Thursday, July 14, 2016

Transition and an elephant hunt

I have now arrived back in the UK and am trying to make sense of the past couple of months. On the whole it was a very positive experience. The time went very quick, but I was ready to return.

Monday 4rd July

I was lucky with the bus to Pemba. Despite people jumping on and off the bus, we left within a few minutes after boarding. Someone noticed the lion and I was dropped off not far from Jennipher's house. My sense of direction doesn't improve and it was only with some help from a local guy that I managed to meet up with Jennipher along the road!

Selina met me and we walked to the house. I was surprised to see Obadia so tall, but still smiling!

Soloman was busy making bricks for another structure which will be used to house some sick patients and others. Having no wheelbarrow, they improvised by dragging a plastic half drum from the anthill – the source of the soil for bricks. There must have been 400 - 500 bricks made at least. It was good to see that Soloman has recovered his strength after his illness last year. At one point he was not expected to survive.

Jennipher called here animals. The goats respond to one call while the chickens answer another! She has quite a menagerie!

She showed me the small piece of garden under cultivation and another area she would like to fence and develop. We chatted for a while before heading off towards the clinic. On the way we passed close to where a lady dying of cervical cancer was living. We therefore diverted a little and paid a visit. I am always a little concerned that I am intruding into such a personal situation, but invariably I am welcomed – as was the case on this occasion. The lady was conscious and eventually realised that I was present. She held my hand while a hymn was sung and I said a brief prayer. She was in some pain and I gave some tablets that Jennipher says give some relief – at least they are an improvement on Panadol (paracetemol). Her relatives had a prescription for some stronger painkillers and Jennipher gave a contribution towards their cost.

We carried on our journey towards the clinic greeting people on the way. I realised that I was running late so I delayed my appointment with Mrs. Sianga by ½ hr.

Eventually we reached the clinic, which has changeds beyond recognition since my last visit a couple of years back. I seem to recall a few rooms with very limited facilities. Now it is like a small hospital – and it is relatively well eqipped. The wards have proper hospital beds where head and feet can be raised. They even have a proper dentist!

It was a holiday so it was relatively quiet and some parts were closed.

I was not going to get to the Gonde ceremony this year! In all my years, when I have been in Zambia at this time, I haven't yet made the ceremony. In the past offers to take me have failed to materialise, but this time I decided I couldn't find the time at the end of my trip. However, many others where heading for Gonde and some of those were amassing waiting for buses in Pemba. Fortunately I had Jennipher to help me. Sure enough she found somone in a car heading for Monze and negotiated a place for me. I was less than impressed with the driver taking a swig of Mosi as he drove, but I made it safely back home.

I arrived at 13.30 an hour after my appointment with Deana and had problems contacting her. However since it was 14.20 before she arrived, I wasn't in trouble! Deana had brought me some baskets because my usual source is no longer producing them. I was surprised just how cheap they were – in fact I think that at £1 each they are too cheap! Sometimes I am embarrassed by the low prices considering the amount of work put in.

Just a little late I arrived for my last visit to PIZZ School. It was quiet – being a school holiday. I had a very useful discussion with Mrs. Sianga and was able to tie up a few loose ends. I left my laptop which I finished preparing at about 2 am the previous evening! I also left another football which I hadn't found another home for.

It was after 17 hrs when I arrived back home and there were people waiting. To be honest I can't remember the order of the visitors during the final day or so! Raymond arrived at about supper time and enjoyed some rice – he says that he has an allergy to eggs, so I ate those myself.

Fr. Clement arrived at 17hrs as agreed and after a coffee we headed for St Kisito for a game of pool. After the first game a couple of balls refused to appear. We took the table to pieces! Eventually the balls were found and they presented no further problem. A few priests joined us and we enjoyed a good session.

I was dropped back home just before midnight.

Tuesday 5th July

I tried to leave my last day in Monze free to allow my friends to pop around and say goodbye.

On Sunday I had been told to come back to see the preparations for the oil press while workers were busy. I pointed out that Monday and Tuesday were holidays but was assured that they would be busy – ready for the delivery of the press on Wednesday. The thought of a 2km walk each way actually appealed to me. Today is the start of my transition back to the other world in the UK. I am saying goodbye, tidying the house, packing and passing on anything I don't want to bring back to the UK. A decent walk gives me time to start to reflect on the past two months.

