on the referendum result. I must try not to stay up all night tomorrow!!


Monday, June 20, 2016

Lots of Potential

I often think it is a dreadfully wasteful world in which we live. In particular very few people manage to achieve anything like their full potential – some get the chances and waste them, but there are so many that never get that opportunity. Here in Zambia this fact is far too obvious.

People see me as possibly their only chance to get out of the fix in which they find themselves.

I am aware that sometimes I can have a major impact on their lives. However this is a huge responsibility and can sometimes feel like a burden.

Thursday 16th June

When I awoke I checked how we were doing with the Global Giving Bonus Day. People have been very generous and £1,676 was raised during Wednesday and Thursday. Unfortunately the matched funding ran out quite quickly, so our bonus was less than I had hoped.

I had a swift breakfast with the essential cups of tea and headed for the Deli. I had checked with Google Maps and obtained directions. I checked the sun to determine which way was north-west and confirmed the direction with a security guard.

The Deli was a bit of a culture shock for me having as many white faces as those of colour and selling Lattes and Cappuccinos!

Aleia arrived at the same time and we ordered cups of tea (Earl Grey for me!) and settled down for a lengthy discussion. Of course I did most of the talking, on my favourite subject - me and my life in Africa. Although I made sure we covered the project in Monze, which unfortunately she is unlikely to visit, I also talked about some of the other things in which I am involved and told a few stories of my experiences. I hope it was all good background information about life in Zambia.

Aleia has been travelling around Africa on behalf of Global Giving since February and doesn't expect to get back home before October! She was catching a flight in the afternoon which would take her to the north of the Country.

Aleia left in a taxi at 12.30 pm and I started looking for a bus. I thought if I headed towards town I would soon come across one. I reached a roundabout and asked which road headed into town. Unfortunately it seemed that I wasn't on a bus route. However, It didn't take long to spot buses on a nearby road. So I joined Independence Avenue.

Last year I walked the length of this road looking for the Museum and failed to find it. Soon after setting off in the bus, the museum appeared very obvious to my right. I plan to visit on my last day this year.

I was dropped outside the local bus station I used on Wednesday and had no difficulty walking to Downtown, where I would get my Rosa bus. First I found a cafe and enjoyed chicken and chips.

I continue to bump into friends – even in Lusaka! A fellow said hallo and I wondered who he was and whether he has mistaken me for someone else! It turned out to be another priest who knew me from Monze. Fr. Joseph used to be an Assistant Priest at the Cathedral when Fr. Kenan was parish priest. He is now at a parish in Choma. On Wednesday night Moses – a previous chairman at Kaliyangile – turned up at Longacres Lodge and sat with me for a while in the restaurant.

It was 2.15 pm when I took my seat on the bus. I was the first passenger – not a good sign! I had already decided that this wasn't the best time to try to get a bus. So I was expecting a long wait – and I wasn't disappointed!!

I had my notebook so I decided to catch up with some e-mails while I waited. Eventually a guy sat next to me – I subsequently found out that his name was Namizeko. Like so many his schooling stopped when his parents died. He says he does nothing. He lives with a younger brother. He would love to go back to school or at least to do some business to provide food for himself and brother. He lives in Mazabuka and is not far from the Kafue Flats were they catch bream. He has done a little business in the past buying the fish there and selling in Mazabuka. He would like to re-start the business but of course has no capital – the equivalent of about £150 - £200 would be needed for him to re-establish himself. I said the best I could do was to mention him in my blog.

He was interested in what I was doing on the computer, so I connected to Skype and we chatted to Barby!

At 5 pm we set off for Monze. The conductor apologised to me for the delay – a first! Eventually we made it to Mazabuka. I was surprised when everyone started getting off the bus, but soon realised this was as far as it went!! The bus was quite full, as was the bus to which we transferred. Somehow we all managed to get on – and we picked up another passenger down the road.

Despite being rather overloaded we made it to Monze by about 21 hrs.

Friday 17th June

I agreed to make another visit to the Finance bank – this time on my own, the treasurer not being free. The guy I saw on Tuesday seemed happy to deal with me and got the manager to ring Lusaka again. In the afternoon I was told the money had been tracked – we will need to confirm that it has been found on Monday.

I decided I would make more samosas on Saturday, so I topped up with the necessary ingredients.

Diven arrived at supper time and joined me.

