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,


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