I wasn't very surprised, nor was I particularly disappointed to find the church deserted and the site as I left it on Sunday! I spent some time strolling around the church grounds. I examined the site where the oil press will be located and finished by sitting by Our Lady's grotto in prayer and reflection.

When I got back to town it was already after midday. I said goodbye to Ireen and passed through the market to say goodbye to my friend with the spices. Then I settled in the house while my friends queued to say goodbye! Jennipher had come early to collect the solar lights I had promised her - she was on her way to a funeral somewhere beyond Lusaka. Teddy came around and we chatted, Lillian visited with some rosaries I promised to buy, Obert came with his mother, who brought a present for Dilys, a small delegation came from St. Veronica's Small Christian Community – also with a present. Both of these presents were made with love and care – involving a lot of work. Obert's mother made a mat from bottletops covered with material. The present fromOur Lady's was a small vase covered in very small beads with the motto Be Blessed. Bright came along to say a final farewell and finally Diven came around to say goodbye.

I enjoyed a final beef stir-fry and finished the evening by finishing my cleaning.

Wednesday 6th July

I had arranged to travel to Lusaka with Fr. Clement. Originally we planned to leave about 7.30 am but an extra visit to the bank delayed our departure by a half hour or so. In practice it was about 9 hrs when we finally left Monze.

Fr. Clement had realised a few days earlier that his driving licence had expired. In Zambia licences need to be renewed every 5 years. Without reminders it is easy to allow them to expire. We had another three or four guys with us, so finding an alternative driver wasn't an issue. I grabbed a seat in the cab with the driver and Fr. Clement. The other passengers travelled on the back of the pick-up with my bags and a few other items.

We had just past through Mazabuka when Fr. Clement realised that he hadn't brought the receipts for the purchase of the oil press. A phone call managed to locate the documents and arrangements were quickly made to get someone to head to Golden Pillow and pass them to one of the coach drivers who would carry them to Lusaka! This isn't the first time that I have witnessed buses providing a courier service! This sorted, we continued on our way to Lusaka.

When we arrived at Downtown Lusaka we called into the shopping centre. It was good to stretch my legs and enjoy the now hot sun. The coach was due at about 14 hrs, giving a couple of hours to fit in other tasks. I was asked if I wanted to stay with the pick-up or meet up later. I had failed to confirm my booking at the hotel and anyway wanted to start winding down and start preparing for my move to the UK. So I chose to head for my hotel.

I was given a lift to Longacres Lodge and had no trouble checking in.

I popped into the cafe opposite the hotel and had a meal. I also found the internet cafe and established that it was open until 21 hrs.

For 2 months I have been without a television. After a while I managed to get some sort of picture on the TV in my room! At about 15.30 I received a call to say that the papers had been retrieved and the delegation were heading to the industrial estate where the oil press was to be collected. It was on the other side of Lusaka from my hotel. I picked up a taxi and we eventually found the place. The showrooms of Saro Industries were very impressive, with a large number of products on display and plenty of staff busy on computers checking customers requirements. Like many big businesses it is not Zambian owned. This is an Indian company.

Fr. Clement and the parish Council Chairman were in the showroom when I arrived. There seemed to be a slight hiccup!! They were told that the equipment assembly had not been completed and they would need to return tomoorow!! I arrived at what seemed to be an impasse! The equipment could not be assembled on Wednesday and our team could not return on Thursday!! Fr. Clement had already made a trip the previous week to be told the equipment needed assembling and someone needed training. It was arranged to collect on Wednesday and they were instructed to bring some sunflower seeds to test the equipment and for it to be demonstrated. Considerable time and money had already been spent on the exercise. Eventually a meeting with the manager persuaded the staff to work on and complete the assembly. It was after 5 pm when we were shown around the back of the showroom. We were first taken to where they had tanks to test submersible pumps. Here they also had testing equipment for the “starter” - a sophisticated switch to protect the equipment. Eventually the equipment was loaded on the pick-up with a fork-lift truck. (There won't be any similar equipment to unload it!! But at under a ton it is not considered a problem!!)

I was dropped off in town and said a final goodbye to Fr. Clement and the team.

I picked up a bus to Longacres and settled in to my hotel.