Saturday 18th June

Jennipher said she would be around at 10 to 11 hrs. I prepared the samosas for a little after 10 hrs. Selina was joining Jennipher, but was delayed at school. As a result it was 14 hrs when they arrived.

Jennipher also came with another girl hoping to recommence school. This girl had been doing a catering course, but had a bad experience during a placement. She believes she was possessed – apparently the owner was a Satanist. In our culture these phenomena are usually dismissed. However there are many things we cannot explain. The girl was by all accounts in a very bad way – not eating among other things. She says that it was prayer that cured her. She now seems to be very well balanced, but understandably doesn't want to go back to catering.

On Friday a bus load of children was travelling from Livingstone to a school just outside Monze for a sports competition in which Selina's school was participating. The bus was travelling at night and came across a stationery lorry too late to avoid a collision. Five of the children were killed and another 7 were taken to hospital with injuries. This is a terrible tragedy and we pray for all those affected. Unfortunately road traffic accidents are only too common here – especially at night. Very few people use seat belts, even if they are available, which adds to the severity of the casualties. I am very aware that the most dangerous thing I do is travel on Zambia's roads.

Selina was obviously less than impressed by samosas. A quick trip was needed to get some bread which allowed me to save the day with egg mayonnaise sandwiches.

Selina decided to sort out my garden. Like her mother she had decided that I was incapable of looking after the place and decided the sweep up all the leaves. She did a great job and Jennipher helped her pick up the piles and put them on the large stack at the back of the garden. One of the neighbour's dogs gave his seal of approval and now makes himself a comfortable bed in the middle of the leaf heap!

I had arranged to see Bright in the afternoon and felt guilty because it was the second time I had postponed the arrangement.

I had more mixture for the samosas, so I cooked more for supper - Raymond joined me.

Sunday 19th June

The elections on August 11th dominate the news here in Zambia. The main election is the Presidential election, but there are also parliamentary and council elections on that day. There is also a referendum on the constitution! I decided to pick up a paper to catch up on the latest. Much of the media here is still effectively government controlled. The Post is independent and often takes a stand in favour of opposition politicians. This is my favoured paper!

Mass was typical except that someone spoke at the end of mass about the voting process – even taking questions from the congregation. Not something I have experienced in the UK – though maybe for our referendum some explanation is needed!!

I made my way to Queen's house for 14hrs. Our prayer meeting was nearby, but there was no way the position could have been described to me with a hope of me finding it. She took me in between various houses for a little while. There were no roads, just buildings almost randomly scattered and people picking a route between them. The session started at about 15hrs and I was back home by 17 hrs.

Diven called around unexpectedly with a builder friend and said he had a little problem! Life is never straightforward here – especially with Diven! Last year he built an impressive drainage system to prevent water getting into the foundations of his property. Apparently he checked with the seller of the adjacent plot and was given the go-ahead. It seems that the new owner disagrees and has had some workmen start to smash the drainage. There seems to be a solution but quick action is needed!! I will check the site tomorrow and hope that an agreed resolution can be found.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Global Giving in Lusaka and the UK

Monday 13th June

Jennipher asked me to repeat an exercise of a few years back when I asked Ireen to make a shirt for me and a dress for her from the same material. So I had a break from the computer, picked up some Chitenge material and delivered it to Ireen. It looks like I will have three new shirts this year!!

The blue sky returned today – yesterday was definitely the exception.

Tuesday 14th June

I continue to meet friends. A guy called from a car. I knew he was someone I knew well from the hospital. Mr Monze was a security guard and over many years has tried (in vain) to add to my Chitonga vocabulary. He told me he now works for the police and had someone in the car they had just arrested.

Raymond had arranged to see me at 9 hrs. I was up early for mass, but waited till 8 am to call around at the Internet cafe. I have another problem with a payment not arriving at the bank in Monze and had to get documents printed. Unfortunately the cafe was shut and I was advised that it hadn't opened in a couple of days. I went to my friend Hope, but her computer wouldn't open for 15 mins then couldn't print my document, having picked up a virus or two from Hope (well her computer!) I went to another office where she directed me, which could open my document but the printer didn't recognise the new toner cartridge! It was now 9.30 by which time Raymond realised we needed to reschedule. Sometimes we forget in the UK just how difficult printing a couple of pages can be in Zambia!

I rushed to PIZZ school where I met Mawini – the university student. We had a good talk and established that she was 7 years old when I first visited Monze. She showed me some of her course work which I found surprisingly interesting – not many would say that about my pure maths!

On the way to the school I was rung by Fr. Clement and arranged a meeting with his treasurer at the bank for 11.15. I was pleased that we didn't have to queue at the bank, though it was after 12 by the time we met.

I saw that Rancher's butchers was open so I decided to pick up some more steak. I felt I should compensate Raymond for a wasted visit this morning, so decided to make a beef stir fry. I also topped up with some vegetables, garlic and ginger. In practice it turned out well - with plenty of flavour from a generous amount of ginger and a bit of bite from the chilli.

I needed an early night because I was off to Lusaka in the morning.

Wednesday 15th June

I set my alarm for 5am. There seems to be no way of scheduling a bus to Lusaka in advance. The big buses might not start till 9 hrs anyway, so be be pretty sure of getting to my workshop by 13 hrs I needed to set off early.

I hoped to be able to get along the High Street without being accosted by someone on an empty bus. No such luck!! Two guys jumped from a Rosa and grabbed me – I protested and said I would get on when they had a few customers. The bus was facing the wrong direction so they turned it around for me! Apparently they were the guys who took me when I went to Chisamba. They almost lifted me into the bus and in the end I gave way. They insisted they were about to leave – not that I believed a word. I must admit I found the whole episode rather amusing and decided even if they left at 7 hrs - like last time - I would be in Lusaka in good time. In the event they set off with a very empty bus at just after 6 hrs. The bus didn't fill completely along the way, but we arrived at Downtown Lusaka at about 9.30 am. Having plenty of time I went to the local bus station and, as usual, helpful people pointed me to the right bus for Kabulonga and a fellow passenger told me when I had arrived. It was 10.05 am!!

I quickly found the conference centre and set about killing 3 hours. I found the shopping centre and a cafe to have a drink and a read and then explored the area. This isn't too far from Longacres where I am spending the night. The area is quite smart and is linked to Longacres by Lusaka Golf Course.

There were 6 or 7 of us on the workshop. It was run by Global Giving and was quite interesting for me – though the other local participants are not as well established with the organisation. It also struck me that what makes sense to someone from a Western background, might not translate as well in Zambia. The target donors for the Global Giving website are not Zambians! They are you and me. Which of course gives me the opportunity for another plug!!

Already we have raised £400 for PIZZ School. Thank you very much if you have contributed – it would be good to push that up to £1,000 this evening. PIZZ really is a wonderful project and you couldn't use your money in a better way.

Global Giving will give us a 40% bonus on all donations of up to £1,000 NOW and until 5 am on Tomorrow morning 16th June. (subject to a total bonus pot of £10,000) UK taxpayers can also give 25% extra through Gift Aid

Please follow this link DONATE NOW

Apologies for the Lack of photos but I have most of my technology in Monze, while I am in Lusaka. I'll make up for it next time.


Monday, June 13, 2016

Sometimes I'm Busy - Sometimes I'm Not

It can be comforting to have a clear structure to one's life. Getting up for work, the next 8 or 9 hours accounted for, some supper and a justified time to relax after the strain of a working day. My life for the past twenty years has been rather different! Having an unstructured life means there can be times of non-stop activity from dawn to midnight and then sudden gaps when I wonder what to do next. Well the last few days have seen more of the latter. It has been good to relax in the garden and do a bit of reading. I have also had a chance to catch up with a little housework – though there are still leaves scattered throughout the garden. I did realise that the stick brooms are excellent for sweeping leaves and wondered whether this is why every day the local people sweep around their houses, rather than a particular need.

Today for the first time in a long while the sky is covered with cloud. I have been struck over the past few days just what a deep blue the sky has been. Electricity has hardly been off for a week or more, which makes me wonder why it has been rationed for so long. Maybe we are just fortunate! Or maybe by the time of the elections Lake Kariba will be dry.

The election campaigning continues, but there are worrying signs. Particularly violence against supporters – particularly of the opposition. Raymond rang me last night and said that someone had been murdered yesterday in Monze – apparently an opposition cadre (organiser).

Friday 10th June

I rang Mrs. Sianga to check whether money transfers were back to normal only to find that she was in hospital where they are treating her for problems with her blood pressure. When David asked the other day I told him I thought her health was OK - it seems I was a bit premature. I hope that it will very soon settle down.