I wanted to check in for my flights, but I was a couple of hours early. I returned to the hotel and had a meal before returning to the internet cafe. I checked in and printed my boarding cards.

My room was ok. This year there were plugs in the basin and bath – something I hadn't experienced before – things were looking up!! There wasn't any hot water, but you can't expect everything!!

Thursday 7th July

The hotel had agreed to look after my bags for the day. My plan was to look for an elephant in the morning and to head over to the museum in the afternoon. I would have a meal in the evening and had arranged for a taxi at 21.30. I was aware that I would be at the airport rather early but felt I couldn't really expect the hotel to look after my bags much longer. I thought that I might be able to pick up a book at the museum to help me pass time before the flight.

I arose slowly and had a leisurely breakfast. I rearranged my luggage and still there was no hot water! I have been totally spoilt at my house in Monze – with hot water for a shower every day I think I had become a bit soft! I thought I needed at least to clean my feet – in the end I took the plunge and had a cold bath.

Refreshed I checked out! Behind the hotel is the Catholic Cathedral. I decided that it would be appropriate to visit the church before my days exploits. The cathedral grounds are a lovely green space in Lusaka. The grounds are quite extensive and the cathedral is a pleasant building where I find some peace. As I left the church I noticed a door framed with flowers. This year has been designated by pope Francis as a Year of Mercy. It is a time when we are asked to think about the mercy of God. Jesus made a point of asking us to care for those most in need. We are also asked during this year to consider doing something for those less fortunate. At the entrance to the door there was a collection box for donations and/or details of acts of mercy we are carrying out.

It was now time for the great elephant hunt!! Google had provided me with directions to Kabwata Traditional Village where I understood there were elephants. In true tracker style I didn't go direct to the destination. I must have missed the 'left towards Jacaranda Avenue'! Eventually I found Burma Road and was told that I could get a bus to the village!! It was probably a little after 11.30 when I eventually found Kabwata Village on foot!

There seemed to be a couple of thatched structures with a lot of carved items. The first guy showed me some nice objects including a stone carved cheetah and wooden giraffes. I was keen to look further before committing myself – and anyway I had only come to obtain an elephant!! As I wandered on I found more and more thatched buildings – and they got bigger, so instead of one artist/salesperson there were now several. Prices seem to drop as I moved from the entrance and those selling got more desperate. After an hour or more I reached the end of the 'village'. At the last stop the guy had some books for sale – a novel from a local Zambian author. I had my first purchase and my reading material for the airport.

One of the latter 'shops' had some decent carvings at good prices and they said they had gone days without a buyer! I made another purchase – from each of the artists! By the time I reached the first shop I had a very full backpack and very little money. The costs of the cheetah and giraffes were quite high – though for the amount of work they were very reasonable. I never wanted to spend a lot and decided to decline there requests for me to make an offer. Anything I would offer would be an insult. However I wasn't going to be able to leave without making a bid!!

I left Kabwata with the cheetah, the giraffes and a lot of other carvings in stone, ebony, zebra wood, iron wood and other materials!! I had 50 kwacha in my pocket and needed 250 for my taxi to the airport among other things!! Fortunately an ATM came to the rescue!! - When I travelled to Lusaka I thought I had come with rather too much cash in my pocket – it was no longer an issue!!

I needed a rest having been on my feet for several hours. I decided to treat myself to a pizza – which turned out to be very nice and a delightful change. It was about 15.30 by the time I finished my meal. I decided to get a bus to the museum. The waiter told me it wasn't as easy as jumping on the next bus. I needed to find Independence Avenue again. I therefore retraced my steps – though this time I used Jacaranda Avenue. Eventually I found Independence Avenue. I walked towards town for a few minutes – it was towards town wasn't it! It wasn't familiar! I asked a guy who confirmed that I was heading out of Lusaka and needed to walk some distance to get myself a bus to the museum. It was now about 16 hrs and time to abandon the museum! If I arrived before it shut, it would be only just! By now I was well on my way back to Longacres, so I settled on completing my lengthy walk and returned. It was still relatively early so I decided to call into the cathedral again and reflect on my visit to Zambia. Leaving the church this time I noticed an area of green and discovered the graveyard of the Bishops. The most recent grave is that of the first Zambian Cardinal. Unfortuntely he was only cardinal a couple of years before his death a few years back. The graveyard is a lovely peaceful place and it did me good to walk in the grounds.

Back at the hotel I bought myself a Mosi and emptied my back pack. It was surprising just what I had managed to pack in! I reorganised the items to make them a bit easier to carry. I would wait till later to transfer objects to my cases. My fear of carrying back two empty cases was very obviously unfounded – the question now was whether I now exceeded my allowances!

I settled in the bar and watched a little television until it was supper time. After my meal I was treated to a pot of tea!

Back in the bar I realised that the second semi-final of the UEFA cup was about to start. (I might have delayed my departure by a half hour had I realised! At about 9.15 I headed for reception only to find my taxi driver was looking for me in the bar! We connected and headed to the airport.

The book I bought at Kabwata came into its own. I was pleasantly surprised that the cafe was still open and settled with a coffee and my book. It was clear that in the restaurant upstairs there was a TV and people enjoying the match. There was a roar from what sounded like predominantly women's voices. Unfortunately both lifts were out of order!! This I felt was particularly cruel! Eventually I asked at the information desk if there was any way to get upstairs with my cases. The lady said, other then the stairs, no! However, she pointed out that there was a TV in the domestic departure lounge which was visible from outside. I therefore watched the final 15 minutes from seats outside the lounge. Admittedly I needed a bit of imagination for the distant camera angles, but I was able to follown the game. Football is a universal language and watching a game is a good way to get involved with local people. After the match I said goodbye to the guys next to me and ordered a gin and tonic from the cafe in celebration!

It surprised me that the airport was still fully open. I commiserated with the girl in the gift shop of the departure lounge because of our late flight and she told me that there are often three flights during the night – this was a slack night in fact.

We boarded the plane on time, but a problem with the paperwork caused us to delay take-off by about an hour. I wasn't too upset because I didn't need an extra hour in Nairobi airport!

I managed to sleep a little and missed breakfast – not that I wanted breakfast at 4 am anyway!! When I awoke dawn was approaching. I decided to watch the sunrise and it was beautiful, made even more spectacular by the sight of Mount Kilimanjaro appearing to my right. We landed and taxied past a small flock of Maribou Storks and a couple of Black Kites flew above us – a fitting way to end my African Adventure.

I was a little tired and set the alarm off at security by walking through with my backpack still on my back!

The flight from Nairobi was without incident though for a large section the plane was in semi darkness and outside it seemed hazy, though the sun was out – albeit directly above the plane.

As I waited at Heathrow for my cases I started to wonder how much I was entitled to bring back – I had in my mind gifts up to £150 or thereabouts. Before my safari to Kabwata, I had no problem, but I now wondered where I stood. Anyway I must have looked guilty and was pulled aside to have my bags checked. It is an embarrassing process where everything is unpacked and strewn on the metal tables. I explained that I had been in Zambia doing a bit of voluntary work and visiting friends. I had a few baskets – well 30 actually. A few pieces of chitenge material – maybe 20-30 pieces and then an assortment of carved animals etc.! I am not really sure what she made of my luggage, but eventually she let me repack and continue on my way.

I had bought an open return and was glad. I was able to catch the next bus at 6.35 and was in Cheltenham by 9 pm where Dilys met me at the bus station.

It was now of course Friday evening and I was once more back in the UK. I wasn't as tired as is often the case, but was glad to be home and to find my bed!


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Who is my Neighbour?

Its already late and tonight is the last time I will have a computer here in Zambia. I have brought my laptop with me each year for many years now, but they never seem to make it back to the UK. I will no doubt pick up another secondhand computer when I get back.

I will give a brief update now and fill in the final days after I land in the UK.

I had a call from a very distressed Luke on Thursday afternoon. His young daughter had been killed and of course he was distraught. I can't imagine the pain he is going through. There is nothing that can be said that is in any way adequate. Luke has worked so hard looking after his siblings, nieces, nephews etc. It seems so dreadfully unfair that he has to suffer this tragedy.

Friday 1st July

It must be old age but my first thought is that I didn't do anything on Friday! But no I remember now!! I did a last clothes wash before going to see Mrs. Sianga. There are still a few things to sort out with respect of the project – in particular a close look at the budget is needed to assess how much is really needed to maintain the school. The budget has always been tight and it is important for me to understand how they manage to keep things running.