Obert called in briefly in the early evening. I was expecting Jennipher and family on Saturday so I went to the market to find some bread flour, get some essential vegetables and check on the herbs, in order to make some samosas. I got most of the vegetables prepared on the Friday evening.

A bit late in the day I realised that often weekends can be very busy and maybe I could have ventured into the bush and made Friday a day off!

I have always enjoyed walking in the bush. Monze is relatively flat, the water tower and mobile phone masts are landmarks for miles around. Even I find it difficult to get completely lost. There is a wonderful quiet if you manage to get a mile or two from a road and I usually find someone greets me and sometimes joins me for part of the walk. Next time I find myself with some free time I think I will stride out away from town and see where it leads me.

Saturday 11th June

I decided to get up early and attend mass at the cathedral. There were only two rows of benches in church. I remembered that there was a thanksgiving mass later - though with visitors I wouldn't be available

Jennipher arrived around lunchtime. She said she would have arrived earlier but the road (yes THE ROAD – The Great North Road) was blocked with some sort of political rally. She only had Charity with her – to my disappointment. I had hoped to see Selina and Soloman. Selina was probably 3 or 4 years old when I first came to know her. I have watched her grow up, she is now quite a young woman in the early stages of secondary school. Soloman is a cousin of Jennipher and moved from Zimbabwe to be with her in about 2005. He has been a huge help looking after the garden and crops and also caring for the children when Jennipher is out. He also fetches patients with the bicycle ambulance. Just over a year ago he was seriously ill and it looked like he might not survive. He strength has been returning since. He is currently spending time near Livingstone finishing a house that Sandra – Jennipher's daughter – started building.

Needless to say the three of us managed to polish off the samosas between us.

Jennipher had left a copy of her group's constitution and registration certificate with me to copy. Reading the constitution I was impressed. I aked Jennipher who had written it – thinking she must have had someone to do it professionally. She told me that she wrote it with the secretary for the group. The 'preamble' talks about the groups “determination to contribute to the efforts at addressing the impact of HIV/AIDS” it recognises “the benefits of a support group where people with the same problem learn how to cope and defeat the problems” and it says that “aware that, though millions are living with HIV in rural areas few are tested... we joined ourselves into a support group to support and encourage each other and raise awareness and openness about HIV”. The constitution is clear and easy to read – it also contains the rules and regulations etc.

We have been discussing the possibility of Jennipher's group applying for a grant from ACWW which is particularly keen to support small projects helping women. Jennipher often takes in clients who are sick and, with some care and extra food often helps them back to health. (Though deaths are too common). Some of these clients have TB and other infectious illnesses which she doesn't want passed onto her children. With them staying in her house, it is difficult to prevent transmission. She would like to build a simple structure as an infirmary for these clients.

One of Jennipher's main concerns is women dying of cervical cancer. There are many diseases to which those who are HIV+ are more susceptible and cervical cancer is one of them. In some areas of the Country, where male circumcision is the tradition, it is not such an issue, but in Southern Province it is very common. The nature of the disease usually means no symptoms are observed until the disease has progressed too far. There is screening available in Monze but many people cannot manage to travel the distance. Jennipher would like to collect women from some of the rural areas by bus and take them for testing.

It was good to listen to Jennipher and her ideas about tackling some of the difficulties she sees – particularly in the more rural parts on Zambia. I sometimes think of rural Zambia being hundreds of miles to the north, but Jennipher is talking about life within a few miles of where she lives. If you leave the Great North Road and head into the bush 10 or 15 miles, it can be a different world. The main difference being there are no simple transport links. I was asked yesterday about buses to the small rural towns – I don't think they exist, and they certainly don't exist out to the villages. To make it clear a village here is not like that in the UK! There is no mains water or electricity – unless someone has a small solar panel for lighting and charging their mobile phone! Houses are scattered – maybe the neighbour is 200 metres distant. If people are very lucky they have a bike, but will generally walk. There is very little money exchanged, but people will have some land, a hoe and spade, and probably a few chickens and a goat or two. Travelling to Monze or other towns is not a regular occurrence and finding the money for transport is a major issue.