I was told that Friday was part of a four day holiday, but Mrs. Sianga said that the holiday started on Saturday and finished on Tuesday!

On my way home I called in to see Diven. We ended up discussing his property and boundaries – eventually using a tape measure and diagrams to determine exactly what he was about to acquire.

It was nearly 5 pm when I got home – fortunately Diven had fed me with some rice – as a rice pudding i.e. with milk and sugar. A visitor was due at 6pm but he didn't show.

Saturday 2nd July

I arranged for my visitors to arrive a little early because I was meeting Diven at 9.30 am. I usually introduce you to my visitors, but there can be some jealousy among people and I have been asked quite rightly to protect their privacy in this instance. Suffice it to say that they have a very good little business idea and want my help in finding some funding. I was very impressed by the people involved and have no doubt that with a little capital, they will have a thriving little business. This tale is repeated all the time here in Monze. So many people are very willing to work very hard, but with nothing it is difficult to raise more than the bare minimum for food – and even that is a struggle.

Diven's final purchase was eventually sorted out, giving him a clearly defined plot of land which now has some buildings for his home and business. Now he has to ensure that his shop is well stocked and attracts enough custom.

Bright popped around to say hallo and goodbye. We had some coffee and chatted for a while. I put a couple of brief reports together and prepared for Teddy who was due in the evening. I am not sure what happened but he didn't appear.

Sunday 3rd July

I had invited Diven to come to supper with Delia and Diven's uncle. I decided to prepare the vegetables early, since I would be fully occupied during the day.

I attended the Tonga mass as usual at Our Lady of the Wayside. Fr. Raphael was celebrating mass and I happened to bump into him beforehand – after he said the children's mass. I wanted to express my condolences because of the loss of his father, a couple of weeks back. I thought I should tell alsotell him I was about to leave.

I always hope to slip away quietly, but it rarely – if ever – happens. Fr. Raphael thanked the donor from St. Gregory's church for the oil press which is about to be installed, before asking me to say a few words. The truth is that I am the one who has gained most from my time in Zambia. My life has been greatly enriched by my contact with the people here – if I can help here and there it is a delight. I asked for the people to continue to pray for our parish back in Cheltenham.

After mass many people came to say goodbye and wish me a safe journey.

I had a chance to send an e-mail or two and sort out a few things with my bank account over lunch before heading for St. Veronica's.

As usual a guide was on hand to take me to the meeting. Next Sunday's reading is the parable of the Good Samaritan. I am struck by the way Jesus points out that the priest and Levite – pillars of society - ignored the man who had been attacked. It was a Samaritan – an outsider – who recognised his neighbour and thus would gain eternal life. The message is clear. We should give support to anyone in need (Jesus says nothing about the man – other than that he was a man). This parable could be applied to many situations today. It is sad that in our world so many want to walk on the other side of the road - especially if the “man” is from a different tribe, or country or of the wrong religion.

Who is my neighbour?

I was wished a fond farewell by the Small Christian Community, with a promise of a final farewell on Tuesday.

Time to russh back home and finish the preparation for my meal.

My guests arrived at 18 hrs as agreed. I invited them in and made coffees, then put on the food. Now that I am addicted to my beef stir fry, this was the agreed fare for the evening.

It was particularly good to have Diven's uncle with us at my house for the first time. He is a lovely gentle man with a great humour. I showed a few photos and ended up showing some of the birthday cards I have made over the years. They were particularly taken by one which has a picture of my friend Mary flying a sort of microlight over Chililantambo. Since Mary has neither flown a microlight, nor been to Zambia, it was a bit mysterious. Diven's uncle wondered whether I used magic to produce the cards, so I showed him Gimp!! This is a program which has a clone tool that enables me to copy parts of photos from one to another. This is the main tool I use to construct the pictures for my cards. Although I enjoy making cards, they take a lot of effort – which of course is why they are worthwhile. I will have to make a card for Diven and his family.

Well it is time to sign off!! It is late and I still need to tidy the computer and transfer all my information to a flash drive.

It will be a late night!

Tomorrow is full with a trip to Pemba in the morning, a final session at PIZZ School in the afternoon – despite the holiday and a couple of visitors in the evening before a final session on the pool table with Fr. Clement.

Tuesday is free to do everything left and say goodbye.

So its goodnight from me!

With love and prayers.