Walking to the High street with Jennipher I was greeted by a woman who realised I didn't recognise her. There are some people I have told to accost me because otherwise, despite knowing them well, I will walk past them. Some years back a nurse from the hospital who wrote to me when I was in the UK told me I had walked past her in Monze. She was a bit upset, but it was another year, and only after my written instructions, before we met again. Anyway, fortunately Mrs Maplanga knew my problems and reminded me who she was. Mrs. Mapulanga was Bentoe's wife. Bentoe was a good friend who worked with me at the hospital from 2004 to 2006. He died in a horrific car accident. I met his wife a few times subsequently and on one occasion went on a retreat with her and some other staff from the hospital. We had a chance to talk about the accident and difficulties that remained with coming to terms with it. I have tried to get a chance for at least a brief chat when in Monze – I am glad she forgives my inability to recognise faces. At one time she ran the ICU which was the excuse for my first visit to Monze. She now works with Dr. Michael Breen in the gynaecological department.

Deana and her friends Trish and Jo popped around for a coffee, but it was a little late to head for the dam.

Sunday 12th June

I picked up a paper before church. The elections dominate. There is a suggestion that the ruling party (Patriotic Front) are not playing fair. The Chiefs around the country have suddenly been awarded a pay rise. It could be coincidence, but happening just before an election seems to be interesting timing. The Chiefs still have considerable power and influence over the people here in Zambia!!

Mass was the usual mix of prayer, singing, dancing and drumming. I was informed that there would be no 'section prayers' today. I wasn't too disappointed! I am happy to meet with St. Veronica's Small Christian Community but after a two hour service in Chitonga – a further two hours in the afternoon, where I understand little, can become a bit of an ordeal. I attend because it is important to spend time with a community of which I want to be a part. It is my problem that I haven't yet learnt the language.

I returned along the railway line, but walked quickly when I heard that Deana was waiting to go the dam.

After a cup of tea and some sandwiches we headed for the lake. There were a few people coming and going with ox carts filling their drums with water from the lake. The bird life however was very scant. A small flock of cattle egret were about and the African jacana popped up from the reeds now and again. Eventually a wide-billed stork made an appearance. I assumed that some patches of white around the edge of the lake were bits of plastic or similar. In fact they turned out to be water lilies – again I have never seen these on the lake before.

However it was restful and gave us a chance to catch up. Deana has developed a community school in Monze. This is now a government school with over 800 students (100 to a classroom). In Chisikele – a rural area 3 or 4 miles outside Monze – she has helped develop the irrigation system. I was pleased to hear they have a borehole now – the well dried up last year. The project is well run and enables the local community to generate some profits. Unfortunately the lack of rain has hit their groundnut crop this year.

The two volunteers Trish and Jo are running a short course at the Holy Family to introduce the parents of children with disabilities to paper furniture which can be designed specifically for children's deformities, or to cope with issues of balance. The course will just cover the basics and perhaps allow them to make a small stool. They hope to follow it up next year with another course. It is also hoped that it might provide an income generating opportunity. They have also brought examples of toys and puzzles made from paper.

I have been working through the piece of steak over the past couple of weeks. The freezer has worked well despite the power outages and the meat has kept fresh. After the first piece needed to be put back in the pan to turn from medium rare to well done, I have taken to cutting it into strips and having a stir fry. I like medium rare steaks, but feel that it is best to cook everything thoroughly here. With plenty of ginger, some paprika and the last chilli to flavour my stir fry and a good mix of vegetables I enjoyed my meal. The meat has been very lean, I will get another piece of meat for the remainder of my stay and hope it will be as good – my experience in the past has been good.

I am preparing to make a big effort to try and raise funds for PIZZ School on Wednesday. It is a chance to get extra money for the project. Global Giving will give us an extra 40% and UK taxpayers can give a further 25% through Gift Aid.

Keeping funds coming in so we can make the children's dreams a reality is a huge challenge. I met Janes on the way back from the dam – again I didn't recognise her at first – she is now at a local secondary school, but she is still supported through the project. She dreams of becoming a doctor.

Most of the children at the school live a very difficult life - for many the simple meal of rice provided at school is their main meal – for some it is their only meal. To complete their education and get a grade 12 certificate is really an impossible dream, yet already some have achieved this through PIZZ School. This encourages other children and their guardians to believe in the dream. I am aware that I am encouraging them to think their dream could become reality. I don't want to let them down, but I need a lot of help. I am therefore asking my friends and family to dig deep on Wednesday and play a part in this wonderful project, I hope I will live to see Dr. Janes. Please help me!

If you use this link between 14.00 BST Wednesday 15th June and 5.00 BST Thursday 16th June Global Giving will add 40% to your donation. Global Giving Bonus Day

With love and prayers,